On one hand, CME is booming. According to the the Accreditation Council for CME’s 2012 Annual Report, overall participation in continuing medical education activities has grown 35 percent since 2007, and the number of CME activities is up 13 percent since 2010.

Commercial support has slid significantly, yet income from other sources like registration fees is up 20 percent since 2010. So we have many more clinicians participating in many more CME activities—and more clinicians potentially are paying more for them.

On the other hand, many medical education folks say they’re struggling more than ever to generate an audience. Why the disconnect?

One reason is that the evolution of technology and other trends that impact CME have far outpaced the level of marketing and technology expertise of many CME providers. When marketers don’t keep up with these trends, it’s tough to drive participation for CME activities. For many CME providers, marketing is an afterthought. But the savvy ones know marketing is more critical than ever to success in a cluttered, technology-driven market.

One example of a CME provider that used strategic planning and marketing is the Massachusetts General Hospital Academy. I’ve worked closely with the MGH Academy team since 2007, when I was marketing director for a medical education company and the academy was my client. Since 2011 I have served as an external marketing consultant for MGH Academy.

They face the same staff and revenue resource challenges as other small and mid-sized CME providers. When confronted with a changing CME marketplace over the past few years, however, the MGH Academy tried a strategic approach to navigating those challenges.