It’s a Strategic Plan, Not a Shelf Decoration: Why Healthcare Marketers Should Revisit Plans Regularly

Healthcare Marketing: Connecting the Dots Between Planning, Execution & ResultsOn our new website, we promise to help clients connect the dots through careful research and informed strategic planning. But then what? Even after a marketing plan is signed, sealed and delivered, the work is far from over, and execution is only part of what remains. Revisiting your marketing imperatives to monitor, measure and sometimes modify is a critical success factor.

In other words, as you execute your strategic plan over time, make it a priority to assess the current landscape against your long-term marketing goals. What’s at stake if you don’t? Shelving your strategic plan means missing out on regular opportunities to:

  • Conduct a historical review. Compare marketing imperatives against new data, and pay keen attention to key benchmarks that align with your plan. For example, hospital marketers should look at measurements like outmigration trends, physician referral patterns, clinical quality measures, patient satisfaction scores and so on.
  • Uncover new opportunities. Looking at fresh market data through the lens of your long-term strategic plan enables timelier decisions that help you meet market demand and gain competitive advantages.
  • Forecast what lies ahead. Being forward-thinking and adaptable to an evolving landscape is important for marketing plans to be both efficient and effective.
  • Identify emerging challenges or limitations early on. It’s important to pinpoint where operations are poorly aligned with strategic priorities and to respond swiftly when local, regional and national healthcare developments affect your organization. Regular strategic plan reviews help with that.
  • Inform key players of progress and lessons learned. Marketing departments lead marketing plans, but when patient-facing and decision-making personnel are not engaged and aware of the objectives, success will be out of reach.

At Dobies Healthcare Group, we encourage and often lead quarterly strategic plan reviews with clients. There’s no better way to make sure actions continuously align with the objectives that inspired them in the first place. Give yourself the insight you need to make better decisions and revitalize your marketing strategy today.

In-Depth Interviews (IDIs): Exploring the Hearts and Minds of Healthcare Consumers

Recently, I heard some compelling stories about a client’s brand. My colleagues and I were conducting consumer in-depth interviews (IDIs) to better understand how people make personal healthcare decisions, as well as their perceptions of our client’s brand.

As I listened, I was impressed by the passion and honesty each participant shared—a benefit that’s relatively unique to IDIs. Focus groups, on the other hand, tend to be dominated by a handful of participants, which can skew results. By eliminating the drawbacks of “group think,” IDIs enabled us to garner consumer input that was not affected by the views of other participants.

Other advantages of IDIs include:

  • They allow us to investigate not only perceptions, but also individual thought processes. Because consumer feedback is solicited and given in a one-on-one dialogue, IDIs help shed light on differences that exist within each target segment.
  • By design, IDIs give the interviewee significantly more “floor” time, meaning the consumer will speak for approximately 80 percent of the interview. By contrast, focus groups require more speaking and facilitating by the moderator, which leaves less time overall for consumer responses.
  • IDIs can be adapted to other settings as well, including online and phone interviews.

We value IDIs for all these reasons and more. By taking group bias and external influence out of the equation, we can gather insightful information for our client that may not have surfaced as clearly in a focus group or survey. Probing the hearts and minds of healthcare consumers as individuals enabled us to draw several informed conclusions and build them into our client’s strategic plan. We are confident tomorrow’s consumers will like what they see from this client in the coming years because it will be, by and large, exactly what they said they want and need.

Engaging Patients through Social Media

Later this week, I will moderate an interactive panel for Kansas City Healthcare Communicators Society.The topic: How to Deploy Social Media to Improve Patient Engagement. With expert input spanning a wide range of social networking tools and best practices from our healthcare marketing panelists, the session promises to provide an eye-opening look at what it takes to continuously engage patients online.

Here are highlights from colleagues in the healthcare social media field:

Two-fifths of adult internet users in the U.S. have read someone else’s online commentary about health. Many thanks to Susannah Fox and her colleagues at Pew Internet & American Life Project, who published a report earlier this year revealing that 80% of internet users search online for health information, and a growing number rely on the internet to connect peer-to-peer. Among the findings:

  • Symptoms and treatments dominate health searches (66% and 56% respectively).
  • 44% of internet users look online for information about doctors or other health professionals.
  • 25% of adult web users look online for people with a chronic illness.
  • 24% have consulted online rankings of doctors and hospitals.
  • 20% look online for people with similar health issues.

There are 140 uses for your 140 characters if your healthcare organization tweets. Phil Baumann, a social media strategist and advisory board member for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, studied the challenges and opportunities available for providers via Twitter. In the end, he identified 140 different healthcare uses for Twitter – an oldie but goodie for those in need of ideas when it comes to tweeting for and about health.

More than 1,200 U.S. hospitals are now actively using social media sites. And that number is climbing every day. Thanks to Ed Bennett, web operations manager at the University of Maryland Medical Center (and also an advisory board member for Mayo Clinic social media), we have better insight into the scope of social media use among hospitals. Here’s the latest breakdown of the number of hospital accounts/pages per social networking site:

  • Facebook: 1,068
  • Foursquare: 946
  • Twitter: 814
  • YouTube: 575
  • LinkedIn: 566
  • Blogs: 149

If so many healthcare providers are putting it out there on so many sites, it must be simple, right? Wrong. We all know representing an organization via social media is much more complex than managing personal accounts, so it’s important to know what you’re doing behind the scenes. Fortunately, help is out there, like this list of 20 Excellent Social Media Networking Resources for Health Professionals, compiled recently by HealthWorks Collective.

I’m looking forward to a thought-provoking discussion by our panelists this week. We will update you with the biggest takeaways and lessons learned next week.