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Why Patient Experience Needs To Be More Than A Catchphrase


The following is a guest blog post by Yolanda Hernandez, Senior Marketing Strategist at StudioNorth.

How are Amazon and Yelp conditioning consumers to expect the same experience when they become patients?

People don’t stop acting like customers when they need medical treatment. They expect the same comfort, speed, accuracy and satisfaction they get from their favorite stores and online vendors.

But healthcare isn’t a new pair of shoes. The stakes are much higher. Patients may want the same experience as retail customers, but their expectations for security, privacy and outcomes are much higher.

That’s why patient experience (PX) is more than just a catchphrase—it’s the critical factor healthcare marketers must embrace to succeed.

Patient Expectations Forged by Customer Experience

How demanding will our patients/customers become? Today, even in a strange city, you can easily find the exact restaurant you want based on price, style and peer reviews. Why can’t patients expect the same when they’re looking for healthcare?

Most healthcare providers offer no great navigation tools, no price transparency, and no tools to answer the question, “Where do I go for what?”

The difference between what patients wish they could have and what they expect to get could narrow in the next few years. Consider these comparisons patients may soon make between the retail and the healthcare consumer experiences:

Retail Consumer Expectations Potential Patient Expectations
Easy comparison shopping Easy healthcare provider comparison
Easily accessible peer reviews Easily accessible patient reviews
Easy store website navigation Easy provider website navigation
Complete product selection Complete selection of services and specialties
Online purchases Online appointments, scheduling and test results
Instant access to billing data and automatic payments EHR and on-line billing
Interfaces that predict next purchases Predictive analytics
Cost transparency and predictability Insurance and co-pay transparency and predictability
Credit card chip readers Inpatient barcode wrist bands

For some patients, a great experience is being able to access and transfer health records online, schedule appointments with doctors quickly and easily, or check in to the hospital as if they’re checking in to a hotel with concierge services.

For others, it may involve real-time biofeedback data helping them regulate medications, for improved quality of life with fewer doctor’s visits.

For healthcare providers, all of the above will mean giant upgrades in how they gather, store, process and share data. Superior PX will require superior IT.

Winning PX Requires a 360-Degree View

When consumers shop for health services like they do for other products and services, they’ll grow to expect a high level of personalization from the companies they solicit. Providers need to have a 360-degree view of all their healthcare touchpoints and needs to win, serve, and retain them.

Forrester: Vendor Landscape: Healthcare Analytics, Q1 2017.

Yet most healthcare providers are focused on predictable outcomes, not on patient experience. That’s understandable—without predictable outcomes, it’s hard to have a product to sell—but patients aren’t interested in predictable outcomes. They’re interested in individual outcomes that affect themselves and their families.

This is where healthcare IT marketers have an opportunity to create PX breakthroughs.

The Needle a Patient Needs

Take wearables. Consumers already trust wearable fitness devices, and many healthcare organizations have made mobile monitoring a useful reality. From providing IoT data for medical supplies to monitoring how often homecare patients are taking their meds, the use cases are nearly endless.

Will patients figure all this data out before providers do?  They may have to—because there’s still a big gap within many providers’ systems.

Doctors already feel like they have too much data to deal with, and without a data strategy, most healthcare organizations simply can’t process all of their data. Finding value in all that data is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack—but if that’s the needle a patient needs, delivering it is a huge PX victory.

Healthcare IT marketers who can translate haystacks of data into needles of PX insight will dominate the new landscape of consumer-based patient expectations.

About StudioNorth
Whether it’s influencing a purchase decision, supporting your cause or building a brand people care about, StudioNorth has the depth of experience—and the resources—to make it happen.

Our campaigns integrate a strategic mix that includes traditional print advertising and marketing collateral, video production, integrated social media campaigns, digital advertising strategies, and advanced website/app development to help our clients grow and realize their goals.

HITMC Sneak Peek: Brand Building in a Time Crunch

The following is a guest post by Kelcie Chambers, Account Director at Dodge Communications.

It takes time to successfully rebrand a company, but in the world of healthcare marketing, time can often be a luxury – not a guarantee. Though many marketers are familiar with the various components that make up a successful rebranding campaign, a short time frame can impact the rules of the game.

Here are 5 ways to ensure a smooth rebranding effort when you are up against the clock.

  1. Discuss business goals and limitations openly. Transparency is crucial during every step of the rebranding process, and this is especially heightened during a tight turnaround. There’s simply no time to go down one road, only to land back at square one because of unspoken legal parameters or business conflicts. Discuss the company’s business goals openly and don’t hold anything back. This drives the purpose of the project, brings people together around a collective goal and helps avoid one-off tactics. When stakeholders are on the same page, you can be sure the end result will resonate with everyone – most importantly, your target audiences.
  2. Make research a priority. When facing an impending deadline, it can be overwhelming to consider the long list of to-dos and be tempting to cut corners. It’s important to know how and what to prioritize before you begin. Often, research and planning get the boot while marketers jump straight into tactical execution. Invest time in competitive research. Conduct focus groups. Engage detractors, not just advocates. If you don’t prioritize market research, you may set yourself up for failure.
  3. Establish milestone markers – down to the hour. If you’re up against a tight timeframe, chances are your final deadline is engrained in your mind. While it’s important to keep this date at the forefront, you must mark milestones along the way to ensure the project stays on track. When the clock is ticking, every minute counts. Set deadlines down to the hour, so deliverables and feedback are in hand when you need them. Take the time to understand how everyone on your team works, so you can cater to different project management styles for maximum efficiency and better results. Try letting go of sticky note murals, and upgrade to a digital project management tool that will allow your entire team to view project activities, deadlines, and updates.
  4. Set expectations with decision makers. Timelines and assignments aren’t just for marketers. Educate the executive team on exactly what you will need from them and when you will need it by. Bring the right decision makers into the conversation mix from the beginning, and set aside ample time to collaborate as a group. It is important to hold everyone accountable and communicate that missed deadlines can derail the entire effort.
  5. Don’t set the finish line prematurely. When thinking about a rebrand, typically a new name, logo, tagline, and look and feel come to mind. Be careful not to declare victory too early. While these components are a critical piece of the overall effort, what follows is as important as establishing the visual elements. Launching the brand is exceptionally important, from internal communications to the external rollout. Make sure that messages are reinforced regularly with PR, email automation, newsletters and other communications support.

Kelcie Chambers, account director at Dodge Communications and Betsy Martinelli, senior manager, corporate marketing at Omnicell learned these lessons firsthand when undergoing an entire rebrand and launch within just 3 months. Be sure to catch the pair’s session coming up at the Health IT Marketing and PR Conference (HITMC), “Building a Solid Brand When the Clock is Ticking.”

During the presentation, you’ll receive practical advice on how to drive a rebranding initiative on a tight timeline, including what elements need more attention than others, what deadlines are realistic and how to get all members of the team working together toward the same goals. The presenters will also describe the essential components of an effective rebranding strategy, including corporate identity development, advertising, web, social media, and public relations.

After their successful rebranding effort several years ago, these marketers continue to work together today. Hear directly from Kelcie and Betsy as they share their firsthand insights on Thursday, April 6 at 3:15 pm at HITMC.

About Kelcie Chambers
Kelcie Chambers combines years of agency experience with a thorough understanding of the healthcare and technology spaces to strategically oversee a wide variety of Dodge’s public relations and marketing accounts. Committed to helping clients strengthen their market share, she has successfully created and executed powerful integrated campaigns to enable some of the world’s most recognized brands enhance awareness, advance thought leadership and nurture demand. A news junkie at heart, Chambers’ passion for storytelling is the catalyst driving her to help companies discover the unique messaging and communications vehicles that foster relationships with target audiences and set them apart from the competition.

The Game: A Call for Proposals

I call for proposals for the next Health IT conference. HIMSS next year?  I am looking for the buzzwords disruption, artificial intelligence, accountable care and mental health. I am looking for women in tech.  Also, suicide survivor support and how to attract top talent to tech.

Proposal categories:

Intelligence:  I would ask Frank Abignale to meet to run a new game. I don’t care about how often identity theft occurs I want to know when you are going to break into the system and take it back. You can find me. I’m confident. I won’t fly you to my conference and buy dinner.  We will need a partner and some shiny speakers.

Privacy: Topics: How many of the breaches happen when the marketing arm of a large company is leasing patient data? How many lists of qualified leads are we comfortable with?  We are looking for data geeks. I would like Joyce from the HIMSS press team to help vet this one.

Artificial Intelligence: I need some artificial intelligence guys. No one knows what you need to do but I bet you can figure it out and I need lots of unattractive infographics with connected dots. Let us know what a Bayesian net is.  Can you guys please be proficient in Python? My favorite AI guys also know Python.

Hackathon: Anonymous want to help with this one?  You guys can help us hack healthcare. Teach everyone what disruptive means.  Also we need some people that actively develop ransomware.

Women in Tech:  I would like to invite my old co-worker Tyra to come back to healthcare even though it’s exhausting. I want unapologetic feminists and men who aren’t scared by people who complain the wrong way. Is Beyonce interested in Healthcare Tech? She would be ideal for this category.

Rule: Men you are invited to this because you are normal people. We will not clap for you or give you novelty shirts.  Your application must include two specific examples of you helping a woman in your organization.

Venture: Hey venture crew! Can you get the old Frat boys from San Fran together to think of a way to protect patients in extreme poverty and make money? I need your douchiest show pony. Maybe one or two sharks. Bring a billion vaporware friends that are going to make money anyway we will have a python coder venter capital speed dating business round.

Rule: Nothing illegal. No insider trading. We actually need some serial entrepreneurs and marketing guys as well but we didn’t want to publish that as a category or the site would crash from proposals.

CEOs and Founders: We also need some sponsors for food and drink and stuffed animals for everyone. Also portable chargers and swag. Coffee and Alcohol as well. Thank you I’m confident you can make it happen.

Blockchain: this is a catch all to let your marketing and sales departments come as well as other companies. This category is also for doctors, CME, Nurses, Informatics, payors, and large hospital buyers. Startup accelerators and consultants also welcome.

Does this sound familiar to those of you who attend health IT conferences?

Customer Stories: The Holy Grail of HealthIT Marketing

The following is a guest blog post by Colleen Pinto.

With the end of the year upon us, many healthIT businesses are evaluating their 2016 marketing ROI and goal setting for 2017. Tis the season for lessons learned. According to HealthcareIT News one of the biggest mistakes healthIT companies make is focusing their marketing efforts solely on their specific solution rather than their customers’ pain points. Whether a company’s tech streamlines patient check-in or helps maximize revenue cycles, the solutions themselves are sterile – simply software or equipment. Companies need to remember that on the other end of the solution there is a physician – who is having to spend hours of his day importing data into a computer; a patient – who needs a second opinion as soon as possible; or even a loved one that is impacted.

That’s why in my role as a healthIT marketer, I am constantly drawn to the powerful role that customer stories play in healthcare. By putting a face to the product, they humanize the technology and clearly demonstrate outcomes – which is critical in the era of value-based care. As you craft your 2017 marketing programs, here are the top three ways to make the most out of customer stories in healthIT.

  1. Case Studies

Case studies are probably the top piece of content healthIT companies think of completing after obtaining a customer story – and for good reason. These pieces tell stories, make brands and technology come to life, and demonstrate momentum. According to Gartner, peer reviews also continue to be one of the more significant buying influences for tech buyers. Since case studies are written from the client point of view, it is easy for prospective customers to see how a product or service can also benefit them.

For example, say a hospital is experiencing inefficient workflows because its physicians are constantly dealing with corrupt or lost CDs containing patient images. The hospital then does a search for a cloud-based imaging solution. It comes across a case study showcasing a system that has helped another hospital not only reduce CDs by 90 percent, but has also enabled physicians to receive images before a patient even arrives through the hospital doors. Chances are that one piece of content is going to have a strong influence in the hospital’s vendor selection process.

Once a case study is complete, you can then leverage the content in inbound marketing and lead generation efforts. This includes hosting the content on your website, adding it to appropriate lead nurture streams, and ensuring it’s seen by the right buyers by distributing it via LinkedIn ads. If you have the resources, consider embedding video testimonials in corresponding case studies to make them interactive.

(Have a customer that’s not referenceable? Determine if the opportunity can provide enough detail to tell a strong story, with measurable results. If so, an anonymous case study can still be of value.)

  1. Media Relations

Case studies are just the beginning when it comes to leveraging customer stories. Next, it’s time for companies to expand the customer story’s reach even further through strategic media relations initiatives.

Imagine that a healthIT company is about to make a press announcement surrounding the latest version of its product, or wants to insert itself into a healthcare conversation that is making national headlines. Simply including a customer quote in a press release or having a customer available for media interviews will greatly increase a company’s ability to garner top media coverage. (INSIDE TIP: Bring customers along to industry tradeshows as a secret sauce to garner more media briefings and interest.)

Why? Because validation is a powerful tool. While a company’s technology itself may be fascinating, Joseph Goedert, news editor of Health Data Management notes, “What reporters want is to know what the real news is and to talk with a user about their experiences–including what went well and what didn’t go so well–to inform their peers about how best to optimize the technology.”

  1. Social Media

Social media is one of the most affordable ways to reach large and/or targeted audiences. LinkedIn’s latest report indicates that at the end of 2013, there were over 4.4 million healthcare practitioners, executives, channel followers, and opinion leaders on LinkedIn. Further, in 2014, more than 75,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and consultants posted 152,000 tweets a day.

With decision makers and potential customers right at your fingertips, it’s crucial for marketers to continuously leverage customer stories every day via your corporate social media channels. For example, companies can utilize customer quotes, images and videos in tweets and LinkedIn posts that link back to case studies, media articles and more. As you plan your customer engagement strategy on social media, ask yourself:

  • Does my company have a public Twitter list of referenceable customers?
  • Are case studies, testimonials, etc. in a regular rotation in our social editorial calendar?
  • Are my leadership and sales teams connected via LinkedIn to all customers and prospects?
  • Does my company welcome new customers publicly on Twitter to show momentum?
  • Does my social media manager actively engage with our customers on all channels?

Ultimately, through these collaborative initiatives, healthIT organizations will be able to effortlessly increase the reach of their customer stories more than they ever thought possible.

About Colleen Pinto
Colleen Pinto is the savvy storyteller and integrated comms catalyst at AR|PR specializing in leading and servicing a growing roster of tech clients in the healthIT and mobile sectors. Follow AR|PR: @AR__PR

Conference and Event Planning Insights from Inbound 2016

The following is a guest blog post by Patty Dickerson.

Conferences and events are an important part of most marketing strategies, so as marketers it can be a special treat to go to a conference as an attendee. A few weeks ago, I was able to attend HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Conference in Boston and came away with quite a few insights I’d like to share with the HITMC community.

Inbound Overview:

First held in 2011, the conference has grown significantly in the last five years with close to 19,000 attendees as well as over 170 sessions and eight different topical tracks this year.  I haven’t been to Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit or Salesforce’s Dreamforce so I’m not sure how HubSpot’s Inbound conference compares to them, but I did attend last year and am a regular HITMC attendee.  Compared to HITMC, Inbound can seem a bit overwhelming. It is primarily geared toward digital and inbound marketers, but in this first post, I’d like to share some ideas and observations from Inbound that can help those of us who plan events and conferences.

Conference Timing:

Inbound16 was held November 8-11 with the main conference kicking off on Wednesday, November 9th. Date ring a bell? Yup- that’s right, Inbound officially kicked off the day after one of the most polarizing elections in U.S. history. An interesting day to start, while half of the population was elated the other half was despairing, and the mood of the conference that first day was very odd. Additionally, the kick-off keynote speaker, Ta-Nehisi Coates, switched up his talk to directly address the election results. As a content marketer, I respect his decision to do so, as he was being authentic, transparent, and relevant in his content delivery. However, it did seem to polarize the conference, as well as the conference conversation on twitter. I’m sure HubSpot will think again about hosting Inbound the same week as a presidential election.

  • If any of you are planning big user conferences, be sure keep in mind any sort of external events that could impact your event.

Session Organization and Selection

Inbound 2016 had a variety of “Inbound Itineraries” to help plan which of its 170+ sessions to attend. This is a great idea for larger conferences with a variety of session options. Since I wanted a broader experience, I ignored itineraries and tackled my schedule one day at a time, focusing instead on sessions that were geared toward marketing strategy, lead generation, social media, and email marketing. Unfortunately, within the full agenda, there wasn’t a clear way to tell if the session was for beginner, intermediate, or advanced marketers, so choosing sessions based on skill level was a bit difficult. I hope that next year Inbound notes skill/experience level within a session description. This is a good idea for any large conference with overlapping sessions.

  • Group agenda options into common topic themes
  • Label sessions by skill level

One big improvement at this year’s Inbound was the ability to pre-register for sessions. This meant that if you planned your schedule in advance, then enrolled in sessions the week prior to the conference, there was no problem getting into the sessions. This was a big problem at last year’s conference and there were one or two sessions that I missed because the rooms were full. Compared to last year, I was able to get a least one interesting insight from each session, though the quality of one or two of the sessions I attended was a little disappointing.

  • Provide pre-registration to popular sessions or make sure that there is room to fit all attendees who want to attend

Conference Website and Mobile App:

For the most part the conference website, Inbound.com, was easy to use, and attendees could login to create a customized schedule from the agenda. The recommend itineraries were easy to find, but if you didn’t use them, the daily sessions weren’t listed in chronological order. This made it harder to see which sessions were being held at same time. You could tag sessions to “My Interests” then go back and view a shortened list, but the lack of chronological ordering made the session planning a little harder, which was also complicated by an automatic log out if you were inactive for a short period of time.

  • Make website easy to use
  • Order agenda sessions in chronological order
  • Provide ways for attendees to tag sessions of interest

As I mentioned previously, the session pre-registration worked well. In addition, I was able to download the calendar to my google calendar, which was vital the first day because the mobile app didn’t initially sync personal schedules from the Inbound website. The full agenda from the desktop site was available, but this required logging into the conference website within the app. Though frustrating, it was corrected the first afternoon, and personal schedules were available on the mobile app with session notifications for the duration of the conference. For any of you considering mobile apps for your conferences, it is a good idea to test the app before the conference to make sure it is set-up properly.

  • Ask attendees for feedback on the conference app before the conference starts
  • Test conference app prior to the start day
  • Fix app problems quickly

Food:

Lunch is also quite unique at Inbound, as HubSpot arranges to have local food trucks parked next to the Boston Convention & Exhibit Center where the conference is held.  Attendees with All-Access and VIP passes could scan their badge to get lunch at any of these trucks, but food was also available for purchase to those with Community passes. Most of the trucks parked within “the Lawn on D” that is located on the east side of the convention center, a bit of a hike from the west side, but doable.  Having lunch outside was risky, given that the conference was so late in the year, but the weather cooperated and while a little cool, it was mostly sunny.

  • Don’t be afraid to try something different for food, but have back-up plans.

While no lunch session or break was scheduled, food was served from 11am-2pm. This helped spread out the lines for food. I would have liked a list of the food trucks and their location so I could plan my meals efficiently, since my goal was to be able to attend sessions during the 11am-2pm time frame.  Regardless, the food was great; my favorite lunch was the Green Muenster Grilled Cheese from Roxy’s. It was a little hard to eat without a lunch area, which along with the spaced-out lunch time, made networking a bit of a challenge. Just some more food for thought (pun intended) as you plan networking opportunities into your own conferences.

  • Consider how to best optimize mealtimes for attendee networking.

Attend again?

In addition to these event planning takeaways, I was able to get some great insights from Inbound’s content sessions. Although I did get a lot more out of the conference this year than last, the price was high, especially when you pay out of your own pocket. Travel expenses would also be a factor. I’ll likely go only if I can get one of the really low discount rates, which means booking far in advance.  However, if I’m paying for the conference on my own dime again next year, I might be tempted try a new conference like Content Marketing World.  Of course, this would be in addition to HITMC which is my must attend conference.

Marketing Automation Software: Are You Using it Right?

The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Michelle, Founder of Michelle Marketing Strategies.

Marketing Automation

You fought to get it, you worked hard to set it up. Now you need to justify that investment.

The question is, can you?

Too often, companies wind up using only a small portion of the features their software offers them. Maybe they focus only on email marketing. Maybe they never got around to adding progressive profiling on their forms. Scarier still is when features are being used incorrectly and no one on the team is aware of it.

Here are the questions you should be asking to make sure you are getting the best out of your marketing automation software.

Visitor Behavior

The actions people take on your website are the first area of focus. Are people successfully downloading your white papers? Are they responding to the follow-up emails you set up? Are they requesting demos?

Problems in this area are the most obvious and are easily prevented by testing during program set-up. However, sometimes problems arise down the line when changes in one part of the software inadvertently impact your programs. For instance, you may not have realized that you need to flag emails in trigger campaigns so they are not affected by weekly email limits. This kind of beginner error can lead to people downloading reports but receiving nothing. Luckily, it is easily remedied by regular reviews of your programs and communication limits.

Your Sales Team

Think about how your team – marketing and sales – uses your software. Are the right people being notified when someone downloads a report or watches a video? Is the notification somewhere they will be sure to see it? (It’s no good showing an alert in your CRM if your sales team just focuses on their email.)

Go beyond simple alerts – find out if your team really understands your workflows and what kinds of nurture programs you have set up. Yours would not be the first marketing team to discover sales representatives are building emails by hand when you have already designed templates. Or, worse, that they are sending emails off manually on the same days you are sending automated ones.

This goes hand in hand with lead scoring. Does your team understand how your lead scoring system works? More importantly, is it working the way it should? Review your top scorers and see if they truly are your best prospects. Review your low scorers, too, and see if any good leads are being missed.

Have a Strategy

You cannot get the most out of your software if you have no roadmap. Plot out your workflows and regularly review them to make sure they still match your goals. Then compare them with your automated programs and look for discrepancies. Do you have redundant workflows? If so, is that intentional?

Take a peek at your content strategy. Does new content get added to your ongoing nurture programs? Is your sales team aware of your new content or your thought messaging goals? Your content is designed to help your sales team close deals; make sure they are in the loop.

Look for Gaps

Think about your audience segments – both prospects and customers. Are there nurture or re-engagement programs targeted to each segment?

Review the capabilities your software  offers – are you using all of them? If not, is that by design? If you are using them, can you see ways to use them more effectively? For instance, If you use forms, have you set up progressive profiling?

Can you measure results by individual program as well as by marketing channel? If so, are you making use of that information? Are you able to track not just Clicks and Downloads but also Customer Acquisition Cost, Lifetime Value and Return on Investment?

Best Practices

Most marketing automation companies offer a thorough knowledge base of videos and articles on every feature. Use it. Even if all you do is browse through the topic areas, you may discover features you need but didn’t realize you could access.

Some companies also have communities or user groups that can help answer questions or show you new ways to use their software.

Whenever possible, have your Account Executive set up templates for workflows and reports so you have something to refer to. (Be careful not to overwrite these!) You may also be able to arrange a time with them to review your programs.

Most of all, set up a schedule to regularly assess your marketing automation programs. As these are central to your lead generation and analytics activities, you need to know how they are performing. Review visitor behavior and see how your sales team is interacting with your leads. Find out how well the sales team understands your content strategy and workflows. Look for aspects of the software you could utilize more fully.

Regular reviews help you stay on top of the details and ensure you are getting the most out of your marketing automation.

And that’s how you justify your investment.

So busy you can’t see the forest for the trees? Let Michelle Marketing Strategies conduct a thorough assessment and make sure your marketing is working the way you planned. Assessment packages address marketing automation and are available for Lead Generation, Marketing Analytics and Adwords.

Marketing Automation for Healthcare IT

The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Michelle, Founder of Michelle Marketing Strategies.

Preparation is Everything

If your company is venturing into the world of marketing automation, the first step is to make sure you are clear about what features you need and how you intend to use them. A little preparation before you start reviewing vendors can save you a lot of hassle – and a lot of money.

First and foremost, sit down and plot out your lead flows and your funnel. Think about how you reach out to people and what triggers you will use to shift people into different levels of nurture. Do this for all your audience segments, as well as all stages of your funnel.

Think also on how you want to notify your sales team about new leads or upsells. Are there specific triggers you will want to signal a transition from MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) to SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)?

Then look at the bigger picture: what capabilities will you need beyond email automation and lead scoring? Do you need the ability to track marketing costs? Do you want to create reports on program outreach and success? Do you need help tracking search engine rank and links? Do you want to replace your CRM or integrate the one you currently have? Do you need web design or landing page design capabilities?

A Note about Demos

When you start scheduling demos, don’t get stuck considering only the big names, like Hubspot, Marketo or Pardot. These are all good products but, in the last couple of years, several new vendors have appeared on the scene that offer tremendous capabilities for far less money. Before you make any decisions, see demos of Drip, Active Campaign and SharpSpring, too.

To get the most out of your demos, include people from a variety of your teams. Including people from your IT and sales teams can bring in new perspectives and give you critical information before you have signed a contract.

Above all, ask a lot of questions. If they say they can do something, ask them to show you. This is especially important if you are switching vendors due to problems with your existing automation software. If that is the situation you are in, be clear about the problem you are experiencing and make sure they can show you exactly how their system can handle it.

What Do You Get?

Once you know what you need, find out what each vendor has to offer. Make sure they do full-on marketing automation and not just email automation. See how they structure funnels and workflows – does their approach make sense to you?

See if they sort leads via lists or tags. Does their system have the flexibility you are looking for?

Make sure they can create triggered campaigns (such as you would use when someone downloads a white paper) and scheduled/manual  campaigns (such as newsletters or trade show invitations).

Find out if their emails, forms and landing pages are responsive. See if they offer reporting functions or financial tracking. Ask how their lead scoring system works. What options do you have for notifying your sales team of new leads or lead behaviors? Do they offer a shared calendar so your whole team can see what outreach is occurring?

If you are looking for a replacement for your website, does the vendor offer that? Do you like the way they set up blogging and web pages?

Consider also whether they give you data on web traffic or SEO. Do they integrate with Google Analytics? What about social media? Can they help you schedule posts or track visitors from your social media accounts?

Also check out their CRM features. Can they integrate with the one you have? Do they offer their own built-in CRM?

Look up online reviews and ask for customer references. These are a smart way to ensure you are getting full information on the product. These are also the best places to get information on customer service.

Ask about Service

No matter how great the features, it all gets thrown out the window if the customer service is awful. Find out what you get ahead of time, including whether there is a user community or knowledge base.

See if they will set up program templates for you or if they will work with you one-on-one while you learn. Find out what templates you get out-of-the-box and whether they can be branded. Do they offer templates for emails, landing pages, forms and workflows?

Get Technical

Great features mean nothing if the system is always down, so get clear data from the vendor on system uptime and email deliverability rates. Find out what kind of technical requirements are needed to run the product and integrate it with your website. See what kind of support the vendor provides if you are ever flagged for spam or blacklisted.

Price

Price is always a big factor in the equation. Find out exactly what you are getting for your money. Some vendors offer a free trial or money-back guarantee, which is always a plus. Also consider how many users you get and what adding more would cost.

Ask if training and ongoing support are included. If not, what do they cost? Are they offering support by phone, email, chat or an online database? Are there obligatory launch or kickstarter fees?

See if programmatic support is billed differently from technical support. For instance, does your fee cover a question about why an email was not delivered but not cover a question on best practices in setting up a campaign?

Could you get what you want from a less-inclusive vendor if you supplement with less expensive apps? For instance, if a less expensive vendor has everything you need except landing page design, would it still save you money to get them plus LeadPages? If they don’t offer a shared calendar, can you make do with Google Calendar? If they don’t provide search engine optimization tracking, can you get what you need from Google Analytics?

As with any sale, you can often get a better deal if it is getting to the end of the quarter. If you are switching from a competing vendor, they may also be willing to cut you a deal. Above all, make sure you are protected from big increases when your first contract expires.

Confidence

When shopping for marketing automation, due diligence is the key to a good outcome. Plot out what you need ahead of time and go into your demos prepared. Ask questions and be sure each vendor shows you exactly how their product works.

When you do all that, you are already 95% of the way to a successful implementation – so you can make your choice with confidence!

New to marketing automation? Let Michelle Marketing Strategies conduct a thorough assessment of your needs and help you select the right marketing automation vendor for your company. Campaign, lead scoring and reporting help is also available.

#HITMC Chat Summer Break

Since the normally scheduled #HITMC (Health Care IT Marketing and PR Community) chat was so close to the 4th of July and most of us are enjoying various summer travels, we decided that July and August would be a great time to take a break from the monthly #HITMC Twitter chats. So, enjoy your summer and find some time to spend outside with family and friends.

Don’t worry though, we’ll be back with the monthly #HITMC Twitter chats in September. Join us for the September #HITMC chat on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). Put it on your calendars and see you then.

What Sets Your Health IT Company Apart in the Sales Process?

One of the consistent themes at the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference is that the healthcare sales cycle is a long, complicated process and the process usually involves a large number of different stakeholders. There are no “impulse buys” in healthcare. It’s usually a longer, drawn out process.

With this concept in mind, it’s no surprise that we often talk about the importance of content marketing as part of a healthcare IT company’s strategy. The beauty of content marketing is that you can influence a wide group of stakeholders with your content as opposed to a salesperson who likely only builds a 1 to 1 relationship with only one person in the decision-making tree.

I recently came across this great article by Aloft Group on inbound marketing for healthcare that provided added insight into why inbound content marketing really matters in healthcare:

I recently asked a CIO at a large hospital system in the US what she finds most important in firms that she chooses to work with. I can tell you that none of the items in the above list [better patient outcomes, efficiencies, cost savings, patient safety, etc.] even came to her mind. She assumes you better be able to do those things. Her answers were interesting—and much “softer” than marketing people like to hear. She cited attributes like integrity, honesty, being proactive, intelligent and a strong listener. Not exactly something you’ll see in the standard feature/benefit column.

There’s an important lesson to be learned here. The companies that are most successful in marketing to providers are the ones that certainly solve problems, but also bring strong human qualities into their product and service mix.

But this is tricky, right? “Human qualities” aren’t something you necessarily talk about; it’s something you do. But how do you demonstrate this when you aren’t even working together yet?

How are you making sure that you position your company as one that is full of “integrity, honesty, being proactive, intelligent and a strong listener”? Are your salespeople doing that for you?

From my experience, creating the right content will illustrate your company’s intelligence and ability to listen and understand the market. It will demonstrate how you’re proactively moving the market forward in an honest and effective manner. That’s a high bar for content, but that’s what’s possible.

Of course, it’s worth noting that displaying the “human qualities” of your company isn’t something that happens overnight. Things like integrity and honesty are proven over time. However, once it’s built, it’s a powerful and unique attribute that’s hard to replicate by other companies.

It’s worth mentioning that displaying these attributes through your content is one thing. Making sure the right people are reading that content is another, but that’s a topic for a future post. Start by making sure you’re sharing the right messages and then you can start working on distribution of that content.

How to Beat the Odds in a New Era of Health IT Marketing

The following is a guest blog post by Mary Tobin (@mhtobin) and Nicole Burdette (@nburdette) from 300Brand.
Mary-Tobin nicole-burdette
Last week, the healthcare IT marketing and PR community gathered in Atlanta at the Healthcare IT Marketing & PR Conference.  One message was clear – change is afoot – and this group is working hard to contribute to positive change for their organizations, and most importantly, for patients.

Health providers face new expectations for the patient care process and must transition from fee-for-service to value-based care models.  As they search for new ways to decrease risks/costs and improve quality, health IT marketers must also acquaint themselves with the new landscape.

Several trends bubbled up from the sessions and conversations, also supported by new research launched at the conference from 300Brand.

#1 Patients First

Improving the patient experience is a top priority.  Both IT and non-IT healthcare provider decision makers surveyed said improving the patient experience is a top tech goal for 2016.  And, almost a quarter (23 percent) said they have a Chief Experience Officer today.  As that number grows, these leaders will bring different perspectives, many coming from consumer-focused industries outside of healthcare, such as hospitality.  New applications, ranging from integrated analytics that identify patients most at risk for medication non-compliance to tools that alert patients when doctors run behind schedule, will help providers of all sizes improve the patient experience.  (No more waiting rooms – very exciting!)

#2 New Players

The health IT decision making process is changing and there are more players at the table than ever before.  The IT executives we surveyed said they are involved in IT decisions 92% of the time.  But, the non-IT execs disagreed, reporting IT is involved 78% of the time.  More than half agreed that IT purchasing is influenced by more stakeholder groups than two years ago.  In addition to clinicians, these new decision makers include legal/compliance teams, risk managers, and the C-suite.  Attendees in Atlanta confirmed the research – they are seeing purchasing decisions and influence outside of the IT department.

#3 Keep It Personal

New players and personas mean that marketers must become fluent in new “business languages.”  Each decision maker has a slightly different business priority and perspective, driving the need for even greater micro-targeting.  The Customer Experience Officer and the Chief Data Officer have very different perspectives and requirements, yet might be weighing in on the decision process for a new CRM solution.  IT marketers have to adept at speaking both languages at the same time – no easy task!

For marketers, this means new opportunities as we rethink messaging and tactics to ensure we are addressing this broader community.  As the roles are in flux and responsibilities in transition (Chief Data Officers, Chief Experience Officers, Chief Digital Officers, etc.), it’s more important than ever to listen to our customers and understand their unique needs and priorities.  Interestingly, when we asked healthcare providers what IT vendors/marketers are doing wrong and how we can improve, their response was to listen better so we understand their goals.

What we once thought was the “future” of healthcare is here now, and there is enormous opportunity ahead – exciting possibilities for providers and the patients they serve.

It was great to be with the health IT marketing community in Atlanta.  If you didn’t make it, plan for next time – it’s a five-star opportunity to connect and learn.

And, to learn more about how healthcare IT decisions and decision makers are changing, download our full report:  Time to Double Down:  How to Beat the Odds in a New Era of Health IT Marketing – http://www.healthitinsights.com/double-down.

300Brand was a proud sponsor of the 2016 Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference.

Welcome to HITMC!

We're glad you found the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Community (or as we affectionately call it...HITMC). This blog is a place for healthcare IT marketing and PR professionals to come together and share their insights, skills, expertise with other people trying to make healthcare better through the use of technology. This blog grew out of the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference which is held annually. We look forward to connecting and learning from you. Please feel free to reach out to us on our contact us page if you have any questions.

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