What’s holding your hospital marketing back?

It’s easy to tell why your insurance policy has lapsed. Why your check book is a mess. Or why your smoke alarm is making that dreaded chirping sound. But how about if your business begins to show signs of weakness — if a few of your formerly profitable key inpatient service lines or priority sub-services are not meeting volume projections. Or even if your physician marketing recruitment efforts aren’t sparking the same levels of conversation and interest.  Are you thinking I know something’s wrong, but I’m just not sure what it is. How do you identify the nature of your hospital marketing problem and isolate what’s really impeding growth?

You Can’t Fix What You Can’t See

All real solutions require two things as a starting point. First, you need an accurately defined problem. Second, a correct diagnosis of the course of action that needs to be followed. Get these two things right, and execution is much more likely to be on target.

Here’s a simple diagnostic to help you begin to isolate why your hospital marketing efforts aren’t moving the needle the way they have in the past. It will help you determine at a high-level the nature of your hospital marketing problem — which we’ve broken down into a perspective problem, a customer problem, a brand problem and a communications problem. Mind you, there’s often overlap between them. But even at a high level, these critical questions will help you devise more effective healthcare marketing strategies and programs.

One caveat. We left out “a product/service problem.” This is the most fundamental of problems, yet the one hospital marketing teams have the least control over. It’s a case of the product/service somehow not working for consumers (e.g. performance, access, patient experience, etc.). If this is the case, there’s not much your hospital marketing can do to impact this. So while it might exist, we’ve left it off this list.

The Four Problems

1. A Perspective Problem

What It Is: A world view that is self-limiting.

Why It’s Important: Because the wider your lens, the better the view (credit this line to Kathryn D. Cramer, Ph.D and Hank Wasiak). Borrowing and adapting elements from other industries — and observing the values, beliefs, approaches and behaviors of role models — is a proven path to help you lead and transform.

Critical Questions To Ask:

  • Do you only track traditional industry competitors?
  • Do you know where you fit in the competitive landscape?
  • Is there a system in place to track the actions of disruptors in your category?
  • What are the best analogs outside your category from which to learn?
  • What can you learn from them?
  • When did you last step back to imagine new and deeper ways of differentiating from the competition?

Here’s a bonus fill-in-the-blank that you can apply to your healthcare business: What would the impact of our hospital marketing be like if our (current industry vertical) brand adopted the (specific brand touchpoint) of the best (outside your industry) brands?

2. A Customer Problem

What It Is: A lack of customer understanding and empathy.

Why It’s Important: Because in the midst of all the data, we sometimes forget that our hospital marketing needs to connect with humans.

Critical Questions To Ask:

  • Do we know who and what influences our customers?
  • Do we know what drives them?
  • How can we engage them in more of a mutual conversation?
  • Does our current proposition speak to multiple archetypes?
  • What are the key barriers and drivers of the customer journey?
  • Can we turn one-time visits into lifelong patients?
  • Are there unmet customer needs to be fulfilled?
  • Can we remove any customer pain points?

3. A Brand Problem

What It Is
: When something is flawed in the relationship people inside and outside have with your brand.

Why It’s Important: Because brand is the bridge that connects audiences and business.

Critical Questions To Ask:

  • What is the organization’s mindset about brand-building, e.g. a cost, a marcom responsibility or an organization-wide asset to be nurtured?
  • Is there clarity around what real estate our brand must own to remain relevant?
  • Does a long-term brand vision exist beyond our guidelines?
  • Are brand stories more product-driven or emotive-driven?
  • Are awareness and familiarity at competitive levels?
  • Do beliefs and associations reflect our organization?
  • Is our reputation what it should be?
  • Are quality perceptions ahead of or lagging competitors?
  • Is internal understanding of our brand solid?
  • Do we have people actively championing our brand cause?

4. A Communications Problem

What It Is: A situation where hospital marketing communications for the brand aren’t having their intended impact.

Why It’s Important: Because if this really is the case, it’s actually much easier to sort out a communications problem versus fixing a product/service, customer or brand problem.

Critical Questions To Ask:

  • Are our communications telling the right story about our brand?
  • Are communications integrated across audiences and channels?
  • Are we targeting our communications to the wrong people?
  • Are we communicating on the wrong channels?
  • Are we perpetuating one-way conversation instead of opening up pathways to continued engagement?
  • Is digital firmly embedded into our plans?
  • Is it possible the creative brief at the root of the campaign is itself off target?


The journey to solve your hospital marketing and business challenges starts with an accurately defined problem of what’s holding you back along with a correct course of action to be taken. If your hospital team can benefit from a knowledgable and experienced healthcare marketing agency partner to help you dig-in to solve what’s ailing you, reach out to Trajectory for help.




Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.