Top Health IT Marketing Trends from #HITMC
By John Trader
John Trader is VP of communications at RightPatient in Atlanta.
I had the opportunity to attend the Health IT Marketing & PR Conference in Las Vegas last week, and thought I’d share some of my top health IT marketing takeaways.
Content, Content, Content
Content was certainly king in terms of session topics. What works. What doesn’t work. How to establish a sound content-marketing strategy (even if you’re a small company with a shoestring budget). My biggest takeaway on content is that marketers need to start with the end in mind. Understand what content resonates with the demographic you target by listening first, and then developing a strategy that addresses customer needs and is strategically presented to them as they make their way down the sales funnel.
I enjoyed Sarah Davelaar’s (from the The Signal Center for Health Innovation) session where she outlined the key elements in content strategy. I also enjoyed a panel discussion featuring four physicians who shared their content consumption habits – where they go to find information, what content resonates with them, and what they like versus what they ignore. The million-dollar question for any health IT marketer is: What influences their decision to buy? Most docs said that conferences are a great place for them to discover new products. Those docs on social platforms like Twitter do pay attention to who shares their posts and who interacts with them. Catchy headlines are important, and most of them look for unique perspectives on issues as opposed to extolling the virtues of a product.
Innovation Versus Value
Conference organizer and Netspective founder Shahid Shah’s opening presentation on day two was excellent (although the amount of information on his slides was a tad overwhelming). There was a lot of discussion at the conference about whether marketers should position themselves as innovators, since nothing we do is truthfully going to "disrupt" healthcare. The truth is, customers care a lot more about value than innovation. One of the best quotes from his presentation was, “Do customers care about what you think is innovation or will they care more about you when you care about what their innovation needs are?”
Although I didn’t attend any sessions dedicated to social media use or strategy, there were a few that addressed how to navigate the online universe, and how to develop and execute effective social media strategies. “Go where your customers are” seemed to be the general takeaway from attendees of those sessions. Don’t chase the latest shiny social platform just for the sake of having a presence. Again, start with an end goal in mind (create leads and eventually sales), and make sure you are measuring your results (how will you be able to tell if your efforts are successful?) There was also some discussion on how to effectively measure social to gain a better understanding of what works versus what doesn’t work. There was also a lot of chatter moving beyond brand awareness and more into how social efforts are creating leads and sales.
Leveraging the Customer
A recurring theme was how to leverage existing customers to create new business. Kathy Sucich of Dimensional Insight delivered an excellent presentation, where she provided a case study on how she increased her own company’s “share of voice” (a term that was new to me), and gave sound advice on how to successfully leverage customers to create new content and increase brand visibility and messaging. The key takeaway for me here was that capturing and then bringing the customer’s voice to your messaging requires personal relationships with customers. You simply must spend the time to cultivate these relationships by establishing a set of expectations at the outset of the relationship that outlines your plan to work with your customers and get their story in front of others.
There was lot of buzz about creating more video as part of an effective marketing strategy. It continues to be a hot topic of interest because it’s clear that people want to consume more of it. The key is making it resonate. The key seems to be keeping it simple, short, and focused on addressing a problem instead of extolling the virtues of a product. Christine Slocumb’s (of Clarity Quest Marketing) session was excellent in reiterating the point that in this day and age, videos have to be personalized to be effective.
SEO Isn’t Dead
Kristine Schachinger of The Vetters Agency presented an excellent session covering modern SEO practices, soup to nuts. We talked about ways to analyze SEO performance, online SEO resources, ranking factors, inbound link tactics, do’s and don’ts for SEO, how to add Google Search Console to your site, how content affects SEO, and keyword research – just to name a few topics. There was a great deal of interaction between the presenter and the audience, and directly between audience members, which, in my opinion, is what makes this conference excellent. Questions were asked and topics brought up that were a great supplement to Kristine’s curriculum. This is perhaps what I like best about HITMC. It has a more intimate setting than most conferences I attend.
About That Other Conference
The buzz around the conference seemed to be the forthcoming HIMSS marketing conference (which, by the way, I don’t anticipate being able to offer the intimate setting I mentioned above). Many have said they heard through the rumor mill that it may be frowned upon by the marketing community to attend in lieu of supporting HITMC’s more grassroots efforts. I talked to several people who have already signed up for the HIMSS event but seem to be keeping that information to themselves. Other buzz has been the quality of HITMC – most people agree that it’s an excellent conference and gets better each year by addressing the most relevant topics to marketers.
The only drawbacks I found, aside from freezing temps in the conference rooms, was that the few tough questions I asked during Q&As weren’t answered as thoroughly as I would have liked, and there was a lack of substantial, real-world case studies to back up presenter assertions. Overall, I think the conference was a great investment. It’s always helpful for me to be around likeminded professionals eager to gain insight and tips on how we can do our jobs more effectively.