What Does Hulu, iPad, and Product Placement mean to Patient Volume?

April 20, 2010

Ability to reach consumers and doctors is full of new and expanding possibilities while some of the old media methods are diminishing.

Hulu, the two year old online video hub, is now profitable. Meaning, people are going there to download or stream TV shows and movie content.

The iPad is going to stream shows from ABC, NBC, and CBS. So lots of free commercial free TV will be available there.

Product Placement is a hot media that places brands within the story. Studios are more likely to greenlight a project with sponsors than with an A-list star.

The New York Times is reporting that 90%+ of their revenue comes from the printed editions. Unfortunately for them now 90%+ of their readership comes from online editions.

Why Do You Care About These Random Facts?

The old ways of driving volume with traditional media are becoming less effective and less cost-effective every minute.

And the speed of change in media is only increasing. By 2014, the majority of us will get our entertainment and news content on our mobile device.

Why You Don’t Care

Because our main target is 55+. These are the people who are likely to need our high-contribution high-incidence CV, Ortho, and Cancer procedures. Except for OB maternity business, our targets are the last remaining stronghold of old media. We generally can still reach our older targets with older media.

What Do You Do Next?

  1. Don’t panic and do anything crazy. Our targets are older, so we can move in a focused and deliberate way toward the future. But…
  2. Accept Reality. Accept the fact that change is here
  3. Team Drill: In 10 minutes, list how many ways we could get a message across if we could not use TV, Radio, Newspaper, Print, Email, Outdoor, or Banner Ads on Local Websites. How many new ways of communicating can you come up with in 5 minutes (You’ll be surprised)
  4. Social Media: find out whatever you can about how to execute meaningful dialogs with you targets




Can Product Placement Build Patient Volumes?

April 8, 2010

The season ending Grey’s Anatomy slipped in two mentions of the Cleveland Clinic and once mentioned a doctor by name… did that turn into business at the hospital? The answer is a definite maybe.

Because you can’t measure it, product placement is still relatively cheap. I investigated that same Grey’s Anatomy opportunity for a large academic medical center client and they were only asking $15,000 at the time.

Here’s what we know: for younger audiences :30 second TV spots are over… newspapers are over… magazine ads are mostly overand the two most important words on a billboard are “next exit”. So what is left?

Product placement is one of the beneficiaries of a shift in media dollars (along with digital). Even music videos are now packed with dozens of product placements. But what has worked to get a message teens and twenty-somethings will not be effective in the older healthcare demographic target group.

Who is our demographic group: generally speaking (of course excluding OB maternity and pediatric messages) our targets are 50+ and still not downloading and TiVo’ing everything. They still watch the commercials on TV, read the paper, and subscribe to the same magazines.

Product Placement may still be a good idea in some cases:

  • If you are trying to build a regional or national reputation for a clinical program
  • Whatever you do, it only works when you leverage it with tons of PR to mention the placement and make a big deal out of it.
  • Usually your best bet is still the local news- your docs should be the local subject matter experts (do you have an infectious disease doc or a doc that could “play one on TV”? News people always need those interviews)

Product placement is probably not your best option for messaging, but you need to be aware of the possibilities as they continue to evolve.



When Outrageous Ads Help Drive Clinical Volume

April 7, 2010

Advertising alone does not change patient volumes… but it can be a helpful piece of a full media mix.

I have never seen outrageous hospital advertising. Generally hospital and healthcare advertising needs to be very respectful. Nobody wants their provider to be a clown. But there are times when you might as well take a chance.

What are the circumstances that may open the door to outrageous ads (if anybody out there is desperate enough to pioneer hospital ads that are provocative):

  1. Are you an “also ran” in a crowded market?  Meaning, What have you got to lose if your marketshare is awful anyway?
  2. Do you have tiny media budgets? The smaller the budget, the more you can not play it safe. If you have limited media frequency, you must make your message more sticky somehow.
  3. Can you afford decent production values? Extremely well produced humor may work, but cheap humor is the death of your brand. This may seem contradictory to #2 (tiny budgets). But if you use humor, spend to do it right or pay a bigger price later in brand damage.
  4. Are you fighting an almost impossible problem to solve conventionally. Some things, like driving colonoscopies are difficult. I have never found a way to drive lots of colonoscopy volume. Mammo, no problem. Colonoscopy, no dice.

Now getting back to the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada…

This is not a hospital ad. Since we promote colonoscopies, I figured we might as well see what they were doing.

I am NOT recommending this type of ad… I am just toying with the idea. But if anyone is really this desperate, call me, I may have some ideas for you. At least we’d have some fun before you get fired.


What Can Investor Warren Buffet Teach Us About Building Clinical Volumes?

March 5, 2010

You have to spend money on a marketing media mix to make money. It is true to build clinical volumes just like it is true for the world’s greatest businessman.

Every year business people, investors and journalists wait for the annual publishing of Warren Buffet’s letter to shareholders. It is chock-full of practical business advice from the man commonly called the Oracle of Omaha. Read Warren Buffet’s shareholder letter and you will find that he believes that you spend money to make money – and surprise – especially money spent on marketing.

And this man is legendarily frugal. So why does he recomend spending money on marketing? Because if you do it right it is directly tied to results. So what is the right way to spend?

#1 Don’t Spend Marketing Money in Stupid Ways

What is “stupid”? Something without a clear direction to get the patient into an access point into the system- stupid. The really cool TV branding ads without a clear call to action: stupid. Don’t spend money where there is not clear metric for success: that is stupid spending.

#2 Spend More Than Your Competition

The Frugal Mr. Buffet’s auto insurance company GEICO spends over $800 million a year in ads- twice the spend of the nearest competitor and GEICO is just #3 in the market in size (but #1 in profitability). He praises GEICO management for their stewardship and wisdom for the big marketing spend. Why? Because it drives results.

The average hospital system spends about .95% of gross revenue on the media mix. Quick math: that is $950,000 if the system does $100 million gross revenue. Or $9 .5 million if it does a billion in revenue. And that is to be average. You want to be better than average.

We need to be smart business people and great stewards of our precious marketing resources. Like the rest of the business world, we in healthcare can learn from the wisdom and example of Warren Buffet. We’d be wise to listen and act.


Use a Full Media Mix to Build Patient Volume

February 26, 2010

There is a something you can do that will revolutionize your ability to drive volume into the hospital: learn how to effectively put together a full media mix.

In 1993 the seminal work Integrated Marketing Communications- Putting It All Together & Making It Work by Shultz, Tannenbaum and Lauterborn, rocked the way marketers were thinking about how to communicate with their targets. Their basic premise was that mass media by itself no longer works. They concluded that a large variety of contacts with the target, activation points, were needed to help build a strong brand reputation and sales growth.

Even though this was a landmark work by any definition, reportedly the authors were somewhat surprised that the book never fully revolutionized corporate marketing the way they had hoped. Why? Because in 1993 there were not enough activation points. Now there are countless and they are proliferating like ants at a picnic.

What are some of the activation points you should consider?

Along with all the traditional media you have used for years you have to build intimacy and dialog with consumers using new media.

There are now over 400 million Facebook users, Twitter is growing by over 7 million users a month, consumers’ trust in the recommendations of friends and neighbors is growing thanks to social media networks and custom niche social networks like Ning.

Almost 70% of consumers go to the internet about an elective procedure before they talk to a medical professional. One of the most important things you can do is to use spider analytics to monitor all blogs and social media for mentions of your doctors- an essential discipline I call Reputation Management.

I believe your job as a hospital marketer just got easier and harder at the same time. Easier because there are so many new ways for you to develop real relationship with consumers choosing a provider. Harder because everything is changing at lightening speed and you have no choice but to keep up.


Be “Relatable” to Increase Patient Volume

January 29, 2010

Martin Lindstrom

Imperfect moments = real life and real life = relatable.   Relatable can be a powerful driver to get at risk people into your healthcare system. 

I was involved in the production of  a television commercial series, some years ago, for an Academic Medical Center to raise donations. 

Retired medical professionals were asked, “what medical advances had occurred in their lifetime?”  

Seems like a straight forward question.  But the interviews were anything but straight forward. 

The answers were honest, shocking, personal and even uncomfortable

In one interview a man broke down, recalling a moment seeing his father peering at him through a window after being quarantined with polio as a young boy. 

On camera this man and his story were raw, awkward, honest, human and utterly imperfect all in the same moment. 

Marketers often want to shout great achievements at their targets.Afterall the core of his story was not about great medical advances, it was about a scared boy and his dad.   So, it took some convincing to keep this story in the finished series. 

This simple story spoke significantly increased donations by inspiring medical advances than shouting ever could. 

Turns out the point of medical advances is to save us for moments like that in our life.  

In an article in Fast Company Magazine, ‘Why Brands Should Strive for Imperfection,” Martin Lindstrom uncovers much the same thing.   He discusses how imperfections make products and services relatable. 

Some moments that seem to reflect negativity of a marketers brand can actually best relate to their audience. 

So now you must ask:   Are you shouting what you want people to know? Or are you giving people something they can relate to? And what ever you do, please don’t ask patients to be your actors. 

The honest patient story is more powerful.  And more relatable. 


The “Official Role” of Marketing An Academic Medical Center: Volume Driving!

November 23, 2009

A report from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) states that “…marketing’s role is to increase patient volumes into the institution.” I TOLD YOU SO!!!

The report goes on to say that “…academic medical center marketers should assess the likelihood of future market states, understand the dynamics of patient choice, prioritize segments, and optimize the marketing mix accordingly.”

Let’s quickly break this down:

  • “access the likelihood of future market states” This means you need to have an strong and informed opinion about what the trends are in your market and in the legislative process. What will Health Reform do to your Contribution Margin and Volumes? What is the likely change in employment status of your patient community?
  • “understand the dynamics of patient choice” Know your Access Points into the system! Check out for more information
  • “optimize the marketing mix”  “Mix” means there is a right combination of media you should use to maximize your investment in media dollars. Read more on media mix. 

According to the AAMC this is what you should be doing: Driving Volume. And the four points above are how you should be doing it. You ought to print this and hang it by your desk so you see it everyday. It is your key to professional success as a marketer in an academic medical center.