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Posted on December 9, 2011

JohnCorpusHead6By: John Corpus, Vice President, Client Services

Let us get the basics out of the way: employees are your most important asset; the patient is always right; brand = promise = experience! But, what does all of this mean?

Does your organization truly believe that its employees are its most important asset? More importantly, do the actions of your system demonstrate this? I am familiar with a number of healthcare entities that tout this message, giving notice to the public while trying to convince their employees at the same time. Yet, actions mean more than words and usually indicate otherwise.

Your employees are your strongest ambassadors: do they tell their friends and families how much you value them or how much you take advantage of them? Do they interact indifferently with patients and complain about various aspects of work or are they friendly and professional during patient interaction? Make sure that the answers here are positive, for believe it or not, your employees' actions will attest more to how you value them than you stating it.

Is the patient REALLY always right? We know that this is not true. Does it matter? No! The concept of right or wrong is second to the experience. Instead, ask yourself if the patient walks away feeling respected, valued, and understood. Make your employees feel this way, and it will trickle down to the patients. In other words, treat them like they are your most important asset and they will do the same with their patients.

Has your organization constructed a brand promise it can keep? Perhaps even more important is whether the promise is meaningful or desired by the patient. Think about it: did you develop your brand promise based upon what patients want or upon what you think patients want.

Patient-/customer-centered service development and enhancement are paramount. Do it right the first time; determine what patients want versus what you have to offer; determine what patients want to buy before determining what you want to sell; continuously explore the needs of your patients instead of believing that you know what the patient needs.

Am I saying anything new? No. We tend to forget the basics however, often getting lost in the bottom-line once business is going well.

So, keep these points in mind:

  • Stop telling everyone how your employees are your greatest asset - it means nothing when every other organization is saying the same thing. Be different: treat your employees as if they are your most important asset; their actions and statements will speak for themselves and are worth more than anything you can say.
  • It does not matter if the patient is always right or sometimes wrong. What does matter is making the patient feel respected, valued, and understood, by turning any negative event into a positive experience.
  • Patient experience defines your brand promise. Make sure that you are focused on the needs and desires of your patients versus what works best for the organization and its bottom-line.

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Merry Cliché-Less Christmas!

Posted on December 20, 2011

By: Kris Miskella, Account Executive, Legato Marketing & Communications

"Naughty or nice," "Santa's little helpers," "bah humbug," "ring in the New Year." You're likely to hear a steady stream of these phrases this time of year. You can "tis" and "twas" your way through the entire holiday season. And while they may bring happy feelings of nostalgia during the holidays, there is no place for clichés in advertising.

We use clichés because they're easy and safe. But this type of average work inevitably becomes white noise mixed in with the rest of the advertisers on billboards, radio, online and elsewhere.

Healthcare advertisers are some of the worst offenders. "Personal care," "high quality care," "skilled surgeons" and "caring nurses" are a few of the most common headlines in the healthcare industry. People expect skilled surgeons and caring nurses, they're give-ins - not your competitive advantage.

It's scary, but it's time to stretch what's expected and accepted in healthcare advertising. Stop treating healthcare as if it's a fragile leg lamp (yes, another holiday cliché). Strong advertising that will truly capture attention and make the audience take notice has to be out-there. Dancing hamsters and shark focus groups are unique and memorable, but just imagine if something like that came out of a hospital. These days, any idea that seems extreme shouldn't be tossed aside - it should be moved to the 'keeper' pile. Different works. As long as the message is there.

I'm not suggesting that a community hospital spend 30 percent of its annual budget on a commercial full of dancing rodents. But there are easy ways that healthcare organizations can start differentiating themselves.

Social Media. For an industry that relies heavily on word-of-mouth and referrals, an active presence on twitter and Facebook is vital but social media outlets are also one of the easiest mediums for dipping your toes in 'out-there' marketing tactics. Ask your 'fans' to send a picture or video of their craziest dance moves; people have tons of weird talents that they love sharing with others - and this offers a great opportunity to insert a 'we treat you like the unique, one-of-a-kind patent you are' message. Hopefully you end up with some wild videos that will keep potential patients coming back for more.

Video. Use social media outlets to broadcast a video that showcases the personality of your healthcare organization. Video offers the opportunity to be a little riskier than with traditional television while still taking advantage of the medium's image-enhancing benefits. Have your employees let loose on camera: people want to connect with their healthcare providers and it's nice to see doctors and nurses let down their guard.

Guerilla Marketing. Create awareness for your organization with interactive campaigns in your community. Use sidewalk chalk to draw a hopscotch outline and next to it write the message: "Hop to good health." Or, place a fun-house mirror in a heavily trafficked area and paint this message: "Laughter is good for your health." These techniques will get people buzzing.

Advertising. Now is when you have to 'put your money where your mouth is' and run with the concept that steps 'outside the box.' As long as the message is there, bizarre concepts have the power to capture your audience's attention and become memorable. Take a calculated risk and make sure to track results. You'll likely see your courage pay off.

There are countless ways of stretching the boundaries of healthcare marketing, but to avoid becoming a "Twelve Days of Christmas" parody I'll stop here.

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Proud to be a Healthcare Nerd

Posted on December 26, 2011

mikem3_biggerMy name is Mike Milligan, I'm 44, and I'm a healthcare nerd.

Ok, I've publicly declared what my teenage girls have said since they could speak.

But, being comfortable with my high geek level, I took the day after Christmas to finish up my self-study course on Competitive Strategy from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

And yes, I enjoyed it.

I appreciated the reminder about how differentiation and service are so critical in healthcare.  But not as always glaringly obvious to me throughout the year, is that consumers need to value that differentiation.  Do consumers view the attributes of a service as unique or different?  In other words, why should they care?

And this, my friends, is where marketing strategy comes in to play.  We as marketers need to help consumers not only understand what makes our sleep center unique; they need to fully understand and appreciate how this differentiation benefits them.  In other words, branding and awareness have their roles, but so does good ol' fashioned persuasion.

Another takeaway for me is to not become complacent.  I'll encourage our clients to make sure we have our differentiation defined for the various services before we advertise - and that we don't rely on advertising to cover for poorly defined strategies.  We need to ask the tough questions, and use the answers to define and refine our products and services into market-ready profit centers.

Wishing you and your family a safe and Happy New Year,

Mike

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