6 Ways to Strengthen Vendor Partnerships for your Organization's Needs

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07/05/2018 in Blog

Health system marketers wear many hats. There is no question about it. With limited budgets and resources, it’s no doubt that healthcare marketers are stretched thin while searching to find the most efficient way to connect with consumers and supporting the health system’s strategic priorities. As a result of these constraints, health systems look to outside partners such as creative and digital agencies, data and analytics organizations, CRM platform vendors, etc., to support their strategic initiatives, streamline processes and take on some of the heavy lifting. However, there are occasions when these relationships get so complicated that they are counterproductive. It’s important for health system marketing teams to become more transparent with their key partners and to enable them to work together seamlessly.  A team approach amongst vendors ensures that all parties are aligned to maximize success, whether that’s driving volume or managing population health, and ultimately supporting the organization’s strategic priorities.

If you already have a team of vendor partners, or you’re in the process of identifying a new solution, there are many approaches to ensure that your extended workforce is the right fit to drive success for your business objectives and strategic goals.  

Here are some tips to encourage your vendors to build effective, productive, and valuable partnerships to ensure optimized success for your organization and it starts with collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.

1.  Annual strategic summit

Bring your internal stakeholders together with your partners for a strategic summit to kick off yearly planning. Each internal stakeholder should come prepared with their goals and partners should be ready to brainstorm ways in which the health system could improve the planning, prioritization, and execution for the upcoming fiscal year. Following the initial strategic summit, both groups should come back together with more formalized plans for how to go to market with these new ideas and strategies.  

2.  Share knowledge

Although it might seem like you’re putting yourself at a strategic and financial advantage, holding your cards close to the chest with partners can prevent them from getting the information needed to provide the best possible solution and support to achieve your goals.  Share your strategic and marketing plans, and market insight and budgets. Not only does this set clear expectations, but this knowledge helps them make smarter decisions within your organization’s budget framework in a timely fashion. Cut to the chase. Let’s face it, no one has time to waste!   

3.  Quarterly in-person team meetings

Hosting quarterly meetings can be a great way to bring your internal team and partners together to focus, review campaign results, and determine appropriate optimizations. Communicate to your partners that you expect a professional collaborative environment to drive the best results for the health system and consumer. Also, educate your partners on your need to share results internally with the leadership team and involve them in the reporting process.

4.  Project framework

Work with your partners to develop a project framework outlining standard operating procedures and project ownership. Vendors that work in silos can overlap capabilities and create confusion with responsibilities and deliverables.  Even if a partner has a certain capability, it’s important to be fully transparent and let them know where you will or will not be using their services or products. If you are unsure what your future needs will be, let them know what your intentions are and when you can provide them with more information. For the products and services you are committed to using, be clear that you expect trends, insights, strategic support and innovative technology. Encourage partners to work together directly to leverage data and streamline processes and ask the partners to only involve the health system marketing team when an internal decision needs to be made or at major milestones. This is especially important when it’s time to execute and put communications in the market. Good partners will understand the pressure health system marketers endure and will ensure they eliminate unnecessary back and forth by bringing the marketer in when appropriate.

5.  Encourage innovation

Challenge your partners to come up with out-of-the-box solutions and leverage their unique skill set. Healthcare is a very niche industry with many different sub-products (i.e. service lines, management, awareness, etc.); partnering with an organization such as Healthgrades who pioneered the industry and has over 30 years experience evaluating consumer behavior ensures a solid basis on the healthcare side. That said, if a partner works in other industries, leverage that knowledge and experience to discover new opportunities or strategies.

6.  Strategy and relationship review

Work with your partners to define goals and key performance metrics around the relationship. Establish an appropriate cadence for relationship reviews to determine whether the partnership strategy is working. Use this as an opportunity to seek feedback about the partner from your internal colleagues. Also, although it may be difficult, it’s important to request feedback from the partner about you and your team.  As an example, “As a client, what are we doing well? What can we do to improve and make it easier to work together?” True partnerships aren’t one-sided. Being candid and giving/receiving feedback keeps both the vendor and internal teams accountable, makes expectations clear, and ultimately ensures a successful, evolving partnership.

Healthcare marketers have a heavy load to lift with their everyday roles and responsibilities.  Creating a culture of transparency and encouraging strategic partners to work together as a cohesive team produces better results, stronger relationships and a higher level of performance.  This approach ensures that those finite marketing dollars are being spent on the highest value targets and providing the health system the best return. And, most importantly, helping consumers navigate healthcare by creating an optimized experience.