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Making Sense and Success of Hospital Service Line Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

A row of white doors with one red door standing out in the grass against blue skiesA service line—and hospital service line marketing—are hard workers. These doorways into the facility serve several distinct purposes. Among these, in the big picture of things, is the task of communicating the organization’s branding message. In addition, there is the need to spotlight specific services and capabilities to the general public. It’s always a challenge to communicate purpose and value before the public appreciates their possible future need.

Consider the interesting item that we spotted the other day in an Austin (TX) American-Statesman publication. The reader asked the question: “Why do Central Texas hospitals advertise on TV?” This particular query wasn’t argumentative; the reader simply wanted a better understanding. They wrote: “Everyone knows where the nearest hospital is and even if they don’t, they’re taken to the closest one by ambulance. So why do hospitals advertise themselves on television?”

Hospital Service Line Advertising is good for business…

Advertising for health systems and hospitals has multiple purposes. Perhaps the broadest purpose carries the name-awareness and brand messaging. Under this umbrella, individual advertising points to the benefits of individual service lines for Cardiovascular, Oncology, Orthopedic, Neurovascular, Women’s Health and other audience-specific service lines.

As you might expect, the original reader-submitted question inspired a multi-part answer:

  • For one thing, hospital service line advertising humanizes an “institution” so that patients (and prospective patients) are afforded a sense of personalized care and caring.
  • In addition, the hospital messages tend to showcase specific services, service lines and specialties, which engenders trust, as well as confidence in other services.
  • And, although the article did not specifically include this idea, hospital advertising educates and informs the public so they can make informed healthcare decisions and provider selections.

Creating a detailed service line marketing plan…

In our experience, it’s sound business to create a detailed service line marketing plan. Three of the primary reasons include:

  • A detailed plan informs and involves everyone in the organization about the campaign, when it will happen, who is responsible, and how much it will cost.
  • A plan presents intended goals, outlines expectations, sets tracking mechanics and defines accountability.
  • And a complete plan sets and maintains timelines, actions and budget.

The form and format of sensible plan can vary, but will typically include these four elements:

  • Define goals and the steps to achieve them. The plan will define purpose, specific tasks and responsibilities, timetable and methods of the hospital service line advertising plan.
  • Define a means and measure of success. Results need to be clear, specific, quantifiable and measurable. Specify exactly will this data be captured and reported.
  • Define what’s real. Specify how and why marketing and advertising goals are realistic and achievable. Based on experience, what are the benchmarks for a realistic budget and Return-on-Investment?
  • Define who approves. To be successful, plans require the buy-in and win the approval of top management. The goals of any plan should support the greater goals of the organization.

In short, hospital service line marketing—backed by a clearly defined action plan—is simply good business. And it helps make sense of and assure success for service line profitability.

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