To Prepare for the New Normal, Marketers Must Show Strategic Value

HealthLeaders Media Staff, November 4, 2009

How will healthcare reform affect marketers? Well, it won't if your organization views marketing as the department that creates ads and writes press releases. But if your hospital or health system leaders understand the value of a strategic marketer—or if you'd like to convince them they should—La Grange, IL-based SPM Marketing and Communications has some advice for you.

The firm's most recent "red paper" explains how to prepare for the "new normal," the product of what is likely to be a slow and protracted economic recovery and the lower reimbursements that will inevitably come about with or without passage of healthcare reform. (Just in case you were wondering, the company's term for white paper comes from their nickname, "the tomato people.")

Healthcare marketers who don't want to see their budgets slashed—or their departments eliminated altogether—must prove their strategic value and shed once and for all the perception that they're just creative types and communicators.

To do so, they must deliver two important messages to senior leaders, SPM says. First, that cutting marketing won't accomplish the dramatic cost-reductions that the new normal will require. Second, that cutting marketing "means crippling the only function whose primary purpose is to build volume, drive revenue, and kindle patient retention."

SPM suggests marketers and senior leaders adapt the advice of Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch, offered earlier this year in his blog post, "How Marketers Should Plan For Recovery".

SPM has expanded on Quelch's seven steps to prepare for the new normal, tailoring it to the healthcare field. A sampling:

  • Don't assume a return to the old normal: With or without healthcare reform, marketers need to dig deeper into consumer's changing attitudes and behaviors.
  • Assess your target customer's trust in your brand: Messaging that is honest, meaningful, and educational will be more effective than "brag and boast" efforts.
  • Stay focused on growth: Prioritize marketing efforts that will add to revenue and are tied to measurable results.
  • Focus on high-potential customers: re-engage patients who have delayed care using seminars and other tactics.
  • Know your lead indicators: Monitor points of contact such as call center calls and report trends to your leadership team.
  • Develop scenarios: Good planning and quick reaction will spur revenue growth.
  • Don't wait: Get ahead of your competitors and craft your recovery strategy now.

If you'd like a copy of the red paper, contact Kate Harken, vice president of client development at SPM, at

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