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Health care marketers say “Show me the money”

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Brands & Campaigns

Chris Bevolo is the founder and principal of health care marketing agency Interval and president of Chris Bevolo Consulting. To read more of Bevolo’s insights on the marketing world, visit his blog.

Imagine this branding scenario for a moment: A new CEO of Starbucks is hired, and he waltzes into the boardroom with a grand idea about why Starbucks is struggling: “We’re not focusing on our core product — the coffee. Why should we invest in hiring friendlier baristas, or buying more comfortable furniture? We don’t get paid for that, we get paid when people buy our coffee. So moving forward, all of our marketing should focus on the quality and taste of our coffee.”

Seem kind of off-base? Starbucks built a leading international brand on almost everything but their core product. They created an entirely new industry by creating the vaunted “third place,” — neither work, nor home — as a compelling and differentiated coffee house experience. And they’ve sold billions of cups of coffee because of that investment in the brand experience.

Yet, unfortunately, we often hear hospital executives making similar-sounding statements, and the frequency seems to be growing.

“Why should we invest in XYZ? We don’t get paid for that.”

This often comes from a CEO or chief financial officer of a hospital, and what they mean is that whatever it is your asking them to invest in from a marketing perspective, the organization doesn’t get reimbursed for it. Recently, this gauntlet has been laid down in front of marketers seeking to spend marketing dollars to promote health and wellness messaging from their organization. Why spend money there, the argument goes, when the hospital doesn’t get reimbursed for helping people stay healthy?

There are some exceptions — helping diabetics meet certain benchmarks, for example, can be tied to better reimbursement from payers. But from a short-term perspective, that statement is mostly accurate. Hospitals and physicians don’t get paid for keeping people healthy (though federal reform could eventually change that equation). But here’s the answer to that challenge: You will get paid from promoting health and wellness, just not today. Investing in health and wellness messaging, or a better patient experience, are examples of investments in building stronger brands, with the goal of increasing loyalty, word of mouth, and yes, over time, revenue.

More people will engage your organization more often when you invest in the patient experience, or help them stay healthier with services, communications, education and other content geared toward wellness. Remember, the beauty of promoting health and wellness is that it’s relevant to your audience, making them more likely to notice, listen and engage when they need you. It’s not about getting paid today; it’s about getting paid tomorrow.

Photo Credit: tforgo, iStock Photo