harnessing employee marketing power

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					                                                                                                    in the trenches


Harnessing Employee
Marketing Power
Employees can be one of your most influential marketing tools.

By William R. Gombeski Jr., Katie Krauss, Jan Taylor, Leah Colihan,
Tameca Wilson, and Mark D’Antonio




Smart marketers                     recognize the role employ-        Training Employees
ees play in delivering high quality care and high levels of               Employee training consisted of implementing a 20-minute
patient satisfaction. Perhaps less recognized is the significant      marketing presentation to each new employee (more than
role employees can play in generating increased business for          5,500 since beginning the program) during orientation that
an organization. Organizations can achieve significant increas-       began in late 1999. This same training was delivered to cur-
es in volume by educating employees about their marketing             rent employees at department meetings and retreats. The              49
role and training them to help their families, friends, and           presentation included trends in admissions and a discussion
neighbors choose their organization’s services and products.          of what influences patients to choose the hospital. The hospi-
    Beginning in 1999, after two straight years of declining          tal’s position of providing advanced medicine was reviewed
admissions, Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) launched a                 using patient survey data to show what patients expect from
program to educate and train its employees on their role as           the organization.
marketers. (See Exhibit 1 on page 50.) YNHH, located in                   The survey uncovered patient beliefs about the effects of
New Haven, Conn., is a 944-bed, major teaching hospital               YNHH’s advance medicine position. According to the survey,
                                                                      patients believe they will:
                                                                      • Be correctly diagnosed sooner
                                                                      • Receive appropriate, comprehensive health information on
  Hospitals are like large department stores                             medical problems
with a dazzling array of “products,” and it’s                         • Be offered choice of latest and best treatment options
                                                                      • Understand potential side effects of treatments
very easy for employees to become isolated                            • Be treated correctly the first time
                                                                      • Have better medical outcomes
       in their own units or departments.                             • Return to normal lifestyle more quickly
                                                                      • Have more confidence and peace of mind
                                                                         The orientation program highlighted hospital information
serving southern New England. The hospital has 6,000                  access points so employees would know where to steer con-
employees and is the primary teaching hospital for the Yale           sumers—specifically to the call center; Web site; cancer, heart,
University School of Medicine.                                        and nurse advice information hotlines; and the available
    In August 1999, a baseline research study was conducted,          Internet advice forums (breastfeeding, heart, etc.). The program
with admitted patients self-reporting on why they chose               also discussed data showing the role employees play in influ-
YNHH. The study showed that 3% (approximately 1,173                   encing patients to choose YNHH. Finally, the program reviewed
patients) indicated an employee had influenced them. An               each employee’s marketing responsibilities and provided exam-
ongoing internal marketing program was developed and                  ples of how employees could actualize the behaviors.
implemented to increase employees’ knowledge of YNHH                      The employee marketing role was described as delivering
programs and services as well as an understanding of their            the best patient experience, learning as much as possible
responsibility and role in growing the hospital’s business. The       about programs and services, reminding patients about the
internal marketing program consisted of a number of activi-           benefits of YNHH services and products, and removing or
ties with the broad strategies of (1) increasing employee train-      reducing barriers to use of services.
ing/awareness of their marketing role and appropriate behav-              Employees should also be discreet when speaking around
iors and (2) expanding communication regarding YNHH pro-              patients and families and be careful using e-mail, as the
grams and services.                                                   YNHH boilerplate gives credibility to any statement. Lastly, all


                                                                                                                         MHS Spring 2004
         in the trenches


         employees should become enthusiastic advocates for YNHH             such as clinical programs and services and highlights interest-
         services.                                                           ing marketing facts about the organization, such as number of
             To increase its presence in the community, the organization     patients treated, number of babies born annually, and so on.
         distributed an organizational insignia catalogue of YNHH-               Marketing fairs are conducted regularly in front of the hos-
         branded merchandise. The purpose was to encourage employ-           pital cafeteria to put marketing materials and information in
         ees to wear and use logo-branded shirts, sweat suits, umbrel-       the hands of all employees. It also provides employees with
         las, etc. The merchandise also serves as a conversation starter     an opportunity to subscribe to the organization’s five con-
         with the public, encouraging dialogue between employees             sumer pieces so they receive information at home that can be
         and potential patients and frequently allowing employees to         shared with family and friends.
         provide assistance to potential patients.                               In addition, a marketing message is now included periodi-
             This dialogue also stimulates pride as employees are put in     cally on each employee’s paycheck to provide information
         a regular position of representing and discussing the organiza-     about services and programs. A monthly marketing memo is
         tion. Each employee in the training is given a YNHH-branded         also sent to all 390 supervisors, managers, directors, and vice
         T-shirt and a $10 coupon to use toward the purchase of items        presidents. Each memo emphasizes key marketing concepts
         from the catalogue if they identified one or more individuals       or trends and shares new marketing initiatives and publica-
         (parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors, friends, etc.) who they   tions. Many managers circulate these or post them on their
         thought could benefit from the hospital’s consumer informa-         bulletin boards for employees to read.
         tion. All the individuals identified by employees were sent let-        Finally, an employee marketing committee was developed
         ters inviting them to sign up for the hospital’s five major pub-    to brainstorm new communication ideas and to identify
50       lications. Throughout the year, logo-branded items and cloth-       insights about better informing employees of new services and
         ing are used as rewards for contests, recognition for superior      programs. Employees also serve a very valuable role in ensur-
         employee performance, and as mementos at major hospital             ing that marketing programs, tactics, and activities are clini-
         events and anniversaries.                                           cally appropriate. More important, as healthcare consumers
                                                                             themselves, employees can suggest ideas and react to market-
         Expanded Communication                                              ing messages to ensure they are understandable and effective
             The second strategy revolved around helping employees           in influencing behavior. Finally, as they learn and contribute
         learn as much as they could about all the hospital’s programs       to the marketing effort, they often become advocates of the
         and patient care services. Hospitals are like large department      hospital’s marketing efforts, helping other employees under-
         stores with a dazzling array of “products,” and it’s very easy      stand the purpose of specific marketing activities and accom-
         for employees to become isolated in their own units or              plishments, as well as sharing feedback and ideas they pick
         departments.                                                        up through interactions with others.
             Each employee/physician has the opportunity to receive at
         home five key YNHH publications that discuss new programs           Employees Gain Influence
         and patient care services. The five publications are Advancing         Exhibit 2 shows the increase in the number and percentage
         Care (highlights innovations, new programs, and services at         of patients who say they were influenced by an employee.
         YNHH), Ahead of the Curve (offers insights into how new
         advancements are influencing medicine and what it means for
         consumers), Making the Right Choice (provides practical infor-      Exhibit 1
         mation on how to get the best and most advanced care),              Declining admission trends
         HealthLINKs (reviews new clinical studies and offers expert           ■ YNHH admissions
         opinion by YNHH physicians on what it means to patients               ■ Admissions statewide**
                                                                                                                                            357,702   356,663*
                                                                                                                                351,017
         with that problem; topics include heart, cancer, pediatrics,                                                341,366
                                                                                                          331,853
         women’s health, and mental health), and Yale-New Haven                                                                                   44,337
                                                                                              329,142
         Magazine (gives an in-depth look at how YNHH is improving                  326,568                                            43,526
         the health of the people in New England). Reading these pub-                                                      42,037
         lications very quickly gives employees the information they           41,054
                                                                                                                40,731
                                                                                         40,345
         need to be helpful to friends, family, neighbors, and others                                39,113
         they come in contact with on a regular basis.
             Other communication tools include the use of the hospi-
         tal’s many stand-tall information racks, wall racks, and desk-
         top racks. While the primary purpose of the racks is to edu-             1997        1998       1999       2000        2001       2002       2003
         cate patients and visitors, employees also pick up the publica-
         tions. In addition, the bi-monthly employee publication called        *projected on first six months of 2003 information
         The Bulletin emphasizes more market-relevant information              **does not include YNHH admissions



     MHS Spring 2004
Exhibit 2                                                            Exhibit 3
Employee influence                                                   Employees who would recommend YNHH to others
                                                                                             (% very or moderately likely)
            Number of patients influenced by an employee
                                                                                                                                  75%

                                                             4,080                                               61%
                                                     3,917                       58%
                                        3,362                                                    54%
                           2,851




              1,173




              1999        2000          2001       2002      2003         1996 (n=3329)    1998 (n=2996)    2001 (n=2857)   2003 (n=2901)


                                                                          Source: YNHH employee opinion survey

             Percent of patients indicating an employee influenced
                              their choice of YNHH
                                                                     much more likely to use their own organization’s services and                            51
                                                             9%      more likely to take care of external customers. An organiza-
                                                     9%
                                                                     tion’s employees are also its most important communicators
                                         8%
                           7%                                        and marketers. Employees should understand the organiza-
                                                                     tion’s products and service strengths, as well as its advantages
                                                                     over the competition.
                                                                        Employees should feel empowered to see themselves as
              3%
                                                                     organizational communicators and part of the marketing pro-
                                                                     motion mix that includes advertising, the annual report,
                                                                     newsletters, direct mail, and other communications. A suc-
                                                                     cessful internal marketing program trains employees on mar-
              1999        2000         2001        2002      2003
                                                                     keting behaviors and actions and helps them understand their
         Source: Patient decision-making studies
                                                                     marketing responsibilities and roles so they can actively repre-
                                                                     sent the organization and generate positive word-of-mouth
                                                                     marketing.
While the percentage of patients influenced by an employee              Our experience shows that employee-influenced admis-
reached a plateau in 2003, the total number of employee-             sions can be increased by (1) educating employees about clin-
influenced patients did increase due to the overall growth in        ical programs, patient care services available at the hospital,
hospital admissions.                                                 and the benefits of choosing YNHH, (2) describing how
    Exhibit 3 shows that the percentage of employees who             employees can help influence family, friends, and neighbors
indicated they were “very” or “moderately” likely to refer a         to choose YNHH, and (3) emphasizing how they help deliver
family member to the hospital has also increased since 1998          a satisfactory experience to patients. MHS
from 58% to 75% in 2003. The majority of the remaining
25% of employees in 2003 who were less likely to recom-              About the Authors
mend YNHH to patients indicated they had family in another           All of the authors work at Yale-New Haven Hospital. William
country or out of the area and would refer family to YNHH            R. Gombeski Jr. is administrative director, marketing and
only if it was a serious medical problem.                            communication, and may be reached at gombesbr@ynhh.org.
    Exhibit 1 shows that, after several years of declining           Katie Krauss is associate director, communications, and may
admissions, volume has increased 16% from 1999 to 2003.              be reached at krauss@ynhh.org. Jan Taylor is manager, mar-
Statewide the growth for all hospitals, not including YNHH,          keting and Internet services, and may be reached at
was 8%. While employees are not solely responsible for this          jtaylor@ynhh.org. Leah Colihan is a senior editor and may
growth, they undoubtedly contributed to it.                          be reached at leah.colihan@ynhh.org. Tameca Wilson is mar-
    An organization’s first customers are its own employees. If      keting and events coordinator and may be reached at
employees understand and endorse the organization’s prod-            wilsont2@ynhh.org. Mark D’Antonio is media coordinator
ucts, services, programs, and marketing strategies, they are         and may be reached at dantonmr@ynhh.org.


                                                                                                                                            MHS Spring 2004

				
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