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Showing posts from 2008

Show Up! And Stay Late!

I've been in Steamboat Springs for a few days, enjoying a holiday of skiing and family togetherness. But what's a vacation without a little market research?

I spent the evening of December 23rd doing some belated shopping in Steamboat Springs' downtown business district, a 10 blocks-long strip of low-down country and high fashion. Though the streets were busy and the restaurants were jumping, I'd say only about a third of the stores were open at 8:00 P.M.

I spent time (and some money) in two of those stores. In each, I inquired of the owner how the economy had affected their small businesses. Same answer, both places: we're holding our own and doing much better then we'd expected, frankly.

The next day I returned to a store that WASN"T open the previous night, made a purchase, asked the same question and got a very different answer: "We're thinking about closing our doors after 27 years. Things are terrible." I'm sorry for them. They seemed…
Forecast for retail clinics: heading upwards.  Writing in Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, David Ellis surveys the retail clinic landscape and finds reasons for optimism:
"If a growing market demand for primary and geriatric care, a dwindling supply of primary and geriatric care, and a growing retail clinic industry are not enough to persuade anyone that there may be some correlations here, consider that so far there have been no retail clinic patient horror stories, that the little data published to date indicate that retail clinics are delivering high-quality care, and that hospital systems are slowly but surely getting into the business themselves. The reasonable conclusion is that the retail clinic, if not “very sound,” at least deserves a passing grade."And now pharmacy giant Walgreens is moving the concept into another niche: worksite clinics."One work-site clinic, which has served a 60-employee company for three years and five hours a week, charges employ…

De-icing A Great Brand

"Hawks Lead (the NHL) In Attendance."  Now there's a surprising headline.  Yes, I'm a Blackhawks' fan but I also like a good turnaround tale, especially one with a provisional happy ending.
The resurgent Hawks prove how quickly a brand can be resurrected from decades of callous mistreatment and outright stupidity.  Bad business decisions off the ice and bad player decisions on, haughty refusals to build a TV audience, disdain for a rich legacy...and yet fans never really left.  
Oh sure, they stopped buying tickets and attending games.  And they COULDN'T watch most games on TV even if they were so inclined.  But the loyalty fires ran deep, thankfully, and never went out entirely.  You can say the Hawks are lucky. They TRIED to drive loyalists away and were 'this' close to succeeding.  
What a difference a year makes.  Intelligence and passion are replacing old-school stupidity.  TV audiences are up 78%, players are once again household names and the Unit…

A Whack On the Head

So I'm sitting in my kitchen a few minutes ago, having some dinner and listening to my refrigerator compressor hum away, turning warm air into cold.  Hmmm  
Am I the only one struck by the sheer absurdity of MAKING cold air when just several feet away, outside the wall, sits trillions of cubic feet of air, already cold and free for the taking?  How hard would it be to pipe small, metered, portions of said air into the frig through some kind of thermostatically-controlled valve or something?
It might require new compressor designs and maybe some re-thinking of kitchen layout but, at least where I live, refrigeration would be free half the year.  I'd take that.

"From small things momma...

...big things one day come!"  says the gospel according to Dave Edmunds.  
So, I'm thinking: is that gospel at work in the housing market?  Beyond the things we're all painful aware of  - the rampant speculation, mortgages given to people with no hope of paying the money back, toxic assets securitized and resold several times - could there also be a small thing at work here, a little gospel spark causing a big conflagration?
The spark, of course, being the crackdown on immigration, legal or otherwise. Think about it.  Regardless of your attitudes toward immigrants, housing depends on a ready supply of new homeowners moving in at the market's low end.  Those starter homeowners trade up as their incomes rise and economic confidence improves.  And their "trading up" supports the next highest ranks of homeowners and so on and so on, up the chain it goes.
The housing market may need those "trader-uppers" more than it thinks.  It's the "trickle-up&…

Even Micro-Donations Add Up

Excellent Linkedin Question and Answer thread about non-traditional methods of fundraising for not-for-profit organizations.
Many people believe fundraising is all about "the ask" when it's really about the relationship.  Like most of life, fundraising success comes from building deep, enduring relationships, converting fans into "believers", and not just when you need something - a job, a referral or a donation.  The relationship makes "the ask" easier and, maybe, unnecessary.
The thread discusses ideas that recognize today's micro/macro networked world as a world of new connections - communities, really - with thousands of people sharing your passion, your causes and, maybe, even your history. People you've never met but, somehow, you always knew were out there because you had a sense you weren't alone.
They want to join with you.  Make it easy for them.

A Better Place

"...the most important rule of business in today’s integrated and digitized global market, where knowledge and innovation tools are so widely distributed. It’s this: Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is will it be done by you or to you."
Thomas Friedman writing in the New York Times today about an electric car network company called Better Place which, Friedman believes, is "...building a car company off the new industrial platform of the 21st century, not the one from the 20th - the exact same way that Steve Jobs did to overturn the music business."
There are models at work to do the same thing to health care. Stay tuned.

Value Created and Destroyed

McKinsey examines value creation in health care and finds most of it created outside the provider space (free registration required.)
It probably won't come as a surprise that providers are termed "value-destroyers." After the fact, providers tend to define any lost strategic battle as "non-strategic."  "Oh well," they shrug, watching yet another revenue stream diminish, "It wasn't really a 'core competency' anyway."  
And thus is another value-creating service ceded to the entrepreneurs among us.  Not that I'm complaining...

Is Radical Innovation A "Fix" For A Broken Washington?

Writing in Business Week, Jeneanne Rae offers advice to President-Elect Obama: simple "change" may not be enough to satisfy expectations or address the current crises. So think in terms of "radical innovation.""...let's be clear: without an informed approach to the practice of innovation along with an innovation tool kit, they will probably fail to meet expectations." Learn from other environments and from your own failures. Analyze bureaucracy. Look globally.  

Wikis Meet Health Care

Business Week's review of Don Tapscott's new book "Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World" offers this little gem of an idea:"Take Best Buy (BBY), most of whose retail employees are 16- to 24-year-olds. The retailer recently teamed six young, tech-savvy staffers with three professional developers to build online collaboration into Best Buy's operations on the cheap. In weeks, the team created a wiki that lets the company's 150,000 employees contribute insights on competition and popular trends."What if you had all your employees and physicians adding their knowledge to your own?  Yes, the information would need careful filtering and editing but, who knows, you just might learn something.

A Rant : Taking a Positive Approach in a Negative World !

From Linkedin user Tony Gatteri, here's a rant worth reading:
Recently I read a story about a critical, negative barber who never had a pleasant thing to say. A salesman came in for a haircut and mentioned that he was about to make a trip to Rome, Italy. “What airline are you taking and at what hotel will you be staying?” asked the barber.

When the salesman told him, the barber criticized the airline for being undependable and the hotel for having horrible service. “You’d be better off to say at home”, he advised.

“But I expect to close a big deal. Then I’m going to see the Pope”, said the salesman.

“You’ll be disappointed trying to do business in Italy”, said the barber, “and don’t count on seeing the Pope. He only grants audiences to very important people. “

Two months later the salesman returned to the barber shop. “And how was your trip?’ asked the barber.

“Wonderful!” replied the salesman. “The flight was perfect, the service at the hotel was excellent; I made a big sale, and I got…

I've Been Down So Long Everything Looks Like Up!

Personally, I think the stock market and the broader economy are close to establishing a new equilibrium.  The question is: what will that new equilibrium look like?
The tentative answer:  quite different from what we're all used to, especially in the use of leverage to boost earnings and asset values.  Financial service firms, industrial giants and consumers alike are waking up with a massive, pounding, risk-fleeing hangover.  I believe the cure - a headlong flight AWAY from leverage - is likely to be long-lasting and have a pervasive impact on many organization's growth prospects and strategies.
Here's a summary of recent industry trends from the American Hospital Association, as reported in Yahoo News.
What effect might all this have on the strategies of health care providers?
Lower debt-to-capitalization ratios?
Lower returns on investment portfolios, just when providers most need the funds?
A renewed focus on liquidity and the ability to fund capital spending from current e…

How To Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs

McKinsey Quarterly on the new rules for recession-challenged marketers;
"...not everything from the past is outmoded: marketers must still reexamine the value propositions of their brands, fine-tune products and pricing, and manage the cost of media agencies and other vendors carefully. But these steps aren’t enough. To weather the storm, it will be necessary to identify anew who and where the profitable customers are and to prioritize the most effective marketing and sales vehicles for reaching them. "When marketing and sales executives do so, it’s critical to bear something in mind: the broader forces at work in the global economy mean that the underlying economics of strategies could continue shifting with unprecedented speed and scale. Such extreme uncertainty demands constant attention, frequent reprioritization, and strategies that anticipate and respond to a changing landscape."

If It's Pitless It Can't Be A Cherry

One of the world's most innovative thinkers - Seth Godin - presents to one of the world's most innovative organizations - Acumen Fund - on "Influencing the Masses." Where and how to start, what's important, and the need for a tribe.  Every day it gets easier.
"...stop thinking about mass marketing to the world, and start thinking instead about tiny identifiable groups of connected people we can tell a story to, so that story will spread."

Evidence-Based Strategy

Though some physicians I've talked to seem to loathe the term "evidence-based medicine," it's a long-overdue attempt to ground decisions on the care of individual patients in "...the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence..." (Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, courtesy of Wikipedia.)
As this new culture takes hold throughout the medical community, it seems fair to ask whether evidence-based discussions might benefit other processes outside of the clinical realm, say, the process of crafting organizational strategy.  And what might "evidence-based strategy" look like compared to current practices?
Some planners may argue with me on this point (actually I hope they do; sparking arguments is one of my goals for this blog) but large briefing books and PowerPoint decks, though ubiquitous, are not by themselves evidence for anything except planners' inability to separate the "vital few" facts from the trivial ma…

Is Health Care "Marketing-Savvy" Enough?

A recent Linkedin query asked whether the healthcare industry is "marketing-savvy" enough?

My answer:
I agree that...compared to a decade ago, health care providers' marketing budgets are way up, but you shouldn't infer from that fact that marketing is getting savvier or more sophisticated.

From my experience (20+ years in the provider trenches) a huge obstacle to the more rapid diffusion of more sophisticated marketing approaches is pervasive CEO unwillingness to demand more of their marketing departments: more visible results, more accountability, more bang-for-the-buck, more customer engagement, more process improvements, more adoption of innovative approaches from other industries, etc.

If the CEO is not educated on what marketing CAN be and what it COULD do, it's difficult to set different and/or higher accountabilities for the marketing function. And, regrettably, hospital marketers are frequently content with the situation as it lets them off the hook …

Terms Of Engagement

Since this is a relatively new blog I think it's only fair to warn you about a few things, since they drive the perspectives from which I write.

First, the best definition of marketing I've ever encountered: marketing is the disciplined, organized pursuit of revenues.

Second: the best definition of branding I've ever encountered: a brand is not what an organization says about itself, but what that organization is capable of doing, willing to do and actually does.

That's enough for now. Stay tuned.Over the next few days I'll be developing the concept of "evidence-based strategy."

Google Flu Trends

Using Google Flu Trends to track this season's flu epidemic may give your organization's response a two-week head-start. According to Google's web site:"We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for "flu" is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.It'll be interesting to see how Google's forecast correlates with this season's actual cases. If it works, look for more early-w…

The Health Of Health Care

Health care was once thought to be relatively recession-resistant. Not so, reports today's Chicago Tribune in a story about Moody's forecast of softening demand, tightening credit and declining reimbursement.
Certainly in good times but especially in bad, health care providers are way too passive about growth, tending to view top line revenue as fixed and pretty much out of their control. Neither is true, but if you believe it is, expenses are the only lever left to pull. And so it becomes that after much effort spent on reengineering, budget-cutting and de-layering, what's left behind is an organization too shell-shocked and untrusting to heed a "we now need to grow..." message.
Using a biblical term, successful organizations - those achieving true strategic separation - spend the "years of plenty" deepening loyal customer relationships and building robust growth-oriented cultures, recognizing them as the necessary seed corn for surviving the inevi…

Draw A Line...On The Wall

Business Week covers Dr. Donald Berwick's efforts to remake health care. Sometimes innovation is as simple as a line on a wall.
Now the question is how to turn that line - and the quality improvement it represents - into a strategic differentiator.  I.e. what's in it for the customer, as we marketers would put it?  Higher quality at the same or lower price means an improved value proposition.  In any other industry, that's a winning hand.

Knock! Knock! Anybody Home In H-R?

Despite the economy, there's still a war on for the best talent.  Always will be.  Give me the best of the best and, even on a playing field tilted against me, I'll take market share away from your merely-average crew every time.
Thus it's a mystery to me why so many organizations maintain such user-unfriendly "talent acquisition systems" on their corporate web sites.  Don't believe me?  Pretend you're a job-seeker and "mystery-shop" your organization's process.  Ask yourself how many otherwise stellar people you've driven away.  
I'm betting the number is more than zero.  Ask yourself where they went.  Maybe to your competitor?  Can you afford it?  Maybe what's saving you is you're no worse than anybody else.