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A Year of Healthcare Marketing

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, July 30, 2008

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the HealthLeaders Media Marketing Weekly e-newsletter and this weekly column on healthcare marketing. And what a fun year it's been—I learn something new every week, often from the generous readers who write to me, sharing their opinions and expertise. A lot has happened during the past year, so I thought I'd update you on some of the topics and stories I've covered (including new developments on two of the most controversial columns I've written).

New media and the modern marketer
Every once in a while I express some healthy skepticism about the latest new media marketing techniques. It's not that I don't believe in the power of new media—I do. It's just that I don't think every form of it is going to work in the healthcare industry [Virtual Reality Check, November 14, 2007].

But that doesn't mean that all healthcare marketers agree.

In an online HealthLeaders Media poll, we asked respondents "How do you view/use new media in your marketing? Most (42%) said it is "vital" and said they were looking to expand its use. Another 26% said it is "somewhat valuable." Another chunk of respondents (31%) said they're not sure if it's effective. And 1% said they don't see any value in it and that it is a passing trend that's not worth investing in.

It seems as though 99% of us are still trying to figure this one out. Frankly, I'm not sure what's going on with the other 1%.

A marketing mystery
My column on secret shoppers (also called mystery patients) stirred up a lot of controversy, too [Spies Like Us: Physicians and Undercover Patients, June 18, 2008].

Most of the responses were from marketers who are frustrated with physicians because they don't seem to understand that their behavior affects patient satisfaction, the hospital's image, and, ultimately, the bottom line.

One reader noted that this is not just a marketing problem. She pointed to the recent safety alert issued by the Joint Commission about the dangers of bully doctors. Bullying doctors can make nurses afraid to question their performance, according to the alert, resulting in medical errors.

We did a HealthLeaders Media online poll on this topic, too.

We asked readers what they think of mystery shoppers. Most (nearly 70%) said they are "a good tool to improve quality and patient satisfaction." Only 15% said they are a "poor indicator of quality and patient satisfaction."

Time is money, but not for the CMO
In May, I wrote about reports that the average tenure of chief marketing officers is shorter than that of the CEO [Is Your Boss Advertising For Your Job? May 21, 2008]. Since then, more evidence has surfaced that chief marketing officers are the assistant coaches of the C-suite: first to get blamed for a loss, last to get credit for a win.

Among the 100 companies in a recent AdAge review, 28 fired or lost their top marketer in 2007 or 2008.

But wait, there's more. The average CMO-level executive last year took home $1.5 million, according to AdAge. "Nice pay," the magazine writes, "but nothing next to the $15.5 million hauled in by Dell Chief Marketing Officer Mark Jarvis."

Ouch.

Beware of pharma reps bearing gifts
Finally, one of the most controversial topics in this space over the past 12 months was the practice of drug company reps showering docs with knick-knacks. [Drug Logo Overdose, January 23, 2008].

So many readers responded—some agreeing with my opinion and some decidedly not—that I wrote another column the following week in order to air some of the different viewpoints [Saints, Sinners, and Bringers of Dinner, January 30, 2008].

The latest news on that front: The pharma industry's biggest U.S. trade group announced this month a moratorium on such gifts. It's a move they've long promised, but don't get too excited: The guidelines are voluntary.

It seems the more things changed in the past 12 months, the more they stayed the same.


Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.
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