One of the biggest challenges for rural healthcare marketing initiatives is the budget. For smaller hospitals, there simply aren’t enough resources to compete with the big dollars that larger, urban hospitals spend. Every penny and every FTE counts, so the best way to ensure that you are using your resources efficiently is to develop an overall marketing strategy that identifies priorities, sets goals and uses the right tools.
Taking the time to update (or create) your marketing strategy and identify areas of opportunity will help your hospital save time in the long run by setting expectations and developing a schedule that fits your resources.
Set realistic, measurable goals
Few things sink a marketing strategy faster than setting unrealistic or unattainable goals. Think about a real timeline—a month, a quarter, six months, a year. Assess where your marketing strategy is now and where you want it to be at a given time.
Keep your budget in mind when setting goals. If you have a champagne appetite but a beer budget, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Set goals with the knowledge of the human and financial resources on hand.
Put the patient at the heart of the experience
Patients now demand a higher level of service, and rural healthcare facilities need to think seriously about how they can respond to these demands. Thinking about the guest experience during the marketing planning process will help you to brainstorm ways to improve your outreach and your communication program.
Put yourself in community members’ shoes by reviewing each interaction along the journey. Think about how patients and family members receive information from your hospital, and think about what kinds of questions they may have. Look for ways to enhance the experience and communicate better with the people who receive your service.
Use the right tools—and plan how you will use them
If you haven’t developed a social-media plan, now is a good time. Review your analytics and plan for the next week and month. Having things ready to go in advance and scheduling time to devote to social media and online marketing will help you to develop a good habit for your marketing strategy and to focus on what works.
Target the right audience
Whom are you trying to reach? Small hospitals often try one-size-fits-all approaches, but these can be counterproductive. If you try to reach everyone, you are more likely to reach no one. Narrowing your focus by targeting your strategy to those most likely to use a particular service line is crucial. Usually this approach means thinking more locally. Think about how you can better reach out to your local community members so that they will experience the message.
Think ahead—you’ll thank yourself later.
Planning wisely and anticipating goals and targets along the way will make it easier to execute your marketing strategy. Instead of scrambling to get something done at the last minute, you will have concrete deadlines and materials ready to use. In the long run this approach will help you save money and lower the burden on your staff.
If you want help planning a marketing strategy for your healthcare facility, get in touch with SRJ Marketing Communications. Since 1989, SRJ has worked with rural hospitals to develop cost-effective marketing strategies and provide hospital leaders the programs they need to enhance communications with the communities they serve. To learn more, please call 214-528-5775 for a free consultation.