We recently received an inquiry from the Marketing Director for a 40-location, single-specialty medical practice in the Midwest. Even though it was after hours, I was available so I took the call.
Michelle (not her real name) and I hit it off immediately. She told me about her demanding job and how she felt her boss was unwittingly setting her up to fail. After talking for twenty minutes, she felt like I was "finishing her sentences" for her.
I said, "Let me guess. Your CEO expects you to be a graphic designer, writer, web developer, videographer, social media guru, online advertising expert, SEO expert, traditional media buyer, content marketer, brand expert, physician liaison, and PR person."
"OMG, how did you guess that?"
"Because we hear stories like this almost every day."
"Stewart, I am an outstanding storyteller and a brand builder . But I am NOT expert at all those other things."
I told her, "Take heart. Nobody is truly an expert at all those things."
"Will you guys tell my boss for me?"
"Yes, I will. And, I will even write a blog post about it too."
Just like in medicine, successful Healthcare Marketing requires a team of experienced specialists. To achieve a "winning edge" today, you need to rely on people with diverse areas of expertise. Each marketing specialty requires years of study, training, practice, and apprenticeship to truly master.
No matter how competent your marketing person is, you set them up to fail if you expect them to do all of these things on their own. Does this sound familiar?
Many people fail to appreciate that to achieve optimal results, Healthcare Marketing is a "team sport." Uninitiated executives and doctors assume marketing is easy. Hence, marketing people often feel undervalued, underestimated, overwhelmed, and unappreciated.
We're sympathetic. The highly skilled person I was talking with understands that the challenges are significant. She recognized that the practice truly needs the range and depth of an experienced marketing team.
Hopefully, by now, I have convinced you to stop asking your marketing person to be an expert about everything. Now what?"
First, you could hire a team of people to help. While that option is reasonably common at the hospital system level, for many practices and smaller hospitals, that idea can be economically out of reach.
Another option is to hire out essential functions à la carte. While that option can work, it is often suboptimal due to the difficulty of coordinating multiple vendors toward a common goal.
Finally, you can also consider an integrated healthcare marketing agency. With this model, you don't need to hire a team of experts full time. Instead, when you work with an agency, you can tap into each team member's expertise, "fractionally," as required.
For example, our healthcare marketing agency invests millions of dollars each year to bring a team of healthcare marketing specialists to the table. That includes health marketing strategies, health branding, search engine optimization (SEO) for healthcare, social media marketing, reputation management, web design, digital programming, video shooting and editing, scripting, writing, art direction expertise, print design, media buying, and many others. We even have trainers to help our clients convert the phone calls we generate for them.
While you might assume an integrated marketing agency is cost-prohibitive, it doesn't have to be. Through scaling and efficient use of time, clients can leverage all these specialists' talents for a fraction of what it would cost to bring those skills in-house.
A simple marketing plan is likely to yield simple results. But hospitals, medical groups, and larger physician practices have higher demands and expectations. You'll especially want a higher level of expertise when:
Many of the healthcare providers we work with feel their healthcare business enterprises deserve the best of everything. They have top-of-the-line equipment and the best personnel. No shortcuts. No workarounds. No make-dos. Their standard of care is only top-notch and excellent.
If that's the prevailing attitude in your practice or hospital, we recommend you work hard to convince your colleagues to likewise engage qualified marketing talent.
So whatever happened to Michelle?
By the end of our call, Michelle was both convinced and reinvigorated. Her new budget year is coming up soon, and she has asked us to put together some recommendations for her executive team. She also asked me to bring some of our process experts to the video conference, so her CEO could meet them and understand the difference.
How could I refuse? After all, Michelle and I are already finishing each other's sentences!