B2B Health Sales: Cracking Cold Markets

B2B Health Sales: Cracking Cold Markets

One of the biggest challenges we see with our health care clients engaged in B2B sales opportunities is breaking into new markets or categories: for example, entering a new territory or launching products and services in new business categories.

There are several common reasons why breaking into new markets and categories is challenging, like:

  • No (or limited) brand recognition
  • Lack of (or limited) street credibility—the coveted “like and trust” factor
  • Lack of (or limited) real-world experience to know which trade shows and associations to participate in
  • “Cold” leads and prospects that take time to “warm up” for sales opportunities

We also know the challenge of cracking new categories and markets when physician referrals are important to growing the business. Having worked with physicians for over 40 years, we know building strong referral relationships with physicians is key to many health care business strategies.

We developed our Powering the Pipeline platform to give our clients the marketing strategy, technology, and the infrastructure to effectively “warm up” B2B sales and referral opportunities.

In this post, I’ll share several best practices that we leverage to help our clients to:

  • Enter new markets and categories successfully
  • Grow share of the market  
  • Build strong referral patterns with providers  

Virtual “Street Teams”

To promote an upcoming concert or the launch of a new album, the music industry employs people to canvas cities with posters promoting the event—aka, “Street Teams.”

We do something similar for clients who seek to enter new markets or categories. At Hailey Sault, we disperse digital marketing campaigns that canvas the sites and media platforms where our clients’ audiences spend the most time, both personally and professionally. This virtual street team strategy enables our clients to have a profound presence during key periods of entering new markets, product and service releases and other times when our clients want to be top-of-mind with prospects. We also supplement our clients’ organic search strategies with paid search efforts, helping to rank higher for keyword terms that prospective clients are using to find solutions.

Thanks to digital media’s ability to micro-target audiences and Hailey Sault’s proprietary strategies, we magnify our clients’ footprint and sphere of reach, helping them overshadow often bigger, more established competitor brands.

Sales Insights Tracking

Though much has changed in business since the rise of digital marketing during the past decade, one thing hasn’t changed: business is still done person to person. Our Powering the Pipeline platform helps our clients to connect with key prospects so that sales teams can do what they do best: engage prospects in meaningful conversations that lead to meaningful business relationships.

That’s why our marketing platform is designed to give sales teams real-time information on how key prospects are engaging with our clients’ content and digital marketing efforts. When we integrate with our clients’ CRM platforms, we are able to provide our clients with lead scores that indicate overall engagement and interest with the products and offers. This real-time information is helpful to sales teams who want to know when a prospect is highly engaged with marketing efforts. These insights also allow us to identify what new sales and marketing tools to create that provide the sales teams with more tools to use in nurturing sales opportunities.

Messaging for the 5.4

According to the game-changing book on modern B2B sales, The Challenger Customer, there are 5.4 stakeholders involved in every B2B buying decision. That’s why sales teams today need materials and resources to appeal to the 4.4 OTHER stakeholders beyond the original point of contact. Having developed sales and communications resources for physician referral marketing and communications for two decades, we see evidence that physicians also have key stakeholders involved in deciding referral patterns along with purchasing business products and services.

As part of our Powering the Pipeline platform, we develop sales and marketing materials that appeal to all decision makers involved in the buying decision. Though sales teams would always prefer to be in the boardroom when stakeholders meet, they can’t always be there. So the sales and marketing tools must be advocates for the organization and its offerings. And to get to a yes, the tools must appeal to the unique perspectives, biases and wants of all stakeholders.

Final Thoughts

Our approach to marketing B2B health brands is no different than our approach to marketing B2C health brands like leading hospitals and health systems—with one exception.

In the B2C sale, we help our clients tell their story in unique and engaging ways by identifying the key audience personas, drivers of brand distinction and hand-selected media channels that our audiences spend time and engage with. The audience engages with our campaigns and engages the brand directly. In the case of our work with hospitals, this often means scheduling an appointment with a physician.

But the B2B marketing strategies we create help to guide our clients’ prospective clients to a different call-to-action: an invitation to a sales opportunity. We see our work with our Powering the Pipeline platform as a strategy for warming up prospects to become aware and engaged with our clients’ products and services. We then share the data and insights with sales teams so they can do what they do so well: ask for a conversation and close the sale.

Avoiding Mistakes on Social Media

Avoiding Mistakes on Social Media

Do you ever question the effectiveness of your social media marketing strategy?

As social platforms constantly evolve and change, so should we as marketers—in order to best reach and engage with our audiences.

It’s easy to get lost in the routine of planning content and not re-visit strategic goals and ways to optimize your social media marketing. This kind of routine can lead to commonly missed opportunities. As with all mistakes, the first step is becoming aware of them. Take a look as we review the top social media mistakes you should avoid as a health care marketer, and what you can start doing about them.

Q&A with digital strategist Brittney Hanson and content strategist Lindsey Edson

B:  Today we are talking about some of the big mistakes that we see health care brands making in social media.

L:  I  know one is a great opportunity for some health care marketers to leverage their evergreen content. If there is content—whether it be blog, using email, social or on the website—that is not time sensitive, is still relevant for your audience, there is still an opportunity to re-purpose that,  repackage it in a way with new images and copy, to make that content work a little harder for you.

B:  Yes, so basically it’s not: posted out on Facebook, on Twitter twice, on Instagram and then call it a day, right?

L:  Right. Let’s talk about targeting.

B:  (This is) another missed opportunity or mistake that health care brands are making. Obviously you have a Facebook page, you have Twitter, and they’re trying to reach a broad audience for different service lines. Even though (for example) a male liker of your page or a male follower of your page is probably not going to be as receptive to content talking about mammograms. You can take advantage of the native targeting within the platform.

L:  Sometimes it is easy to schedule a post, leave it and forget it. And often a missed opportunity is to engage with your followers. See who’s liking it, who is reacting or responding, commenting, and participate in the conversation—just to increase your engagement level and humanize your brand.

B:  Using it as a loyalty tool as well as a customer service tool. I think there’s huge opportunity for a lot of health care brands, a lot of our clients, to take advantage of that as a 1:1 means of reaching your target audience, reaching your customer, and really turning them into a loyal advocate for your brand.

B:  So we have many more ideas of mistakes made by health care brands in social media, but  this video has probably gone on long enough. So we can cut it short!

L:  Follow us on social media and our blog to look for more solutions on social media marketing.

9 Questions that drive next level health care marketing plans

Who is generation Z? The top 4 things you need to know about their digital behavior and how to reach them.

Who is generation Z? The top 4 things you need to know about their digital behavior and how to reach them.

Generation Z is comprised of people born after 1996. They have a buying power of $143 billion, and are well on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers by 2020.

85% of Generation Z is on social media, and are 59% more likely than previous generations to connect with brands on social media. The challenge? Generation Z has an attention span of only 8 seconds. Having grown up bridging the gap between a young Millennial or older Generation Z, I know as well as anyone. With a generation as robust as this, health care marketers should understand how Generation Zers interact with—and impact—brands like health care.

Here are four  things to know about Generation Z  to engage and impact them with your health care brand.

1. Ditch the stereotype.

Before you try to market to Generation Z, you should ditch the stereotype that they are a  generation with a social media addiction, a screen obsession, and a lack of focus.

Their digital intelligence should be embraced, rather than discarded. Grace Masback, a renowned voice for her generation, does a wonderful job expressing this in her book, The Voice of Gen Z. Understanding the Attitudes & Attributes of America’s Next “Greatest Generation, by stating:

“The key to understanding Gen Z is that we’ve taken the notoriously short attention span of millennials and reduced it further, not because we can’t dive deep into topics, but because as technology or digital “natives” we’ve spent our whole lives training to engage with the constantly changing technology landscape, and can process digital content with amazing speed.”

You should no longer look at their 8-second attention span as a lack of focus, but as an impressively fast digital processing time. Once you ditch the negative stereotypes of Generation Z, you will be able to effectively target the digital mediums needed to reach this generation.

Are Health Care Ad Agencies Going Extinct?

Are Health Care Ad Agencies Going Extinct?

At the last SHSMD conference, I walked exhibit hall. Something … was … off. I had been going to this conference and the Healthcare Marketing and Strategies Summit for almost two decades. Something was different. It took me another hour of walking past the vendor booths to realize what it was: I couldn’t tell the difference between advertising agencies, CRM providers, PR, content and web development firms.

The web development shops wanted to brag about driving new patient volume, which means they now have their own lead generation solution, AKA advertising. The health care CRM companies want to be the end to end supplier, including creative, which had been the purview of the ad agency world. The content publication firms now have their own marketing and advertising solutions. Again, what had been the ad agency’s turf.

As it turns out, all the firms were speaking the same language and promising the same things: we drive business results. Either by increasing revenue or by lowering costs. Wealth creation or cost reduction have always been the playbook of professional services firms like ad agencies.  

But it was the solution set that was the area of distinction, with ad agencies making these promises with advertising solutions. But now, adjacent firms have encroached so deeply into the ad agency space that agencies have no choice but to look and sound more like their competitive category brethren.

Are ad agencies on their way out? Listen to this podcast episode on TouchPoint Media with our friend, Chris Boyer. We talk about how agencies like Hailey Sault have evolved to help better support their clients’ needs.

Four Reasons for the Convergence of Firms Competing with Ad Agencies

I see four reasons why web development shops, PR firms, CRM companies and others have converged on the ad agency’s turf.

1. Greed

As the marketing dollar shrinks, firms (ad agencies and others) are seeking to take more share of their client’s thinning budgets.

2. Digital

The digital reason is twofold. To win patients today, you need technology, which has been the Achilles’ heel of agencies. (Most agencies have been notorious foot-draggers for adopting digital into their canon of services.) In response to the inevitable need for digital solutions, the agencies bought or partnered to offer digital. But most never embraced the fundamental differences between digital and non-digital solutions.

The second reason digital has brought about the competitive convergence is that technology in health care doesn’t typically play well in same sandbox … in other words, a truly seamless digital experience is often the exception and not the rule. (A simple example: the lack of patient-friendly online appointment scheduling.)  So to win share of market, firms outside the ad agency landscape have built their own end to end models, thereby leaving agencies out in the cold.

3. Fear of the future

We can’t predict the future, so agencies hedge bets. If agencies look a little like this, and a little like that, then maybe, the thinking goes, agencies can be relevant based on how the wind blows.

4. Changes to the buying audience

Perhaps the biggest reason health care ad agencies are on the endangered species list has to do with their traditional buyers: the Chief Marketing Officers.

There are four changes CMOs are experiencing that have a ripple effect for the efficacy of ad agencies:

  1. Increased pressure for results: most agencies have finally woken up that marketing metrics, those warm and fuzzy KPIs, don’t pay the bills. Clients today need to prove their worth, and that proof most often requires dollar signs and lots of zeros.
  2. Changes to the type of results required: if we take accountable care at face value, then grabbing new patients might not be the most noble goal, but rather keeping people well. And ad agencies are not historically qualified to change behaviors other than elicit a purchase decision.
  3. Role changes: the Chief Marketing Officer role and title continues an important evolution to reflect new and necessary areas of innovation with the organization. My friend and colleague, Mardy, wrote a post on alternative titles for Chief Marketing Officers, I highly recommend a read. For now, though, just consider the titles that have sprung up in the last decade:
  • Chief Growth Officer
  • Chief Value Officer
  • Chief Brand Officer
  • Chief Strategy Officer
  • Chief Experience Officer
  • Chief Innovation Officer

Not every CMO will step into these roles and titles, but it’s easy to see that the CMO is under even more scrutiny to be relevant and have a position of influence within the organization.

4. Changing perspectives: Many marketing leads in health care today come from different industries, with different expectations of agency roles. The traditional agency focused on health care might seem antiquated to a marketing lead who has been tasked with innovating for future patients and growth. Especially when her competitors are no longer Main Street hospitals down the street who all use the same playbook compared to mega giants like Cleveland Clinic or Amazon.

So where does that leave health care marketing agencies?


The first thing I advocate is to look at our industry and contribution differently.

I wrote a Medium article about why I left a firm I co-owned to join Hailey Sault. The premise is that I see only two paths for health care brands: irrelevancy or sacred trust.

The irrelevancy path

People use you because they have to, there’s no other choice, or changing isn’t worth it. Your brand is a commodity or a monopoly. Depending on where you are in your career, you may decide you can wait for the inevitable storm to hit because you’ll be out by the time the place floods.

The sacred trust path

People use you because they love you, because you improve their health and lives. It’s work on purpose, full of innovation, full of trial and error, and full of love and calling. This is messy work, but noble work.

I’m not sure that either path is without its positives or negatives. But I suspect the agencies that evolve for their own future relevancy will strive to bring solutions to brands that want to pursue the path of sacred trust.

The second thing I advocate for agencies to remain relevant is to define the undefinable.

I probably should explain what I mean.

We’re seeing more and more clients come to us at Hailey Sault for help fixing problems that aren’t “advertising” problems. For example, we have a client who has a pretty radical approach to how they provide primary care.

In their model, there’s:

  • No co-pay
  • Most every medication prescribed is free to the patient
  • Doctors get to spend at least 30 minutes with each patient
  • Once a patient does a personalized health assessment, our client can spot diabetes, heart disease and other disease states long before symptoms manifest, when those conditions can be prevented.

Our client’s challenge is that this model is so new to their patients, many don’t take advantage of all the services. The patient, so used to the expensive health care model, where even a simple exam racks up the bill, is skittish about using our client’s services, even though they say, It’s free and we can help you prevent heart disease.

It’s not an easy tactical solution. It goes beyond words and copy. There’s a lot of deep work in understanding the biases and fears of our client’s audience. There’s a lot of discovering “micro-moments” where we can help with positive behavior changes.

Here’s another example of defining the undefinable. We have another client who has amazing outcomes, raving fan patients, and who is recognized as true leaders in their category. But it’s not enough to drive new patients to their programs. The client came to us and said, What’s not working? Why aren’t we converting more new patients? We found a few streamlined messaging opportunities for the client, along with optimizing their landing pages, the low-hanging fruit stuff. But the problem and solution were deeper-rooted than the obvious stuff (that they didn’t need us for).

And that’s what I’d say about the agency of the future. They don’t think like an agency. They don’t think in ad solutions. They start with business challenges. They immerse themselves in the business of their clients, the operations, the throughput. The agency of the future also thinks in products and services.

They might say, “You offer this product now. But it seems like there’s a whole new audience you could serve if you also offered this product. Let’s build it together. Let’s help you move along the path of sacred trust.”

And as long as there are massive challenges to solve, agencies of the future will have a future.

9 Questions that drive next level health care marketing plans

7 tips for better reputation management

7 tips for better reputation management

Brand reputation management can be a tricky thing. Not because it’s hard to approach—it isn’t—but because it’s often misunderstood by most health care brands.

Let’s start with what brand reputation management is not.

Managing your brand’s reputation isn’t just completing maintenance on all of your local listings to ensure accuracy. It isn’t just making sure physicians have a four-star rating and higher. It especially isn’t blocking upset social users and deleting unfavorable comments.

So what is it then, you ask? Here’s how I see it.

I see brand reputation management as an opportunity. An opportunity to methodically, and with precision, help shape the tone of conversations surrounding your brand. An opportunity to be a proactive part of the conversation instead of just reacting to potential negativity. And more importantly, it allows you the opportunity to be human in a sea of brands.

Why should brands care about reputation management?

  • It’s easier to maintain a good reputation than reverse a bad one.
    Although crisis planning can be fun, going through an actual crisis is not.
  • It can improve your brand’s visibility.
    You can build advocates, which is especially important in our society that relies heavily on the recommendations of others and where search engines rule the world.
  • It can gain trust.
    Positive interactions online are rarely just for the two (or three, or four) involved. The potential is very high for hundreds of other eyes to see that interaction as well. Make sure it’s a good one.
  • Let your customers know you care.
    Not only are you trying to garner positive interactions, but this is an opportunity to show empathy and understanding—two things we all crave and expect, especially when we’re upset.
  • Improve your [digital] communication.
    The majority of customers are highly engaged online. If they aren’t engaged, they’re at least lurking and you can count on them seeing you!
  • The conversations are happening whether you want them to or not.
    People are talking about your brand. They’re talking about the physicians, staff, and employees they may encounter at every turn in the non-digital world. Turning a blind eye doesn’t help resolve what could be an easily addressable issue.

And ultimately, you should care because of our current, digital landscape. In the ever-changing, fast-paced, connected and algorithm-dependent world we live in, a brand’s reputation can be cemented in an instant.

There isn’t a perfect way to approach maintaining your brand’s reputation. By simply being aware and doing anything (short of deleting comments left and right), you’re already ahead of the majority of other health care brands.

Here are 7 tips to help keep a positive brand reputation:

1. Be well-respected.

Trust can be lost so quickly. It’s harder to regain trust than to retain it. Take the good old china plate analogy. If you break a plate once, it’s likely easier to put back together because it’s been broken into just a few pieces. But if you break that plate over and over it becomes much harder to put those pieces back together. And even if you do get it back together, the more shattered it is, the harder it will be to put it back even in the same way. This is true of all brands, regardless of your industry, but it’s especially so important among health care brands.

2. Be transparent and honest …

… Even when you screw up. Transparency is one of the main factors that can affect trust and reputation toward your brand. Be honest and considerate. Establishing a one-to-one communication channel allows for more opportunity to show transparency and provides an opportunity to ask for feedback.

Facebook Algorithm Change: Do’s and Don’ts for Health Care Marketers

Facebook Algorithm Change: Do’s and Don’ts for Health Care Marketers

Being prepared as a health care marketer always wins. Instead of trying to “hack” the Facebook algorithm, let’s work with the algorithm while it evolves, not against it. The planning and strategy an organization pours into understanding the algorithm while making a conscious decision to adapt to change, will drive your business forward.

The Facebook algorithm is like a recipe that determines what a user sees in their News Feed at a given time. To say it has a huge impact on the Facebook experience would be an understatement. By now, you’re likely familiar with the headlines and assumed modifications to the algorithm, but let’s revisit what it really means. Here are the need-to-know changes right from the mouth of Mark Zuckerberg and what you can do about it.

Let’s break it down.

In January, Facebook announced they were altering the algorithm, and now today, most people’s newsfeeds are shifting from being dominated by brand content to family and friends. Zuckerberg says Facebook wants to change that balance, so that the feed will be dominated by posts from friends and family, as well as Facebook groups users are a member of.

Zuckerberg cites “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being” as justification for the change, admitting that businesses are going to have to work harder than ever to gain their customers’ attention on the platform.

While many marketers and business page owners took this to mean the end of their Facebook content reach or the effectiveness of their Facebook ads, industry experts have reassured page owners that this recent change merely requires an adjustment to their Facebook strategies and may actually benefit those using their Facebook presence to authentically engage and interact with their community.

But what are those changes exactly? And what can we, as marketers, do to adapt to them?

  1. Friends and Family Come First

What they said:

“Facebook will be prioritizing posts from family and friends over public content … to help you have more meaningful interactions.”

What we heard:

  •       Facebook wants users to feel like their time on the platform is well spent.
  •       Provide an environment for people to have lively conversations.
  •       Prioritize content from friends and family, especially those looking for advice, recommendations, etc.
  •       For posts that already have lots of comments, longer ones will be prioritized over one word responses, tags, etc.
  1.              Quality News & Authentic Stories Matter

What they said:

“News will always be a critical way for people to start conversations on important topics … I’ve asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local.”

What we heard:

  •       Less fake news! (hopefully)
  •       Local publishers may be able to break through with more success; however, news will still only make up 4% of newsfeed content.
  •       Facebook will prioritize genuine stories from trustworthy sources, news that is informative, and relevant to local communities.
  •       The change will prioritize news from publications that the community rates as trustworthy.
  •       News that people find informative and that is relevant to people’s local communities will find its way into news feeds.
  1. Strive for Authentic Engagement

What they said:

“Using “engagement-bait” to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”

What we heard:

  •       The algorithm will de-prioritize/down-rank posts that specifically ask for users to interact by “liking, sharing, commenting,” etc.
  •       These posts are targeted because they’re trying to “play” the algorithm not prompt meaningful conversation.
  •       This goes for individual profiles too; Facebook will now demote posts from people using engagement bait.
  •       5 types of engagement baiting: vote baiting, react baiting, share baiting, tag baiting, and comment baiting.

Here’s what health care marketers can do about it.

Marketers have reacted with panic, but remember, we’ve all survived algorithm changes of the past! As Charles Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent … it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” So let’s be the strongest marketers, and react with action instead of reaction, and implement change now.

Rule number one is to stop thinking like a marketer and think about being an everyday user. Your business page needs to act like a user page to create reach, visibility and engagement. Ultimately, connect with your future consumers and patients.

How to Adapt: Don’t do this

The algorithm does not favor the following.

  • Clickbait
  • Like-baiting
  • Posts that include spammy links
  • Frequently circulated content and repeated posts
  • Copy-only posts and status updates
  • Posts that ask for Likes, comments, or shares
  • Posts that are frequently hidden or reported (a sign of low quality)
  • Posts with unusual engagement patterns (a like-baiting signal)
  • Overly promoted content—pushing people to buy an app or service, pushing people to enter a contest or sweepstakes, posts that reuse the exact same copy from ads

How to adapt: Do this

The algorithm will sing your praises if you optimize in these areas.

  • Videos (uploaded to Facebook) that receive a large number of or long duration of views
  • Groups
  • Live video
  • Quality over quantity
  • Content that creates conversation
  • Targeted ads (pay to play)
  • Invest in influencer relationships
  • Posts with links
  • Posts with high engagement in a short duration of time  
  • Posts that are timely or reference a trending topic
  • Pages with complete profile information

As health care marketers, we can look at using some of these strategies to reach and engage our audience, and tap into what Facebook is looking for—meaningful content and human interaction. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these methods.

Create Groups

Facebook groups related to your brand page allow you to add your followers, customers, audience and any users who are interested in your content and services. They already operate on the basis of audience engagement and will serve you well alongside advertising efforts.

One way to tap into Facebook Groups is to target a subset of your audience or followers to share and discuss content that’s most relevant to them, such as a group just for new moms or creating healthy habits.

Use Live Video

Zuckerberg said, “Live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook—in fact, live videos on average get 6x as many interactions as regular videos.”

This means if you haven’t already invested time and energy into posting live videos on Facebook,  you definitely should do so now. This is one of the few concrete examples of content that will perform well under the new algorithm included in the announcement, so we would all do well to pay attention to it and take advantage. The trick is to prepare the audio and good lighting, overcome vulnerability and share content that may not be as perfect as you would like it to be.

Up Your Ad Budget

We know that organic reach as been declining across channels over the years. As Facebook is re-prioritizing content from brands and publishers, paid ads targeted to the right audience will be more important than ever. Increase your budget to make sure you receive the reach and engagement you desire.

Yes, it’s been a few months since we’ve been notified of the algorithm change, ad prices have not hiked, and things are mostly business as usual. But there is a caveat: there might be less inventory of ads in the newsfeed, which will result in an increase in cost per click or cost per thousand impressions. This means you might end up paying a little more for Facebook ads, but the results are worth it.

While nobody knows exactly what the full impact of the news feed changes will be until we can look at the data, there are certainly ways for health care marketers on Facebook to work with the new algorithm (not against it) and continue reaching their customers through “meaningful interactions.” Continue to challenge your organization to create engaging content on Facebook that acts like a user, rather than a brand, to more deeply connect with your audience.