Hacking Healthcare Marketing

by Jason Skinner, Chief Marketing Officer - 07/18/16


Marketing technology leader Scott Brinker shares agile practices to make your marketing smarter, faster, and more innovative.

blog-ScottBrinker.jpgAs editor of chiefmartech.com and author of Hacking Marketing, Scott Brinker is a foremost authority on the intersection of marketing and technology. Through his blog, speaking engagements, and social media content—which reaches nearly 26,000 Twitter followers—Brinker helps marketers keep pace with technological advances that are disrupting how customers connect and interact with brands.

We reached out to learn how healthcare marketers can take a more agile approach to engaging their audiences and growing their organizations. Here are three key areas where Brinker believes marketing technology can foster transformation.

Marketing Is Now Deeply Entwined with Software 

The Challenge: Healthcare marketing and IT departments often have competing priorities.

Scott Says: In most commercial organizations, marketing has goals associated with acquiring more customers, increasing lifetime value, and other concrete metrics. That’s what they’re compensated on and so it’s their first priority. But to do that, they’re often very dependent on their IT teams, which generally have a different set of incentives they’re being held accountable for, including overall cost, data security, and reliability around platforms. They have a very conservative agenda and while marketing can appreciate those things and vice versa, often those two sets of incentives are at odds with each other in practice. Marketers would take some risks with systems to try and experiment with new ways to win customers while IT members are often disincentivized by supporting that.

In my experience with working in a hospital environment, I’ve found that the IT teams want to treat everything as extremely secure, which I can appreciate as there are incentives for that—but it does make it very difficult for marketers to be in the experimental/innovation cycle. That said, not all interactions and data are equal, and I can imagine there might be opportunities for a healthcare provider to develop relationships in a marketing channel through very light interactions that aren’t associated with confidential medical data. It would be valuable for marketers to carve out larger domains where they can experiment with different kinds of audience data without creating significant exposure from legal or data-risk perspectives.

From Hacking Marketing: As a consequence of the world becoming digital, these two occupations [marketing and IT] have not only collided—but also started to blend. There is considerable overlap between these two missions now. Slowly but surely, it’s inspiring greater understanding and collaboration between them.

Moving Marketing from Communications to Experiences 

The Challenge: Content overload is causing consumers to tune out marketing.

Scott Says: With almost every organization on the planet feeding content into email channels, social channels, and more—the ambient noise is deafening. One thing we’re seeing successful marketers use: Instead of just giving people more stuff to read or watch or listen to, can we actually give them utilities, can we give them services, can we give them resources that help them with something they need to accomplish?

While these things can be tangentially related to the brand’s core service, there doesn’t have to be an immediate connection. Rather, there’s a relationship that both helps the prospects and makes the brand connection. In health care, people have so many questions around diet, behavior, and other areas, there must be trigger moments where they might really desire helpful services and utilities from professionals connected to the healthcare space.

Here’s an example: Here in the Boston area, my wife and I have been wrestling with what we think are allergies to various types of pollen. We can never quite figure out the triggers and while the symptoms are serious, they're not worth going to the doctor every time. If I had an app that could map third-party data about different kinds of pollens, where they are geographically located, and correlated symptoms, it would be incredibly helpful. These types of utilities offer tremendous opportunities for connecting people with health providers.

From Hacking Marketing: Marketing has expanded from the design and delivery of communications to the design and delivery of experiences.

Adapting Processes, Not Just Productions

The Challenge: Healthcare marketing is a highly regulated industry that makes marketing innovation difficult.

Scott Says: In healthcare, finance, and any other industry with heavy regulations, marketing is challenged as there are certain constraints that must be adhered to in how we communicate. That being said, we need to find ways to engage the digital generations who would prefer to deal with us in that fashion.

A specific example of resistance to change involves my doctor, who is affiliated with a large hospital here in Boston. They launched a sophisticated new customer communication system that allows me to get lab results, receive notices from the billing department, and even send an email directly to my doctor. In theory, this is great. The digital experience would be one of the conveniences I’d really appreciate and would gladly pay a co-pay to have the interaction due to the convenience. However, I’ve used the email system a couple times and while the technology works fine for passing messages along, the practitioners are incredibly reluctant to actually engage with me as a patient over email. I’m not sure how much of that is general regulation or policies related to this particular hospital but it sabotages that as a channel. In theory, it would be a friction-free way to have those interactions but in this case they’re not actually comfortable doing those kinds of communications even while they’ve spent a tremendous amount of money implementing this system to enable it. Not that I fault my doctors for this, but there is a disconnect between what the technology is enabling and what they’re doing.

From Hacking Marketing: The goal is to encourage the team to think creatively about improving how it operates, intentionally countering the natural resistance to change. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” shouldn’t be a sufficient reason not to try something different. We want to employ the same incremental and iterative thinking to our processes that we do to our productions. This lets our marketing organizations evolve in an agile way too.

Editor’s Note: Our sincere thanks to CHI Memorial Vice President of Marketing Communications and Healthcare Insight Advisory Board Member Lisa McCluskey for conducting the interview with Scott Brinker.

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