Health Care Marketing – The Black Arts

Marketing is one of the least understood functions in mainstream health care. This is partly because the need to compete in the public forum is new to the industry, partly because the mediums and technologies have dramatically changed and partly because there are so few experienced people with combined industry, technology and marketing expertise.

Why is marketing so important now? Three reasons:

1. Medical technology has made outcomes more consistent and the Internet has made patients more educated;
2. High insurance deductibles drive increasing consumerism where eight of ten people now select their providers using search engines, and eight of ten of them use Google; and,
3. Service, convenience and perceived value are on par, and may soon supersede, delivering good clinical outcomes, which are now generically expected.

Competing effectively is increasingly important because the present delivery and reimbursement system is financially unsustainable. Those who fail to adapt will struggle to survive and be acquired at unfavorable prices. Size is going to matter because there are critical efficiencies in scale and breadth of services allowing for internal referral.

Marketing is an investment that brings big returns with the right partner, and costs dearly with the wrong one. Marketing is not a website, search engine optimization or advertisement, billboard or brochure although a lot of purveyors of those services want you to think so. Those are just tactics to support strategies that are driven and modified by research and statistical analysis – and that takes expertise, deep understanding of the health care delivery system and experience.

Marketing is understanding where the competition is vulnerable and where you are strong, becoming very good at the former and better at the latter – and adapting. It is understanding what the term “patient experience” really means and delivering superior service with consistency, competence and a smile. It is hiring people who match your culture, and basing your culture on excellence, clinically, managerially and service-wise. It is setting clear goals supported by expert strategic planning, determining the best combination of tactics and measuring the results.

It is easy for marketers to make claims, so how do you know what you are getting is right for you? You can’t fix what you can’t measure, and you don’t know what needs fixing without knowing how it should perform. Our advice – follow the money.

The HCP strategy is to look at each tactical component as a cash machine. Every time we put in a dollar, we expect it to return ten in revenue within a reasonable period of time. We measure output constantly, calibrate for accuracy and adjust for optimal performance. When using only two or three tactics without an overall strategy, we expect a return of five to one.

Most vendors, especially advertisers, website developers and search engine optimizers, tout their ability to drive traffic, the easiest metric to achieve.

The hard part is to drive the right traffic seeking the right services and to capture and convert them into patients, retain them as patients and earn their referrals. That is what marketers do – and they count the money, not just the cars.

Investing in a comprehensive marketing program is not making a bet; it is stacking the deck, playing a full hand and counting the cards. A comprehensive, expertly managed marketing program can deliver, maintain dominance and secure your future.

At HCP, we not only have marketing expertise, our health care division is managed by health care experts with decades of CEO experience at the hospital and practice level.

The difference will be crystal clear.

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