Key Learnings from SHSMD

At the end of September, the healthcare industry’s leading thinkers and marketers gathered for four days of networking and info sharing at the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference — better known as SHSMD. I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 SHSMD Connections conference, which boasted more than 70 sessions that illuminated real-life applications of marketing and communications strategy from various health systems and health tech companies around the country.

Attendees at this year’s conference seemed to be evenly split between in-house hospital and agency marketers. As an agency gal, I made sure to attend a number of sessions specifically geared toward my ilk, but (perhaps not surprisingly) found myself learning more from the sessions aimed toward hospital marketers because those gave me insights into the challenges they are facing, their perspective, and the opportunities agencies have to fill the gaps.

Below are five key takeaways healthcare marketers should keep in mind:

1. Measure, measure, measure, repeat.

Increasingly, budgets are being scrutinized and requests denied if they aren’t supported with data that proves or at least indicates significant ROI. The key to ROI is developing a repeatable process to plan, execute, measure, and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. It’s not just digital measurement, either. An integrated communications campaign requires measurement tools that provide a 360° view of the work. So where do you start? Research and choose the right CRM platform for your organization, to help identify and manage your data. If campaigns are only as good as the analytics show, they are really only as good as the measurement tools we use.

2. To solve a problem, change your perspective.

We generally approach problems from what we perceive to be the most logical position. In life, this usually does the trick. But in marketing, it often results in a solution that lacks creativity and may not be the best option. Here’s the interactive part of the blog: raise a hand above your head and point to the ceiling. Circle that hand clockwise for a moment. Then, keeping your finger pointed upward and rotating in the same direction, slowly lower your hand below eye level. All of a sudden, the finger that was circling clockwise is now circling counter-clockwise. But you didn’t change anything about what your hand was doing — how did this happen? Your perspective changed.

Changing your perspective is hard, especially after 10, 15, 20+ years in the game, but it’s a must. Stay current on other industries and borrow what works well. Encourage friendly debates or conversations with colleagues about industry strategies, and challenge the norm. Say “yes, and” instead of “yes, but” to make ideas viable, instead of shutting them down. Approach challenges, obstacles, and problems head-on if you can, but don’t forget to consider alternate perspectives to find what may be a better idea.

3. Ensure your marketing effort provides value, not just messaging or a tagline.

Dear marketers, please stop shouting your messaging into the void. Most folks don’t see a billboard for necessary surgical procedures and think, “I want that surgery!” Utility should be the benchmark by which all marketing efforts are measured. Does this campaign bring value to the intended audience? If not, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Identify the campaign’s purpose, then your messaging can easily align and provide context to support it.

4. Healthcare is built on relationships, and trust is paramount.

From our bosses to our colleagues, there’s one thing we all need: trust. Ideas are accepted largely as a result of how much trust is established, and it all starts with us. The actions we take as marketers directly impact our relationships with stakeholders, and can be the difference between a marketing effort that launches and one that never gets off the ground. It takes time to build trust, but once it’s there, it can have a snowball effect — expediting the process in the future and opening doors to bigger budgets and more innovative campaigns.

5. Consumers are everywhere — even in your hospital.

Consumers are more informed than ever before. But many hospital systems want to promote features of their services that aren’t relevant to the everyday consumer. Successful brands consistently engage with their audiences via content they care about, and don’t think in terms of the immediate sell. It’s time hospital marketers realize the value of reaching out to patients like the consumers they are, and imbue their brand with sticking power, to capture market share by addressing the moments when patients aren’t interacting with physicians and staff.

Planning for 2018 is well underway for many of our clients, and we know the challenges ahead are likely greater than any we’ve seen to date. Keeping these key takeaways in mind may help you cut through the noise, rise to the top, and outshine the others in the new year.

October 27, 2017
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