Men: Are they the missing link in your 2012 marketing plan?

Posted on January 4, 2012

mikem3_biggerMen: Are they the missing link in your 2012 marketing plan?

Super Bowl frenzy is upon us. It's the time of year for all good men to come to the aid of their favorite team to cheer them on to victory. Most will watch Super Bowl XLVI from the comfort of their barcalounger. And when a commercial airs-it's one of the few times we men won't reach for the remote control. But if we did, would it really matter?

Think about it. Women account for 83% of all consumer purchases. That said, is it really necessary to market to the male species-especially when we're talking about healthcare?

Yes. Why? Because men are evolving, albeit slowly, into conscious consumers.

One reason for this evolution is the "Mancession"-the term given to the downturn in our economy-and for good reason. It's estimated that more than 6 million men have lost their jobs since 2007 compared to approximately 2.6 million women. In many of these cases, men have taken on new or broader roles in their family, including becoming stay-at-home dads.

The number of single fathers is also increasing. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, nearly 2-1/2 million single parents today are single fathers. That's an increase of 30% over the past 15 years.

Gender roles have also been changing. For example, Gen X and millennial men are more likely to take an active role in parenting and household duties than previous generations.

What does all of this mean?

As marketing professionals, we're shooting ourselves in the metatarsal if we completely ignore men-especially dads-in our 2012 marketing plan. Granted, we can't be everything to everyone. But we can incorporate strategies that market to men but sell to women (i.e., women can often sway a man's decision).

When doing so, we need to keep gender differences in mind. For starters, we all know that men are not as proactive in seeking healthcare as women. Also, unlike women, men don't put a lot of emphasis on building a long-term physician relationship. They're more focused on expertise and how fast they can feel and/or look better.

When trying to capture men's attention, think of promoting faster recovery times and improvements in health, strength or ability to "get back into the game." If you have the latest and greatest equipment, tell 'em about it. Also think about service lines that can be more directly tied to men, like cardiac, colorectal, prostate and sports medicine.

Here are some marketing ideas to get you started. Consider:

  • Sponsoring an informal physician Q&A session at a home improvement or sporting goods store.
  • Developing a male-focused issue of your hospital's publication.
  • Offering screening packages-for couples. (Again, marketing to men but selling to women.)

No one is suggesting that the recession or other recent trends warrant an about-face in your 2012 marketing plans. However, community hospitals that engage with this market sooner-rather than later-will have a step up on those who fail to acknowledge this missing link to continued growth and profitability.

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Will The Polls Take A Toll On Your 2012 Marketing Plan?

Posted on January 11, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing and Communications

Duck and cover. It's an election year. We as consumers are already in the middle of the mud-slinging. We as marketing professionals have just begun our uphill battle to gain and maintain coveted air space.

As political candidates flood virtually every market with TV and radio campaigns, it will become increasingly difficult to compete for a limited inventory. In fact, recent research from MediaVest indicates that ad inventory during the upcoming political year will be tighter than ever. Politicians are expected to spend a record amount in their bids to get elected. With states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and others flagged as battleground states, it will be especially important to keep a close eye on what's happening in your own backyard.

The question is, "Can any of us in marketing stand toe-to-toe with big budget political candidates?" No. But what we lack in budget strength we can make up for in agility. How? One way is to plan early and be prepared to adapt on the fly.

Politicians may make in-flight changes based on shifts in public opinion and fund-raising levels. These and other factors can restrict or expand a candidate's reach. If a politician decides to move out of a market, it could improve pricing and inventory. However, the opposite can also happen.

Be sure to keep a finger on the political pulse in your target marketing areas. If you can predict where these types of shifts will occur, you can have a leg up on the competition.

And don't forget about social media. We saw the Obama campaign effectively use social media in 2008 to "rock the vote." It stands to reason that candidates in 2012 will take full advantage of everything from blogs and microblogs to social networks and video sharing. The good news is that cyber space-unlike broadcast media space-is virtually unlimited.

But …

Political proficianados will be online in full force vying for the public's attention this year. The same attention that we marketing professionals are trying to capture.

Beat the political candidates to the punch. Plan early. Think creatively. Act strategically. And hit your target markets right between the eyes-before the political frenzy has them down-and tuned out.

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Marketing to Gen Y: Why is it important?

Posted on January 17, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing and Communications

We see them every day. Hoodies up. Heads down. Eyes glued to whatever electronic device they have in their hand. To some, they're known as Gen Y. Others call them Millennials.

We in rural healthcare marketing call them "Opportunity"-or at least we should. Here's why.

It's estimated that Millennials make up more than 70 million Americans born 1977 to 2002. As they get older, most will become parents. And as their families grow, so will their healthcare needs.

That said, the importance of marketing to this generation is obvious.

What may not be as obvious is how to get the attention of this younger generation. The answer? Hit them where they live.

Millennials cut their proverbial "I" teeth on Ipads, Ipods and the Internet. Today, most Millennials "live" on their cell phones and on the Internet.

A recent study indicates that 83% of Millennials are part of a social network. Studies also show that a majority of Millennials get their information from trusted resources-their friends.

The fact of the matter is this: Millennials have the ability to build momentum around brands, organizations and initiatives they believe in more quickly than any previous generation.

This spells o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y for healthcare organizations that are ready to communicate with Gen Y on their terms. Engage Millennials through your website, blogs, emails, YouTube and other social media. Gain the trust of one Millennial and watch that loyalty spread. One little tweet can be worth a thousand words-to potentially thousands of people-on their Friends and email lists.

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What’s All The Buzz About Blogging?

Posted on January 24, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing & Communications

To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the minds of marketers to suffer from the absence of a blog or to take arms against the competition and join in the posting revolution … Now, that's another question in itself.

I can tell you from personal experience that blogging has it pros and its challenges. For one, it's time-consuming. It also takes discipline to keep posts current and to provide content that people care about. So what's the up side?

A blog provides an effective, low-cost alternative to conventional marketing. It can help rural hospitals level the playing field when competing with big-city hospitals with big-city budgets.

Blogs can also help community hospitals strengthen their connection with the community, enhance recruitment efforts, and position their medical professionals as experts in the field. For example:

Want to highlight a patient success story?

Put it on your blog. Localize it. And watch the news spread throughout your community-and beyond.

Looking for a specialist to fill an open position?

Ask one of your on-staff physicians or surgeons to be a guest blogger. He or she can highlight features and benefits of your hospital, and give a personal perspective of why it's the right career move to join your organization and live in a rural community.

Want to leverage a health topic that's getting national attention?

Start blogging about it. Have designated physicians, nurses, OTs and other professionals share their expertise. They'll become recognized as local experts. It's also a great way for community members to get to know the doctors and nurses on your staff.

So back to the question, "To blog or not to blog?"

While you don't have to be Shakespeare to write a post, the content must be relevant and current. If you don't have the time or talent internally to create and maintain a blog, consider outsourcing these services. If that's not an option, err on the side of caution.

Remember, using a blog as a promotional tool is a great way to keep your website content fresh, and keep people coming back. But your site will only be as current as your last update, which ties back to the amount of time and effort that you invest in it.

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Is Your Health System Patient-Centered or Patient-Censored?

Posted on January 30, 2012

JohnCorpusHead6By: John Corpus, Vice President, Strategy, Legato Marketing & Communications

Yes, everyone talks about developing care models around the patient and his/her family and caregivers.

A friend of mine who is applying for a supervisor position within her company asked me for some advice regarding questions that the hiring team may ask her during the interview. The company is a service organization; therefore, its major consideration is customer service - with a focus on quality. Does exceptional quality however, translate into providing exceptional customer service?

I asked my friend to define customer service: she provided several different examples of "quality measures" that she believes illustrate what customer service is, e.g., number of customers employees can process per hour, number of customers coming through each week/month/year, and number of various permits/licenses processed, but not once did she mention the customer experience.

In her mind, customer service is all about internal processes, assigning responsibilities, and proper internal communication and understanding. This type of planning does not take into consideration the customer experience. In fact, the planning process itself seems to, without intent, censor the customer.

Healthcare is a change environment, simply put. Regulatory changes, financial limitations/reimbursement, a lack of desirable healthcare workers, and advances in technology keep healthcare in a state of flux. Combined, we in healthcare remain more focused on strategy, planning, and getting business done - the bottom line - than we do on creating the ultimate patient experience for each patient.

Many of us say that we are patient-centered, but I believe that the patient-censored philosophy is the norm more than the exception. Large or small, urban or rural, hospitals and health systems still struggle with this concept.

Patient-centered is more than a catch phrase: hospitals and health systems must embrace this philosophy and its core elements in its mission, vision, and values, with a main objective of providing the patient with the best experience possible. Not considering this or aiming for less will result in a successful (but undesirable) patient-censored philosophy and culture.

Remember, for most, quality is a given in healthcare: your brand promise is the patient experience, nothing more and nothing less. The more you can embed this philosophy in the corporate culture and leadership's actions, the more it will trickle down to department goals, objectives, and individual employee actions. This is not limited to direct patient care staff either; it is for everyone working within the hospital or health system, e.g., housekeeping, billing, marketing, etc. The actions of every employee can and do affect, directly or indirectly, the patient experience.

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