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Healthcare CMOs: What can you do about these common problems?

The role of a healthcare Chief Marketing Officer is increasingly demanding and complicated. The healthcare industry is constantly and rapidly changing. Organizations face many challenges, including shifting regulatory mandates, the new expectations of digital healthcare consumers, and a nationwide push toward value-based care.

Amidst all of this, the CMO is still tasked with building brand recognition, attracting new consumers, and driving loyalty to ensure their organizations are meeting patient volumes.

We wanted to understand how CMOs are approaching their work. So we interviewed 11 CMOs at major hospitals across the nation. These CMOS consistently reported five major challenges, and offered some unique ways to approach them.

You can find all five challenges in this thought leadership article. Have a look if you want to explore these issues in depth. This blog post will examine two of the five most important obstacles that CMOs face.

First challenge: linking the patient and consumer experience

Healthcare consumers have begun to behave like consumers in other industries. They start their search for providers online, and just like they’d do for hotels or restaurants, they look for patient reviews to help them make their care decisions.

In fact, patient reviews are the most important feature that healthcare consumers want to see on provider websites:

So to keep new patients coming in, organizations need to continuously publish outstanding reviews. This means that they need to both provide excellent care experiences, and find ways to share those experiences with consumers.

CMOs have recognized these two demands on the industry. To meet them, they’ve begun to incorporate patient experiences into their marketing messages.

Timely, reliable feedback from patients is essential to their efforts. Unfortunately, traditional patient experience surveys travel by mail, and typically arrive in a patient’s mailbox four to six weeks after the episode of care. This delay makes the feedback data less useful. Clinicians have less clarity on how to improve their service, and marketers miss opportunities for promotions.

Real-time feedback solves both problems. When clinicians hear from patients right away, they know exactly how to adjust their approach. A daily flow of patient feedback also gives marketing teams plenty of material to work with. CMOs can use these fresh, relevant stories to reinforce their organizations’ branding.

And that’s not just good for business. Putting patient experiences online is only a small part of the healthcare industry’s push for transparency. Smart CMOs will embrace that. They understand that empowering patient choice improves clinical performance, and keeps patients coming through the door.

Second challenge: creating loyal consumers

And after their first visit, how can CMOs make sure that customers return?

Loyalty is vital for the health of any business—perhaps especially so in healthcare. Once patients learn to trust a healthcare brand, they’ll keep coming back. A loyal patient brings an average of $1.4 million in revenue to a hospital over their lifetime.

CMOs know they need to cultivate loyalty. But consumers can be fickle:

Source: National Research Corporation’s “The New Payer” study, 2015, n-size = 3,083

75% of consumers feel little to no loyalty for specific brands. That’s reflected in how patients approach healthcare.

More than ever before, patients know how to shop around—and they’re not afraid to walk away from service they don’t like. 7% of consumers will switch providers after just one sub-par experience.

That defection takes a heavy toll on healthcare organizations. For many hospitals, attrition can cost up to $100 million every year. If leaders want to protect the financial health of their organizations, they can’t afford to overlook loyalty.

Fortunately, patients are forthcoming about what it takes to win their trust:

Source: National Research Corporation’s “The New Payer” study, 2015, n-size = 3,083

It boils down the quality of the care experience. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Healthcare organizations can win loyalty from patients by meeting—or better, exceeding—their expectations.

Savvy CMOs pitch in to this effort. They find ways to listen to patients, and clarify what consumers want to see from their clinicians. It all begins with an earnest attempt to understand the patient’s needs. And with the right tools, CMOs can ensure that these attempts will see success.

Ready for more insights?

The two points above are a small sample of what we learned from our CMO surveys. In the thought leadership article we produced on the subject, we explore three other challenges that CMOs face every day. The article offers some other ideas on how to understand the needs and expectations of your consumers, how CMOs can help their organizations embrace transparency, how to operate in the era of healthcare consumerism, and more.

We also invite you to join us in September at the 2017 Market Insights Consumer Collaborative. This free conference will help attendees deepen their understanding of consumerism and loyalty as it relates to the healthcare industry. To learn more about the event and the topics that will be covered there, please visit our website.