“If You Build It, They Won’t Come:” Stop Thinking Sales – Start Thinking Relationships

Trust Economies: Investigation into the New ROI of the Web, Julien Smith and Chris Brogan’s Manifesto on Trust Economies undertakes a simultaneous debunking of traditional marketing and an urgent call for marketing through “trust economy communities”. I don’t find this so farfetched for the coming era of healthcare delivery to the baby boom generation.

These two modern marketers and social-media commentators have undertaken the manifesto as a means to advance marketing by businesses of all sizes whether web-based or bricks and mortar. Healthcare can fairly be described as trailing-edge in its adoption of web and internet related modalities in marketing; while notable exceptions exist–Paul Levy, the CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) who regularly posts to his blog and engages a diverse array of commentators there and on Twitter. Levy’s blog and Twitter presence constitute “social-media” which effectively market BIDMC directly through the relationships Levy forges and through the coverage others, including this author in this post, contribute.

That’s the new paradigm at the core of modern marketing and certainly at the core of the Health 2.0 movement of engaging the consumer-patient in their own care. Smith and Brogan point out that experienced web users quickly learn who’s there to market and sell and who’s there to build trust economy relationships through conversations. Yes, there’s a job to do, but blunt marketing and sales efforts fail while “hand-to-hand” relationship building succeeds.

Smith and Brogan point out that in an era where all seem starved for time, “Attention is scarce–more valuable than cash and rarer than gold. When you get some, embrace it and find out how to get more.” Practitioners can’t afford to do that with reimbursement structured as it is–not for this post–yet it’s this very lack of attention and embrace that may be accelerating the breakdown in trust between consumer-patient and practitioner; illustrating the supreme irony of primary care clinical practice today–the patient’s hunger for the clinician’s time, really attention.

We all want that connection to those we want to trust–the clinicians who care for us. Smith and Brogan point to our friends in the trust economy as there to help us value the network of relationships–taking the healthcare focus–sources of information and advice on clinician selection, perhaps even course of treatment. We healthcare providers must find the friends, even the lovers of our service and “equip them to evangelize” creating a volunteer army in support of our healthcare service or provider.

At first these concepts sound like hype in the conservative world of hospital medicine and physician practice, yet this past week’s email from HealthLeaders touting The Complete Guide to Hospital Marketing and offered a sample chapter which discussed relationships with the medical staff and “. . . managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization.” Not a word of the network of relationships with consumer-patients. The wave of baby boomers won’t be satisfied with that; I sure won’t be satisfied with that. Will you?