NMC is a modestly sized hospital in Northwestern Vermont (licensed for 70 beds). To its south lies a major competitor: Vermont's largest hospital, Fletcher Allen Healthcare (FAHC) . To gain leverage over FAHC, senior management worked to identify areas where NMC could suggest competitive advantage and found that patients were experiencing extremely long waiting times to have MRIs at FAHC. In contrast, the wait time for an MRI was much shorter at NMC. Management decide to develop a marketing plan in order to capture market share from patient prospects and referring doctors frustrated by long waits.
NMC’s Community Relations Department, which serves as the hospital’s marketing arm, along with its advertising agency partner, Brandthropology, defined a two-pronged strategy. Physician Directed Efforts: using a mailing list of area physicians, NMC and its agency developed direct mail postcards highlighting the shorter response time for MRIs at NMC. Consumer Directed Efforts: acknowledging that older patient prospects are most likely to need MRIs, agency and NMC developed a newsprint campaign to inform patients of the shorter response time at NMC.
For the patient communication effort, we put ourselves in their shoes. Any waiting period provokes anxiety, and we wanted express that by using copy showing the patient’s response: “I don’t want to wait 4 months for an MRI.” To kill two birds with one stone, we used an MRI image of the individual, which set the medical context for the advertisement and the minimalist layout gives the ad a sophisticated, respectful aesthetic. With physicians, we understood that they get an inordinate amount of mail each week, so we added an elegant vellum coating on the postcard and attached a translucent business card to lend an air of sophistication and provide a distinguished yet informative mailer.
Over the course of the campaign, the hospital averaged over 20 additional referrals a month from physicians who had not referred to NMC in the last three years. By October 2008, MRI volume had over doubled versus the baseline period in February!