Last week we covered the first half of “7 Steps to Achieving Record Growth For Your Healthcare Simulation Program“, following our series of articles which cover the “business side” of selling the tool of simulation to higher levels of administration. Other topics from this series included the “Language of Sales – How to Increase Your Simulation Budget” and “3 Key Resources to Expand Your simulation Program“.
Today we finish up with the second half of steps necessary to be affective in starting or expanding your simulation program, with examples from my time as Director of the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas. In two years we were able to secure a quarter of a millions dollars in external business contracts providing simulation services to local, regional, and international groups. Miss the first part of this article, click here to start at the beginning which covers gaining support, building a program, and seizing opportunities.
4. Market Your Program
Once you have built a program plan that has potential to secure internal or external clients, your team will need to establish a marketing plan. First and foremost your department should Build a Medical Simulation Program Website, rich with multimedia. If available, work with your institution’s media department to help build and craft multimedia materials such as flyers, websites and pages, pictures, videos, and social media outlets. Learn more here about “How to Add Multimedia to Your Simulation Program“.
Designing effective marketing materials is a skill set that you or your team members may not naturally have at your disposal. There are countless resource materials for learning these skill sets such as 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, but suffice to say your messaging should be clear, coherent, simple, and professional. With print material, use a maximum of three different fonts, and three different colors. Provide critical course, event, or program details relevant to capturing interest and providing key details such as dates, times, links, abstracts, and learning opportunities. Simplify “learning objectives” to 9 words or less, and use both paragraph and bullet point text formats for key content. (Psychological studies have shown that some people will only read paragraphs in advertisements, while others will only read bullet points). Images help to tell a story as “pictures are worth a thousand words”. If that is true then video is worth a million — but only if it is done professionally without shakey cameras, bad audio, or confusing editing!
Test your marketing messages by showing it to colleagues for feedback, but remember that your customer will be your greatest asset when it comes to learning from your created materials. Check out an example of simulation training courses in this recent CSCLV flyer. Can you spot some areas for improvement? What catches your eye? What areas distract you? Be sure to include call to actions that demonstrate the limited availability of your program, cost saving registration deadlines, other incentives like discounts for groups or longer campaigns as well as next steps like online registration or email contact.
Don’t forget about Social Media in relevant professional domains like twitter, youtube, and LinkedIn. Social Media Overload: Simple Social Media Strategies For Overwhelmed and Time Deprived Businesses is a good primer on how to effectively utilize social media for your marketing campaigns.
Finally — attend regional or national conferences and share your marketing materials on available pin boards or tables for external users, or on department cafeteria signs, newsletters, or other group sharing events for internal users.
5. Provide Quality
Remember that internal and external users of your simulation program are in essence your “customers”. We all know what happens when we have a bad experience at a store, restaurant, or movie — we don’t return and we let others know about it. Providing a high quality event, course, or learning opportunity is a crucial part of building a simulation program. The more realistic your environments, the more tested your simulation scenarios, the better the food you serve, the easier the directions to your facility, the more people will enjoy your program and the happier they will be with the experience.
This kind of experience is crucial for step 6, but before we get there, consider the experience you are providing by “trying it on” and imaging yourself with no prior knowledge about the activity. Or better yet, act as a customer and trial run all the various systems in place for your program. What areas do you find lacking in service, quality, or professionalism? Every detail matters when it comes to satisfying the learners, groups, and individuals that come through your program. You or your leadership should sit in on some or all of the first programs to see how things are working and gain first hand experience on what needs to be improved.
6. Gather Feedback & Testimonials
This is one of the most important steps to building a long-term successful simulation program. By gathering direct honest feedback from your participants you will be better able to learn what went right, but more importantly, what went wrong. Try not to lead the witness but ask open ended questions on top of “scale of 1-5” questions that cover the most crucial aspects of the program. By quickly sharing this feedback with your team you can incorporate new solutions to address key problems.
While working in Hollywood I learned that during test screenings of new films, producers cared most about the question “Would you recommend this movie to your friends?”. This is a crucial question that ultimately demonstrates the value of your program because individuals will only encourage others to also participate if they feel it will add social value to their relationship status because of the benefits it will bring their colleagues. In other words, is your simulation program “share worthy”? Be ready to capture some of the feedback you receive to utilize as testimonials for future participants and program marketing. Obviously you will need to secure permission to share feedback as testimonials, so talk to your legal team to see what kind of waiver will suffice. Use these testimonials in your future marketing material design, as future users weigh such reviews more heavily than other types of messaging, simply because it reduces the risk of “going first”.
7. Learn, Improve and Grow
With honest feedback you can tweak your smaller programs for better efficiency and outcomes, preparing you for larger growth opportunities in the future. Those making investments into your program, whether its external users or the CEO of your hospital, will be moved farther faster with proven results with budgets already allocated. Becoming a cost-reduction program through improved learning and patient care outcomes enables you to increase budgets for future innovative practices. Dr. John “Voz” Vozenilek shared at SimGHOSTS 2016 USA during the EMS SimulationIQ sponsored keynote address how the Jump Trading Simulation Center is doing this very thing.
Other areas that will help your program grow are “Kaizen” Events To Increase Efficiency & Outcomes, the ability to negotiate with others to ensure maximum return on investment, and always being open to new opportunities. However, remember that after you have built a successful program, some smaller activities may no longer provide enough return on investment for your program’s growth to warrant the time and energy necessary to do such work. For example at the CSCLV, some UNLV students wanted to utilize the simulation center to film their senior project. We allowed them to use the space only to find out later they had damaged some equipment. Without insurance, we had to eat the cost of repairing that equipment with no value added to our center’s portfolio.