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