The Importance of the Marketing-Operations Synergy
Twenty plus years ago, as imaging gradually began its trek away from hospital environs, outpatient services rarely included a market effort. Today, outpatient imaging marketing is more than a rapid-report cannon fire in the war of what’s new. It boasts brand, distinction, top-of-mind awareness, and positioning. Back then, if there was a marketing person, they were tucked away in the corner and spoke only when spoken to, separate and distinct. Now, successful marketing departments are an active part of the center and part of its budgetary and strategic plans. It collaborates as part of the operational and executive team and is an integral part of the service circle. David Packard, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard, said it best: “Marketing is too important to be left to your marketing department. In a really well-marketed organization, one cannot tell who is really in the marketing department. Everyone in the company has to make decisions based on the impact of the consumer.” Key to the success of any marketing department and plan is the recognition of value that this service arm provides in the growth and success of a center. Whether marketing a large multi-facility organization or a one-modality service, the formula for success is one and the same: high-level management and marketing professionals working both strategically as well as interactively. This core marketing gathering is not just a conduit for competitive hearsay. Together, the team members participate in routine market-planning sessions rather than handing over a plan. Together, the team works through stand-up meetings, deciding what is working, dissecting things that are not. Together, they assess cost-benefits of marketing investments and outcome measurements. A center market initiative like this extends the welcome mat into executive, operational, and financial meetings as well. When the marketing-operations synergy is the nucleus of your program, the next critical orbit is your center staff. Too often center personnel are not considered a part of marketing communication and strategy. An omission like this can be a fatal error; after all, staff and radiologists in large part are your brand. Market representatives should consider a marketing plan specifically designed for staff. One that communicates key center messages and interprets service line into a unique and specific “center dialect.” When this language is embraced by center employees, marketing can then become a mind-set, not the one meeting in a business schedule that can always be cancelled. Diagnostic imaging marketing is the strategic business utility that identifies the specific referring offices’ needs and wants. It determines how, as an organization, the center can best serve those needs. Your center marketing staff should be part of the design team to create an appropriate product line, service distinctions, and programs. Great marketing isn’t a glossy brochure, and bigger-better-faster technology stories, or an expensive advertising campaign. Great marketing builds and maintains relationships with clients, communicates your story and product, speaks the why-our-services message, and, most importantly, supplies valuable clinical information to busy practices. Successful marketing motivates everyone in the organization to think and serve their clients. Today, there are administrators and radiologists within our industry that believe all the “market fluff” is a frivolous expense. In fact, with the anticipation of significant reimbursement losses, centers are considering marketing cuts as part of their cost containing measures. A step like this is a certain tactical misfire; now, more than ever, a detailed center marketing plan constructed by an experienced market professional is one of your most valuable facility assets. Fluff happens when facilities are devoid of a professionally developed marketing plan and are simply reduced to the latest, nifty leave-behind pen. Where do we begin? Winning marketing efforts are those that not only embrace a team approach, but integrate marketing into their preliminary strategic thought process, not merely as an afterthought. When a facility’s marketing effort feels disjointed, the first best step is to take inventory of your market program. Take time to ask the following questions about your market services: • Does our organization have a collaborative market planning mechanism? Is marketing a consideration and part of the budgetary and strategic planning discussions. • Are the right people part of the marketing process? • Do we have professionally written communication pieces for patients and physicians? Is our staff introduced to each new communication piece prior to its deployment? • How are marketing methods measured, discussed and rerouted if the results are unimpressive? • Is there a market committee? A committee with representatives from the radiologist practice, staff, administrative team and market personnel? Is there a committee venue where internal marketing communication concerns and plan of action initiatives are constructed? • What is the general impression or value that you ascribe to marketing within your organization? The answers to these questions are a good indication of your facility’s marketing temperature. They will assist your organization to discover your program status as well as delineate your next step. Assuredly, next steps, no matter what your survey results indicate, will more than likely begin with a conversation. For those facilities that are working with a core-team vehicle, this communication should come as positive recognition of the value of team and can be initiated by any member. If your market ing seems to be functioning more within the runaway-train model, the communication should acknowledge that the present day marketing transportation is not working. In this situation, all energy should be spent putting the brakes on. As with most speeding machines, braking produces friction and sparks and is better managed if anticipated. The physics of impedance suggests that sparks are only temporary and what remains is this incredible machine that simply needs the right people taking it to the right destination. 2007 marks the beginning of several significant business and financial challenges within our industry. Rather than slipping into a duck-and-cover mentality, use your energy to examine your market vehicle. Marketing is anything but a frivolous expense it is the common language that communicates the valuable service you provide to your patients and physicians.