When crafting a hospital marketing plan, it is important to make sure it is in line with, and supports, the hospital’s business objectives. While building brand name recognition is always important, the hospital marketer also needs to determine what the hospital is trying to accomplish. Various services within the hospital may have different target audiences which could entail segmented marketing strategies.
Working against the potential for success is a general feeling of distrust for marketing from within the hospital administration itself. In 2012 the Fournaise Marketing Performance Institute concluded that 80% of CEOs do not trust the work of marketers, saying they are disconnected from financial realities and are not focused enough on ROI.
To counter this mistrust, hospital marketers need to be more aware of areas that are most desirable in terms of profitability. This may range from cardiac services and geriatrics, to oncology, pediatrics or women’s health care. The order of importance for these services within the hospital’s business plan should be determined, along with the specific benefits for each. The marketer can then set to work on determining demographics and lifestyle characteristics of patients who are most likely to utilize each service. This information will form the foundation for a hospital marketing plan which includes:
- Preferred service areas, in order of importance.
- Detailed analysis of target prospects for each area.
- Competitive analysis within the market area.
- Understanding of strengths and opportunities to be promoted.
- Setting goals and budgets.
- Creating and implementing marketing strategies.
- Tracking, analysis, and adjustments.
The hospital marketer’s goals are the same as that of any marketer - to increase awareness and promote “sales” of a product or service. The “business and facts” side of hospital administration needs to believe that marketing is on board with meeting objectives, is developing strategies to meet goals, and can provide hard evidence of success.
One strategy many hospital marketers are turning to is maximizing their digital marketing programs. Online campaigns have proven to be cost-effective marketing channels that can be targeted for specific procedures that require certain conditions or criteria to be met. In one example, MD Connect surveyed the marketing habits of over 200 vein practices in collaboration with the American College of Phlebology (ACP). The study, “US Vein Practice Audit: A Profile of ACP Membership Practices' Marketing Investment and Return,” revealed that internet marketing is two to three times more efficient than traditional media.
In another case study, MD Connect implemented online marketing strategies for a US News Top 10 Hospital which was dissatisfied with the results of three paid search agencies that failed to understand their objectives and did not develop an approach tailored to their needs and objectives. The company worked with administrators and other hospital constituents to develop localized micro-websites, paid search campaigns, and detailed lead and referral tracking. The hospital reported that, “In just our first month, we received 57 referrals ... and scheduled 30 new patient appointments ... a very impressive return on investment.”
Developing a hospital marketing plan that is in line with business objectives benefits both the hospital and the marketer.