Branding & The Boardroom

So – you are the marketing leader in your organization and you need to pitch the concept of a new, larger brand strategy. You know you are outranked – in most health systems, the senior marketing leader tends to be junior in title and position compared to most other senior leaders around the boardroom table. You have done your homework and you know branding is about something much bigger than an ad campaign or a new logo. But most everyone else around the table has only a superficial idea about branding that you need to overcome. And resources are tight – its likely that the dollars you need to implement a brand strategy will come from somewhere else in the organization. In order to get resources, you need to lay out a compelling reason as to why the resources need to be invested into a brand strategy.

And yet – if you have done your homework and researched branding (if you are looking for a great place to start – try my Great Reads page), you know that branding is about something big. Its about building an emotional, gut-level preference for your brand with your customers. Its about your organization’s identity and differentiating with a capital “D.”

Yet boardroom discussions are expected to be about business strategies and numbers, About features and benefits. About ROI. So how do you take a topic about emotional engagement and present to a room that wants numbers and ROI?

Its not easy but it is doable. You do need to be prepared to offer some numbers. But you also need to engage those senior leaders at an emotional level. Here are a few tips and starters:

  1. Enter the boardroom armed with the voice of the customer – One advantage the marketer has is that you have the natural expectation to conduct and use market research. Start with surveys, focus groups, even one-on-one interviews (even if you and your team has to go to patient rooms and interview patients and families – do it). Let your customers tell what their challenges are in navigating your hospital or health system and how that differs from their expectations. What they tell you should go a long way toward informing a brand strategy. And their perspectives will engage your boardroom.
  2. Conduct a logo audit. How many logos do you have in your health system? Define a different logo as any that presents either a modified or different symbol or a unique set of words in the bold, large font.  For most health systems, this can often be an impressive collection. In my current health system we have a logo soup slide that shows about 30 different logos. And our survey of system marketers at our sites found that over 70% of them had at least 10 additional logos in use not shown on the slide.
  3. Connect the dots from logos to resource demands – each logo represents an ongoing demand for resources to support that logo; signage, letterhead, brochures, websites, advertising, etc… By simplifying brand identities (to just one ideally) you can dramatically reduce costs associated with maintaining your brand identity. And these savings represents a great opportunity to leverage current resources toward more and better brand building activities including advertising.
  4. Now combine that logo audit with the fact that the average person is exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages each day. Your customers do not have time to figure out your brand in their complex and over-saturated lives. If they see your message and they like your message, they need to be able to associate your message to your brand. Simplifying your brand identity will help in that cause.
  5. Take the time to align everyone in the boardroom around a new definition of brand. Connect your definition to being about a promise, about differentiation and about growth. If your customer connects with the promise that underlies your new brand, and that promise differentiates you from your competitor, then preference for your brand will grow. And as preference grows, so should market share – assuming you can deliver on your promise. And that is when you will begin to talk about the brand strategy that really matters.
  6. Branding ultimately should be about growth through greater loyalty and increased customer acquisition. Your brand strategy should demosntrate how you intend to measure those outcomes.

This road map has helped our small MarComm team at my current health system as we have presented to about 11 different boardrooms and other gatherings of senior leaders over the past 3 months. And we continue to see greater alignment and support for our brand strategy. I would like to hear about your story – how did you succeed at presenting on branding to your boardroom. How successful were you? What did you do to succeed?


Observations After Transitioning to a New Health System

Four months ago I accepted a new position as Vice President of Marketing at SCL Health, a system of eight hospitals and their associated employed physician networks located throughout Colorado, Montana and Kansas. The system has, in recent years, merged with another system, moved its headquarters from Kansas to Colorado and has transitioned several hospitals to other healthcare systems. Not surprisingly, with all these changes, the system has yet to develop a strong brand presence in most of the markets in which it operates.

In addition, the system is not oriented to a metric approach to its marketing programs. For the most part, with the exception of our hospital in Billings, there are no dashboards, little tracking of digital metrics and few attempts to develop and present conversion and ROI case studies. Not surprisingly, many of the discussions about marketing and branding are focused on resources.

As a marketer, if you have not developed a strong brand presence that leads to growing preference, which in turn leads to greater opportunities for growth and if you are not measuring and reporting on success from marketing efforts, then an outcome will be difficult discussions about the resources available to you to do your job.

So for me this is job one. Building a great brand and implementing a metric oriented system. The great aspect is that the team we have to do this with are bright, engaging and wanting to pursue this journey. I cannot wait to see what happens. Join me here on occasion to track our progress.

Hospitals And the New Apple Demographic

The MarketingProfs offer some great insight into mobile ecommerce with far-reaching implications based on a study of 21 million mobile transactions earlier this year. The study by SeeWhy discovered that a whopping 89% of mobile ecommerce sales were conducted on iOS – 70% coming from iPads alone! This suggests significant core differences between the behaviors of Android and iOS users – Apple customers really are different. They are likely style-conscious, premium users that prefer a more engaging experience that Apple offers. According to the article:

Some evidence suggests that Apple tablets are easier to use and somehow more engaging. Easy Wi-Fi connections may be part of the story, coupled with more apps and a consistent app experience that encourages user engagement. If users spend more time on the device and are using Wi-Fi to surf recreationally on a big screen while sipping a glass of wine on the couch in the evening, then purchases follow.

While most hospitals are focused on creating provider networks that expand access to care and offer more options such as urgent care, retail clinics, etc…, they may also be wise to look more closely at the demographics of the patients they need to engage with these networks. It seems that a better understanding of this new Apple demographic might be a great place to start. Hospitals interested in developing a competitive network that can compete for a better payor mix may want to offer an online experience that both meets the needs of this demographic while also complementing their provider network. This will require going beyond the electronic medical record and include such services as e-consults with providers, online scheduling, online registration for emergency and inpatient services, out-of-pocket cost calculators for health network services, online bill review and consultation services with customer service reps, etc… And doing so in an integrated fashion.

If the iPad user currently accounts for the majority of online transactions and they offer a tremendous payor mix advantage that the demographic would seem to suggest, then building a health network to meet the needs of this user demographic would be a tremendous advantage for any health system.


How easy are we to do business with?

Earlier this week Paul Roemer shared some great insight on why hospitals may not be achieving better customer satisfaction scores. Most of us are focused on measuring and tracking how well we deliver care to patients. But the question he asks is how easy are we to do business with?

Can patients schedule their own test or procedure on-line – or do they have to call a call center? And is that call center only available between 8 am and 5 pm when many patients have to work? Do we orient patients to their upcoming visit with interactive maps, visitor guides, etc…? Or do we hand them stacks of paper once they arrive? How much paper do we still hand to patients? How much time do we spend making patient bills easier to understand? 

Our hospitals likely have significant opportunity for improvement by evaluating how easy they are to do business with. 

The Way to Better Healthcare Marketing is Paved with Evidence

At my hospital we are into our 3rd year of promoting the Sparrow Way to all internal audiences. The Sparrow Way about the pursuit of evidence-based clinical best practices. It has spawned literally hundreds of changes, projects and efforts to identify the best way to do things and implement them at our hospital.

But evidence-based practices exist in all fields including marketing. This article from Ragan is a good reminder that our healthcare marketing efforts need to start with evidence-based best practices. And if you are looking for some, Chris Boyer, linked from the Ragan article, offers a great starting point.

Women, Healthcare and Mobile

If there is one constant in healthcare marketing, its that women make the majority of purchasing decisions. If this is true, why do so few hospitals have a strategy to engage this all too important audience via mobile? If your hospital does not have a mobile strategy, here are 10 reasons to get one.

Girl Power and Mobile