Just before my speech at a recent association meeting, I sat down for a cellophane-wrapped turkey sandwich at one of the countless circular tables inside the enormous exhibit hall. (Been there before?)
One of the attendees at my table noted my “speaker ribbon,” and asked about my topic. When I told him “marketing,” he reached into his pocket for a business card.
With pride and more than a hint of condescension, he exclaimed, “See this card? I told the printer to make it as plain as possible, with no logo, no bold nor anything else that might seem like marketing.”
Now I have been in medical advertising and marketing for nearly twenty years, so his attitude didn’t surprise me. Quite the contrary, I have heard every reason NOT to market more times than you can imagine. For example,
- “The only providers who market in our area are the bad ones.”
- “It feels like begging.”
- “It is so… unseemly.
- “I wish it were illegal.”
- “Our colleagues would think less of us.”
- “It’s expensive.”
- “It doesn’t work.”
- “It’s unethical.”
- “It’s beneath us.”
Today, more than 30 years after marketing was deemed legal for professionals, the anti-marketing culture still persists at hospitals and healthcare practices nationwide.
Meanwhile, those providers that embrace marketing often quietly “clean up” due to the resulting void in the marketplace. What’s more, they typically capture an inordinate share of the most lucrative and desirable cases.
In fact, the head of one aggressive group privately confided to me that he and his partners were positively gleeful that their competitors willfully stayed out of the marketplace due to various misgivings. I should note that this particular group enjoyed over 60% market share for the lucrative cases they were targeting – while everyone else had to fight for the leftovers.
That’s not to say that the majority of providers who market are “cowboys.” Rather, it’s usually the opposite.
Most of our clients, for example, are quite conservative. They demand – as we do – that their marketing be ethical and tasteful. Many even refer to marketing as a “necessary evil.” (I promise it doesn’t hurt my feelings!)
What’s more, far from “having to beg,” they are often “best in class” in their given fields.
“So,” you might ask, “why do they market then?”
While motivations vary widely, they oftentimes want to…
- Counter aggressive competition.
- Get the recognition their group or hospital deserves (aka enhance their reputation).
- Counter the ill effects of the recession.
- Counter declining reimbursements.
- Prepare for healthcare reform.
- Counter a drop in volume.
- Build volume for expensive capital equipment.
- Ensure the success of a new facility.
- Fill the schedule of one or more new providers.
- Target cases that are fulfilling or reimburse well.
- Target specific insurances.
- Grow revenues and profits.
- Alert the community about the solution to a widespread health problem.
- Stand out from the pack in a positive way (branding).
- Stop being the “best kept secret in town”
Whatever the original motivation, many clients also find unexpected benefits from marketing.
Beyond the obvious patient volume and revenue growth, their quality of care and reputation often improve as a result of their marketing.
Colleagues notice their marketing and make positive comments like, “I had no idea you have such great credentials.” Patients can feel honored to be part of such a great institution. Staffs rise to the occasion to be worthy of the high expectations set by the marketing.
We see it all the time, and these things are all possible for you, too. But, you’ll never realize any marketing benefits as long as you continue to sit on the sidelines. So…
Are YOUR competitors quietly cleaning up while you’re not marketing?