Marketing With In

Memorial HospitalHere is an interesting exercise that I recommend hospital marketers to try out with their colleagues in the hospital. Select a group of 30 individuals working in the hospital, preferably those who handle customers. Include in the group a few medical folks, doctors, nurses, front office executives, billing executives, F&B personnel and a few guys from housekeeping. Ask them simple questions on what the hospital brand means to them.

You would be surprised with the variety of answers you are likely to get.

All marketers try and look for a unique customer proposition for their hospitals, one which they believe the hospital delivers to its customers. The proposition is carefully selected after many a long ‘brain storming’ sessions involving the hospital’s leadership team, the branding and communications experts from advertising agencies pitching for the lucrative account. After these hectic sessions what often emerges is a positioning statement, which is than condensed into the hospital baseline, which is than incorporated in the logo of the hospital. It is in essence the consumer promise, which than is communicated to the external world in right earnest. However, what they fail to do is communicate this promise with the same vigour and zeal with customer facing employees, who are actually tasked with delivering this promise.

Let me take examples from two hospitals, where I used to work.

Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon says that it is all about the ‘art of healthcare’. Max Healthcare similarly professes to be ‘caring for you …for life’. Artemis believes that its services are differentiated from other hospitals because it focuses on the softer side of medicine. The arguement is that the best infrastructure and world class medical faculty is a given, and easy to replicate. What really distinguishes this hospital from others is not what it delivers but how it delivers. Similarly Max Healthcare is all about superlative care, what the hospital calls ‘patient centric care’. It prides itself in delivering great patient care at all customer touchpoints and at every patient interaction.

Now these are indeed lofty goals. I would even go ahead and aver that when these hospitals were being conceived and set up, the founding teams did believe in these ideals. The hospital communication program was designed to put across these differentiations and a fair amount of energy and effort was expanded in developing communication, which helped establish the hospital’s core values. However, and here is the nub of the matter, these hospitals just did not do enough to communicate these values to their own folks down the line who were actually supposed to deliver these sterling objectives.

In the initial days of commencing operations the hospitals did make an effort to train people in handling and treating patients as customers. However, the initial enthusiasm waned soon enough, competition poached many a well trained individuals and somewhere in the hurly burly of running large hospitals the idealism of the past gave way to an all pervading cynicism. Training individuals in the ideals and core beliefs of the hospital became a chore and the trainers too lost their passion.Thus the marketing promise, the all important differentiator remains only in the minds of resolute brand managers who faithfully continue to reproduce these lines with the hospital logos and the colours.

Unfortunately, this is true of most hospitals I know. A brand promise must be delivered unerringly and all the time. For, which hospitals must spend time and serious effort in keeping the promise alive amongst those who are supposed to deliver it a million times everyday.

Pic courtesy http://www.flickr.com

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Lessons in Healthcare Marketing Communication

Building healthcare brands is an arduous task. 

It takes enormous effort to get it all right. The mix of customer experiences at various hospital touchpoints, the look and the feel of the hospital, the people and of course the communication. No one goes to a hospital willingly or to enjoy a few days of well deserved rest. Neither is it a place, which attracts willing repeat customers. Customers in a hospital are necessarily driven by a misfortune, which involves something as precious as their or a loved ones health. A hospital visit is also usually fraught with risk. Fear and anxiety generally accompany a customer to the hospital.

Building brands by delivering great experiences to customers who are in this frame of mind is tough. Communicating with customers to influence their choice of a hospital in dire and difficult circumstances is often akin to walking a tight rope. The message runs the risk of being perceived as either too commercial (this hospital seems to be hoping that I fall sick and land at its doorsteps), too glib (it trivialise something as serious as my health and well being) or just too smart or plain dumb.

Here are some lessons that I learnt, while handling communications for large hospitals.   Continue reading