Gain guidance on how to navigate these challenging times by viewing a round table hosted by Cardinal Digital Marketing, with some of the nation’s leading healthcare marketing experts.

Hosted By:

Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal Digital Marketing
Jennifer Schultz, Senior Vice President of OU Medicine
Cody Lee, Vice President of Summit Partners
Leslie Gibbs, CMO of Modern Vascular

Watch the Recording:

Quotes From The Round Table:

“What I think is probably a bigger ongoing question for all of us is, what does the bounce back and further dips look like? I’ve said before, it’s going to probably feel a little bit up and down between now and a vaccine. We’ve looked at what’s the shutdown look like versus what’s pre-vaccine world, what’s the new normal pre-vaccine, and then, what does it look like after.” – Jennifer Schultz, Senior Vice President of OU Medicine

“Now, marketing can take a little bit more of a lead role in terms of pivoting to a direct-to-patient approach.” – Cody Lee, Vice President of Summit Partners

“The focus on the patient funnel is at a pinnacle right now. It’s understanding that full funnel from the moment they’re aware of us, to they reach out, to they schedule, to they show up, all of those pieces are being analyzed at a micro-level because every 1 or 2% matters.” – Leslie Gibbs, CMO of Modern Vascular

“Telehealth is a major undertaking for an organization to offer. And, I’m glad to hear organizations talking about the patient experience in reference to telehealth because it’s not as simple as throwing up a Zoom and having a discussion. Developing a platform can take a while and it’s an investment. I think we have to start with the patient in terms of not just specialties but also what demographic are you going after.” – Cody Lee, Vice President of Summit Partners


Read The Transcript:

Alex Membrillo: All right, we should be starting here. Hey, everybody. Let’s see if we are live and in here. Looks good. We’re connecting. What’s up, everybody? What day are we at? We’re at Tuesday, September 1st. First day of September.

Guys, what are we in? Six months. Six months of [inaudible 00:00:22]. [laughs] Oh my God, quarantine’s getting old. I don’t know about you, guys but we’re teachers trying to pretend to still be great stewards of our companies, as well help patients get healthy. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. Everybody out there struggling. Hopefully, we’re nearing the end. Let’s make sure everything is live.

All right, guys. I’ve got phenomenal panelists with me here today. If you all have heard our podcast discussion, Ignite, I tend to think it’s one of the best healthcare ones out there. If you listen, these are three of the brightest minds we ever have had on Ignite. I hand-picked them specifically so that everybody could get their great mix of strategy and tactics.

We’re going to talk high-level, today, about general things we’re doing to attract more patients and get them healthy. We’re also going to talk tactics. I want to get into all the questions you people have there that you want to ask for Cody and Leslie.

Let me tell you all; I’ve got a poll up there. If you guys go to the right side real quick, I’ve got a poll. I’m really curious. Which marketing channel are you finding to be most effective this year? I put all the digital stuff at the end so that I wouldn’t have first option biased on the scantron here. You all, be honest with me. We’ll give everybody a second. Go to the poll. Go to the poll. We’re going to be going to the polls a lot this year, aren’t we, guys?


Alex: Everybody, vote. Everybody, vote.


Alex: [inaudible 00:01:51] All right, we’ve got some data coming. Everybody, while you’re going to the polls a couple of months early than actually in-person, we’re going to be doing absentee mailing votes. That’ll be fun. Look, guys, we’re going to get some of these away later. There’s no copyright infringement like my run PPC ones. For [unintelligible 00:02:12], they finally found the perks a few weeks ago. We’re going to give away these T-shirts. They’re awesome, obviously. No logos on them.

Look at this. Cody, are you seeing? You all can’t see it yet. Go to the polls, everybody. Go to the polls. Everybody, can you hear me? Leslie, can you hear me? She’s gone. Bye, Leslie. I hope she comes back.

Here we go. I’m going to end this poll and give you guys the stats. Listen to this. Which marketing channel are you finding to be most [inaudible 00:02:44] this year? TV, radio, billboard, 10%. Ooh, 9%. Direct mail, 27%. SEO, zero.

Cody Lee: Sad. [chuckles]

Alex: I don’t know. Somebody’s leaning on people in the polls. Google Ads, 33%. Facebook Ads, 16%. Email 16%. It’s interesting. Out of home and traditional, direct mail is still working best, but Google Ads, FTW. Guys, very good. Google Ads. Everybody, go invest in paid search. It’s the winner.

Cody, you’re delighted to hear that. Cody used to be a paid search [inaudible 00:03:20], still is. It still builds our team every day on that.

Let’s get the intros, guys. I’m the least important person here. We’ve got a great flock at Cardinal. Been in business about 11 years helping medical practice hospitals, specialty clinics, dental groups grow and find more patients. Passionate about all the fun stuff we do here at the end of the day. Medical marketing, marketing that matters. Guys, we’re helping people get healthy.

I’ve helped sell pizzas, and put shoes on people. I love that, but then they always got to go to the doctor once their arteries get clogged, so it’s good to be in healthcare. Let’s get into it. Leslie, good to have you back. [laughs]

Leslie Gibbs: Hey. Hope I didn’t miss too much. [laughs]

Alex: I love it. You didn’t miss anything. We found out that Google Ads is the number one way people are increasing patient volume this year, and SEO got 0%. Don’t not invest in SEO, though, people. It really does work; number one healthcare marketing agency on Google.

Guys, we’re going to cover lots of stuff; where everybody’s been, three phenomenal leaders here, how they got to this point this year. Leslie started six weeks before COVID hit at Modern Vascular. [laughs]

Jennifer Shultz: Oh, lucky.

Leslie: It’s an adventure.

Alex: Oh, my gosh. Let’s get into it. Let’s do some intros. Leslie, I gave you a little bit of a one, but before Modern Vascular, what were you doing and how’d you get in here? Thanks for surviving this year.

Leslie: Before Modern Vascular, I was the chief marketing officer at Western Dental. Before that, I worked at Intoxalock, which was an ignition interlock company, and prior to that, Lenscrafters.

Alex: Very cool.

Leslie: I have a little PNG in my background.

Alex: And you’re going on an RV soon.

Leslie: [laughs] Yes. My next webinar will be What not to do on an RV trip. I still don’t know what those things are yet, but I will take notes.

Alex: Good. Everything, you’ve done the dental. Now we’re treating people’s PAD. I love it. Peripheral Artery Disease, right? That’s the specialty [crosstalk]–

Leslie: Today is the first day of Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month. You’re catching us in the middle of a big awareness campaign. There’ll be a lot to talk about.

Alex: Very good. Good. Perfect timing. Mr. Cody.

Cody: Hey, everyone. I’m Cody. I actually started as a copywriter for a healthcare ad agency, and then pivoted to digital and for a SAS lead generation business. My background, as Alex mentioned, I started in paid search in the digital realm. Worked at a creative agency, starting their digital marketing practice, then consulted for a number of high growth SAS businesses.

Now I actually work for a private equity firm that has over 100 investments across the world. One of our primary sectors is healthcare. I am our resident marketing expert for the portfolio. I am a free resource for everyone that summit invests in. I get the privilege of consulting, and advising, and learning from some exceptional marketers, and sharing best practices, seeing a lot, not just in healthcare, but in other industries, which I find a very exciting way to cross-pollinate. I’m happy to be here, Alex.

Alex: We’re happy to have you, Cody from the West Coast. Leslie and Cody from the left coast. I don’t even know- what it’s 8:00 AM over there right now? Thank you for [inaudible 00:07:05] over here to the right coast.

Cody brings a wealth of experience, guys, we’re going to get to hear. He’s being humble. He works with some of the largest home health, hospice, behavioral health, I think they’ve got dental as well. He’s going to give us tips across the board.

Jennifer has a monster job; SVP of marketing at OU Medicine. OU Medicine, you do a lot of peds, cancer. It’s got almost all the service lines, and ranked like number one through the nation for a lot of these things, right, Jennifer?

Jennifer: OU Medicine is a very comprehensive academic health system. That is correct. We have a freestanding children’s hospital, an NCI-designated cancer center. We’re the only trauma one center in the state of Oklahoma. Very comprehensive specialties, along with essential services of specialties that you can’t get anywhere else, and then the largest healthcare research engine in the state with our academic partner, the OU Health Sciences Center.

Stevenson Cancer Center is number one in clinical trial enrollment in the country, so a lot of really incredible assets from a healthcare perspective that we get to serve the state of Oklahoma with.

Alex: Probably fair to say this one year has probably had more learnings than the last decade for [crosstalk]–

Jennifer: [laughs] Yes, I call it that experience on steroids. It’s thrilling. It’s both terrifying and exciting.

Alex: Crazy. You guys are doing a lot in the clinical trials. Can you please get me a vaccine? I’m tired of being alone in this office.


Alex: Guys, we’re going to cover a lot of fun stuff. Oh my God, this is so photoshopped. Look at this. I don’t look like this anymore. Quarantine just aged me 10 years.

One of the fun stats I recently saw, people are trusting providers more than anybody. That’s the reason Sanjay Gupta is next to Anderson 24 hours a day on CNN. People are trusting providers. They’re coming to all of you, wonderful healthcare marketers, for advice at all times. Please know that you’re leading your communities. We’re looking to you for advice. People do trust you more than Kanye West or any other celebrity. I know, it’s crazy, but we’re not getting our health information [inaudible 00:09:21].

Jennifer, I don’t know if you’ve been feeling this, but this [unintelligible 00:09:25] that we saw if we don’t get more government intervention, we’re going to be crushed on margin for the rest of the year. It’s crazy. Everybody thought hospitals are killing it, they’re going to get all the COVID dollars, but it’s actually not. Most people aren’t coming in for their electives and things like that. Are you guys getting hurt by margin and profit?

Jennifer: Did you just ask me a question, Alex?

Alex: [inaudible 00:09:50] question. I’m going off the cuff. This is not rehearsed.

Jennifer: [laughs] I would say that it’s probably pretty fair to say that health systems around the country have experienced a significant dip in volume, especially with those electives, and a wide variety of challenges. First of all, the thick of what I’ve called the shutdown, where stay-at-home orders being in place, or safer at home, or encouragement to stay home depending on what stage you’re in, along with suspension of electives to prepare for COVID. Then, trying to understand, first of all, the reimbursement for COVID cases and what that treatment and care looks like, and what’s the way in which you get reimbursed for that.

I think the other piece of it is, is how do you manage electives in this environment? Do you have enough personal protective equipment? What does that management of a virus look like while you’re also providing care to people? We saw, like many others, a significant dip in our volumes during that period of time.

What I think is probably a bigger ongoing question for all of us is, what does the bounce back and further dips look like? I’ve said before, it’s going to probably feel a little bit up and down between now and a vaccine. We’ve looked at what’s the shutdown look like versus what’s pre-vaccine world, what’s the new normal pre-vaccine, and then, what does it look like after.

We had a pretty strong bounce-back in volumes. Now, it’s that piece of, was that pent-up demand, or is this going to be a little bit of a stop and go experience? I think that still remains to be seen. The recovery feels more like a W than a V, is how I would say it probably is playing out.

Alex: It’s felt like a roller coaster, and like I’m going uphill both ways to school every day. [laughs] It’s never [inaudible 00:11:52]. It probably varies state by state too. Like I said, in Georgia, we were the number one case [unintelligible 00:12:01] with Florida. Hey, listen, don’t work this out. It is what it is. Now, it’s getting better. Are we going to get worse in the winter time? We don’t know, so dealing with all of that.

Some other fun stuff; telemedicine not going anywhere. Everybody believes the ease of access. I think, if anything, this year probably expedited the undertaking of a lot of practices getting on telemedicine and not letting it go. I don’t know if we’re going to see the same usage happening next year that we are. We don’t have a choice this year, but I think it’s still going to be important later. I’m sure we’re going to get questions on that.

Hey, everybody. Just so you know, I’ve got the chat over there. If you can, please go over there and feel free to put any questions. I will check that back. By the way, sorry for the little couple of issues with the slides. Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry, you couldn’t see them. We will send them out after. By the way, you won’t need the slides because we’re just going to go through some Q&A here.

Let’s get into the meat of it. Cody, you work with some of the largest groups in the country. How are they adapting? Give us some secrets.

Cody: [chuckles] All the secrets, here we go. Many- I think it’s interesting- are seeing the value in the role of marketing in a new light. A lot of the businesses that we work with are healthcare services firms that have national presence, multi-location, as you mentioned, behavioral health, hospice, home health, dental, in some cases. A lot of those historical motions to finding patients may have been driven by reps, or people going to hospitals to discuss with [inaudible 00:13:47] and discharge individuals. Marketing was very much a support function.

Now, marketing can take a little bit more of a lead role in terms of pivoting to a direct-to-patient approach. That can be enabled by digital, and be enabled by a lot of these new tactics that may not have been on the roadmap for a lot of these health organizations.

In that, they’re getting a lot more data driven. There’s increased scrutiny of the dollars that are being spent. It’s also an opportunity to show that a marketing dollar may actually go further than a sales dollar, or a office dollar.

The last thing that I think is really agile for a lot of these businesses, like you mentioned, is that there’s a different approach needed in each state. Getting more segmented around, not just what are the regional differences, which may have been the case historically, but then state by state within those regions, because they’re all having a different re-emerging strategy for COVID, they’re having a different competitive set in terms of the competitors that are either surviving, or having.

What I’m trying to do is help guide to have a more segmented strategy, a more direct-to-patient strategy, and in many cases, a more digital and data-based strategy.

Alex: Jennifer, Leslie, have you all also seen that the screw me on the dollars return has increments this year, and that it’s marketing and the digital world, it’s our chance to step up and show the dollar for dollar return? Are we also seeing that pivot? Is it still tough to track a lot of these things? What are you guys seeing?

Leslie: I found that there’s more interest in the numbers. I’m always been a digital geek. I have tons and tons of charts, and know cost per acquisition and conversion rates and all these things, and haven’t had, necessarily, the interested audience to share that information with. Now, all of a sudden, I do have some people who are asking for comparisons of how different things were.

As we get into this conversation more, I’ll talk about- the focus on the patient funnel is at a pinnacle right now. It’s understanding that full funnel from the moment they’re aware too of us, to they reached out, to the schedule, to [unintelligible 00:16:43], all of those pieces are being analyzed at a micro level because every 1 or 2% matters.

In a situation like this, we’re really focusing on how we can take every patient all the way through the funnel and minimize leakage. I have an engaged the audience to share this information with. It’s fun. [crosstalk]

Cody: Isn’t it great?

Jennifer: I would agree with Leslie around I’ve always been a very data-oriented marketer. I think the understanding about why you might not want all of your dollars wrapped up in billboard, newsprint, mass transit is maybe fundamentally more understood than ever before. Especially when you think about people being home more, and how do you reach people in their home, and an experience that is intimate and ubiquitous.

It’s going to be connected TV. It’s going to be their palm of their hand. I’ve always said your phone is the hub of all of your decision-making, including your healthcare. How do I actually get into the palm of people’s hand? That’s how I do that.

I think that there’s a lot more, maybe, understanding or acceptance around that. A lot of times, I always call it like the vanity portion of the marketing mix, which is, I want to see it on the billboard on my way home from work, or what have you. That’s starting to go away in a way that’s very positive, I think.

Alex: I’m not minding it. In February, March, a lot of our clients freaked out, pulled their spend, and so I got very- “Oh my God, everybody’s pulling back on marketing. Everything’s shutting down.”

In the last few months, we’ve had banner months every month, and this will be a record. I’m thinking, it’s not in spite of pandemic; it’s because of the pandemic. [crosstalk] A lot of medical group that were successful in traditional means. They had the liaisons working really well. They had the hospital referrals for hospice working. It’s not working anymore. Now, they’re having to come online and go that way.

Jennifer, when COVID hit, you were in charge of all communications, not just marketing, but all the comm stuff. What did you have to do? You guys were leading with all of your COVID testing, the essential carrier provider. What was the strategy there? How’s it panned out?

Jennifer: From our perspective, we felt like we really had a unique position in our state, because we have this comprehensive health sciences center that includes a top-ranked college of public health, along with infectious disease physicians, where we had a pretty deep bench of infectious disease physicians, maybe compared to elsewhere in the state.

Right away, we wanted to ensure that we were addressing the nature of a public health crisis, which to me, when you’re sitting in my chair, is absolutely an incredible amount of proactive, very transparent, fast factual information for the public to be able to consume, along with your physicians, and your employees.

For us, we said, “We’re going to just step into that space. We’re going to tell people what’s happening.” I’ll never forget having a weekend where we’re working all weekend, where we’re realizing that maybe we weren’t understanding what a pandemic was. I said, ” We’re going to actually have a media briefing and explain what a pandemic is, so the public can then make decisions.” We started out right away wanting to be that resource.

When I think about crisis communications, and then you think about, we’ve been in crisis communications, for us, since late February or early March, that’s a long-term response of having a really robust content strategy, and happening to have it be digital, or also figure out how to work with the news media to keep them off of our campus because we were shut down to vendors, still have had news media not on our campus, but to be the big news machine in the region around what’s happening, because we had something to say that was based in science and research and fact.

Thinking through that, that ended up spinning off a lot of digital strategies we weren’t necessarily planning on doing in 2020. We were going through a methodical build, so augmenting our content platform of Facebook with Facebook Live programming, as an example, was one of those things. Just a variety of things; virtual round tables that we would host, and leveraging our community partners with digital content and things of that nature.

What we really just learned is that we were the place that really had something factual to share with people, and to ease their worry and help them know what to do. It’s unprecedented for everybody.

Alex: That takes serious marketing gumption to go out there and start on new platforms like Facebook Live, and go out there and say, “We’re not afraid. We’re going to come out here and we’re going to say what we understand is factual, and that’s going to help the community more than staying silent.” Kudos to you for going on their new platforms, communication strategy. I’m sure you’re exhausted at this point just [unintelligible 00:21:59].

Let’s just move on. We’ll talk about how we thrive coming out of this, in a moment. I’ll open this up to the three of you. How has the health care consumer change? Obviously, she’s looking for more telehealth options and things like that. I’ve seen curbside care [unintelligible 00:22:17]. Talk to me about what you three are doing to help modify how we can access care.

Leslie: I can start. Our consumer is a lot more nervous. We tend to target consumers that are seniors, over 60. They have a lot of concerns about leaving the house and their condition. They need a lot of reassurances.

Peripheral artery disease is a life-threatening disease. It’s not considered elective. It has to be managed. Having those kinds of dialogues with patients, understanding from a remote consultation, what symptoms they are having, and then encouraging them to come in to address it, if it is advanced enough.

We did a lot of triaging early, making sure that the patients who are already in our referral funnel, that we knew the sense of urgency. The last thing we wanted to do is postpone life-saving procedures when we really do have a dedicated lab that’s COVID-safe. We don’t treat unhealthy patients, so it is a safe place to come in, but we want to be very selective about who we’re addressing, at what time, and what risk levels that they’re willing to take.

We’ve done a lot of education using telehealth, sending videos out. We’ve used both traditional media and digital platforms. We do a lot of Facebook to get people to acknowledge that they have symptoms than self-refer. In a lot of cases, some of our most reliable sources of referrals were podiatrists who were then elective procedures. They weren’t seeing the patients and there to diagnose them with the PAD, which meant we had to cast a broader net.

We had to speak to different doctors, spend more time with endocrinologists and PCPs who are seeing patients more often, and also to educate the consumer themselves on the symptoms to look for, and then offer remote consultations for them to be able to navigate what’s a symptom that needs to be treated, and something that can be put off for a little while.

Those are some of the adjustments we’ve made. The patients are really taking responsibility for their health. They’re educating themselves more before they just go into a doctor’s office. They’re looking to reduce touchpoints. It’s up to us to offer them the experience they’re looking for.

Alex: Interesting that they’re, I don’t want to call it saying we’re more profitable, but they’re helping the efficiencies of the business because they’re doing some of the legwork upfront with a virtual consult. I don’t have to have them coming into a location every time and meeting the provider. We can do a lot of it virtually.

Do you see that continuing in 2021? Let’s assume there’s a vaccine. Do you still think we’re doing a lot of the first step virtual, the self-referring, “Do we have symptoms?” things like that? See that continuing?

Leslie: I’ll go out on a limb and say less so. I know that when we tell a patient they can do a virtual consultation, still the majority would rather come in. I’m not necessarily seeing that be a tsunami, but maybe a ripple of options.

It may allow us to also broaden our territory. I think that seems like the benefit, for me, is that if I have a patient who’s maybe 30 miles away who is not sure they want to come in for a consultation, now we have a developed telehealth platform. I can see them remotely, and then they’re very much willing to come in the 30 miles for treatment or follow-up care once we’ve identified that we can help them.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. Jennifer, were you going to chime in?

Jennifer: Yes. I was actually going to say something similar what Leslie’s mentioned where I think telehealth adoption for the healthcare consumer, as you look at it and maybe do a rear view of it over the last six to eight years, it’s one of those adoption points where it’s almost like a hockey stick, where once you get into that experience and feel confidence and trust in it, you may be more apt to use it, but it’s for certain types of healthcare conditions that you really have a trust in it.

There’s a lot of tactile components to health care that people really want to see. I think we’re going to see people adopted similarly to that hockey stick long term, where it is something that is a nice-to-have option for certain things, but will still come in.

We recently did a consumer study in Oklahoma around key drivers of what would make you decide to go to a certain health system. Telehealth was like 7 or 8 out of 12 metrics. It was pretty low, which was surprising in this environment. Not surprising, was safety. I’ve never seen safety on a top 10 or a top 12 of a driver of decision-making in healthcare. It’s always been expected. It’s the table stakes of healthcare. It was number two in our survey.

I think that’s what they’re looking for. If telehealth is one component of that safety kind of on-suite of services, then it’s there and it’s utilized, but it’s still very difficult to get the conversion and the adoption into it. I’ve always said telehealth isn’t for the faint of heart.

We had a huge acceleration of our telehealth programming here, and have almost 80 specialties on telehealth. We’re seeing a lot of adoption for it, but we’re also seeing a lot of people that are chomping at the bit to get an in-person to the clinic, just to lay eyes on the physician.

Alex: I wonder if it’s we just don’t fully trust it yet. It’s still hard to diagnose some things. Like PAV, you probably got to see the veins in person, things like that.

Cody, you’ve got a lot of behavioral health, which is [unintelligible 00:28:58]. That’s the wrong word to use, which has done obviously well with [unintelligible 00:29:03]. We’ve all needed it this year. We’re saying you’ve got a lot of home health and hospice. Are they taking the virtual consult upfront? How are those things going? What are we doing?

Cody: Telehealth is a major undertaking for an organization to offer. I’m glad to hear Leslie and Jennifer talking about the patient experience as it relates to telehealth. It’s not as simple as just throwing up a Zoom and having a discussion. Developing that platform can take a while. It’s an investment.

We have to start with the patients and the target audiences in terms of not just the specialties that you’re in, and do they need more in-person, but also, what demographic are you going after. A younger, more tech-savvy patient may be more prone to being willing to do telehealth versus an elderly patient.

The other thing is thinking long term, like 10 years from now. These younger individuals are going to age up and they’re going to be in your target audience, but they’re going to be wanting telehealth. I think from a long-term strategic perspective, it makes sense to make that investment. It’s just a matter of when and how, and then how is that being implemented.

Leslie, to your point, I do think it expands, in some cases, the TAM, the target addressable market, because some people won’t come to you without it, or be too far at least now to warrant that risk. It can be either, a differentiator for you versus a competitor. It can also be a differentiator for you in terms of your regional reach.

It’s a meaningful decision, and one that many are pursuing, but they are taking, as I would imagine, a thoughtful approach to it, like, “How quickly are we going to do it? Can we do it right? Is now the right time? How needed is this?” Those are important questions to consider.

Jennifer: To Cody’s point, it’s also looking at how are you in this space of telehealth. There’s a B2B telehealth component where you might be selling telehealth services to rural ERs, but then there’s the direct-to-consumer component of it. I think it’s really trying to thoughtfully go, “What space am I trying to fill?” and engaging those expectations too, as an organization of understanding what space you’re filling too.

Alex: Jennifer, you said safety was number two, way about telehealth in terms of consideration. Let’s talk about that. We were getting a lot of questions from our provider groups. What ad creative should we go with? Oh my God, we’re going to talk tactical marketing, relax. Here we go.

What ad creative? What landing pages? What do we lead with? Do we lead with the providers in masks? Do we lead with happy patient that got their braces and has great teeth? What are you guys doing to address safety in your marketing communications and advertising? Where are we?

Jennifer: For us, we’re really trying to key in on components of trust. There’s a lot of different strategies inside of that vein, knowing that trust and safety go hand in hand.

For us, we are currently the largest healthcare content engine in the region. We did a share of voice analysis and confirmed that we, hands down, were that. Utilizing news media, or the media market digitally entered in a traditional television, news, broadcast, and what have you. News media tends to be three times more credible to the consumer than a paid ad.

We’re then taking and amplifying that through sponsored and paid channels as a way to position ourselves as you want to really come to us for all of these things, because we understand the virus in every way, shape, and from. We call it prevention, treatment, and cures. Prevention is that public health type of content. Treatment is convalescent serum. Research might be our study that we’re partnering was Novavax on or something like that. We have tended to take that route and utilize that sort of teaching component of being an academic health system.

The other part of it is that this is truly, the table stakes of health care safety needs to actually be reiterated and re-explained to the healthcare consumer. Of course, we have sterile processing. That’s been around for a long time. [crosstalk] [inaudible 00:33:51] actually having information where patients can see like, here’s where you go to prepare for your visit, here are all the things that we’re doing.

You’re talking about stuff you’ve never talked about before, but you’re talking about it because you want to reassure to that patient that you have it. Sterile processing, universal masking. This is how we test for patients coming in. This is how we test and address employees; things of that nature. That’s a huge piece of what we’ve been doing.

Alex: Leslie, how are you getting the word out? I know one of your big strategies, pre COVID, was to go into a market with a lot of broadcasts and traditional. Have you shifted that? How are you addressing safety? Is it done online? Are you still running as much broadcast and things like that? What has changed for you?

Leslie: Initially, we did a lot of awareness around COVID. That was done primarily digitally; just educating people about where we fit into the COVID world. We have moved away from that strategy, and are going back to talking primarily about peripheral artery disease awareness and diagnosis and treatments, always with a backdrop of COVID reassurances and the process. It’s there, but it’s not the primary message.

In about April, we actually walked away from broadcast for a few months and then, in April and May, took advantage of some really great rates [chuckles] and came back with pride. We supported about half of our clinics with a broadcast message, again, very much about what are the symptoms of PAD trying to drive people back to the website for more in-depth education. There was always still a COVID reassurance.

Tried and true for us is trying to identify how to speak to the population that’s most likely to have these symptoms, and addressing it in a way that will drive them back to the website. Sometimes, that’s going to be traditional. Sometimes it’s not.

As I said before, we do a ton of Facebook. We’re also partnering with diabetes organizations who do articles and ads to address their population. We’re doing some news casts this month for PAD awareness, but again, all in an effort just to create an interest and an acknowledgement of what to look for, and then get them deeper into the funnel to research and figure out with a [unintelligible 00:36:45] a treatment that would help them.

Alex: At the end of the day, it sounds like the website is the hub, then you’ve got spokes that are coming out there. Hey, guys. I hope you heard it. Leslie just renegotiated all of our advertising and marketing contracts. A great time to do that. Software, all of you [inaudible 00:37:04] gone back to all of them. I hope my friends aren’t on here, but man, it’s been a great excuse to get things [inaudible 00:37:10].

Cody, your groups are coming to you. They’re probably pretty nervous and then saying, Cody, how do I plan for this over the next year? It feels like things are really uncertain. Where do I place my dollars? Do I hold back?” How do you advise them on an uncertain future? What do you tell them to do? Hold back? Slingshot? What do you want?


Cody: One step at a time. One step at a time, Alex. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that we really know almost nothing about the future. When COVID first came around, it was like, “Yes, we’ll be back at work in a week, or maybe three days.” Things have changed and the world changes quickly.

What I’ve been trying to advocate for, and some of the best businesses are doing, is putting in place an agile process where they can stay close to the patient and understand how the environment is moving on the ground.

A lot of times, that means having a data infrastructure, Leslie, it’s been there for data-driven marketers all along, but now it’s a tool that can actually be really valuable to management to see, how are impressions changing, how our clickthrough rates changing, how are leads changing by state, by time. You could literally map closures of various states to digital performance over time, and these segmented against each other, and see correlations to them, and make decisions based on that.

A lot of times, it’s just saying, “Hey–” We don’t want to be too drastic, unless we have to, because there’s some drastic impact to the business which can happen. It’s how do we stay flexible, and how we tailor our approach and scenario plan. What are those triggers that, say, we’re going to start re-increasing our investment? What’s our plan for high investment, medium investment, low investment? Are those a tiered strategy that’s also regional? It’s thinking and trying to be flexible.

That doesn’t mean wait and see. It means having a various scenarios planned out with key triggers and metrics that you’re looking at in the business or in your marketing program to give you more confidence that, “Hey, this is a test that we want to run. This is the data that we’re going to use to determine if it was successful or not. Here’s what no or go means,” so just getting a little bit more methodical, and elevating that marketing strategy as part of the business strategy.

Alex: Looking at the data seems so critical this year. With the whole pandemic becoming politicized, just go online and type in cases in your local area, and you can see what the–

That’s what Cody’s saying. Don’t come up with a plan that is just it’s based on feeling. Look at the actual data. What’s working? Where’s patient volume coming from? Then start measuring out like that.

Jennifer, it seems like a lot of digital is going on. Let’s talk about trends going into next year, assuming a vaccine is happening. Where do you see the emphasis of ad dollars going or shifting? Do you see any changes to how it was before this whole thing kicked in?

Jennifer: That’s a great question. I think, that depending upon the level of sophistication of your marketing department and the build phase that you’re in, you should try to be a little bit more weighted on the digital side of things from my estimation, as far as how you’re resourcing. Your website, to me, is the foundation of all the marketing that you do, traditional and non-traditional. If you don’t have that lined up, a billboard doesn’t matter at all.

When I think about that, we’re evolving and leaning in towards that digital piece because we’re in a marketing build. We’re not quite two years into our marketing build. I don’t necessarily see that trend changing. What I do see maybe changing is some of the things that people see inside of an organization that marketing can do for the organization. When I think about a public health crisis of a global nature, it’s all about consumer confidence for every type of thing, whether it’s going to a hotel or a restaurant, and certainly for healthcare.

When you think about that, that really is then the organization’s opportunity to see the marketing function for what it truly is designed to do, which is create that consumer confidence. It’s an investment mechanism inside of an organization. It should be looked at as a revenue center. It drives volume. It builds your prominence and brand positioning for people to choose you.

What I hope I see in 2021 is that continued evolution inside organizations where you go, “This is a must-have. It’s not an option.” We can’t be the ones that are at the bottom of the heap, when all of a sudden [unintelligible 00:42:21]. I just think about World War II brands, brands from the Great Depression, those that really leaned into the true like, we understand the function of marketing, and we’re not going to take the foot off the pedal. Those are the bedrock brands in our country right now.

I just think about, how do I ensure that that’s me? When we look on the late 2021, how do we go, “Well, that’s us,” instead of having to be, “Gosh, we wish it would have been us”?

Alex: I’ve never heard the analogy with the World War II brands. That’s a good one. It’s funny, we think we’re the most important part of an organization, and then when times get tough, I don’t know, sales and marketing are the first thing to get the ejection button, which this year people have changed their minds and realized [crosstalk]–

Jennifer: [crosstalk] anymore. It should be the reverse opposite, especially during public health crises. [laughs]

Alex: This year changed it. This year changed it. Everybody wanted to get their message out, “Our groups are growing crazy and access to care [inaudible 00:43:19].” I think that this year changed it and made us more important, or at least everybody realized it.

Leslie, going in 2021, what do you think is going to change, improve, et cetera, in terms of marketing? What are we going to be using more of less of? Where do you think you’re going?

Leslie: I’ll continue to lean in, like Jennifer, to build awareness and be a resource to my patient base. If I would say my number one focus for 2021 is going to be on that patient journey, that patient funnel, it’s one thing to acquire the interest of a patient. If you’re losing 80% of them along the way, that is the biggest opportunity. Much more than getting 10 more patients to notice you, let’s make sure that we have taken every patient through the funnel as carefully as we can.

That starts from that very first touchpoint. Have we built a relationship with them where they trust us, see us as a credible information source, and that we have carefully walked them through a journey in a way that they understand and trust us, and will recommend us to others?

I think that for 2021, you can’t go wrong. To Jennifer’s point, you also have to be feeding that funnel at the top. You can’t ignore the top of the funnel and just work on efficiency, unless you built an awareness program that you’re known and trusted in the markets that you serve.

Alex: So tough. We all want, and our bosses all want to know exactly what’s the cost per lead, drive it down, get as efficient as possible, SEO, PPC all day long until we’ve maxed out impression and budget share.

Leslie, we’re finding what you’re finding; you only get so far that. Running awareness plays can actually decrease your cost per lead, cost per acquisition, by getting more awareness in market making those leads cheaper at the bottom of the funnel. Makes a lot of sense.

Let’s do 15 minutes of Q&A. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, but we’ve got some coming in [inaudible 00:45:33] then populate [inaudible 00:45:36]. Here we go. Cody, are we going to be telling everybody go heavy on search ads next year? What do you think?

Cody: [laughs] I’m going to say it’s worth the test. If you have the data, to map it all the way from click to lead to patient, and you know how much [inaudible 00:45:57] patient is worth, and you know how much it costs to acquire that patient and all the touch points along the way, then you might find that it’s a profitable acquisition channel.

You might find that it’s not. Some areas are highly competitive, or you might not have the infrastructure in place to run it confidently.

I don’t suggest just throw [unintelligible 00:46:17] to Google. Google will take your money all day long. It’s a matter of having the infrastructure in place. A lot of our organization invested in call-tracking software, in some cases for the first time this year. It was to be able to not just have quantitative data [inaudible 00:46:37] qualitative data.

You might think that these people are going to turn into patients and if they don’t, it’s not worth it. Then you listen to the calls, and you just got a high potential person that says, “This was so helpful. Thank you for all the information. I loved talking to you. I’m not ready right now, but I’m going to come in next month.” They end up coming in next month, and that gets attributed somewhere else, but it originated because you were running a great top-of-funnel ad.

Having those qualitative data points as well as quantitative data points, it can also help if you understand, do we need to coach our intake more, or do we need to have a different script on our sales process when you talk about efficiency. There’s a lot of really good information that you can get with talking about data. Qualitative data is frequently overlooked. That’s something that, especially our businesses, are taking a look at.

Alex: It’s hard to analyze it at scale. With call tracking, you can do sentiment analysis. At the end of the day, go into the recordings and listen to it and check all of that.

Really looking at the journey at scale, though, Jennifer had mentioned two years into our marketing build, you had mentioned CRM when we spoke last year, Jennifer [crosstalk]– Is that what a lot of you guys are using to track all the way through? Are we dumping into Salesforce and tracking data points? Is there any way really didn’t know multi-click attributes? What are you guys doing? Jennifer, where are you at now with it? Did you get [crosstalk]?

Jennifer: We’re not into our CRM phase of our build. We actually are getting very close to launching a completely new website, which would have been launched earlier this year, but we had such a redirect of people resource to respond to COVID. That’s going to be a huge, huge piece in the puzzle for us.

We’re also in the beginning phases of an epic implementation for our enterprise. I can tend to be very methodical about what piece is built when inside of a digital build. For me, CRM will come after Epic is live. We’ll start shopping for it probably six to nine months before that.

We’re really right now in that phase, and I call it the majority of marketing within your department. We’re in that vanity metric phase around this many clicks, this is what the click through rate looked like, this is how many people hit the landing page, and things of that nature. This is how much our earned media was valued at, and here’s what the engagement looks like.

For us, we did not have a centralized strategic marketing function here until January of ’19, is when we hit our new structure. We’ve not really seen that as an organization.

We’re only about a year, year and a half into seeing that, which after so much time, leaders graduate on from wanting to see that information, which always makes me happy, as long as I have the digital tools to be able to show the other parts.

Alex: Very cool. It’s an evolution. It’s cool that you understand it’s an evolution. It takes time. We have to communicate that to our leaderships as well, guys. It takes time to do it right. One thing at a time. Spend a year doing [unintelligible 00:49:48] down right.

I’ve got Demetrios asking a question. I’ll just open this up. We talked about the journey, top of the funnel, et cetera, and we did a poll earlier. Demetrios is asking, which channels are providing the best ROI. assume you’ve got a two or three locations specialty clinic, maybe. I’m not sure where to Demetrios works. What would you do? What would be the one or two channels you would run to try to increase patient volume quickly and cost effectively?

CodyI’ll go real quick. It won’t be paid search. The very first thing you should do is you should make sure that your website doesn’t have any SEO issues. There’s technical issues where you might not be ranking for your terms. It’s super easy to conduct an audit and get those fixed really quick. It can make dramatic results.

The other thing is I would make sure that you’re listed on all the directory sites, and that your information is showing up properly in Google local results and things like that. If you can, try to drive reviews to your listings on sites. Reach out to your existing patients. We didn’t talk about email much.

We didn’t really talk about post-acquisition journey. Marketing doesn’t stop when you acquire the customer. Marketing continues with your existing customers. It also continues with the referrals that they’re going to generate. If they can generate reviews for you, that helps build your trust and credibility. There can sometimes be these low-hanging fruits. That’s not necessarily, “I need to do this dramatic thing and a whole new investment.” It’s like, let me just spend a dedicated week getting all this figured out and done and buttoned up. If you haven’t taken a look at that first, I would start there.

Alex: Start with SEO. Thank you. We’re in the 0%, I guess, Cody. Start with SEO and have that buttoned up, and then evaluate the journey all the way through. We talked about leakage earlier. Email is a good way to button that up.

Jennifer, I tore my ACL. I went in for an MRI. They confirmed at the hospital system in Atlanta. I won’t call them out because I want them as a client. I went in. They confirmed it was torn, and then no one called to schedule me in with a orthopedic surgeon, which was crazy leakage to me. They could’ve gone 15,000.

I’ve got a question for you, Jennifer, specifically, Mark Crow wants to know. This one’s just for you. How much will you be focusing on population health initiatives, specifically focused on building relationships with community-based organizations to address social determinants of health on a community-wide basis? That is specific, Mark. Thank you.

Jennifer: That’s very specific. That’s a great question as well. One of the things I think that we can oftentimes miss in the world of going from volume to value is marketing’s role inside of population health around communications in re-engagement of patients like Cody’s mentioned.

We actually just completed our first community health needs assessment. We were actually a for-profit until February 1st, 2018. Now that we have that community health needs assessment, we’ll back into that around different communication strategies with key populations.

Community partnerships is an area of focus for us, although that’s taking a new flavor too inside of this COVID environment. It’s really working with our community partners on how can we actually be of support to those different social determinants of health, things that may be aligned from a priority perspective, or even taking a partnership that maybe is more of a for-profit like pro athlete type of a partnership and taking those key needs the community is identifying, and amplifying and augmenting that through different types of programming and what have you.

It is an area that we focus on. I would tell you, as I’m looking at the whole deck of things of what people are saying is driving decision-making inside of healthcare, that actually is a metric that’s a lot lower on the list. In fact, it’s scored last for us. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it. It just means that we want to understand how that fits into the entire components of how we work with the community.

It’s a critical, critical area for us as an academic health system and our mission, and so is making sure we have the proper lens on it to know and understand this isn’t going to drive patient volume. This is actually going to take care of our community and create better outcomes for our community. That is one of our main goals as well. It’s looking at it differently.

Alex: I like it. Mark. I hope that answered it. If not, you know where to find her on LinkedIn. Shoot her a message and we’ll get further into it.

Leslie, this one for you. I know this is important for a big specialty clinic like you guys. Reputations. Samantha is saying didn’t go into the pandemic with a strong reputation, not well known. What would you do to remedy this, like stop maybe specific tools or tactics? How do you fix the reputation and get things ramped up quickly?

Leslie: Cody touched on that. It was one of the first things that I addressed when I came here, was getting set up with the review platform. We signed up with podium. Modern Vascular is putting together a solicitation that asks every patient how their experience was, and ask them to write a review. We think that by driving quantities of reviews, it will bring to light the quality of the healthcare our patients are receiving.

We know that we have a very causative experience, and that, overall, our patients would rate us very high. If you don’t ask for reviews and don’t have a program to solicit people to give their experience, you will only hear from the not silent minority, who will then populate the review website, and you’ll find yourself on the cusp of a bad reputation.

I felt very lucky coming under Modern Vascular, that one, we did already have an extraordinary patient experience. Two, I had a clean slate. I had nothing to fix. The same methodology will work if you’ve got something to fix, and it will work quickly.

Alex: Good. Guys, these tools are really useful for that. They’ll connect directly in with your EMR, PMS. As soon as patient checks out, it’ll text them, email them. It’s like Leslie said, if you sit back and relax and don’t actively solicit for reviews, you only get the Negative Nancys. You got to go ask the Positive Pollys to give reviews or it’s a whole big hole to climb out of.

Everybody, that time. That’s good. Wow, [unintelligible 00:56:47]. I never had more fun in quarantine. I don’t know [inaudible 00:56:53]. Hey, it was a good time. Hey, listen, everybody that asked a question, Mark, Samantha, Rose, Demetrius, we’re getting you out is awesome T-Shirts. My marketing coordinators asked me whether you got your email. We’ve got a lot more about you too. [chuckles]

All right, guys, [inaudible 00:57:09] more questions. Go find Cody Lee, Jenifer Shultz, Leslie Gibbs. Go find them on LinkedIn, or I’ll send you their email if they give me approval specifically. Just requesting, but they’re very forthcoming; always been very helpful. They’ll be there for you too. We are all here to be resources, help get patients healthy and help grow the health care arena next year.

Everybody, panelists, thank you so much. I owe you a big debt of gratitude. Thank you so much for joining. If anybody [crosstalk]–

Cody: Thanks, Alex.

Jennifer: Thanks, Alex.

Alex: You’re welcome.

Cody: Thanks, everyone, for the question.

Alex: See you, everybody.

Jennifer: Bye.

[00:57:49] [END OF AUDIO]

Podcast available on iTunes

Alex Membrillo


Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal has recently earned him the honor of being selected as a member of the 2018 Top 40 Under 40 list by Georgia State University as well as 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year,and the Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).

Cardinal has experienced exponential growth under Membrillo’s leadership, being consecutively named on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately-held US companies for the last three years. Membrillo’s innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. He has been featured in leading national publications including The Business Journals, Entrepreneur, Search Engine Journal, and The Wall Street Journal. He has also served as an expert speaker for conferences including the American Marketing Association, SouthWired, and Vistage Executive Leaders, where he spoke on his unique approach to Millennial Management to over 400 CEOs.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO