Jul
02

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 9.55.13 PMHospital mergers and acquisitions are expected to remain strong this year. This follows two years of data collected for Modern Healthcare’s 19th Annual Mergers & Acquisitions Report showing the number of hospital deals climbing more than 18% to 109 in 2012, up from 92 deals recorded in 2011.

In some cases, deals are driven by the need to financially seek economies of scale or to strategically capture a larger share of the market. But in all cases, beyond the financials and strategies, success requires managing the inter-related disciplines of Brand, Buy-In & Marketing to drive business performance.

Without proper planning, hospitals, healthcare systems and physician groups in the midst of transitioning through a merger or acquisition will always encounter:
• a brand that struggles to support the newly-formed organization’s purpose, values and goals
• a fractured internal audience that must be reiled on to deliver unified messages and experiences
• external marketing promises that might not sync with internal delivery
• inefficiencies resulting in sub-optimal return on marketing investment

At Trajectory, we’ve worked with multiple healthcare organizations through these transitions, and understand the unique challenges they face. Here’s a top ten list of issues to consider as your healthcare systems, hospitals and physician groups transition from pre-merger competitors to post-merger partners:

BRAND

1. M&A brand team: created across your organizations to proactively act on and communicate leadership decisions and to navigate the range of tangibles and intangibles on the table, e.g. logistics, preparation, training.

2. Brand compatibility: short-term financial and market share strength will not overcome the need to develop aligned purpose, values and promises.

3. Portfolio strength: how will the merger or acquisition maximize your organizational, facilities and service line capabilities in terms of brand portfolio management?

BUY-IN

4. Cultural fit: what’s the likelihood of integrating medical staff and employees, across all functions, on both sides of the M&A table. And whose culture leads?

5. Open communication: have you established feedback mechanisms (both offline and online) for both internal and external audiences.

6. Engagement: are your organization’s truly united. You don’t know, and can’t act upon, until you measure.

MARKETING

7. Market growth: how will the M&A guide your new entity towards achieving market reach and growth without hindering each organization’s key revenue generating, strategic and mission-driven service lines?

8. Marketing philosophy and approach: is marketing considered an investment or expense. Does it tend to be brand or service line-driven? Is it directed to physicians or patients? How will you align your two organizations?

9. Local community commitment: do your organizations have the same commitment to your local communities; does bigger now mean less touch in order to serve the health needs of the larger region?

10. From follower to leader: how will you adjust your approach from being the #2 or #3 player to becoming a stronger market share leader?

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Feb
29

All healthcare organizations offer basically the same services. But the REAL difference (the only sustainable one) is how well you define, stake out and deliver on your purpose – which drives the employees who drive your company and deliver (or not) the care and feeding of your customers through their experiences.

Your purpose (the highest aspiration of your brand) powers and guides your organization. Regardless of the size of your healthcare system or hospital, there is nothing as motivating to those who deliver your brand than this purpose. It should be the guidepost against which every consumer-facing move your healthcare organization makes is evaluated.

For IBM, purpose is about building a smarter planet. For Zappos, it’s delivering happiness through “wow” experiences. For Disney, it’s magical family fun entertainment. And for FedEx, it’s peace of mind. And for your organization? If you’re answering along the lines of “making our communities healthier”, you’re missing an opportunity for your organization, your people, your communities, patients and their families to all be more fulfilled than they are today.

Everyone wants to be connected to greatness. To feel deep inside that connection of why their organization brand is great, and that they’re part of making that greatness manifest. If you really do believe that people are your greatest asset, you can’t put too great a price tag on inspiration.

But you need to unearth your purpose, your “greatness” first. And when you do, you’ll reap the reward of more motivation and alignment, more momentum and energy and more emotional connection both inside and outside.

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Dec
18

Are brand and marketing at the center of your healthcare organization’s attention? In this extraordinarily competitive and challenging healthcare environment, I’d suggest they should be.

This really came to light for me while meeting with a prospective client. Regardless of which way you looked out from the tenth floor of their offices, you’re in view of a competing healthcare provider. But beyond competition, there are a few other forces at play that lead to re-thinking the traditional siloed approach to marketing:

• Unlike other industries and organizations where employees are tightly aligned around their corporate brands, e.g. Whole Foods, Google, Zappos, to name just a few, healthcare brand and marketing delivery are often subject to the performance of dispersed, individual (often unemployed) care providers.

• Patient service revenues continue on the path of being generated outside the inpatient side of the business, calling for stronger operational integration and communication.

• The customer experience, so important to fostering longer-term relationships and enhancing overall brand value, is rarely informed and shaped by “marketing.”

• Customers are now co-steering your fate. They’ve evolved from passive receiver to active investigator and empowered influencer. They can access and interface with the organization through numerous channels. And they have new alternatives to traditional providers in terms of new upstarts, intermediaries, resources – changing the rules and redefining consumer value.

Given these forces, I’d suggest that brand and marketing management need to become a team sport. An organization-wide effort where brand and consumer are at the heart of business strategy. Where all are enabled and compelled to foster relationships (internally and between organization and community) and grow total enterprise value. And the marketing department just happens to be the hub of this collective effort. So…

• Tear down the walls (to paraphrase one of our President’s) to move brand and marketing to the center of the organization, and the CMO to the proverbial “table” alongside the other “O”s (Chief Operating, Financial, Nursing, Medical, HR, Quality…).

• Lead with brand as an organizing principle for the organization and as a basis for guiding business forward, beyond simply a brand-building communications function detached from strategy.

• Consider a broader definition of marketing to include the relationship-making or breaking patient experience. So regardless of what door someone enters your healthcare system, there are points of consistency in brand delivery.

• Work as a cross-functional team, with marketing as the linchpin, to create continuous value for the consumer. Value that is beyond marketing communication to marketing that involves, enables, and unifies.

• Align internal audiences around a common purpose (through the lens of your brand), so they make your mission their own.

Just some ideas to think about as you peer out your own “tenth floor” window. Wherever that might be.

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Nov
23


The more energy people sense from a brand, the greater its attraction and opportunity to create future value.

In this case, the brand is Reading Hospital and Medical Center’s Women’s Health Services. And it’s one of those rare times I’m writing about Trajectory client work.

Because Reading’s changing the game and creating new value for women. Who in turn, are carrying this healthcare brand forward and creating more value for the organization.

Reading’s created a comprehensive suite of Women’s Health Services for women at every stage of their lives. And combined with their highly personalized (uniquely branded) method of care – has created excitement inside and outside, changed attitudes and moved the needle on patient referrals and volume.

Marketing has played an important supporting role. It’s voice is personal, sophisticated, respectful and reassuring. Borne out of a lot of rich conversation with care givers and target prospects. It also creates value in and of itself, by being collaborative, enabling and unifying through its multi-channel delivery.

Congrats to Reading Women’s Health Services. They’ve really taken the lead in changing the game, and everyone’s winning.

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Nov
13


How to make a brand stand out from the crowd? Make people’s lives better and more meaningful.

This is the global demand from consumers, in fact, 50,000 of them across 14 countries. Their views were measured by media consultancy Havas Media in their Meaningful Brands survey.

Quite surprisingly (at least for me), the study found that 70% of brands could disappear entirely without consumers noticing and that only 20% of the brands they interact with have a positive impact on their lives.

What’s the trick to making a brand meaningful and playing a larger role in our lives? Focus on outcomes, not outputs. The criteria, according to Havas Media Labs director, are simple: “Did this brand actually impact your life in a tangible, lasting, and positive way? Did it improve your personal outcomes? Did it improve your community outcomes? Did it pollute the environment?

Nike+ is a good example. “Instead of putting up another campaign of billboards with celebrities saying ‘Buy our shoes, they’ll turn you into a master runner,’ Nike+ actually helps makes you a better runner. That’s a constructive way to build a meaningful brand.”

Healthcare and well-being brands are perfectly suited to deliver on this expectation. The ability to help people become fitter, wiser, smarter, achieve what they can’t on their own is right up your alley.

Anything less is really inexcusable.

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Oct
10

There must be a better way.

While these words are in the context of GE’s desire to help improve approaches to mammography and breast cancer, the majority of us would probably agree they apply to the healthcare experience in general.

GE invited women to share their mammography and/or breast cancer experience in an open forum called For Women By Women, at a relaxing space in New York’s Soho district. They encouraged women to stop by and share their experiences on the topic with people from the medical, design, non-profit and corporate worlds. Women outside New York could chime in via the company’s Facebook page.

The outreach is part of GE’s larger, $1B commitment to cancer that includes a $100 million innovation challenge to find and fund ideas to accelerate both the detection of breast cancer and enable more personalized treatment. Ultimately, the company hopes to use the information gathered to improve every woman’s experience with mammography and breast cancer.

There are a lot of good things about these forums:

- participants are emotionally invested in the subject matter
- truly care about creating a better outcome
- are able to participate on their own time
- in conversational-condusive settings
- via conversations that are fluid, open-ended and real

They’re also replicable by any healthcare provider. And beyond the insights they provide, I think they leave a positive impression that builds real respect and relationship value back to the organization.

I’d venture to say that in 30 minutes in a similar forum discussion – whether you’re a healthcare administrator, department chair, service line head, marketer, etc. – you’d come up with at least ten different ideas to improve your healthcare experience. So…what are you waiting for?

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Sep
07

Too many product companies, especially those that don’t sell directly to end-users, don’t think as rigorously about customer experience – and how it can represent a powerful differentiating benefit for both brand and customer.

Enter home-cleaning products company Method, now a $200MM+ business started in the late 1990′s. One of the keys to their success, explained by the cofounders, “was zeroing in on the abysmal experience associated with so many home cleansers.”

What Method does exceedingly well is align their sensory experience to their customer’s like-minded value for “the love of clean.” Clean designs appeal to our aesthetic sense, formulas let us actually feel clean, and fragrances make a room smell beautiful — not like bleach.

They also add touch experiences with packaging that is organic in shape and include interesting materials that invite touch. It all adds up to a uniquely branded (dramatically different) experience that elevates the chore of cleaning and helps method stand out from others given their actions that actually follow from their beliefs.

Most product companies, particularly those sold indirectly to consumers, tend to focus on functional differentiation. But the real way consumers think and act is through emotion. Witness studies by Forrester that have shown that brands that distinguish themselves on emotional attributes can capture 60 percent greater loyalty.

You can read the full booz & co. Strategy & Business article here about Method – Bottling The Customer Experience.

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Aug
31

From the WSJ.com: Health Blog – Teen Boys Drink 273 Calories of Sugary Drinks Per Day.

The CDC published new stats on how much non-diet soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks we actually consume. And for teen boys, 12-19, the results aren’t pretty – 273 daily calories from sugar-sweetened drinks (with some 70% of them consuming sugary drinks on any given day).

To put this in context, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 450 calories per week from sugar-sweetened drinks, the equivalent of about three 12-ounce cans.

Any ideas on how to reverse this trend…to bridge the divide between those businesses born in pleasure and those in health? To please both these consumers and the health community?

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Aug
09

E is shorthand for an important tenet of creating brand energy – Energizing Idea.

There are a lot of different ways to describe this idea – brand DNA, essence, mantra, promise, core identity, etc. But for us, the phrase Energizing Idea is simple, clear and alive.

It refers to a company’s source point for its energy. It’s higher aspirations in people’s lives beyond its commercial purpose. And as a central “energizing idea”, it should (must) serve to inspire, guide and align everyone and everything inside an organization.

Without it, there’s no connective tissue that binds people together around a higher meaning or common cause – which motivates and drives the people who drive your organization (and its greatness). It’s like a football team whose only rallying cry is to play hard.

High-energy brands (and businesses) are guided by (and deliver through their actions) their “energizing ideas.” Importantly, they’re not just baked into their products. These beliefs in what they stand for are delivered across the organization, and across all facets of what should be a uniquely branded customer experience.

Here are five examples of companies who get it – whose “energizing ideas”, and execution against these ideas, serve to ignite passions both inside and outside the organization:

Lululemon: where dreams come to fruition. I really like the supporting “public” manifesto. Which you get to take home with you, as it’s written on their carry out bags.

TOMS: improving the lives of children. Delivered through their One for One Movement.

Chobani: nothing but good. Reinforced through their Shepard’s Gift charitable foundation.

innocent: healthy habits. Reflected, among other ways, through innocentkids.

Virgin: the people’s champion . The common thread (of putting themselves in the customer’s shoes) that has led to more than 300 branded companies worldwide.

Common across these companies is that their brand is truly at the center of what they do, and how their people intellectually understand, emotionally connect and behaviorally deliver towards a common goal. And the starting point is their “Energizing Idea.”

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Jul
17


Six Senses is a resort and spa management and development company, established in 1995 by Sonu Shivdasani. Its core purpose is to create innovative and enlightening experiences that rejuvenate guests’ love of SLOW LIFE.*

From the top down, everything about Six Senses drives from this purpose…

– enthusiastic leadership embracing and living the brand, and working to deliver on what it promises
– cult-like culture engaged and aligned around Six Senses core values
– organizational structure borrowing from nature
– uniquely branded experiences absorbed by all the human senses
– authentic delivery:
• building materials and finishes from sustainable and local sources
• quality and origin of the food
• innovative experiences that heighten guests knowledge

If you’re not familiar with Six Senses, take a few minutes to learn more about this high-energy brand.

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