When Marketers Dream

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders News , November 28, 2007

 I recently got a sneak preview of the 2007 HealthLeaders Media Annual Marketing Professionals Survey (I'll post a link to the full report in an upcoming column). There were some results that didn't surprise me. About half of the nearly 500 respondents, for example, said the number of marketing employees in their healthcare organization and their budgets have grown in the past five years and will continue to grow in the next five years.

That confirms what most industry observers say, that there's a growing emphasis on marketing in hospitals and health systems. But the responses to one survey question suggest healthcare marketers are worried it could all fall apart tomorrow.

So, what could healthcare marketers be worried about? As it turns out, plenty. One of the most interesting questions we asked was an open-ended one: What about your job keeps you up at night worrying? About 50 people said they have no worries. Their comments ranged from exuberant to instructive to entertaining. "Not a thing," keeps me up at night, one respondent wrote. "I love my job and the challenges associated with it!" Said another, "Nothing keeps me up worrying at night. I focus my energy during the day so I get a good night's sleep." My favorite response, which I hope was tongue-in-cheek: "I sleep very well when I take Benadryl."

But other responses to this question were not quite so sunny or funny. A handful went so far as to say that "everything" keeps them up at night. Many of the 316 respondents who answered this question are most worried about money--including budget cuts, downsizing, inadequate pay, and their own job security. "[What worries me about my job is] whether I will have one the next day," one person wrote.

The reason that marketers take declining profits so personally is that when money is tight, marketing is often the first budget to get the axe. Naturally, this is counter-intuitive to marketing professionals.

One respondent worries about how to convince executives that marketing is a tool to combat declines in volume rather than using decreases as an alarm that triggers budget cuts, beginning with marketing. "Budget freezes at hospitals can kill projects no matter how good the ROI," wrote another, "and how close to implementation you may be."

So what about you? Do you sleep, to paraphrase a television ad currently on heavy rotation, as well as you did before the chicken went blind? Is your job a dream? Or a nightmare? Drop me a line and let me know what you love and hate about your job and I'll share the responses in an upcoming column.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached atgshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.

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