The tools every hospital marketer needs to master, per 6 execs

Hospital marketing executives can choose from a wide range of digital tools to help them better engage with their audiences, but not all can decipher what's essential versus what's superfluous. Below, six hospital marketing executives explain which tools they think every healthcare marketer should know how to use.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and style.

Suzanne Bharati Hendery. Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Renown Health (Reno, Nev.). I believe the most important tool a hospital marketing executive needs to know how to use is their voice. As the designated representative voice of our customers and their needs and wants — whether they are patients or supporters, providers, community members or other key stakeholders — our role is to amplify the customer voice as needed and with the appropriate research to back it up — in the boardroom or the breakroom — to help influence decisions on strategy, culture, policies and communications/messaging.

Alexandra Morehouse. Chief Marketing Officer at Banner Health (Phoenix). Healthcare marketers need a customer database that includes clinical EMR data and all other service, billing and demographic data on patients; customer analytics tools to use with the customer database; a customer relationship management tool and the related analytics; and a customer survey and feedback tool.

This list is what virtually every other business in other industries has in place — airlines, banks, retail, etc. It's the basic toolkit for growing revenues and managing customers; healthcare is just 20 years behind other industries.

Brian Deffaa. Chief Marketing Officer at LifeBridge Health (Baltimore). While it smacks of the obvious, the world of marketing and branding is evolving rapidly in the healthcare space; it's deploying tools long in use where return on investmentI is the currency of the trade (think retail). No more is this obvious than in how customers (I intentionally don’t label them "patients" — too narrow a target) engage with a wide variety of content along a journey that ultimately leads to your front door — digital or otherwise.

With all this content floating around, from algorithmic digital ads to direct mail and bus shelters, any marketer worth her or his salt needs to answer the basic question: is it driving engagement? Usually in the form of clicks, likes, shares, downloads, webforms, appoints or the tried and true phone call, engagement is an overpriced term for "did it cause someone to do the thing we wanted them to do?"

In most cases, getting to this answer starts with a customer relationship management platform like Salesforce, a trackable call platform (we use Invoca) and a good media team or firm to place, monitor and track digital investments and subsequent consumer engagement. The data inflow from these and other tools can then begin to provide a campaign-by-campaign look at what worked well and was just "meh." The finer point here is “worked” — did it drive appointments or just traffic? This last mile is where many marketing teams run headlong into legacy healthcare systems and structures not designed for the need for centralized communication, information and ROI. 

Scott Weber. Chief Marketing and Design Officer at Fairview Health Services (Minneapolis). The first tool is what’s possible in terms of integration with Epic/MyChart. The experience is the brand, and unfortunately much of our digital experience relies heavily on Epic. It's key to understanding what can be built on top of, in and around MyChart. We’re launching our mobile app next month, this has been our biggest hurdle.

The other tool is Salesforce/customer relationship management. Mass marketing is dead. You need to understand how to segment consumers, find your most valuable or at-risk prospects and engage with them. It's also key to delivering personalized experiences.

Lori Howley. Executive Director of Corporate Communications and Chief Marketing Officer at MelroseWakefield Healthcare (Medford, Mass.). It is hard to single out one specific digital resource that healthcare executives should have in their toolkit. What is great about digital marketing is the synergistic ability it provides to meet your consumers, patients, clients, physicians and donors where they are at, and customize messages that are meaningful to them.

Digital marketing is about engagement and having the tools and ability to connect with — not just talk at — your audiences. All digital platforms have something to offer in the consumer journey — from awareness to use to advocacy — and using them together provides the most comprehensive level of outreach and data. That data, we know, in turn, is then critically helpful in planning what comes next. Also, for healthcare, digital can be budget-friendly.

Gulden Mesara. Senior Vice President and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at City of Hope (Duarte, Calif.). With the pandemic shifting the way many communicate and seek information daily, social media has been an instrumental tool — more so now than ever before — to communicate with our patients and donors, to stay connected with doctors on our research and innovations, and to enhance recruitment efforts. We assess how our messages are resonating across digital and social media channels through data analysis, which is also increasingly important, and constantly evolve our content to better suit our audience’s needs. At the end of the day, for us, it’s about connecting and creating dialogue that will deliver top-notch patient care and drive better and faster solutions for the patient community. 

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