Weekend Tennis Wipe Out

Urgent Care Brand Battle

I started playing tennis well over age 40 and for the last six years I’ve been on a United States Tennis Association (USTA) ladies doubles tennis team that travels to outdoor public courts for a 10-week season in late spring.

With a variety of different partners, I’ve only won a couple of matches overall but last year in my very first set of the season, at a local high school court, running backwards to win a point, I slipped and broke my fall with my left wrist.

One of my opponents was a physician.  While accepting our forfeit, she shared her ice packs, asked me a few questions and determined that my wrist was likely broken.  She then strongly suggested that I go to an urgent care center rather than a hospital emergency room because it would be “cheaper” and “faster.”

Through the nausea and pain, that made sense.  But has this ever happened to you?  On a normal day when you’re driving around it seems like there’s an urgent care center on every corner but then, when you really need one, you can’t remember where they are and you can’t decide which one to go to.

Netting Profit in Urgent Care

I’m a healthcare communicator who’s keenly aware of the multitude of competing players so I was actually having an urgent care brand battle in my pain-dulled brain.

As I drove my Jeep out of the high school parking lot with one arm, I seemed to be predisposed against several out-of-town-owned urgent care center brands with generic names and highly evolved signage.  Clearly they weren’t the only choices in our highly populated, competitive region.  There are many urgent care options to choose from.

Should I go to the urgent care center run by the major regional academic medical center with the highest level of trauma care?  Or the Catholic health system’s beautiful new centrally located one?  What about the highly regarded local community health system’s urgent care centers, they have a few? Before they opened four more with closer locations, it was further away but attached to an imaging center.  I was probably going to need X-rays.  At the time, I didn’t even know that the dominant 250-doctor regional multi-location orthopedic practice had a specialty orthopedic urgent care center just 10 minutes away.

Acing Patients’ Needs

At healthcare provider marketing conferences, I always attend the sessions on ambulatory care strategies. There is so much pressure for health systems to turn their focus away from filling hospital beds to providing care where and how consumers want it.

As we all know, that has spurred massive growth in the urgent care category.  Here are some points to consider if your organization is expanding into new communities:

  • The Magic of Location: We promoted shopping centers for more than 20 years and learned that there’s nothing more magical than the perfect location for maximum traffic, visibility, choice and convenience for consumers.  There’s a lot of land grabbing in affluent suburban zip codes.  Do key corners get the business?  Time will tell who the survivors are.

 

  • Brand Signage:   It matters.  I was driving yesterday in a different state and noticed several major health system urgent care centers in brand new strip malls or free-standing buildings.  They had little signs with small logos devoid of enthusiasm.  It looked like a bean counter cut the sign budget, which I understand considering how many TV ads and billboards they’re paying for.  But this underwhelming brand presentation, the main driver of where people will go with their healthcare dollars, is inconsistent with the healthcare provider’s brand advertising.  And it looks weak compared with competitors who understand location branding.

 

  • Consumerism: When the doctor came in with my X-ray results at the urgent care center, he confirmed that my wrist was broken and gave me the card of an orthopedic practice also owned by the same health system and told me to call for an appointment after the weekend.  I thought that was a really smart “feeder” strategy until I looked at the card and saw the practice was in another county 30 minutes away.  So I tapped my social media networks over the weekend asking for orthopedist referrals and ended up with a much more convenient and more highly credentialed choice.  How about if the urgent care center makes your follow-up appointment the next week at a location convenient to your home or work before you leave?  Then, you just have to show up and they’ve already heard about you.

My wrist healed beautifully and this year’s season just ended.  The Volley Girls are already looking ahead to next year.  I finally won a set but not a match.

– Lisa Simon, SPRYTE CEO

Paying Homage, Building Relationships by Referral Marketing

Judging by Association: Making Referral Marketing Part of Your Arsenal

Making New Business While Making New Friends

Your parents were right – people really do judge you by the company you keep. It’s an early lesson in what we call referral marketing.

Over the years, healthcare marketers in particular have taken the practice of positive association to heart. Every month provides an opportunity to associate their brand with events, activities and images that reflect their expertise, good will and commitment to patients and community. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists 218 health-related observances in 2017.

Observances such as American Heart Month (February) and Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) give health-related businesses the chance to promote their relationships with patient groups via earned traditional and social media, special programs and other activities – with the hoped-for result of an increase in new patients, business leads, or other referrals.  

Some do it better than others. Those who do it best have very specific goals in mind.

One PRSA Silver Anvil Award-winning referral marketing campaign led by SPRYTE Communications was designed to help Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, a multi-state hospice services company, promote the value of social workers. The logic was simple – social workers represent a professional group that is a key gatekeeper to hospice patient referrals.

Building Relationships:  SPRYTE worked with Crossroads to develop an innovative referral marketing program that could be easily replicated in each of its local markets. In addition to targeting social workers, the program sought to engage healthcare professionals who work with social workers – physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, and others.

A successful referral marketing program should be engaging – something that provides a clear tie-in to the sponsoring organization – while also offering some tangible benefit. In Crossroads’ case, the branded recognition portion began with the name of the program. The “Caring More Award” reflected the company’s longstanding motto (“Expect more from us. We do.”) as well as its commitment to providing its patients with high-quality services based on individual need, regardless of what was covered by Medicare.

The tangible purpose of the “Caring More Award” was to honor local social workers as unsung heroes who (much like the Crossroads motto) work tirelessly and go the extra mile to serve the elderly and the ill. Social workers were nominated by healthcare practitioners from their region, and selected by an independent panel of judges. The eventual award winners received a cash award, provided by Crossroads’ charitable foundation, to present to a nonprofit organization of their choice on his or her behalf during an award ceremony.

Careful Planning as Important as the Program: Effective referral marketing campaigns involve a lot of preparation.  SPRYTE worked with Crossroads to reach out to local hospitals, nonprofits and long-term care facilities to solicit nominations for deserving local social workers and to recruit independent judges to help make the selections. SPRYTE also developed a standard nomination format that facilitated the selection process and conducted interviews with the nominees in order to provide judges with important background information about each one. Through the course of their outreach, Crossroads representatives used the occasion to build new relationships that would enhance prospects for future referrals by community clinicians and social workers.

Over the five years the program has been implemented, Crossroads has built numerous new business relationships with healthcare institutions and other entities that employ social workers, as well as connections to local and state social worker association members through the various owned media platforms operated by these entities. In addition, the branded recognition aspect of the award program offered access to the social work and related healthcare communities in a relationship-building vs. sales-oriented context, which proved highly effective in enhancing patient- referral marketing efforts.

The referral marketing campaign also provided a high level of positive media exposure. In 2016 alone, the campaign generated more than 2.2 million impressions across print, broadcast and social media platforms – in more than 40 states.

Marketing Retail Healthcare

Think Like a Store

If you’re a senior healthcare executive, you are probably either seriously considering or already implementing a retail healthcare strategy. According to a report by Accenture, more than 2,800 retail healthcare clinics will be open in 2017. And no wonder – they offer consumers more convenient access to routine medical care with the same quality as emergency departments and ambulatory medical centers. Further, these stand-alone facilities are not only becoming more profitable for providers, they result in lower costs for payers – a win-win-win.

These retail healthcare facilities have become so ubiquitous that some neighborhoods now house multiple clinics – sometimes on the same street – with the end result that consumers are beginning to view them as commodities, choosing a facility in similar ways to how they decide which “big box” store or retail mall to frequent.

The implication for marketers? Your marketing strategies need to more closely emulate those of a retailer than a health system.

Retail healthcare marketing is a sweet spot for SPRYTE Communications, which has the perspective of 25+ years in both the retail and healthcare industry. We have conceived and implemented high-impact communications campaigns that resulted in fast consumer uptake of new health facilities. At the same time, we have successfully established a new positioning for a key client as an attractive real estate provider in this space.

Job one in developing a marketplace strategy is understanding the demographic and psychographic makeup of the target consumer. Once you have a deep understanding of your prospective patients and how they make decisions, consider these communications strategies to drive awareness and preference for your retail healthcare facility.

  • Establish your clinic(s) as a trusted community healthcare resource by engaging consumers – well before they become patients – with education and outreach. That might mean engaging consumers through non-urgent care programs, such as annual wellness visits, employer-sponsored wellness programs or smoking cessation clinics.
  • Consider partnerships with other retailers in the area. Drug store partnerships are a no-brainer. But also consider relationships with non-traditional partners, promoting back-to-school vaccinations with a children’s clothing retailer, for example, or nutrition and wellness education in partnership with a health club.
  • Develop a year-long media outreach plan that, just like retailers, takes advantage of seasons, holidays and other important times of the year, when you can offer the community information and tips about their health. That includes cold and flu season, summer sun protection, back to school checkups and more. Your plan should include print and broadcast media, owned media – particularly your website and social channels.
  • Make use of your happy and satisfied patients by asking them to mention their experience on their social media channels or community online groups. The value of a recommendation from a local resident can’t be underestimated.

The key for an effective communications program is to be consistent over an extended period of time. Promotional activities can be highly effective for retail health clinics, so you need to ensure you are communicating with the local community at the key times of the year when consumers are making decisions.