It’s a good thing when NPHOs start taking their marketing plans seriously, but not when the plan is shortsighted.
Within the past few years, many physician practices, medical groups and hospitals have embraced the concept of branding and undertaken brand-centric marketing efforts. Of course this makes me happy to see companies jump into branding with both feet first, but all too often I see CEOs and Directors lose steam almost immediately when they don’t see any ROI. It’s all freight train momentum and then a slow crawl. They forget that any branding undertaking should be handled like a long-term venture with milestones, goals, and adjustments as-needed. Branding, by nature, is about establishing top-of-mind awareness in the minds of your patients, supporters, and donors. And to do that, NPHOs have to look far ahead into the future. In fact, you’ll need a three- to five-year timeframe to successfully launch and maintain a brand.
Just like understanding any meaningful measure of success, you’ve got to take it in pieces. Establish realistic and achievable deadlines and phases:
- Maybe the first year is dedicated to setting things up and disseminating introductory information. Put your new identity and web presence into the world and create buzz with an introductory marketing campaign. Let people get to know you on a base level. And keep the messaging simple.
- In year two, survey internally and perform some market research. Get some insight as to what people think about your new brand and assess whether you’re on the right track. Are the perceptions accurate? Where can you make improvements?
- In year three, focus on public relations and your web presence. Through good old-fashioned media relations on one end and increased social media presence on the other, you’ll continue to circulate your brand through new channels — always keeping it visible.
- In the years following three-year mark, keep your finger on the industry pulse. What trends are other NPHOs following? What new, emerging technologies are being used to get the word out? Keeping yourself looped-in will be the key to keeping yourself relevant.
These are just broad suggestions for how to sustain the brand, but you get the point. It takes time and discipline. And of course, every calendar year should be broken down by quarter with objectives and phases throughout, but it’s important to remember that it’s all about sustained effort and continuous review. Sometimes there will be a need to shift your strategy, but that’s okay because no branding effort is perfect from launch day throughout the lifecycle of the organization.
Obviously, it’s much easier said than done. I can tell you to invest in a five-year marketing plan, but I know that’s a challenge: differentiation/distinction, budget, timeline expectations, and other unforeseen challenges that will [inevitably] pop up. But that’s what I’m here for.Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work out a manageable, strategic plan for the future of your brand.
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