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Supply Chain and Healthcare

The healthcare industry is highly personal, as doctors and nurses often know more about their patients than an individual’s own family. Home healthcare companies and regional networks of clinics must convey stability, strength and confidentiality when attempting to reach new patients and maintain current ones. In an industry that is also very competitive and constantly evolving, the ability to provide branded content with speed to market is paramount. To further complicate the process, healthcare service providers must meet local and state regulations, which requires an attention to detail and consistency across all marketing channels.

Let’s look at a few solutions that healthcare companies and networks are using to address their marketing needs, but first, start with an example:

 

The Challenge

Many times, a healthcare organization requires an instant marketing solution. For example, if a flu epidemic breaks out in a suburb of a major city, that facility may want to pass out flyers regarding immunization or treatment. If it is part of a larger network of clinics, it’s probably not in charge of branding or creating marketing materials.This generally requires it to speak with headquarters and request the materials. Worse, many times the regional clinic just drafts it, and copies and pastes the logo into a document. Either way, once the material is finalized, it needs to get printed—but by who? Many times, these individuals reach out to local printers, and select the first one they meet without sourcing. This can result in costly one-off projects that don’t reflect brand messaging or consistency. Weeks later, the local market no longer reflects the demand for flu treatment and the local healthcare center receives thousands of flyers with incorrect information that may be of poor quality.

It takes marketing experts to blend strong messaging with effective branding, and do so on a timely basis. Most healthcare service providers don’t have a marketing expert on site, or even someone with experience in writing, designing and procurement. Because of this, they need to seek national/global uniform solutions.

 

The Quality and Urgency Issue

Most healthcare parent companies and headquarters have marketing professionals on staff, or work with outside design and creative agencies to develop marketing content in a timely fashion, while maintaining professionalism and consistency. The challenge, though, is in how the content is disseminated to various clinics and locations in a region or around the country.

Companies store and track their marketing assets in different ways. Some use outside creative agencies, and others store assets on company servers or in the cloud, sharing approved files, designers and printers, and storing only the most recent file on their server. Tracking and organizing these art files, photography assets, and templates is complicated enough before considering that clinics and healthcare centers require access in a moments notice. One solution is for the parent company or headquarters to establish an online, centralized marketing asset management system that provides instant access to approved templates, workflow tools, branded pieces and file tracking, ensuring consistency across all marketing channels and platforms.

Accessible by all clinics in a network, this environment provides the latest version, which is controlled by marketing personnel, that can be customized by the local organization and sent to the printer, employees, and ultimately, to the market. For example, a manager at a local clinic can instantly access a source file with approved branding, customize it with his or her facility’s address and region, request 1,000 copies, and order. This process maintains that local offices cannot change the copy or content within a piece, ensuring no one goes rogue and violates any healthcare regulations in the process.

When assets can be accessed and edited quickly, it becomes fast and easy to drop them into design templates, allowing all locations to execute branded campaigns with real-time access to pre-approved content.

 

The Cost Issue

Now the local healthcare center finalized a flyer with correct messaging, and is ready to print and make a splash within the local community. What next?

Finding an established and cost-effective printer is difficult. As mentioned earlier, many times the local clinic just sends the artwork to the first printer it finds on Google, without regard for cost or reputation. This is what commonly leads to exorbitant pricing and poor quality. But there is a solution.

Many healthcare brands are turning to supply chain marketing solutions providers to handle the sourcing and procurement process. These companies often provide automated bidding systems with approved vendors that result in the best combination of pricing, quality and speed to market. These vendors are not limited to printers, but can include companies such as promotional item distributors. What may be a good thing to hand out with flu shot flyers? Hand sanitizer. Maybe the local healthcare provider wants to hand out these hand sanitizers with its logo and address on the side? Not a problem. An automated bidding system ensures that promotional items are turned around as fast and efficiently as possible. This allows local brands to fully maximize their marketing and advertising efforts.

Shipping is the final piece of the marketing material process, and as many companies know, it’s not cheap. However, a brand’s printed materials and promotional items can be stored in centralized warehousing locations around the country, ensuring that materials don’t need to be shipped coast to coast or require overnight delivery to make its mark.

 

The Measurement Issue

Even in today’s day and age of analytics, customer relationship management systems, etc., too many companies lack sophisticated tracking and measurement. Healthcare companies should seek supply chain marketing partners with a detailed tracking system to make sure efforts result in a strong return on investment. A strong partner handles all financial transactions with various manufacturers, including billing and collection of expenses incurred from the local markets. That means the marketing team is free from managing invoices, and the accounting team is no longer in the business of invoicing and collecting from local markets. Hundreds of invoices are now automated, saving the organization time and money.

Supply chain marketing firms can hold all inventory, and invoice field and corporate locations when a product ships from the centralized warehouse or manufacturing facility. This spreads out the total cost of ownership across time and combines multiple types of products onto one invoice for location-specific orders.

The landscape for reaching local and national consumers is only getting more complicated. With the need for multi-channel marketing so prevalent, but with budgets so taxed, and with respect to regulations—it is essential to streamline your marketing process, and ensure credibility, consistency and effectiveness.

 

David Holland is president and CEO of DataSource. He oversees strategic development, growth and business operations. He is driving DataSource’s transformation from a supply chain firm to a marketing and brand-focused partner to global retail companies.

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