Case Study

A Marketing Inventory

In the early days of healthcare marketing during the 1980s, a major hospital in a southern city began to address the need for marketing. Despite the interest of some administrators in this function, the chief executive officer was opposed to any marketing activities, and in fact, the word “marketing” was never to be uttered in his presence.
Nevertheless, concerned about growing competition, some staff pressed on to explore marketing options. Their first step was to take an inventory of existing marketing activities. The exploratory committee was surprised to find that a number of marketing activities were already underway. The hospital had a well-established public relations department that regularly held press conferences, issued press releases, and worked with the media when crises arose. The public relations department also produced a print newsletter for patients and another for the general public.
Individual departments in the hospital published newsletters for their department staff and, in a few cases, for the general public. For example, the human resources department produced a newsletter for hospital employees and developed promotional materials to recruit employees. It also regularly held training sessions on customer service.
The hospital employed a physician recruiter who marketed the hospital to targeted specialists, and hospital administrators networked with referring physicians at professional and social events. A newly formed network of urgent care centers employed a salesperson to call on local employers to encourage referrals, and the hospital’s rehabilitation facility aggressively sought referrals from its patients.
The hospital conducted regular patient satisfaction surveys and occasional community surveys. The hospital also had a government relations department that lobbied government officials at the federal, state, and local levels and advocated for certificate-of-need applications. As managed care plans began to emerge, the hospital employed a sales force to solicit managed care relationships and negotiate contracts.
Ultimately, more than 120 marketing-related activities were identified in an organization that had once claimed to eschew marketing. This exercise makes clear that a wide range of activities in support of marketing may be taking place that might not be recognized as marketing.

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1. Why did the hospital face resistance to taking an inventory of existing marketing activities?

2. What unexpected finding did the inventory discover?

3. What did the inventory tell the marketers about the state of marketing activities at the hospital?

4. What are examples of the variety of marketing activities that were underway?

5. What did the research tell us about perceptions of what constitutes marketing?

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