“Having a 360-Degree View of the Customer Is Incredibly Important”

by Jason Skinner, Chief Marketing Officer - 10/29/15

This was one of many actionable insights Ruth Padilla Portacci shared during a conversation at this year’s Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development Annual Conference.


The SHSMD president-elect and chair of the organization’s Bridging Worlds project shared her expert perspective on the shifting healthcare landscape and changing role of the healthcare marketer.


Q: How is the role of the healthcare marketing executive changing?

RPP: The short answer is that many healthcare marketers have often been considered a jack-of-all-trades. Some wear many hats within an organization. We’re in a position now—as reform continues, markets tighten, and new entrants continue to enter our space—where marketers have to be more savvy than ever in traditional and emerging areas. They need to use resources and precious time well, as there is heightened accountability for results. Forward-thinking organizations have always had a strategic marketing voice at the table, and we’ll continue to see marketing help drive transformation and growth in their organizations.

Q: We’re starting to hear healthcare marketers use terms such as customers” and leads” when describing current and prospective patients. Talk about that paradigm shift.

RPP:  Sales has been an interesting part of our industry, with some organizations embracing it and others fearing the “sales” word. With the landscape certainly shifting toward a more consumer-focused approach, it’s requiring organizations to think differently about the systems that support aggregate intelligence of leads, nurturing, conversions, and other information that allows marketers to have a comprehensive view of the customer. Only when we truly understand our audiences can we be more thoughtful in our approach to meeting them where they are while maximizing our budget dollars and other resources.

Q: Does that mean brand building will no longer be a priority for future healthcare strategists?

RPP: Not at all. In my opinion, brand will be more important than ever before, especially as payer groups and others look to partner with leading healthcare brands. 

Q: With so much emphasis on data analytics and other technologies at this year’s conference, is healthcare marketing becoming more science than art?

RPP: Having a 360-degree view of the customer is incredibly important, and that requires both art and science. It’s great to have data, but the key is how to tell the story using the data to ultimately make better decisions.

Q: How does Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist help marketers prepare for this brave new era?

RPP: The document that reflects our theme at this year’s conference is designed to create a dialogue around the high-level issues a healthcare strategist needs to understand going forward. It highlights the tools, skill sets, and resources today’s healthcare leaders should be thinking about—but Bridging Worlds goes beyond the document. At SHSMD, we’re committed to providing ongoing education that equips healthcare strategists with ways to sharpen their skills or embrace new skills that will help them in their organizations and with their professional development.

Q: The Bridging Worlds report points to the power of storytelling as one of the primary takeaways for future healthcare strategists. Why is that important?

RPP: We’re in one of the most emotional industries out there. One facet of storytelling is how we bring the patient experience to life in more meaningful and memorable ways or how we begin to connect consumers to us throughout the life cycle, which doesn’t just begin when someone becomes a patient. Another facet of storytelling is internal and how we connect our data and stories together so they resonate with people on an emotional and intellectual level.

Q: With so much transformation taking place in health care, where should today’s marketers turn for guidance and support?

RPP: Healthcare marketers feel overwhelmed, which is why the Bridging Worlds report focuses on five key implications that healthcare strategists should be thinking about within their own organization’s culture:

  1. Be nimble to exceed the rate of change.
  2. Tell stories; create experiences.
  3. Integrate and co-create.
  4. Erase boundaries of business.
  5. Generate data-driven insight.

By synthesizing myriad issues down to these five key areas, we hope to help healthcare marketers—and all other strategists—identify which of the implications make sense to focus on within their own organizations, bring them the needed resources to help respond to the changing landscape, and ultimately elevate their role within the organization. The bottom line: There’s no better time to be in health care. 

Q: SHSMD 2015 is coming at the crossroads of an election cycle and the increasing “retailization” of health care. How will this year’s conference be remembered?

RPP: This year represents a culture shift and an evolution in thinking for healthcare marketers and all the strategy disciplines we represent. Through Bridging Worlds and other resources, SHSMD is helping marketers embrace change and lay the foundation for success in an increasingly complex and competitive environment.

Look for the full interview in the upcoming issue of the Healthcare Insight e-newsletter. Not signed up for Insight—free for qualified healthcare marketing professionals? Click here to view the latest issue and subscribe! 

Topics: Healthcare Insight Magazine

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