We’ve had an exciting week in New Orleans at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, with great discussion on not only the shifting market but the leadership required to make the shift to sustainability in a new business model (see There Is No “Plan B” Alternative To Value: Creating A Value-Focused Competitive Strategy In A Changing Market, The Value-Based Reimbursement Steeplechase, and The Value-Based Reimbursement Steeplechase). One thought has stayed with me following my discussion with many of our 400+ participating executives: for provider organizations in particular, to position their organization to success means adopting new marketing strategies – or, as my colleague Jim Gargiulo so deftly put it earlier this week, Marketing Is Strategy In Action.
There are two equally important domains in this new marketing paradigm – a business development strategy to succeed in building preferential contracts with payers and health plans and a consumer-centric strategy to gain consumer preference and selection. For the latter, given the change in Americans’ purchasing habits, it’s all about an online marketing strategy – a strategy that optimizes your organization’s web presence and social media identity. American consumers now expect to find the information they need to make purchasing decisions online, from product details and pricing, to reviews and feedback from other customers. This is as true in health care as it is in banking and retail. What are consumers looking for when they search for your organization? I think there are five big things that your target consumers will expect to be able to learn about you online:
- What does your organization do that I need? Will it solve my problem?
- How much will it cost – and how do your costs compare to your competitors?
- What insurance does your organization accept? Or how can I pay for this if not?
- How does your “quality” and “performance” care stack up to my other options?
- What do other consumers say about your services?
Most of this information will probably exist online (in some format – whether it is accurate or not) regardless if you are tracking and managing it. And if it does not exist online, the perception from most consumers is that it must be negative. This means that online marketing isn’t a luxury – it’s a key component of your organization’s ability to succeed. Yet still there are many detractors in health care.
But with these market changes in mind, I’ve pulled together a collection of comments that I’ve heard from provider organization executives about online marketing – and my advice in response:
“We can re-launch our website when my IT guy has more free time.”
I can’t say this enough – your website is a marketing tool, not an information technology function. In our current consumer-driven market, your online presence is the primary way organizations will find and learn about your organization. This means web development should live in your marketing department or be outsourced and managed by marketing.
“We don’t have the budget to do online marketing well – so it’s not worth it.”
I would argue that online marketing can be effective on any budget – if it’s targeted to the correct audience. A big part of online marketing is identifying which stakeholder group you identify as the highest priority audience and then tailoring your website content and voice to meeting the needs and expectations of that audience.
“We’re on like 50 social media networks and none of them are effective! Social media is junk.”
Social media should be tailored to your key stakeholders, just like your entire online marketing strategy. Make a point of investing more resources into the most critical channels used by your target audience (not less resources into more channels).
“We’re trying a couple things this year… we have no idea what’s working.”
In the world of marketing, what you don’t measure doesn’t exist. If you are being innovative and trying new things, there are bound to be failures and missteps. The key is to “fail quickly” and move on – but you can’t correct these failures unless you’re measuring your results and linking them to return-on-investment.
The reality is that when half of consumers are making purchasing decisions based on the information they find online, it’s imperative that you make sure information about your organization is better positioned, simpler to understand, and easier to access than any of your competitors. For more on building your online brand, OPEN MINDS Circle Premium and Elite members can check out my presentation from this week in New Orleans – The OPEN MINDS Online Marketing Summit.