Are You Overlooking Your ASC’s Secret Marketing Weapon?

Most Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) don't have an internal marketing expert on staff. Many feel they cannot afford one, while others simply haven't considered it. Which group describes you?

I recently attended my second Becker’s ASC event in Chicago in as many years. Much to my surprise, when people in the exhibit hall and people at the luncheon event with Randi Zuckerberg asked what my “title” mean the looks on their faces was priceless. My badge read: “Maria K Todd, PhD MHA, Director of Business Development, St George Surgical Center, St George Utah.” They’d never heard of such a role in an ASC. Does that mean that most are not marketing? How are they growing new patients? Same old same old? How’s that working out for them, I wondered.

While you may not have an internal marketing expert on your staff, either part time (like me) or full time, you do have a secret weapon you can use to boost your ASCs visibility, brand awareness, traffic and growth. While we initially focused on owned content and earned media, I feel ashamed that I overlooked (or basically prioritized lower) our secret weapon. It slapped me in the face recently and made me pay attention when our new NAVIO robotic-assisted knee replacement system, an investment of more than half a million dollars, and the nurses and staff in the back of the house asked what it is and why it was delivered.

Our nurses and back of the house staff are the living breathing faces of our ASCs brand where patients are concerned. We live our brand in how we treat patients, payors, and physicians. Our patients write thank you notes, post of social media how much they love us and appreciate the professionalism we exude in everything we do. Our administrator has integrity that is at a rare and unimpeachable level. 

But when I go in the break room, they ask one another, “Who is she and what’s her role here?”  I join in the lunchtime chatter and I talk like a nurse (because I once was an OR Nurse) but after working here six months and having done the orientation tour, had my shots, etc., they don’t really know what I do. Whose fault is that? Mine? The Administrator’s? After all I am only part time, and I often eat lunch at my desk or out with a prospective business development client.  That’s a problem. How can I get them to engage and like our Facebook page when they don’t recognize who is asking them? 

Our employees are our brand evangelists

Our video, print and digital content assets are not utilized well internally. There are challenges with getting the back office team and even the surgeons up to date with the ASC’s latest branding guidelines and awareness initiatives and campaigns. In healthcare, brand ambassadors and product evangelists aren’t consistent about brand and product messaging. In our case, we have three key areas I juggle simultaneously: regular contracts and relationships with traditional payors (HMO, PPO), relationships with non traditional payors (we have about 40 employer-direct, union-direct and TPA contracts), our cash pay transparent pricing program with 237 surgical procedure pricing bundles, and a growing domestic medical travel program that represents a significant revenue and healthy margin contribution to bottom line. 

While it is great to be able to say that our back office staff focuses on patient-centric activities, we need them to know about brand significance, differentiation and take pride in it in their day-to-day interactions, at home, at church, with friends and family who may need surgery, at events, and in and around the community. Our employees interact both directly and indirectly with prospects, patients, and surgeons, both online and offline. 

As Director of Business Development, for the time I am working in this role, even part time, it’s critical for me to maintain up-to-date maps of the customer journey touchpoints so that I can develop content, campaigns and/ or a strategy for each interaction. And not just online or in the community in the PR role, but here at the ASC in the lunch room, as well.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a Maria Todd, PHD, MHA working for you as a marketing expert or director of business development full time or part time, someone in the leadership role at the ASC must take the time and make a point to ensure that when you have a fantastic and differentiated product or program,  your campaign is sufficiently leveraged and understood across the whole ASC and its medical staff.  If you don’t, your valued employees will be unsure about what the new social media activity is, and they will remain unresponsive and unengaged. Overlooking them on this critical marketing adjunct limits your marketing efforts and investments to help grow the ASC business quickly in a hypercompetitive environment with competing ASCs and local hospitals, and constrains opportunities for amazing customer experiences.

>>>>>>>>>>There is no “post it/advertise it and they will come” in healthcare. That’s actually a fallacy in every industry. Your internal staff is equally time-poor and under-resourced and there to care for your patients. The solution is to develop collaborative campaigns with whoever runs point on internal communication and build them into your marketing strategy, with clear goals and KPIs for success. The internal communications team has unique knowledge about an organization’s employees. This is because they must work across every team and department on a daily basis, and so can really help the marketer to understand this audience in-depth. They will have both quantitative and qualitative data that marketers can leverage to understand their internal audience better. IC also has unique channels to access these internal audiences. They can also educate you on the best tips and tactics to gain buy-in from influential managers – and even let you know the employees with significant soft power.