The “3 Ds” of Strategy-First Marketing

A compass pointing to “STRATEGY” as a symbol of strategy-first marketing

Strategy-first – it’s the bedrock of our brand promise in healthcare marketing, branding and advertising. Why? Because when it comes to growth and success as a healthcare organization, strategy is essential. It is also complex and often misunderstood.

What is strategy?

First, let’s talk about what strategy is not. Despite some common misconceptions, strategy is not a plan, perspective or vision. It is not a function of one singular department, nor a task for one person or team. To reduce it to the purview of anything other than your entire organization is to diminish its impact on your vision and what it takes to get there. In other words, strategy is foundational. While its development may rest with a core team, its reach should span the entire enterprise.

For us, strategy is part of our company ethos. It is a practice embedded in everything we do, the way we think and the actions we take. As the framework for making better business decisions for ourselves and our clients, it is a deliberate, data-driven process by which we jointly define business goals and develop the road map for achieving them. A strategy-first approach requires:

  1. Data: For many, it can be tempting to lean on personal opinions and speculation about what consumers need and want, but the right answers come from data. From consumer research and market studies to internal surveys and in-depth interviews, data-driven insights should inform the current situation, identify new opportunities and predict competitor responses.
  2. Debates: When deep in defining strategy, expect hearty debates to ensue with executive leaders and managers about the organization’s future and the systematic way to pursue growth.
  3. Decisions: Strategy yields a clear framework for business decisions, helping leaders make and enforce clear strategic choices every day. Without clearly communicated, data-driven decisions packaged in a well-defined marketing strategy, you find the organization running in different directions, using resources unwisely and potentially generating market confusion.
The “3 Ds” of Strategy-First Marketing: Click To Tweet

For our clients, we engage in what we call these “3 Ds” of strategy-first marketing. With data in hand, we listen, we probe and when necessary, we challenge – we encourage thoughtful debates. We engage at a deeper level than most because we want our clients to uncover new market opportunities and make smart, strategic decisions that unleash the true potential of their brands.

And, for that reason, we always advise our clients to share their strategic marketing plans across the organization because it defines the strategy everyone adopts to pursue market share. Similarly, when we develop a new brand strategy, we stress the importance of using a summary of the brand strategy as a filter for business decisions. We recommend posting it on conference room walls and referencing it frequently to ensure everyone in the company makes decisions and takes actions aligned with the brand strategy, because that is the promise you have made to your customer.

Which brings me back to the beginning, and our firmly held belief that a marketing strategy is not a media plan, nor a tactical plan, nor is it about the organization’s creative advertising. These can only be derived effectively after the marketing strategy is defined. While other health marketing companies may jump straight to creative execution, we will first define the strategy and work diligently to ensure alignment in all marketing, branding and communications. From C-suite leadership to the marketing team and those on the frontlines with your customers, your company grows when everyone embraces strategy first.

About the Author

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group

Carol Dobies, MBA, is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Advancing Rural Health: Seven Steps to Service Line Marketing Strategy

Image of a stone path, representing the seven steps to establishing a service line marketing strategy.Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing market challenges for rural health providers, as well as opportunities for innovation that emerge from creating an ecosystem of health via community partnerships and an emphasis on the value of primary care. With primary care alignment supporting the rural health ecosystem, critical access hospitals and rural providers can concurrently focus on service line growth to meet the needs of rural and underserved areas that lack sufficient healthcare services.

Hospital CEOs likely have many questions about how to best prioritize marketing dollars based on service lines with the greatest profitability, growth prospects, operational readiness, recruitment capacity and more. The organization’s strategic plan may hold some, but not all, of the answers. To fully illuminate answers and achieve targeted service line growth for the organization, we suggest this seven-step, data-driven process to establish a comprehensive service line marketing strategy:

  1. Establish a shared vision among leadership.
    In small and rural hospitals, physician engagement is essential for meaningful integration of the service line with primary care and community partnerships.
  2. Collect and analyze organizational data and research.
    A firm understanding of market data, including your most recent consumer preference and awareness studies and community health needs assessment results, should reveal consumer demand for specialty services.
  3. Review and rethink your relationship with key competitors.
    While it is natural and customary to perceive other providers as competing with you for patients, a more sustainable approach now includes evaluating how others can collaborate with you to extend services into your community. For example, a collaborative partnership for telehealth with regional referral centers can be an effective way to retain patients who require specialized expertise, while also protecting your opportunity to provide post-acute care in the community. Viewing the competition through a lens of collaboration can lead to amazing physician recruitment and expansion opportunities, as revealed by our friends at Kearny County Hospital in Lakin, Kansas.
  4. Define factors of differentiation.
    From the consumer’s perspective, are there service or access factors that differentiate your hospital from another provider? A well-defined, compelling value proposition is a good place to start as you determine how you differentiate in the market.
  5. Identify operational considerations.
    As you define the marketing strategy for your service line, you will need to address operational barriers to success (shortage of providers, limited access, etc.). When we discuss service line marketing plans with hospital leadership, we emphasize how the plan is actually a blueprint to support organization-wide growth. Hospital and physician leadership, together with practice managers and marketing staff, will guide the execution of operational and marketing initiatives that contribute to market share growth. As we always say, marketing is not a department.
  6. Develop and execute the creative strategy.
    With the marketing strategy defined through steps 1-5, you now are in the position to create an integrated creative campaign to reach consumers where they live, work and play. Limited marketing budgets may seem a formidable challenge, so tap into resources you may not have considered before, such as dhgstudio+. And remember, your community partners can be powerful brand ambassadors to extend your reach and build awareness with people across the region.
  7. Measure and track success.
    Not only does your marketing team want to showcase marketing success, they also need to demonstrate how their campaigns contribute to organization-wide goals. While you cannot reasonably track and measure everything, we recommend agreeing to goals during the strategic marketing planning process. Appropriate measures may include patient/new patient volume, market share, share of voice, retention rates, patient satisfaction, web traffic, call volume and “how heard” data. More insight on measuring what matters can be found

Advancing Rural Health: Seven Steps to Service Line Marketing Strategy Click To Tweet

All hospitals, regardless of size, benefit from having a strategic approach to overall and service line marketing. For rural and critical access hospitals, it is especially important to establish a set of priorities that allow them to capture the hearts and minds of the community and keep care local, where outcomes are more successful and targeted growth can be achieved to ensure future sustainability. Strategy moves an organization forward with a unified vision, and it sets the course for a healthy future.

Author’s Note: This article is Part 4 of our series on Advancing Rural Health. I encourage you to dive into the rest of the series as well:

For rural health organizations in need of new strategies and tactics to advance health in the local community, expert assistance is within reach. Find out how dhgstudio+ delivers the expertise you need to build awareness, shape new programs, deepen connections between your brand and the local community, and form community partnerships to sustain the presence of local healthcare.

About the Author

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupCarol Dobies, MBA, is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Advancing Rural Health: From Healthcare to Lifecare

Rural health systems are fertile grounds for innovation – that’s the consensus reached by healthcare executives at the Health:Further conference last month, and we couldn’t agree more. With declining populations compounded by challenges associated with provider shortages, governmental influences and rapidly advancing technologies, rural health systems should recognize and seize the opportunity to reinvent the way they deliver health to their communities.

As discussed in our blog last week on Advancing Rural Health, market forces are driving transformation in the strategies deployed by rural and critical access hospitals. My colleagues and I envision successful innovation taking shape through “lifecare,” a consumer-centric ecosystem that offers integrated health-related services across the full continuum of consumer needs.

To create this ecosystem, consumers and suppliers (including payers) of health and wellbeing services will connect on a platform. Companies such as Apple, Uber and Airbnb have successfully unlocked the power of platforms, according to Harvard Business Review’s article titled, Pipelines, Platforms and the New Rules of Strategy. “Platform businesses bring together producers and consumers in high-value exchanges,” explain the authors. “Their chief assets are information and interactions, which together are also the source of the value they create and their competitive advantage.”

With a platform strategy, everyone wins because decisions are made that encourage healthy lives. The strategy places the consumer at the center of the ecosystem, and products and services are rendered from expected and non-traditional entities, including healthcare disruptors. While healthcare disruptors may be viewed as threats when they enter the market, many are actually good sources of collaboration for the lifecare platform model. Rural communities can benefit from innovation that identifies and tracks how consumers will expect service and care in the future.

With a platform strategy in #ruralhealth, everybody wins because the end result is a #lifecare ecosystem where better health flourishes. Click To Tweet

For rural hospitals and critical access hospitals, the platform acts as a hub, facilitating interactions through which consumers can actively and continuously engage in their health. The ideal environment allows competitors and community partners (e.g., public health departments, schools, fitness facilities, grocery stores, healthcare disruptors, etc.) to become collaborators, working together on behalf of the consumer. Public and private partnerships provide greater access to community-based life products and services such as healthy foods, fitness programs, health education, telehealth, digital health coaching and services borne from predictive analytics. Preventive health and wellness programs become more accessible and personalized, leading to increased engagement and utilization. The end result: an ecosystem where better health flourishes, benefiting everyone in the rural community.


A graphic depicting the lifecare model, with the consumer at the center.


Lifecare is a framework for creating a cohesive network that connects each consumer to the products, services, education and additional support needed for optimal individual health. Rural and critical access hospitals can and should take a more active role in facilitating optimal outcomes across a more unified and connected system. And those who embrace this level of innovation now have the greatest opportunity to emerge as local, regional and even national leaders who are authentically consumer-centric, catalyzing a movement toward a more meaningful impact on individual and population health.

Developing a lifecare platform strategy is complex but necessary, and the time to begin your planning is now. With the health industry’s rapid transformation into consumerism, population health, value-based reimbursement, rural and critical access hospitals that are slow to embrace a collaborative, consumer-centric lifecare model will get left behind.

Successfully creating your new business model design requires a firm commitment to strategic business planning, organizational readiness assessments, collaborative partnerships, cultural alignment, consumer engagement and brand authenticity. There is no universal approach – the scope and application can and will vary from one enterprise to the next, but all will have at least one common denominator: a consumer-centric ecosystem where partners share a vision for keeping people healthy throughout their lives.

At Dobies Healthcare Group we don’t just challenge rural health leaders to advance rural health in ways that elevate the overall health of the community – we offer a unique program to support it. We use our strengths in strategic marketing, branding and communications to position rural and critical access hospitals as catalysts for health in their local communities. We help define what an ecosystem might look like, one that places the consumer in the middle and then creates an environment around them where health will flourish. Lifecare is a shift from the traditional pipeline strategic planning to a platform model, and it opens new doors of opportunity to advance rural health.

Author’s Note: Thank you for reading this article, which is Part 2 of our series on Advancing Rural Health. I encourage you to dive into the rest of the series as well, which we are rolling out throughout September:

About the Author

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupCarol Dobies, MBA, is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Advancing Rural Health: Addressing Market Challenges

As we begin our September blog series on Advancing Rural Health, it’s helpful to think about the challenges faced by healthcare providers and patients in America’s small-town communities. As shown in the chart below, rural Americans experience a unique combination of factors that create disparities in healthcare not found in urban areas. Market forces such as changing demographics, continued provider shortages, governmental influences and rapidly advancing technologies are changing healthcare delivery. Rural hospitals and care providers encounter additional obstacles with regard to disparate socioeconomic factors, geographical location, consumer health and lifestyle behaviors, and aging patient populations with higher-than-average rates of chronic illness.

A chart illustrating how market and rural forces are shifting the healthcare landscape.

In its 2015 Policy Brief on Population Health in Rural Communities, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) states that, “access to high-quality healthcare is a key component in supporting a healthy community … one of the reasons that rural hospitals, rural clinics and [rural community health centers] are instrumental to the overall wellbeing of rural communities.” However, citing the County Health Rankings Model from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program), the NRHA brief also noted that access and quality account for only about 20 percent of the overall determinants of population health. Health behaviors such as tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, and sexual activity account for 30 percent, while the physical environment affects another 10 percent. The remaining population health determinants (40 percent) are impacted by a complex tapestry of social circumstances, behavior patterns, and environmental and economic factors, including education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety.

Together, these market factors create disparities that we must address to sustain and build the health/well-being of individuals in our regions and keep our communities healthy.

Today’s rural and critical access hospitals and care providers are at the precipice of a transformational time in healthcare history, and they are embracing transformational thinking about their role in making better health possible in their local communities. Consumerism is driving a more integrated approach to health, one that is not solely focused on providing care to patients when they are sick, but also helping to keep them healthy. At Dobies Healthcare Group, we envision a model that allows health to take place in local communities by engaging and inspiring an integration of health and life services. Despite the challenges associated with rural health, a more connected system of care is within reach.

In other words, we see opportunity for rural and critical access hospitals to pivot in order to sustain their presence as community-based healthcare providers, keeping healthcare local. As leaders of a strategy-first healthcare marketing firm, my colleagues and I have been sharing insight with our rural and critical access hospital clients about how increased consumer knowledge and other market forces are driving substantial change in healthcare delivery. Such change requires greater communication and collaboration among all parties tasked with providing care and access to care (which isn’t always medical). At the core of this evolution is the need to keep people healthy throughout their lives, not simply treat them when they are sick.

Advancing Rural Health: Addressing Market Challenges - Click To Tweet

Hospital leaders who understand these market conditions will:

  • Seek resources to help you transform their organizations
  • Pivot to accommodate the market forces at play
  • Prepare today for the changes already underway, as well as those still to come
  • Change your local market position to make better health possible
  • Reinvent your brand to connect with consumers, long before they become patients
  • Transform from a model of hospital care to an integrated community-wide system of health and life services
  • Build collaborative relationships with community partners to weave together an integrated health and life system that inspires better health

If you are a rural or critical access hospital leader with an interest in connecting with your local community to inspire better health, take a moment to discover how dhgstudio+, a strategy-first healthcare marketing service scaled for rural hospitals, aligns with your goals.

Reader Tip: I encourage you to learn from the case study examples set by our clients at Bryan Health, who have embraced and led collaborative models in the communities of their rural and critical access hospitals.

Author’s Note: Thank you for reading this article, which is Part 1 of our series on Advancing Rural Health. I encourage you to dive into the rest of the series as well, which we are rolling out throughout September:

About the Author

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerJulie Amor, MHA, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, has 30 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Strategy-First: The Value of Strategic Planning in the Battle for Market Leadership

Photo of a group of coworkers around a desk.Several years ago, I spent a day at the National WWI Museum and Memorial with 11 other Kansas City-based CEOs from my Vistage group. We were there to explore the science/art of planning and directing large military movements and operations. In short, we studied strategy.

Taking the opportunity to interpret the history of World War I and then applying that understanding to the context of informed decision making in businesses was an eye-opening experience. As the CEO for a healthcare marketing and branding firm that has always had an operating philosophy of strategy-first, I fundamentally understand that strategy differs from tactics. However, the term “strategy” has become ubiquitous among companies like ours, so much so that its meaning has been somewhat diluted by advertising hyperbole. I spent much of that day with my Vistage group reflecting on the value of strategy and why it should matter to clients seeking healthcare marketing and branding support.

Clearly, strategy and tactics are closely related, but strategy endures through the years – it is the higher level, larger scale plan that governs all the little tactics that support it. From a war planning perspective, it answers the question, “How will we win this war?” Tactical execution, on the other hand, is more about the methods, equipment and technology used during the fight.

From a marketing and branding perspective, strategy tells us what we should be doing and why. For example, a well-defined brand strategy sets forth guiding principles that should generate more informed decision making about what direction the organization takes, not just the marketing or advertising it deploys. It should spur necessary operational changes and cultural shifts to ensure what you’re doing meets your customers’ needs.

Strategy demands answers before a single dollar is spent on advertising. Find out what questions you should be asking for smart #healthcaremarketing. Click To Tweet

Consider a community hospital where brand strategists and hospital leadership set a course to be the community’s catalyst for health – not just health care. Strategy demands answers to a number of questions before a single dollar is spent on advertising in the external market. For example:

  • What is happening in our community and region that supports us or becomes barriers for us?
  • How does the brand strategy support our growth and profitability goals?
  • What do we do differently today to align with the new promise?
  • What operational changes need to occur to ensure alignment?
  • How do we bring along the staff as we move forward – how do we ensure they adopt these new guiding principles?
  • How will we collaborate with community partners to ensure health becomes pervasive throughout our region?
  • Will we create new services or change the way we deliver existing services to demonstrate our promise?
  • How will we position in the market to give us a competitive advantage?

True strategists bring expertise to not only know the right questions to ask, but to facilitate the process of answering them. Addressing strategy first assures there is a roadmap your organization will take in parallel with in-market advertising and marketing. It is what helps our clients win the battle for market share.

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 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Measuring the Right Insights in Today’s #BigData World: What Counts vs. What Can Be Counted

KPI Dashboard IllustrationThriving in today’s big data world, we look for data metrics to substantiate everything we do. In marketing and advertising, this adage certainly holds true: not everything that counts can be counted (such as word-of-mouth marketing), and not everything that can be counted counts.

As marketing professionals look for measurable results to validate efforts and identify opportunities for improvement, it is important to understand that not all gems can be weighed – and just because something can be weighed doesn’t make it a gem. As President and Chief Strategy Officer for a healthcare branding, marketing and advertising firm, I encourage clients to choose meaningful criteria that, if successful, substantiates the success of the rest. You cannot reasonably track and measure everything, so be strategic: mine insights that are and will be most worthwhile as your organization works to fulfill its mission and achieve its vision.

“If a measurement matters at all, it is because it must have some conceivable effect on decisions and behavior. If we can’t identify a decision that could be affected by a proposed measurement and how it could change those decisions, then the measurement simply has no value.”

– Douglas W. Hubbard, Author, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business

Measurements that can’t guide action and strategy are vanity metrics – findings that look good on paper but don’t really mean anything. By contrast, key performance indicators (KPI) provide valuable information to guide behavior and/or decision making. KPIs become guiding principles indicating if and where change is needed.

Here’s a quick look at some key considerations in establishing this process:

Align Vision

  • Agree to goals early on during the strategic marketing planning process.
  • Determine with your key stakeholders what your measures are, and then set clear processes to monitor and track them. Depending on your goals, appropriate measures may include patient/new patient volume, market share, share of voice, retention rates, physician engagement, patient satisfaction, web traffic, call volume and/or market position.
  • Gain adoption and trust in the process for data collection, analysis and reporting to ensure subsequent engagement on the reported results.

Collect and Connect

  • Partner with key vendors to supply or help capture accurate data.
  • Always ask new customers how and where they heard about you.
  • Dig deep into processes within the organization to ensure data is being captured at all your key touchpoints (admitting, ER, registration, medical records, call center, outpatient clinics).
  • Link organizational revenue to your marketing efforts (earned, paid and owned) to understand customer behavior, utilization and downstream revenue effects.

Analyze and Report

  • Use a dashboard metric report to consistently track and monitor key measures and see trends over time. Choose the high-level key metrics that represent overall success.
  • Go beyond reporting to actually analyze the data to see the “so what.” Data always tell stories.
  • The dashboard will allow you to see where you are driving both customer and new customer volume/revenue. It is very powerful and worth the time it takes to establish as an operational imperative to the strategic growth of the organization.

Healthcare Marketing: How to Measure & Extract the Right KPIs Click To Tweet

The American Marketing Association (AMA) agrees, even going so far as to state that “in order to be taken seriously as business savvy, marketers must develop capabilities around performance evaluation.” AMA advises taking time to systematically review the full spectrum of possible measures and select those that fit best with your goals for the brand strategy development process. A “tight focus on key business metrics and the simplest way to communicate them” is imperative for optimizing both the relevance and the impact of what you’re evaluating.

Accurate measures must be custom, relevant and meaningful to each organization. Rather than preoccupying yourself with measures and metrics that aren’t relevant or actionable, use targeted, tangible metrics as a guide instead. Doing so will provide the clarity and insight you need to determine successful efforts, quantify progress, bring clarity to your efforts, substantiate your work and leverage results to better position your work as key to organizational success and growth.

About the Author

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerJulie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, has 30 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

The Consumer Quest for Well-Being

This edition of our #lifecare blog series explores how products that enable consumers to take more control of health needs are creating a “well-being” state of mind.

Woman in yoga-meditation pose with graphical overlays indicating wellbeing consists of good food, exercise, medicine and heart rate health.There has been a notable uptick in consumer use of products, services and web/mobile applications that cater to their increasing desire to maintain an overall healthy state of being. The connected wearable device category alone reached 453 million users in 2017, and it is projected to nearly double by 2021 (findings available here for Statista subscribers).

With consumer adoption of these “well-being” tools on the rise, one would think health systems and health plans would more proactively create and use well-being models to engage consumers. On the contrary, health systems and health plans have been slow to embrace such tools due to skepticism that they will change behaviors.

The motivational factors and support systems behind consumer resources for well-being data and counsel have yet to be orchestrated as part of a continuum that consumers can connect with in a meaningful, sustainable manner. Most likely, we will see growth in well-being funded by more external (non-healthcare) industry investments and non-traditional partnerships. This is telling, in that these new entrants clearly believe there are opportunities to capture and interact with the consumer. Although health-related products are nothing new, their scope and ubiquity are becoming grander and more pervasive.

The American Hospital Association, in its 2018 Environmental Scan, asserts that this elevated consumer “health ownership” is increasingly driving individuals to view healthcare through a consumer (rather than patient) lens. New expectations for a better experience enabled by technology are driving healthcare organizations and startups to find ways to embed technology into care delivery and lifestyle improvements that create a stronger sense of well-being.

The shift in reimbursement toward value-based and population health models is also calling upon providers to bring the consumer into the decision-making process, creating greater awareness and engagement. Most recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) threw its weight behind data sharing designed to put patients at the center of health decision-making. In April, CMS announced it may begin requiring hospitals to share electronic patient records with other hospitals, community providers and patients. While the specifics of the rule have yet to be finalized, CMS’s Data Driven Patient Care Strategy provides a clear look into the future of healthcare. According to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, “The [strategy] will empower patients with the information they need as consumers of healthcare to enable them to make informed decisions about the care they need.”

With consumers becoming more involved in health/healthcare decisions, significant healthcare marketing and branding opportunities are at hand. Click To Tweet

With consumers becoming more involved in their health and healthcare-related decisions, significant healthcare marketing and branding opportunities are at hand. Healthcare providers have ways to engage consumers at deeper levels than ever before. To make true emotional connections with customers, organizations are developing strategies closely aligned with their corporate cultures to enable and promote an authentic brand experience. Hospitals and health systems across the country are changing their names and logos to reflect a focus on health as opposed to illness. They are demonstrating authenticity by becoming more involved in healthy initiatives in their communities through corporate social engagement. And they are focusing more and more on company culture – character inspired through leaders and demonstrated through core values – to promote consumer centricity in every interaction.

As consumers continue their quest for health as a state of well-being, we see the opportunity for health systems and health plans to embrace the future of healthcare as a consumer-centric industry tasked with keeping people healthy for life, rather than simply delivering care when they are not. Only then will they begin to show authenticity in their promises to consumers, ultimately increasing their overall impact today, and for generations to come.

Authors’ Note: For health system and health plan leaders who want to explore this topic in greater depth, I invite you to read our white paper, “The Emerging Lifecare Model: How consumerism is driving industry collaboration toward health and lifecare as a new strategic platform.” In the paper, we define lifecare as a new brand position that establishes a consumer-centric ecosystem offering integrated health-related services across the full continuum of consumer needs. We also explore lifecare as a platform strategy, as well as its implications on current and future opportunities for partnerships that make a meaningful difference on population health and well-being.

About the Authors

Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group

Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare, co-authored this article with Carol Dobies, our CEO and Founder. Julie and Carol each have deep industry experience that includes 30 years of building and elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

The Secret Behind Share of Voice

What does your voice say in 8 seconds?

With brands vying for consumer attention, a clear strategy for share of voice in market is critical. Studies show the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day. And the average person’s attention span is now just eight seconds. What does your brand say in eight seconds?

Having spent 15 years as VP Marketing for a large academic medical center, I understand the competitive landscape of healthcare and the challenge inherent in reaching consumers with an authentic, meaningful message. And today, as President and Chief Strategy Officer for a healthcare branding firm, I share this experience with clients. Because the secret is: all things equal, share of voice drives share of market.

What does your brand say in 8 seconds? Learn the secret behind share of voice. Click To Tweet

What you need to know about share of voice:

Share of voice is the percentage of overall advertising an organization owns in its market, and it is a strong indicator of future growth. A study by The Nielsen Company shows when share of voice exceeds share of market, you gain “excess share of voice” (SOV-SOM=ESOV). Excess share of voice of 10 points produces an average of 0.5% extra market share growth.

Market factors and quality of advertising strongly contribute to SOV’s success. For example, smaller brands face a daunting feat to grow market share through SOV alone and will require above average, highly effective ad campaigns.

Those in the lead market position have the advantage. On average, brand leaders achieve 1.4% of market share growth per 10% of ESOV, compared to 0.4% for challenger brands. This advantage is attributed to the fact that brand leaders already have market recognition and awareness to propel growth.

Nationally we see the healthcare industry launching or relaunching more consumer-friendly brands. Good news: brand launches or relaunches typically achieve 15-25% greater growth per point of ESOV than the norm. That’s because launch campaigns have something new to say that consumers want to hear.

What does all this mean to the healthcare branding and marketing professional? Brand is an investment. It takes a long-term, sustained commitment to build a quality brand that engages with its audiences. I recommend you know your SOV in market, and be strategic in your media spend to ensure you maintain the desired market position. Reductions to media investments will likely damage a brand in the long term. It is more difficult to regain market position than to maintain it.

Know your SOV in market, and be strategic in your media spend to ensure you maintain the desired market position. Click To Tweet

We know quality, repetitive communication is imperative to reaching your audience. As Jaime Mateos of IE School of Human Sciences & Technology states, “Repeated messages and frequently retrieved information will generate a strong footprint which is easier for consumers to access in the future. But the message needs to be relevant and engaging.”

The Nielsen Company research suggests that to grow market share, five guiding principles can help navigate the correct levels of SOV investment:

  1. SOV alone is not enough. Using the right copy is critical to drive returns.
  2. SOV/SOM differential matters. Excess SOV delivers growth, typically 0.5% for a 10-point differential.
  3. Brand size matters. Market leaders drive greater returns from SOV than challengers.
  4. “Newness” delivers higher gains. Launches/younger categories respond to ESOV at higher levels.
  5. Short-termism is dangerous. Correct level of SOV + quality campaign = stronger brands.

Tools that track and manage share of voice, share of market and provide analysis to be strategic in your approach are important planning resources for savvy marketers. Download our brief on smart advertising strategies and explore soviews+, a competitive media market profiling tool that provides hard-to-find insights to guide your healthcare marketing, branding and advertising strategies.

After all, as the saying goes: however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

About the Author

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerJulie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, has 30 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Healthcare Marketing: Authentic Brands vs. Pigs in Lipstick

All the marketing in the world will not fix a lack of operational readiness, nor improve customer experience. Brands must be ready and able to deliver on their promises before going to market.

Brand is an intangible asset that lives in the hearts and minds of your customers. It is shaped by consumer expectations born from your organization’s actions and communications. It stands to reason, then, that your brand strategy must account for operational considerations and your company’s cultural ethos. Authentic marketing depends on aligning the brand experience (your operations) with the brand promise (your communications). In other words, what you do needs to be in lock-step alignment with what you say.

Absent that, you’re simply putting lipstick on a pig.

Authentic marketing depends on aligning the brand experience (your operations) with the brand promise (your communications). Click To Tweet

Those who embrace authenticity find consumers will do the marketing for them, says fellow marketer Ashley Deibert in a Forbes Communications Council post. Of course, the opposite is also true, given that today’s hyper-connected world means people will also quite publicly call out brands that don’t live up to their promises. Deibert asserts that, “…brands no longer have an option other than representing themselves honestly and transparently. Authenticity is crucial to continued loyalty from fickle audiences.”

I couldn’t agree more. At Dobies Healthcare Group, we’ve been preaching the virtues of brand authenticity to our clients for more than 25 years, long before social media and review sites made word-of-mouth sharing so effortless and ubiquitous. The social media explosion has only intensified a bedrock branding principle that has always been there—authenticity is paramount.

As a healthcare marketer, you likely face the challenge of implementing authentic marketing every day. You intuitively know it is important for products and services to meet certain performance indicators before you invest in promoting them. But do you have those indicators clearly outlined in your marketing and positioning strategy? And how often do you enforce those levels of performance? Are you able to say yes or no and defend your position with data?

Defining and implementing guidelines on assessing service line readiness for marketing is a critical success factor—one that equips you with objective criteria on which to make marketing decisions when product managers or line leaders come calling for marketing support.

Marketing is not a given. It is a strategic operational initiative reserved for targeted organizational growth. For example, consider the following benchmarks for a hospital’s service line readiness:

  • Customer Satisfaction – Are top box scores on satisfaction measures and ‘likelihood to recommend’ scores above 85% (or your specific organizational goal)?
  • Access/Capacity – Do you have enough supply to meet the new demand marketing will generate? Do your physicians have capacity to take more appointments? Are next available appointments for specialists within seven days?
  • Quality – Are quality metrics on your dashboard in the green? Or, if they are in the yellow, are recovery plans well underway?
  • Contribution Margin – Does the service line meet productivity goals and other contribution margin objectives?

Good marketing will make the phone ring, so the product or service best be ready to take the call. Otherwise, you are investing in nothing more than lipstick for a pig. Worse, you’re marketing for your competitors!

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 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

In Hospital Marketing, There Is No Substitute for Accurate Knowledge

The consumer-driven demand for goods, products and services is pervasive in today’s economy, and the service of healthcare is not immune. Rather, it is fully immersed in transforming itself into a competitive, consumer-centric industry.

Theodore Levitt, renowned for his marketing and branding excellence and considered by many to be the founder of modern marketing, offers this advice:

“For companies to ensure continued evolution, they must define their industries broadly to take advantage of growth opportunities. They must ascertain and act on their customers’ needs and desires, not bank on the presumed longevity of their products.”

In other words, you better understand your customer… or your competitor will.

During my career as Vice President of Marketing for a large academic medical center, we were considered a marketing machine — owning share of voice, growing market share each year and outpacing the competition in customer engagement. What drove that success? The answer is simple: we knew our customers. Now, as the President and Chief Strategy Officer for a healthcare branding, marketing and advertising firm, I go to great lengths to ensure our clients—and of course, our own team—understand the customer in ways that inform and ensure adoption of a customer-centric service philosophy.

Here are three things every hospital marketer should know to ensure a customer-centric marketing approach:

1. Know the customer journey

When I led the marketing team at the academic medical center, everyone on my team was required to “round” patient units each month—in fact, we had someone from marketing rounding every day on the units we had “adopted.” People would ask, why are marketing people rounding at the bedside? The answer: to ensure everyone in charge of marketing and communication for the hospital clearly understood the customer journey (where they came from, how they got there, what their experience has been.) It’s also a valuable way to bring back knowledge of the customer’s wants, needs and desires (how to make the customer’s stay better). It was important to me that everyone marketing hospital services understood what we did, how we did it and how the customer was experiencing it.

2. Know your voice

It is critical to understand what the competition is saying to your customers, how that message is communicated and how often it is communicated. Knowing how your share of voice compares to competitors is very important, but alone it is not enough. Share of market differential matters significantly because increasing excess share of voice is essential to driving market share growth. In fact, for every 10 points your share of voice exceeds your share of market, you can expect 0.5 percent greater market share growth. Competitive insights are critical to defining a strong market position. With a firm understanding of the competitive landscape, you’ll gain insights that empower you to address your own voice more strategically.

3. Know what you are not

Healthcare marketing does not sell widgets—there are no products on shelves and no inventory to report. We sell the promise of care, treatment and good health. Levitt also coined the term marketing myopia to describe the pitfalls that come into play when a business strictly views marketing from the standpoint of selling a specific product, rather than fulfilling customer needs. As a healthcare marketing executive, I believe marketing teams should focus on who the customer is and what they should be experiencing by emphasizing their promise (benefit), not their product (feature).

Top 3 Things You Should Know for Consumer-Centric Hospital Marketing Click To Tweet

In the ever-changing industry of healthcare, reaching the right audience with the right messages has become essential and requires keen understanding and insight. Hospital marketers cannot afford to miss with their message. Know your customer, know your voice and know what you are not.

As Lee Iacocca once said, “There is no substitute for accurate knowledge.”

About the Author

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerJulie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare, has 30 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.