By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
An interesting thing about marketing for healthcare is that useful lessons can be found in unlikely places and unrelated enterprises. With a little imagination and creative thinking, good stories—business success stories—reveal ideas that transfer to a practitioner, group practice or even a hospital.
Here’s one such story from the managing editor of Healthcare Success publications. A few years ago, he and his family relocated from sunny Southern California (metropolis) to Northwestern Pennsylvania (rural/agricultural). He sends along a few business and marketing observations from Pennsylvania Amish country.
Success lessons from our Amish friends…
In Amish communities, charity auctions are a major social and business event. In the New Wilmington-Volant (PA) area near our home, the annual Amish Hospital Benefit auction is large, colorful and, in many ways, educational. This community doesn’t subscribe to the idea of health insurance, and auction proceeds—from the sale of quilts, farm equipment, horses, and hundreds of similar items—helps pay hospital bills.
For us “English” (non-Amish) neighbors, attending an auction supports worthy community causes…and it’s an opportunity to sample the delights of Amish pizza (amazingly fresh), hand-crank ice cream, and kitchen-warm baked goods.
These events are also a cultural connection that spark a few ideas about success in business. Their plain-style and core beliefs are such that there probably are few, if any, Amish directors in health care or medical practice marketing. But much of the work ethic that I’ve observed are worth emulating:
The “simple life” is not so simple. Our Amish neighbors have no car, but they always get where they’re going on time. They have no telephone or text, but communicating face-to-face is highly effective and surprisingly reliable. They have no electricity, but everything from sawmills to 50-acre farms run efficiently.
An 80-hour, six-day workweek is normal. Eighty hours is just my guess, and I suspect the estimate is low. I’m not sure how it all fits in a six-day week, considering the basic demands of family living, care of farm animals, tending acres of cultivated fields, helping neighbors, and the like. Plus—except for Sunday—everyone has another business or two.
Entrepreneurial mind-set means three businesses. Almost every Amish family that we know maintains a farm (50 acres or more is typical), has a business enterprise (quilt- cabinet- or furniture-making, for example), plus they often sell farm-fresh eggs, garden vegetables, and/or (our favorite) fresh-baked Amish donuts.
Amish Advertising is mainly word-of-mouth. Despite the lack of traditional or digital advertising, in my experience, most Amish businesses thrive–at a 95 percent success rate–for two main reasons.
First, they always do excellent work. From building fine kitchen cabinets, to building a utility shed or garage, to hands-dirty landscape work, I’ve never had (or heard of) a work-for-hire project that did not include a resounding recommendation.
And that’s the second reason: The quality product/deliverable and exceptional work ethic fuels enthusiastic customer recommendations and word-of-mouth advertising. Finding a highly-recommended Amish resource for hire is seldom the problem. More often, the challenge is fitting your project into their busy schedule.
A Critical Marketing Lesson: Admittedly, doctors are no strangers to long hours and hard work. But exceptional service, quality care and patient satisfaction propel patient recommendations, professional referrals and word-of-mouth advertising for any healthcare organization.
Perhaps one of the best books on this topic is by Erik Wesner, author of Success Made Simple, An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive. A review by Mike Clough in America’s Best Business Practices, makes these observations—all of which marketing people can take to heart:
- Amish have faith, and it reminds them of what is important.
- They believe business exists for a larger purpose, not just to make money.
- People and relationships are your greatest asset.
- The slower, deliberate approach works just fine.