Years ago I developed this checklist for a client who was continually fielding marketing requests from various service line leaders within her organization. You know the deal – everyone wants their program marketed. When the Chief of Orthopedics comes to you and wants his or her department marketed more aggressively, how do you respond? My first thought is, “What is behind this request and how does it relate to our organization’s strategic priorities?” Is this individual responding in a knee jerk fashion because he or she has been seeing ads or billboards from a competitor. Does the Chief of Orthopedics want to see his team on a billboard as a response to that advertising by the cross-town rival? Is it ego? Or is it genuine concern for meeting patient volume goals?
Below is the list I’ve developed. Please feel free to suggest additional considerations.
Service Line Marketability Checklist
- Is marketing this particular service consistent with the current business/strategic objectives of the organization? In what ways does it further those objectives?
- Is there demand for this service within your market area? What is the potential patient volume that you could capture? This speaks to opportunity.
- For this particular offering, where does patient volume come from? Are referring physicians really the target audience? Does it make sense to market this directly to consumers? It is important that you understand the decision-making process of the target audience. What is the path they follow to get to your door?
- Is the service/procedure ready for prime time? For example, you may have just hired a new spine surgeon. But that doesn’t mean that you have a spine program that is ready to market. So, ask yourself (and your internal client), are all of the components in place? If not, when will they be in place?
- Does the service line compare favorably to competitive offerings in the market? Are there compelling points of differentiation?
- What is the “so what” for residents in the service area? What compelling information do we have to share with them about this service line that they will find to be relevant? How can you effectively reach the target audience in a compelling fashion? Is advertising the best way to tell this story?
- What is the contribution margin for the procedure/service? Is it profitable? If it isn’t profitable, in what ways does marketing this service meet the business objectives of the organization? Is it prestigious? Does it have a positive halo effect? Are there internal reasons for marketing the service? There are times when it is okay to market a service to appease an internal constituent or constituent group. Morale can certainly be a consideration.
- Is there capacity for additional patient volume? This is huge. If there’s no capacity or limited capacity, you run the risk of alienating potential patients and referring physicians. It is important to note that hospital administrators and service line leaders often disagree about whether or not a given service has capacity. A service line may not be meeting its patient volume goals, but may also have issues that keep patient volumes lower than projected. That may have nothing to do with demand for that service.
- Is there ready access to the service? How long will patients have to wait for an appointment? (You can have capacity but still not be accessible.) Will someone answer the phone and return calls when prospective patients start calling? Can patients schedule appointments online?
- Is there a simple way for patients and referring physicians to schedule appointments? Often identifying a single phone number for patients/physicians to call is a huge obstacle to marketing a service or specialty.
- How is the service performing on patient satisfaction? Are there indications that patients will have a positive experience? What is the reputation of this program in your service area and among referring physicians? Note: Do not market services until they are ready to represent your brand in a positive manner.
- Does the service/procedure offer the opportunity for a “halo effect” where marketing the service will enhance the overall brand image of the organization? Does marketing this service bring equity to the organization?
- Are there champions within the department (physician champions or other clinicians) who will support the marketing effort? Are there potential bloggers or physicians who would be great on video? Are there sources of great content that you can repurpose?
- If we choose to market this service, how will we define success? What are the primary metrics that we will measure? (If you can’t identify ways to measure success, you may want to rethink promoting this service.)
- How will we track traffic/response to a potential marketing program in support of this service line? Is the department willing to track leads and survey new patients? Are they capable of tracking lead sources?
- Finally, do you have the budget needed to market this service effectively? If you don’t have the resources needed to make an impact, you are only raising expectations without the possibility of success. If you are going to market a specialty, do it right. Half-hearted efforts to appease an internal audience will only come back to haunt you.