Marketing Firm Helps Radiology Practices Succeed

by James Markland

A Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative developed by Marketing Works for RMI, an imaging practice based in Flint, Mich, encouraged women to ?Sock It to Breast Cancer? by keeping up with annual mammograms.

Marketing Works, an advertising, marketing, and public relations agency based in York, Pa, has recently been awarded multiple prizes for their assistance in helping radiology and imaging concerns become more competitive in today’s challenging marketplace. According to Gail Schwartz, healthcare category manager, “The current climate in the industry is becoming more and more difficult. Fees, salaries, and profits are going down and physicians aren’t happy about it,” said Schwartz. “For example, practices could charge independently for multiple imaging services. Now, mostly due to Medicare regulations, if the procedure is part of a single evaluation, only one fee can be charged.”

So Marketing Works asked the question, “What can radiology practices do to become more competitive?” Their answer tends to focus on the personal service side of the issue. “We promote a three-pronged assault,” said Tina Rudisill, president of Marketing Works. “We target the consumers, the gatekeepers (the upfront nonphysicians that consumers first encounter), and the physicians themselves. Each message is designed to be compelling to each marketing category, and tries to get people to adjust their perceptions accordingly.

“The radiology market is increasingly perceived as a commodity,” said Rudisill. “The key to success is differentiation. What makes a practice unique and different? Why should people patronize a particular practice rather than some other?” Schwartz notes that Marketing Works gets their clients to back off from commodity thinking by putting personality into the equation. “We sometimes perform focus groups to get staff to make conscious decisions about how to interact with customers and each other. The customer does not see everything, often not even the radiologist,” she said. “So a successful practice must explore ways to alleviate anxiety and promote comfort in the midst of uncertainty.”

Five National Awards for Three Health Care Campaigns

By equipping RMI?s marketing reps with a ?Relax Kit? that included an aromatherapy candle and a CD of tranquil music, Marketing Works helped RMI convey the message that their interventional radiology service line gives gatekeepers at medical offices one less referral decision to stress about.

Marketing Works succeeded not only in capturing the attention of physician offices and patients in the clients’ respective markets, but also impressed the judges of three recent health care marketing competitions. The agency won a total of five awards, one of which reflects a ranking in the top 5% of entries. The winning campaigns were developed for two clients: Diagnostic Imaging of Southbury (Connecticut), and RMI (Regional Medical Imaging, Flint, Mich), both outpatient radiology practices. Specific campaigns for these clients were recognized in three separate competitions.

A campaign to launch Diagnostic Imaging of Southbury’s new MRI unit, which provides patients with a more comfortable experience and physicians with expanded diagnostic capabilities, won a Gold Aster Award (hosted by Marketing Healthcare Today magazine and Creative Images Ltd), which reflects a ranking in the top 5% of approximately 3,000 entries. In addition, a campaign to introduce RMI’s interventional radiology service line brought home a Silver Aster Award for Marketing Works.

Marketing Works also won a Healthcare Advertising Award (sponsored by Healthcare Marketing Report) for a campaign for RMI, entitled “Pass It On,” which integrated cutting-edge viral marketing elements with more conventional print, broadcast, and outdoor advertising tactics in a health promotion effort encouraging women to have their annual mammograms, and to remind others to do so as well. “We produced a ‘Relax Kit’ for staff members to help them think and act more personably with customers,” said Schwartz. “It was a clear, branded makeup-type bag that included a CD of relaxing music, an aromatherapy candle, tea bags, and two pieces of printed materials. One was a plastic card that was a high level bulleted list of the interventional services offered at RMI, and another a card that said, ‘Relax, we’ve got you covered.’ This last piece touted the benefits of choosing RMI for interventional services.”

“People need multiple messages to drive home the idea,” Schwartz noted. According to Schwartz, it takes approximately seven times for a message to resonate and become fact. Doling out information in smaller doses, repeat visits that take a slightly different approach, and really tracking what is discussed can help make this a reality. “First we deliver a general message, then a more targeted message, and finally we select very specific targets with more customized messages.” In terms of viral marketing for the mammography awareness campaign, Marketing Works developed a pair of socks that were distributed to fitness centers to help get the message across. The socks displayed the tag line “Sock It to Breast Cancer” and included verbiage about scheduling a mammogram. “Simple, succinct, and to the point, from the woman’s perspective.”

Adding to their accolades, Quest Awards, a program of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA), recognized Marketing Work’s MRI campaign for Diagnostic Imaging of Southbury and the interventional radiology campaign for RMI with a Gold Quest Award. The Quest Awards competition recognizes excellence and advancement in effective marketing programs for radiology practices.

Marketing Works created a distinctive postcard printed on clear vinyl to let referring physicians know that an MRI unit recently acquired by Diagnostic Imaging of Southbury (Connecticut) provides a ?Clearly Better? exam experience for patients.

Getting the Attention of Gatekeepers

The gatekeepers filter which communications are passed to physicians and which go into the proverbial “round file.” It is vitally important to provide a clear value proposition to this industry segment. “This group of individuals is superbusy, and they only have a few minutes to listen to any message brought by a potential partner,” said Schwartz. “And they are often the ones who accept information on behalf of the physicians who are too busy to meet with everyone who comes in vying for their attention.”

That being the case, according to Marketing Works, it is critical to deliver messages that are succinct and demonstrate some direct value to them, their staff, or their patients. The job of the imaging center is to relate the direct benefits to the gatekeeper, otherwise it’s not important to them. “Their key drivers are making their job easier—don’t keep me on the phone too long to schedule patient appointments, get the patients scheduled quickly, and get the results back to our office in as short a time as possible. As the middleman, the person between the physician who needs the information and the patient, the gatekeeper is trying to keep everyone satisfied—and they don’t want hassles or have to make additional calls.”

Items that are intended for physicians also need to address their needs. They want simple, declarative reports that are timely and allow them to make diagnoses. And like their office staff, they want their patients to get in and out and have a great experience. This group is more interested in credentials and the backgrounds of the radiologists who are interpreting the studies and sometimes in the technology that allows a proper diagnosis to be made. However, it’s still critical to deliver messages that are relevant to them. They appreciate clinical information delivered in small doses and from their perspective. They want to know what’s in it for me and why should I send patients to you. It’s vital for imaging providers to be able to truly differentiate their offering from that of the competitor. This can be difficult, but well worth the time it takes to define it and deliver on it. Then it’s easy to create compelling messages that get the attention of the appropriate audience.

“The strategies and creative approaches of these campaigns were tightly customized to the objectives and audience of each client,” Rudisill said. “But the common thread was capturing attention by finding unexpected ways to communicate the key messages. With each project, we strive to redefine the limits. It’s good to see award selections confirming that key industry organizations understand how important it is for health care marketing to push the envelope. With the radiology climate as it is, marketing has become very important. And that means the idea is to make a little noise.”