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CEOs' View of Marketing: Cloudy with a Chance of Opportunity

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, February 17, 2010

CEOs need your help—they just don't know it yet. The results of the 2010 HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey show a disconnect between marketing-related initiatives hospital leaders plan to take on in coming years and their esteem (or lack thereof) for the marketing department. Lucky for you, the first step to solving a problem is learning about it. We've got you covered there.

Views on marketing quality
One of the largest disparities between marketing executives and CEOs is their opinion about the quality of marketing at their organizations. Marketers seem quite pleased with their work, with most ranking it "very strong" (30%) or "slightly strong" (41%). CEOs' opinions, on the other hand, are less positive, with just 11.5% selecting “very strong” and 42% selecting "slightly strong."

A simple explanation for this is that marketers are immersed in and are proud of their work, so of course they're more likely to rate it higher than CEOs, who might not see all of the work marketers do. The problem here lies in perception—your department could be producing the "Starry Night" of the healthcare advertising world, but if your most influential critic isn't impressed, it might as well be in The Museum of Bad Art. (It's real—I live down the street from it.)

Marketing execs not quite in the inner circle
Continuing with this theme, marketing execs seem to have a skewed vision of their influence on hospital leadership. Fifty-three percent of them say they felt "highly valued" by the CEO and another 34% said they are "moderately valued." Similarly, 42% say they are a “key leader who contributes to overall organizational strategy” and 32% say the CMO is an important operations leader.

Even when marketing execs were asked to rate how valued the marketing department’s efforts were among internal stakeholders, CEOs fared best—they were the only group that the majority of marketing leaders (53%) say "highly valued" their initiatives. After CEOs, the numbers quickly dropped off. Just 15% of marketing leaders say hospital staff highly valued their work. Physicians came in next with 14%, followed by CFOs, with 13%.

But again, CEO responses tell a different tale; just 24% said their chief marketing officer is represented on the senior executive team that works on strategic planning, ranking them eighth on the list—the same spot as in our 2009 survey.

"That tells me that there are a number of healthcare marketers who are either in denial about their role and/or perceived value in the organization, or who are somehow misreading the signals from leadership," Chris Bevolo, president of Interval, a marketing firm in Minneapolis, MN, told HealthLeaders Media. "[Marketers] may want to take a more critical look at if they're really supported the way they think they are."

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