DIY Marketing Part 2: The 4 elements of the Marketing Improvement Plan

[Editor’s note: For the prior segment of this blog, please see DIY Marketing Part 1: Assess thyself.]

The second phase of your DIY marketing makeover is the creation of the Marketing Improvement Plan (MIP). The MIP provides the organization with a big picture point of view while providing an overview of strategic approaches an organization should be considering to improve its census and revenue. Nearly all of the comprehensive MIPs we create for clients have the following four elements: Strategic Marketing Plan, Team Member Performance Improvement, Product Improvement and Reputation Recovery. 

1. Strategic Marketing Plan

I will go into more detail about the strategic marketing plan (SMP) in Part 3 of this blog. Effective SMPs have these elements: Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics. Let’s define each of these for now, and in the next blog I'll give you real-life examples of how SMPs are structured. 

Goals:  Your plan starts with the end in mind—the one or two specific numbers that define top-line success. Top-line success is the revenue number that enables your organization to meet its profitability goals. Typically it is budgeted for maximum overall census or skilled census. 

Objectives:  Objectives are the specific numbers your organization must meet to reach its goals. Typically, your marketing metrics (admissions, discharges, referrals, tours, conversion ratios) are used as objectives.

Strategies and Tactics:  Strategies and tactics are the description of how your organization is going to reach its objectives (and then ultimately its goals).

2. Team Member Performance Improvement

Admissions and marketing team member performance is critical to the success of your organization.  Improving their performance can be difficult for many organizations because they lack sales and marketing leadership suppor,t and administrators typically don’t have sales and marketing backgrounds (or even admissions experience). 

Sales and Marketing Training:  First, admissions and marketing team members are trained in basic sales skills with referrals sources and with patients/families making healthcare decisions. They are also trained in strategic marketing plan development and execution. Administrators are trained in their role as the on-site marketing manager, giving them the skills and best practices they need to be effective leaders of admissions and marketing team members. 

Strategic and Tactical Coaching:  Strategic and tactical coaching is the process by which team members learn to apply knowledge and skills learned in the class room to real-life situations. At Premier Coaching and Training, we use three coaching methods to improve team member performance:

  • Modeling:  A coach will execute a sales call with a professional or the contact with a family/patient (such as a tour) to demonstrate the right way to apply the knowledge and skills to a situation. The key to successful modeling is that the admissions/marketing team member must supply feedback to the coach on their performance, relating it back to their training experience.
  • Observation and Feedback:  A coach will participate in contacts with professionals or family/patients as an observer and then provide feedback to the team members on what they did well and where they might improve.
  • Strategy Sessions:  A coach will participate with admissions/marketing and administrators of the building to strategize on contacts with professionals and the development and execution of the strategic marketing plan.   

3. Product Improvement

Product improvement takes many forms, from minor physical plant changes to major remodels to creating new products and services and adjusting pricing. Here are just a few examples: One client had challenges with its parking lot, which flooded when it rained. The parking lot made a terrible first impression on visitors as they tried to navigate the flood waters to get to the front door. Another client needed to increase the number of skilled beds to meet the needs of its referral sources. 

Improving admissions processes and approaches also is a form of product improvement. Reducing the turnaround time on referrals is a common recommendation. Recently we recommended that one of our clients eliminate its requirement that all admissions be in the building by 6 p.m. or they would have to be admitted the next day.

You should evaluate all aspects of your product (especially when compared to your competitors) to ensure that you are competitive in the marketplace and are offering services that meet the needs of your residents, their families and your referral sources.

4. Reputation Recovery

Consultants aren’t typically called in when things are going well. Reputation recovery is one of the critical phases of the census improvement plan. Reputational issues are complex and sometimes even something that appears to be a positive is actually a negative. For example, one client had a reputation for always being full and having a long waiting list. Unfortunately, this demotivated referral sources and patients/families from inquiring about space. The marketplace has a long memory about reputational issues regarding quality, staff turnover, and other things that can impact a facility’s census significantly even if that issue no longer exists. Incidents can mar an organization's fine reputation if not handled properly.  Here’s the process for turning a reputation around:

Gain Feedback on Your Reputation:  Meet with referral sources, family members and other stake holders to ask them these questions: What is our reputation in the community?  What do we do well?  What should we be doing differently or better?

Create a Plan to Fix the Problem:  If the problem persists, create a plan to fix it and execute the plan (the plan doesn’t have to be fully executed to begin regaining marketshare).

Communicate Your Plan: Get your plan out to referral sources and patients and families making healthcare decisions by having honest conversations about your approach to improve your reputation. Schedule subsequent meetings to provide updates on how your plan is progressing. Once the problems are solved, you can communicate the new reality to the local community, providing solid facts that show you deserve a different reputation. 

Turning census around can be a daunting task especially if you don’t know the process. These DIY marketing tips can help make that task easier to execute.

Next: DIY Marketing Part 3: Strategic Marketing Plans

Topics: Executive Leadership , Facility management , Finance , Leadership