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Good marketing requires good management
Buy-in at the top levels is needed
By Eric Resultan
Editor, Hospice Management Advisor
Sometime last year I was having a conversation with a hospice marketing director about the stalled growth of the marketing director’s hospice. We were discussing how a marketing plan would benefit the hospice. The marketing director agreed that based on trends in the hospice’s metropolitan market, there were opportunities for the hospice to increase its market share. In particular, the marketing director said nursing homes, especially those outside the hospice’s traditional geographic area, were an untapped revenue source.
The problem, however, was that an influential member of the hospice’s management team didn’t agree, and no matter what evidence the marketing department would have gathered to prove its case, the income potential of nursing homes was a dead issue.
That’s right; a marketing plan was DOA before the process of creating one (or amending the current plan) even got started. Now stop and think for a moment: Were you that manager? As a leader of your organization, do you see your marketing director as an influential member of your management team, or is your marketing director someone who merely follows up with physicians and other referral sources? Is your marketing plan synchronized with your daily operations, or is it separate from the overall direction in which your hospice is going?
If you gave the latter answer for any of these questions, you may be the problem, not your marketing plan. In order for marketing plans to work, hospice leaders must accept the following principles, or doom their plan to failure:
• Top management must be committed to the process.
A hospice can have the most brilliant marketing strategist money can hire, but unless CEOs, CFOs, and the board of directors buy into the process, there will be little support for the strategist’s findings and recommendations. Embarking on a new marketing plan or a revision of a previous one has the potential to turn an organization on its head. Market data collected in preparation for brainstorming sessions could shed new light or cause some to look at the organization in completely different way. In a word, a new marketing plan can suggest "change." Organizational change is not a grass-roots process. Committing to a marketing plan at the highest level is an endorsement of change that will trickle down to the rest of the organization.
• The CEO is the chief strategist.
The belief that change is inevitable must not only be accepted but actively embraced by a hospice’s leader. This is what it takes to develop a strategic mindset, one that will guide the decision-making process throughout market plan development and will promote a willingness to adapt to the changing marketplace. This doesn’t mean radical change is the only way to grow an organization. But even if the CEO and hospice leaders choose a conservative marketing approach, that decision should be based on an analysis that examines a number of options, including radical change.
As the chief strategist, the CEO must buy into the following ideas:
• The marketing plan must be a way of life, not an exercise.
Whether your organization is developing its first marketing plan or reviewing and amending an annual marketing plan, what you do with that plan makes all the difference. The plan must be integrated into the organization’s business plan, complete with determined actions and goals. For example, if an analysis of a hospice market reveals that physician referrals from a particular specialty are lower than in previous years, the plan may include the need to address this trend. You may decide you to increase education efforts and build relationships in those areas. Yet, unless that action is tied to the tasks that are performed each day, the plan will falter. In this instance, the action must be made part of someone’s job, complete with rewards or consequences attached to completion of the action. A marketing plan is only as good as its execution. If it sits on a shelf waiting for review and amendments next year, it’s likely the plan has not permeated the organization.
• The hospice’s marketing approach must be balanced and integrative.
To achieve the goal of making a plan part of the organization’s way of life, the marketing plan must be integrated into the organization. This includes integration with finance, personnel, and operations functions. Another aspect of integration is examining how a marketing plan relates to other plans within the organization. For example, an organization’s business plan may contradict or compete with the marketing plan. The exercise of integration will determine whether a marketing plan will have to be revised or rejected in order to achieve organizational harmony. An integrated marketing plan should ultimately complement the functions mentioned above.
• There must be detailed goals.
It is not enough for a marketing plan to say there needs to be an increase in referrals among hospitals outside the city limits. The development of a marketing plan must include detailed goals. For instance, a specific percentage increase in referrals from each of the hospitals outside the city should be part of the plan. Goals represent the benchmarks an organization is trying to achieve. It is important to establish goals that are measurable, such as market share, the number of referrals, patients served, etc.
• There must be an action plan.
For each goal there must be a results-oriented action plan. An action plan is the map to achieving your goals. Consider how you expect to achieve the goals you have set for your organization and what results you expect these actions to yield. If, for example, your goal is to increase referrals among cardiology groups by 15%, your action plan for this goal may include a multi-pronged approach that includes cardiology-specific hospice education material, small-group luncheons, increased medical director support, and consultations to these physicians. In addition, plans have to be monitored to determine whether they are progressing as expected. You may even attach incremental goals to monitor the progress of an action plan.