A strategy for success: Focus on marketing
Edward J. Tromczynski
As obvious as it may sound, in order to maximize your organization's market potential, it's imperative to first achieve superior clinical outcomes and then focus on a sound marketing strategy. Certain high touch marketing initiatives may have worked on a limited basis in the past. However, given the current state of the healthcare industry, i.e., budget cuts, CMS penalties for higher than acceptable readmission rates, and increasing competition, a more strategic plan is essential. Technology can help you accomplish these goals.
Develop and continually evaluate your marketing program .... "TWE" is it working?
Consider using a "To What End" (TWE) analysis of the value of your marketing program to determine:
a) what are you doing?
b) why are you doing it?
c) are you seeing measurable financial results?
While a somewhat lofty goal, the sample calculation below shows the benefits to facilities in Nevada for adding just one skilled bed per month as a result of an enhanced marketing program.
NOW A $1.3M OPPORTUNITY IS SOMETHING TO GET EXCITED ABOUT!!
- Goal: Add one Skilled Nursing Facility bed (Medicare resident) each month.
- Revenue Opportunity Increase: $581 per day/bed x 30 days = $17.4K per month/bed
- Annual Revenue Opportunity Increase: $210,000 per bed per year.
- Additional Revenue Formula: January = $17.4K x 12 months, February = $17.4K x 11 months, etc.
- Calculating one additional bed per month, the potential increase in revenue is $1.3M per year.
A multifaceted marketing strategy doesn't necessarily mean an expansive budget. It does, however, mean that your organization's marketing program must be focused on driving revenue by targeted Medicare resident opportunities and not only through branding efforts. And, of course, key to any marketing plan is effectively connecting with your referral sources.
Enhance your marketing plan .... potential success components
A good marketing strategy involves repeatedly positioning your organization in front of the target market over an extended period of time. There are a variety of initiatives that can easily be advanced as part of an efficient marketing program, but be sure to include a revenue focus in your plan. Develop, perfect and communicate your clinical expertise. Possible components for consideration are outlined below.
1. Special announcement and press release programs - Develop a set schedule for distribution of at least one announcement or press release per month (two per month is better!). Alternate company and services news with partner and/or customer announcements. Develop of list of key market influencers and send a courtesy "pre-release" copy the day prior to distribution of the release. For larger organizations, distribution of press releases and announcements via a wire service can be very effective.
2. Clinical communications referral program: Identify key referral sources in each community in which your organization serves. The list should include a variety of geographically-specific stakeholders, for example, hospitals, physician offices, rehab centers, assisted living facilities, home care organizations, Accountable Care Organizations, managed care organizations, local media (tv/radio and online or hard copy publications), community and senior centers, and places of worship.
Develop a monthly communication vehicle (online, fax or mailing) highlighting your key areas of competency. Highlight your enviable lower hospital readmission rate compared to local/state/national averages, special programs being offered, or interesting residents or staff members. Distribute this monthly communication to your key referral base to add a personal touch to the clinical relationship.
3. Hospital system and association events: Take advantage of opportunities to participate in hospital and hospital association events. This could include an association membership, attending local and/or annual conferences, and special seminars. The purpose, of course, is to develop a strategic relationship with hospital and association staff and to position your organization as a preferred provider for skilled nursing services following the hospital discharge process.
4. Facility aesthetics and logistics: Savvy skilled nursing organizations are migrating towards a more hospitality-like presentation of their facilities. The most clinically advanced facility won't attract potential new residents and their families if the environment is uninviting. While not easy to accomplish, consider grouping short-term Medicare residents in a single upgraded area. Focus on the look, feel and smell of your facility. Pay special attention to the entrance and lobby area and upgrade where necessary to provide a warm and inviting atmosphere. Site visits should be choreographed, practiced and well orchestrated.
Abandon these marketing approaches .... forever
As noted, many facilities continue to employ primitive marketing tactics. A few examples from actual plans (honestly, we couldn't make these up) that should be eliminated from your marketing program include the following:
- "Just dropping by" a referral source's office with a box of candy or cookies.
- "Tackling" elderly grocery shoppers to pitch your facility and services.
- "Pre-arranging" Bingo games to allow potential new residents to win.
Market strategically .... get ready
First, achieve superior clinical outcomes, then communicate these achievements to the marketplace. Do your homework and consider all options to include in your marketing strategy. Determine what works best for your organization, but don't be afraid to try something totally different - technology, for example, is an interesting option. Plan, evaluate and execute. You'd be surprised what your organization can achieve with a little additional thought and creativity.
Edward J. Tromczynski is the CEO of COMS Interactive, LLC.