From Healthcare Business Today, November 2014
For communications professionals in the healthcare industry, especially those handling marketing responsibilities for multi-location facilities, maintaining order and quality control in a cost-effective manner is paramount. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Brochures, flyers, training materials, and other collateral cost money to print and ship. Promotional items used organization wide for employee programs, corporate promotions and company stores such as pens, business cards, and others require budget allocation that is often forgotten. Even when the materials are created in-house, it can be difficult to produce and store them at facilities in a certain region, let alone around the country. For local facilities, customization is crucial, and measurement becomes a challenge, as enterprise level marketers are tasked with procurement, production, fulfillment, housing, and more.
For those reasons, and others, Marketing Resource Management (MRM) has emerged as a comprehensive marketing strategy for healthcare organizations looking to integrate and streamline communications efforts. According to the leading analyst firm, Gartner, MRM is “a set of processes and capabilities designed to enhance a company’s ability to orchestrate and optimize internal and external marketing resources.” How does this apply to healthcare marketing? Let’s lead with an example:
A marketing executive with a national healthcare organization is preparing for the winter marketing campaign. Knowing that the drop in weather brings on the cold and flu season, the marketer creates a direct mail and flyer campaign for distribution in local markets. The challenge here is at least two-fold. First, the marketer needs to customize each piece of collateral for each location; of which there are hundreds in the US. The second challenge comes with production and fulfillment. The marketer knows that using local vendors for the small print job is costly, and a poor use of time, as they would need to spend time sourcing vendors. Should this process even work, the challenge would then be to have local printers shipping cost efficiently to multiple locations. Further clouding the situation, the local healthcare facilities have started pulling flyers and materials from last year’s flu season, which unbeknownst to them, now have branding and factual issues.
This is where a strong MRM platform enters the discussion.
Whereas in the past the enterprise level marketer, and those at the local level, would be scrambling to finalize this one-off project, an MRM program has all the right pieces in place (customization, printing, fulfillment, and measurement). A company providing strong MRM solutions utilizes a central printing location to produce materials, variables and all, then distribute effectively through preferred shipping partnerships. Secondly, a good MRM provider should possess a Marketing Asset Management MAM solution, which allows a piece of collateral material to be customized by the local healthcare facilities to reflect store locations, regional preferences, contact information, and more. In this same situation, an MRM provider would also handle fulfillment, alleviating marketing professionals at both the facilities as well as headquarters of the responsibility.
To elaborate further on the previous example, maintaining the marketing asset for quality control is essential. Local marketers or leadership at the healthcare facilities can access the collateral through a web portal that is maintained by headquarters to ensure any old or discontinued material has been removed and no longer can be ordered. From here, they can customize and order the collateral as needed by their local facility. Worried about a local marketer going overboard with their order? A strong MRM platform can set parameters so as not to exceed quantity, budget, or both.
As strategies such as the cold and flu seasonal campaign progress, it’s important to learn from the results, and apply to next year. MRM solutions produce comprehensive reporting for production costs, how quickly the material made it the market, and how many pieces were left over (or needed) depending on the result of the campaign. This affects future marketing strategies, so that operations, marketers, and accounting professionals can plan more efficiently.
While the example above spoke directly to marketing collateral functions, other aspects within communications and advertising are benefited by an MRM strategy. Digital assets such as banner advertisements and e-mail campaigns can be distributed and measured at national and local levels, and non-marketing materials such as submission forms, training manuals, and other paperwork requires printing. The opportunities for MRM to support a healthcare organization with scalable marketing solutions is endless.
The healthcare industry is one predicated on trust, and brand responsibility. Consumers entering themselves or loved ones into healthcare facilities require timely, professional information that addresses their needs and gains their confidence. With a strong MRM provider in place, marketers can focus on producing creative content and being proactive, rather than getting bogged down in the logistics within fulfillment, printing, procurement and measurement.
David Holland is CEO of DataSource, a branded solutions provider for healthcare providers like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Bayada, Medlab, and others.