One in four U.S. hospitals hires a new CEO every 3-4 years. That statistic, which comes from a 10-year study by the American College of Healthcare Executives, is a call to action. Why? Because rapid turnover at the executive level can have adverse effects on hospital relationships with key stakeholders like physicians, staff, board members, community partners, donors and others.
Clearly, hospitals – particularly rural and frontier hospitals – are challenged by recruiting the right leader for the organization and its community. Few studies, and even fewer hospital marketing executives, have explored what it takes to prepare newly recruited CEOs for stronger leadership. When new CEOs have an in-depth understanding of local market conditions and positioning opportunities, they are better prepared to move the organization forward.
As the CEO and founder of a strategy-first health marketing firm, I have supported several healthcare organizations as they onboarded new CEOs. I find it is most helpful to bring clarity to only a few key strategies – just the top areas that have the greatest potential to protect and grow the organization’s value. To illustrate my point, here are three noteworthy highlights from a conversation I had with a newly hired hospital CEO:
- The marketing function should be data driven, and marketing metrics should align with the organization’s strategic plan. To inform the organization’s marketing strategies, a strong marketing leader applies muscle to measuring and analyzing the right performance indicators, including relevant market share, consumer sentiment and advertising share of voice. The CEO will want to see the most important metrics rolled into the organization’s Executive Dashboard. He or she will also want to know that marketing leaders manage the department’s own metrics to measure ad performance and return, web analytics, and changes in share and sentiment each month. We shared a typical dashboard, pointing out:
- Current and three-year market share
- Current net promoter scores by hospital and key service lines
- The biggest area in need of and/or poised for improvement
- Marketing leadership should actively ensure that the brand contributes to the current and future value of the organization. It’s important for the CEO to understand that brand is what you do. A hospital’s brand is an intangible asset that lives in the hearts and minds of its consumers, formed by actual experiences with the hospital and what is communicated to them. With this foundation, the CEO also needs to understand it is marketing’s role to ensure that everyone knows how to authentically deliver on the brand promise across the enterprise. This is the perfect segue to discuss how the CEO can support the marketing team in that effort, which brings me to this last point…
- It is essential to have an annual strategic marketing plan that outlines how the organization drives sustainable volume growth and market share. To manage that plan and the service line plans that support it, marketers should meet monthly with service line leaders to ensure marketing readiness and measure results. From a CEO’s perspective, this information is necessary to understand if service line leaders are ready to support growth.
This was the first of many conversations that led to the CEO being highly engaged and supportive of the marketing function – and it created a strong starting point for ensuring that the CEO continues to be a vocal champion of the brand. With turnover as high as it is among hospital chief executives, any vision for the organization’s future becomes notably harder to achieve. The path to greater success – for the organization as well as its C-suite leadership – must be paved with data-driven insights, smart growth strategies and a commitment to brand authenticity.
About the Author
Carol Dobies, MBA, is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Health Marketing, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.
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