Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Using Email to Engage the Provider, Vendor?


I can see your eyes glaze over.  But done correctly, a vendor can manage the engagement and experience of the provider. From providing useful and relevant information or thought-leadership and webinars, for example, it’s one of the few mechanisms that vendors can control.  It’s a marketing tool to build vendor brand loyalty, enhance the experience and engage.

 Better than outbound interruptive marketing where your messages are broadcast to the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will respond, email can be a part of your inbound  problem-solving marketing program.

But it just not a mail merge program to put a name at the top.

And it’s not buying an email list either.  A word of caution is in order. Never buy an email list.  These people have not consented to receive an email from the vendor.  Purchased lists damage the provider or vendor brand for that matter, end up in the junk folder or marked as spam. At some point in time, the Internet Service Providers will flag your emails as spam, impacting your ability to send emails.

And emails marked as spam and unopened will eventually affect the deliverability of the email. And I know a few vendors who think that by asking providers to whitelist their email address, that will solve the problem. A temporary fix at best, they need to repair the content, design and CTAs to make them more responsive to the receiver.

What next?

In the interest of blog readability, I won’t go into all the detail of how to create a successful healthcare vendor email program.  But what I will do is provide some useful tips for an engaging email and email program.

10 Steps to start the journey to an engaging email program.  

1.       Start with a primary goal. Deliveries, clicks and open are metrics, not goals.   What do you want the email to accomplish? Send someone to their patient portal? Attend a webinar?  Download some useful information? Make the goal measurable.  

2.       Write the copy. One of the few controllable factors in an email by the marketer is the copy. But structure and design are crucial, and it doesn’t matter how great the copy is if the design is all wrong. Every point of text should support the goal.  

3.       Write for scan-ability. Use the right tone. Personalize when appropriate. Proof read, proof read and then proofread some more.  

4.       Use the inverted pyramid structure to - grab attention, build anticipation, call-to-action.  

5.       Have only one call-to-action.  You may have several links in an email, but each link must lead to where you want the reader to go.  Multiple CTAs confuse the reader and result in inaction.  But in case you just can’t help yourself with multiple CTAs stack your content.  In the event of emails, the choice is not okay. The only difference is a newsletter, but that is a subject for another time.  

6.       Design creates a consistent user experience for everyone who receives your email. The design also helps to remove the friction in delivering your email. You have the opportunity to leverage branding and recognition to capture the reader’s attention. Use headers and sub-headers, font bolding, italics, numbers or colored text, but do not underline.  Be deliberate about the top 25 percent of your content.  

7.       Reduce information density and add white space.  White space is good. Use a single column layout.  

8.       Email design and web design are different. While there are only a few common web browsers, there are thousands of email clients. Each email client will render your email differently. Make sure you provide a link to an online version.  600 pixels is the ideal width. Stay away from HTML/CSS-based positioning and stick to table-structured positioning.  Add alt text to your images. Avoid creating emails as a single image and don’t use background images. Remember to define the width and height of your images.  

9.       Now really pay attention here. Design the email for mobile.  That’s right design it for mobile.  Here’s why: 54 percent of emails are opened on mobile; 81 percent of smartphone users say reading email is an activity that they use mobile for the most, and 41 percent say they want emails that can be read on mobile. (Source: Experian, OFOMC4, DMA) Think about how you use your smartphone. Looking at emails between meetings or a restaurant etc. people may not always be sitting behind desktops all day either.  Less is more and designing your email for mobile as it makes you explain the idea with greater clarity and gets you to the point faster.  

10.   Use mobile-friendly templates.  The call-to-action should be above the fold; Navigation goes in the footer. User 14 point type. The call-to-action should be 44 by 44 pixels.

There is a lot here in creating a successful inbound email marketing campaign. But this is a good start.  If anything, it may give you pause and hopefully have you reconsider what you have been doing or are about to do in an email campaign.

On another note, I am going to be part of an article on pharma and the use of data and analytics in direct to consumer marketing to drive brand.  Publications by The Drum, Europe's largest and most widely read source of news and information for marketers and brands based in the UK. It's going to run in a supplement created for the Cannes Lions Health Conference in Cannes, France, June 18-19, 2016.

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader and HubSpot Academy, Email Marketing certified.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Is Now Time For Patient Experience in Provider Advertising?

Living in a large metropolitan area with some pretty well-recognized system heavyweights and Academic Medical Centers, I am fortunate enough to see a good deal of hospital and health system advertising.   

Seen across many provider promotions are doctors with their arms crossed staring upwardly in deep thought, building exterior shots and high-tech equipment all promoting, something, but apparently not the brand.  Most represent high-cost production values and in most cases using hired talent instead of employees. The best one was a group of specialists standing around and proudly discussing the quality of the air in the patient rooms. 

I have said it before, and I am saying it again, where is the differentiation? And what does the statement: "We have surgical air quality in all the rooms", mean? Does it even matter to a potential patient? "Quick, take me to the hospital that has clean air in the rooms!” said no patient ever.

Food for thought

Healthcare is changing, and marketing needs to change along with it. Especially on how we approach the market, differentiate our hospitals, communicate value and build a brand. If we continue to portray ourselves as "gee whiz" look at us with all these high-tech tools and research and clean air, all the while telling the consumer it's all about you without offering up a strong brand promise and call-to-action, then what is the point of spending all that money?

The patient experience will differentiate you.

If one focused the ad concept, copy and visuals on the patient experience and how it all fits together for the patients benefit, then you are differentiating.  It is no longer about you, but about the patient.   The content and context of the story are more powerful and compelling. Marketing can create a memorable and recognizable brand promise via a value equation that the consumer will understand.

Focus on the healthcare consumer and patient.

Focus on their needs.

Focus on the patient experience to drive revenue.

Focus on the patient experience to differentiate.

Most healthcare organizations are frozen in time, even more so now with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Many providers continue in the analysis by paralysis vicious planning cycle with no end in sight.  Neither acting nor reacting, are most healthcare organizations missing out on valuable market opportunities?  They are doing what they have always done, approaching the market like consumers are clueless and are only impressed with high-tech machines, smiling happy patients, exterior building visuals and doctors looking into microscopes.  

Start meeting healthcare consumer as well as patient needs and build your brand around experience by framing those expectations to your advantage.

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. 

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Do You Say Thank You – For Supporting Our Mission?

A bit dull sounding, don’t you think?

There is a deeper meaningful marketing and engagement activity for healthcare vendors and providers than meets the eye in the headline.

When was the last time one said thank you for supporting the mission of the organization?
I know we have our doctor’s day and run advertisements with an accompanying appreciation event.  Hospitals hold events for volunteers. Companies celebrate employees once at year. Healthcare vendors have regional user group meetings, customer appreciation events, conferences and such.  But those, for the most part, are annual activities.

And that is the difference.

We all read, hear and talk about the mission of the organization and it is important. That is what drives the business. It’s the focal point of interactions, in employment, or purchase of a product in healthcare. Seemingly, scant attention is paid to those in their way by taking action, meaning the healthcare consumer, patients and customers how their actions in choice support the business mission as well.

A moment of truth.

What prompted this was something so simple as to leave a lasting impression. The other day I needed to donate some articles. I could have chosen any number of charities but decided to go to Goodwill. After being handed a receipt for the items, the individual looked at me and said, “Thank you for supporting the mission of Goodwill.” It wasn’t trite. It wasn’t practiced. It was genuine, and he looked me in the eye when he said it.

It was powerful.

That simple act of thank you tied to the mission left an indelible impression. And it occurred to me, that in all of my experience in hospitals and vendors, I never remember a time when a thank you was tied to the mission of the organization in what could be considered a minor interaction.  Oh, we mention mission at the annual and quarterly events but not at all interactions.

Think about that for a moment.

Every interaction, every touch-point, every vendor product purchase and its use or an individual’s use of a hospital is an opportunity to express gratitude and reinforce the mission of what the provider or vendor is all about.

It’s a moment of truth carried out one person at a time.

So the next time you think about saying thank you because the calendar says it’s a special recognition month, or an organizational habit of annually doing something in a particular period,  think about the mission and moments of truth that happen each and every day.

It may be simple, but it’s an excellent way to build engagement with your customers and employees, as well as build the brand and brand evangelists.

So, when was the last time you said thanks to your stakeholders for supporting the organizational mission without a lot of hooplas?

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategy thought leader. 

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

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Customer Buyer Journey & Healthcare Vendors, a Solution for Driving Growth?

As provider markets for health care for vendors continue to consolidate through merger, acquisition, liquidation or disintermediation, there is one clear outcome. Fewer providers mean heightened competition with the hospital or health system becoming more in control of the buying process than vendors can manipulate during the sales process.

It’s a  new way of thinking and marketing for growth, and that is why the evolution of the successful vendor moves in a better direction that is more customer-focused and responsive to their needs.

Customer Buyer Journey

In this environment, companies can lose meaningful differentiation along products and services. Take population health firms for example.  In essence, all population health solutions do the same thing. How they do it is different with variations on features and benefits across the continuum of population health, but still at its most basic level are substantially the same. 

Of course, brand reputation can be a powerful influencer but where some vendors struggle is when they don’t have a considerable brand reputation or more than basic customer understanding. Just because you have developed personas doesn’t mean that you fully understand the customer or their buying journey.

Now that being said, this discussion is not for the highly successful vendors that are already using buyer’s maps and building customer evangelists along the way. Sales and marketing are highly integrated, and leadership has set the strategy, vision and executes on a nonnegotiable customer-first strategy.

The change that is required?

The requirement is to move from an overreliance on features and benefits marketing to an organizational customer focused culture and strategy. The sales and marketing operation becomes highly integrated and a shift to inbound marketing and sales providing the content within the right contextual framework at exactly the right time in the customer's buying journey takes place.

Influencing the costumer’s journey is about highly effective marketing.

When marketing and sales jointly understand the buying processes, then marketing becomes far more useful. Marketing moves from the funnel approach of filling the top of the funnel for sales with MQLs in the hopes that they will become SALs and not waste sales time, to a defined process that enhances sales success.

Next steps

Creating a buyers map takes time and resources. Let me be clear that this is some heavy lifting needing to happen. No shortcuts are allowed.

There are many different ways to map and a search on the IoT will provide one with all the templates necessary. But at a minimum, the following information is essential to the process and understanding coming from multiple sources. Some are marketing. Some are sales. And some are sales and marketing. Keep a singular focus as one gathers information on the buyer stages of Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.

1.    Initial moments that lead to the first contact.
2 .       Process steps the buyers take and conversations they engage in to find solutions.
3.       The flow of the process steps and experiences leading up to purchase.
4.       Items associated with purchase and consumption
5.       Ongoing experience and reactions to the purchase

After all, the companies in your vendor vertical that are successful are in a great measure due to understanding the Customer Buyers Journey. They successfully sell, cross-sell, and up-sell in greater amounts than you with the right content, at the right time, in the right context. And that only comes from an understanding of the Customers Buyers Journey.

And simply put, that is why you are losing in the market.

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategy thought leader. 

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