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Marketing Automation: Channel to a Proactive Healthcare Marketing Department

By Megan Yore, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Spectrum Health Lakeland

Megan Yore, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Spectrum Health Lakeland

Please elaborate on the challenges that organizations will need to address, as it relates to the marketing automation space.

In the healthcare landscape, the challenge is around creating decision trees and paths for our patients and consumers. I am working closely with my team to change their frame of mind from thinking about marketing automation just as a tool to send emails one at a time, to something that can truly help automate the information processes for patients. Hence building the paths for all the day-to-day tasks in advance, so it runs better on the back-end is a major challenge.

Healthcare being a complex non-profit industry with somewhat limited resources, a major challenge is keeping things simple, so we don’t get too fascinated by all the opportunities and expand the scope so far out, that we are not able to be nimble enough to serve people on a daily basis.

There are about 7000 different software products on the “Martech” market. I think we will see a consolidation of the industry, where large players acquire smaller companies or merge. Your views on consolidation of the “marketing technology” industry.  

With 7000 different options available, the challenge for us as marketers is being able to have the time to vet all the possibilities. At Spectrum Health Lakeland, we have an internal agency model and so address these challenges relying primarily on our own team. What we have seen is that no one product seems to do everything we want it to do. Rather than have to rely on add-ons to the original products, we are hoping consolidation will provide some streamlined options for people.

What are the major tasks for organizational CMOs at this point in time?

The key is how you stay abreast of what is happening in the landscape on a daily basis that needs to be addressed while keeping an eye on the horizon of what we want to achieve, moving the complex organization in that direction. Carrying out this objective is one of the more difficult tasks facing CMOs today. CMOs thus need the endurance and determination to relentlessly prioritize, while keeping the long game in mind.

"Strive to get some experience in numerous aspects under the umbrella of marketing, and then pursue whatever you are good at and passionate about"

Again, in healthcare, where some crises seem to arrive on a daily basis, we need to prove to our internal clients how we tie the tools that we have back to financials and patient outcomes. We need to show that marketing influences patients’ decisions; not wholly, but as a part of the referral path of physicians or choosing the trusted healthcare systems close to them. Our efforts cause patients to react to the call-to-action that we are putting in front of them, and sometimes there are multiple touchpoints, and sometimes there are a few.

Is there any unmet need in terms of marketing automation space that is yet to be leveraged from the vendors?

What we are looking for is a way that we can leverage as few key tools as possible, to tie everything together and show the value of what we do, and which does not cost a great deal of money.  We are a non-profit organization, so need to be careful about what we spend that is not toward direct patient care. We have to be confident enough that it is going to be worth the time and efforts put into it to spin it up and then use it to attract customers to prove that it works. Healthcare is the most complex and crucial industry because we are saving lives and improving health. So having access to a platform that is affordable, while easy to use for staff members is an area of opportunity for vendor partners. 

Artificial intelligence and related technologies such as predictive analysis and machine learning have seen predictive lead scoring and automatic data enrichment in CRM systems for a while now. But now, we will get adaptive customer journeys where AI algorithms determine who gets what, and when. Marketing will be data-driven at a whole new level. What can organizations do to stay abreast of these changes?    

When we first launched a consumer data platform a few years ago, the concern was “what we are going to do with the consumer’s data?” Predictive analytics have been important for us to narrow our audience and get the right messages to the right people at the right time. Taking a predictive analysis approach helps us understand who our customers are who would likely need our services and get those messages to them. We are spending less on campaigns because the audience is narrower, and in addition we are seeing better outcomes. There are a number of organizations in the healthcare that are slow to adopt the technology, and even if they get it, they don’t know what to do with it. It can be a long learning curve in healthcare, and we are not yet using AI but are using predictive analytics (learning from past behavior) to approach our patients in a better way.   

What is your advice for budding technologists in the marketing automation space?

I have been in marketing communications for over two decades now and have served several different industries: retail management, academic marketing and communications, the banking industry, and now in healthcare. What I have always advised people who are interested in this line of work is, if they are interns, or if they are students, having practical skills is essential. So commit yourselves to acquiring those skills, and now there are so many ways to accomplish that. For instance, people can become experts in social media strategy or building websites or experience in marketing automation. My advice would be, strive to get some experience in numerous aspects that fall under the umbrella of marketing and then pursue whatever you are good at and passionate about.  

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