As a partner and Creative Director at FirstTracks, I take a keen interest in all aspects of marketing, especially health care marketing. I read an article in Strategic Health Care Communications that discussed the marketing, or lack thereof, of a major Chicago hospital. This particular hospital had been in business since the 1830’s; had more than 800 medical staff; 600 residents; 8,000 employees and 800 beds—this was an established business with a stellar reputation to say the least.
In the early 80’s things changed. Competitors started marketing. This hospital made a decision to keep the status quo and operate as they had always done—they did, after all, have a reputation.
More than 20 years later, they had gone from #1 to #4. Revenues were way down. Profits became nonexistent.
What Was the Problem?
The hospital needed to do something, but what? They decided to hire a two person team to resurrect the hospital’s reputation. Leadership’s inclination was to cut budgets, but the new team knew they needed to implement a marketing strategy and convinced the administration to take a new approach. They started with a strategic planning retreat, complete with 150 senior leaders and physicians. They identified key services and developed a basic strategic outline.
They then hired an agency to conduct interviews and start focus groups; created a marketing plan; and developed a budget. The plan called for a comprehensive advertising campaign, including television, radio, billboards, newspaper, new web site and a series of brochures.
As a result of their research, they decided that the hospital’s name also needed to be changed. A name change for an organization dating back to the 1830’s, where the last name change was in the late 70’s, was not taken lightly. The timing of all these changes made it the right time to change the name as well. The campaign was off and running—ads used actual physicians, not actors, to deliver the hospital’s message, actual quotes, not scripts—the campaign was in motion.
This particular hospital realized some amazing results from all their strategic planning. In the weeks following the campaign, referrals nearly doubled. There was a five-fold increase in the “Find the Doctor” section of the web site. Queries went from less than 5,000 per month to more than 25,000 in one year. Admissions rose 2.3 percent from the prior year and outpatient visits grew 10 percent. After a one year period, the hospital posted a $6.5 million profit, up almost $20 million from the previous year.
What Does All This Mean for my Hospital?
You need a marketing strategy for your hospital or health care organization to survive during these times. Consumers want the best health care, the best service, the best results. Now, more than ever before, hospitals need to get the word out that they are the best in their service area. They have a better product, service, or price. They can no longer let their reputations, good or bad, define their roles in the market. They must implement strategies and plans to get the word out. Web sites, social media, advertising, collateral and branding all need to be orchestrated together to achieve these goals.
Although FirstTracks had nothing to do with the success of this particular hospital, we did play a huge role in the ongoing success of Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster, NH. Two years ago, we met with the staff at Weeks and developed a strategic plan that included research, branding, advertising, a new web site, annual reports, brochures and other collateral materials that have really helped get this fine community hospital recognized for its high quality of service, specialties and state-of-the-art technology. Our health care expertise isn’t limited to Weeks Medical Center. Other health care organizations that have benefited from our services include Monadnock Community Hospital, Northwoods Home Health & Hospice, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, MassALFA, NE Delta Dental, NHARCH, HBCS, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and more.
If your organization needs to increase market share; repair a bad reputation; or get your great reputation noticed, give us a call at 603-924-1978 or fill out our online request form so we can help get you started with a successful hospital marketing plan.