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Why Your Hospital Marketing Division Needs a Gap Analysis Now

December 3, 2014
Gap Analysis, Marketing Budget, Marketing Staff, Marketing Strategy

No matter how many new team members you onboard, does it still always seem like you don’t have enough people in your department to get everything done? How do other hospital marketing departments do it all? You know, the ones that seem to be firing on all cylinders, both in traditional and digital. 

And how about all of those dollars you shifted from traditional to digital? Is it actually working? How do you know? 

What about the rest of your marketing strategy? Is it working? What does working even mean? Does it mean the same thing to you as it does to your boss? What about your boss’s boss?

My guess is that these are just a few of the many questions that keep you up at night. And if they didn’t before, let me apologize ahead of time for any sleep you may miss out on a result of reading this. However, I’m happy to inform you that the answers are out there, just waiting to be discovered. But it may require you to ask yourself one additional question: Could it be time for a gap analysis? 

A gap analysis takes the form of an audit. It typically includes a review of both internal and external resources and activities to gauge what is going well and where there is opportunity for growth.  Following are three good places to begin.

Your Marketing Team

The first gap analysis you need to perform pertains to the capabilities of your marketing team. Skillsets required of effective healthcare marketers have drastically changed as potential patients have taken charge of their own healthcare purchase journey by utilizing information resources available to them online. However, this content does not create itself and must be written by people. Your people, in fact. The same people who have to juggle back-to-back meetings with service-line managers, physicians, physician liaisons and senior administrators, all of whom want to know “what have you done for me lately”–while also thinking strategically about the best way to not only defend your current market share, but win more in your extremely competitive marketplace. The same people who, in between those meetings, will need to not only generate, but scrutinize in great detail, the Google Analytics report that will tell you if your recent investments in PPC and SEO are actually paying off. 

That’s because, unfortunately, your budget probably doesn’t allow for team members who are good at one thing and one thing only. Your people now need to be content generators, masters of the art of communication. Analysts that can sift through data and identify consumer trends and implications of those trends. Politicians that can balance their need to make a disgruntled physician happy, with their desire to do what’s best for the brand. In a nutshell, you need hybrid players. Team players who have multiple skill sets and can juggle the ever-changing demands of a healthcare marketer. 

Chances are, when you first interviewed your current staff, you didn’t include a request for writing samples along with references or ask behavioral interview questions to determine their ability to interpret complex data points. If my assumptions are correct, it may be time to take a long, hard, objective look at the current skill sets of your people and decide if they are trainable or need to be replaced.  You also need to assess your department structure and processes to determine if you have systems in place that will lead you down a path to success or keep you running around in circles wondering why it seems impossible to get anything done. 

Your Marketing Budget

As discussed earlier, we all know that consumers are spending the majority of their time online searching for health-related information, which is why you’ve already shifted a large percentage of your traditional advertising resources into digital. Job well done. But are you just as confident in your allocations and efforts when it comes to your owned digital media channels? How do you stack up versus your competition in regards to earned digital media? Now is the time to perform a gap analysis to determine if your budget is properly allocated between owned and earned digital media channels versus paid. 

According to PwC Health Research Institute, Social Media Consumer Survey 2012, information found via social media has a 41% likelihood of affecting a potential patient’s choice of specific hospital or medical facility. Social media in this instance is referring to earned media–content about your brand generated by others. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative. And more often its influence on people’s perception of your brand is greater than any message you could communicate about your brand either through paid or owned media. Why? Because people are going to trust what others say about your brand more than they trust what you say about your brand. According to AdAge, earned media is the most trusted and credible form of content for a brand…and it lasts. 

Please don’t misunderstand, your paid media efforts are not wasted. Paid media will often be the vehicle to drive consumers to your owned and earned media outlets. Just as your owned media vehicles will drive traffic to your paid and earned media outlets. And yes, I’m sure you’ve caught on by now, your earned media vehicles will drive traffic back to your paid and owned media outlets. This harmonious blend of paid, owned and earned digital media is known as a converged media model. And if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of it, it may be time to evaluate your recent budget reallocations and reallocate yet again. 

Your Marketing Strategy

And finally, it’s time to talk about what might be lacking in your strategy. Your roadmap. Your guide to why you do what you, when you do it. And your greatest asset for communicating to your superiors what you do, when you do it…and why it should matter to them. Even if your strategy’s objectives are aligned with those of your organization as a whole, you might not be speaking the same language as your organization’s leadership  Consider this very simple mock scenario:

You:“Hello, Mrs. CEO and Mr. CFO. Thanks for your five minutes of time today to share with you all of the great successes we’ve had in marketing this year. To start, our latest research tells us that our brand awareness and preference scores are the highest they’ve ever been. In just one year we have increased the number of unique visitors to our website by 200%. Our YouTube videos were viewed 1,365,433 times. Our Facebook page is Liked more than all of our biggest competitors and 50% of our tweets are re-tweeted within 15 minutes. And oh yeah, people just love our TV commercials. They tell me that every time they see them, it brings them to tears.”  
Them:(Awkward silence)
Them:“How much did all of this cost me? And how many patients did it get me?” 
You:(Think to self: “They just don’t get it.”)

No, they do get it; you’re just not presenting it in terms they care about. It’s time to change the way we, as marketers, talk about what we do. It’s time to stop talking about marketing and instead start talking about the business solutions we have for our organization’s greatest business problems. And the very first step in doing this could just be taking a step back and identifying where your department and marketing strategy may have gaps and what your options are for filling them. 

Gayle Toth

Gayle is a former BPDerr with 10+ year healthcare marketing experience working with nearly every type of client and campaign.