Mission statement is key to a good marketing plan

Goals should be tied to statement

You’ve decided to get serious about developing a market-based marketing plan. You’ve decided to adopt a strategic approach and are committed to collecting as much data as it takes to get a clear picture of your organization, your market, and your competitors.

But are you ready to make the changes that affect the very essence of your hospice? Are you prepared to put your mission statement under the microscope and at least examine the words that may have been around since your hospice was born?

If the answer is "no," then you’re not as serious about your marketing plan as you thought you were. Times change and priorities change. The direction your hospice is going today may look nothing like what the authors of your current mission statement had in mind. If that is the case, why are you taking your hospice in a direction that contradicts your mission?

"I think hospices need to review their mission statement at least every other year," says Lisa Spoden, president of Strategic Healthcare, a hospice consulting and marketing firm in Columbus, OH.

A common misconception is that mission and marketing are unrelated. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Just as the mission statement drives the way hospice workers relate to and care for patients, the mission also sets the tone for marketing. It can also be said that a marketing plan is an expression of the organization’s mission.

"Hospices should look at their marketing plan as a living, breathing extension of their mission," says Dee Vandeventer, president of Mathis Earnest & Vandeventer, a marketing and fundraising firm in Cedar Falls, IA. Those that look at their marketing plan as an annual chore are less likely to actually update it, and consequently less likely to believe in and practice their mission and business plan.

"One of the first things that should be examined in the plan is the current mission statement," says Vandeventer. "Evaluate whether top management’s direction for the organization is consistent with the current mission statement. If it isn’t, one of the first strategies and action items should be to revise the mission statement. The marketing plan must be consistent with the mission statement, because the plan should flow from those core values."

Times have changed for hospices. They have gone from mostly small volunteer organizations to a sector of the health care market that now reaps more than $3 billion in Medicare reimbursement. In the two decades since hospices began getting paid for their services, HMOs have become dominant players in private insurance, and end-of-life care has begun to emerge from the shadows.

If your hospice mission hasn’t changed recently, there is a pretty good chance it is too narrow for today’s marketplace. That is not to say that the marketing plan should drive the mission, but if you look at how a hospice conducts business, it likely that the authors of the original mission statement had these things in mind.

To use an example outside of health care, banks no longer define their mission as "banking." Rather, a bank’s mission likely is based on the provision of "financial services," a much broader term that fits the wide variety of services banks have come to offer to compete not only with other banks, but with other financial institutions.

The same can be said about hospices. The term "palliative care" has become a buzzword in the health care industry — so much so that other providers, such as hospitals, have seized on it as an opportunity. To re-establish hospice’s claim to palliative care, hospices and hospice trade organizations have included the term in their name and missions, reflecting the broadening scope of their organizations.

In the book Health Care Marketing Plans: From Strategy to Action (Aspen Publishers), authors Steven G. Hillestad and Eric N. Berkowitz emphasize the need to start the process of developing a marketing plan by defining the organization’s mission. Their theory requires hospices to think outside the traditional definition of hospices.

Consider the mission statements of two hospices: Hospice A defines its mission as providing care for dying patients and their families in their homes. On the other hand, Hospice B uses a broader statement that says the organization provides end-of-life care and palliative care services. If both hospices determined that they would provide services to Alzheimer’s patients living in nursing homes, only Hospice B would be acting in accordance with its mission, while hospice A is limited by its mission to providing in-home hospice care.

Hillestad and Berkowitz advise health care institutions to ask the following questions to reach a consensus mission statement:

  • What are the history and heritage of the organization?
  • What are the historical relationships of the organization?
  • What prior relationships, formal and informal, have been arranged, developed, and nurtured that have an impact on the organization?
  • What is the corporate value structure of management, the board of trustees, and constituencies of the organization? (Is the corporation affiliated with a religious organization, for example?)
  • What is the value structure of the people that the organization serves?
  • What is the probable future of the external environment? (Demographic changes in the neighborhoods served is one example.)
  • Will corporate resources support the mission?

Specify goals

Hospices can use a newly revised statement as a launching pad for goal setting. Goal-setting should be centered on profitability or growth. For example, a nonprofit hospice may want to focus its goals on growing the organization in new ways such as increasing admissions among nursing home residents. Whatever goals the hospice chooses, the number of goals connected with the mission statement should be limited. This is not the place for detailed plan objectives. The goal statement should be a broad expression of the organization’s intended direction.

It is important to note that the creation of a new mission statement and accompanying goals is not an administration-only task. The development of these two critical items must involve the entire organization. Key personnel, including finance, nursing, medical directors, chaplains, and social workers, just to name a few, should all have a place at the table when creating a hospice’s mission and goals.

Some examples of the goal statements a hospice might use include:

  • Establish itself as the largest hospice in the tri-county area.
  • Increase patient diversity by reaching out to minority groups to educate them about hospice care.
  • Provide end-of-life care to all types of terminally ill patients regardless of residence.
  • Expand services to include care of dying children.

The new mission statement and broad goals give a hospice a focused perspective in which it can review market data that it will soon begin collecting. The mission and goals draw the boundaries within which the marketing plan will be governed. The two statements will help marketing planners prioritize opportunities and even exclude some avenues because they do not fit in with the current mission and goals.

To help ensure health care organizations get their marketing plans off to a good start, Hillestad and Berkowitz offer the following questions as a checklist to ensure mission statements and goals are reviewed, revised, or created properly:

  • Does the mission of your organization reflect a broad enough orientation and provide flexibility to make changes as required?
  • Did all important constituencies have an opportunity to provide input or comment on the mission?
  • Did your organization work through possible alternative operating scenarios to see how the mission might be applied? In other words, did the mission provide guidance as to what types of scenarios are acceptable and not acceptable?
  • Does the mission provide a set of goals that are specific enough to give guidance to the organization, yet broad enough to provide flexibility?