June 5, 2019

Is Your Service Line Ready for Marketing?

Healthcare marketers are barraged with requests for marketing support from physicians and service line leaders. And it seems that every request is considered a high priority and should get all of your attention. And sometimes they should.

But are those service lines really ready to be promoted? Will you be hurting or helping your brand by supporting the service line?

It is not uncommon to sit down with the service line team only to find out they are at capacity or have a two month wait to get an appointment. Or they don’t answer the phone in 6 rings 90% of the time. And their website content is not up to date.

At Franklin Street, we use a comprehensive Service Line Market Readiness Assessment tool to address key indicators of market readiness. These include categories like easy access, capacity, customer journey and experience, profitability and competitive landscape.

As we all know, it is a disservice to your brand reputation to promote a service line that is not market ready. It lowers patient satisfaction and expectations for future experiences with your brand.

While you may not have the time or resources to conduct the full readiness assessment, there are a few simple questions that can help you ‘gut-check’ the readiness of a service line that requests marketing support.

Three questions can give you a quick read of the service’s market readiness.

1. Do they get it?

2. Do they have capacity?

3. Do they want it?

1. Do they get it?

Do the physicians and leaders embrace your brand promise and deliver on it? Delivering care that offers both high clinical quality and a good patient experience is no longer a differentiator. It has become table stakes. But your brand promise should be your differentiator. It is your commitment to the unique way your brand delivers value.

In this competitive environment, where patient experience matters a great deal, service line leaders and physicians need to be driven to meet or exceed customer expectations when it comes to delivering your brand promise. In your organization, do these key players understand and embrace your brand promise? Do they understand their role in delivering it?

If the answer is no, you will likely be setting the campaign up to fail. There is an old expression in advertising that rings true today. “Nothing kills a bad product quicker than good advertising.”

2. Do they have capacity? 

This question has two components. First, exactly how much additional volume can the physicians handle? Enough to warrant marketing dollars? Second, is there capacity throughout the patient journey to optimize the experience?

It is not difficult to determine how many days, weeks or months out the service is scheduling appointments. But even when physicians have capacity, the rest of the service experience has to pave the way for a successful visit. For example, what percent of calls are answered within three rings? What percent go to voice mail? What percent of calls are returned within 4 hours? 24 hours?

Promoting a service line can exacerbate cracks in the foundation. A less-than-stellar call center for patient scheduling can become a deep sore spot for patients and reflect poorly on your brand. Communication challenges within a department can escalate when things get busier, as they often do after marketing does its job and attracts new patients for care. 

3. Do they want it?

Are the service line leaders and physicians hungry to grow the overall business through their service line? Are they looking for ways to expand access to better cater to patient needs and respect their time? Are they willing to acknowledge aspects of their service line that could better deliver on the brand promise? Are they willing to eliminate roadblocks to creating a better experience?

Or will you exhaust yourself drumming up enthusiasm to maintain a minimum standard of quality, access and experience?

As a marketer, you can attract people to the service, but the ‘owners’ of the service line must want to deliver service that surpasses customers’ expectations. Change isn’t easy but service lines that are hungry for growth should be willing to invest the time and resources to meet patients where they are. They should willingly be good stewards of your brand.

The last thing a marketer wants to do is promote a service line that isn’t market ready. While we use sophisticated Service Line Market Readiness Assessments to help our clients, we find asking these questions gives marketers a fast way to know if a service line really is “market ready.”