I market to healthcare for a living 🙂 Here are my lessons learnt thus far. I will keep adding to this article as we learn more.
Who I market to
I market our services and software solutions to pharmacy managers, practice managers, medical billing managers, marketing managers and doctors. We market our healthcare software development/ AWS consulting expertise to healthcare IT executives.
Our healthcare CRM software helps with practice management (surgery scheduling, patient intake, referral management, patient tracking etc) so we regularly need to market to practice managers.
EzHCRM helps with RCM (Credentialing, Eligibility, Prior authorizations, Coding, Charge posting, Payment posting, Underpayment audit, Denials and Collections), so I regularly reach out to billing managers at each practice.
I do daily outreach to physician liaisons or marketing managers (sometimes the titles aren’t 100% clear) because EzHCRM helps researching provider and practice marketing data, sending faxes, emails, making phone calls etc.
In addition to this bottom up approach, I also do regular outreach to doctors directly for a top down approach. So far, we have noticed (expectedly so) that the smaller a practice, the more the chances are of every single decision being made by the physician owner. So, reaching out to doctors of smaller practices is something we need to do on a regular basis.
EzHCRM enables automated, personalized patient communications that’s useful for pharmacies as well as practice managers, so I do separate outreaches to pharmacies as well.
Who are the decision makers
In general, the smaller the practice, the more “everyone wears multiple hats”. Don’t rejoice – this means that everyone owns everything and no one owns anything. This means that no one is held accountable for anything specific and everything is haphazard. Everyone is flying by the seat of their pants. The sole, real decision maker is the physician owner.
That physician owner is overworked, overwhelmed, over stretched and really hard to get to. They’re fighting fires every day and haven’t figured out that they need systems and processes to grow their business. We typically avoid selling to these practices as our experience hasn’t been rewarding nor satisfying.
So far, I have found that if the practice is medium – small, the decisions are always made by the physician owner. It’s really a one person show and the physician owner typically treats their budget and their employees exactly like that. If you’re selling to these practices, your mileage will vary.
A good way to determine who the decision makers are is to find out if a practice has appointed anyone to dedicated positions for marketing, billing, practice management or not. If you find that the practice has C level executives that are not all doctors, this means that they would be sophisticated enough to work with and would understand typical sales processes. This typically means that there is actually a “process”.
However, don’t always bank on it.
If you find that a practice has appointed a practice manager, this bodes well. This means that they understand that a business needs to have various titles and employees running various business functions.
Every other title – front desk, surgery coordinator, biller, coder, technician etc etc holds no power whatsoever. They’re just gatekeepers and you should treat them with the respect they deserve. They are fantastic resources to gather business and account level intelligence data from. By gathering such data, you can actually make a very pertinent, laser focused sales pitch to the C or practice manager levels.
What I used to market / sell
EzHCRM or our services (medical marketing, medical billing, patient access, healthcare software development).
As you can understand, selling our software is usually a higher margin business for us. However, we also know fully well that most healthcare staff are not computer or software savvy. They still believe in doing most things manually (on paper) and more often than not, do not utilize any software to the fullest.
In addition to this, most healthcare staff are multi tasking all day long and never have the time to dedicate themselves to, or laser focus on specific business functions.
So, I also ended up selling our services teams a lot. While this is a lower margin business, it has multiple benefits.
First benefit is that it allows to create and enhance our software that’s built from the ground up for operators, by operators. That’s a huge benefit as most other software are created by technologists that never spend a day in the life of a medical front desk, call center, physician liaison, surgery coordinator, technician or a biller.
The other benefit of selling services is that in addition to booking higher revenues (albeit at a lower profit margin), it also allows us to stay in touch with practice management on a daily basis.
Where we do our healthcare marketing
Let’s discuss one channel at a time. We use all marketing channels available to us. These are
- SEO (eg via these articles that you read on our website).
- SMM.. Ie promoting these articles we write so our SEO stands a fighting chance.
- Paid ads. I advertise on Facebook, Google primarily. We have also tried out LinkedIn paid ads.
- Email. I send personalized emails to prospects.
- Faxes. I send personalized (personalized for the practice, not the prospect ) faxes.
- Calls. We call practices each day (depends on whether we are surveying practices to gather account level information or whether we are actually pitching a solution).
Our medical marketing process
We follow these simple steps for our daily marketing. Keep in mind that we don’t consider a NO as a hard NO. We think of that response as “Not today or not now”.
For SEO, I don’t go too overboard. I write what we do each day for our customers, what we learn each day while working with our healthcare customers. The team members are always doing “proof of concepts” and creating software solutions to increase the efficiency, productivity and therefore, the margins of our healthcare services business. I write about these “proof of concepts” regularly. I write about challenges our medical billing or medical marketing or software development or medical call center teams face on a regular basis. These are in the “thinking out loud” kind of format, where we are trying to figure out how to solve a challenge. If we have a potential solution, we usually write about the solution as well.
Then I post these articles on our website. We don’t consider any article or blog post to be “final” as we keep adding or deleting information from those articles (based on new learnings).
After posting our articles on our website, we also constantly monitor google searches to see which keywords our articles are being “found”. This doesn’t mean that the google searches are clicking each time our article is “found”. But at least it gives me a good idea on how people are searching for stuff we’re writing about. My next goal is to answer those questions that google searchers are asking. That’s why and when we update our existing articles. This, slowly pushes our articles from the double digit google search result positions to the first page.
Once a web page gets to google first page in search results, I write more articles to support that topic while linking to the first page article. Our goal here is to not lose our first page ranking for that web page / article.
Next – promote these articles using paid and non-paid channels.
For unpaid promotion, I send these articles via email blast to the email list we’ve purchased, curated and segmented.
For paid channels, I’ve used Facebook, LinkedIn and Google ads. We’ve used the unpaid versions of these channels as well. Of course, as expected in this “pay to play” world, our paid efforts generate a better return on investment. For the Facebook and LinkedIn channel, I run “paid promotion” ads to targeted healthcare audience. The goal is for these healthcare audience to read our articles and therefore, be aware of our solution. On google ads, we run a “discovery campaign “ as it allows for google searches to show our blog posts for relevant searches.
Our finding is that other than practice administrators or senior level executives, no one else in the practice really googles or researches any of the information we share on our blogs. In other words, if are writing something that aims to educate the front desk, surgery scheduler, technician etc, it doesn’t hold much value. On the other hand, we’ve found that senior managers at practices seem to conduct all research and are more likely to discover your articles. This actually works out very well because it weeds out the non-decision makers.
Recommendation – write about the problems you solve for a senior level. Don’t get into the weeds of things in the main article. Present enough relevant, concise data to grab the practice or billing manager’s attention.
So, the steps are
- write an article.
- Promote it organically on LinkedIn, Facebook.
- Email blast specific ones (longer guides) to our email list.
- Promote specific ones (longer guides) on Facebook and LinkedIn.
For paid leads ads, we have used google, Facebook and LinkedIn thus far. On each of these platforms, we research and custom build audiences that are relevant for our marketing. We have run ads on Facebook by building custom audiences that comprise of folks working in healthcare and that hold non clinical roles. We have also run ads using custom audiences comprising of clinical staff. Finally, we have run ads solely aimed at providers. The results have been great for doctors and not provided any ROI on ads targeted at non clinical practice management staff.
As an example, we have noticed that most doctors use Facebook and Instagram. So, when we run ads to generate leads, we notice that our ROI is quite high and we get physician owners reaching out to us for our services and software solutions.
One finding of note here is that it seems very hard to get on the calendar of these physician owners despite them showing interest in our solutions. They tend to respond very slowly. For these leads, we automatically snooze our sent emails for one week, and send a reminder to the physician owner leads every week until they’re ready to get started. After 5 reminders, we stop emailing each lead.
Another point to note here is that we let the prospects know of our pricing right up front, from the ad itself. This way, our leads are a bit more focused and better prepared to get started.
So, the steps are
- Create a desired custom, marketing audience
- create a lead ad and run the ad
- If desired, run A/B testing on various campaign creatives
- Collect leads and email + call them upon lead submission
- Send reminders to folks if we’re unable to connect with them.
I purchase email data from various sources. I have experimented purchasing very laser focused and segmented data that’s based on SIC codes + physician leaders vs purchasing emails of healthcare professionals that are not segmented as owners or leaders. The more focused and segmented data is quite a bit more expensive (per lead). Thus far, I haven’t seen a higher ROI for the more expensive leads that we’ve purchased.
When we send an email, we allow folks to opt out. This keeps us in compliance with regulatory requirements.
As mentioned before, we email our guides to our email list. Occasionally we also send sales pitches via emails. Either way, we always direct the email recipient via a link to our website. This way, when someone clicks on our emailed link and comes to our website, they become part of our retargeting audience.
I’ve noticed very high open rates and click rates on guides and Amazon consulting related emails. We’ve also noticed that open and click rates are higher for bigger, more mature businesses. Meanwhile, as expected, open rates and click rates don’t do well with smaller healthcare practices.
When I get a response back showing a practice’s interest, we change the status of that “lead” in EzHCRM to “prospect“. This way, while we’re trying to close a deal with that prospect, our automated emails or faxes are not sent to them.
Keep in mind that healthcare deals take a really long time to close and even after closing a deal, it takes a really long time for the prospect to get started with using your solution. We generally plan for a sales cycle of at least 3 months and have seen some go longer than 9 months (larger healthcare practices, hence larger deals).
So, the steps are
- prepare and segment lists based on titles and kinds of guides we write
- Prepare guides on our website
- Personalize and send emails as drip campaigns for guides
- Personalize and send emails for sales pitches occasionally. Sometimes they’re one time blasts and sometimes they’re part of a drip campaign.
- Aim to get folks to read the guides on our website and capture them as part of our retargeting campaigns.
The smaller the healthcare practice, the easier it is to target via faxes. Emails sent to smaller practices seem to go nowhere. Meanwhile, faxes do seem to sometimes end up in the right hands. This is not always true but thus far, has been the case for our outreach efforts.
Keep in mind that every healthcare practice gets a lot of faxes per day, so your mileage may vary. You might also end up with someone that’s really ticked off because you sent them a fax.
Unless they’ve asked to be unsubscribed, I consider them as part of “not today” folks as I mentioned before.
For each marketing fax we send, we also include an opt out email address that folks can email to, to opt out of our marketing faxes. Our opt out rates so far have been minuscule and insignificant to mention.
We get fax numbers using our EzHCRM preloaded data. We track who we’ve sent faxes to using EzHCRM as well (much like any other CRM that you might be used to). I don’t send more than 2 faxes to the same healthcare practice per month. This is not a hard set rule and I’ve chosen this limit based on my marketing experience. You can choose whatever number you’d like.
I have sent both generic faxes (without any personalized headers or cover page ) and also personalized faxes where we address the practices themselves.
I prepare a one sheeter advertising our services or solutions – never both at the same time nor every single service or solution on the same one sheeter. I load the one sheeter as pdf to EzHCRM, specify how many faxes to send each day, when to send faxes (8:00 am to 4 pm) , who to send faxes to and the block list to never send faxes to.
When I get a response back showing a practice’s interest, we change the status of that “lead” in EzHCRM to “prospect“. This way, while we’re trying to close a deal with that prospect, our automated faxes are not sent to them.
We generally call practices to gather account level intelligence or to run pre marketing surveys. So far, we haven’t run many cold call campaigns to practices regarding our solutions.
Since cold calls are the most expensive channel, I use it sparingly. Before I run any large scale marketing automation campaigns, we run cold call campaigns to survey our prospects. For this, I use EzHCRM to segment and define our prospect audiences. I create surveys on EzHCRM that our agents use when they call each practice. They also update each prospect record with the latest and best fax numbers, phone numbers, practice contacts that our agents discover and any other pertinent information they may gather (eg which days they’re open or when the doctor comes in to practice etc).
After surveying 150-200 practices of a specific specialty, we get enough information to understand how to target our prospects or whether to drop our planned campaign. Based on intelligence gathered, we then run automated marketing campaigns on all practices of that specific specialty.
We run cold call campaigns to practices on behalf of our healthcare customers. This is done to establish referring partner relationships. I’ve written about our process before as well.
How we find healthcare marketing data
Since I don’t have large budgets, we cannot buy data from definitive healthcare or IQVIA etc. We rely on various public sources of data (CMS, PECOS) for a large part of our marketing data. I also use LinkedIn, Facebook and Google for another part of our marketing data. Finally, we purchase email data based on SIC codes or taxonomy from email database providers.
Most of this is made available for users in EzHCRM. You can also do the same using some of the guides/articles on our website.
Hope this helps!