Archive for August, 2009

Differentiate for success.

August 28, 2009

One key point we discuss around here (and that we’ve tested in our Pulse360 studies) is that there are certain things consumers naturally expect from a hospital. They expect skilled doctors. They expect up-to-date technology. They expect courteous, capable nurses and staff.

In the midst of all these ready-made expectations, how can a hospital differentiate itself from another hospital across town? One answer: Define yourself in a way that leads consumers to you.

Maybe it’s a center of excellence in a certain service line or a leading edge form of treatment that’s not available at another local provider. If you’ve achieved Magnet designation, maybe it’s your strong, engaged nursing staff. In any case, you have to establish what your position in the market will be.

You may have to look deeply within a medical service to discover what if anything sets it apart. But the exercise is an investment that will no doubt deliver. You’ll either discover a competitor may have an advantage or find a nice place to hang your hat.

Are your hospital and services easily accessible?

August 26, 2009

How easily a patient or caregiver can access your hospital and services contributes to their feelings of satisfaction and customer service. One way many hospitals provide customer service is a central phone number that feeds through a switchboard to get callers to the right people and right services. But with phone calls to the hospital, there can be a disconnect.

A Beryl Institute study noted nearly 60 percent of all calls to hospital switchboards for physician referrals are mishandled. Researchers made five call attempts to each of 341 healthcare facilities saying, “I am new to the area. Can you help me find a doctor?” In this study, just under 40 percent of the callers were successfully connected to a resource, such as a physician service line.

We know good customer service results in higher levels of patient satisfaction and boosts patient retention. Satisfied and loyal patients are strong patient bases for physicians, and fuel the profitable practices that are essential to physician retention.

In today’s connected world, how do you make your doctors and services accessible to a splintered and diverse patient base?

Like our blog? Prove it.

August 25, 2009

This just in. The Adams Group is a contender in Michael Gass’ ad agency blog of the month contest. You have a vote! Make it heard, dear readers.

How paper clips led to a hospital best practice

August 20, 2009

I recently read how the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Paul Levy, found a creative solution to a long-time pet peeve.  After years of watching office supplies breed like rabbits – in every place he’d worked and many others visited – Paul set up a swap shop to help control overstocking and costs. 

A couple of tables outside his office are filled with paper clips, binders, notepads, pens and more.  A sign reads: “Take what you need, leave what you don’t.”  And it’s working.  Trading has become feverish over some items and most everything is moving.

It’s free, engages employees, saves money and encourages fiscal responsibility on levels far beyond post-it notes.  Brilliant. 

Even better, the idea adds to the virtual swap shop of healthcare best practices.  Insight from a blog, tips from a magazine, a hint from a peer at another organization – take one, leave one.

You can’t have windows without walls.

August 18, 2009

Windows screen shot

As I sat watching Adult Swim on Cartoon Network the other night I noticed an ad in between episodes of King of the Hill and Family Guy. Due to the nature of the shows I was watching I thought at first it was a spoof ad …you know, because it’s Adult Swim.  Then it dawned on me that this probably was a legit ad. The ad was for Microsoft Windows. The tagline read, Windows. Life without Walls.

It immediately caught my attention, and not in a good way. I started thinking,    “Wow. That’s kind of dumb.” Actually, my first thought was, “Did they really just say that?” Think about it for a second. Windows. Life without walls.

Hmm. Without walls you can’t have and don’t need windows! Are they advocating a world in which their product is no longer needed? Did they think about what they were actually saying?

Still not quite believing my own eyes and ears, I went online to check out their campaign. I poked around on their website and, yes, there it was. This really is their campaign.  To me, it’s painfully obvious what they are attempting. This is not just some semantic misunderstanding. No, it is all there, the desperate attempt to be hip, to be cool. A vain effort to be something they are not, to fail to understand what their product is and to fall victim to derivativeness. You can plainly see they are mimicking their competition, but failing in their efforts.

I can just see some corporate types sitting around, patting themselves on the back for coming up with this Zen-like phrase that is utter nonsense. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not a Microsoft hater. I just can’t believe this tagline sailed through their organization unopposed. Surely someone there read this and thought – what??

You know it’s funny, but the universe works in some truly bizarre ways. It’s not the least bit ironic that I saw the ad on Adult Swim.

It’s Not Always in the Numbers

August 17, 2009

I just shook my head recently when Jeff Davis, our Director of Media & Research, told me how a newspaper sales rep was hustling him to place a client ad in the Obit section of her paper. Her argument was that more people read the Obits than any other newspaper section. After all, everyone wants as much reach as possible, right?

Just one small problem, though — the client is a hospital. The rep thought it was a no brainer. I agree, there was definitely not one ounce of brain involved in the recommendation.

Who in their right mind would recommend the placement of hospital advertising where it’s surrounded by death? This rep was all about the numbers, but the truth is the big numbers are driving marketing less and less.

Today’s marketing is about highly targeted strategy — in both message and how it’s delivered — that communicates the message so it connects with consumers at a time and in an environment that matters — and conveys the brand promise.

I don’t know about you, but death doesn’t convey a hospital brand promise to me.

Mad Men Continue to Influence Consumers

August 14, 2009


Me, as a Mad Man

Me, as a Mad Man

Check out this article about how the guys and gals at Sterling Cooper have transcended the realm of fictional ad agency characters to materialize as their own very real, and quite valuable, brand.

Oh, if you haven’t made yourself a Mad Man for our Facebook page, you’d better get on that. The series premiere is this weekend!

Does popular culture affect people’s healthcare choices?

August 7, 2009

This morning, when I learned John Hughes died I took a big deep breath. He made the movies of my teenage years … you know them all. When I learned he had a heart attack at a very young age, I immediately thought of Tim Russert who also lost his life to heart disease far too early.

Right before Tim Russert died, we were preparing to launch a calcium scoring marketing campaign for a client. I had been tut-tutting that the out-of-pocket cost for something that’s not covered by insurance was just too high and the timing was off. This was when the US economy was just starting to falter.

Well, the campaign launched and one day later Tim Russert died. Was the campaign affected? I don’t really know. Here’s what I do know. I was wrong. The campaign was very successful. The hospital began scheduling calcium scoring tests immediately and was soon booked up for weeks.

For Generation X-ers like me, I wonder if John Hughes’ early death will have a similar effect. There’s no doubt many of us think we are young and infallible. But when it comes to heart disease, your family history and personal choices deeply affect your cardiovascular health.

I can remember interviewing a prominent local cardiologist awhile back and he told me that when he was in college, he studied a 20-something athlete that was in prime shape and health, but had a family history of heart disease. He had a heart attack and died in his 20’s.

So to those Gen-Xers out there that are fondly remembering the Duck-man, Jake Ryan, Blaine, the preps, the richies and the Brat Pack, don’t you forget to take care of your heart!!

The Challenge of Market Leaders

August 5, 2009

A meeting I had recently with some executives reminded me of something Tom Watson, the man who built IBM, once said. He said a market leader’s greatest enemy is itself.

I agree. I’ve seen it many times. A company gets comfortable with its perch at the top. Complacency sets in. Maybe a little arrogance. The marketing communications effort is cut because they have the market share and the effort “just isn’t necessary.”

Inevitably, that mindset provides an opening for number two to move up, maybe even number three – because as Avis said, they try harder.

Truly great organizations never let up. Never. Even in downturns. And, definitely not when they have a comfortable lead. They know you stay at the top by continuing to do the things that got you there. They know that marketing communications is like engines on an airplane. Shut them off and the plane may continue to fly… for a little while. Just ask Sully.

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