Successful delivery of marketing and public relations campaigns in health technology is more challenging than ever. According to current estimates, there are more than 4,500 health technology companies in the U.S. alone.
In addition there are more than 1,000 healthcare app developers covering the spectrum of wellness to chronic care monitoring. They are all trying to reach the same small number of decision-makers in provider and payer organizations. That’s almost one vendor for each commercial hospital in the US. How can your company succeed in its marketing efforts and avoid becoming just another company with a good idea that no one ever heard of?
I have been working in the health technology marketing space for over 25 years. and have been reflecting on what makes for a successful marketing or PR program. Below is a list of ten key success factors I have observed along the way. Let me know what you think and what you might like to add.
I have decided to share openly, and hope these suggestions are of value to those of you trying to raise visibility of your products and services in this crowded marketplace. Whether you are directly responsible for reaching media or have a communications agency to assist you, I hope the following measures will help you achieve success.
1. Listen hard and ask a lot of questions.
What does your company really do? You must be able to clearly explain and succinctly define its value proposition. Know what is different, unique and special about your products and services. Develop an elevator speech consisting of no more than a few sentences that captures the essence and value of your products and services. Be clear about how many clients you actually have and of those, which can provide quality references.
Understand the bigger picture in terms of growth and change and where your company is headed. Are you looking to launch a product or a new division, or do you want to be acquired? These differing scenarios will impact the type of media coverage you will need.
2. Get to know the technology, as well as its unique characteristics and challenges.
You don’t need to be a technologist, but you must develop a working knowledge of the technology relevant to your company.
For example, if you offer a mobile solution, you need to be able to talk generally about the technology as well as the specific benefits it delivers (example: reduced hospital admissions) and other related issues like and how it addresses HIPAA requirements.
3. Understand policy on health technology, especially as it relates to your products, service and mission.
To understand the industry, you need to understand its history. Along with technology, you must develop a concrete understanding of broader matters such as policy that affect your products and services. Stay abreast of political developments and legislative events.
4. Get to know the major publications that cover your particular product area.
Talk with the people who run these publications and spend time with them. This includes the reporters, news directors, editors, and account executives. Call them, introduce yourself and ask them how they like to interact with marketing departments.
For example, do they want to receive press releases? If so, about what? As an attachment or in an email? Listen to their requests and follow suit. There are many publications covering health technology – for one of our current clients we are engaging 48 different publications. These publications can give your company great exposure and help raise awareness in the marketplace. Be sure to keep in touch with them – this is a long term process; not one and done.
5. Develop a written multi-channel marketing plan.
Address your goal as well as your value proposition along with a brief description of the products you want to market, their value proposition, and your target market It is important to support a plan with a monthly calendar to communicate the activities you will undertake each month in reaching your marketing goals. Be sure the plan has buy-in from all the necessary executives before you implement.
Most publications offer an editorial calendar that will give you an idea of the themes they will cover. Look for ways these themes intersect with your products and pitch articles accordingly.
6. Over-deliver on your plan.
If you indicate that you will have three articles published in a quarter, make it four or five instead. Aim for a high level of performance by going above and beyond what you’ve committed to doing in a multi-channel marketing plan. Make your performance metrics clear, then measure your performance against them.
7. Stay away from fluff.
Provider and payer organizations are far too sophisticated nowadays to tolerate unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims. These become turnoffs rather than being beneficial. Nonetheless, we still see way too many such pieces in the HIT marketing world.
8. Never violate an offer of exclusivity to a publication.
If you have promised an exclusive story to one publication, a common request, you must abide by this in order to maintain your credibility. However, it may be possible to write more than one story about a particular client’s success by approaching it from multiple and sufficiently distinct themes.
9. Define your social media strategy.
It is crucial to develop a clear social media approach. Decide which social media vehicles you will be using, delegate who will manage them, and make a schedule for updating and reviewing your presence on each social media channel. Social media accounts must be consistently maintained and regularly policed for spam or offensive post that could damage your brand. It is possible to ghostwrite tweets and blogs as long as the official author approves them.
10. Consider the importance of case studies.
Decision makers are looking for clearly documented, successful uses of new technology. It is important to objectively document your clients’ experiences.
Identify both hard and soft metrics that help specify your product’s successes. Hard metrics can include ROI, labor and time savings, among other efficiencies. Soft metrics often do not use statistics but can be equally important. Examples include improved testimonial documentation and staff and patient satisfaction.
In addition to giving credibility to a case study, hard and soft metrics can be helpful in defining your value proposition (see #1).
As the face of health technology changes rapidly, it is certain that many new companies will develop cutting edge products and aspire to enter this marketplace. Great new products and innovative companies deserve expert marketing and PR. Let me know what you think about these ten success factors, and what you might like to add.