Educating your healthcare org about marketing

Digital Marketing, Traditional Marketing…It’s All Just Marketing

This idea that we’re doing digital marketing is absurd.

We’re just doing marketing. The execution may be digital, it may be traditional. And the weight of one or the other will be based on whom you’re trying to communicate with and your goals and resources. But it’s all just marketing.

It’s not that we shouldn’t have subject matter expertise within a MarCom department. But I think we’ve talked too much about digital versus traditional. We should focus on what we’re doing – trying to communicate in the most effective way to protect our audience – rather than making too big of a deal about how we’re doing it.

To communicate effectively with our audience, we first have to understand them: their age, where they live, what kind of medium or technology they use, how they like to be communicated with. Some of it is their stage in life and their spending habits and their education level. All of that goes into how we communicate.

Look, there are certain people who’d rather not talk to anyone in person. They just want to text and use chat bots. I once worked with an intern and finally realized I’d have better luck talking to her by text message and Twitter because she never checked her email.

So, trying to build a digital marketing campaign in this silo that doesn’t take into account traditional approaches and vice versa is hypocritical. We’re putting down traditional media by snarkily talking about how we only do billboards and print. Yet we’re doing the same thing in reverse: We’re just talking about Google AdWords, Facebook, chat bots, AI. Getting a comprehensive campaign together takes combining traditional and digital approaches based on who we’re trying to reach. That, again, requires a lot of customer journey mapping and persona development – not internal territorialism based on tools and platforms.

Keeping this artificial fragmentation in place can cause real damage. Busting up marketing – viewing it as a bunch of tactics – lets people insert their own preferences and rank order things outside the context of goals and objectives. It’s like adding too many line items on a business proposal, giving people more to pick and choose from and reducing the value of the whole. We should be outcome-oriented just like our clinical colleagues. By allowing marketing to be fragmented, we’re removing some of the tools from the box and reducing our ability to achieve those outcomes.

Fragmentation also limits our thinking. We look around and decide we need somebody who can focus on one thing. It happened a lot with the introduction of social media. An employee or candidate would show up and the marketing manager would say, “Oh, they’re young. They’re on Facebook. We should have them do social media.”

We’ve talked before about how the marketing department shouldn’t be separated from the IT department or the quality department or any other department. The same holds true within the marketing department. We should have specialties, sure; and if the organization is big enough, there might even be someone dedicated to outdoor advertising. But it’s a cultural thing of how we talk about building out marketing plans and initiatives and goals. Integrating everything – definitionally and functionally – under the umbrella of “marketing” will give us a better grasp on how we can help our organizations and create more effective campaigns.

Reed Smith