Navigating the Maze of Selling to The Hospital C-Suite
Whether your funding round affords you a $100,000 or a $10M budget to allocate to marketing efforts, that budget comes with strings attached: you’re tasked with showing clear ROI even though you’re often selling through unbelievably long sales cycles to some of the most complex B2B audiences.
Join Shannon Hooper, Tiffany Pack, and Paul Ratzky as they dive into four of the top pitfalls for health technology and services companies:
- Audience over-simplification
- Misplaced priorities
- Category creation
Shannon Hooper: Hi everyone. Good afternoon and welcome to today's webinar. We want to do some quick intros at the beginning and then we'll get pretty quickly into the content here. So I'm Shannon Hooper, I'm the chief growth officer for ReviveHealth.
I've spent my career in the health technology space and really specialized in selling into complex B2B decision makers in healthcare. In my current role, I do everything from leading corporate strategy and all of our marketing and business development efforts — I also serve as a subject matter expert for a number of our health technology clients and lead a lot of our relationships in the private equity and venture capital space — so we're excited to get going here.
Tiffany Pack: Great. And this is Tiffany Pack, I am the vice president on the strategy team here at ReviveHealth. I have spent the last 15 years or so in fast growth health tech companies, mainly working on marketing and engagement, and I've also done work inside of provider systems on branding. At this time, as I said earlier, I serve as a strategist here at Revive and also as a subject matter expert for health tech and services clients.
Paul Ratzky: Great. And I'm Paul Ratzky, I'm an SVP here at Revive and I oversee the client teams and the overall brand engagement solutions that we bring to the table and put together for our various engagements based on the varied types of discipline expertise that we assemble. I'm in my third decade of working in integrated brand agencies, and I've done that across a number of industries from healthcare and finance to retail and travel. In the last five years or so have been focusing on trying to bring a lot of that expertise and best practices into the unique challenges and complexities of the healthcare space.
Shannon: Fantastic. With that, we are going to dive right in. For those of you who don't know us, Revive is a full-service marketing and communications agency and we're really all about helping healthcare brands thrive. We have worked over the years with more than a hundred health tech and services companies and also nearly a third of the hospitals and health systems in the US. Because of that, we've observed a lot of trends and a lot of pitfalls and a lot of opportunities in health tech marketing efforts. That's really what brings us here today for this discussion.
In the next hour, we're going to cover a lot of ground. We're going to talk through some of our industry's most common pitfalls. Of course, we're going to share some recommendations and stories along the way about how to overcome those and move your business forward. We're going to talk about some best practices in the fields of marketing and thought leadership and really look at those. Whether you're a very early stage company or nearing IPO or publicly traded, there's a lot of commonality in this industry, which is good news for us. Then we're going to also share some learnings along the way from our original research that we do into B2B decision makers to really help uncover the best ways to target these audiences.
What's interesting to know is probably we're all here because we love this industry, we love the health tech space, there's tremendous opportunity, we know that we're making a difference. But at the same time, sometimes we talk about how maybe that makes us a bit of masochist because we have to show a very clear ROI in the space. We often have pretty focused budgets and yet here we are selling into some of the most complex B2B audiences out there.
It's fun, it's a challenge and hopefully through this conversation we can shed some light that will make you more effective in your organization. Ultimately, in many ways it is all about focus and not just focusing on the right message, although that's certainly a piece of it. In fact, we're going to talk a little bit about that along the way with the differences between audiences and how to tell that story, but also focusing on the right channel, the right activity, the right strategic imperative based on what you're looking to accomplish.
We’ll try and give some clues as well on how to identify where you should be focusing your efforts at any given moment in time. How do we do that? Let's talk about how to overcome some of these most common challenges and the first pitfall that we want to dig into is this idea of navel-gazing.
We’re in this business because yes, we're very excited about what our organizations can do to improve healthcare. A lot of us are very mission driven, very passionate. Certainly, the founders of our companies are very passionate about what we can accomplish. But I imagine there's a number of folks on the line who can identify with this, there's a risk of that turning a little bit self-indulgent at times or we have a little bit of excessive contemplation of our brand and sometimes that can lead us to lose connection with the realities of the market. I would say for this pitfall, it's certainly very common in early stage companies and those that are seed funded series A and B. But to be honest, we see this throughout even in some of the largest companies in this space. With that, I'm going to turn it to Tiffany to talk a little bit about what we're seeing in our work with clients, especially around this area of how to avoid navel-gazing and some of the best practices that have emerged there.
Tiffany: First of all, I would say in my own experience with early stage companies it is pretty easy to become very entrenched in the work that we're doing and championing. Sometimes we get so entrenched in that that we can't take off the lens of the glasses - the lens that we're using to work every day - in order to see what this looks like from a client's perspective or a user's perspective and how are they experiencing our brand.
I would say that one of the things that we do here at Revive to help overcome this is leveraging a strategic framework where one of the aspects that we focus on is really digging in and understanding our target audience. We frame that as “what do we understand about our target audience that enables us to break through and to deeply understand that audience, their pain points? How we can address them? Then most importantly, how do we then connect that to the messaging that we're putting out there that drives that home to the client or to the user that we're trying to reach?”
Paul: Yeah, I would say one of the filters that we actually like to apply to that and a lot of the research we've done with these buyers and one of the things that comes through loud and clear is a really healthy dose of skepticism, wariness, and starting with that filter really helps us to craft the message. But what's also happened is there's been sort of a reaction to that and in some ways almost an overreaction.
Knowing that these buyers have heard it all and that they've been burned, the desire to speak much more towards the industry focus and the problems you're solving has almost gone to the point where people are making grandiose claims and basically saying they're solving all the major problems of healthcare. That's caused its own form of skepticism and its own form of disbelief in terms of promises. Really, there’s an in-between place that we really try to get to that does zero in on those pain points that Tiffany mentioned and ultimately talks about how you address those which then becomes core to your story of why you exist as an organization.
The creation story around your company and your product becomes really, really critical there because it almost becomes your mission to solve this problem that your audience is facing. Oftentimes we have found that the founder's story in the company can be really, really critical both in terms of sort of how they came to this conclusion, but also where they came from.
We have one client who's really trying to sell hard in a pretty disruptive way into the health systems, but one of their leads has spent over 10 years in one of the leading health systems. And there's a big validation and credibility there that comes from that or another client where they are challenging one of the most predominant platforms in their space yet one of their founders actually came from that platform. So it's sort of that understanding of we know what we're dealing with, we know the challenges you face, and that's why we're here and that's why we created this, and that's why a lot of times we left where we were to come do this.
So, that sense of mission is really critical. A couple of the really critical points here though: regardless of how that story plays out, the other thing we're seeing over and over is that those buyers constantly demand two critical things in terms of how they validate these stories and that's data and peers. What real hard data can you show, whether that's individual cases or whether that's aggregate over a number of engagements, is how your product or service is really delivering. And also, they trust no one more than people who look like themselves.
Obviously, salespeople have certain challenges, even industry experts and analysts do as well. They love to see people who look like themselves, who are in similar situation saying "I did this and this worked for me." So that peer validation and that data becomes really, really critical. For those early-stage companies, that means those early adopters who are willing to be your early customers and advocate for you become really, really critical, so you don't just feel like you're pounding your chest.
The one last thing I'll say here is as you're thinking about those messages that are much more resonant with your audience, it really takes a really strong marketing point of view to do that. I say that because in a lot of earlier stage companies, we have founders, we have product people, we have sales-oriented people who are driving a lot of that marketing.
Whether you actually have a seasoned marketer at the helm or internal teams, it really takes that different point of view around marketing, which is really predicated on empathy and understanding the position the person you're talking to is in and that you're addressing that. So really critical to this whole idea of getting away from naval-gazing is coming at it with that sense of empathy that we really try to emphasize in our marketing efforts.
Shannon: One other reason that it's so important to turn your attention outward and not just focus on solely on that story of exactly what you do is because health systems and health plans view themselves as extremely unique. And that's probably no surprise although we've done a good bit of research in this space. What we've found from the hospital C-suite is that their top four buying decision factors are clinical staff requests, so what they're hearing from their physicians or nurses, those other clinical teams, system-wide standards, so what they are actually expected to do and held to do, continuity with existing tech platforms, this is huge for those of you on the line who are having to sell in and explain how you're integrating with some of those big EHR is out there, you know how big of a deal this is. And then of course, previous experience with vendors.
In short, what we heard time and time again and have seen in our work with health tech is that the C-suite make their decisions on whether your offering works with their unique organization and pleases their unique people. Of course, if you approach a setting and you have your head too much in your product or exactly what you do, or a very far away vision of where healthcare is going, where the industry is shifting and you aren't customizing that to their very specific environment, you're not going to achieve the success that you're looking for. So it's really important to address that and some of those nuances and that perceived uniqueness in our marketing efforts. With that in mind, Paul, I want to get a little more of your insight there on how to actually do that.
Paul: It's interesting this notion of uniqueness because the healthcare audience, whether it's systems, payers, etcetera, definitely are unique compared to the marketing world in general. Their organizations have just all sorts of unique challenges, but when you work with as many as we have, you'll also start to see that they're not as unique as they would like to think across there. There's a real pattern recognition that happens when you understand these challenges that come. I think it allows you to build a lot of insight into your marketing going in and then to be able to sort of take it an extra 20 yards when you see the specifics of the organization you may be talking to.
But so much of this comes down to that notion of the different fiefdoms that are happening within the organization and understanding them, trying to keep the clinical side happy in those needs, the operational needs, the financial needs, and then sort of acknowledging and understanding that they may need to communicate separately with them and talk separately about the benefits of what we're talking about and helping arm them. Helping them understand those challenges that they have is really showing that you understand kind of where they're at and sort of that this isn't just a one size fits all type of things.
Sometimes again, the background of your leadership can help validate that we understand the unique situation that they're in. And really thinking about how we deliver that message based on different decision-making priorities, the same product that has the same overall benefit can have very different benefits based on these different titles and how we think about them and really understanding that and understanding how to talk individually to those. Something that a lot of times we have done is try to find an organization that our prospect views are very similar to theirs. Even though they may be unique, they understand other people who are in a similar context and situation as them. When we can find an existing customer, who looks very much like the prospect and say, "These people, this is what we've done," they can really find themselves very relatable to what they consider that unique situation that's also been very, very effective.
The last thing I'll mention is when we're thinking about viewing them as unique, one of the things that really negatively impacts them if they hear a message from you that they've heard from other people, and that they hear over and over again. The brutal reality in this space is if you really look at a lot of the messages that are happening in your general space of your competitors and your competitors, it's a little bit shocking.
We do this exercise quite a bit with clients and when you really just plaster a wall with the core messages that are happening in this space, it's always quite a depressing sort of exercise. People sort of shake their heads and they say "I kind of know we're all saying this." But that really matters a lot. And if you come in with a unique message, not only is that differentiating you, but it's showing them that you understand the unique place that they are and you're actually really tailoring that. So avoiding those clichés of the industry is really a critical part of this.
Tiffany: Yeah. And I would jump in as well and just say kind of building on what Paul has said and then thinking back to some of the commonalities that we talked about. One of the things that we've done here at Revive is to build on this large body of primary research where we're looking at key decision makers in the health systems, who their influencers are, what their pain points are, where they go for information about new services and vendors and all that sort of thing. There is a lot of commonality across that part of it.
The thing that you have to do beyond looking at those is to marry that information up with what's going on in the market. Where that system or provider organization is operating? What's going on with their patient population? What does their population data look like? And those are the things that make the system most unique. Marrying all of this, it gives us this ability to help our clients authentically reach their targets with language that really addresses that clients need and their sense of uniqueness.
Shannon: As we're thinking about how to actually reach those audiences, that leads us into what we see as our pitfall number two, this idea of audience oversimplification and in some ways maybe we've actually played on this a little bit in the very title of our webinar, right? About reaching the hospital C-suite.
There’s a tendency to think that all hospitals or health plan buyers are the same, but there's so much variation, which we've started touching on a little bit. There's variation based on size and region, you've got folks from a West Coast perspective or a Northeast perspective, health systems are much further on the path to value than those in the middle of the country. There's variation based on the type of organization and we try to help a lot of our clients really think about whether they're targeting regional health systems versus academic medical centers versus IDNs versus independent hospitals versus all the different types of health plans as well. Ultimately, let's say you have gotten everything sorted out from a more macro segmentation perspective, then you get into those titles and those functions.
Clinical leadership has very different priorities and pain points from IT leadership, so we see that a good bit. And the good news is there is a way to organize decision makers to respect that variation but also identify some of these areas of convergence. We've built out our hospital hybridization model and it's a methodology that we use to group certain decision makers into areas of commonality so that we can more effectively message to them.
We have a premise here that at the core of operations are two key tensions, so you'll see one of the tensions on the X-axis and it's between business or financial, it might be another way to think of that, and clinical priorities within the organization. On the Y-axis, this is where it gets a little bit more interesting. There are some types of rules that are really looking to optimize that core business, do what you are doing now as a hospital or a health plan and make it better, make it more efficient. And then there are those who are tasked with transformation, so looking far ahead, moving the business forward on a much longer time horizon.
When you start thinking about how to group decision makers on these quadrants, it actually becomes quite a bit simpler to think about ways to message to them effectively. And this is really important because also in our research we have found, a rather honestly, we have horrifying finding that when we interviewed all of these different C-suite decision makers, not a single one of them, and I mean not even the CEO claimed full decision making on any buying category. This is a serious decision by committee environment.
The reality is that everyone wants in on the buying decision, but no one is willing to say, "Yeah, I'm that person that carries the full weight of this." Everyone can say no. No one can say, yes. This is going to be very familiar to a number of folks on the line. You really do have to message to a wide set of influencers, you have to think about different subject matter experts that are consulted along the way to really set up your sales teams to be able to go and to close that business and ultimately that is what our job is. As we think about this, I'd love to hear from Paul and Tiffany as well on what is the best way to overcome this? How do we deal with this?
Paul: It's been amazing how much some of the insights of this type of research has given to us and getting beyond just the titles and what they mean, but the unique dynamic in the context of the organization as a whole. In some of the same ways that marketing moved away from just doing demographics and really thinking about psychographics, what's the mindset of people based on their experiences. I think we're sort of looking at that, and I think that hybridization model you just saw sorts to kind of get into the what's the real mindset based on the reality of the people there in the organization.
I think that's really, really, really interesting and the simplicity of averages I think is something that's very dangerous here. We all know the old axiom about how many people drown in a pool that's an average of five feet deep, right? So, we really have to think about what each organization's uniquely doing, where are they on the technology adoption continuum? Where are they on that innovation mindset? What unique things are happening within their geography, whether it's the market, the city as a whole or the competition in that market? What's their past history with purchasing in this category that you're talking about?
That has a huge impact for someone who's a first time maybe buyer of this particular type of platform or service versus someone who's, been through it, who may have had some past failures in that. We actually have a client that we are working with who specifically targets someone who has bought almost this exact product category within the last 12 to 24 months because they know that that's where their success comes from. It comes from someone who's gotten past that initial buying and understands the shortcomings and therefore better understands the benefits of what their particular offering has.
Understanding the uniqueness of those kinds of complexities is really, really, really critical. And even the individuals themselves, and really understanding when you're talking to someone we're certainly not above social stocking or whatever it may be, to really understand more about a person and what may be driving their motivation and how they feel about things. This starts to take on sort of an overall account-based marketing approach.
And for those of you familiar with it, it's a much more narrow-based way of thinking about who you're talking to and how you engage them and that requires more research setting. It requires more customization of how we're thinking about things. Whatever extent to which you're able to do that, it really is key to success in most B2B marketing. Those particular institutional contexts that we're talking about really become really, really critical here.
That also means about being really realistic about what part of the enterprise your solution touches. Everyone wants the entire C-suite to be clamoring around their solution, but oftentimes there's individuals, only certain ones who really are close to caring about this category. Sometimes they are outside of the C-suite and they're just a validator. Really knowing where you fit within that organization, being focused, not thinking about being everything to everyone or that same benefit that we talked about and where they are on this buying journey and how they think about those purchases and where they've been and where they're going.
Ultimately, they want to know that you fundamentally understand their business and where it's at and they've got opportunities and threats that they don't think people on the outside understand. And when you can show them that you do understand some of those hills that they have to climb, that people from the outside wouldn't think they do, that really opens their eyes and makes them think that maybe your solution is something that's going to be more impactful.
Tiffany: Just to glom on to some things that both Paul and Shannon alluded to, as we're thinking about this whole challenge of decision by committee, I can't stress enough that sure we have to focus on the C-suite, a lot of the times they might be the ultimate signer. But there are so many people who maybe don't have those titles who really influence their decisions and how they make those decisions. So if you don't have a good idea of who your influencers are already, you may want to leverage a network of healthcare leaders. That's what we will typically do if we're working with a client who doesn't know that already or you can leverage your own client bases, friends and family, people you know in the industry to try to tease some of that out, but can't stress enough how very important it is to really gauge the levels of influence that go beyond that C-suite by that specific buying decision type.
Shannon: All right, this is where we start to get a little bit spicy on our final two pitfalls and we're going to try and solve a little bit of controversy. This one is all about misplaced priorities, and I'll start with one of our most common examples that we get in talking with clients is, "Yes, we know you want to be on the front page of the New York Times." We hear this all the time, but the question is, is that really going to drive your business forward?
One of the things that we have found, and it's hard to blame any of us in this really, but it's sometimes easier to make some of those mental shortcuts where we say, "Okay, we know that we need to be known, we know that we need to have a compelling story, we know that we want to reach a broader audience" Then you can just very quickly jump to, okay, so how do we do that? What's the sign that we've accomplished that? Alright, above the fold or on the home page of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. But we have just got to resist these mental shortcuts because they are not going to get us where we need to get.
Ultimately, we are trying to do a few things in this industry. We're trying to grow our company. We're trying to sometimes increase valuation, attract the right investors, prepare for funding events… To do that, we've got to get a seat at the table from a health tech marketing perspective to actually define what does it take to move our company forward.
This means asking very different types of questions. We need to get in there and we need to fully understand revenue goals, and this is not just the revenue goal for the year, but it's actually digging into, alright, so how many deals is that? Which products are bringing in more revenue than others? What does our profit margin look like? Then it's going into our markets, and sure, we know we're selling into health plans, but are we looking at the nationals? Are we looking at the regionals from a health systems perspective? Is this AMCs? Can we get enough budget from the independents? And then even further in there, even if you've done all of that market prioritization, let's look at how many of them are early adopters? Are we the type of solution that requires those early adopters? Are there enough out there? What is our sales cycle there? What is the experience of the sales teams? What are they seeing in the market?
Ultimately, and this is a really important one that will carry through into our final more dramatic pitfall that's around budget allocations actually. Are we trying to sell something that is already an existing line item in the budget of a hospital or a health plan or even an employer? Or do we have to make the case for them to invest in something from a net new perspective? These are the conversations that we have to be having to figure out where our priorities should lie. One of the things that we spend a lot of time on with our clients is exactly this. Paul, Tiffany, how should healthcare companies really be thinking about marketing strategy and planning and how they actually prioritize the activities and the budgets, and where should they be spending their time here?
Paul: Well certainly step one of thinking about marketing strategy and planning is to actually think about marketing strategy and planning. It's been really eye-opening for someone coming in from outside from other marketing realms into healthcare about how little planning oftentimes is done. Obviously, that's an acute problem in earlier stage companies, but the ability to look at your year and to really understand in a more planful way and avoid those just short bursts of random activity that happens so often with companies oftentimes to very nonproductive ends becomes really, really critical. And that planning ultimately has to be very, very objective driven.
Understanding a few key objectives that are going to drive the entire year, and ideally, those objectives all add up to one singular goal and that's really how we like to structure our planning work. Then actually exploring where the opportunities are and where the space in the market is. Whether it's through messaging, whether it's through targeting, where those opportunities are going to be and bringing that together into a plan that we can really guide for the entire year. That will drive the tactics and the allocations for those tactics that we can always ramp up to those objectives and also allows us to do away with some of the things that we shouldn't be doing.
It gives us a filter to kind of question why we want to do something. Now, it doesn't mean that plan is rigid and can't flex through the year. The reality of our world is that you don't put something in place and don't necessarily do anything about it for 14 months, but to be able to improvise based on something that is in existence and does exist and does have some principals that you're trying to work against becomes a real game changer. And you also want to be constraint-minded and understand what are the real constraints here because we're all dealing with a lot of those.
What it really does is it brings consistency if you have the required discipline and commitment to it. That's really important. A lot of companies in this space we see really have ADD when it comes to how they think about marketing. Those companies, like I said, their efforts can be very sporadic and they can be based on chasing a shiny object or checking a box or even just boredom. It really gives us something to base everything we're doing on the business and it helps to validate the investments and ultimately the KPIs that we're seeing in our marketing.
Now, digital-first has almost become a bit of a throwaway line in marketing,. But it's a very serious concept because it's a very big concept. It’s not just about posting your content in the digital space or directing more of your paid spin into digital. It really means the entire sort of platform and ecosystem that you build and how everything's interconnected and how digital follows your customer journey from the first they touch you all the way through conversion and when they are a customer and how they ultimately become an advocate for you.
There’re some serious commitments that are involved there in terms of how your little ecosystem is interconnected and how it's able to follow and provide great service and track information. Those are important notions and you can always go big. Understanding fundamentally what digital first means and what you're trying to do becomes really important and understanding that your audience is judging you based on the digital experiences that they have anywhere in the world, the best digital experiences are what they judge you on. So, unfortunately, they're not judging you on some other vendor who's coming at them or some other health system, they're judging you on what they experience with Delta and with Wells Fargo and with Amazon. So we really have to think about what that means.
The other really critical part, especially in the B2B marketing, is the model we have found to be really successful, which is the attract, engage, convert model, those three stages of the B2B market. Understanding that middle part, engage, is really the most critical and in many ways the most unique part of this model. We all understand attracting people to us and getting that attention. We all understand how we want to convert. But knowing that that engagement happens over an extended period of time, it can be a long period of time, we find usually at least eight touches from a prospect to a company before they actually start actually raising their hand and identifying themselves.
Thinking about what you're putting out there in that engagement phase means thinking about what sort of content you create. It means thinking about how your message actually has to chronological and sort of progress and not just repeat the same thing all over again. A lot of our market planning really focuses in on how does that engagement part of the model work and how do we know that we're successful?
The last thing I'll mention is obviously content has become a core part of building perception, validation, and leadership for these companies. But it's got to be seen and it's got to be reached. A lot of the people have just posted content on their site and feel like they've done a good job, but we really think about the amplification of that content. We have to really think about which pieces of that content are going to be the most impactful and how can we amplify those both in terms of how we think about earning media and really getting those big earned media hits in the most relevant places possible, and also where we need to amplify those with paid media in a very selective way. I'm not talking about just banner ads and paid search, but actually pieces of content and how do we elevate those and get the most visibility. Thinking about where that extra amplification happens is another really critical part of the marketing planning process.
Tiffany: I would also say that in support of the marketing folks on the lines, I know from my own experience, and we know from our experiences here at ReviveHealth, that there can sometimes be a lot of pressure to get into top tier media. However, to build these corporate narratives, we've got to educate leadership that building corporate narratives and thought leadership and influence really isn't about getting to top tier media first. It's about understanding where to most effectively reach your target audience and the messaging that's going to resonate with them. This could be trade media, and in our instance places like Modern Healthcare, Fierce Healthcare, Healthcare Dive, etc.. This is all supported by social media strategy including LinkedIn and Twitter.
The most important parts are to develop a clear content strategy. I cannot stress enough that clear content strategy if you haven't thought about it already, is to have some case study's data, a client who will go out there with you. It's very difficult to get media interest if you don't have these pieces in place, but you want to take all of that together and then drive it consistently so that you're building toward executive visibility and broader opportunities for thought leadership initiatives.
Shannon: Great. This final pitfall — and this is the one that I do think is going to maybe stir up some debate or controversy — is this idea of category creation. Once again, there are many companies out there who believe that they are creating their own category and we just need to have a legit reality check here and acknowledge that very few truly are even fewer can afford to do so. Maybe, just maybe you don't want to do that for a few reasons. Let me give a little bit of context behind this and then we can talk about how to actually really elevate yourself if you're not creating your own category. Category creation, yes, it is an incredibly powerful strategy. There's good data around it that if you are actually doing that, it really can increase your valuation and help attract a larger customer base.
Yet you have to be rendering an existing industry niche obsolete if you are actually creating a new category and you have to have very demonstrable measurable value to show that you are doing that. There's a lot of work that has to go into it. Then in terms of whether you should be doing it, it means if you're truly saying, "I'm not part of that other category, I have created this new one and here I am and I am the leader, maybe even the only one in it." That means you're crossing yourself off of the existing budget lines for other categories.
There's a real risk and we've seen this in a number of clients that have really tried to go heavy into we are creating a new space. If you don't really think about that, it means that actually the RFPs could stop trickling in. This also requires a pretty substantial investment from a thought leadership, marketing, and content perspective to actually really hammer home with these audiences what the new category is and why it's completely different and far superior to past categories.
Just be really honest with yourself and with your leadership team about this conversation because we just have seen a lot of companies spiral into it and then actually lose traction and lose some of that competitive differentiation in the market. All because they went down this other path for a while and it ultimately set them behind. At the same time obviously we want to be achieving powerful, creative, amazing, campaigns and telling a really, really strong story. Tiffany talk a little bit about how you can actually do that if you're not claiming you are a new category.
Tiffany: Yeah, so thinking about my own experiences in health tech and health services startups and also for sure with my clients here at Revive, it is so important to deeply understand the landscape that you're competing in and kind of which of your competitors are holding or seem to be playing what roles within your category.
I want to stress the classical marketing thing, the academics of branding is actually real, so you have to understand kind of who you are as an organization and where you can legitimately sit in a category. And when I say that, I mean are you a market leader? Can you take that role? Does somebody else have it already? Are you a challenger brand? Are you a pioneer? Whatever it is, you have to understand it and then place a flag and build a brand and the messaging and the content and the marketing strategies that solidify your position so that you can own it.
Paul: I would also add that a lot of times solidifying that position means really understanding the size of it and right sizing the scope of your solution. We've talked a little bit about overhyping, but a lot of times the revelation of a solution sometimes is easier to grasp when it's smaller and when it's more finite. I think being really focused on, as we said earlier, who you are and why you exist and what you're really fixing can really help quite a bit. Contemplating how unique your solution truly is and who's the real competition also helps.
Just as we say that your audience really holds your brand, well, the audience really holds your competitive set too. Too often we have seen people who we've referred to someone else in the space and a client has said, "Well, they're not a real competitor because they do X, Y, and we do Y Z." We said, "Yes, but they're viewed by your audience as trying to provide the same solution to the problem that we're confronting." So you've got to be realistic about what the competitive set is and how broad that is.
One of the other words that gets thrown out a lot here is “disruption.” A lot of people, especially in the tech space, embrace that and what we find is a lot of people in the health system space runaway from that, a lot of times disruption is the last thing they want. I think we want to be very careful about the nature of the solution and its impact. We tend to think more around the notion of operative innovation that yes, you do need a better way to do something that is already happening in your organization and this solution can do that.
A lot of times, and this is where creativity, really bringing it down to a very simple message, a creative message, something that's clearly understood sometimes metaphorically is the absolute best way to tell that story in things that people can relate to. It's actually a story I always think back on back when the MP3 music players first came out and I know I'm dating myself here, but there was a lot of confusion and complexity around even what these devices were and Steve Jobs and his inimitable way said, "It's a thousand songs in your pocket."
And with a simple phrase like that you immediately understand, okay, I understand what it is, I understand what the benefit is, I understand why I want it, and I make the judgment on how innovative that is. But just the simple statement of what my product is can really do a lot of that heavy lifting and there's a much more truth and a reality to it in that way.
One other thing we've seen from clients when they think about the tip of the spear going into an organization, they take a little more of a land and expand approach in terms of our solution may be really big and can do lots of things for you. But, back to what we were talking about earlier, are you actually on the line item for what's needed now? Well, let's sell the solution that the prospect needs this minute and then once we're in and gained traction, we can talk about the other things it can do and how much of a bigger solution it can be. But a lot of times brands may lead with that bigger story, which becomes a little overpowering or not digested based on the way the buying happens. So another form of rightsizing there.
Ultimately whatever messaging you're doing when you want to be playing in this space, you have to be thinking about that thought leadership position, which obviously goes way beyond your brand or product and sort of commenting on the industry and understanding the trends that are happening there and being able to establish a leadership position which hopefully evolves into a thought ownership position and taking ownership of the stake in the ground you've put in, even if it's not necessarily only ownable by you, but you're the person who has done that and you've gone out there that way. So that's a great way of doing that ownership.
A couple other quick things that we have found when you're in this space that those two things we talked about at the very beginning, the ability to show real data that does this and those peer testimonials become even more important. You need to have a larger number of companies, not just one sort of early adopter who's doing that for you. You need to have more data that shows how this has manifested itself in the marketing and you need to really amplify those stories, so that becomes even more important.
The last thing I'll mention is a lot of companies who are engaging in partnerships and acquisitions in this space, there's always a good reason why they're doing that, but we repeatedly see that they're so focused on closing that deal and by the time they're ready to announce it they're just barely able to kind of rush off a nice press release and they haven't really thought about what can this new entity add to our narrative and how does that really strengthen the story around what we're offering and the innovation around it. So really making sure that we've leverage those sorts of situations to the maximum extent possible is another real opportunity that oftentimes we see missed.
Shannon: Excellent. Well, so we've got about probably 10 or so minutes left and we want to leave some good time for Q and A…
We’ve gotten a handful of questions around our persona research and any learnings we've had from that that are specific to individual personas and what we've learned about where they're getting information, and I can answer that with a couple of things and then we'll move into maybe some more programmatic questions that we're seeing here.
In terms of any key differentiators that popped out in our personas, one of the ones that was really interesting for me was actually some of the variation in terms of the channels that these audiences pay attention to.
That has proven some of the most useful data that we have as we're thinking about channel planning and how to segment different audiences and reach them through different channels. An example that really stunned me honestly when we were going through the research is we found that chief strategy officers within health systems as well as within hospitals, independent hospitals, are a lot more open to vendor content than other members of the C-suite.
We dug into that a little bit, it sounds like because they are tasked, for example, with that kind of longer-term transformation, so that top end of the Y-axis that we showed you earlier. They want to look at what technology companies are planning for the future, what they've done with other similar systems, and they're really trying to use that as a tool to look ahead. So, they're seeking out opinion pieces, white papers, those sorts of things from a vendor perspective. And I think that was pretty interesting and has helped us target that audience more effectively. One other thing in terms of the learnings that we've had is identifying where folks are turning for information. We did incorporate this into a lot of our research and from a trade media perspective, there've been a couple of learnings for us.
There is some variation based on the role for sure, but there's a ton of consistency. Almost every single person that we interviewed said they turned to Modern Healthcare for information. So that's definitely something that we incorporate into both earned and paid channels. Then as we have a lot of our PR folks constantly on the phone with these reporters every day, we're using that to continually update the way that we're targeting these audiences as well.
Hopefully that gives a little more detail, obviously happy to have more conversations around the research we've done in this space and you can just check that box and we can follow up with you there.
Another question that we just got was “how can or should I convince internal stakeholders in my company that a year-long media campaign is a better investment than several siloed small investments.” I'm going to pass that to you, Paul, I think you've got probably a lot of experience in this area.
Paul: First off, I don't think we necessarily need you to think of it as a year-long media campaign. It's really a year-long marketing effort. I think a lot of times, and especially with the budget constraints that so many of us have, within that year-long effort, there may be flights and there may be times where we are running campaigns that are multimedia and that are showing up strong in the market, there may be other times where we're not.
A lot of times we have a small layer of sort of underneath evergreen work that may be happening around social content, paid search, and some of that may be sort of an "always on" approach. But even in a year-long marketing planning approach, there may be bursts of flight and that's fine, but the more important point than how often it's on or how long it extends, is that it's all laddering up to a purpose and that they're all collectively adding up together.
Often, when you look at the several siloed investments that you mentioned, if you go to the end of the year - and I will say the same thing for health systems (they do this all the time where they have all of these service line campaigns and foundation and brand) - and if you put all of those things together collectively at the end of the year you'll understand that they're not adding up to a greater whole. You're actually losing the value of dollars because each one is trying to do a different thing.
The more limited your budget you have, the more important it is that everything you do is laddering up to something bigger because you're trying to build a perception and you don't have many dollars to do it. The more you break up those dollars with different objectives and even a different look and feel to what you're doing, they're really losing value. Again, it's not how often you're on or how long it is, it's that it is planned out in a singular way over the year very strategically and all adding up to two objectives that every one of them can contribute to.
Shannon: Another one that's come through that I'm going to pass to Tiffany. We're getting some questions around social media and different channels and is social media really effective for reaching these types of audiences, so any learnings that you can share there, Tiffany?
Tiffany: We actually did a ton of research on this in our primary research that we discussed earlier. I'll give you a bit of the rundown and then I'll speak to the social media aspect of it. The most credible sources for the C-suite is their peers, it's their peer network, which I would say kind of lends to the case for doing very good client service and having referenceable clients because they do kind of depend on each other for recommendations and that sort of thing.
Areas the C-suite thinks are somewhat credible for this sort of information include industry trade publications, the associations to which they belong, certainly events, consultants. Depending on what the solution is, they may also kind of look to vendors for sales and marketing and those kinds of tools and then research that you may have sponsored, that sort of thing.
Generally speaking, social media by itself is not going to be an effective way to reach a C-suite kind of audience. However, it is a great way to support the other efforts that you're doing, and by that I would say if we just focused in on LinkedIn and Twitter. Both of those areas, all of social media is becoming very pay to play, and so as kind of part of your bigger strategy it's certainly a good way to kind of subliminally hone in your message. The other thing I would say about Twitter with all of this is it may not get to your C-suite, but Twitter is just a great spot for reaching journalist. I think there's a statistic out there that says that like 30% of the activity on Twitter is actually journalist. So getting your message out that way is a really effective way to get some of those other media pieces that we were talking about.
Shannon: Perfect. Okay, that's great. Another question that we got was around client storytelling and “what if I don't have any clients or approved case studies that I can share my marketing efforts?” Again, something that we deal with a lot. Paul, you want to take that one?
Paul: Yeah, it is frustratingly common, but I will say that we've had success in a few areas that aren't too surprising. One is blinding those case studies and I there's a lot of credibility in knowing that a case is real and seeing it's come to life and just removing the name from it. I mentioned earlier the aggregate data not only overcomes the problem, but it actually can actually build a stronger story because it gets away from that one off. It's not as much the case study in terms of I know who this is as much as it can be, this is real and it's been real in multiple cases. So aggregating stories across and telling them that way can also be a really, really effective way.
The last thing I'll mention, and this gets back to sort of the personal outlooks of individuals, sometimes we think of the organization as who's advocating for us, but sometimes the subtle spin of looking at the individual who we're looking for can be a reflection of their own skill. That is really something that they accomplished and really becomes a highlight to their career that “I'm not here to help you, I'm here to sort of highlight what I've done that's so great.” If they think about it and there's a subtle art to position it correctly so that people understand that coming up in advocating for you is really showing their success, and sometimes I know it can sound a little personal, but sometimes that has put us over the hump and helping someone be willing to do that work.
Shannon: Excellent. All right. Well, we want to be respectful of everyone's time and wrap up. So, make sure to take a look at that poll if you want for us to follow up. There are a few other questions we weren't able to get to if we couldn't get to yours, we are more than happy to continue the conversation after. We are doing more persona research into the physician audience as well as health plans, so if you're interested in that, make sure to tick that box. And thank you so much for joining us today, hopefully it's been a useful conversation, we love talking about this stuff, so it's been fun for us and hopefully we can reconnect with everyone on the line (and those of you who read and downloaded this webinar) soon. Thank you.
Paul: Yeah. Thank you everyone!