Marketing: Potential and Pitfalls Ahead

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Healthcare CEOs say marketing initiatives will be among the top four drivers of growth at their organization in the next five years. But there's a disconnect between their high hopes for marketing as a discipline and their opinion of the marketing professionals at their organizations.

Different views of marketing
For starters, CEOs and chief marketing officers have different views of the quality of the organization's marketing. Most CEOs (42%) described marketing as "slightly strong." But only 11.5% said it was "very strong."

Meanwhile, 30% of marketers said the quality of marketing was "very strong." Another 41% called it "slightly strong."

And, like last year, marketing leaders aren't in the CEO's inner circle. About 24% of CEOs said their chief marketing officer is represented on the senior executive team that works together on strategic planning. That puts them eighth on the list—the same spot as in our 2009 survey.

That highlights another disconnect: Most marketing leaders (53%) said they are "highly valued" by the CEO. Another 34% said they are moderately valued. When asked about leadership support of marketing efforts, an overwhelming majority—more than 90%—answered "strongly" or "slightly positive."

We also asked marketing leaders how much input they have within the leadership team. Most (42%) said they are a "key leader who contributes to overall organizational strategy." Another 32% said the CMO is an important operations leader.

"That tells me that there are a number of healthcare marketers who are either in denial about their role and/or perceived value in the organization, or who are some how misreading the signals from leadership," says Chris Bevolo, president of Interval, a marketing firm in Minneapolis, MN. "[Marketers] may want to take a more critical look at if they're really supported the way they think they are."

Meanwhile, when we asked CEOs how they will fuel financial growth over the next five years, two of the top four answers related directly to marketing: "Launch a strategic marketing campaign for an existing market" was selected by 46%, and "launch a strategic marketing campaign for a new market" by 34%.

"That should be good news," Bevolo says. "Organizational leaders seem to be saying they're going to be turning to marketing to help move the organization forward." But when you consider the gap between marketers and CEOs, he adds, it's unclear if marketers will be prepared to respond.

When we asked marketing leaders what marketing functions would gain in importance at their organizations in the next three years, patient experience topped the list at nearly 77%. And when we asked marketers to rate the strength of the patient experience at their organizations, most said "very strong" (41%) or "slightly strong" (35%). But there's another disconnect here, says Patrick Buckley, president and CEO of PB Healthcare Business Solutions, a marketing consultancy in Milwaukee, WI.

"I found it interesting that 76% of [marketers] said that the patient experience at their hospital is strong or very strong, yet almost 50% [44%] say that their workplace culture and morale is very weak, slightly weak, or neutral," he says. "If you don't have high morale among the staff, how can you be focusing on making the patient experience exceptional?"

Regardless of what the future holds for healthcare marketing—and despite of any tension between marketers and the rest of the organization, marketing leaders are a positive bunch: More than 90% said they are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.

Gienna Shaw

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