Are Your Employees on the Brandwagon?

Posted on February 2, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing & Communications

Ok, so you've invested time, energy and dollars into branding or rebranding your hospital. Now it's time to get the word out, right? How about getting the word 'in'-first?

Before you invest in marketing tactics to communicate with external audiences, it's important to get internal buy-in from your employees. After all, who's going to follow through on the brand promises you make to external audiences? You got it!  Your employees.

In the report, "Transforming Employees Into Brand Advocates," five best practices were uncovered after interviewing experts from academia to healthcare. Here's a brief summary.

  1. Share: We marketers have a tendency to keep activities brand-related activities within the confines of our own department. We need to start sharing. Marketing plans, campaigns, brand insights, customer information … Share it-across the organization.
  2. Involve. How can we expect employees to take ownership of a brand promise if they don't feel like they play an active role in driving the direction of the brand? Involved them. Let employees' voices be heard. And listen to what they have to say.
  3. Personalize: Don't let your 'marketing' title put you on a self-proclaimed pedestal. Create a personal connection with other employees. All of them. Help each employee understand what the brand promise means-every day-in every role they play.
  4. Enable: Don't just tell employees what to do, show them. Train them. Create guidelines for behavior. Let them participate in hiring decisions for customer-facing employees. And empower them to do what's right for the customer.
  5. Reinforce: Build off of the momentum employees are creating. Small and large-scale recognition practices can help employees stay energized about following through on brand promises.

Got the T-shirt, now what? Keep in mind that employee brand advocacy isn't created overnight with a free T-shirt, a bumper sticker or an email from upper management. It takes a concerted, continuous effort from everyone from the top down-all the way down.

Once your employees are on the brandwagon, then-and only then-can you truly fulfill your brand promises to your customers.

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Is Your Website Out of Sight?

Posted on February 7, 2012

mikem3_biggerOK, so you've invested a lot of time and money into developing a website that will WOW your customers. But building your website is only half of the battle. Marketing it is the conquest that follows.

I won't get into the technical aspects of getting people to your site (at least not in this post). Instead, let's focus on some basic marketing tactics to drive people to your landing page.

Think you've already thought of everything? Think again. It never hurts to check and cross-check to make sure you're leveraging every opportunity to drive traffic to your site.

Sometimes, the most obvious avenues have been overlooked because, quite frankly, they're blatantly obvious. Have you ever received an invitation to an event or run an ad that inadvertently left out a date, a time or a call to action? I rest my case.

Many organizations assume they have all of their marketing bases covered when it comes to promoting their website. They put their URL on business cards, letterhead, brochures, invoices-everything that's fit to print.

Good start. But let's not forget the other not-so-top-of-mind marketing opportunities, like:

  • Becoming an active member in, and contributor to, forums that are related to your site. Be sure to include your website link in your forum signature.
  • Submitting your site to healthcare industry-related directories.
  • Including your URL on videos you post on YouTube or other video-based sites.
  • Exchanging links with reputable and respected sites that are related to your business.
  • Putting your URL on employee uniforms under the logo.
  • Including the URL on employee nametags-at work, community events-wherever nametags might be worn.
  • Including your URL in your phone book ad.
  • Putting your URL on company vehicles.
  • Labeling your waiting room magazines, "Provided by …" with your URL listed.
  • Joining an industry chat group that allows your URL to be your login.

Don't let an opportunity to promote your URL pass by. With an estimated 366, 848,000+ sites on the worldwide web, you can't afford to have your site out of sight-anywhere-anytime.

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Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your SEO Engines!

Posted on February 13, 2012

Have you ever done a web search for "healthcare marketing?" Ever look at how many results come up? I did: About 19,000,000 just today. Or how about "rural healthcare marketing?" Just a measly 11,000.

mikem3_biggerFor both of these terms, I'm pleased to report that Legato consistently ranks in the top 5 of organic Google listing, and often is #1. I say this not to be boastful, but rather, to make the point that these results don't just happen. They're part of your marketing strategy, or, at least they should be.

Of course, I'm talking about Search Engine Optimization-or 'SEO' in techno-talk.

Put simply, SEO strategies use keywords to maximize the amount of traffic-relevant traffic-to your website. It's a targeted way of driving people to your site who are specifically looking for the services you provide.

SEO can help you:

  • Get targeted traffic to your site. If consumers or patients have entered your website's keywords/phrases into a search engine, they're already interested in what you have to offer.
  • Strengthen your brand. If your site gets a higher ranking than other hospitals, more people see your name and become aware of your services.
  • Stay ahead of your competition. Showing up on a page before your competition can help increase the perceived position of your hospital in the marketplace.
  • Build brand credibility. When consumers find you organically, they're usually more likely to bookmark your site, spend more time on your site and return to your site and/or use your services.

SEO is a powerful tool. But maximizing search engine rank-and-return positioning can be complex. If you don't have the internal staff to help you develop an effective SEO campaign, it's worth the investment to seek some help.

Surveys indicate that up to 85% of Internet users find websites through search engines. However, the majority (some say up to 90%) of Internet users don't go past the top 30 search engine results-at most. They simply type something else in if they can't find a relevant site.

With statistics like these, there is no doubt that the battle for pole position on the search engine leader board will continue to heat up.

So I ask … "Ladies and gentlemen: Are you ready to start your SEO engines?"

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Hitting Your Target Market Takes More Than Advertising

Posted on February 16, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing and Communications

Marketing and advertising. It's six of one, half-a-dozen of the other-or so many mistakenly think.

No matter how often the two terms are inadvertently interchanged, marketing is not the same as advertising. Advertising is, however, part of marketing-but only one part.

Sure, you can take a shot in the dark with your advertising and play a game of hit (barely) or miss (big time), but without marketing, you won't even have a target to shoot at. Why?

Because marketing encompasses everything from identifying and understanding your target market to how you'll reach those consumers (which is where advertising comes in) and how you'll differentiate yourself from the competition to get consumers to use your services.

In addition to advertising, marketing includes other important elements like market research, media planning, PR, product and service pricing and distribution, brand development, community involvement … It encompasses every touch point; every experience consumers and prospects have with your organization.

That's why it not only makes sense to have a solid marketing plan in place before you advertise, it's also critical to your success. A comprehensive marketing plan can help you:

  • Identify new/potential consumers
  • Identify your strengths and areas for improvement
  • Identify consumers' needs and wants
  • Determine the demand for specific services
  • Identify areas for growth
  • Keep your budget and initiatives on track
  • Respond to new opportunities
  • Get your entire organization on the same page
  • Evaluate your efforts and make adjustments

The list goes on, but I think you get the picture.

Yes, advertising is an important part of marketing. But it's not a silver bullet. Before you take aim at developing a 'great creative campaign,' make sure you have a comprehensive marketing plan in your sights.

If you think it's hard to hit a moving target, try hitting one you don't even know exists!

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Is It Time For a Brand Check-Up?

Posted on February 21, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing & Communications

Your brand is what differentiates your hospital or clinic from the competition. It's the veritable DNA of your organization. That's why it's critical to conduct periodic audits to diagnose the overall health of your brand.

A brand audit can provide a qualitative snapshot of how consumers and stakeholders perceive your organization, its professionals and its services. While branding research normally looks at one audience (i.e., consumers), a complete brand audit assesses relationships with all of the important stakeholders of your brand, including both internal and external audiences.

For example, an audit can help you:

  • Test for name recognition and guide strategic decisions in market segmentation and messaging
  • Determine how your brand is being managed, marketed and audited internally
  • Assess your brand's strengths, weaknesses and inconsistencies, as well as potential threats
  • Identify growth opportunities including those achieved by brand repositioning and brand extension
  • Build greater efficiencies in your brand's communications strategy
  • Assess the consistency of your brand with consumer expectations
  • Define niche markets and related messaging

Brand audits can provide a roadmap you can follow to ensure consistency in the way your organization is promoted and perceived, which can ultimately strengthen your brand. And you know what that means …

A strong brand translates into customer loyalty. Customer loyalty translates into increased revenue. And increased revenue keeps your organization growing at a healthy rate.

Today, consumers define brands based on their emotional, experiential and economic interactions. They will ultimately choose the best-branded healthcare organization; an organization they trust. Make sure it's yours.

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Are Your Social Skills Fully Developed?

Posted on February 27, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing & Communications

With all the buzz about incorporating social media into the marketing mix, many organizations believe they have left no stone unturned or Twitter un-tweeted. But take a closer look and you'll find that many haven't fully developed their 'social skills'.

While most hospitals and clinics have developed a functional website and have dabbled in social networking, many have overlooked other ways to tap into the social web to reach business goals. Take training for example.

Including social media in healthcare training initiatives can provide:

  • Participants a forum to ask questions and engage in discussion before and after training.
  • Allow presenters to receive immediate feedback from participants (e.g., do trainees fully understand a subject or is more information needed?).
  • The opportunity to complement marketing efforts by sharing presentations or video from training sessions on Flickr and other social sites.

Another example: Using social media channels to get coverage from mainstream media and industry publications.

One way to do this is to share success stories from innovative treatments, surgeries or medical research via forums, blogs and microblogs. Roughly 70 percent of journalists say they use social networks to assist them when reporting. Take advantage of this fact.

Another example … While it may not happen often, a natural disaster such as flooding or a tornado can take its toll on a community within minutes. And hospitals are often at the center of it all. Healthcare providers can leverage social media networks to provide real-time updates both for those directly affected by the crisis and those watching from afar.

Long story short … Social media has many applications. Don't get stuck in a web of doing what everyone else is doing. Constantly refine your social skills. Your efforts can pay off in many forms-from building trust and improving patient care-to gaining media coverage, and attracting new patients and staff.

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