What Jay-Z can teach doctors about marketing their practice

What Jay Z can teach doctors about marketing their practice

Do you know who Jay-Z is?

If not, chances are your kids do. Jay-Z is one of the most successful rap artists of all time, and has parlayed that success into a career in fashion, merchandising, his own line of vodka, as well as an ownership stake in the NBA’s New Jersey Nets franchise that he recently sold to begin a new career as a sports agent. More than anything, Jay-Z has found a way to brand himself as someone who brings glamour, street credibility, and cool to any project he is involved with. His success, beyond the normal hard work and talent, is ultimately in marketing himself.

Where do doctors come in?

The healthcare industry is focused on marketing more than ever. Declining reimbursement, increasing regulation, and the long-term shift from volume to value have turned the heat up on physicians, practices, hospitals and systems to change the way they  do healthcare business to cut costs, improve outcomes for patients and deliver more value. Cost matters now more than ever for all the stakeholders in healthcare, and with more competition comes the need for ways to separate yourself in the market, and engage with potential and current patients.

This summer Jay-Z put out a new album and he did it in a very unique way

To promote his album, Jay-Z ran a commercial during Game 5 of the 2013 NBA finals announcing that he had recorded a new album, and that it would be available to download, free of charge for the first million people to download it from a mobile app made especially for the release. The catch? The album would only be free to people who had a Samsung mobile device — a mobile phone or tablet. Jay-Z signed an exclusive deal with Samsung to promote the album (modestly titled Magna Carta Holy Grail), Samsung products and the free mobile app to get the album before it was available via retail. Because of the hype (and the price, of course) the million downloads happened almost as soon as the album was made available on July 4th.

  • Samsung purchased the albums from Jay-Z, so RIAA certified the album platinum immediately.
  • Samsung was able to associate themselves with one of the biggest music releases of the year, and guarantee that only their current (and future) customers were first to hear it.
  • More than that, using the permissions of the mobile app, both Jay-Z and Samsung were able to get tons of valuable market research about the internet and mobile habits of the downloaders.
  • The fans (at least the first million of them with a Samsung) got a brand new album from Jay-Z for free.

This is a basic form of content marketing, but it was groundbreaking for an artist as big as Jay-Z and a company as big as Samsung.

What can doctors learn?

Market research is critical. Jay-Z made a few million selling the digital copies of his album to Samsung, but the information he gained from the app downloads was priceless for future collaborations. 

The more you know about your patient base and where they come from, the better. For niche specialists, your market might be global so you’ll need to know more about them to reach them. Market research can take many forms, from hard data from census and surveys to anecdotal methods as simple as asking one of your patients “What could we be doing better?” In a future where providers are reimbursed based on value, leveraging the data in your EMR to understand your patient population as a whole will be critical to many of your most important business operations.

You gain by giving things away for free. By buying and giving away a million Jay-Z albums, Samsung became aligned with a major force in global culture and music  - and probably sold a few phones too.

What about all of the questions you hear over and over again on the phone and in office visits? Seasonal stuff about allergies, sunburns, the flu and physicals for sports. What if you gave this info away to anyone who wanted it on your practice website? With the changes coming in the ACA, what if your practice manager wrote a post or white paper about how your patients can prepare for what will and won’t change? If your practice offers a special service that is hard to find locally for many people, what if you prepared an ebook about how your particular therapy benefits patients, or how they can change other lifestyle habits to complement their current therapy? All of these things are ways to reach a wide variety of people, gain credibility, and give away high-quality free information that can be converted to marketing leads for your practice.

Separate yourself. Jay-Z probably couldn’t have released his first album in this manner. Jay-Z has been successfully building his brand for almost twenty years now though. The name Jay-Z has come to mean quality.

To compete and thrive, healthcare providers must be able to offer a level of service and execute that service in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd. If someone moves to town and Googles the name of family practice doctors in your area, do you know whose practice comes up in the results, and how you can capitalize on that? If people ask their neighbors who is the best cardiologist in town, would they say your name? If you treat a more specialized population, where do they gather to compare caregivers, and what do they say about you? To brand yourself today as a quality care provider, you have to actively highlight and grow your footprint and reputation for outstanding value and patient satisfaction.

Physicians and other healthcare providers may never listen to Jay-Z, or any rap. But chances are, Jay-Z’s marketing example could lead the way.

Mary Pat Whaley is a physician advocate and consultant who blogs at Manage My Practice.

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  • FEDUP MD

    First of all, thanks for the condescension. I know very well who Jay-Z is. Not all MDs are old clueless white guys. That said, I was not planning on modelling myself in any way on an admitted crack dealer who has stabbed two people, including his own brother. I’ll just stay me, thanks.

    • John G.

      Also, if you go around calling of all your patients “niggas”, “faggots”, “bitches” and “ho’s” — Jay-Z style — you might alienate one or two of them. #ProTip

      • EE Smith

        “Whoopsy! There go those Press-Ganey scores!”

  • John G.

    Yeah, I really want my doctor to datamine all of my information for profit. I’m totes cool with that. NOT.

    “[Michael] Render on Tuesday Tweeted a photo of his screen as he tried to download the app, which promises to give the first 1 million downloaders of the app a free copy of Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ on July 4th, three days ahead of the album’s release. Render’s screen shows that the app, developed by Samsung as a joint promotion, wanted Render’s permission to ‘modify or delete contents of your USB storage,’ ‘prevent phone from sleeping’ in order to retrieve running apps, access ‘approximate network location’ as well as ‘precise GPS location,’ full network communication access and ‘read phone status and identity,’ among other things.”

    The New York Times‘ Jon Pareles asked the question on many fans’ minds: “Does Jay-Z really need to log my calls?” Gawker wondered, “Why does Jay-Z need your GPS location?”
    Similarly, “Why does my doctor really need to log my calls, and have access to my phone’s flash drive? Why does she need access to my Facebook account? Why should I give my doctor (and whoever she sells my data to) access to track me via GPS?”

    Nope, nope, nope. Hey, know who’s really doing well in medicine these days? The concierge docs who will treat you “under the radar” for cash money, promising NOT to make all your information available for datamining, promising NOT to hand your private medical files over to the government, even letting you do lab tests under a fake name.

    With the coming of Obamacare, and given the revelations about the way the Obama administration has ALREADY been violating Americans’ privacy and using so-called “private” data to abuse and harass those who they see as “enemies of The One”, you might face a little more resistance in this “marketing” scam of yours than you think.

  • http://onhealthtech.blogspot.com Margalit Gur-Arie

    Just a minor correction: If you know rap, the name Jay-Z does not mean quality. It means marketing. The name Tupac means quality.
    Other than that, good advice because, just like rap music, health care is also being transformed by clueless thugs into an empty marketing shell.

    • Mengles

      Fully expected from a “physician advocate” or “consultant”.

  • Mengles

    Another clueless drone who knows nothing about healthcare as she’s not actually in it but with a tawdry piece like this is somehow a “physician advocate”.

  • NewMexicoRam

    It’s all been downhill since doctors started accepting direct payment from insurance companies.

    Until we get back to a direct patient-doctor payment system, it will continue to go downhill and doctors will be led by the nose.

  • azmd

    I went to medical school so I could be a doctor. If I had wanted to be a marketer, I would have gone to…business school, I guess. My experience as a patient leads me to believe that the doctors who are the most engaged in marketing their practices, are generally not that good at the doctoring part of their work. Although some of them have gotten quite adept at producing a facile simulation of real medical care.