6 chief marketing officers share the tools they use to deliver strategic healthcare messaging

Healthcare marketers usually have a wide base of people to deliver messaging to, so it's imperative they leverage technology to effectively identify the specific needs of each subgroup and how to best reach them.

Here, six chief marketing officers of healthcare organizations weigh in on the tools they find the most helpful.

John Nguyen, chief marketing officer at SSM Health (St. Louis): When it comes to digital marketing, some of the "oldest" tools are still the most useful if they are optimized and combined with strategic insight. A high-functioning and learning customer relationship management platform remains the cornerstone for digital marketing, and really, marketing as a whole. While tracking downstream return on investment and market segmentation are the surface-level benefits of having a CRM platform, the magic is in transforming it from an insight-driven database into an insight-creating platform. Your CRM should learn about how your customers and patients respond to your marketing: What types of messages and appeals are effective? Where in their journey was a customer open to influence? 

So, your marketing activities themselves actually help you learn more about your prospects and segments, and therefore, improve your marketing. It's a virtuous cycle. The same is true for much of our digital technology. If geo-fencing lets me know that this person goes to the gym twice a week, what else can I infer about them and their needs? What can I learn from marketing to them? The future of healthcare marketing will be won by those who best understand their customers. To me, the technologies and tools that help me learn at the same time as I am engaging with customers are the most useful.

Don Stanziano, chief marketing and communications officer at Geisinger Health (Danville, Pa.): It is difficult to single out any one digital tool or technology as the most important to support digital marketing because successful digital marketing today is more like an orchestra. All the pieces work best when they are working in harmony with one another. At Geisinger, we are focused on building an integrated marketing technology stack with the goal of creating a unified digital consumer experience. By leveraging technology, we're able to create customer journeys across each line of business to get the right message to the right customer at the right time, using the channel that's most effective for them. And that journey often includes connecting offline tactics, such as direct mail and call center operations, to the technology stack.

Marketing in healthcare is unlike any other industry. We have more data about our customers than other industries could ever imagine. It is essential that we use it responsibly, ethically and in a way that delivers the best customer experience. From customer relationship management and marketing automation platforms to a robust content management system, it is the integration across the entire marketing stack that allows us to truly partner with our patients, health plan members and prospective patients and members to best manage their care, assist them in maintaining their health and build long-term brand loyalty.

Joan Gubernick, chief marketing officer at Einstein Healthcare Network (Philadelphia): Healthcare digital marketing is a multilevel, multitask pathway that our team embarks on with each campaign. We develop the digital campaign creative and strategy with our marketing colleagues. Then we test it, adjust, test it again, adjust again, etc. The tools Einstein's digital team uses begin with the platforms — the ad managers for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, plus our email management tool. We carefully analyze targeting to make sure we are reaching the precise audience we want both geographically and demographically. We study keywords that people use to search using Google’s keyword tool, which can provide deep insights for both ad creative and content marketing.

From there, we move to analytics, studying the standard performance indicators — impressions, clicks, conversions — using tracking pixels, Google Analytics and the ad managers. Layered on top of those, we use tools to study the path users take on our landing pages, Google Optimize to perform A/B tests in real time and Google Surveys to test our assumptions about what our patients are thinking. We use all of those platforms together to add to our knowledge and improve the performance of the next campaign.

Sandra Mackey, chief marketing officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): Effectively reaching and engaging consumers requires a deep understanding of the information they need and want — as well as how and when they want to receive it. Bon Secours Mercy Health leverages a full complementary suite of integrated tools that allows the ministry to personalize and uniquely tailor a digital experience, using a variety of social channels, email, SMS/MMS and patient portal messaging, websites and a soon-to-be-released mobile app. These technologies allow consumers and our patients to proactively manage and engage with all aspects of their health and wellness and to connect with their healthcare provider at the time and place that makes sense for them.

On the back end, a robust customer relationship management platform allows us to provide a one-of-a-kind experience each time a patient reaches out for information, ultimately providing the opportunity for an even stronger relationship.

Ken Chaplin, chief marketing officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Boca Raton, Fla.): Our partnership [with] Google is our most useful digital marketing tool. Recently, in addition to search, we are directing a larger share of our media buy toward connected TV and digital video platforms. As routines and schedules changed due to the pandemic, so have media habits. People are consuming content at all hours of day and night and more often on platforms that stream over the top of the cable box. Connected TV allows us to reach a more targeted audience within specific designated market areas, rather than broad demographics. We are also increasing the amount of original digital content we publish to meet patient demand. We recently launched our "Focus on Cancer" podcast, hosted by our CEO, Pat Basu, MD, where we discuss the latest developments in cancer care and answer patient questions.

Catherine Harrell, chief marketing officer of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (Baton Rouge, La.): Healthcare digital marketing is simply fundamental good marketing. While our industry has a few more hurdles — and appropriately so — others have navigated personalization and automation, and we can learn from them. With apologies for the mixed metaphor, websites are the center of your solar system and your digital front door and require a dynamic content management system with robust taxonomy/categorization, scalability for new technologies and a user-friendly interface. Because consumers want seamless navigation, information architecture is also key, provided continual building and renovation. 

Of course, a strong reporting platform always informs performance and strategy. For us, customer relationship management is essential, and COVID-19 has proven the wisdom of personalization and agility. And your digital media planner (in-house or partner) means that your digital marketing tactics keep up with ever-changing algorithms for targeting, both in social media and search. You may be only as successful as the person following these trends and making adjustments to campaigns; the analytics will definitely tell. In the end, getting the MarTech Stack right is as individual as your organization's needs, so fundamentally having a great team, committed to constant learning as well as your organization's goals, is imperative. 

With the rapid pace of change, I can't possibly know everything that today's healthcare marketing demands. Conversely, what I do know are talented individuals and I depend on each member of my team to bring his or her best to their responsibilities, which helps our health system, our patients and communities. 

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