Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How do You Market Healthcare IT Solutions?

Having worked on marketing in the hospital, healthcare group purchasing and IT vendor side in Radiology Information System, (RIS), Picture Archiving Communication System (PACS) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR), the marketing challenges of selling into two spaces simultaneously, against a bevy of competition, seems to be increasing exponentially.

Just an observation, but everyone may be starting to look the same. It's easy to lose that differentiation every company craves, when selling similar products and services . In respect to all, the Healthcare IT space is beginning to look a little commoditized with a lot of product sameness.

So why is this happening? Lots of reasons. Let's take a short look at some common marketing techniques and what could be done to break the log jam. Less is more.

Key Messages

Leading provider, 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!

Sales and Marketing Integration

Marketing and sales really need to be more highly integrated than they are. It is much more than sales saying "marketing makes things look pretty", or marketing saying "if the feet on the street sold it the way we tell them it would work".

There needs to be a sales and marketing advisory committee, that is set up with sales reps from the various regions. Agenda driven, these weekly calls discuss what going on is sales, issues in the marketplace, what they are hearing about competitors and feedback on how the sales tools are being used. Marketing should be listening, understanding and discussing what is coming up. The sales force should be soliciting comments from the larger sales team and carrying information back.

Marketing should also be on the weekly sales funnel calls. Joint goals and objectives should be developed for sales and marketing collaboration. Share in the gain share in the pain. Marketing should also be going on sales calls and have access to trip reports in the Sales IT system. And, marketing staff should be trained in the sales methodology that is currently being used.

Case Studies

Case studies are important, and I would think everyone agrees on that point. Maybe however, our audiences suffer from information overload. 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.

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 and Trade Shows

Exhibits are what they are. But adding workshops, presentations and discussions on the booth are a must have. You are the focal point with the doctor, hospital, whomever is playing a supportive testimonial role. 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. Sales must have pre-established appointments on the booth. No appointments, no go. Immediate lead generation and follow-up on every booth visitor is another must.

Webinars

Needed, yes. 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? 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. 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 and designed for mobile access. 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. Build a following. Have apps for your site. Use QR codes linked to account executives, white papers, case study or web site as suggestions.

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, implementation success stories, outcomes, data transparency, anything that 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.

And rankings do matter. KLAS is important. Add in ECRI and Hayes as well. Tie them all together if you can for your products with customer evangelist testimonials.

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.

If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.





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