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.

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.

Secrets for Success in Healthcare Marketing

Insights from Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group

As a member of the 25 Under 25® Class of 2016, Dobies Healthcare Group was proudly named among several outstanding Kansas City small businesses earlier this year. Recently, CEO and founder Carol Dobies, MBA, spoke with Kelly Scanlon on Smart Companies KC Radio to discuss the driving force behind Dobies Healthcare Group and its success as a specialized healthcare marketing and branding firm. You can listen to the full broadcast below:

Highlights from the on-air discussion include:

Strategy-First: The Driving Force for Dobies Healthcare Group

Carol and her team have always championed a strategy-first approach to healthcare marketing. Unlike creative agencies that traditionally offer a new logo or advertising campaign focused on product promotion, Dobies Healthcare Group says, ‘First, let’s talk about who you are and what you do’  before the creative work begins. The idea is to initiate meaningful conversations with clients about their brands – a process that begins with insightful questions about how they interface with customers and employees, how leadership impacts and drives culture, and how they “deliver” on their brand promise. The ultimate goal is to tactically align client operations (what they do) with their communications (what they say). Brand authenticity is deliberate, and therefore, the work that goes into it must be highly strategic.

The Greater Good: A Passion for Making a Difference

Both professionally and personally, Carol has long understood the need for expert information and guidance that drives smart health and healthcare decisions. She has always had a passion for making a difference by connecting consumers to providers, providers to partners, and so forth – and she fosters the same passion within every member of her team. In fact, the notion of inspiring better, more informed decisions about health and contributing to improved care and quality of life for patients is at the very heart of the company’s mission. “We come to work every day because we believe we can help people make better, more informed healthcare decisions—and the power of that is pretty significant,” says Carol.

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder

A Forward-Thinking Business Model

It’s not easy being a small business, but Dobies Healthcare Group embraces a smart and innovative business model that focuses on using talent and time wisely. From the beginning, Carol chose to embrace a virtual agency model, employing a small team of in-house healthcare marketing experts while strategically extending capabilities and reach through a national network of highly skilled, independent strategy leads. “The virtual model has really served us well,” she said. “It’s helped us play just as well, if not better than, any big business.”

Lessons Learned

Carol noted she has learned a lot since she founded Dobies Healthcare Group in 1992. Although it hasn’t always been this way, the company now has a C.P.A. on staff to proactively advise the company on finances, ensuring financial health. They are now “papered up” in ways they never were before with smarter, more binding contracts with clients and employees alike. Most importantly, Carol learned along the way the value of having a plan and vision for the company’s future. Looking forward, she anticipates continued growth for Dobies Healthcare Group – particularly with the launch of three strategic marketing and branding products last year and another new product on the horizon.

For more information about who we are and what we do at Dobies Healthcare Group, contact us.

About Dobies Healthcare Group

Since 1992, Dobies Healthcare Group has offered highly specialized expertise in healthcare marketing strategy, branding and creative communications. Our Kansas City-based company serves the marketing and branding needs of the entire healthcare industry, from hospitals, health systems and payers to medical device manufacturers, associations and certifying boards. We combine strategic marketing with creative communications to create healthier brands.

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.

Ready to Revitalize Your Healthcare Brand? You’ll love this Step-by-Step Checklist

brand scout+

Uniquely designed for healthcare marketers by healthcare marketers, brand scout+ is your source for essential information to guide your brand strategy. (Click to learn more.)

As healthcare leaders and marketers, we all know the importance of a healthy brand – and a healthy brand, like a healthy body, requires maintenance and dedication over time. What you convey about your brand – and what you hope others will embrace about your brand – must always align with the brand experience you actually deliver. To continuously build volume, preference and market share, sometimes you need to give your brand a thorough, objective evaluation.

When that time comes, you have two options: you can find a partner who specializes in healthcare branding, or manage and complete the work internally. There is no one-size-fits-all answer – it depends on an array of factors including your in-house capabilities and capacity. Make an informed decision about whether to DIY or outsource using the following checklist and questions to govern the brand assessment and strategy process:

1. Brand Audit: Measure current perception of your brand and your competition

Use surveys, in-depth interviews and local market studies to systematically assess your healthcare brand from these varying perspectives:

  • Your customers/patients
  • Your community stakeholders
  • Your healthcare leaders (executive team and board of directors)
  • Your employees (physicians, nurses, etc.)

Next, audit your communications. Ask yourself how authentically your healthcare organization appears in:

  • Advertising campaigns
  • Promotional materials and sales collateral
  • Web content and social media
  • Proposals and estimates
  • Customer communications
  • Internal communications

Then go one step further by assessing your competitions’ communications, which will provide insight to guide your decisions in step two.

2. Brand Differentiation: Create a sustainable value proposition

Based on current perceptions revealed in the brand audit, identify three key attributes that describe how you differ from your healthcare competitors. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a proven process to accurately identify what makes you stand out from the competition?
  • Can you objectively determine if the differentiators you identify are realistic and authentically different from the competition?
  • Can you readily determine actions your organization currently does that align with the brand differentiators you’ve identified?
  • Are you diving deep enough to uncover new opportunities for differentiation based on current gaps among consumer brands in your local marketplace?

3. Brand Strategy: Develop a one-page synthesis of your brand position

This internal use document should clearly and succinctly convey the following:

As you create your brand strategy document, ask yourself if it meets these important objectives:

  • Can the brand strategy be deployed as the filter for future business decisions?
  • Will your executive team use the brand filter when making key organizational/business decisions (e.g. capital purchases, new business development)?
  • How can your board of directors use the brand filter?
  • Is the document designed for organization-wide understanding and use? No jargon, no rambling – just the brand strategy in simplified terms to engage everyone.

4. Leadership Adoption: Roll out a process for ensuring what you actually do aligns with your brand differentiators

This is a critical step where your leaders outwardly refresh how they live the brand, and where they inspire others to follow suit:

  • Give your executive team key talking points and a 30-second elevator speech that stays on point with the brand strategy from start to finish.
  • Seize all opportunities to integrate that message into weekly employee communication.
  • Embed the differentiators in materials your executive team routinely uses.
  • Include your board of directors in this same process.

5. Touch Point Mapping: Devise a plan to ensure your employees live the brand

Create a matrix of current and planned behaviors for each department. Internal brand adoption takes time – and adequate guidance is essential. As you build the matrix, ask yourself:

  • How can you guide each department to live the brand throughout relevant daily activities? What your employees DO every single day, and what they say in every single customer conversation, needs to align with your brand promise and differentiators.
  • Are there significant changes that need to be made to ensure alignment?
  • Do you have a measurement system and/or incentives in place to ensure departments keep their commitments to living the brand?
  • Do you have visual aids throughout your departments as reminders of the brand promise?

6. Brand Champions: Identify brand-passionate employees to gain organization-wide support

Brand building extends far beyond your marketing department. Designate a group of employees to serve as brand champions who inspire others to live the brand. Ask yourself:

  • How do you want to appoint the brand champions – ask for volunteers or delegate?
  • Which employees are your best exemplars of the new brand?
  • How can you represent all departments?
  • How will the brand champions work together, and who will facilitate their work?
  • How will you empower the brand champions to take action and sustain their influence?
  • Should you set up a private Facebook group to facilitate virtual engagement with your brand champions?
  • What kick-off activities/events can you implement for the brand champions?

7. Internal Communication Strategy: Make a plan for internal roll-out

Establish a strategic and tactical plan for unveiling your new brand to key stakeholders, leadership and employees, and continuously reinforcing the brand across your healthcare organization. Questions to ask:

  • Does your plan include a top-down communication component?
  • How long will it take to gain internal adoption before you can take the new brand to market?
  • What tools can you develop to support the brand, and how can you integrate the new brand into existing employee materials?
  • Can you return to your communication audit to adapt internal versus external communication aids with ease?
  • How will you engage your brand champions in the internal communication strategy?
  • How frequently will executive leaders communicate about brand progress, and what mode of communication will they use?

8. Marketing Strategy: Develop strategies and tactics for external communication

When you are ready to launch the new brand externally, create a one- to three-year strategy and tactical calendar. Once you have collected data-driven insights for market share, market forces and growth potential for the organization and each of its key products or service lines:

  • Stratify your key brand messages by audience.
  • Align your in-market tactics and media plan with your external communication strategies.
  • Integrate across all communication channels.
  • Ensure consistency throughout, from external to internal brand elements.
  • Remember to use the brand strategy as a filter for your tactical decisions.

9. Creative Strategy and Execution: Bring your new brand to life with integrated creative materials

Create new content, complete with new design elements and visuals that align with the core purpose of your healthcare brand.

  • Translate the new brand in ways that communicate effectively with various demographic groups.
  • Give your color palette, fonts and images a brand boost.
  • Consider a common element or thread necessary to connect your old brand to your new one, ensuring your consumers understand your brand evolution.

10. Market Studies: Continuously measure your efforts and document competitive gains

To maintain a healthy brand, you must monitor:

  • Internal brand adoption
  • Improvements in external awareness and perception of your brand
  • Progress achieved in improving your brand’s competitive positioning

Brand building is a complex, interconnected process that requires authentic insight, objective decision-making and careful, sometimes even calculated effort. Whether embarking on a self-assessment or soliciting professional healthcare branding expertise, it is well worth the extra effort – bringing your brand back to life in the hearts and minds of your customers always is.

brand scout logoFor healthcare companies seeking professional branding expertise, we encourage you to learn more about brand scout+, an innovative product that delivers healthier brands.
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What is Your Superpower?

superhero-webIdentify Your Competitive Advantage

Believe it or not, you do have a superpower. Do you know what it is? That may seem like a silly question, but looking within yourself to identify your core strength is actually very empowering. Most people can put their fingers on their superpowers fairly quickly, with just a little introspection and perhaps a touch of feedback from their peers.

However, while the same is true for companies – that each organization has a core strength or purpose that sets it apart – many company leaders struggle to identify their organizations’ unique competitive advantages (a.k.a. superpowers). Those who can articulate their company’s superpower often do so in overly simple or extremely complex ways. If you think your superpower is nothing more than your company’s product or service, you’re oversimplifying. On the other hand, if you need several sentences to describe your superpower, you’re making it too complicated. The key is distilling your superpower down to ONE THING your company does differently from and/or better than anyone else in the industry.

In his book, The One Thing, author Gary Keller explains how there is “one thing” behind every successful person that helps him or her reach set objectives. “No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ‘one thing’ stands between you and your goals,” Keller writes. This statement can easily apply to the corporate environment in terms of focusing on an organization’s core business strength and purpose in the world.

For example, what do you think the “superpower” is behind brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Dove? Here are my speculations:

  • Coke: We make people smile.
  • Nike: We inspire people.
  • Dove: We empower beauty.

With those examples in mind, what would you say is your company’s superpower? Do you save lives? Do you expand knowledge? Do you improve health? Do you empower people to make better decisions? A word of advice: Avoid the temptation to say “all of the above” – you can’t be better than the rest at everything you do. In other words, before you can do everything well, you have to do someTHING exceptionally well – what’s that one thing?

In our work with companies across the healthcare industry, we have found one of the biggest barriers to identifying an organization’s superpower is a lack of a data-driven processes. Data often reveal the true story, offering factual, unbiased insights that help define the unique point of competitive differentiation. When companies know and understand their unique competitive advantages, it gives focus and meaning to how they move forward, ensuring their actions support their core missions and live up to the full potential of their superpowers.

As healthcare branding experts, we cannot overemphasize that brand differentiation and market positioning require a firm grasp on your competitive advantages and customer expectations. Conduct research and look closely at your health organization’s data to discover exactly who and where your customers are, what they want, and how to reach them in meaningful ways. To do that, you must think beyond what your product or service IS, and focus instead on what it DOES for your customers.

What is the Difference Between a Brand Promise and Mission Statement?

Brand promise vs. mission statementFor some, distinguishing a company’s brand from its mission statement can be confusing. During brand sessions with clients, someone in the C-suite will usually ask, “Why do we need a brand promise when we have a vision and mission statement?” Given the way we define brand, I can understand the confusion. Both are all about what you do, but their foundations and purposes are not the same.

You create a mission statement to describe what your company does from an internal perspective, often to inspire and motivate your employees.

A brand promise, on the other hand, is externally focused. It is crafted to hold your company accountable for delivering a consistent customer experience.

At Dobies Healthcare Group, we tend to be rather zealous about our definition of brand. To emphasize that brand is not encapsulated in a logo, tagline, slogan or campaign, we repeatedly say, “Brand is what you do – it’s how you present yourself every day and how your customers experience your company.” It starts with the promise you make to your customers – but your ability to keep your promise ultimately determines the health of your brand. In other words, your brand is the culmination of expectations your customers form over time based on your actions. It is an intangible asset that lives in the hearts and minds of your customers. Your customers are emotionally connected to your brand.

Your mission statement should emotionally connect your employees to your company. Your mission statement describes what the company does, and, hopefully, gives your employees a very good reason to wake up and come to work every day. A good mission statement distills what your company does into a couple of sentences and underscores your organization’s purpose.

For example, our mission statement at Dobies Healthcare Group underscores two things. First of all, we come to work every day because we fundamentally believe our work makes a difference in how people think about health. The creative messages we send into the airwaves for a community hospital, for instance, inspire consumers to take their health more seriously. Sometimes we compel consumers to choose a primary care physician or schedule their heart risk assessments; other times, we educate consumers about how to find, use and understand hospital quality data. We help them think differently about their health.

Secondly, we succeed when our strategy, words and designs inspire people to make better, more informed decisions about health and contribute to improved care and quality of life for patients. For one of our medical device manufacturer clients, we showcase how automation in anatomic pathology reduces errors, streamlines workflow and ultimately gets patients an accurate cancer diagnosis quicker than ever before. Simply put, our work illuminates the better decision.

What about our brand promise? We promise to always engage strategy first. No matter how big or how small the assignment may be, “strategy first” is what we do every day. Our clients expect it. They know they can count on us to uphold our brand promise by infusing strategy into everything we do. And we know that consistently delivering on those client expectations is an essential aspect of our brand health.

What about your healthcare company? What is the expectation you want your customers to form about your organization, and how do you intend to equip and inspire your employees to make that happen? Your mission statement and brand promise, when crafted carefully and strategically, are the firsts of many essential steps, touch points, actions and communications that together comprise your brand.