Dec 10, 2021

Pitching bold marketing to health system leadership

Pitching bold marketing to health system leadership Featuring The No Normal Show of Revive

Between changing market forces and a war against COVID-19, health systems’ positioning in the health industry is rapidly changing. To thrive in the future, health systems must find new and compelling ways to engage health consumers. How do you get approval to take a bold step forward?


Obstacles left and right

  • It’s challenging to sell bold marketing ideas anywhere, but the nature of health systems and their power dynamics make it especially difficult.  
  • Health system leaders are predisposed to resist the unknown – the risks – because they deal with life and death every day. What makes them good at their jobs is, in many ways, the opposite of boldness. 
  • Given differences in expertise between marketers and senior health system leadership, marketers must also overcome a large understanding gap. The more you know about the marketing craft, the more difficult it becomes to explain to non-experts. In his book, To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink calls this phenomenon “attunement.”  

Strategies for selling bold marketing ideas

Master your story

  • Marketers need to build stories that compel their leaders to take a chance on bold marketing, much of which has to do with perception.  
  • For example, in 2017, scientists found that they could increase the quantity of fruit and vegetables consumed by creating a dedicated space in shopping carts for fruits and vegetables. In response, the average consumer purchased more fruits and vegetables because they were psychologically nudged in that direction. 
  • Marketers can nudge the leadership team to take specific actions by giving them options. Like pricing tiers, you can bring the whole set upwards in boldness by offering three options knowing the middle one is most likely to be picked.  
  • However, when presenting options, never offer an option that you wouldn’t be comfortable executing because sometimes that is the option that your audience picks. 

Recruit influencers

  • A way to build confidence in those you’re trying to influence is through social proof.  
  • To sell bold ideas, health system marketers need to understand which parties influence key decision makers. In many systems, physician and service-line leaders are key influencers.  
  • Chris gives the example in which one of our clients loved a bold concept presented to them but needed to sell their organization on the idea. One of the system’s top neurovascular surgeons stumbled upon the campaign concept and raved about it. Since this individual generates so much revenue for the health system, his opinion drastically influenced the CEO’s decision to accept the idea. 

Express limitations 

  • Physicians are natural skeptics because their practice centers on science. Marketing doesn’t always inspire confidence because not all marketing is based on science.  
  • When presenting bold ideas, don’t be afraid to acknowledge the limitations of your research and hypotheses. By not having all the answers, health system marketers can increase their audiences’ receptiveness. 

Selling bold ideas in practice

  • VCU Health is an academic system that runs on their own authority, which is unique because most are run by the state.  
  • VCU Health hired Revive to help their team fight vaccine hesitancy in Virginia. Our research showed three populations that were particularly hesitant – young, Black, and Hispanic populations. These groups didn’t feel like the vaccine was for people like them.  
  • To resonate with these hesitant groups, Revive created the campaign, This Sh*t Mattersplacing a heart over the third letter of “Sh*t” to indicate a double entendre. The campaign featured members from each of the hesitant communities and why the vaccine mattered in their life. 
  • While Revive came up with the idea, VCU Health’s Chief of Marketing, Cynthia Schmidt, championed and sold the idea internally, tapping into both university, hospital, and peer influencers prior to pitching to senior leadership. 
  • These glowing endorsements gave her the credibility she needed to get approval to launch “This Sh*t Matters” out in the market.  
  • When crafting her story, Cynthia appealed to the topic that was top of mind across the system: a huge increase in the number of young people in the ICU. Cynthia crafted her story based on this priority, communicating that VCU’s mission is lived out in the moments when they step up to do something bigger and bolder.  

The juice is worth the squeeze

  • When your ideas are bold, others start to help you out. There were so many people who wanted to take part in the campaign or lend their expertise/resources.  
  • For example, sports stadiums opened up extra media placements within their stadiums, people called into radio stations requesting to tell their story for why This Sh*t Matters.  
  • There’s a newspaper in Richmond who got a note from a complainer who said, “this isn’t worthy of a newspaper like yours.” The newspaper responded by saying that they believe in the work and its mission.  
  • Vaccination rates increased within the community after the launch of the campaign. The campaign also demonstrated a competitive business impact.