July 14, 2017

Hospital Service Line Marketing: 4 Fast Ways to Identify Opportunity

Whenever I walk down the hospital hallway with a marketing client, this inevitably happens:

“Hi, INSERT NAME OF MY CLIENT, when will our service line get marketing support this year?”

The question typically comes from a physician, service line director or other stakeholder who wants their service to get the spotlight.

I empathize with our clients. They don’t have the human capital, time or finances to market every service line, especially at the levels that internal stakeholders would prefer.

TOUGH DECISIONS MUST BE MADE TO PRIORITIZE MARKETING SPEND.

Having worked with 200+ hospitals in over 30 years, Franklin Street understands the complexity of marketing service lines to drive new patient volume.

In our experience, there are many considerations for choosing which service lines to market (not to mention how to market them!).

But what if you don’t have access to strategic planning tools or don’t have the time for an in-depth analysis before weighing in on which service lines to market?

We’ve developed a “gut check” on which service lines have the best opportunity for marketing support. It’s not a replacement for an in-depth analysis, but it can help if you’re in a pinch.

 4 FAST WAYS TO IDENTIFY SERVICE LINE MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES:

  1. Capacity/Organizational Impact
  2. Internal Champion Contenders
  3. Market Readiness
  4. The 20/80 Rule

Let’s look at each more in-depth.

1. CAPACITY/ORGANIZATIONAL IMPACT

Two core questions drive this assessment:

  1. Can the service line handle more volume?
  2. Is the service essential to maintaining the organization’s mission?

It’s surprising that many service lines asking for marketing support also struggle with managing capacity with existing patients. 

We often refer to the first question as the “Is it plugged in?” question. Before calling the repairman, make sure the appliance is plugged in.

In your case, make sure the service line can handle new volume. Otherwise, you’ll just generate new, unhappy patient leads.

The second question is the “margin/mission” question. Does the service line provide profitable patient volume?

These days, hospitals need to drive more volume to surgical and other more profitable service lines in order to sustain their mission of providing a continuum of care for everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Will driving new volume to the service line help fund and therefore support the overall mission?

Of course, there are other reasons for driving volume, even when the service line doesn’t typically make the organization money. (One example is OB services, which many health systems market because they believe offering women a positive experience will make them more likely to return to the hospital for other services later in life.)

But if you’re looking for fast ways to rule on which services take marketing priority, we recommend “following the money.”

2. INTERNAL CHAMPION CONTENDERS

When choosing which services to market, we encourage our clients to identify which service lines have “champions” at the clinical level who endorse, support and “get” marketing communications.

These are the stakeholders who open doors, grease the wheels, and in general, serve as true partners in the marketing process.

Without them, it’s very hard—if not impossible—to get the campaigns and marketing collateral produced. Let alone champion a positive patient experience, which is itself the best form of marketing.

3. MARKET READINESS

Which services are “ready for primetime”, because they currently have strong patient satisfaction?

Market readiness might also mean having capacity to see new patients conveniently and make it easy to become a patient/be seen and treated.

A common trouble spot is when the service line is not fully staffed—weather it’s a clinical or non-clinical liaison, or a key physician. In this case, we recommend pausing until the key position(s) are filled before marketing.

4. THE 20/80 RULE

You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, which specifies that there is an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. In other words, 20% of the investment is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.

The same holds true for your organization’s service lines.

20% of your service lines are likely to represent 80% or more of the financial impact for your organization. 

Do you know what the 20% of your organization’s services are that drive 80% or more of the financial impact? If so, a good rule of thumb is to make those services your marketing priority.

ADDRESSING THE SQUEAKY WHEELS

As I mentioned at the top of the post, whenever I tour hospitals with our marketing clients, we inevitably encounter physicians, clinicians and administrators who ask the question, “When will you market XYZ service?”

We hope you’ll use these four fast ways to diagnose service line marketing opportunity.

But I also know that as a polite, astute communications professional, you want to gracefully handle these requests from well-meaning stakeholders.

Here’s several tactical recommendations that can give attention to service lines that may not make it to the top of your marketing plan. 

10 TOOLS FOR MARKETING LOWER PRIORITY SERVICES

  1. Community magazine articles
  2. Internal newsletters
  3. Direct to physician/referral source newsletters, emails and sales sheets
  4. Search marketing/PPC campaigns
  5. Website home page promotions
  6. Facebook and other social media posts
  7. Expanded website content, including blogs
  8. YouTube and other video marketing
  9. Brochures distributed at community events
  10. Subject matter expert interviews/commentary with news media

We hope this post is helpful. Leave us a message in the comments and tell us the 1 thing you always look for when marketing a service line.