Saturday, August 20, 2016

Social selling for the healthcare vendor, if not now, when?

There is a fair amount of writing that goes on nowadays about the importance of inbound sales and social media selling.  The genesis of which is a dramatic change in the market from the sellers to a buyer's controlled matrix, and a new customer journey process to purchase. Oh, and it also doesn’t help the seller when one sees that providers and physicians are using the IoT and social media to find out who is a thought leader in their software or service space.

If the vendor is not actively present in social media and producing excellent thought leadership, and still focusing on selling features and benefits, then no wonder so many vendors are falling behind and missing the sales, revenue and growth target.

And no it’s not marketing’s sole responsibility.

Here is where I hear, I don’t have the time or the best one, “that’s marketing’s role.” No, it’s not marketing's job.  Social media selling is an organizational focus and participatory event.  Marketing does have a role, a critical role, but it’s not their sole responsibility to accomplish.

It’s really about a high degree of sales and marketing integration.

And that means sales and marketing are working together in a highly integrated fashion. Marketing can create the content, write and post the blogs, manage the Facebook and LinkedIn company page, Twitter account, Vimeo, YouTube, Google+, etc.  but that is only one portion. 

Success comes when marketing has been working closely with the sales team or client executive that identified what thought leadership content prospects and customer need, to provide a solution to their challenges. It’s about the having the right content at the right time shared by the client's executive to create trusted advisor status.

It’s not about marketing going into the sales executives LinkedIn page to post as a share.

That’s the easy way out for sales and an inefficient use of marketing resources and human capital.

So how is social selling done to gain credibility?

Social selling is every day. And it’s not that hard, especially with all is the sharing buttons available on websites that allow you to share on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook Goggle+ and a million other platforms. Less than 30 seconds to point, click, share.

Plus, it’s not asking the sales execs to do anything out of the ordinary either.  If a sales exec is not getting industry e-newsletters and not doing research to stay abreast of industry developments, well, then there is a bigger problem.

Marketing can do an awful lot in creating the toolbox of content, shortened links and create the 144 character tweets so sales can copy and paste. It makes it even easier when the company uses a social media crowdsource application like Thunderclap. Everyone in the organization signs up with a personal twitter account on the business’s page. And then, when the company tweets, it goes out automatically to all followers on their Twitter account.  No fuse, no mus. Marketing can also create a training program on how to do. Once you get started, not that hard. Not that hard at all.

In the end, it starts with sales identifying what social media their clients and prospects are using and following. It’s about connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter, and on whatever social media platforms they use.  It’s about reading client and prospects company blogs leaving relevant comments and sharing their blogs.  It’s about sharing your companies blog post and thought leadership. It’s about marketing running an inbound solution oriented marketing program that gives a reason for prospects to call and inquire.

Social selling takes effort, time, and patience. Never said it would be easy or not take any dedicated time or work.  But, it is how the successful competitors are beating you day in and day out.

Back to the question asked earlier, if not now, when?

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group,  Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Monday, August 15, 2016

What is so hard about social media, SEO & content marketing?

Nothing except us in making it hard in the final analysis. 

But we make things more difficult than they need to because of antiquated ideas or misconceptions. Maybe, though, it’s more about fear of becoming more accountable and transparent to your customers. 

It does require letting go of the past and the way you have always done things. As an aside, it’s also an excellent way to engage employees in the brand message activities.  Your staff can be you biggest influencer's too.

Social media is a two-way conversation.  The vendor can engage and enhance the provider understanding of the issues and manage buyer journey with content that is delivered at the right time, in the right format to enhance the customer’s experience. The healthcare vendor can engage, position themselves as an industry thought leader across channels, and build trusted adviser status.  After all, isn’t that what the surveys are saying? Buyers desire their vendors to become trusted advisors and are using particular media for the customer buyer journey during the consideration phase?

So let’s expand the discussion to include SEO and content marketing, as well as shifting marketing resources and focus on traditional marketing channels of print, broadcast, billboard, etc., to social media, SEO and content marketing.  In the simplest of terms, it’s all about being where the audience can be found.

Think of it this way:

Understand that the above channels are living, breathing entities.  They have staying power in the market environment and provide a consistent presence for the healthcare provider enterprise to be easily found, tell the brand story, engage, influence choice, as well as manage experience.  Can one realistically accomplish this with just a focus on traditional marketing with a sprinkling of social media? No is the only answer the question.

Now that being said, I am not throwing traditional outbound interruptive marketing under the bus. There is still a place for outbound marketing integrated into inbound marketing. It’s a resource shift from what’s not working, to what does work.

Grow the healthcare enterprise brand and revenue through social media, SEO and content marketing.  Growth is good.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group,  Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Can you avoid a social media and press disaster in a crisis?

Sometimes, another organization's PR missteps are an opportunity to learn how not to handle a PR crisis.  Just ask the any of the hospitals, health systems and vendors that have been in the media in what seems a continuous stream of news for data breaches, hacking, and ransomware attacks.  

And the reaction by providers and vendors have been from the no comment stance to we are doing everything possible. Then that is inevitably followed by an article where a provider executive states that they should be paid to protect data. Really?

A laptop with patient or client data was left in a car or stolen. The vendor who prints health plan member cards is hacked and was data stolen.  Or the, “We had 60 days under the law before we had to report it.”  How do you think the public reads that answer of hiding behind regulations when their personal data is at stake?

In an age of social media where the employee, consumer, even government officials are the new paparazzi for the 24-hour news cycle, those bygone days of being able to mismanage a PR crisis and response and skate away untouched.

Is your response to huddle in a conference roo,m hiding? Do you send out poorly prepared underlings, to face reporters and the public? Does leadership, make lofty pronouncements at the outset, that could come back to haunt you because, at this point, you just don't know?   Do you react as an arrogant organization with the, "How dare you question our response"?   Do you think that it can never happen to you? Do you have a crisis communications plan in place?

Every provider and vendor organization will face a PR crisis. How you handle the communications, will determine the amount of brand damage and length of time people remember, the good and the bad.  In this age of social media and the Internet, there are no, "We just need to wait three days to weather the storm", anymore.

Many times organizations respond with:

  •    Lack of organizational understanding of the need to handle a situation as crisis  communication;
  •   Different, conflicting senior management messages
  •   Testy responses to questions
  •    Lack of preparation by speakers in understanding the seriousness of the   communication
  •    Poor speaker body language
  •    No overriding organizational message
  •    Corporate arrogance
  •     Lost messaging opportunity
  •    Give the appearance of blaming others
  •    The organization appearing not accountable
  •    The organization furthering to anger the media;
  •     No response at all with the "it's just a three-day story and will go away."
  •    Sending out unprepared underlings to face the media
  •    Failure to leverage social media and employees to tell the right story

Is it not true that any press is good press!  Every day, someone somewhere faces a crisis communications issue that is poorly handled.

It is not difficult, and should be part of your marketing strategy as a separate communications plan. By following these planning guides, you can weather any storm, limit reputation, revenue and ultimately brand image damage:

·         Understand the nature of the situation
  •  Be transparent
  •  Be proactive in how you intend to address the situation
  •  Restrict the amount of time senior leaders i.e. the CEO or president speak
  •  Make sure everyone has the same message and is on board
  •  Develop strong organizational messaging of care and concern
  •  Don’t scapegoat, blame others or give the appearance of blaming others
  •  Don’t tell people things will change when things are not changing
  •  Practice, practice, practice
  • Bring in an outside PR firm for another viewpoint
  • Understand that your reputation is built up over a long time and can is destroyed in a few short minutes
  • Remember that it is not just a three-day story
  • Watch your body language
  •  Know your facts about past performance; reporters will be prepared
  •  Learn from others
  •  Each year engage in a day of media training for executives. Dealing with the media is a learned skill that the majority of managers do not have.  It is not as easy as it looks.

Most importantly, engage the media all the time all year round not just when you have a problem.  By establishing positive media relations with the good you do, you won't necessarily be cut any slack in a bad situation, but you will get the opportunity to tell your side.  You won't if you don't have good media relations already in place.

Plan now for that crisis communications event, and you will better off as a prepared healthcare organization.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group,  Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Social media marketing & selling to physicians, easy to say- hard to do?

Social media and inbound marketing when combined with an inbound sale or a Miller Heiman relationship selling approach, has changed how a healthcare vendor succeeds. With the change in the buyer's journeys where the buyer is more in control than the seller and considering multiple options before they even think of engaging, it’s a far different environment that the cold-call sales focus.

As the market moves in the velocity and intensity in the social marketing and selling direction, it’s more than a fad. Successful healthcare companies are learning that inbound marketing and social media when combined and highly integrated sales is a powerful tool in differentiation, organic growth, and revenue.  

To sell to physicians successfully, you need more than office lunches and how the family conversation is to succeed.  It’s now about constructing a sales and marketing process that supports the buyer through their journey.  It’s about fully understanding their needs and the solution.

And that is where social media marketing and selling plays a great approach. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, for example, have an impact. They are sources of information and ways to connect through sharing specific issues based content they are interested and engaged with for building the trusted advisor perceptions.

So before you say the physician leadership I am selling to does not do social media, have you checked?

May times that statement is the first thing from some vendor marketing and sales that I hear.  Our docs don’t do social media. My question to you is, and if they are not doing social media, are they the right target for you and did you have your ideal company profile and buyer personas right?

Social media marketing and selling to physicians takes a lot of work.  But when you supplement what you know from traditional efforts, with who they follow, how they comment, share and follow specific issues, a very different picture emerges.

Ready, Set, Go - 11 Steps for success 

1.       Commit to social media all the time. The challenge is to keep in front of your audience with relevant information, all the time.  Attention spans are short.  If someone sees no changes on a pretty regular basis in your content or information, they will fall away. 
2.       Follow the physician leader on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for example. Discover what groups they belong to on LinkedIn and join them. 
3.       Spend at least 10-15 hours per week engaged in social media activities.   Share articles and comment on appropriate topics in their LinkedIn groups. Comment and share your company blog. This all about knowledge and value. 
4.       Make sure social media selling is part of your sales sequences for establishing trusted advisor status with your client or prospect. 
5.       Make sure that everyone is using the same social media tactics, techniques and materials. All sales and marketing materials should be content appropriate and provide value, not features and benefits. Does the content for sharing answer the questions, how does this help me? One size does not fit all. 
6.       Revisit and change as needed, the ideal company profile and buyer personas.  Why? Because as you learn via social media and social selling one can infer intentions, pain points and challenges they are looking to solve by what they read, comment on or share. All clues in developing your social media and social selling approach. 
7.        Use a sales and marketing automation for accountability, tracking, etc., and make sure your marketing department has full access to the information.  Mine the data for strategy and new opportunities. 
8.       Once one understands the publications and interests of the physician-leader search out relevant content to share. Do not limit yourself to content that is created in-house. Become the well informed, eclectic sales person with a wide variety of thought leadership sources. 
9.        Establish joint goals, objectives and revenue targets for sales and marketing.  Share in the pain, share in the gain. 
10.    Make sure that the entire organization knows what you are doing.  Nothing more embarrassing or damaging when someone at any level of the organization is clueless and can't be supportive of the sales and marketing efforts.  Makes you look like you do not know what you are doing. 
11.   Evaluate, monitor performance, make changes as needed in the program or staff and start the cycle again.

To your inbound sales and social media selling success.

Michael is an independent healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group,  Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.