Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hospital Branding Blog: Consumer trends impacting healthcare marketing in 2018 have already happened

By now, we have all seen the articles, blog posts, and other content on consumer trends in healthcare marketing for 2018.   From Artificial Intelligence and big data to value, there is no doubt the industry will continue to transform and consumer expectations and behavior will keep pace with the changes.  And, while it’s tough to predict the future, there is a place to look and get an idea as to what will occur down the road; the rearview mirror.

According to Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos, this is often the first place he looks when predicting future trends and changes.  Amazon is one of the most innovative companies on the planet, yet it was (and still is) built on a premise that is very down to earth: focusing on what’s not going to change.

Bezos is frequently asked to comment on “what’s going to change in the next ten years?” His answer may surprise you.

“While that’s an interesting question, I almost never get the question, what’s not going to change in the next ten years.  And that’s the most important question because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in times and will be true ten years from now.  It’s impossible to imagine a future ten years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘I don’t want great prices, faster delivery, and more selection.’”  So rather than try and predict what will change, he focuses on what will stay the same and makes Amazon’s deliverables even better.  And that’s a model all marketers can follow.

So, what’s not going to change in 2018 that healthcare marketers can make even better for consumers?
  • Customer Service – consumers want the ability to see and be seen. From online patient portals and apps to getting an appointment within 24 hours or less, consumers want service from their selected provider.  This demand is only going to increase and challenges marketers to evaluate their customer service programs and protocols to meet these needs.
  • Competence – most people have access to “world-class” care. Some might have to travel a little farther for it, but – according to focus group studies – it is a small inconvenience for excellent care. There are a lot of ways to differentiate your healthcare brand, but if you’re a provider, the cost of entry is medical and professional competence.  Marketers need to know their brands level of knowledge and distinction in this important area.
  • Compassion – while most consumers will cite “competence” as their number one selection criterion for a provider, a close contender is how they are treated. It’s still healthcare, and people expect to be cared for and that’s not going to change.
  • Convenience – while willing to travel farther for medical excellence, most healthcare interactions are not critical. Consumers want to access their favorite healthcare brand in as many ways as possible.  More than ever, healthcare marketers have greater opportunity to become involved in the distribution channels of their brands physically, socially, and technologically.
  • Cost – people are focused and obsessed on healthcare prices. This has been the case for the last 20 years and is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.  Consumers still have out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles regardless of their coverage and remain actively involved in trying to figure them out.  It might not influence their selection, but it certainly needs to be transparent and easier to understand.
  • Confidence – studies show that when it comes to their favorite brands, consumers have confidence in them. Things just work and the people associated with the brands are smart.  Healthcare brands, even more so, have to exude this level of trust and dependability with each piece of new technology, diagnosis, and treatment plan.
  • Clarity – healthcare is confusing. Good marketing programs seek to simplify the big words and the confusion around people’s care in terms of who’s associated with what and how they are all linked together.
As we enter the New Year, yes it’s important to look ahead and think into the future.  But it’s also important to look behind and get a sense of what’s not going to change and how healthcare organizations can better deliver on the tried and true expectations of their customers.

Best advice – clean your headlights, but also shine up your rearview mirror.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Revival of Direct Mail in Healthcare Marketing and Branding

Direct mail as a healthcare advertising tactic has undoubtedly declined in volume over the past decade. One of the contributing factors, of course, has been the rise and surge of digital and social media platforms, both allowing healthcare brands to effectively and efficiently deliver their message to consumers where they are; on line, on their phones, and always on demand, and looking for healthy supplements as the best extract of kratom you can purchase online.

As a result, marketers are increasingly putting more of their budget into these new channels to the tune of over $70 Billion, nearly tripling its spend in the last eight years.
In the mix, you’ll still find big traditional media such as television, radio, and (magazine) print.  These media are proven brand support and many of the elements can be shared with other platforms whether on line videos, banner ads, Pandora radio, etc. – so, all in all a very cost effective balance of new and old.
Under the radar, one very traditional promotional tactic is making a bit of a comeback – slowly and surely – direct mail via snail mail is on the move again.  Especially in healthcare marketing.  Why the resurgence in a world that’s fast-paced, on line, and always moving?  There are several reasons:
  • There is still a group of readers out there who like to touch and open. Focus groups in many markets support that direct mail is still a preferred medium to reach people with healthcare messages.  They like the detail, the information, and if it includes some sort of keepsake, such as a magnet or card, even better.
  • Even though seniors are becoming Facebook fanatics, they do like the added information that direct mail affords.
  • New technology actually has facilitated the growth of direct mail. No longer stagnant, flat pieces, new direct mail offers embedded videos, sound, even smells into the packaging.
  • Direct mail is a key component of multi-channel marketing. Diversifying your marketing channels greatly increases your chances of engagement. Studies show response rate is 26% higher if you follow a digital display ad with a direct mail follow up!
  • Data suggests direct mail is easier to decipher, requiring 21% less cognitive effort to process and elicits a much higher brand recall.
  • Direct mail is more personal. You can fit more of a message on a direct mail piece than you can on a 250×250 digital banner ad.
  • There is typically lower competition for attention in a real mailbox versus an email inbox.
Just like in all communications, the creative messaging has to stand out and be different.  When using direct mail in healthcare marketing, it has to say “open me” to the consumer.  Printers are more able to use interesting shapes, sizes, and formations to entice consumers to open, read, and retain your direct mail piece.
Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy specializes in multi-channel marketing campaigns for health systems, hospitals and health-related associations. If you’re looking for digital and direct strategies to elevate your brand, be sure to contact us for more information today!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Healthcare Branding: Three Important Steps to Winning with Online Owned Media

Creating a winning digital strategy takes the right combination of ‘earned,’ ‘owned’ and ‘paid’ media. Understanding what those are, and how to leverage them to create a successful plan can be confusing. A great way to tackle this is by thinking of earned, owned and paid media as a triumvirate. Each is an important part of your organization’s strategy, and combined, they can contribute to a successful digital marketing plan.
Onlined Owned Media image
For the purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on owned media. Owned Media is any communication channel or platform that belongs to your brand that you create and have control over. This can include your website, any content you publish, your social media channels, and the content you distribute on those channels.
The cornerstone for any digital owned media strategy is a good website. For many, building a website can be an overwhelming prospect. But building one doesn’t have to be such a monumental task. It’s important to remember that the goal is to build that website, and get your organization online. A website is not a “one and done” project. It is a living, breathing entity that you can enhance and refine over time. What you start with does not have to be your end game. Unlike the catalogs and printed materials of days gone by, your website can be modified quickly and easily as you learn what messaging and design resonates with your audience(s).
  1. If you build it they will come?
While goal #1 is getting online, merely creating a website with your name on it will not help you meet your business goals. Make sure you establish clear objectives for what you want visitors to your site to do. It is important to keep your audience in mind as you embark on building your website, and what you hope to accomplish. The key is to create a site that will attract customers and help you achieve and measure your goals.
Know your audience
Not sure what your website should include? Start by talking to your existing customers. Set up some time to interview them about why they chose you, how they found you, and what problems you solve for them. The key is to go beyond the general demographics like age, gender, income and ethnicity, and gain better insight into their needs, behaviors and pain points. This kind of exercise is commonly called customer journey mapping.

Winning With Owned Media 2 image
“A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.” – Harvard Business Review
  1. Give the people what they want
Now that you have a website, the next step is creating content that tells your story and connects with your customers, and ensuring it will be found by your target audiences using search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is imperative for making sure potential customers can find your site.  (Click here to read our SEO Blog and learn more).
High-quality, relevant and engaging content has a significant impact on SEO and how you rank in search engine results when people are searching for your keywords and search terms. New content published regularly, and relevant content with naturally placed keywords will help your website rank organically. The higher your site appears in the search results, the better exposure and engagement you will have with consumers searching online for content.
This content is great for SEO purposes, but it’s also the best way to attract users to the website and keep them engaged and on the site for longer. You may be tempted to create a just a homepage with a lead form or a contact us button so that you can collect their email and snail mail addresses for future outbound marketing, but you will find that your page will have a high bounce rate and very little engagement. You must put yourselves in the minds of your prospective customers and make your content answer the questions that they need answered.
A well-planned website with case studies, testimonials, video and a blog all with highly relevant and engaging content will attract more users and inspire them to spend more time on the site while visiting multiple pages. Content is what gets you found in online searches. Content that provides value is what people share with their friends and family on social media, and done right, it will generate more leads and more conversions/transactions.
  1. Go to where the people are
In order to reach your target audience, it is vital to listen to your existing audience to identify who and where they are, when they are online, how to reach them, and with the content they are looking for.
Social sharing is one of the highest levels of engagement that there is. When your target audiences share content from your website, it means they’ve enjoyed the experience and they want their friends to benefit from it too, or they think your content is so good that they believe sharing it will make them look good.
It’s important to make sharing your content easy to do. Have your webmaster install code so all users have to do is click of a button, ensuring that people will be more likely to engage. This will help you amplify your reach and potentially grow your owned audience.
In summary, your owned media strategy needs to be focused on delivering the content that your target audience wants. If your content is seen as engaging, educational and/or entertaining, it will sell itself as part of your overall outreach process. Once you have a good owned media strategy in place, adding a paid and earned strategy to the mix will help your business achieve even more of its business goals.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Power of Testimonials in Healthcare Branding

If you aren’t already using testimonials in your healthcare marketing plans, I hope that this inspires you to do so.
Testimonials are a powerful tool that can persuade potential customers to buy or use your services. In fact, testimonials could be one of the most powerful marketing tools you have! People feel more confident engaging in a relationship when they know there are other satisfied customers. Through testimonials, you can give potential patients a reason to believe and a trusted opinion from a third party.
Testimonials are effective because they:
  • Build trust. Your customers share the positive experiences they’ve had with your organization’s services.
  • Provide feedback. Asking for testimonials is a great psychological spur to encourage companies to continually strive for their best performances—and allows quick corrections if they begin to drift off course.
  • Aren’t “salesy.” Because they aren’t written in your corporate voice, they stand out as unbiased and authentic.
  • Overcome skepticism. A good testimonial has the power to convince your toughest prospects that your products or services are worth pursuing.
A few quick tips:
  • Ask for testimonials at every opportunity and quote the best ones throughout your marketing materials: brochures, website, emails, etc.
  • Customers value different things, so select a range of testimonials that will appeal to all of your customer segments. You can’t have too many glowing customer testimonials!
  • Don’t use family members, friends, or paid actors to do testimonials. Testimonials should come from people you’ve selected who genuinely admire your healthcare system.
  • Get written permission from your customers before using their testimonials.
  • Keep your testimonials up-to-date. The information will begin to seem irrelevant if it was posted more than a year ago.
  • Remember that natural conversations are most compelling—not overly-scripted, canned testimonials.
Potential obstacles that you may face:
  • Negative feedback can be even more influential than positive. For example, a patient may not have the desired outcome that you anticipated.
  • When a testimonial is given by a doctor, it’s expected that they’re credible and giving sound advice. If the doctor’s reputation is deceptive or tainted, then this could negatively impact your business.
  • Marketing budgets can blow up quickly! Keep a close eye on your production costs.
Things that you can do:
  • Your homework! Fact-check and research the people that you have selected to do testimonials before production begins.
  • Have a “Plan of Action.” This allows you to respond quickly if you encounter a problem and have to pull a testimonial from your marketing materials.
Pick your media placement carefully so that you have the option to pull spots quickly, if needed.
by Donna Pascente 
Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy

Healthcare Branding: Do I Need SEO?

In this evolving, technology-driven world we live in, phone books and directories are a thing of the past.  When it comes to finding the best restaurant, electronic store, bowling alley or even hospital, you must exist online.
However, having just a website alone won’t do much good if no one can find you on the web.  In today’s competitive market, you need to have an effective website that is paired with search engine optimization, or SEO, to help visitors find your site.
In short, SEO helps search engines, like Google, figure out what your website is about and how it may be useful for visitors. The best practices of SEO will ultimately improve user experience and ensure visibility on search engines, and if you don’t know how to deal with SEO, don’t worry, because there are professionals like the ones from http://cultivateexpress.com/ that will be willing to help you at all times, and don’t forget that at SEO Elements you will also find some of the best SEO experts who like transcribing their calls when they make a business deal to have their proof in a document.
In addition, search engine optimization is essential because:
  • A vast majority of users are more likely to click on websites that are listed on the first page of search engine results. If you are ranked high on the first page for multiple keywords, your website is more likely to get visited.  This also creates more exposure to your business and brand.
  • Search engines typically list websites that are secure and safe first. This provides a sense of business credibility.
  • SEO helps make your website easier to navigate for users and at it also betters the Online Marketing Services site owners receive. It consists of rearranging your site’s architecture to make pages within the website easier to find. This is also helpful for search engines to crawl your website to find relevant information about what you offer, so make sure hiring some SEO Services is part of your checklist.
Type in a keyword or phrase that best represents your business on any major search engine, whether it’s “Great Italian Restaurant in Chicago,” “Affordable Hotel in Los Angeles,” or “Best Hospital Near Me.”  Do you see your company’s website on the first page? If not, you don’t need to think twice about why SEO may be beneficial for you.  The faster you start SEO, the faster you will be ranked at the top of search engines, and the faster you will attract new customers to your business.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hospital Marketing and Healthcare Branding - Ten Lessons from 15 Years


I just had a birthday!  My company did, that is.  Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy recently turned 15 and since only one third of new businesses last past their first decade, I feel pretty good about this accomplishment.  As I reflect over the past decade and a half, there are certain thoughts and ideas that surfaced that I wanted to share.   I hope some will educate, inspire, amuse, or just be a head nod to those who read them.
  1. The power of a big idea still surges. From the “Mad Men” era until today, and I’m certain into the future, the advertising business still thrives on big ideas.  Sure, there are all sorts of new technologies to communicate and ways to “hide” behind production value, but strip it all away and – if there’s not a big idea that touches the heart and soul of your customer – you have nothing.  You know you have one when, years later, people still recall pieces of a campaign.  I’m proud to say there have been a few of those over the years.
  1. Get with the times. I used to cover my ears when the subject of digital/social media came up in conversations.  I thought that if I just focused on traditional branding and advertising practices, others would take care of the new stuff.  Wrong!  (I guess it’s right to say that today?) Anyway, I have come to really embrace “new” media and appreciate its flexibility and ability to be measured, and the fact that it’s not “new” anymore, just part of the game.
  1. There’s no such thing as a “just a.” There have been many times the client has requested “just a re-size,”  “just a simple program ad,” or “just a something.”  You know as well as I do that there’s no such thing.  Every project has a purpose and should have a strategy against it.  Just when you think it’s a “just a,” it expends more time, resources, and thought than projects that are viewed as larger from the beginning.
  1. It’s hard to make predictions. After 15 years at Springboard, and a total of nearly 40 in the advertising and marketing business, I thought I was close to being able to make decent predictions.  Whether it’s a new business win, what creative campaign a client will pick, an award, and the list goes on…the truth is you shouldn’t predict.  Because I’ll predict you’re going to be wrong.
  1. Personal engagement is still the best form of communications. We all get dozens of emails a day, many text messages, and other forms of tech communications.  While they are time efficient, there is still no substitute for meeting with a client, enjoying a meal, or taking in a social event together.  Just like the “old days.”  And imagine their surprise and gratitude when you send something via “snail mail.”
  1. Punctuation and grammar speak volumes. Related to the above, the industry has changed dramatically in not only how we communicate with each other but also our attention to details.  It seems as though every email contains a typo or has some level of bad grammar.  As we take shortcuts with our communications, it doesn’t mean we should do the same with our spelling and grammar.  A bad typo can kill a great letter or even a client relationship.
  1. You’re only as good as your people. One thing that I’ve definitely appreciated over the years is working with really excellent people.  I never wanted a company with my name on the door.  I wanted one that everybody could feel some ownership in, so when my time comes to move on, the company can do the same.  From David Ogilvy’s famous quote, “our inventory goes down the elevator every night,” to other classic business phrases, your brand depends on who’s delivering it.  I’ve been fortunate to have several people who have helped me really deliver.
  1. Hire for your culture, not for a client. Related to the above, I’ve learned (the hard way, too), that one should hire based on need and culture and not to fit a specific client.  Clients come and go in this business every few years.  Great employees are those you want to stay for an extended period of time.  Culture is important and not just lip service, and I’ve come to realize it starts or stops in the corner office.
  1. Perception really is bigger than reality. With social media today, a small company can make a big impression, around the world!  I remember when blogging was first fashionable and, with some time at a hotel one night, created “Hospital Branding Blog.”  Today, it’s read in over 25 countries and serves to keep Springboard on the first page of most organic searches.  I’m always amazed when people ask how “big” the company is – and when I tell them they always say, “wow, I thought you were hundreds of people and in many cities.”  That’s the power of social media and the importance of maintaining an active social marketing strategy.
  1. You have to stay in sound business shape. From airplanes to rental cars, sleepless nights to meals on the run, I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of a wellness regimen since owning a company. The pressures of the day can be tough, but nothing a good workout at night can’t knock out.  A solid breakfast really does rev up the metabolism, and a decent night sleep works wonders.  In fact, if someone asked, “what’s the one thing you’d recommend when starting a business” I would answer, “work hard to stay healthy and keep your head in the game.”
Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts, and to all our clients, collaborators, and partners who have helped me reach this important milestone.  As Confucius said, (I always wanted to say that) “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” 



Rob Rosenberg, President, Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy.  Springboard is a brand strategy and communications firm specializing in hospital, association, and life sciences branding and is located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob Rosenberg at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Healthcare Branding - More hospital mega-brands on the horizon as mega-mergers rise

This week’s Modern Healthcare magazine, long a leading industry publication for healthcare and hospital executives, recapped the number of “mega-mergers” taking place in the industry during the first quarter of 2017.  The article cites four such mergers between eight $1 billion healthcare organizations. 

According to a managing director of a larger international financial advisory firm in the healthcare industry, this is a trend that is likely to accelerate as hospital companies want “regional, if not national, reach to be more attractive to patients and insurers.”

Additionally, the article cites that many academic medical centers are operating at near capacity and are seeking community hospital partners to take patients requiring less intensive cases.  This is opposite of a few years ago, when these same large academic providers were partnering with community hospitals to generate more referrals for their highly specialized programs that require volume to remain viable.

There were only a handful of “mega-brands” in the marketplace a few years ago - Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Hopkins, M.D. Anderson, etc. - so the implications of this trend impact hospital branding in a mega-way and bring to mind the importance of key branding indicators such as equity and relevance. 

“Where’s the equity” replaces “what’s in a name.”

These new mergers keep a focus on the equity that exists for brand(s) in the marketplace.  Decisions impacting naming, identities, brand strategies, and communications need to start with a thorough understanding of the recognition, reputation, and value a brand has among its current and desired market.  While seemingly obvious, there are countless examples of health systems that have moved away from existing, and high-equity, brand names in order to keep the peace among partners and/or start from a clean slate.  In many cases, consumers react negatively and still refer to “their” hospital or system by its original name (oftentimes, many years later) to the dismay of marketing brand managers.  The only true discipline to gauge the equity of your brand is market research among key customers.  And as one client recently reminded me, “it’s best to let sleeping equity lie,” if it is strong enough to tell the new brand story.  With all these mega-brands taking shape, the equity might lie in both organizations and a long, but strong, new brand will emerge.
  
What’s the new relevance of the new mega-brand?

The biggest buzzword in branding today is relevance – or what role and meaning does a brand have in the life of its consumers.  As mega-brands rise, so too must their relevance.   Again, focus group testing among consumers will validate what’s most important to them as you seek to identify your mega-brand strategy.  There’s a reason that two or more organizations have come together and, if it makes sense, that should be the story told to prospective users.  Key here is telling it in terms that they understand and find benefit in, and not buzzwords and cliché terms that only make sense to hospital executives.

It seems every few years, there is a new surge in hospital brand mergers – followed by an almost equal number of breakups.  If you’re considering a merger, how far do you want to walk away from the equity and relevance you’ve established in your marketplace?  If history sheds any insight, you might want to “let sleeping equity lie” and maintain as much of your equity as possible – even in this era of mega-brands.

A personal note:  Modern Healthcare was referenced in this article and it brings to mind the very recent passing of long-time publisher and healthcare leader, Chuck Lauer.  I had the pleasure of knowing Chuck, as he was a close friend of a former business partner of mine and frequent visitor to our office.  In fact, when I was considering leaving a large, general advertising agency, I was invited to meet Chuck and “pick his brain” on whether hospital advertising would remain a viable industry.  His conviction about how consumers would influence choice and that marketing would influence consumers was a key factor in my decision to join a smaller healthcare marketing firm.  As I approach 30 years in this business, I like to think that Chuck, as motivating and convincing as he was, was right again.  RIP Mr. Lauer.

Rob Rosenberg, President, Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy.  Springboard is a brand strategy and communications firm specializing in hospital, association, and life sciences branding and is located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob Rosenberg at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com.