How the Providence Marketing Department Earned a Seat at the Table Through Its CRM Program

January 26, 2021

// By Jim Samuel //

The marketing department is increasingly regarded by the system’s leadership as a revenue generator rather than a cost center.

The traditional view at many hospitals and health systems is that marketing departments are an operating expense called in after strategy has been established and budgets allocated.

But that view has been changing at Providence, the Seattle-based nonprofit healthcare system that operates 51 hospitals in seven states.

When Providence separated its marketing and communication functions into separate departments in late 2018, one goal was to make marketing more strategic and more accountable.

Karina Jennings, vice president, marketing strategy and planning for Providence St. Joseph Health

Karina Jennings, vice president, marketing strategy and planning, Providence St. Joseph Health

The Providence marketing department is well on its way to achieving those goals. As a result, health system leadership increasingly sees marketing as a strategic investment that provides measurable return on investment (ROI), says Karina Jennings, vice president, marketing strategy and planning.

Jennings and co-presenter Bradley Wensel, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Healthgrades, talked about the changes during the recent virtual Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC). Significant changes in the department organization, coupled with adopting new email and digital marketing strategies and a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, have enabled her and her department to change “the conversations with our stakeholders from tactical marketing conversations to investment, or conversations about returns.”

“Our journey started in late 2018 when we made a fairly bold decision to separate communications and marketing at Providence,” explains Jennings. “Today we exist as two independent departments. We report up to different executive leaders, and we have different KPIs (key performance indicators) for each of those functions.”

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