The following is a guest article by Andy Pollock from BrandActive
How are healthcare systems spending their brand and marketing dollars?
It’s logical to think these organizations are dialing back their spending across the board—but it’s not accurate. Here are some truths about how brand and marketing budgets are being spent and where the stressors lie. Based on my research and conversations with senior marketers, they span a broad spectrum:
- Some brand and marketing teams say projects that include digital enablement for customers are being fast-tracked as virtual care and patient experience have become top priorities organization wide.
- There’s an increased focus on cost and value. Projects addressing processes and technologies that equip teams to work more effectively are getting precedence.
- One non-profit health services company plans to watch every penny spent on rebranding post-merger, largely because they are concerned about the optics. There, marketing leadership is focused on using necessary rebrand activities to jump-start simplification and efficiency efforts. Another healthcare system marketing exec who is facing rebranding worries about competing for funding with other organizational priorities and is working on making an air-tight case for an adequate budget.
- A recent study by True North indicated that the amount spent on content marketing hasn’t decreased, but the priority has shifted to providing valuable COVID information and growing high-value services. Even as COVID evolves, a focus on marketing high-value services via digital channels is expected to continue.
Taken in aggregate, what does all of this mean? Let’s start with mindset.
Many marketers have been feeling overwhelmed, and most expect to continue to operate that way throughout 2021. Quite frankly, marketers need to cover a lot of ground. Brand and marketing organizations need to optimize for efficiency AND measurably move the revenue needle AND continue to support key transformational projects essential to organizational growth and survival. That means getting marketing and brand priorities funded and initiatives delivered as seamlessly as possible.
Enable seamless execution of multi-channel marketing campaigns
To hit the mark in 2021, your content and advertising campaigns need to continue to educate the public about COVID avoidance and vaccinations—and also build healthcare system revenue. To get the most out of your efforts, examine the tools, technology, and templates your internal and external teams use for digital and offline initiatives. Your objective: Find ways to reduce manual work and save time. The answer is often to introduce/ improve automated workflows and streamline processes. Your procedures and tech tools should make it possible to find the assets you need; communicate quickly with stakeholders and gain approvals; guide adherence to deadlines; track changes ;and provide transparency at every step.
As you fine-tune your processes, you’ll need to keep your agenc(ies) in the loop. Make sure they understand your campaign strategy. It helps to include key agencies in strategy development alongside internal team members. When your agencies fully understand the brief and sign off on the project plan, they are better positioned to deliver for you. These steps align all team members to work quickly and effectively, which minimizes time-and-money-sucking iterations and rework.
Construct a full picture, early on, of the full costs of large projects such as rebranding implementation
Even in 2021, healthcare marketers will need to move some transformational priorities forward. These may mean completing fully internal efforts such as overhauling how marketing executes on key responsibilities. Or it could be rebranding due to M&A or other strategic mandate. What’s certain is that any large expenditure will be under more scrutiny than ever before. The smartest and sanest way to operate is to know precisely how much the transformative project will cost and how long it will take to complete, then get executive buy-in.
A rebrand is a great example. More healthcare systems now scope out and accurately estimate the full costs of a rebrand at the outset– from creative work and launch through to full implementation of the change across branded assets at all facilities. Some of this work can be done even before the transaction or rebranding decision. Choosing this course of action ensures that an organization doesn’t bite off more than it can afford to chew. Just as importantly, it produces the data needed to make a rebrand funding (or other major project) request rooted in reality, and provides a level of detail that stands up to CEO, CFO and Board scrutiny.
Once you model the overall effort and resources needed, these findings can inform the rebrand direction and the direction you give your agency. For example, renaming an entire combined healthcare system requires a change of legal entity. Also, rolling out a net new name requires more of everything – more legal work, more regulatory approvals, and more replacement of branded assets. It may take less effort and fewer budget dollars to do smart brand architecture work instead of a net new name.
Align the right staff resources – especially digital
If 2021 has a theme, without a doubt, it’s digital. And healthcare marketers are embracing it.
Healthcare systems will continue to design and launch virtual service offerings. Marketers will need bring these services to market and educate consumers and other stakeholders how to access them. Transformative efforts such as these require the right mix of internal and external staff. That’s why some healthcare systems are rationalizing their agency portfolios to emphasize digital skills and manpower—a deliberate effort that can improve not just capabilities, but also reduce overall costs.
Bottom line? To be successful in 2021, marketers need to use their limited dollars in the most impactful ways. This entails doing the hard, detail-rich work to align resources to priorities. It requires taking the time to improve day-to-day operations starting with key activities such as campaigns—all while maintaining a digital mindset. Finally, it means bringing a new level of fiscal analysis and advance planning to any large-scale projects.
About the Author
Andy Pollock helps healthcare brands with the financial analysis and logistics of rebranding in his role as Vice President of Client Service at BrandActive. To date, he’s worked with more than 35 hospitals, healthcare systems, pharma companies and medical technology firms. He began his career in integrated sports and marketing, focusing on building market share and brand image for national clients including Chrysler Corporation, Siemens, Rolex, Callaway Golf, and Glaxo Smith-Kline. For several years, Andy managed corporate marketing for Briggs Equipment/Sammons, a global industrial supplier. He holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.