Saturday, June 23, 2007

Elective Emotions

I decided not to write this fast. So it appears today instead of right after the American Marketing Association-Houston’s Healthcare SIG event. I hope you take a moment to read it.

My previous Elective Surgery post invited medical marketers to hear about “Marketing Elective Medical Procedures.” All the information we needed to begin to market elective medical procedures was laid out by four speakers this past Wednesday.

Yep, there were tips and takeaways about marketing plans and media; measurements to determine which campaigns worked and which campaigns did not. Why out-of-home doesn’t work for people who don’t go out much, but the Internet does.

These are mere nuts-and-bolts, the things we ought to have learned in college or through years of working in the industry.

It became clear in our speakers’ presentations that marketing the “electives” – urological and gynecological procedures in one case, bariatric surgical solutions for the morbidly obese in the other – is intimately connected with humanity.

The most difficult group of people to whom to market elective procedures are women with these health problems because of the extremely sensitive and revealing nature of the conditions.

What did I re-learn?

1. Genuine empathy is important and intensely personal. Kimberly P Taylor (left) is Director of Marketing Brand Strategy for Bariatric Partners and is rolling out a new brand image for the organization’s flagship program, Journey Lite for Life. She pointed out, “The mission of a bariatric program is to treat the disease of obesity. It must be done with compassion, sensitivity, and be heartfelt in order to succeed.”

“Heartfelt.” Every speaker, from the physician and the nurse to the directors of marketing, repeatedly emphasized it. Taylor spoke specifically about her specialty: “If your heart isn’t touched by the obese, don’t even consider going into bariatrics.” Empathy applies no matter what the area of practice.

2. Connect with prospective patients in meaningful and intelligent ways. Patient needs can be medical, certainly; but also psychological and social and financial: elective procedures often contain a monetary component that is part of the “worry structure” and it ought to be addressed in the marketing process.

3. Select creative and media that transmit compassion, that help build confidence and trust.

4. Continue the relationship with your patients – not only to retain them, but to grow your practice (whether you’re representing a major hospital or a small group of physicians). Stay connected with them. Enable them to form additional connections that “continue the campaign” long after the actual procedure.

The four speakers: Dr. Richard Collier and Kimberly Taylor of Bariatric Partners, Inc.; and Nurse Practitioner Joleen Bishop and Mary Beth Robinson of Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates, PA. They spoke to more than 30 marketers for a full hour and a half about the topic. Several attendees commented that the program was too long. But for every attendee that left to return to work, there was another who stayed on, talking to the speakers well after 2PM.

Sooner or later, our Association is going to release a new definition of marketing. Right now, it’s this: Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.

Among the famous “4 Ps” of marketing (Product, Position, Price and Promotion), it seems that “People” has gone missing. Check out the current post by Susan Kirkland on pharmaceutical pricing practices if you don’t believe me.

Although the AMA mentions “stakeholders” in its definition, it’s clear we (sometimes) institutionally forget the human in the equation – at least when it comes to healthcare marketing.

Thank goodness our speakers came along to remind us.

Photograph © _ib_


Kimberly P Taylor said...

Richard: Thank you for the mention on your blog! I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to get back with you right away. I was at the office until 1:30 this morning…it’s been crazy busy as I’m rolling out all of this new media. My apologies for not getting back to you.

It was a pleasure to meet you on Wednesday. I hope our paths cross again … perhaps at an upcoming AMA Healthcare SIG.

Have a fantastic weekend. I enjoyed reading your blog – you are downright hilarious! I love the Moon Dog shirt, by the way. ;-)

Susan Kirkland said...

When does human need supercede profit? In an ideal world, we would all be paid for every bit of
work. But Star Trek has not arrived yet, and sometimes we must do the right thing, not just
the money-making thing. This is a hard choice in a world that prizes coin over all else, but it is the right choice lest we become beasts.

Healthcare providers need to be paid, but payment must never be the deciding factor when dealing
with human need. When money is allowed to barter human dignity, all humanity is lost.

Kathy Mackey said...

I loved it, Richard. You put into words what I couldn’t do. Thanks.