Exploring healthcare partnerships? Take 3 steps to solidify your marketing and brand operations

Exploring healthcare partnerships? Take 3 steps to solidify your marketing and brand operations


Philip Guiliano

Healthcare organizations continue to pursue creative and innovative solutions to respond to the industry pressures they face. Many are entering or are planning to enter M&A deals to enlarge their geographic footprint and add credibility and name recognition of their service offerings.

Several organizations are also entering into healthcare partnerships as a more cost-effective way to accomplish similar objectives. According to McKinsey, these “joint ventures and alliances […] may offer a promising avenue to access new capabilities, increase speed to market, and achieve capital, scale, and operational efficiencies.”

This flurry of market activity begs the question: Is your marketing and brand team ready to respond to the challenges and opportunities partnerships offer?

Of course, partnerships that extend your technological capabilities or maximize other elements of your backend infrastructure may not impact your brand. But audience-facing relationships come with significant implications for your brand and marketing operations.

Navigating these operational challenges is trickier than many marketing leaders initially realize. To that end, BrandActive’s industry expert Philip Giuliano lays out the three critical steps to take in order to achieve success.

1. Establish a clear marketing and brand operational structure as your partnership begins

Unlike an acquisition — in which one brand identity takes precedence over other sub-brands — partnerships require shared governance. And though each member of the joint venture might have its own reasons for entering into the agreement, there will also be a number of objectives that they share.

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Achieving the market impact you desire in a way that works for both (or all) entities requires careful thought and consideration. From a marketing perspective, it’s not enough to simply place two logos on co-branded materials and otherwise continue to operate independently. Instead, you’ll need to establish a clear set of operational guidelines for everyone to follow.

That’s why marketing leaders from both entities should make it an early priority to evaluate the scope of the partnership. Together, think through:

  • Roles and responsibilities. Who is responsible for what? How should counterparts at each entity work together? Who is ultimately accountable for reviews and approvals?
  • Brand and co-brand guidelines. What are the do’s and don’ts for using each brand? Are you creating a shared visual identity for your partnership? What colors, sizes, and shapes are essential to each brand’s visual identity? How will the brands appear when used together? Where will the brands/co-brands be represented?
  • Decision making. How should teams handle decision-making when disagreements arise? What decision trees or matrixes should they follow to chart the right course of action?
  • Measuring success. What benchmarks will you use to measure progress toward goals? What are your KPIs that indicate success? Who is responsible for tracking and reporting on these metrics?
  • Processes and procedures. Are your processes clearly documented? Are they repeatable? Does everyone know where to look for guidance on the best way to approach a given task or objective?
  • Meeting and reporting cadences. How often should your teams meet? Who will run these meetings? What is the appropriate reporting structure to keep all interested parties apprised of progress?

These discussions are especially challenging to navigate when there isn’t a clear “majority partner.” Engaging a third-party advisor like BrandActive can bring objectivity into the process and be an effective way to reach consensus alignment.

2. Devise your strategy for converting branded assets

Your approach to converting your branded assets will vary depending on the type of partnership structure you decide upon. If each entity is retaining its own brand identity, you may choose to co-brand only the assets that pertain to shared service lines or locations. But if you’re merging two brands into one unique identity — even if only in certain circumstances or locations — you’ll need to undergo a more thorough rebrand implementation process.

Either way, it’s crucial for marketing leaders from both entities to think through complexities like:

  • How to visually communicate your partnership. Are you simply displaying your two separate logos together? Creating some kind of shared messaging? Will it depend on the type of asset or the particular use case? 
  • Use cases for your co-branded visual identity. When and where will a co-branded visual identity be used? Are there certain assets that will never be transitioned?
  • Timeline for rolling out updated assets. What types of collateral should be updated immediately? What can be changed over time? Do you have the internal and external resources in place to achieve your desired implementation timeframe?
  • Vendor and agency partnerships. Will each entity continue to work with its own preferred vendors and agencies to produce assets? Would it be better to choose one vendor or agency to produce all co-branded assets? What training do you need to offer to ensure a consistent, high-quality result?
Even if you put a rock-solid operational plan in place to convert your branded assets, you’re still dependent on one crucial element to achieve a success: your people.

This is another strength that a brand implementation partner brings to the table. BrandActive knows the questions to ask and the considerations to factor in so your branded assets communicate a consistent and accurate message about your joint venture.

3. Train team members on the ins and outs of your healthcare partnership

One of the more challenging aspects of entering into healthcare partnerships is that each entity operates in its own way. And even if you put a rock-solid operational plan in place and think through the “whens” and “hows” of converting your branded assets, you’re still dependent on one crucial element to achieve a successful result: your people.

Most employees want to help move your organization forward and reach your business goals. But without context, they may not understand how crucial a collaborative approach to partnership is to your long-term success. Instead, they may feel bogged down by the additional work that implementing a partnership demands.

You can help your team members become ambassadors for your affiliation by providing them with:

  • The strategic reasons for the partnership and the benefits it will bring to each party
  • Expectations around the roles and responsibilities you defined when creating your operational structure
  • Processes for how, when, and where to use your shared visual identity
  • Guidance on who to contact when they need help with an issue, whether that’s a specific person or a “help desk” email address
  • Clear guidelines for how to manage costs that arise as a result of the partnership (who pays for what; how and where to charge expenses)

Put simply, if you want to create a true strategic partnership, your teams need to work together. Giving them the training they need is a critical first step in enabling them to do so.

Maximize the brand value of your healthcare organization’s strategic partnerships

Strategic partnerships are a powerful way for healthcare organizations to remain competitive in the face of serious industry pressures. And as a marketing leader, you’re undoubtedly excited to tap into the opportunities these affiliations provide to elevate your brand and reach an expanded audience.

But to do that, it’s crucial that you dig into the details of your marketing and brand operations to ensure you have a strong foundation to build upon. And with so many competing priorities vying for your attention, it can be difficult to carve out the time this process demands.

BrandActive can help you and your partner organization create a shared operational structure and develop a customized roadmap for everyone to follow. In fact, we delight in putting clients on the path to success. So when you see a strategic affiliation on the horizon at your organization, let’s talk.