by Dan D’Orazio, CEO, Sage Growth Partners
No single marketing tactic will ever outperform a well-orchestrated marketing campaign. These campaigns—when grounded in a solid go-to-market strategy and propelled by compelling thought leadership—increase brand awareness, advance a value proposition, and establish a strong reputation.
But as more and more companies compete to earn a conversation with prospective clients, there has been a discernible movement toward personalized communications.
That’s one of my biggest takeaways from the recent HIMSS Conference, and it comes from the approximately 40 meetings our team had with health IT companies of all sizes and at all stages of growth.
The trend toward more personalized communications is commonly known as account-based marketing, and it entails a more personalized strategy in which unique messaging is tailored to each prospective customer. When well executed, an account-based marketing initiative can add velocity to sales pipeline development and prospect nurturing.
This movement toward micro-marketing is not new, but if what we heard at HIMSS is any indication, it’s never been hotter. Here are three ways you can get started or take your sales and marketing to the next level:
Use a bottom-up approach: Study the market, study the prospect
National outreach with a high-level campaign is a good start, but account-based marketing requires a more localized approach. You must thoroughly research, investigate, and study local market dynamics before ever entering a “live” conversation.
Numerous resources can help with this process, and better shape your view of a prospect and the market. Key resources and data to review prior to outreach include:
- Payer mix
- Community Health Needs Assessments
- Press releases and news coverage
- M&A activity
Once you’ve thoroughly studied the market, you must think creatively about how best to approach each prospect within it.
One example of a bottom-up approach is The Chaos Matrix, which we developed for Philips Population Health Management. The company’s prospects can use the tool, which is published on the Philips website, to learn how EHR fragmentation, payer breakdown, and competitiveness in their geographic area are creating chaos in their market—and they can receive advice on how they should react. The tool serves as a lead generator for Philips, because users can receive a full report if they enter their contact information.
But the tool also benefits the sales team, as team members can use it to better understand the market in which they are targeting their sales efforts. For example, in one case, it revealed significant changes in the sales approach that should be used in the Los Angeles market versus the San Francisco market. Despite both having similar payer mixes and competition levels, one market had significantly more EHR fragmentation among local providers. That knowledge helped the sales team tailor its sales messaging accordingly.
Understand the key decision makers: Use interest and influence maps
In addition to thoroughly understanding the market and your potential customers, you must identify your prime targets within the organizations you are trying to reach, and create more personalized messaging for them.
It is not easy to define these key decision makers, particularly as the C-suite at most hospitals and health systems is undergoing dramatic transformation. A recent survey of more than 1,500 hospital leaders, for example, found that power in purchasing decisions is shifting from the CIO to line-of-business management teams (indicating end-users are playing a growing role in decision making).
Many of our clients have benefited from interest versus influence maps, in which we provide insights based on quantitative and qualitative surveys about decision-making responsibilities across the C-suite at hospitals, health systems, and payer organizations.
For example, while working with one recent client in the wound care space, we found that hospital CEOs had a low to moderate level of interest in the type of solution being offered, but a high level of influence over purchasing. We then worked with the client to alter its messaging to help increase the level of interest among CEOs.
You can also increase the efficiency of your sales efforts by targeting key decision makers who already have a demonstrated interest in the healthcare problems your product solves. Currently, we’re helping one client in the patient engagement space with this task by combing the news, social media, and LinkedIn to find individuals who have key titles and who have shown an interest in topics that match up to the solution our client is offering. For example, we’re looking for individuals who have written or spoken about patient engagement.
Solution with the customer: Determine what they really need, not what you want to sell
You also must make it clear to prospective customers that you will work with them to identify the best way your solution can meet their needs. If your solution has multiple uses and applications, identify which are most relevant to each prospect and start your conversation from there.
For example, we recently created a behavioral segmentation model to help one of our clients, a clinical surveillance solutions provider, better identify how to market its product based on the different needs and goals of its prospects.
First, we used qualitative interviews to identify key behaviors and perceptions that would link a prospect’s interest to clinical surveillance. We then leveraged a quantitative survey to link these behaviors and perspectives to segments of the U.S. hospital and health system market. We found that each segment had a unique perspective related to how they run their hospital or health system, what their strategic drivers are, and how clinical surveillance helps achieve their strategic goals.
We then identified the key needs across the different segments, and helped the client modify its messaging to best appeal to each audience. For instance, we suggested that when the client was interacting with the “innovator” segment, it should focus on how they could use the platform to drive population health analytics, improve their brand reputation, and drive revenue. When interacting with the “status quo” segment, we suggested the client focus on showing how their solution could reduce readmissions and improve quality scores.
Clearly account-based marketing requires a highly personalized approach, one that is different for every prospect you touch. That level of personalization requires a significant investment of time and resources—but that investment can lead to a much stronger prospect pipeline. Before jumping in headfirst, make sure the timing is right. If your company isn’t already widely recognized and respected by the market, an account-based marketing approach will very likely fall flat. On the other hand, if you’ve already earned market interest through branding and thought leadership, it could be just the extra push you need to gain rapid market share.