Five critical roles for healthcare marketing executives

Across the US, healthcare marketers are moving quickly to transform the role, capabilities and functions of their marketing departments.  Powerful forces are converging to change the underlying basis for competition in the healthcare industry, and health systems are experiencing more intense competitive activity in anticipation of reform and other industry pressures.  For the foreseeable future, providers will be operating with competing and somewhat conflicting objectives as they attempt to optimize volumes for core clinical programs, while simultaneously building accountable care delivery models.

Marketing executives can help health systems successfully navigate the new competitive landscape by adopting five key roles:

  1. Growth strategist – Revenue generation is the priority. In nearly every other industry, marketing is valued as a revenue-generating business competency critical to driving growth, brand loyalty and better financial performance.  Health systems that hold on to a narrow view of healthcare marketing as simply promotions sub-optimize marketing performance and waste marketing investments.  It is essential for chief marketing executives to adopt a strong P&L mindset, drive clear alignment of brand, marketing and sales investments to the health system’s growth strategy, and create co-accountability for outcomes across the entire executive team.  Success demands a marketing culture, not just a marketing department.
  2. Brand advocate Marketers must lead the change to create organizations that deliver brand value, not just promote it.  Powerful brands drive growth, profitability, market leverage, staff commitment and customer loyalty. To date, however, brand investments have been largely focused on brand communications, including brand identity systems, advertising and promotions.  Today’s approach to brand building must be focused on delivering brand-differentiated value, and address the complexities of newly developing accountable care models, mergers, acquisitions, employed medical practices, ambulatory, post acute and retail health services.
  3. Digital change agent – Digital technologies are revolutionizing business processes everywhere.  More than ever, consumers are seeking healthcare information, sharing experiences, selecting treatments and interacting with providers online.  Leading health systems are accelerating efforts to move from static websites to integrated, multi-platforms that reach and engage consumers, support patients and families with care management, facilitate workplace communications and promote clinical decision-making.  Web, social networking, search marketing and mobile capabilities – integrated with clinical IT systems such as EMR and patient portals – are no longer optional for providers that want to remain relevant.
  4. Experience champion – Customer experience is more than HCAHPS scores.  It’s about meeting customer expectations every day in every interaction by hard-wiring administrative systems, appointment scheduling, meeting and greeting, clinical processes, customer engagement, billing, follow-up and other critical touch points to deliver on your brand’s value proposition.  Rich, meaningful, loyalty-building experiences don’t happen by accident, they happen through experience design, training and establishing direct accountability for customer experience.  Marketers can champion customer-centered decision-making and innovations that transform customer experience.
  5. Innovation catalyst – Transformation of care delivery systems, business processes, and market-driving strategies are top priorities for health systems. Marketers can help by creating a focused customer-centered approach to innovation.   Opportunities to take the hassle out of healthcare are vast.  Consumers are frustrated and most of the industry is woefully behind in providing on-line conveniences such as scheduling and customer communications. Success stems from creative thinking, fresh solutions, and relevance to customers – and that puts marketing front and center as the curator of customer intelligence.

Where to start?  Establish a transformative agenda for change.

The CMO mandate is transformation of marketing practice. It’s a challenge that will require a purposeful, comprehensive and integrated approach to evolve healthcare marketing.  But it will deliver substantial and long-lasting benefits – profitable growth, brand loyalty and better business performance.

This post is number two in a 3-part series.  Click here to read the first – Five Forces that will Change Healthcare Marketing.  In an upcoming post, I’ll address Five Bold Moves to Transform Healthcare Marketing.

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Filed under Marketing Management, Trends in Marketing

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