The Best Strategies Start with Unsexy Assessments

May 27, 2021

// By Sally Mildren //

Mildren-Sally-Boss-LadyOur newest contributor, the CEO of Boss Lady Consulting, shares six insights about why a clear, well-developed strategy is the key to driving the results your organization is looking for. Strategy comes first — then tactics.

How many times have leaders in marketing and patient success been asked to drive more volume in a specialty line, more joint replacements, make sure our midwives are busy? The temptation for a quick fix is never stronger — but rushing off to tactics without first performing a thorough assessment and gaining clarity on the strategy will end in lackluster results and limited growth.

So how do we go about creating a smart strategy for your health care business?  Here are a few insights from our work with clients in health care.

1. Start with studying the market.

A long-term view is built on a deep understanding of your market, your customers, their needs, the political, economic, and consumer triggers, and drivers of change. It takes being aware of, but not obsessed with, your competitors and what they are doing. It requires a willingness to learn from other campaigns, companies, and leaders inside and outside of health care to find best practices.

Post-pandemic, consumers have changed. They expect excellent service, high-quality care, and empathetic and helpful staff in person or online. Systems and organizations must stay in tune with the changing needs of patients.

2. Look in the mirror.

An important part of creating a strategy for growth includes an honest assessment of how your brand shows up in the market.

“Taking an objective look at how you are showing up for your patients and community is important to creating a successful strategy and in identifying winning tactics.”

Do consumers engage with you? What do they say about you? What questions are they asking? Are patients confused in your facility? Are you always behind schedule? Is your website helpful? Are appointments difficult to get? Taking an objective look at how you show up for your patients and community is important to creating a successful strategy and identifying winning tactics. Acting on this information can also help NPS, CAHPS, and star ratings.

3. Goals are not enough to get you to success.

Many organizations and leaders fall short here. A goal is directional only. The idea of “drive more volume” is not specific enough to build on.

Your goal must have a specific set of actions and a system that includes tactics to get there, preferably several. It has long been noted that the most effective B2C marketing engages a consumer multiple times on various channels. In fact, with one health insurer, we saw consumer action rates increase 40 percent after the fourth touchpoint.

4. Internal insights are essential for smart strategy.

Your staff has heard directly, has had to solve, has been listening all year to customer feedback. They can be the change makers on driving the right strategy for your organization. This feedback does not show up on a dashboard but is vital to understanding what your customers need and how you can adjust your approach and messaging to deliver that.

Do you have a call center? That is a gold mine of unsolicited feedback from the customer and will give you exactly what the customer is asking for. For a health insurer, we used call data to identify key service opportunities and branding/messaging changes needed to serve members better. The result? Thirty-four percent increase in satisfaction over two years.

5. Do test your strategies and tactics.

Whether you are running new ads or building a new work area, get the engagement and input of those who will be directly impacted first. Test your concepts. No one gets it perfect on the first try.

“Test your concepts. No one gets it perfect on the first try.”

In one hospital, prior to constructing a new wing, we mocked up a cardboard nurse’s station and rooms taped on the floor to “test” the flow with nurses. Their adjustments to the design based on a typical day resulted in a time savings of more than eight hours per week, per nurse.

6. Pay attention to the “mood” and landscape of the community.

Consider the overall landscape of your area — political nuances, socioeconomic factors, cultural considerations, development in your area, referral patterns, services in your surrounding region. If you take time to really understand the changes in your communities, you will find clarity for your growth strategies.

At one pediatric orthopedic hospital, we needed to grow volume for inpatient and outpatient services. We identified two potential service lines we could build to drive volume. After closer evaluation, one was politically wrapped around long-standing figures, systems, and staffing, and were NOT open to partnering with us in that area.

“If you take time to really understand the changes in your communities, you will find clarity for your growth strategies.”

The other turned out to be a gap in the multi-state surrounding region, so we established a work group, built the structure, staffing plan, SOPs, referral process, and marketing materials, and launched a pediatric fractures and sports injury clinic. This clinic doubled hospital outpatient volume, increasing the number of surgeries and inpatient volume immediately. It is their most productive clinic and service line still today.

In marketing and customer experience, the clarity a deep assessment can provide is invaluable. It is not sexy work but essential. It not only provides specific actions and deliverables to achieve your goals but also gives an excellent approach to help manage expectations for top leadership and team members.

It is the vital step that will make your work effective, strategic, and most important, relevant to the organization’s bottom line.

Sally Mildren is CEO and managing partner of Boss Lady Consulting, LLC based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The agency helps health care organizations identify, prioritize, and operationalize growth opportunities for customer experience, branding, culture, and engagement. With more than 20 years of experience in health care, their broad insights and knowledge result in near-immediate ROI and growth for their clients. Connect @bossladyconsult on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.