A KLAS Research Analyst Shares An Alternative Approach to Successful Health IT Marketing
Hint: It may not be what you think.
What’s the secret to a successful health IT marketing strategy?
For health IT marketers, that’s a multi billion-dollar question. We certainly face some challenges in finding an answer. EHR dissatisfaction runs high in a marketplace that’s consolidating. On the other hand, anticipated changes in healthcare reimbursement and delivery present opportunities for new technologies and data solutions.
For some answers, I talked to Erik Bermudez, senior research director with healthcare IT data and insights company KLAS Research. Healthcare technology vendor executives turn to him for ways to improve performance and enhance provider success.
Head in the Clouds
His assessment of health IT marketing and how effective vendors have been in differentiating themselves: “I think the majority are missing the mark.”
So how can we be more successful?
Dusting off my Shakespeare, I’m reminded of the famous quote that starts, “The fault is not in our stars.”
Closer to home, the fate of EHR marketing apparently isn’t in the clouds either.
As Erik joked or at least partially joked, “If a vendor comes in and says we’re in the cloud so we can integrate, they are immediately sent out the door, I know that’s not true. I don’t want another cloud on a marketing slide or in marketing content.”
I know a company or two who may take exception but Erik’s point is that marketing shouldn’t be about cool features or the latest technologies. Doctors aren’t generally impressed with all product centric messages.
To be clear, Erik isn’t minimizing technology’s role in healthcare’s future. In the world of EHR 2.0. organizations are looking at technologies that will allow them to be successful in a value based care environment. These technologies will be more user friendly and more patient centric. They will focus less on physician documentation and more on patient engagement, population health, telehealth and care coordination across multiple organizations.
Instead he is saying that when it comes to successful health IT marketing, products themselves aren’t the compelling differentiator. Beyond a certain threshold, “Most products are good enough in the market.”
Erik believes the answer can be found in services and partnerships.
“What matters are the services the vendor offers around the product that will make that practice successful, well-adopted, well-utilized and happy. That’s the biggest difference.”
It’s the “lack of touch” components — not the actual product — that can undermine the vendor-client relationship.
Features and technical are easy to market; services and relationships aren’t. Touting that you have trainers and staff dedicated to your adoption levels 24/7 isn’t sexy, flashy or new.
Erik Bermudez Key Takeaways for Successful Health IT Marketing
With that in mind, here are some action items to consider.
1. Shift your focus on individual client success – make that the focus of your new marketing campaign and initiative.
2. Define what customer success looks like with your solution and reverse engineer from ground zero to make sure your organization understands failure is not an option.
3. Operationalize customer success around relationships and trust.
4. Focus on outcomes and partnerships. That’s what providers want. Regardless of product, agree on a minimum threshold for success, and join at the hip to reach those outcomes.
The best vendors are the ones that look at the criteria and ensure 100 percent that theirs is about a relationship and marriage – not just getting a sale.
The True Test
Erik suggests a radical idea for companies to consider. I suspect it may be a hard sell given pressures to meet quarterly profits for public companies and demonstrate growth for private equity firms.
That idea: Walk away from a sales opportunity if you feel your solution isn’t right for your prospective company or would put your company in a bad light given their technical requirements or clinical and management team.
Are you prepared to say to your prospect, “Come back to us if these changes are made, and we can reengage in a conversation and a possible collaboration?”
As Erik told me, he can count on one hand the number of times he is aware of this happening. But from a marketing opportunity, it would be the truest indication of your company’s commitment to your customer’s success and reflection of your desire to avoid negative reviews.
That’s important especially among doctors where word of month is everything. Achieve success and your customer will become your advocate and an unpaid member of your sales force.
A Grounded Approach
To circle back, Shakespeare’s full line was “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
For EHR vendors, authentic marketing is recognizing our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing when to walk away from the wrong deal may prove to be the source of our greatest success.
Proceed at your own risk to your reputation if the sale is your sole motivation.