Supply Chain and Healthcare

A solid marketing plan can help with the evolving, and competitive, healthcare industry

David Holland
David Holland

The healthcare industry is one that is highly personal, as doctors and nurses often know more about their patients than the individual’s own family does. Home healthcare companies and regional networks of clinics must convey stability, strength and confidentiality when attempting to reach new patients, and in order to maintain current ones. In an industry that is also very competitive and constantly evolving, the ability to provide branded content with exceptional 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.

With all that being said, let’s take a 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 they are one of a larger network of clinics, they are probably not in charge of branding or creating marketing materials. This generally requires them to speak with headquarters and request the materials. Worse, many times the regional clinic will just draft it themselves and copy and paste the logo into a document. Either way, once the material is finalized, they need to get it printed—but by who? Many times, these individuals reach out to local printers, and select the first one they meet with, and with no sourcing. This can result in costly one-off projects, that don’t even necessarily 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 expensive 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 onsite, or even someone with experience in writing, designing and procurement. Because of this, they need to seek national/global, uniformed solutions.

The Quality and Urgency Issue

Most healthcare parent companies and headquarters do 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. With that being said, the challenge is really in how the content is disseminated to the various clinics and locations in a region, or around the country.

Companies store and track their marketing assets in different ways. Some use the 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. An outstanding 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.

This environment, which is accessible by all clinics in a network, provides the latest version, 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, the manager at a local clinic instantly can access a source file with approved branding, customize it with his/her facility’s address and region, request 1,000 copies, and click “Order.” Most importantly, 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

OK, so now the local healthcare center has finalized a beautiful 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 easier said than done. As mentioned earlier, many times the local clinic will just sent the artwork to the first printer they find on Google, with no regard for cost or reputation. This is what commonly leads to exorbitant pricing and poor quality. Of course, 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 provided 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, however, but also include companies such as promotional item distributors. What might be a good thing to hand out with the flu-shot flyers? Hand sanitizer. Maybe the local healthcare provider wants to hand out these hand sanitizers with their logo and address on the side? Not a problem. An automated bidding system ensures that the promotions 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, CRM systems, etc., too many companies lack sophisticated tracking and measurement. Healthcare companies should seek supply chain marketing partners with a detailed and elaborate tracking system to make sure the efforts result in a strong return of 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 of managing invoices from manufacturers to account, 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.

As all marketers know, 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 & CEO of DataSource, where he oversees strategic development, growth and all business operations. He is driving DSI’s transformation from a brfoad-based supply chain firm to a marketing and brand-focused partner to global retail companies.

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