In today’s cost-conscious environment, organizations of all sizes can maximize their marketing budgets by investing in meaningful relationships with industry associations that provide value to the healthcare community and help both parties achieve their missions.

As healthcare facilities and physicians strive to lower costs while enhancing the quality of patient care, programs and partnerships that help them achieve this goal are critical. For healthcare companies looking for ways to support their customers, partnering with industry associations, such as professional organizations or medical societies, to create innovative programs that promote improved patient care is an effective way to fulfill companies’ needs and increase brand awareness at the same time. Before choosing an industry association partner, it is important to first understand your organization’s needs and what audience you want to reach. Among your goals should be finding an association that is interested in a true partnership; one where the needs of both organizations are considered. You shouldn’t just be signing a check, but seeking to develop programs that are market differentiators. To do this, you need to identify your objectives such as spreading your patient care and safety message, tying your name to education or reaching industry leaders. Ultimately, you want to demonstrate a clear return for your investment in terms of recognition and relationship building.

Once you determine the kind of partner you’re looking for you should begin researching associations with a membership that fits your desired target audience and has a need you can fulfill. For example, Toshiba partners with a variety of associations and the partnerships are as diverse as the organizations themselves. Two examples are AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management, which provides a platform to promote best practices in patient safety, and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), which offers an avenue to familiarize healthcare executives from around the country with the brand.

An important component of your research effort to establish an association program must include consideration of the competition’s initiatives. Association partnerships are important for most businesses. While your competition may be supporting well-established programs, there may be unmet needs that a new program would better fulfill.

When you work with new association partners, make sure you understand their needs and mission, and then see where your mission and capabilities overlap. At Toshiba, the Putting Patients First grant program, created in partnership with AHRA, was developed because both organizations believed in the importance of education around patient safety, while also recognizing that healthcare facility budgets are tight and there is a need for funds to help the organizations develop best practices. Now entering its fifth year, the program provides six grants of up to $7,500 each to hospitals and imaging centers and an additional grant of up to $20,000 to an Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) to fund programs, training or seminars aimed at improving patient care and safety in CT, MR, ultrasound, X-ray and vascular diagnostic imaging. Each year, three grants are awarded for projects that improve pediatric imaging safety and three are awarded for projects that improve overall patient imaging safety. When the winning facilities have completed their projects, they then develop and share their best practices with others in the industry. Similarly, the ACHE program focuses on education, providing mid-level executives with leadership tools to help overcome the financial challenges facing hospitals today and manage for the future. This is an example of how companies can build relationships that will grow into future partnerships as executives grow within their organizations.

It’s smart marketing in today’s cost-conscious environment to maximize the impact of each and every activity, reusing materials in as many ways possible. For example, you can create video testimonials each year about your program partnerships and place them on your website, on YouTube, and in your tradeshow booth. You can also promote the programs through press releases and case studies. By maximizing the impact of one event, you can gain greater visibility within the association. Letting your partner see your organization is actively engaged in the relationship helps it to strengthen and grow.

A successful partnership with an industry association requires continuous evaluation of the program to make sure you are meeting your and your partner’s goals. Before launching a program, make sure to have metrics in place to track success and engage your partner to help with tracking. How do you measure the program’s success? Analyze how many grant submissions are received and whether or not you have met your objectives. If you do thorough research up-front and build a program that will serve the organization and its constituents well over time, it is not likely that you will need to change the program each year. That said, as your industry evolves, you may consider expanding your program to meet new needs that arise. For example, the Putting Patients First program did not always include a grant specifically for pediatric patient safety, but as pediatric imaging became a larger concern for the healthcare community, Toshiba recognized the need to expand the program accordingly.

It is one thing for an organization to say they support a specific cause or initiative, but successful organizations take action to prove their commitment. By doing your research, partnering with the right industry association, and developing a program that fulfills an unmet need in your industry, you can provide stakeholders with evidence that you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk.

  • Catherine Wolfe

    Catherine Wolfe is Senior Director, Corporate and Strategic Communications, at Toshiba America Medical Systems, with responsibilities that include customer satisfaction and market research as well as corporate and marketing communications. She has written numerous articles and presented at a variety of conferences on customer satisfaction and marketing topics.

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