The Health Care Marketing Mid-Year Checkup

The Health Care Marketing Mid-Year Checkup

It’s June. And you know what that means: it’s time for the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup.

What? You never heard of the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup?

Well, just let me place this stethoscope to your chest. Breathe in. Now breathe out and I’ll tell you more.

Most of our health care marketing clients are on a fiscal budget year calendar—for example, they begin their new fiscal budget year October 1 and end their budget year on September 30. But as humans, we’re conditioned to work in seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. And if you’re reading this in California and don’t have traditional seasons, then you can appreciate the sense of starting over January 1st.

And that leads me to the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup and the reason we find it so essential to success.

Because we’re fanatical about delivering results—and a little impatient when it comes to making progress for our clients—we design our campaigns to elicit real-time feedback on performance. Yet we’re also big advocates of pausing during the work year to reflect on our overall progress. That’s the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup in a nutshell: a time to assess how the daily and weekly efforts are working together with big ideas and strategic aims—to deliver those measurable results that align with your goals and values. So let’s get started.

Assess your strategies

Now that you’ve spent half the calendar year executing your marketing strategies, ask yourself: how are you doing?

  • Are you on track or off track?
  • What successes have you counted?
  • What failed?
  • What needs improvement?
  • Go back to your annual plan: Have you stayed on track with your plan or veered off track?
  • Did other priorities get in the way of the priorities you set for the year?

The value: a chance to finish strong

We love the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup because it gives health care marketers time to finish what they started. And if your annual plan looks nothing at all like what you’ve spent the last six months working on, then you have time to double down on your key areas of focus.

This isn’t to say that pivots are bad things. Things change. Priorities change. Maybe the strategy you wrote six months ago isn’t relevant today.

During your Mid-Year Marketing Checkup, you can document what must happen, by when, for the remainder of your calendar year.

Because as Ben Franklin once said, “A failure to plan is a plan for failure.”

If you haven’t been doing what you know you should be doing to move your organization forward, this is your time to realign your focus and execute.


Here are 4 tips to help you finish the year strong:

1. Focus on fewer things to commit more resources to—for better results.

2. Identify the progress metrics you want to track and hit, so you know you’re on course or need to adjust your strategies.

3. Get buy-in from leadership and other stakeholders. With half the year gone, you don’t need “left-field” requests to slow your progress.

4. Ask for help. If you have a specialized need, find the specialists who can help you execute. (Especially because you don’t have time to waste!)

The Mid-Year Marketing Checkup is a great way to realign yourself with your marketing goals and strategies. Schedule your checkup today—so you can end the year strong!

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.

Mind Your Own Bobber: 1 Confession and 5 Tips for Staying True to Your Brand

Mind Your Own Bobber: 1 Confession and 5 Tips for Staying True to Your Brand

The first thing you need to know is that I love to fish. I hardly ever get out on the lake these days, but when I do, I’m in my happy place. I even have a picture of a bobber floating on the water taped to the monitor on my desk.

You would think that bobber is on my monitor to remind me of my happy place, but it’s not. It’s there because I have an ever-so-slight character weakness that I need to confess. And it’s my belief that if health care brands were people, many of them would have the same character vulnerability I do.

I have to confess

So, here’s the deal. I often find myself getting overly concerned about what essentially is none of my business. Every time I get a little “out of sorts” or reactionary—about what this person or that person is doing, or saying, or making happen—I look at my bobber and tell myself, “Mind your own bobber.”

In the Urban Dictionary, “mind your own bobber” is defined this way:

“When someone is paying more attention to what you’re doing than what they are doing.”

I have to tell you, the visual of that bobber has helped me more times than I can count. It keeps me grounded and focused on my values and my true self. It redirects me when I need to remind myself to concentrate on those things I can actually affect—like my own projects, behaviors, interactions and intentions.

Your brand might want to confess too

  • If your brand were a person, would it need a bobber taped to its monitor?  
  • Does your health care system get a little out of sorts and reactionary when another system’s new campaign launches?
  • Do you participate in what I jokingly call “Hospital Wars,” running your own campaign to counter or respond to the competition?

It’s hard to mind your own business

Now, I’m not advocating that you ignore what your competition is doing. Absolutely not.

What I am saying is that you need to step back, look at your own bobber and determine if in fact you really do need to react. If a reaction is called for, are you doing it in a manner that is true to your brand identity, its strengths and the values it represents?

5 tips for staying true to your brand

1. Stay authentic

Be true to your brand character. Pretending to be something you’re not, even this one time, will come off as inauthentic. You’ve built your brand into something that differentiates you in the market. Make sure it stays authentic and consistent.

2. Stay rooted

Stay rooted in your mission and values. Keep your focus on helping real people through your marketing.

3. Stay strategic

Is reacting to what another system says and does strategic in the long run?

Keep your strategic plan in front of you and your team. If your plan is solid—which it probably is—stick to it.

4. Stay passionate

Re-ground and keep your spirits alive. Your health system changes lives. It matters. And your marketing needs to reflect that passion.

5. Stay competitive

Staying true to your brand does not mean refusing to evolve. Go ahead and monitor what’s new. Be aware of your patients’ changing needs and values. Work to incorporate new ideas into your marketing while staying mindful of your brand.

If you aren’t comfortable with your current brand, ask yourself why

  • Does your brand reflect your core values?
  • Does it support a rock-steady strategic plan?
  • Can your brand withstand whatever the competition throws at you?

Create a “bobber watching” brand:

  • If you’re not comfortable watching your own brand bobber
  • If your team finds itself constantly reacting to what other systems are doing
  • If you aren’t correctly positioned to grow in your market

Looking for a strategic fishing buddy?

I know some people who like to fish and they also happen to create kick-ass brands—the kind that ensure you and your team will have no problem watching your own bobber when the competition turns up the heat.

Watch a short video and learn more about our Stand Up Branding process.


What keeps health care marketers up at night?

What keeps health care marketers up at night?

We recently fielded a survey of health care marketers to ask three open-ended questions.

  1. What is the most stubborn challenge you face right now?
  2. When you think about the future of health care and your role, what’s one thing that concerns you?
  3. What do you want to be doing better? (Or making better progress.)

As a firm that delivers branding, marketing, digital and consulting services to health care brands, we need to know what our clients and colleagues care most about.

The results of the survey were surprising … and expected.

The survey is still open. So we’ll be reporting more on the results in future posts and resources. (By the way, here’s a link to take the 3-minute survey now.)


The Four Areas: Greatest Challenges Facing Health Care Marketers


Challenge #1: Time to Plan

Marketers don’t feel they have time to plan and think ahead. They’re constantly running from meeting to meeting, putting out fires and managing an overflowing inbox.

Respondents shared:

“Small team and many demands across our enterprise requiring tactical responses on a daily basis, with minimal time for strategic planning, market research, campaign development or an innovative approach.”

“Time. There are so many different marketing mediums and responsibilities. Trying to balance time to serve everyone.”

“Am I challenging the questionable things enough, am I accepting and appreciating the good things enough, and am I wise enough to know the difference?

One respondent quite succinctly stated: “Not enough time.”


Challenge #2: The Need for Internal Culture Change

Perhaps because marketers represent the hearts and minds of patients and people their organizations serve, they have their finger on the pulse of what people want, need and expect from health care brands. Unfortunately, many marketers feel that their colleagues and internal stakeholders don’t share this same vision.

Respondents shared:

“Culture change required to embrace consumerism on clinical operations side.”

“Our health system’s ability to move fast enough to meet consumer expectations in the digital landscape.”

“External brand promise and internal alignment.”

Marketers also expressed challenges with building consensus for marketing strategy within the organization.

Respondents shared:

“Keeping up with the evolving manner of how decisions are made internally.”

“Consensus for marketing direction from my Board members, C-Suite colleagues and physician group.”

Challenge #3: Standing Out in a Competitive Environment

Health care organizations face increased competition. These days, rival organizations are chasing after the same health care dollar. An added challenge is that marketers are being asked to do more with less, whether that resource is time, staffing or budget.

Respondents shared:

“Rising above the flood of messaging that bombards your target audience.”

“Staying ahead of everyone else.”

“Doing more with less.”

“Budget cuts to marketing and getting in front of the right people.”


Challenge #4: Digital Marketing Innovation

Digital marketing accounts for the vast majority of health care marketing’s annual spend. At some point, we’ll stop talking about digital as a separate marketing initiative. But for purposes of sharing the survey responses, we identified digital marketing as the fourth area of concern for health care marketers.

Respondents shared:

“Engaging patients and clients in high volume through social media.”

“Managing our online reputation.”

“Harnessing digital marketing to be the most compelling path it can be to drive business.”

“Knowing what works: gathering and analyzing data to support various marketing techniques.”

“Keeping up with digital and tele-health trends.”

“Information overload and the inability of patients/consumers to evaluate the legitimacy of the source.”

“Getting in front of the right people at the right time through multiple digital channels.”


Marketers: How to Sleep Better at Night


With all the challenging “3 a.m. thoughts” that our marketing clients and colleagues have, we certainly don’t want to suggest there are easy answers to the tough questions our community is asking themselves.

That’s why we wanted to provide more resources to help you—articles we’ve developed on topics that are top of mind for marketers.

We hope you find these resources helpful.

And please keep making a difference.




Time to Plan & The Need for Internal Culture Change

The #1 Skill of the Best Health Care Chief Marketing Officers

Finding Your Joy in Health Care Marketing

How to Market Your Marketing Department


Standing Out in a Competitive Environment 

How to Get Patients to Take Action With Your Brand

Marketers: How to Think Like a Patient

Discovering Your Brand’s Archetype


Digital Marketing Innovation

How to Combat Health Care Fake News

The Art and Science of Marketing Persona Development

Best Practices for Marketing Health Care on Instagram

Marketers: How to Get Patients to Take Action

Marketers: How to Get Patients to Take Action

If you’re in health care marketing, you know your job is challenging. When I made the shift in my advertising career from packaged goods and retail brands to health care, I realized I was no longer in the business of peddling want: I was now in the business of encouraging people to do what they needed to do. Let me explain—because I think this insight holds great opportunities for health care marketers.

When we market and advertise things like shoes, food, and gadgets, our job is to encourage prospective customers to want these things. Most people don’t “need” to buy a new car—they want to buy a new car. So if you’re an automotive marketer, your job is to encourage the prospective car buyer to want to buy your brand’s vehicle—and to spend more for the bells and whistles.

Health care is different. Our business is the business of wellness versus sickness, healing versus disease, life over death. You’d think encouraging prospective patients to care about your services and products might be easier than, say, selling makeup. But I believe our work in health care is harder. Because we’re here to help encourage people to do things they don’t want to do—but know they need to do.

I believe a marketer’s first core responsibility (and opportunity) is to help prospective patients move from the first of the six stages of their patient journey—the Trigger Event—to take action. (You can learn more about the six stages of the patient journey here.)

What are some common health care Trigger Events that initiate a patient journey?

  • A man turns 50 and realizes it’s time to schedule his first colonoscopy
  • A woman sprains her ankle and debates whether to simply ice it or visit an urgent care center
  • A man experiences strange sensations in his chest and wonders if the feelings will subside or whether he’s having a heart attack
  • A woman feels an abnormal lump in her breast and gets on the Web to diagnose herself

To my knowledge, nobody wants to spend the night in the hospital, have an MRI or wear a patient gown. Health care marketers are in the “needs business,” and at times our role is to encourage people to follow through and address their needs.

Needs like:

  • Knowing the signs of stroke and acting accordingly
  • Knowing the risk factors for disease and making lifestyle changes
  • Knowing they should consult an expert about reducing or eliminating chronic joint pain

In other words, the Trigger Event—the first step on the important patient journey—is where health care marketers can make the most impact for patients and for their organizations’ brands.

This is challenging work. People are stubborn. People would rather go about their routine days than change, even if the change could mean less pain, more vitality—even save their lives. (Case in point: a study found that about half of patients with chronic disease don’t take their medications as prescribed.)

We recently led a client immersion and discovered that their average patient waits seven years before seeking treatment. Seven years! We also know that most joint replacement patients wait months if not years before seeking treatment, even when in pain and even when that pain diminishes their quality of life.

So what are people doing after experiencing the Trigger Event and before reaching the fourth stage of the patient journey, the Decision stage? The answer isn’t “nothing.” People are researching for solutions, passively or actively. But the key insight here is that these prospective patients are not making a decision to seek care.

Therefore: as marketers, our opportunity is to shorten the Trigger to Decision timeline so that our prospective patients seek care faster.

So how do we do this?


5 ways marketers can help prospective patients move from a trigger event to seeking health care solutions

1. Help your audience envision their desired future state

A compelling future is a motivation to make a change. That’s why marketers should know, at the deepest level possible, what their prospective patients care most about, and help those audiences link engaging experiencing that desired state with the marketer’s organization.

2. Show the cost of waiting

People are also motivated by the desire to remove pain: either physical pain or eliminating stressful thoughts. Years ago I did a campaign for ex-smokers, encouraging them to get a CT scan to verify if there was any evidence of lung cancer. Early detection of lung cancer offers patients a better chance of survival. The headline was simple: “You quit smoking. Now quit worrying.” The hospital filled its appointment calendar.

3. Reduce fear and stigma

Health care is personal, sensitive, and often has fears and stigmas associated with conditions, disorders and disease states. Let people know they’re not alone, there’s nothing to be afraid or embarrassed about.

4. Give people the tools to feel empowered in their health

Because thinking about our mortality can trigger fear, many people become immobilized: they do nothing. Give your audience the tools and resources that empower them and help them feel confident in taking the next step to make the decision to seek care. These tools and resources can be in the form of relevant content on your website, seminars and screening events, and social media content and campaigns that help the prospective patient to investigate, know what questions to ask, then to seek a provider or health care solution.

5. Make it easy to seek care

Most people today believe health care is complex, arduous and disorganized, so they’d rather not initiate a conversation with a provider or schedule a doctor’s appointment. How easily can you coordinate care for your prospective patients? Do you have online appointment technology? Or a helpful call center that can advise prospective patients which physicians are currently open to new patients and accept their insurance products? Are the hours of operation for urgent care centers convenient for busy moms and dads?

Most health care marketers don’t have oversight on access. That’s why we’re fanatical about creating better models to help marketers have more impact at the operational level. Because it’s at the operational level that the best brand experiences are based.


Of the six stages of the patient journey, the first stage, The Trigger Event, is often the most overlooked stage that marketers seek to make an impact. Yet, it can be the stage with the richest opportunities: for your brand, and for the audiences your brand seeks to serve.

How to Conduct Onscreen Patient Interviews (That Don’t Suck)

How to Conduct Onscreen Patient Interviews (That Don’t Suck)

In health care marketing, nothing beats a good story with a happy ending. And video is often the most effective way to capture these stories.


But how do you get patients and caregivers to talk to you on camera in a way that doesn’t feel stilted or forced or awkward for them …  or you? How do you make people feel comfortable on camera? How do you get them to sound natural?

The answer is deceptively simple: Treat everyone (including yourself) like a kid.



When I first began as a documentary filmmaker, I was terrified of interviewing children. They can be shy. They can be unpredictable. And all too often, they can be frustratingly nonverbal. But after working with a lot of kids (and a lot of adults), I realized three things that made me a better interviewer:

1) Treat every interview subject like a kid.

Most people aren’t used to being interviewed. As a result, they can be scared. And they can be intimidated. It’s your job to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. You have to let them know that you’re on their side. You have to explain how editing works. Remind them that you’re going to take out the parts that make them look silly.

That’s what adults do for kids. They take care of them. And that’s what a documentary filmmaker has to do for any person kind enough to be an interview subject. So …  treat people with kids’ gloves. That was my first revelation. But I didn’t actually get good at this job until I realized something even more important: All of us are children. And that includes me.


2) Interview people like a kid.

The great thing about kids is they have no pride. If they don’t understand why the sky is blue, they just ask you. It doesn’t occur to them that a question might be dumb.

That’s how you have to ask questions of people when you’re interviewing them. Even if you know how a particular medical procedure or disease process works, most of your audience won’t. So don’t be afraid to sound stupid to your interview subject. Ask them how kidneys work. Ask them where cancer comes from. Ask them if they were afraid to be operated on by a robot.

Ask them why the sky is blue. It’ll make your edit go a lot smoother if you have too much information to choose from.


3) Remember when I said kids were unpredictable? So are adults. Roll with it.

Here’s an interview I did for a program called Summer Food Corps at the Damiano Center in Duluth. It gives kids attending an after-school program the opportunity to grow and eat their own fresh vegetables.



So that interview did not go as I expected. But no interview EVER goes the way I expect. Nobody ever gives you exactly what you want from them. You can certainly try to lead them down the path you want them to travel. But you’re mostly going to fail. And when that happens, don’t forget that videos operate on two of our senses simultaneously. If you can’t get a good sound bite, get a good visual bite to tell your story. In this, case, I caught young George eating a carrot not long after he assured me he hated vegetables. So I filmed him! Busted!

Stay open to possibilities, like a kid, and you’ll do fine.