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How Healthcare Marketers Can Drive Change—Right Now

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   August 08, 2022

Monigle managing principal, Justin Wartell, talks about the challenges healthcare marketers are facing and shares strategies to keep up with the competition.

Editor's note: This article appears in the September/October 2022 edition of HealthLeaders magazine.

Recently, Monigle unveiled the Humanizing Brand Experience: Healthcare Edition Volume 5 report, which highlights healthcare consumer trends, top healthcare marketing brands, and strategies for Healthcare marketers to keep up with their ever-evolving role and the challenges they face.

According to Justin Wartell, a managing principal with the firm, healthcare marketers are now facing two interrelated challenges.

"The first is built around budget pressures and business performance," he said.

Marketing executives are expected to do more with less. The challenge lies in delivering effectively for the organization while having fewer resources available.

"On the other side of that, what we're hearing more and more from marketing leaders is the expectation and the task of driving growth," Wartell said.

This creates an interrelated problem of how to do more with less, while still serving as a catalyst for growth within the organization.

"The engine that helps to contribute to bringing people back into healthcare, choosing that elective procedure that represents a good margin opportunity, or even working to continue to augment or shift perceptions around what the healthcare brand stands for in the marketplace," he said.

Another layer to add is the newer expectation that marketing leaders be involved in or play a supportive role in new areas of focus within the healthcare organization, including driving the organization's workforce and employer brand.

"A lot of the folks we're talking to in marketing are being asked by their HR colleagues to help in myriad ways to contribute to culture growth or culture preservation," he said.

That could be around sharing messaging promoting the employer's mission, vision, and values, recruitment campaigns, and retention activities. "Marketers more and more appear to be expected to contribute on some of those HR and culture activities at a higher rate than we've seen historically."

The power of listening and taking action

Marketers also have to consistently keep up with consumer wants and needs; but what are the best ways to do that?

"What has become much more common for healthcare marketers is the more natural orientation to listen," Wartell said. "What healthcare marketers have now, more than they've ever had before, is a broader portfolio of ever less expensive tools that allow them to listen to the audiences they serve. Our perspective is that because of the tools that have proliferated, it just makes it simply easier to listen."

This includes formal market research, mechanisms to collect patient and consumer feedback, and even internal listening across the organization.

But with listening must come action.

"Listening is only one side of the story," he said. "You can listen all day long, but if you never do anything with the information, how helpful was it? As marketers have grown in perceived importance to healthcare organizations, especially in helping to spark improved performance, it creates this platform where you can a take action."

He added, "if you think about the ability to bring what you learn by listening, together with opportunities or spaces for action and actually do something about it, it starts to manifest much more directly."

How to do more with less

But how can healthcare marketers do more with less?

Wartell has three suggestions for healthcare marketers on how to make a big impact while working with limited resources.

1. Be clear about the role that your marketing organization should play within the broader enterprise.

"Few marketing leaders have clarity on the impact that they want to have and how they want to make that impact," he said. "If you think about it, do you want to be the champions of the consumer voice? Do you want to be the organization that helps to relentlessly push content and stories out to the marketplace? Do you want to be the organization that helps to understand journeys and address pain points?"

"Just knowing your identity as a marketing organization is the first part of it," he added. "Essentially, how do you do anything if you don't know who you are?"

2. Build a coalition around brand marketing and experience activities.

"Nothing in healthcare can be done today in your silo without interconnection points," Wartell said. "It's of critical importance that you build a coalition of support and other leaders that help you to work across disciplines to impact not just the stories you tell, but the way you deliver the experience reflective of those stories."

3. Stay true to what you stand for.

"When you think about leaders of brands and healthcare, there's a tendency to chase a lot of different things given the pressures that they face," he said. "We believe as a healthcare marketer, you've got to stay true to what it is that your organization and brand stands for. Be shouting that from the rooftops, ensure that every decision you make is through that lens, and don't let anybody—patient, physician, or board member—get you off course."

The future is bright for healthcare marketers who want to make a change, drive results for their organization, and champion growth.

"This is the time for healthcare marketing leaders to embrace change, to play a big and impactful role, and to no longer be saddled with the baggage of the past," Wartell said. "The question is, are these leaders ready for it?"

"Our encouragement to healthcare marketing leaders is, are you ready to be that champion of change, and that voice for the consumer, and that person that works across the organization as opposed to vertically within your silos? Because there's never been a richer opportunity to help your organization make change happen."

“This is the time for healthcare marketing leaders to embrace change, to play a big and impactful role, and to no longer be saddled with the baggage of the past. The question is, are these leaders ready for it?”

Melanie Blackman is a contributing editor for strategy, marketing, and human resources at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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