The leader of the cardiology practice wants additional social media messaging for American Heart Month in February. Then the head of orthopedics drops by your office to chat about her idea for a campaign to spotlight a new surgeon.
No matter the size of your healthcare organization, you probably field a constant stream of one-off requests that fall outside your thoughtfully crafted marketing plans. Marketing folks in healthcare are often pulled in different directions, and sometimes those demands conflict (Ortho and surgery want more attention, but it’s primary care that really needs the help. Sound familiar?).
When you’re dealing with tight budgets and a maxed-out marketing team, planning and managing to those fixed resources is enough of a challenge. So how can you field the ongoing requests for extra marketing attention and address priorities appropriately? How can you advance your marketing initiatives as a whole while appeasing various stakeholders? Let’s explore some solutions.
When Healthcare Marketing Gets Fractured
Probably ten out of ten of the project requests you get — both as part of your formal planning and out of the blue — come from practitioners, department heads, or administrators who don’t have marketing backgrounds.
Too, the changing nature of healthcare adds complexity to your work. As healthcare systems move toward value-based care vs. fees for services, more of your long-term messaging likely centers on education and prevention to get better outcomes for patients. Promoting surgical services when you’re urging the community to improve health and avoid medical intervention — that’s a delicate balance.
So think of these conversations as teachable moments where you can educate stakeholders about the power of consistent marketing. Without a holistic view of the marketing plans you’ve developed, folks in other parts of the organization may not realize the risks of tacking on additional messages. Scattershot marketing to meet unexpected asks can derail established budgets and communication plans, which may put the organization’s business goals in jeopardy. What’s more, misaligned messaging has the potential to either confuse patients or to oversaturate the market so they just tune out.
Managing Marketing Priorities and Satisfying Stakeholders
Practically speaking, your marketing team is a single unit serving an organization with lots of tentacles. Managing priorities involves five key strategies:
- Get input from the right people. That starts with the CEO, who has his or her own vision for the entire organization and its relationship with the community. As part of your team’s planning, it’s also essential to gather input from department heads on their needs and expectations — not just to understand their business goals, but to make sure they feel that they have a voice in how their practice is marketed. While you’ll ultimately make the decisions about deploying strategies and resources, your plan should address stakeholders’ input to the extent possible.
- Let data guide priorities. When everything feels like a priority, analytics can show you what really is a priority. Your team tracks communication metrics such as website traffic, email opens, and performance of digital campaigns, which can help you focus on what’s working. Other organizational data can also help you shape priorities and rationalize your decisions. Look at patient counts, services delivered, and special initiatives (i.e., tobacco cessation). In nonprofit healthcare systems, the three-year community needs assessment can also help you allocate marketing resources.
- Plan wisely and flexibly. Begin with an overarching branded campaign that you can hang your hat on throughout the year and adapt to different practice areas or initiatives. For example, we recently worked with a regional medical center to create a “Your Tomorrow” campaign that celebrated local leaders and businesses. Messages about the center’s practice areas and services were wrapped in a larger theme about the broader community.
Then, based on that brand theme and informed by departmental input and data, build a quarterly to semi-annual marketing plan with three to five high-level focus areas. Align your communication plans and integrated campaigns to those themes and schedule them so the messages sync instead of competing. Plotting your marketing tactics on a quarterly basis lets you adjust and shift across the year.
- Offer a menu. Create a set of marketing packages at different levels of service and resources. At the high end, that might involve a multi-month, themed campaign that runs on multiple platforms. At the low end, it might be a series of social media posts (organic and paid) and companion print ads. The middle package would fall somewhere in between in terms of frequency and complexity.
A cafeteria plan with defined deliverables and budget guidelines allows your marketing team to “rinse and repeat” activities, creating efficiency from set processes. Analytics will help you refine these packages over time and be more confident in promising results to your stakeholders. You can re-evaluate and adjust the mix of tools as needed.
- Say, “Yes and …” As a savvy marketer, you’re probably not in a position to say no to a VIP without offering an alternative. A menu of options lets you say, “Yes and …”
If you can’t redirect your team to create a six-month campaign to promote that new surgeon, for example, you can say, “Yes, we can help you, and here is our Tier 3 Marketing Package with proven results.”
There will always be unexpected circumstances that can derail the best-laid marketing plans.
Always set aside resources for those projects that crop up, because they’re going to happen. If juggling multiple priorities across your organization is an ongoing headache, we can help. Let’s connect.
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Tenth Crow Creative is a communications agency that creates, aligns and promotes the external and internal messaging for organizations that support living healthier lives.