What to Expect When Marketing At a Higher Level
Competition among healthcare providers continues to heat up in many regions. Continued growth in healthcare consumerism, which empowers patient/family choice for providers, is making branding, marketing and differentiation more important than ever.
As a result, healthcare agencies are discovering the need for marketing at a whole new level – especially campaigns targeted to prospective patients and family healthcare decision makers. Is your agency among them? Do you feel you’re entering uncharted territory in your marketing efforts?
If so, Transcend Strategy Group offers this advice on what to expect based on 20 years of branding and marketing for more than 50 providers, coast-to-coast:
1. Your marketing will be much more effective if highly targeted. Often, marketers in all categories develop campaigns that promote their capabilities or benefits and shotgun those messages across multiple audiences and media outlets. The best marketing isn’t about you – it’s about the needs of a particular audience. So, choose a specific audience and know how marketing to them will help you achieve clear, measurable goals. Develop a marketing strategy that addresses the chosen audience’s pain points and promotes how your agency is the best resource for meeting those needs. Have a plan for what you want the strategy to achieve – e.g., increase inquiries, boost admissions, grow length of service – and include metrics for how to measure success. Then develop the right media mix, considering both traditional and digital media, to pinpoint your target audience and reach them multiple times with your messaging.
2. You might need to champion marketing as an investment, not an expense. Effective marketing usually isn’t cheap. But you need to consider the funding as a true investment – which means you should be expecting and tracking meaningful ROI. If you haven’t had a substantial marketing budget in the past, you may get pushback from your CFO or board of directors who can look at anything on the outgoing side of the ledger as an expense. Yet you can make the case for what you expect the return on investment to be. One reason the investment can be substantial is that you need to hit your target audience with your messaging over and over and over again to break through. A study done repeatedly by the advertising industry consistently shows that audiences need to hear a new message at least nine times before it really starts to sink in. So getting messages to your target audience multiple times can require some serious bucks. Fortunately – with today’s social media, digital media and search engine marketing – you can have an effective campaign more cost-efficiently than in the past when mass media was required to reach your audience. So, what kind of ROI is realistic? Agencies who have fully followed Transcend’s recommended strategies and tactics have consistently realized 100 to 400% increases in topline revenue. Some clients even have achieved ROI of more than 10 to 1.
3. Getting significant results takes time. Healthcare marketing typically doesn’t generate results overnight. Providers of pre- and post-acute care often aren’t even on their target audience’s radar. Thus, marketing has to build awareness, create or change audience perceptions, and then change their behavior in choosing you as a preferred provider. All of which can take time – and means you must be patient, be consistent with your marketing efforts, and stay the course of your plan. For matters such as growing patient census and length of service, Transcend’s clients usually require at least 18 to 24 months to gain significant change and three years or so to fully achieve campaign goals. Along with achieving those goals comes the complete ROI.
4. Not everyone is going to like your marketing campaign. And I’m talking about your own team! Great marketing is part art and part science. Transcend highly recommends using market research and data to identify needs, opportunities and successes – that’s the “science part.” The “art part” – the creative aspects of marketing – is how campaigns connect with the target audience’s hearts and emotions. As you know, art can be very subjective … and everyone has an opinion. Agencies, particularly nonprofit ones, can have a desire to be very inclusive and try to make everyone happy with all aspects of a marketing campaign. That is extremely rare if not impossible to do. And if you try to make everyone happy, impactful creative ideas can get watered down to the lowest common denominator. So, have a strong strategy in place and a rationale for what the creative execution is designed to accomplish. As long as you can defend the creative approach, stand your ground. After all, your marketing’s target audience isn’t your internal team – it’s prospective patients, families and referrers.
Do you need experienced help in navigating the process of creating effective marketing at a higher level? Email me at [email protected]. We can help you know what to expect – and develop the path to meet or exceed those expectations.