Transforming Marketing for the Visual Age: A Business-to-Human Approach

Transforming Marketing for the Visual Age: A Business-to-Human Approach

Just as healthcare embraces patients as consumers and shifts its outdated approach to connecting and communicating with these critical stakeholders in a new way, healthcare vendors are also turning traditional marketing efforts on their head for a more visual, story-based approach.

Courtney Heyward, marketing director, health systems, at Surescripts, discusses how her company is making the shift from analog to digital across all marketing functions to transform business-to-business interactions into conversations that connect with buyers on a different level. Surescripts is the nation’s largest health information network, connecting pharmacies, health systems, care providers, benefit managers and technology partners nationwide.

Dodge: Over the past years the concept of content marketing has taken a hold in the B2B space. Now we are collectively seeing a more consistent push to visual marketing. Tell us about how Surescripts is adapting to this more modern approach. 

Heyward: Historically, we operated under a very typical B2B marketing approach. We built product collateral, executed on product webinars and leveraged email marketing when and where it seemed to make sense. In the past 18 months, we have made a huge transformation as a B2B marketing organization – we have implemented Pardot, a marketing automation system, to better automate our lead gen efforts, nurture leads that aren’t quite ready to go into the sales cycle and track ROI.

Of course we had to create, and are still creating, a diverse arsenal of educational, thought leadership and product-related content to support the campaigns set up in Pardot. Our goal is to be more visual and less wordy, and this is coming across better now in all that we do – anything from PPT decks to product overviews to videos, infographics and more. 

We have also implemented an editorial calendar with monthly editorial meetings to align on what we will be blogging about, what infographics we are creating, what press releases are going out, what events we are participating in and, of course, what existing content can we refresh or repurpose.

We are also taking our queues from the market and from our customer – thinking outside in versus inside out – always trying to write and communicate with the customer or market pain points in mind. We want all content and collateral to come across in a relatable, human way. After all, we are all B2H (business-to-human) marketers regardless of industry or customer type.

Dodge: In healthcare where old habits die hard, how are you balancing traditional print-on-demand efforts with the transition to digital and visual communications?

Heyward: Right now, it is still a balance but we are definitely tipping the digital scale. We strive to create interactive and visually engaging content as our number one priority. We then load those assets onto iPads or laptops for one-on-one presentations or even large LCD screens for efforts like trade shows and other events. There are however some circumstances that call for static, printable documents that we will make available to our sales force and account team via print-on-demand. 

We certainly don’t want to alienate those who have a harder time making the transition from analog to digital so we compromise where we need to and provide our sales team what they feel they need to be successful or close a deal. At the same time, we continue to educate and influence our sales team to move with us to a more digital approach. They are seeing the output and they are seeing value. It’s just going to take a little more time on our part to continue showing them the digital way. 

Dodge: What are some of your tips for companies who are considering shifting their approach to marketing in relation to this trend?

Heyward: You can’t do everything at once. When taking a more interactive and visual approach to content and collateral development, definitely prioritize – whether it’s by product or by target audience – just prioritize. For us, it made most sense to address our brand first. We developed a new brand video, website and identity kit. Following, we prioritized by product. We have some key products launching this year and we want to make a big splash with them.

Regarding our content marketing approach, the most helpful thing for us was to form a steering committee to support the creation, execution and maintenance of an editorial calendar. We get different perspectives from different marketing owners and that helps us identify gaps and formulate a plan to fill those gaps. That gap could be cadence of communication or type of communication, but, regardless, it seems to be working.

Dodge: How are you ensuring sales and marketing are aligned for this change?

Heyward: We are structured in a way that keeps marketing aligned with the customer segments we serve.  As the segment lead for Hospitals & Care Providers, I tightknit relationships with my head of sales and the extended sales team. I listen to and incorporate their insights, feedback and requests as I develop my annual and quarterly plans to make sure I am best supporting their sales targets. I also have a monthly cadence with them to review previous month results, what’s happening in the current month and what’s coming in the next month. Communication seems to be the key to staying aligned and continuing to influence behaviors.

Dodge: Do you think the market is ready for this shift? How do you think it will influence target markets?

Heyward: The market is definitely ready.  If I think back even five years, the tactics I would have used now seem stale and boring. Not to mention everything was so much more manual. We relied so heavily on these one-off email communications or drip campaigns with these big, creative themes. Those tactics aren’t going to grab a potential client’s attention anymore. In this industry (health IT) our decision makers want a partner, not just a product or set of products. If we provide content and integrated marketing communications that show us in that light, we can better secure our place in that buyer’s decision journey.

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