Not so long ago, it was rare—extremely rare, in fact—to find a full-time marketing person working for a medical practice. The same was also true for many hospitals. At best, medical marketing was a part-time proposition.
But the tide has changed. It began as a trickle and has turned into a tidal wave. Today, having a staff person devoted to marketing or business development (or various other titles) is now nearly standard practice.
What’s changed—and the driving force behind this shift—is the dramatic rise in the sea of competition. Fair warning: If you don’t have a marketing professional tending your marketing sails these days, you can be certain that your competition does.
Mistakes That Will Sink Your Ship
The healthcare provider sector—doctors, hospitals, dentists, manufacturers—know about…well, providing healthcare services and products. And generally they may have a few stripes in medical marketing and advertising. But—and this is a big “but”—only a few have experience in hiring, directing and integrating a regular, full-time, practice-based marketing person.
We help practices with this process all the time, and we often discover three classic mistakes that can run good intentions into a time-wasting reef of grief:
Mistake #1: “We can promote someone from within.” Granted your receptionist or long-time nurse knows all about the office, the procedures and the profession. But unless they are trained in marketing, you’re setting them up for failure. A well-qualified marketing person is an experienced professional, not a convert of convenience or on-the-job trainee. There are few exceptions.
Mistake #2: “One person can do everything.” The fact is that all that is “marketing” embraces many skill sets including planning, writing, graphic design, art direction, public relations, media relations, media buying and a zillion other talents. The core mistake occurs when job requirements have not been clearly defined. Often “marketing ” becomes a dumping spot for anything and everything that isn’t clinical. One person can do some things, but realistically an individual can’t do all things. Hire with specificity that supports defined goals.
Mistake #3: “A ‘marketing person’ will fit right in.” In fact, there may be some rough waters here. Everyone else in the office has a clinical or administrative background, and (sometimes) the fish-out-of-water marketing person can be under valued, under appreciated and under utilized. “Cultural fit” challenges are not insurmountable, but they can rock the boat considerably.
The trend is clear. The tide of competition is rising. Many hospitals and provider practices now employ a marketing person. The question is, are you preparing to fail or are you making ready to sail in this sea of competition? We'll have more on this topic when we next look at the role of Physician Liaison in healthcare marketing and business development.