Consolidation and Integration Require New Brand Strategies for Healthcare Companies

Brand authenticity comes when you align what you say with what you do.As healthcare industry leaders look to increase efficiency, grow market share, improve outcomes, and meet consumer expectations for health and life services, many are finding solutions through consolidation and integration.

Predictably, when organizations join forces, they experience a cultural transformation that affects all aspects of the company, including its brand. At a pivotal time like this, it is essential that leaders skillfully align company culture with the business strategy and brand strategy. Of the three, the latter is the most often undervalued or overlooked by companies that fall short of their full potential post-merger. Those who address all three with equal importance are the ones who succeed…the ones who lead.

Case in point: CVS Health. Once a traditional pharmaceutical retail chain, the company now owns 50 percent of market share in the retail clinic space. Cited as “arguably the country’s biggest health care company” by The New York Times, CVS Health’s business model has positioned the company to deliver on its publicized promise of “helping people on their path to better health.” A series of consolidation moves over the last decade set the stage for the organization’s transformation, including the 2006 acquisition of MinuteClinic, the 2007 merger with pharmacy benefits provider Caremark, and the 2013 purchase of Coram, a home infusion services company.

Incidentally, CVS Health further bolstered its brand promise in 2014 when it announced the discontinuation of tobacco sales. In doing so, the company forfeited $2 billion in annual revenue but moved the dial on something priceless: brand authenticity.

And that’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak—brand authenticity is the much-coveted marriage between what you say you do (e.g., helping people on their path to better health) and what you actually do (e.g., providing highly convenient access to healthy products and services). Aligning words with actions across an entire enterprise is no small feat, especially post-merger, but it is as possible as it is imperative. The most important ingredients are skills, experience and a unified commitment to the new brand promise.

Increasing Capabilities through Consolidation

According to a report from the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, healthcare is currently the third most active industry in mergers and acquisitions (behind only computers/electronics and professional services). The healthcare industry announced more than 1,000 deals valued at $176 billion in 2016, and more than 1,200 deals valued at $417 billion in 2015. This trend is expected to continue. According to Kaufman, Hall & Associates, 63 percent of hospital and health system leaders surveyed for Futurescan 2017-2022 predicted their organizations will consolidate with another hospital or system within the next five years.

It’s not just health systems. Companies all across the healthcare industry are consolidating, often bringing together unexpected partners to create a platform of products and services that engage consumers in innovative ways. As healthcare organizations expand their footprints, diversify into new business segments, and bring innovative products and solutions to market through consolidation, they will likely find it challenging to integrate cultures from two companies into one. Is it a big undertaking? Yes. Does that mean it should be bypassed for efficiency sake? Definitely not. While difficult, transforming the culture to align with the new promise is essential for delivering an authentic brand experience, which is, in its own right, essential for customer satisfaction, loyalty and trust.

Just look at how others are broadening their capabilities through consolidation:

  • Nonprofit entities Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives announced last year they were exploring a merger that could be one of the most sizeable deals of 2017, creating the largest not-for-profit hospital system with revenues of $27.6 billion.
  • Roche, the world’s largest biotech company, made six acquisitions and investments in genomics companies in just over a year to boost its standing in the drug discovery arena. By acquiring organizations with operations that complement its own, Roche is positioned to accelerate its understanding of genetic causes of disease and further establish itself as a leader in the field.
  • UnitedHealth Group, a leading managed care company, announced in 2015 it was combining OptumRx, its freestanding pharmacy care services business, with Catamaran Corporation, a provider of pharmacy benefit management and technology solutions. The combined company links data typically found in disparate systems—including demographic, lab, pharmaceutical, behavioral and medical treatment data—enabling clients and consumers to make better decisions regarding care effectiveness and pharmaceutical compliance.
  • In January 2017, Optum and Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) announced a merger to create a comprehensive ambulatory care platform that will operate in 75 markets, representing about two-thirds of the U.S. population. Together, Optum and SCA will serve millions of consumers each year through 20,000 affiliated physicians and hundreds of care facilities.

The Power of Brand

What do all these examples have in common? Through mergers and acquisitions, they are creating new opportunities to broaden their scope of capabilities, and as a result, extend their promise. They are thinking outside their own enterprises and finding innovative ways to make a deeper impact on health and healthcare. However, even the most experienced leaders and smartest strategies can only take the promise so far. In the end, the authenticity of the actual experience becomes the most critical success factor.

Creating a brand strategy—in preparation for consolidation or anytime—involves defining how the brand resonates both internally and beyond: what should the customer experience look like post-consolidation, and how will the new brand promise be communicated—and kept—for customers? Finding the right answers takes a significant investment in time and resources, but it is well worth it. A newly consolidated company has much to communicate and even more to do, and success depends on doing everything well.

For expert guidance navigating your own organization’s brand strategy, discover brand scout+.

For insights to drive a new marketing and positioning strategy, discover maps+.

About the Authors

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 25 years. Carol co-authored this blog with Julie Amor, Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, who brings more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands to our firm and our clients. 

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.

What Differentiates a Healthcare Market Leader? One Word: Strategy

Compass and road map symbolizing how a marketing strategy defines what is possible and gives the roadmap for achieving it.The healthcare industry is undergoing radical and disruptive change, creating unique opportunities for healthcare organizations to “think differently” and establish market positions through innovative new approaches. There has never been a more critical time to lead with a clear and distinctive strategy, and by doing so, dominate in market.

Developing a market strategy requires a full evaluation of market opportunities, as well as operational conditions that must be present to fulfill the strategy. It spurs necessary critical thinking about the future, and requires us to ask questions and challenge assumptions about the organization, as well as the competition and scenarios for the future.

A marketing strategy defines what is possible and gives the roadmap for achieving it.

Think about healthcare transformation. It’s not just the industry that is changing – consumers are transforming as well. Today’s patients are becoming more active consumers of care; they are now more price-sensitive and apt to shop around for the best value. With a dizzying array of options available, patient loyalty is being challenged in ways not experienced before. Moving patients along the traditional continuum of care, once a given, now has hospitals and physicians seeking new ways to attract and retain patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

Another factor at play is consumer demand for services to help them stay healthy. Increasingly, these are being offered by non-medical entities. Payers, businesses and community organizations—in addition to health systems and providers—are collaborating to provide services that promote healthy lifestyles. The idea is to prevent illness and injury, rather than simply being available to treat those who are sick or injured. This concept of “lifecare” represents a significant shift from the conventional (and increasingly outmoded) healthcare model.

As the possibilities mount for various approaches to healthcare transformation, has your marketing team formed a strategy to guide your organization in positioning for the future?

Strategy as a Differentiator

Organizations that respond to transformation by adopting smart, strategic approaches to marketing now have the ability to position themselves as market leaders. In a stark departure from familiar methods of attracting and retaining patients, providers now can demonstrate their value and commitment to the everyday health and wellness of consumers, increasing the likelihood of being the top choice when healthcare—and lifecare—is needed. They can build trust and loyalty through physician relations programs, and they can create community advocates by engaging physicians and staff in delivering on the brand promise.

Healthcare marketing professionals understand that leading in today’s world requires more than a clever slogan or catchy advertisement. While creative execution is important, it is critical thinking and a deliberate strategic approach that will define the competitive edge and deliver results. To lead and excel requires a keen understanding of market position and competition. It requires a deep dive into data and market trends, as well as a compelling point of differentiation. And it requires a fundamental understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and why you stand for it. With consumers now seeking services that help them stay healthy, it is imperative to engage people in ways that historically have not been a part of most healthcare organizations’ marketing plans.

Long-held assumptions about how the industry works are now being challenged. With products, services and platforms becoming increasingly similar in their offerings, strategy becomes the competitive advantage. Those who pursue a strategic approach to marketing will stand out among the competition by creating new levels of value…for consumers as well as themselves.

About the Authors

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, brings more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands to our firm and our clients. Julie co-authored this article with Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, who has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 25 years.

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.

Reflections on 25 Years of Leading and Living with Authenticity

Dobies Healthcare Group 25 Year Anniversary logoDobies Healthcare Group started in 1992 with the goal of creating healthier brands for our clients. Twenty-five years later, we are proud to serve as a thought leader and trusted strategic consult in the ever-changing healthcare environment.

Over the years, I have identified attributes that have allowed our firm to succeed and flourish. I have come to realize that these are integral not only to leading a successful business, but also to living a fulfilling and authentic life. As a business owner, I have found authenticity—that space where our words and actions intersect—to be indispensable. Following are five key attributes for leading and living with authenticity:

1. Be curious.

Curiosity solves problems. It sparks our imagination and feeds our ingenuity.

Changes in the healthcare industry are occurring at a stunning pace. Key to staying abreast of developments and answering the most vexing questions is having deliberate and boundless curiosity. One of our most valuable business tools is the seemingly simply question: “Why?” Ask it again and again. This will help you identify the problems worth solving. Follow it with “So what?” What is the significance of what you learned? Did you identify a new strength or opportunity? Did you discover a differentiator? This is the compelling part of your story.

Step out of your comfort zone. Be bold. Dare to ask the hard questions. You may unearth a hidden gem.

2. Be purposeful.

Purpose provides you with a specific place to go and a way to get there.

Our firm’s purpose is to make a difference in how people think about health. In 1992, my goal was to take healthcare marketing to the next level by delivering creative work based on sound strategic principles. Our work communicated our customers’ brand promises and conveyed authenticity. Leading with strategy continues to be our purpose. It differentiates us and drives our work.

Discover your purpose. Articulate it, make it your promise, and pursue it relentlessly.

3. Be absolute.

Conviction in your purpose keeps your batteries charged. It gives assurance you are on the right path and your direction is true.

In a world of large, big-box consulting houses and agencies, I used to be distracted by the fact that our firm was smaller than some of our competitors. I came to realize size does matter, but not in the way I expected. From the outset, I built a virtual network of exceptionally smart and talented professionals whose advice and counsel I respected. This virtual business model showed promise. I became confident that as a boutique firm we would have as much firepower—if not more—than our larger competitors. This has proven true. Our team of accomplished strategic and marketing professionals, coupled with a network of highly skilled independent associates, means we bring only A-team players to the table. We are agile and quick. We never lose sight of our mission; we live and breathe it every day. All of this translates to better results for our clients.

Lead with confidence. Be absolute in your convictions, and be confident in your direction.

4. Be passionate.

Passion generates emotion and intensity. It creates energy that is palpable and contagious. It feeds your mission and gives you staying power.

From the beginning, our purpose was to deliver decisive results for our customers. As our firm grew, it became evident that we were making an impact far beyond our original intentions. We were working for a greater good—to help people make better and more informed health decisions, leading to more fulfilling and productive lives. The power of that realization was significant. This became our passion and our mission. It motivates and inspires us every day.

Find your passion and evangelize it. Infuse it in your mission and make it the essence of your culture.

5. Be open to possibilities.

#ToutEstPossible – it means everything is possible. At Dobies Healthcare Group, we believe this to be true. It is more than a slogan; it is our guiding principle.

As we embarked on our 25th year this month, we paused to affirm our business plans and strategies, to validate our direction and purpose. We challenged ourselves to think beyond what is plausible to what is possible. This created a stark moment of clarity. Our mindset shifted. We discovered that everything is possible because we are unwavering in our mission and certain in our strategies.

Be authentic in work and life. Lead and live with curiosity, conviction, passion and purpose, and everything is possible.

Ambitious goals are more achievable when others share your purpose and passion. I am thankful for the bright, enthusiastic and dedicated individuals—mentors, staff and clients—whose advice and support are a continuous source of inspiration. Thank you for being part of our journey.

About the Author

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupCarol Dobies is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for more than 25 years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Three Solutions for Navigating Market Changes in Healthcare

picture of boat on the oceanNo other industry has seen quite the magnitude of change as healthcare. Today, nearly every facet of the industry is radically transforming as our core business focus shifts from illness to prevention. Providers and vendors are forced to transform their practices as they secure a meaningful role in the industry.

As I recently shared in an interview with the Kansas City Business Journal, “It always used to be about healthcare, and now we’re seeing it morph into life care … being able to take care of patients beyond just when they’re ill, but keeping them healthy for a lifetime.”

To build a sustainable and adaptable healthcare company in the midst of this changing market, healthcare executives should focus on strategy in three core areas: leadership, culture and fully integrated, consumer-centric care models. Let’s examine each of these three areas in more detail:

1. Complementary and strategic leadership

The right mix of personalities in the right executive positions at the right stages of growth is critical, especially in an industry undergoing widespread disruption like healthcare. In the book, Rocket Fuel, authors Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters describe the explosive combination of two seemingly opposite roles: the Visionary and the Integrator.

The Visionary is the dreamer, the champion for innovation, the person who looks at the big picture and provides passion and inspiration to others. The Integrator is the complementary force to the Visionary, responsible for governing day-to-day issues, aligning the team with goals and engaging with clients. As the degree of market complexity increases, so too does the organization’s need to be a “visionary” in its approach and an “integrator” in its execution. By clearly defining these roles in your organization – and delegating responsibilities that take advantage of each individual’s strengths – will you be able to clear the obstacles keeping you from achieving your strategic goals.

2. Focus on culture

Chances are the vast majority of your employees come to work each day motivated by the good they can do in the lives of patients and those seeking information about healthcare. That mission to make a difference is a powerful ally because your culture is closely connected to your brand.

The rise and influence of the Millennial generation in the workforce is making the need for that cultural connection more prevalent than ever before. A 2015 Fast Company article reports that 50 percent of Millennials would take a pay cut to find a job and/or company that matches their values, and 90 percent of them want to use their skills for good.

The opportunity to use social responsibility as a brand platform is potentially very powerful, both externally and internally. Healthcare organizations can embrace corporate social engagement as a strategy for building brands, fostering loyalty and enhancing employee recruitment and retention. Your mission hasn’t changed despite the market transformation, but now is the time to truly integrate your mission with your culture and live your brand.

3. Emerging care models expand to focus on health and life

The visionary leader goes beyond the “sick care” model to establish a fully integrated, consumer-centric model of health and life services. Organizations must pivot to offering community-based services that encourage consumers to adopt new, healthy lifestyles. This means digitally connecting with consumers where they live, work and play using innovative telehealth options.

Think of it as putting a personal care provider in everyone’s pocket, extending care via smartphones to where it is most convenient for consumers. Or envision building a community-based continuum of healthcare and life services through public-private partnerships to emphasize access to healthy foods, fitness and health education—so much so that it becomes pervasive in people’s lives.

Virtual connectivity also encourages thinking beyond your immediate neighborhoods and examining the potential to directly contract or build referral agreements with specialty care centers across the U.S. for high acuity and complex chronic care conditions. As your organization embraces these and other new models of care, it is imperative that leaders adapt your organization’s culture and brand accordingly while empowering the whole team to skate to the new puck.

Look to the Future

Healthcare leaders must watch trends and study data to learn more about the market’s evolution—but they must also go further to find insights buried deep in the data and figure out what to do with them. In other words, you must be able to answer the age-old question, so what? Determine what matters amidst all the change and disruption. Take time to understand the transformation in the market and how best to adapt. Then, use that knowledge to drive results-oriented and future-focused change at your organization, and bring this new health model to life. The successful organization in the new healthcare world needs the vision to see the future, the flexibility to adapt to it, and a clear strategy to bring itself safely through it.

Carol Dobies is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for more than 25 years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on the Facebook page.

The Dynamic Between Share of Voice & Share of Market

An Infographic for Hospital Marketers

Share of voice is a critical metric for consumer marketing. Quite often, when hospitals evaluate share of voice and competitive positioning in the context of the full competitive landscape, they find their ad spend is not enough. Why? Because increasing share of voice is essential to market share growth.

For example, if your hospital is the local brand leader, excess share of voice is a worthwhile investment because it supports greater gains in market share than it does for competing brands. Likewise, if you’re competing against a brand leader, your advertising strategies need to be several times more effective than the brand leader’s to grow market share. The following infographic explains the dynamic between share of voice and share of market in more detail:

Infographic on the Relationship Between Share of Voice and Market Share

The key to creating and executing effective ad strategies is data. For the tools you need to analyze your positioning and guide your hospital’s advertising strategies, it’s time to discover ad atlas+.

Breaking Through the Noise

Optimize your share of voice to grow market share

As a healthcare marketing leader, you know how noisy the competitive landscape can be. As the industry shifts toward a consumer-centric healthcare marketplace, it seems every hospital and health system is vying for the same patients—and they all have advertising dollars devoted to buying the largest megaphone.

In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are bombarded by advertising messages at every turn; one estimate suggests consumers are subject to 3,000 to 5,000 messages each day. Healthcare is no exception, so what is your strategy for determining reach, frequency, and key messages to best position your healthcare organization? After all, if you’re in the orchestra, it’s better to play the trumpet than the piccolo.

Amplify Your Voice for Bigger Gains

Clever ads alone rarely produce sustainable results, so the relationship between your ad buying strategy and your market share growth should be treated with care. It is important to understand the correlation between share of voice (SOV) – defined as your organization’s percentage of the total media buying in your industry for a specific time period – and share of market (SOM), which is your percent of the total revenue for that same time period. You probably already know your market share, but your SOV can be more complex. Knowing your SOV relative to your competitors, however, can be critical to your strategic advertising efforts for top-line growth.

The Nielsen Company published research that sheds light on this relationship between SOV and SOM. They found that with everything else equal, you are more likely to gain market share if your SOV is larger than your SOM. This “excess” share of voice is shown to have a very direct effect—an increase of 0.5 percent additional market share when your SOV is 10 points higher than your SOM.

Of course, rarely is the math that simple. The same research found that a lot of factors play into this, including the size of your brand, whether you are the brand leader in your industry or a brand “challenger,” and of course, the level of sophistication in your creative campaign. If you are the brand leader, for example, a 10-point differential can net you as much as a 1.4 percent market share boost.

Even with multiple variables, savvy healthcare organizations can still make this research work for them. Dave Beckert, a media planner, gives this advice:

“Smart marketers investment spend (SOV slightly exceeds SOM) to some degree to deter attack. To show major gains in SOM, you must create or exploit disequilibrium … using advertising spending as an offensive weapon, based upon an analysis of the competitive situation.”

Use the Right Tool for the Job

As the former VP of Marketing for a major academic medical center, I cannot overemphasize how necessary it is to have competitive market data driving strategic recommendations for media planning and creative concept development. In addition to providing the foundation of those recommendations, I needed the competitive data to secure support for the marketing and advertising budgets I proposed. The only problem was that collecting a comprehensive market analysis of competitors was incredibly arduous and time-consuming.

Now, that’s no longer true. The need for robust competitive market data is still great, but the work that goes into creating those market profiles is not, thanks to an innovative product called ad atlas+.

ad atlas+ provides details on share of voice, media mix, brand positioning, message platforms and creative samples across your competitive landscape

Click image to learn more about ad atlas+.

Custom designed for hospitals and health systems, ad atlas+ packages comprehensive competitive market profiles into a single interactive tool, empowering you to view and compare what competitors are saying in your local market with only a few clicks. ad atlas+ lets you watch competing television spots, click through banner ads, hear radio promos, view print ads and more. Additionally, ad atlas+ provides a market analysis of each hospital’s key positioning messages, SOV and ad spend. These analyses provide much-needed clarity and the competitive advantage to aid in capturing a larger SOV for your healthcare organization.

I recommend ad atlas+ because it was designed for healthcare marketers by healthcare marketers, and it offers meaningful insight to guide healthcare advertising strategies. You can finally answer such questions as, Should we be buying magazine display ads? and Will that many TV spots even make a difference? ad atlas+ gives you the power to see your local market differently – and when you can stand up and see who is playing in the orchestra, you can finally decide if you need to pick up a louder horn. If you’re a healthcare marketer, that should be music to your ears.

Julie Amor is the Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare and has more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Marketing Is Not a Department

Why Healthcare Marketing Leaders Need to Inspire Others in the Organization to Deliver on the Brand Promise

brand buildingWhen we present a strategic marketing plan to a hospital, for example, we start with a simple statement that has enormous value. It sets the tone for the entire data-driven document:

“The strategic marketing plan is a blueprint to support organization-wide growth. It is used by hospital and physician leadership, practice managers and the marketing department to guide the execution of organizational and marketing initiatives that will contribute to market share growth.”

In other words, marketing is not a department. While the quote above is specific to hospital marketing, the overarching concept is true for any healthcare organization. And our brand plans carry a similar message: brand is all about what an organization does. Everyone in the organization has a role in delivering brand authenticity – the behaviors and actions of everyone in the company come together to form the brand. When we emphasize this to clients, we see heads nodding, but few really understand what it means. Our job as healthcare marketing and branding experts is to make certain that leaders at our client organizations understand that brands are symbiotic with culture. Or, stated another way, brand building is not an initiative that belongs solely to the marketing team.

Today’s competitive healthcare market requires engagement throughout the organization to deliver on the brand promise. While the marketing department can strategically share the right message with the right audience using the right method, it is the experience each customer has with the organization that creates the brand. That’s because purchasing healthcare isn’t like purchasing your everyday product – it is far more complicated, involving far more moving parts. Before selecting a doctor or a hospital, consumers have to piece a lot of information together. They look at online ratings and reviews, social media posts from friends and neighbors, and content on health-related websites. They also have conversations with multiple people at the various hospitals and practices they are considering. Some of the information they obtain comes from communication created by a marketing department, but the vast majority is organically assembled by the experiences consumers have with the brand.

So, isn’t it logical for each person in your health organization to have a role in ensuring the right purchasing decisions are made? Logical, yes…but few outside the marketing team will claim responsibility for customer engagement, much less marketing.

A 2011 McKinsey Quarterly report summed it up nicely: “At the end the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product—it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience—it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.”

As such, everyone in a given organization needs to be accountable and universally accept that marketing is the organization. This is a notion that continues to challenge many in the healthcare space. For example, recently we were exploring how one of our healthcare clients might better engage his organization to deliver on the brand promise. While the employees were conceptually on board with the notion that everyone in the organization is accountable for delivering on the promise that is communicated by marketing, they expressed concern about who would ultimately be charged with driving market share growth. We explained the marketing leader is the catalyst – the individual responsible for fueling the company’s customer engagement engine, while the marketing team is responsible for designing, building and deploying new customer engagement approaches and brand-building strategies across the organization’s departments. The marketing leader must influence everyone at the organization – not just the marketing team – to row together, getting the organization further, faster. In doing so, the marketing leader creates brand ambassadors who exponentially increase the reach of the marketing team and engage employees in new ways that make them more vested in the organization’s performance.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is a clear and compelling business case for connecting with employees as brand advocates. Data show people want to hear from employees more than any other spokesperson on issues like organizational performance and business practices. Plus, an engaged workforce is typically happy to be part of the organization and willing to go the extra distance to help enhance the organization’s overall performance (especially when the company is engaged in societal issues, as our Chief Strategy Officer, Julie Amor, discussed recently in Corporate Social Engagement: What it Means for Healthcare Brands).

In today’s era of consumer engagement, marketing and branding are no longer the purview of a single department. As mentioned, your customers no longer separate marketing from the healthcare service – it is the service. After 24 years of helping healthcare clients deploy strategic marketing and brand plans, I encourage you to build a culture of brand authenticity and engage your entire organization in the role of delivering on your brand promise. It’s time to influence others in the organization—to coach them on effective customer engagement tactics and reward them for building tighter relationships with customers. Your customers will appreciate hearing directly from your employees and your leadership will appreciate the accountability to organizational performance.

Five Ways Millennials Empower Us to be Better Healthcare Marketers

MillennialsConsumer healthcare marketers know millennials – generally defined as people born between 1980 and the early 2000s – are one of the most challenging segments to win over. There are countless blogs and articles about how millennials think, how to reach them and how to motivate them to act. So let’s turn the conversation around and take a moment to look at how the millennial generation has made us work harder and smarter – and in doing so, helped us become more effective healthcare marketers.

Here are some of the top characteristics of millennials we should all truly appreciate:

  1. Millennials are entitled.

This is an opinion you will find on any online search for information about millennials. It doesn’t sound like a positive attribute, but their sense of entitlement is building higher expectations in healthcare and contributing to the industry’s need to be more patient-centric. Millennials want to make informed decisions about health—and they want it to be easily accessible on their desktops and mobile devices. They want virtual care models, text message notifications and online appointment setting. They demand convenience and often refuse to wait, which is contributing to the rise of more urgent care outlets, forcing traditional physician practices and hospitals to rethink their patient experiences.

  1. Millennials have natural truth detectors.

Millennials are very perceptive and quick to identify when advertisers are giving it to them straight – and when they are not. As a healthcare marketer, you must avoid corporate speak and be authentic with your messaging. Otherwise, you put your brand at risk of poor social media reviews. After all, millennials feel it is their right and moral obligation to protect the social good by sharing experiences and observations online.

  1. Millennials take a stand against campaign messages that conflict with their values.

Millennials support creative messages and brands that align with their values. Remember GoDaddy’s controversial puppy commercial planned for the 2015 Super Bowl? After a preview of the spot aired on a popular talk show, social media exploded with outrage over the ad. The company pulled the spot the very same day. If the creative aspect of an ad isn’t relevant, timely, tasteful, concise and compelling, it will fail quickly in the eyes of millennials.

  1. Millennials lead technology adoption.

Marketing has always been on the leading edge of technology that facilitates connections between people and companies. Today we are learning a great deal from millennials. They are self-assigned researchers and testers of new digital technology, especially social media and mobile apps. Engaging target audiences on mobile devices has never been more crucial because more than 85% of millennials now use smartphones. That’s why, as a healthcare marketer, you must always consider mobile strategies with ease of access, simple messages and fresh content.

  1. Millennials do their research.

Millennials like to learn the facts. In a matter a minutes, they will determine if an organization, physician or product is worth their consideration. Providers who are very transparent with price, quality and outcomes data will have an advantage over competitors who are less forthcoming with information. The assumption is if organizations aren’t sharing this data, they must not be proud of it.

There is much to be said for the qualities of millennials. Although some may be perceived as challenging, I find they stand up for what they believe, want and need. Most of all, they are raising the standards for healthcare marketers and providers. As healthcare marketing professionals, it is up to us to step to the plate and deliver the information millennials need to make informed decisions about health. If we don’t, I’m sure we’ll hear about it.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy Creates a “Flywheel Effect”

Picture of flywheel and clockIn his book, Good to Great, nationally recognized business author, Jim Collins, references the Flywheel Effect as key to an organization’s success. This concept has long guided my strategic leadership capabilities as a healthcare marketing professional. As the former Vice President of Marketing for a major academic medical center, I developed marketing strategies designed to position the organization as a market leader. I analyzed data, combined with competitive advantages and an understanding of the operational imperatives needed, to ensure success and develop a road map for growth.

Jim Collins uses the analogy of the flywheel, a device designed to smooth a machine’s operation through its ability to store energy, generate momentum and maintain a constant rotational speed, to describe how organizations can grow and continually progress. As a marketing professional, energy, momentum and constant forward movement have always been keys to my success. I believe a solution that ensures the Flywheel Effect is worth sharing.

Do you have a strategic marketing plan–not a list of tactics, but a strategic framework to drive your organization’s competitive market position? Believe it or not, most hospitals and healthcare organizations I have interacted with over the years do not take the opportunity to incorporate strategy into their marketing efforts. They may have organizational strategic plans, but no related marketing strategies to drive growth, create brand equity and address the operational components of their plans.

Without formal marketing and positioning strategies in place, organizations are simply executing tactics from a reactive position. Here are 10 key steps to a successful marketing and positioning strategy:

  1. Review and analyze relative data such as market share
  2. Conduct a competitive review of the market
  3. Determine key market factors that can affect growth
  4. Understand current preference, awareness and patient satisfaction
  5. Analyze the data to understand key market insights
  6. Establish a competitive positioning strategy to include goals, key differentiators and brand strategy tied directly to the business objectives of the organization
  7. Identify internal and external operational imperatives
  8. Execute a deadline-driven, integrated tactical plan
  9. Monitor key metrics to determine your success
  10. Report to internal audiences frequently to ensure everyone is delivering on the brand promise

When you apply strategy, you enhance your organization’s ability to move forward. In other words, you ensure a Flywheel Effect. Create a data-driven plan and work your tactics from that plan.  Be consistent, steady and passionate about moving your organization forward.  As Jim Collins says, there is no miracle moment that will propel an organization forward. Instead, the Flywheel Effect is the result of a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process—a framework that keeps companies on track.

Learn more about developing marketing and positioning strategies with maps+. Leverage the power of information through market research, competitive studies and consumer insights to navigate the nuances of an ever-changing healthcare market and move your flywheel forward.