Healthcare Technology Buyer Insights for 2023

Last month I moderated a HIMSS webinar panel of four senior healthcare technology executives to get their perspectives on 2023 and to provide advice to healthcare technology vendors and services firms. They did not disappoint.

You can view the webinar recording here.

The panelists were:

  • Raymond Lowe, SVP and CIO, AltaMed Health Services
  • Sherri Hess VP & Chief Nursing Information Officer, HCA Healthcare
  • Milisa Rizer, MD, Family Medicine Physician & Chief Clinical Information Officer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  • Nick Patel, MD, Vice Chair of Primary Care and fmr Chief Digital Officer, Prisma Health

They explain the financial realities of healthcare systems, what their respective priorities are, what innovations are most interesting to them, and advice to vendors on how to sell to them. It was a lively and insightful discussion.

Here are four short excerpts from the panel.

What Will Happen to IT Spending in 2023

What Innovations or New Things Are You Considering

 

What Do You Expect from Vendors

Quick Advice for Vendors

 

VIEW WEBINAR RECORDING NOW

Healthtech Marketing Podcast – The Start-up Journey – Daniel Pluard, CEO of Intely

In this podcast brought to you in partnership with HIMSS, Daniel Pluard, the CEO of  Intely, a healthcare interoperability start-up, shares about their low-code/no-code approach to tackling the highly complex issues in automation workflows.

Daniel speaks with Adam Turinas, the CEO and founder of healthlaunchpad, and shares valuable start-up insights and tips touching on: 

  1. His career background and Intely’s mission
  2. Why and how they got started
  3. What the challenges have been
  4. Who they are selling to, and what problem they solve for them
  5. The startup life
  6. How they sell and market their brand
  7. Who do they go to for help and advice?
  8. What they could do if money wasn’t a problem
  9. Lessons Learned/Pieces of Advice

Podcast Video: The Start-up Journey – Daniel Pluard, CEO of Intely

Start-up Journey – Podcast Summary

1:44 Daniel Pluard’s Background & Intely’s Mission

The discussion begins with Daniel talking about:

  • His current position as the CEO and co-founder of Intely
  • Intely as a healthcare platform offering low-code/no-code interoperability services
  • Their mission of integrating many healthcare systems and applications
  • Their target customers: digital health, healthcare technology products, and providers
  • His healthcare technology background – experience at Cerner( currently Oracle Cerner

How They Got Started & Challenges Faced

In the podcast, Daniel talks about the gaps he saw, how he took time to learn, how they started, and the challenges they faced due to different reasons.

During the discussion, he explains that:

  • They didn’t continue focusing on areas that didn’t work and took a path that worked for them
  • They saw the need to work outside EMR implementation and instead pursued the integration of healthcare ecosystem products.
  • As a start-up, you ought to listen to feedback and realign your mission to what solves people’s problems.
  • You should not stick with your initial mission if it doesn’t provide a solution

11:20 Daniel On Intely’s Structure, Funding, & Customers

Further in the podcast, Daniel shares that:

  • Their start-up is about one year old
  • They have got a small team of about ten full-time employees and five contracted specialists.
  • They are currently self-funded.
  • The right people he got introduced to, which includes his co-founder, have helped drive their growth.
  • They currently have pilot customers.
  • Their target partners and customers are health technology service providers

 17:31 – Start-up Selling & Marketing

In the podcast, David also talks about the different selling and marketing channels they use, such as emails, websites, and social network channels.

He points out that being a start-up:

  • They aren’t still well-known, and their leads are mostly inbound
  • They are keen on making new connections at face-to-face events
  • They work on identifying the right people for support through their thoughts, inputs, and advice and those who can believe in them.

20:29 Who To Go To For Help & Advice

On where to go for help or advice, Pluard explains:

  • They go to people with specific skills or experience
  • His co-founder and others he has met over the years have provided adequate help and support
  • The Internet, through Google search, has proved to be a valuable source of help and insights
  • When one works on a solution and fails, one gets better prepared next time
  • Through learning, one gets better at developing different aspects of their projects.

26:22 – David Pluard – Relationship With Competitors

On how they relate with their competitors, David explains:

  • They connect with them through conferences, but not much because of the virtual nature of their services.
  • They love and respect them but keep a healthy distance from them
  • Through customers’ feedback, they learn about what they like or don’t like about their competitors

 28:25 David’s View – If Money Is No Longer A Challenge.

In a situation where money is not a problem for their start-up, David’s view is that:

  • It can be dangerous because, in business, there are limits that, if not well-managed, things may get haywire.
  • There is a need for more breathing room to help in working on branding strategy, marketing coordination, and Sales Operations.
  • Though having more resources would be nice, companies that have grown too fast have had to lay off some of the people they had brought on board which, to him, is a sad situation.

Daniel Pluard’s Advice on Lessons Learned

As the podcast comes to a close, David shares the following pieces of Advice or tips based on what he has learned through experience:

  • Be patient because everything takes longer than it appears in your mind!
  • Remind yourself that everyone you admire was in your situation, and somehow, they got through it.
  • Learn to be unique and find what works for you – Solve problems uniquely and deliver unique value.

Podcast Subscription

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Spotify, or any of your favorite podcast applications.

We have got great programs for guests coming up. 

If you have got any ideas, please, let me know through Adam@healthlaunchpad.com.

And if you like this podcast, share it with a couple of people so they can listen and learn. Thank you!

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Healthtech Marketing Podcast – David Fortino, Netline on Content Marketing Insights

In this podcast, Adams Turinas, CEO & founder of healthlaunchpad gets actionable content marketing insights from David Fortino, the Chief Strategy Officer of Netline, a leading  content syndication Platform.

David’s firm helps thousands of marketers engage buyers with 100s of 1000s of pieces of content.

Netline has tons of data on how buyers engage with content. David recently published some fascinating insights on this, and he shares them in this latest podcast episode.

This podcast is brought to you through the partnership of healthlaunchpad and HIMMS.

Key Podcast Highlights

The podcast aims at answering the following key content marketing questions:

  • What Content Is Most Effective?
  • What Content Do Buyers Want and Why?
  • How Can You Use Content to Nurture Relationships
  • How Do You Analyze Content Trends?

Video Podcast:  Content Marketing Insights  – David Fortino

1:22 – David Fortino  & Netline Solutions

The podcast begins with David sharing about his role as a Chief Strategy Officer at Netline.  He discusses how Netline:

  1. Operates the largest content-centric platform on the web.
  2. Helps B2B marketers of all disciplines to generate leads through their content marketing platform.

David explains how Netline processes thousands of registrations from content marketers and how they help a wide range of marketers trying to translate content into dialogue with prospects to drive pipeline.

David Fortino – Netline Content Marketing Study Report

In the podcast, David highlights a study they did, some of the insights they derived from the study, and how the data they derived helped identify the most effective content marketing strategy.

David explains that by interpreting data into actionable insights, they can create marketers who are more intelligent about their Ideal Customer Profiles ( ICPS)

3:53 – Key Report Findings

  1. Content consumption continues to grow
  2. Marketing Content should be rich in both quality & integrity
  3. Marketers should always enhance their content
  4. Content creators ought to realize they are marketing to people
  5. Marketers to focus on content that drives dialogues with prospects
  6. To drive engagement, brands should create a distinct voice, a feeling, and an emotional connection to their content
  7. Marketers should be aware of the marketing content consumption gap
  8. Good content should create a positive perception
  9. Need to focus on creating Customer Experiences

7:00 – Tracking Content Marketing Data

David explains how they track how consumers engage with the marketing content hosted within their platform. The tracking, he explains, begins from the time of registration.

David then demonstrates how trucked the sales team can use data through different tools at appropriate times when prospects have started engaging with the content.

Fortino talks of the importance of using the right messaging context by the sales team when reaching out to prospects.

This is because passing inappropriate messages can be a dramatic misstep when it comes to creating a customer experience.

11:10 – Effective Types of Marketing Content

Further in the podcast, David reveals that eBooks remain the most effective type of content compared to other formats because they tend to turn complicated topics into simple, easy-to-consume content.

He explains that eBooks tend to target those at the top funnel who are at a discovery stage of their buying process.

For other content, such as Webinars or Case studies, David reveals that they are the lowest in terms of volume but target those at the bottom of the funnel activities.

And so, as a marketer, David advises you to think of a suitable combination of content without focusing on only chasing volumes. Good content creation, he explains, should be in building a complete funnel.

Marketing Content Formats – Ebooks & Other Formats.

David then explains how they track different content formats and how eBooks differ from other marketing content formats such as white papers in terms of communication tone and their target consumers.

David Fortino on Video Content Marketing

In the video podcast, David reveals that though they have different content in different video formats, the volume is not large.

This is because content creators have not focused more on creating video content.

David shares that from their analysis, consumers tend to lean toward videos. He further explains other unique benefits that video and audio-based marketing content have, such as tracking and intent

20:46 – The Role of Analytics On Reaching Prospects

In the podcasts video, David emphasizes a smart marketer or sales team should contact prospects for engagements only if they are aware of the nature of marketing content their prospects have consumed.

He explains that to enhance customer experience, prospects’ approach should be based on value and how you can help them solve their problems instead of pitching first.

David then provides details on how you can access their reports and some of their ICP tools on their site such as Audience Explorer that content marketers can readily benefit from.

23:25 – David Fortino’s  Advice To Marketers.

Finally, as the podcast comes to a close, David, from his past lessons, advises marketers to:

  1. Stop listening to their competitors and adopting their narratives
  2. Focus on what makes their brand important and unique
  3. Unlock their creativity and fears, and be ready to take risks

 Other Relevant Links:

Three ABM Campaign Examples

In this post, we look at three real-life ABM campaign examples. These are all campaigns that B2B firms have successfully implemented in the last two years. The names of the firms have been kept anonymous.

Competitive Switching Program

In this example, a firm wanted to target competitors’ customers to entice them to switch. Here are the steps in this type of program.

  1. Identification of Competitors’ Accounts: Through in-depth research, The sales and marketing team identified 250 target accounts that used their #1 competitor’s solution.
  2. Setting Up The Campaign: They then exported the 250 target accounts out of Salesforce and into Terminus.  They used Terimus to set up a campaign targeting those 250 named accounts. This included using Terminus’ display network to look for prospects from these competitor accounts. They selected intent topics that would identify when an account might be looking at alternative solutions.
  3. Personalized Messaging: They designed a series of ads and a landing page focused on how competitors switched to their company. The landing page included a copy on why companies were switching, the benefits of their solution, a side-by-side comparison of the two solutions, and customer testimonials and calls to action.
  4. SDR Follow-up: As the sales and marketing observed target accounts engaging with the ads and the switching landing page, the SDR team made a concerted outreach effort to book meetings.

Segment-based Campaign

In this example, the same firm wanted to segment prospects based on different needs that the firm’s various solutions could meet. For example, one segment might be interested in facilities management solutions, another in cybersecurity, another in device management, etc.

  1. Create Intent Topic Clusters: The first step was to create clusters of intent topics in their Terminus ABM platform for each segment. This used Bombora’s intent data. Each cluster reflected the different needs of each segment.
  2. Create Segment-specific Marketing Campaigns: For each segment, they created digital ads and a landing page specifically designed for the need in question. They set these up as different segment-specific campaigns in their Terminus ABM platform.
  3. Drop Prospects Into The Right Sequences: SDRs tracked buyer behavior to see when an account was showing intent for a specific need segment. When they saw that one of their target accounts was showing intent, they dropped them into the relevant campaign. As a result, relevant contacts from those accounts were exposed to digital ads specific to their need. The targeting was adjusted so only people with specified titles saw the ads.  In addition, they initiated a personalized email sequence to target contacts at these accounts using Salesloft.

1:1 ABM Campaign

In a 1:1 campaign, you are dedicating significant resources and energy to a small number of large accounts. You are placing big bets on a small number of targets. The critical thing is to know as much as you can about each account. Here is an example of the steps in a 1:1 campaign.

  1. Identifying & Selecting Key Accounts:  At another firm, sales and marketing would start each quarter, determining which accounts to target with a  1:1 campaign. Typically they selected 5 to 10 target accounts per quarter. Before starting the campaign, the marketing team analyzed each account to determine how to best tailor the program to their needs. This involved monitoring and analyzing the engagement of each particular account on their website and analyzing intent data. They looked at what relevant topics are searched for by these top accounts. They also look at their own HubSpot data to determine how each of their selected accounts engages with them.
  2. Account-branded Pages: Based on their analysis, they created an account-branded landing page for their one-to-one marketing campaign for each of their target accounts. This included featuring their logo and including a personal welcome message. More importantly, the marketing team custom-curated content for each account based on the interest that each account has shown intent for. This included relevant blog posts, case studies, guides, and highlighting the most relevant product offerings. They even tested using a video of your CEO come welcoming them personally. his created a single place where anyone can read about the value and what you can offer that specific organization. 
  3. Individual Prospecting for one-to-one marketing: Then the AEs prospected with the account-branded pages to engage individual targets within each account, tracking usage. Often champions at an engaged account would want to own the page and share it across the organization and up the chain to their executive or C-suite.

By the way, if you like this post, we also created a post a while back with 25 different use cases. You can read it here

At healthlaunchpad, we specialize in helping companies get moving with ABM. We have developed an approach called ABM Acceleration. You can learn more here.

Photo by Tony Hand on Unsplash

Healthtech Marketing Podcast – The Healthcare Technology Buyer’s Perspective – Sunila Levi

In this engaging Healthtech Marketing podcast, Sunila Levi, a long-time Healthcare Technology Executive with a vast experience in different parts of the US healthcare systems, talks about Healthcare Information Technology from the buyer’s perspective.

Sunila speaks to Adam Turinas, the CEO & Founder of healthlaunchpad. The podcast comes to you courtesy of HIMMSS in partnership with healthlaunchpad.

Key Podcast Highlights

The podcast’ discussion focuses on the following:

  1. Differences between public and private Healthcare Sectors
  2. How State Sector & Private Organizations Buy Healthcare Technology
  3. How Integral Care or Small Healthcare Organizations Buy Technology
  4. Trusted sources for vendor information and advice
  5. What marketers get right and get wrong
  6. How to reach IT executives like Sunila

Video Podcast: HIT Buyer’s Perspective – Sunila Levi

3:22 – The Key Differences Between Private & Public Healthtech Sectors   

Having worked in both the non-profit private sector and public healthcare sector, Sunila highlights the main differences in the following areas:

  1. Nature of Services
  2. Operational Partnerships
  3. Operational Budgets
  4. Scope of Management

6:28 – How The Public & Large Healthcare Organizations Buy Technology 

Further in the podcast, Sunila Levi provides insights on how both sectors approach the technology buying process based on her experience in both the private and public healthcare sectors.

She explains the processes that public and private organizations must adhere to when purchasing healthcare technology.

So, she points out that technology buying is not a simple process and goes ahead to explain that:

  1. Buying is based on processes
  2. The state relies on clear structures and the Department of Information Resource Agency (DIR) for vendor identification.
  3. There is a website listing vetted vendors – whitelisted and Blacklisted vendors.
  4. Vendors can also work under primary or secondary vetted vendors
  5. Private organizations have vendor management offices to rely on
  6. Selling to large healthcare organizations can take between 3 to 6 months, while in the public sector, the process can take up to 1 year or more.

In the podcast, Sunila discusses her experience with integral carriers and Mental Health organization as a case study.

In particular, she shares about the Suicide Prevention Service in Texas covering Austin and surrounding areas.

She points out that selling to such small organizations requires that they get someone like herself to take the vendors through the buying process. 

Sunila further reveals that there are qualified dealers to help the local agencies or organizations with their healthcare technology purchasing requirements or processes.

15: 38 – How To Be Up-to-date With Healthcare Technology Trends

Healthcare technology is dynamic, there is a need to be aware of new trends.

And in the podcast, Sunila talks about how she relies on health technology Magazines such as Becker’s magazines to be well-informed about new technological changes within the sector.

She mentions Gartner and Forrester as the key sources of information on health technology vendors.

16: 32 – Sunila Levi On Healthcare Vendors  Get Right or Wrong When Selling To Organizations.

Sunila also reveals that she gets an average of 10 emails and cold calls per day. 

Two of the ten emails she receives relate to their current challenges.

So, from her perspective, cold-pitching is not ineffective.

However, for better results, she recommends combining it with other strategies. 

For instance, she then talks of the benefits of healthcare vendors bringing together the healthcare organization leaders such as the CIOs, CSOs, and CFOs to understand their challenges.

Through this, they can easily nurture relationships and build trust instead of directly pushing for sales.

21:33 – Sunila Levi’s Advice – Lessons Learned. 

Finally, at the end of the podcast, Sunila shares the following as some of the key lessons she has learned:

  • To lead others, you must learn to lead yourself by being motivated
  • The need to be curious and willing to learn
  • Never assume you know everything
  • Don’t take yourself seriously. Don’t be closed, be open

Podcast Subscription

If you are listening, you can subscribe to this podcast on AppleSpotify, or your other channels.

 Other Relevant Links:

ABM Pilots: Getting Your ABM Program Moving

One of the biggest challenges in ABM is how to get started. I know many marketers who have considered ABM for several years before getting going. One of the best ways to get moving is to run a simple and short ABM Pilot. In this post, we review three examples of simple ABM campaigns.

The Three ABM Campaign Types 

In simple terms, there are three types of campaigns to consider. 

  • 1:1 or Strategic ABM: This is the ABM approach when targeting fewer than 50 accounts. Typically this involves deep account research, highly tailored marketing, and a focus on relationship development.
  • 1: Few or Segment ABM: This is what you use when you target 50-200 accounts, and you can cluster accounts based on commonalities such as market segment, common need, or fit with a specific offering you are testing.
  • 1:Many or ABM at Scale: This type of ABM approach is for firms trying to apply the principles of ABM to reach thousands of accounts. This is highly data-driven, using intent data and often an orchestration platform to determine which accounts are in-market and target them with personalized messages.

Three ABM Pilot Examples

1:1 ABM Approach

If you are dipping your toe in the water and have limited resources, start with 1:1 ABM. Pick a few accounts and develop a simple, measurable pilot with clear goals. 

For example, Company A has long-term agreements with around 50 major healthcare systems. They were looking for ways to cross-sell additional services. Company A ran a pilot using intent data to identify who was in the market for these additional services. By switching on intent data, it was immediately identified that one of their largest customers was showing high interest in this additional service. This customer was unaware that company A offered this service. The account manager identified the right person for the customer to speak with. After explaining their capabilities to them, the customer agreed to add them to their RFP.

Company A’s SDR team implemented this technique across 25 major accounts. They integrated intent data from Zoominfo into Salesforce. The SDRs start their daily prospecting routines by focusing on high-intent accounts.

1:Few ABM Pilot

This type involves targeting prospects with something in common. For example, Company B has a technology-enabled service that is especially useful to customers who use a certain ERP platform. They determined that new customers who had most recently adopted this ERP platform had a higher need for Customer B’s solution.

Company B identified that customers who adopted this ERP platform typically only realized this issue was problematic a year after switching.

Company B developed an ABM campaign targeting ~100 accounts known to have switched ERP platforms in the last three years. This included building a list of ~1,000 contacts across these accounts, representing the typical buyer collective. These accounts were targeted with LinkedIn and email sequences using messages, content, and other tactics tailored to the problems encountered by these accounts. Throughout the pilot, 25% of these accounts engaged with the campaign. Contacts downloaded content, opened emails and accepted LinkedIn connections. The SDRs focused their prospecting activities on these accounts to secure meetings.

1:Many ABM Pilot

This is hard to do at scale without implementing an ABM platform such as 6Sense, Terminus, or Demandbase. You can, however, test out hypotheses about 1:Many ABM in simple ways, such as LinkedIn ads.

For example, Company C  ran a multivariate test using LinkedIn ads.  In this test, Company C promoted multiple solutions across 650 accounts. 

Company C set a baseline in the first three weeks by running ads on LinkedIn to a defined buyer collective across the 650 accounts.  In weeks 4-6, Company C narrowed the target account list to only those showing intent. They used third-party intent data from ZoomInfo.  Ad performance increased by refining the target to only those with intent signals. They found that over the three weeks, engagement with these ads with thor ads increased by 50%.

By the way, if you like this post, we created a post a while back with 25 different use cases. You can read it here

At healthlaunchpad, we specialize in helping companies get moving with ABM. We have developed an approach called ABM Acceleration. You can learn more here.

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

The Craft of Personalization in ABM – Why, What, and How

One of the main things that makes ABM different is personalization. In this post, we will review why personalization is important, the different uses of personalization, and how to create ABM and ABX campaigns using personalized approaches. We also review how implementing ABM will change your marketing department’s operations.

Why Personalization Matters

ABM and ABX are about dedicating your marketing resources more precisely to fewer people. It’s the opposite of a mass approach. ABM campaigns are based on the insights you have about the accounts you are targeting and the knowledge about the buying behavior of personas in each account’s buyer group.

The availability of different types of intent and behavioral data means you are missing a big opportunity if you don’t use that to personalize your marketing. And with ABX programs targeted at existing customers, you risk alienating them by not showing them that you know them.

The other reason personalization matters is that it works. According to McKinsey, 76% of purchasers are more likely to buy from brands that personalize, and 78% are more likely to recommend your brand to others if you personalize. In B2B markets, personalization is becoming table stakes.

According to Forrester, personalization continues to be a priority for B2B marketing leaders, with 52% planning to increase spending on content marketing and personalization technology to get this right (according to the Forrester Business Technographics® Marketing Survey, 2020).

A personalization strategy’s building blocks are connecting audience, content, and delivery. In Forrester’s opinion, this is about three things:

  • Assess the audience. First, define target segments and their attributes according to the type of personalization desired for the tactic, focusing on job role, market segment, and behavioral characteristics.
  • Map and tag content. Content requirements are driven by the type of personalization being targeted, including personas involved, buying stage, knowledge requirements, and content formats. Ensure content is tagged properly to increase findability, automate activation, and contribute to audience intelligence.
  • Data drives delivery. The data available or desired for each audience segment and activation channel fuels targeting, delivery, messaging treatment, and optimization.

Personalization is ultimately about getting the right content in front of the right customer and buying persona so that it resonates and provides compelling value.

Here are a few examples of personalization for ABM in action:

  • Email: When you recognize that a buyer is showing intent signals, you can drop them into email campaign sequences tailored to the topics they are showing intent for and stage in the buying cycle.
  • Dynamic ad personalization: Tools like Folloze allow you to brand digital ads with messages and branding tailored to a specific account so that the ad and landing page are customized and reflect their stage in the buyer journey.
  • Content Personalization: Personalization tools allow you to curate content and brand the page for a specific prospect. The content can be adjusted to their stage in the buying cycle. If the buying signals suggest they are early in the process, the content may be more general and educational. Later in the buying cycle will be the right time to present comparisons versus competitors.
  • Personal URLs (PURLs): Allow you to personalize the web URL to the person you are emailing, for example, healthlaunchpad.com/your.name. When the recipient visits the webpage they are greeted with a personalized welcome. Content is curated to their needs.

Scaling Personalized Campaigns

There are several components to successfully executing a scalable personalized ABM campaign model.

  1. Content: You will need a great deal of content, possibly significantly more than you may have in place. This is because you will need to address more precise needs for more personas across different clusters of accounts at different stages of the buyer journey. This can be intimidating and is one of the main reasons why ABM and ABX are considered to be expensive.
  2. Technology: You can execute ABM campaigns in a limited way with technology you may already have, especially if you can access intent data. However, to implement ABM at scale, you will need to consider adopting an ABM platform (e.g., Demandbase, Triblio, Rollworks, Terminus, 6Sense). In addition, you may want to look at tools that make it easier to personalize ads, landing pages, and content (e.g., Folloze, Uberflip, Pathfactory). These tools make creating personalized content, messages, and landing pages easy. And these will need to be well-integrated with your CRM and marketing automation platforms.
  3. Alignment and Communication: Unlike traditional B2B marketing, where sales and marketing tend to be siloed, ABM is a team sport. Marketing and sales must be joined at the hip in acquiring new customers. Together, the team will look at intent signals, determine how to address the needs of a cluster of accounts, and run personalized approaches to improve engagement. In more experienced ABM teams, the SDRs start to take on tasks typically associated with marketing, such as creating personalized landing pages,  In an ABX scenario, customer success is a key member of the team. They must advocate for their customers, pinpoint their needs, and guide them on how to best personalize campaigns for their customers.
  4. Agility: As ABM works best as a team sport, moving quickly and adapting to buying signals and other buyer behavior is a way to gain a competitive advantage. If you can act more nimbly than the other guy, you can beat them in winning the customer over to you. We are seeing several organizations adopt agile marketing as an operating model.

I am curious, are you adopting a personalized approach? How are you going about that? What have been the results? Please DM me.

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

Turning Customers Into Positive Influencers

When most people think about influencer marketing, the first examples that come to mind are B2C, but it’s at least equally effective in B2B. It should also be a key consideration in your ABX strategy. In this post, we will go into how to determine how customers are talking about you and how to turn them into positive influencers.

positive influencers

Your customers are important influencers in your pipeline of prospective new customers. They can be a positive or a negative influence.

 The reason why your current customers are especially important in influencer marketing is that people trust other people more than any other channel. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report (2021), 89% of people globally trust recommendations from friends and family. This is the most trusted channel.

 Interestingly, branded websites are the second most trusted channel. This reinforces why sharing customer testimonials on your website and other forms of social proof should be a high priority.

 In developing a buyer journey-driven marketing strategy, you should assume that buyers will talk to peers and actively seek their opinions as they consider solutions. They will also rely on sources of reviews and ratings. This may include analysts, rating websites, and any public source of customer reviews.

 Ignore this at your peril!

 Companies who have mastered influencer marketing use it to build trust and turn trust into committed relationships.

Identifying Positive Influencers and Detractors

The foundation of influencer marketing with your customers is to understand what your customers are saying about you or not saying about you. There are several ways to assess this.

 Social Media Listening Programs

Many services allow you to monitor what people are saying about you online. Services like Sprout Social and Meltwater enable you to analyze sentiments about your brand. You can determine what positive things are being said, what are the negative topics, and what s being said about you versus your competitors.

 It’s essential to determine the strongest influencers, especially if they are customers. Most importantly, try to analyze comments by customers.

Comparison sites

One of the more structured forms of social influence is comparison and rating sites. Sites like G2, Capterra, and Softwareadvice.com make it easy for buyers to compare solutions based on customer ratings.

It is easy to have your site rated, and these are also good channels for digital marketing.

Analysts Talk to Both Positive Influencers and Detractors

B2B firms have love/hate relationships with market analysts. To some, you must pay for an expensive subscription to be covered. Analyst firms like Gartner are held in high regard by B2B buyers. Ignore them at your cost.

In the context of ABX, the most critical analysts base their perspectives entirely on customer interviews. For example, in healthcare technology, the analyst firm KLAS surveys vendors’ customers to create market analyses on different sectors within healthcare. Buyers value their reports as they analyze how their peers are addressing similar issues and how they rate various vendors.

 As a vendor, these are important in gauging how you compare to your competitors and understanding what our customers and prospects value as important. It can also help provide ideas and prioritization advice on what to consider in your product roadmap.

Intent Data

As we covered in this post, use intent data with your current customers to understand what other solutions they are evaluating and to determine who is at risk of defecting.

Strategies to Create More Positive Influencers

So how do you use the intelligence about how your customers influence your prospects? Here are several strategies to consider.

 The Basics

Several things should be considered “basic hygiene” in marketing:

  1. Logos as social proof— As you have no doubt noticed, most B2B websites feature the logos of their customers prominently. These are important because when a buyer visits your website, one of their first questions is “Do they have customers like me?”
  2. Testimonials–These extend basic social proof into showing how committed your customers are and provide clear examples of working with you.
  3. Case studies are especially helpful to buyers later in the buyer journey. They are important for your champion prospects as they provide substantial detail on what to expect. Champions use these case studies with their buyer committees. These are also great PR ammunition. Trade publications love to write detailed stories about how a company in their market has solved a problem. Your case studies make that easier for them to do this.
  4. References—Later in the buying process, prospects will ask to speak to references they can interview privately about why they should select you. It’s best to have a large pool of those who are ready to go. You don’t want to depend on a few customers who may begrudge you for asking them too often.

Turning Positive Influencers Into Customer Champions

Customers will become even more enthusiastic about you when you celebrate them. There are so many ways to do that. These will require sales and marketing to partner with the customer success team.

Start by identifying your most committed customers and design a customer champion program around them. This will include several different strategies.

 Celebrate their wins by reposting and tagging when your customers are featured in the press or in social media. This shows you care about them and their success. It also associates you with their success.

 Secondly, make them proud to be your customer by giving them advanced notice when good news is about to break, for example, winning an award, making a major hire, or closing a funding round. Giving them a warning increases the likelihood of sharing this on social media.

 When you write a post on LinkedIn or Twitter about a customer, for example, sharing a case study, tag the company and your customers. This will expose your post to their network and extend the reach of your social media post.

 Celebrating them will make your most committed and enthusiastic supporters more open to advocating for you. As they have egos and are ambitious about their careers, many will be open to being featured in the media on your behalf. Create a campaign around them that will feature them speaking about you in press stories, webinars, social media posts, testimonial videos, and speaking on conference panels that you host.

 If you can afford it, host an annual customer event where you can invite both customers and prospects. Celebrate your customers at this event, and tell their stories to demonstrate your solutions’ impact. Introduce them in person to prospects. They can’t help by evangelizing what you do in a setting like this. Lastly, encourage and make it easy for them to post about the event on social media.

 These events are also important in converting neutral and negatively disposed customers. For customers who seem satisfied but not committed, these events are an opportunity to showcase the value of what you do and expose them to benefits they may not know about. For at-risk customers, it may be an opportunity to give them special attention and a forum for senior executives to hear their concerns.

Educating Your Customers

So much of the content that is created in B2B marketing is geared toward new customer acquisition. Your existing customers are a critical audience. Seeing you as an authority will make them value you more. Thought leadership content that reinforces your knowledge and insight will educate them and reinforce that they made a good decision.

 It also gives them content to share on social media and to pass along to their peers. You can make this even more effective by having them contribute to this content.

Invite Positive Influencers into your product development process

One of the best things you can do to turn customers into evangelists is to include them formally in your product development process. Customer and User Advisory Boards are a good mechanism for this. These are a good way for your product development leaders to hear directly from customers about what they would like included.

 One key thing to remember is that as you deploy new features, publicly acknowledge their input and give them advance notice of updates. Remind them that they contributed to this. Tag them with thanks in social media posts announcing launches. This will increase the reach and likelihood of your posts being shared by them.

Neutralizing Negative News

Bad news travels faster than good news. So, when a customer complains about you online, you must immediately jump on it! This is one of the reasons it is so important to have a social listening team in place. The key thing is to have a procedure to address this.

 You can’t do anything to reverse a legitimate negative post, but you may be able to stop additional ones.  Marketing and customer success will need to work closely together.

 The first thing to do is for customer success to acknowledge to the customer that you take their concern seriously and offer to address the issue as fast as possible.  Organize a team to meet with them quickly, including a senior executive and other executives who can help resolve this issue. Then put a remediation plan in place.

 This will put you on track to solve the issue and will likely dissuade them from posting negative comments about you while resolving the issue.

Using influencer marketing and relationship-building strategies is a key part of your long-term growth strategies. In an ABX program, they are one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to influence future sales with new customers.

Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash

Account Insight: How to Get It and Use it Grow Revenues

In this post, we will dive into Account Insight. This is a fundamental part of building an effective ABX strategy. We will review what it is and how to get better at this. This is about knowing how committed your customers are, their future needs, how likely they are to give you business, and what you need to be more successful with them.

But first, a quote…

…as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know… Donald Rumsfeld

As we all know, it’s much easier to win more business from a current customer than it is to win and get business from new customers. Maybe 4-10X easier. And the more you know about your customers and real account insight, the better you will do at growing revenues with them.

There are many different ways to get better intelligence about what’s happening with your existing customers.

The best-known methodology is the Netpromoter Score (NPS). This is based on the “One Question,” i.e., the likelihood to recommend your company. It’s a simple way to survey for satisfaction across your clients, but it has limitations in B2B.

Limitations of NPS for Account Insight

The Netpromoter Score has made a significant impact in helping companies improve customer satisfaction. It is especially effective in B2C consumer businesses where you are marketing and selling to individuals who are often product users.

The premise of NPS is that the “One Question,” how likely are you to recommend this product to a friend, is a proxy for satisfaction, especially when the respondent gives feedback on why they gave this answer.

NPS works well in B2C markets, but it’s hard to make it work as effectively in B2B.

If you get user feedback on your product, then NPS may be fine. However, if you are trying to get a clear picture of all your customers’ satisfaction with you, then NPS has shortcomings.

Why? There are many different stakeholders involved. This means you need to get a representative sample from the key stakeholders and gather sufficient feedback so your team can develop a plan to act on the feedback.

The common problem we hear with using NPS is that survey participation can be low, feedback is shallow, and hard to act on. And when the sample does not represent all the key stakeholders, the responses are biased and may be misleading.

You may need feedback from the C-Suite, VPs, Directors, and Managers to get a complete picture of how well you are positioned in your accounts. If your responses are primarily from managers, but very few of the VPs of the C-suite respond, your picture of the state of your relationships is skewed toward the managers’ opinions. You may be getting a rosy picture from the managers without knowing that senior executives who manage budgets and decide on solutions are starting to look elsewhere.

NPS is a good leading indicator of customer satisfaction, but you need to go deeper.

In the words of Carey Evans from Relationship Audits, a firm that specializes in customer satisfaction measurement:

It can tell you that a bomb is about to go off in the neighborhood but not precisely where it is and how to defuse it.

The other issue is that satisfied clients are not necessarily committed clients. In his book, the Loyalty Effect, the creator of NetPromoter Score, Frederick Reichheld, says that 60-80% of customers who said they were satisfied defected to another vendor. So, if your customer satisfaction survey tells you that your clients are satisfied, don’t get comfortable. The odds are that they are open to an offer by a competitor.

How To Gather Better Account Insights

Ideally, in assessing customer satisfaction, you will determine several critical things: Which customers are committed, which customers are at risk of defection, what you need to do to serve them better and how to grow your business with your customers.

It’s hard to imagine more important information than this!

So how do you do this effectively?

The following is what we regard as best practice. It looks like a great deal of work, and that’s because it is. It is much less work than dealing with the consequences of a surprise defection.

If you do this well, it can transform your business, but poorly executed customer insights and satisfaction assessments can, at best, tell you very little. They may tell you false information that can mislead your strategy.

Here are the recommended steps to take.

  1. Create a Formal Client Assessment Project – Resolve to prioritize this issue. Formalize the process by making it a project that your firm’s leadership team endorsed (or better yet initiated). Get buy-in from all the key executives on your side so that they support this.
  2. Prioritize candidate customers for assessments – A rule of thumb is to get feedback from the customers who represent at least 50% of your revenues in aggregate. It would be best if you talked with any customer whose departure would create significant turmoil. Prioritize customers who represent the greatest potential growth and those who would create the greatest damage if they left.
  3. Determine your best method for the assessment – If you only need to get feedback from 10-20 or so clients across your top customers, you could get detailed feedback through in-person or phone interviews. Interviews may be impractical if you need to get feedback from more than that number. In this case, you could get feedback through an online survey. You could do this through a tool like Survey Monkey, but you could consider a specialist firm like ours or Relationship Audits which has a very robust way of doing this. You may want to consider a mix of both – online for the mid to junior-level participants and phone-based for the most important and senior stakeholders.
  4. Get your clients’ buy-in – Most clients will appreciate that you are doing this to ensure you are addressing their needs, especially if you position this as a proactive initiative to ensure that you have the right resources. This could be a warning sign if they don’t want to participate. Be concerned.
  5. Design a survey that will uncover the truth about your relationships – You are unlikely to get sufficient information with 2-3 questions. In our experience, you won’t uncover the truth in less than ten questions, especially in an online survey. The question set should include likelihood to recommend you, their priorities for next year, how well you deliver against expectations, what they think you do best, what they think you should improve on, and what changes they would like to see.
  6. Aim for more than 75% participation – If you are conducting this as an online assessment, it is very hard to get 100% participation. Not impossible, but a big hill to climb. In our experience, 75% is high enough to get reliable insights about the state of your key relationships. The key thing is to achieve a representative sample across your customer stakeholders. This means having a system that can send out multiple reminders and track who has not responded so that you can reach them in a more targeted way. This might include asking their boss to nudge them to respond or making a personal outreach.
  7. Review findings internally and be objective – Have a process to discuss the findings with your leadership team. Avoid blame in adverse situations. Be positive and constructive in how you will make improvements. Best of all, where you have identified positive findings, figure out how you can use this insight to gain more business.
  8. Present your findings back to the client – Once the process is complete, you must review what you have learned with your clients and, most importantly, an action plan for what you are going to do about it.
  9. Check back later on progress – After six months, check back with the senior clients to determine how you are progressing against the action plan.
  10. Rinse and Repeat – Plan on doing this process annually. It conveys to the client that you are committed to a long-term relationship underpinned by continuous improvement.

Developing a Growth Plan From Better Account Insight

The first step in developing a growth strategy with your existing customers may be to re-think how you segment them. For example, use your satisfaction survey to put them in four buckets

  1. Committed: Customers who account for significant revenue have indicated that they are happy with you and indicate long-term commitment.
  2. At Risk: Customers who account for significant revenue have indicated that they are dissatisfied and may be at risk of defection.
  3. Growth Candidates: Customers who account for lower revenue but could spend more with you have indicated that they are happy with you.
  4. Maintenance: Customers who account for lower revenue are neutral or dissatisfied with you.

Growth Strategies Based On This

Here are some strategies that will come out of this activity.

  1. Convert Committed into Evangelists – In short, your committed customer relationships are extraordinarily valuable in helping you acquire new customers. How can you leverage these relationships to help you convince prospects to become customers, their future needs and how does this translate into your product roadmap? The possibilities here are limitless.
  2. Address flight risks- Your most urgent priority is fixing relationships with at-risk high-value customers. The first step is communicating that you have heard them and are acting on their feedback. It helps if this comes from a senior executive, possibly your CEO. You then need to develop a specific and detailed action plan about how you’ll be able to address these issues. This should include what you need from them to be successful. Once you have communicated this to them, the key thing is to have check-ins scheduled to discuss how you are progressing.
  3. Determine how to upsell opportunities: If you have designed your customer satisfaction assessment effectively, you will have insights from these customers on what they need and what problems they need help with.  This is the basis of a plan to grow your revenues with these customers. It may not give you all the answers, but it creates an opening. Your customer success and account managers should return to these customers and thank them for participating, look at what you have learned, and ask them to clarify. This will get them to expand on their need, creating possible upsell opportunities You can use this to make sure that they know about all the other things you can provide them. Ask for introductions to other departments who may be interested in other solutions you can provide
  4. Monitor Maintenance Clients – These customers you would prefer not to lose but expect to grow or churn. The key thing with these is to keep monitoring them and determine which ones can move up into bucket 3 at some point.

I hope you found this helpful. At healthlaunchpad, we hope clients with. We can help you get feedback, and develop and execute effective growth strategies. Let me know if you are interested in learning more.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Agile Marketing: What It Is, Why Implement It, and How to Do It

Agile Marketing has rightly been receiving a great deal of attention. For many organizations, it is becoming THE operating model for marketing.

I recently had the pleasure to hear the awesome Kaycee Kalpin, Chief Marketing Officer of Premier Inc, share perspectives on Agile Marketing. Kaycee led the transformation of a 50+ team of marketers to this new model. This was a masterclass on the subject.

(BTW, Kayce was a guest on our podcast)

In this post, I will share what Agile Marketing is and how it is implemented at this multi-billion dollar healthcare firm.

So What is Agile Marketing?

According to Atlassian, a major software firm who are masters in agile…

 Agile Marketing is an approach to marketing that utilizes the principles and practices of agile methodologies. This includes having self-organizing, cross-functional teams doing work in frequent iterations with continuous feedback.

Agile Marketing is no different from Agile practice in other areas, including software. It is doing more and with less. It is a way to carve out a body of work, put a timeline to it, and create a cross-functional team to get the work done in a time-efficient and time-boxed way.

Why Make the Change to Agile Marketing?

There are many reasons to consider changing to Agile Marketing. This includes

  • Budgets that are being cut or are not growing.
  • Campaigns are not delivering sufficient results to justify the spending on marketing
  • Increasing the team is not improving outcomes

In Kaycee’s case, it was driven by the need to adapt to frequent changes in organizational structure. Kayce found a great deal of inefficiency in the handoff from one vertical to the next, no matter how they were aligned.  The goal was to make the team more adaptive.

How Does Agile Marketing Work In Practice

Let’s say there is a gap in the pipeline, and marketing needs to launch a campaign that quickly increases deal flow. The goal might be to get sales five at-bats within 30 days.

First, you do a brainstorming session, you put down everything under the sun that you could do in a campaign that would achieve the goal. Then you assign points based on the level of effort required. Different organizations use different point structures. Kaycee’s team used the number of hours it took to complete this task.  For example, if someone came up with a webinar. Within a webinar, there needs to be an invite, a registration page, an invitation, a list pulled, the webinar executed, polls within the webinar, and content. That would be a high number of points.

Then you put all of your ideas up on the board and rank them in terms of the level of effort and leads that each would generate. Then you go back to the board with the team and say, what can we reasonably accomplish in a two-week sprint that gets you to the lead number goal?

That point system helps you determine a reasonable amount of work that this team can do to get those five at-bats. Your tactics may shift around a little bit. Maybe a webinar isn’t the best way to do it because it will take three weeks to get it to market. Maybe you do an on-demand webinar with a prior event instead.

How Did Kaycee’s Organization Learn The Principle of Agile Marketing

Before the pandemic (and not knowing the pandemic was coming), Kaycee had a consultant teach her team the principles of Agile.

The coach had them make pizzas out of construction paper.  Someone was cutting the construction paper, someone was coloring the construction paper, and someone was taping the pepperonis onto the pizza. This created an assembly line. As the teams assessed the process, they noticed where things would get held up. For example, they needed more scissors. The process was getting held up at the stage of cutting the pizza because someone was being way too meticulous with their scissors. This exercise taught them to shift their mindset to look holistically at the work that was being done and holistically at the goal we were trying to meet. And then create a line of individuals and resources to get there regardless of functional alignment, skillset, or job description.

How Does Agile Marketing Change The Way Teams Work

agile marketing

One of Kaycee’s key recommendations is to avoid reorganizing the department. People kept the same titles, and the org chart remained largely unchanged. The most important thing was to change how they worked.

In practice, you measure the output of the team. That’s hard sometimes, as it identifies weak links in creating agile teams with a project owner called a scrum master. No one on the team or very few on the agile team reported to that person. The coaching and the development of the person happened in their vertical. For example, a digital analyst is coached by someone specializing in digital, but they may be attached to a team working on a project.

The team would do daily standups and report what they did in the last 24 hours. Everybody chipped in, and the peer-to-peer interaction held people accountable.  This helped improve team productivity.

One of the critical benefits during the pandemic was that it kept people very connected.

You have to have the right tools. They started with a technology that didn’t work. They ripped it out and put in Monday boards that they use for sprints now. You will need everybody to speak the same technical language. Everyone commits to the standup, whether it’s weekly or daily, or biweekly. In a remote, virtual situation, Kaycee was die-hard on using cameras, so people looked at each other. They would start with an icebreaker and then dive right in.

How Does Agile Marketing Change Roles Within the Marketing Department

Kaycee has a growth team that creates the campaigns and execution verticals (automation, digital, PR). She forms cross-functional teams.

One key learning from this transformation is that 100% specialization is the death of a marketing team with limited resources. For example, Kaycee’s team has a tight marketing budget, so someone exclusively dedicated to a LinkedIn person would be deployed at 40%.

When you specialize, you’re telling someone that they operate in a specific box and not to color outside the box. This limits their productivity, their contribution, and their development. It also limits the collective potential of the whole marketing team, especially if you have omnichannel.

It can be especially hard for people who are perfectionists. Agile can put a strain on creative specialists. They want to deliver a 10 of 10 in terms of effort every time. They want it to be the best digital ad they’ve ever seen. But you may only need a 3 out of 10 because you need 10 digital ads. So when you tell someone that specializes in something that you need a level three effort, they are not going to be happy with the work they deliver. But if you tell a team that you need to do this 10 times to make an effort, they start to get it.

Success Factors

Critical To Sucess #1 – Working Towards Specific Goals

The key is that because you are working towards a specific goal, it makes the team think differently about how they achieve these goals. For example, how often do you have people come to you and say we’re running a campaign, it’s a webinar? And you reset their thinking “A webinar isn’t a campaign. Thought leadership that leads to a webinar that leads to a telemarketing call that converts to a sales meeting. That’s a campaign”. And so it helps people think differently about what they’re working towards.

This can improve the way you approach annual planning. Typically the annual plan can be the death of everyone because, on paper, it looks like it’s going to work. When you start deploying tactics that are not working, you can persist with things that don’t work.  Kaycee’s approach is to break down the work into campaigns that contribute to growth in three business areas. Then break down that work into two-week sprints. “This week we are going to work on this slice of the market, or these two weeks we’re going to work on this slice of the market, and we’re going to try to increase engagement in two weeks of these 10 accounts by 2%, etc.”. The critical thing is to break down the work to the slightest degree that provides an impact.

Critical To Sucess #2 – Top Down

It has to start from the top down. You must align from the CMO down, and the CEO must be on board because you will say no to things. And the early stages are hard, and you have to report more and overcommunicate. For example, this is what the team is doing in this two-week sprint, and here is what we accomplished and how it was measured. Kayce said that they went through 10 two-week sprints before they started to get buy-in from some of the P&L owners. Kaycee got the CEO to say a few things about it at meetings and how marketing is trained in Agile, how they were rolling out these new principles, and to be patient with them.

How Did Kaycee Manage the Team Through the Transformation

The pandemic created an inflection point to transform to Agile. When the pandemic started, the executive team shifted their philosophy from selling hard to supporting their customers. Premier Inc serves 5,000 health systems, and especially during the height of the pandemic, they didn’t want to be sold to. Kaycee and her colleagues focused on communicating with them about what resources they have through their partnership to help them through this journey.

As an Agile team, they needed to be fully committed to this strategy. Kaycee took a 60/40 approach where 60% of their time was spent on the deliverables through Agile and 40% on the business as usual.  The team found that the Agile projects drove them more as they were more rewarding. They were working as a team, coloring outside of the lines, finishing projects in sprints that had a goal that was attached to the goals of the organization. They were even more productive in the 60% of projects done through Agile.

What are some of the challenges that arise out of this transformation

One of the biggest challenges with Agile is in the war for talent.

As an organization, you are going to get more done for less money, and you are going to get better results, but the people management of this can be challenging.

Staff turnover is a significant issue for everyone  The problem is to convince individuals that there is a development path. The issue is that as they are part of a unit where everyone is equal, no one is more in power than the other. And if they all win, they all win, if they all fail, they all fail.

The problem is that individuals struggle with seeing how they can climb the corporate ladder. How do they go from a manager to a director to a vice president to a CMO? And how do they maintain a semblance of specialization?

Key Takeaways

  1. Agile Marketing is about doing more with less, creating cross-functional teams to get the work done in a time-efficient and time-boxed way.
  2. There are many reasons to adopt Agile Marketing. At the end of the day, it can change up the productivity of your team and improve results.
  3. Avoid a reorganization of the department. Don’t change people’s titles or the org chart. The most important thing was to change how the team worked.
  4. Avoid specialization and encourage team members to color outside the lines.
  5. Agile Marketing starts with a focus on a specific goal. Being more goal-focused is one of the key changes.
  6. You kick off an Agile Marketing project by brainstorming ideas, breaking those ideas into many small tasks, then scoring and ranking the ideas based on the level of effort and potential results.
  7. The next step is to design a series of short sprints with a cross-functional team assigned to each sprint, managed by a scrum master.
  8. One of the key elements of Agile Marketing is regular (often daily) stand-ups, meetings where all the team members report out on progress. This allows the team to adjust quickly as needed.
  9. You will also change what you measure. You become even more focused on productivity and outcomes.
  10. You most likely need to bring in a specialist coach to teach the team how to implement Agile Marketing practices. This includes having many team members become certified in Agile.
  11. Many tools support Agile Marketing. These include project management tools like Monday.
  12. Getting executive buy-in is critical. You will need the CEO’s support as you transition to an effective and fully-functioning Agile Marketing capability.
  13. One of the hardest adjustments is that 10 out of 10 in quality is not always needed. Sometimes 3 out of 10 is sufficient.
  14. One of the biggest issues that people have in an Agile Marketing environment is the concern about how their careers will advance.

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