Monday, August 9, 2010

Marketing Healthcare PACS & RIS IT Solutions

This post is a little different for me. Usually, I am looking at the hospital side of the marketing equation and not so much the sales vendor side. Having worked on both the hospital and IT vendor side Radiology Information System, (RIS), Picture Archiving Communication System (PACS) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR), it is most interesting to compare. The great challenge is selling into two spaces simultaneously, the physician and the C-Suite. Messages may be the similar and different at the same time. Once size does not fit all. Additionally, this is not an all inclusive look at marketing PACS and RIS.

I am not addressing the sales side of the equation. That's a discussion for another topic at a later date. I am not anti-sales by any means being Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni. The integration of marketing and sales is for another day.

Just an observation but everyone is starting to look the same. It's easy to lose that differentiation that every company craves when selling similar products and services .

Key Messages

Reducing cost, improving quality, reducing medical errors, innovative, next generation, improving productivity and efficiency, easy to use, interoperability with all systems, IHE, user groups that deliver real information, increasing satisfaction for the physician, C-suite and patients are key messages everyone is using. What is wrong with this picture? The pun is intended!

So let's take a short look at some common marketing techniques and what could be done to break the log jam? Less is more....

Case Studies

Case studies are important and I would think everyone agrees on that point. Our audiences suffer from information overload. Where the observation is that those documents are way too long. Sometimes it seem like we get paid by the word, or we are so enthralled by our own system prowess that we must write in excruciating detail. If I have learned anything about case studies and white papers for physicians and the C-Suite it's two pages tops. And even that needs white space. Organize as follows; Background , Solution, Outcomes. And yes they can be written in two pages or less. Just because they are shorter doesn't mean you're treating your audience like an idiot. They most likely will appreciate the brevity.

Also, if you keep them shorter you can use them as the basis for email campaigns. But that too requires creativity. Use a video spokesperson to introduce the white paper or case study to drive the audience to your web site. Its electronic and can be done for $15,000 or less, including email list procurement.

White Papers

White papers it is believed, add a measure of thought leadership to your space. They do, provided you are putting them out on a regular basis and (this is the important part) are more than you writing about what you know about. White Papers need to be used as mechanism for thought-leadership, not simply writing what you know about. To be a thought leader in your field you need to write like a "thought- leader". That means taking on topics you may not feel so comfortable about. It may mean becoming a visionary and projecting out where an industry may be going. To be seen as a thought-leader you must generate though-leading content and that is content beyond what you know.

For example, those vendors who operate in the international space, think of the lessons you have learned in single payer government sponsored healthcare systems, or in Europe where there is a mix of payers where everyone has health coverage. How do those lessons translate into the transformation of the American healthcare system? That is thought leadership.

Association Meetings

Here is not so much exhibiting which some do allow, but being a co-presenter with a hospital or doc on how working together the hospital lowered cost, improved quality, increased efficiency etc. You are not the focal point but the doctor or hospital is the focal point, You play the supporting character with your product. Yes, you do have a role as a presenter but this is the soft sell and credibility established as a the content expert as well as showing you understand the pain and can make it go away. Consider being a major sponsor as well to access key decision makers one-on-one.

Webinars

Yep another me too category. However it seems that most people are still in the 9-5 mentality. Most physicians and professionals I know are usually working in their office or the hospital. So why not have these webinars in the evening or early morning before they start reviewing x-rays, digital or film? If they are not reading x-rays then they are not making money. Don't infringe on that valuable time. Be more responsive. For the C-suite, lunch time is usually good for them scheduled later in the week rather than early in the week or the middle.

Internet usage

Interactive, interactive, interactive. Way too much copy heavy web pages. Readers neither have the patience nor the desire to have to read the fine print to see what they want. Make sure your site is user friendly; no more than 3 clicks to find information. Use video messaging. Don't forget about facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, blogs, YouTube etc. Your audience is out there. Messages delivered across multiple channels are more effective then a one size fits all approach.

Customer Evangelists

Got to have them. If your hospitals, doctors and others won't stand up for you, then you have a problem. You're just another vendor who can be replaced. Testimonials, patient success stories, outcomes, data transparency, anything that can show others are passionate about your product. Third party conferred credibility is a powerful medium and message. Don't lose sight of it. Find them and leverage. Shame on you if you don't.

Media Relations

More than just press releases, this is the down and dirty of getting coverage. Major stories in targeted publications will do more for you than any advertisement, banner ad, webinar etc. people do believe what they read. You need a steady stream of news and information. Be proactive, build press relationships. Use the Business Wire. Target your messages for the specific press you are trying to attract. Build your news around current events in healthcare. Don't be afraid to issue a statement on your position on a topic of importance. Be seem as a content expert so that when news develops around the industry you're in, you become the go-to organization for the quote. it confers strong expert credibility for you and your companies solution products. Copies of articles can be used a leave behinds and in campaigns. Can't buy that kind of coverage and credibility. Build more than a press page- build a bio of the senior team and a speakers bureau for conference, seminars etc. If you are not out in the market presenting, then you are not being seen. Presence builds preference.

I have gone on long enough and probably too long for that matter. But from what I have seen in the segment of the healthcare industry, everybody is starting to look the same. And that could lead to a commoditization of the PACS & RIS environment where people buy only on price and nothing else.

So seller beware.....

Michael Krivich is Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and can be reached at michael@themichaeljgroup.com or 815-293-1471 for consulting services in strategic marketing, media relations and interim marketing executive leadership assignments.

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