Commentary

You're Fired! Why Retail, Hospitality Marketers Will Replace Healthcare CMOs

Consumer experience drives business, customer satisfaction and loyalty. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry has fallen behind others in delivering these experiences. The truth is, the people that visit Disney World and shop on Travelocity are the same ones using the internet to shop for personal physicians and compare hospitals, just as they do with hotels. Enter the age of “healthcare consumerism,” wherein patients have a choice in their healthcare.

This era opens up uncharted territory for healthcare CMOs, whose organizations have taken a sluggish approach to investing in martech and digital strategies. Consumers expect healthcare to deliver the same timely, personalized and omnichannel experience they’ve grown accustomed to with the retail and hospitality industries. However, healthcare marketing often lacks the data, tools and team required to tailor efforts towards individuals’ unique health needs, interests and preferences.

Healthcare Budget Allocations Aren’t Consumer Focused

Previously, healthcare consumers made provider decisions based on factors like physician referral or convenience, but this model has fundamentally shifted due to new payment models and digitally savvy consumers. Today, nearly 80% of patients utilize search engines to discover health-related information, ask for peer recommendations, read physician profiles and more before making a healthcare decision. Unfortunately, they’re often left disappointed by providers who don’t communicate effectively or provide accurate information online. 

One reason for this is that healthcare marketers still operate off flat old-school marketing budgets. While dollars are moving towards martech and digital campaigns, a majority are spent on wide-net branding efforts like billboards, radio and television spots and large marketing-generated sponsorships, like golf tournaments. These “spray and pray” efforts are flashy, expensive, and don’t mirror digital consumer behavior patterns. 

In fact, in 2015, only 14% of healthcare marketing budgets went to digital efforts. One participant from a Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development study even said, “I don’t mess with [my budget] even though it’s an odd mishmash of legacy budgets.” Cultural resistance, fueled by executive unwillingness to let go of long-standing physician-focused marketing efforts and an under-appreciation of consumers’ digital demands, is putting hospitals on a direct path to failure. Simply put, informed consumers are going to competitor organizations that offer more convenient, complete and high-quality digital experiences. 

Now’s the time for CMOs to take the lead to help their healthcare organization win consumers’ hearts and minds by delivering the experience they expect. Marketers should be doing in-market research to understand local consumer preferences, designing the ideal consumer journey for key service lines and conditions and drawing inspiration from other thriving industries like retail to optimize their persona-based customer journeys. 

For example, Starbucks launched a mobile app that incorporated mobile payments nearly eight years ago. This initiative not only played directly to the behaviors of its on-the-go consumer base but proved to be extremely successful, generating 26 million transactions in the first two years alone.

The New Healthcare Marketing Department

Thankfully, healthcare leaders are beginning to recognize that consumers control the wallet share. In return, they’re putting their marketing departments in the hands of marketers with significant B2C knowledge and are re-allocating marketing dollars to strategically find, engage and influence consumers.

For example, Presence Health enlisted a former retail and consumer products marketer from one of the largest retail pharmacies in the United States to help its marketing department. Soon, the healthcare organization set a new consumer-driven marketing strategy, was investing in additional marketing technology and allocating more of its budget to digital initiatives like SEO, web presence management, social media and search. Through these digital campaigns, Presence Health was able to track a patient’s journey from the initial engagement — form fills, calls, event signups, etc. — to an appointment or other billable services. In return, it got metrics like 76% web traffic increase and 92% location listings accuracy.

Ultimately, there’s never been a better time for healthcare CMOs to spearhead the internal changes necessary to achieve real, successful outcomes. As a result, they have two choices: Either do away with traditional marketing efforts that don’t positively engage healthcare consumers nor produce a measurable ROI or be replaced by a marketer from outside healthcare who will. The choice is up to them, but the time to choose is now.

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