How to Make the C-Suite Your Healthcare Marketing Ally

Updated on June 5, 2019

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for the healthcare marketing department to be viewed as a cost center instead of a strategic asset. For too long healthcare marketers have been order takers, reacting to various incoming, subjective requests for visibility and awareness without ever stopping to develop a singularly threaded, proactive marketing strategy that improves the bottom line. Today the reality is, patients are consumers – they experience the world holistically and expect the same experience in healthcare as they do from retail, hospitality, and other verticals. There is a massive opportunity for marketing to proactively lead the charge in acquiring, engaging, and retaining ‘patients as consumers’ in a way that provides demonstrable positive impact to the revenue of an organization.

In fact, marketing is key for driving having meaningful interactions with prospective and current patients. With the right data and precision marketing communication strategy, healthcare marketers are perfectly poised to lead clinical operations in the delivery of the personalized interactions patients are looking for, not just during clinical encounters, but throughout the care continuum. 

But this goes so far beyond the traditional marketer’s role of developing ‘campaigns’. This is designing programs that drive meaningful interactions over the lifetime of a patient as a consumer. And given this scope, before the data is analyzed and strategy implemented, the executive team must get on board. To secure buy-in and budgets, establishing a clear line of communication with the C-suite that focuses on goal setting, actionable strategy, and – most importantly – quantifiable results. 

In this post, I’ll dive into best practices to help healthcare marketers make the C-suite their ally:

Start with the End in Mind

To be the best possible ally to the C-suite, marketing needs to support organizational goals, such as financial targets and new patient acquisition numbers. Before launch, marketers must clearly establish executive priorities – perhaps it’s growing a particular service line or driving awareness for an initiative like a flu shot clinic – so they can structure campaigns and marketing efforts around delivering the desired results. To be a revenue center, marketing priorities should be a cascade of enterprise growth or business goals, never separate and never disconnected from the executive planning that occurs to support these goals. 

Once everyone is on the same page, marketing teams need to look closely at their processes to determine how to achieve what is being asked of them and identify their best next action based on market dynamics, consumer propensities, the ideal consumer journey, and clinical capacity. 

Focus on Key Metrics 

When communicating successes to executives, marketers often get stuck presenting rearview mirror vanity metrics, like clicks and impressions, or non-financial metrics, largely because of the difficulty between marrying marketing touchpoints and financial outcomes. The problem is, these aren’t directly actionable for executives. Marketers need to shift the way they present to the C-suite to focus on KPIs that provide an immediate, accurate, prescriptive picture of performance. 

The metrics included will vary based on each hospital’s unique priorities and campaigns, but consider including: 

  • Leads by Channel; How are people accessing our system? For which services? When?
  • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA); How efficient is the marketing team at capturing initial demand?
  • Payer Mix; Are we prioritizing the acquisition of the right patients? 
  • Campaigns in Market / Campaign Status; What activities are driving growth, and where are the marketing-to-clinical handoff gaps in the consumer journey?
  • Investment vs. ROI (Campaign results vs. campaign investment); What is the bottom line impact of marketing?

Depending on the service line and campaign objective, there’s a chance you won’t see quantifiable results immediately. So, add these metrics to a rolling performance dashboard (such as quarter-to-quarter) to demonstrate progression and cumulative growth over time to tell a great story

Be Succinct 

Healthcare executives have a lot on their plates, so it’s important to be as concise as possible. Forgo the vast spreadsheets and complex charts you may use to track marketing performance internally and create an executive overview (focusing on the above metrics) that you can present in a few slides. Set up an executive dashboard within your reporting tool so that you can pull this data quickly and easily. A good rule of thumb; your C-Suite needs to digest and understand your report in less than 10 minutes. Along these lines, consider writing a cover sheet for your report that gives a bullet list of your five key insights and successes over the last quarter. 

Integrate with Other Departments 

To truly achieve organization-wide goals and prove itself as a strategic asset within the organization, all with a goal of delivering great ‘patient as consumer’ experiences, marketing must collaborate with other departments. These departments include (but aren’t limited to) finance, administration, operations, and the call center. With sophisticated data aggregation and analytics tools in place – such as a healthcare CRM – marketing can become a centralized hub for the wealth of consumer and market data each of these departments leverages to improve the patient’s relationship with the health system.

Let’s use the call center as an example, which is the primary method of communication for 75 percent of healthcare consumers. With access to marketing’s rich consumer data, call center agents proactively have hyper-personalized conversations that integrate the caller’s unique clinical history and personal interests. Thus, marketing helps to create an experience that feels tailor-made and encourages future engagement with the health system.

Case Study: How it Changes the Conversation

I can say with confidence based on my own experiences that marketing leaders who develop an ongoing communication cadence with their CEO and executive team around business priorities and the value of their department earn a seat at the strategic decision-making table. Not only does this secure budget support for future marketing initiatives, it changes the tenor of the conversation between marketing and the rest of the organization. 

Here’s my favorite recent example: A client noticed that lead-to-patient conversion rates for their orthopedic campaign had dropped 10% from one quarter to the next. Armed with actionable data and knowing that the market demand for orthopedics was high, the Marketing Director called a meeting with the Chief of Orthopedics to hold him accountable for this decline. After discussing the data to identify the source of reduced throughput, they discovered operating room hours for two total joint replacement surgeons had recently been reduced to make room for a new cardiac surgeon. The Marketing Director and Chief of Orthopedics, in partnership, elevated this issue to the C-suite who promptly reallocated OR time and reduced the downstream operational issue that was proactively flagged by marketing. This is a powerful example of using precision marketing to fundamentally change the conversation within their organization. 

Dan Lavelle is the VP of Healthcare Marketing at Evariant. In his role, Dan oversees planning, strategy and execution of multi-channel campaign center offerings for Evariant clients. Prior to Evariant, Dan was the Senior Director of Marketing for Lehigh Valley Health Network. Under Dan’s leadership, the marketing department made the shift from cost center to investment center, driving double digit ROI, and improved payor mix from a comprehensive precision marketing strategy. He has over ten years of healthcare marketing experience ranging from brand management to digital marketing and marketing technology.