How Cody Lee, Vice President at Summit Partners, is Quickly Scaling Healthcare Groups with Effective Digital Marketing Tactics

Cody walks us through how you can get buy-in for your maketing campaigns and how to keep yourself sharp amidst the changing world of digital marketing. Finally, we delve into how you can work on your attribution solution (that rhymed!) without any fancy tools.

How Cody Lee, Vice President at Summit Partners, is Quickly Scaling Healthcare Groups with Effective Digital Marketing Tactics

Alex Membrillo: Hey, everybody. I’m really excited to have you all listening to Ignite today. We are in for a treat. We’ve got Cody Lee joining us from the west coast. Cody’s been in marketing for– Well, he’s learned more about marketing than most of us will ever forget. The dude’s been in marketing since he was born. He’s going to tell us all about his family pedigree. I can’t wait for you all to hear it. He works for a PE firm named Summit Partners. One of the best in the country. He’s got a breadth of experience. Not just in healthcare. He can talk to us about some of the things he’s learning outside the industry. But I’m excited to have Cody on, because he gets to see such a multitude of different businesses and share that experience. Cody, welcome to Ignite. How are you doing?

Cody Lee: Hey, I’m doing great Alex. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Alex: Absolutely. Absolutely. We’re looking forward to learning. Cody, first off, I forgot to show you this shirt. Might do a giveaway on LinkedIn. Check this out, bro. This goes against all trademarks. We’re not going to tell anyone.

Cody: “Run PPC.” I love it.


Alex: My wife came up with that one, and then our team. The best one we’ve ever had. We might do a giveaway on LinkedIn while everyone’s in quarantine. Cody, give us a little bit of background, man. How did you get to Summit. Where have you been? What do you like?

Cody: It’s been quite a journey. As you mentioned, Alex, been in advertising my whole life. Both my parents were entrepreneurs and they co-founded a pharmaceutical advertising agency before I was born. I was born into that world. I like to say that branding and marketing and advertising is literally in my DNA. Some people might say I’ve been poisoned. I like to say I’ve been strengthened. I really started my career in copywriting, interestingly. I studied poetry in college, if you believe it, balanced with psychology and economics. I try to take a liberal arts approach to a marketing degree, but started in copywriting for a pharmaceutical advertising agency. Spoiler alert. It was my parents’ agency. Then went to freelance as a copywriter, worked for a number of different firms, but really got fascinated by digital.

This was in the 2013, where social media marketing, digital marketing was really starting to take off. I wanted to get into that. I started as a paid search campaign manager for a lead generation firm in the software space. Tech focused, really interesting breadth of experience. Learned everything about paid search, paid social. Then I moved and started the digital marketing practice at a video production agency in Austin, where I lived at the time. They made all sorts of great videos, but were looking for someone to help with distribution, help their clients get those videos out there. I did that. Then, an interesting move, I co-founded a hybrid private equity consulting firm with two partners from my earlier days. What we would do is we’d co-invest alongside private equity firms, so that we’d have a piece of the equity. Then we would consult their marketing teams on how to grow faster, grow the business faster, and really had that alignment.

That’s how I was introduced to private equity world. Summit Partners was leading investors on three of our clients. I eventually, about a year ago almost, joined full-time at Summit Partners as part of their peak performance group. We’re a group of free resources for our portfolio of about 100 different companies. I’m helping them with all things marketing.

Alex: Got you. Good intro. That’s interesting. You have the pedigree for the agency world. Went to college for poetry, but have also run paid search and paid social campaigns. What do you like more, writing copy or running a paid search campaign? It is very rare to have somebody that has both sides of the brain capable of doing those types of things.

Cody: Yes, the left brain, right brain. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. I love the marriage of the two. The fact that you are connecting and using persuasion and understanding humans and communicating, but why? It’s in many cases to drive the business results, and that’s where the analytics comes in. I love that quantifiable aspect of combining the analytics with the creativity and really driving business results. Not just for the sake of writing pretty words, but with commercial intent.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. The amount of ads that we’re saturated with at this point, it’s really making creative that much more important. We got away from it for a while. I think with the early 2010s, with digital exploding. It was all about the, “Get the PPC ad up. Get the keyword stuff in there for SEO”, and we got away from copy. Now with social media ads and things like that, I think some of that is starting to come back where we really have to understand our target market and elicit some response emotionally. Incredible talent that you have. That’s really neat. Let’s dive into it. At Summit, talk to us about the breadth of the portfolio that you guys have. What types of organizations are you typically working with? Then we’re going to dive into some of the specifics around healthcare.

Cody: We invest in three core sectors. One being technology, one being healthcare, and the other being growth products and services, business services. Within healthcare, it’s a broad gamut. I’ve helped hospice and Home Health Providers. I’ve helped Behavioral Health Services. I’ve helped clinical data management software, preventive care services. It’s a really wide range within healthcare, but also just across all the different sectors. Which for me is super exciting to be able to cross-pollinate all of those industries and the different best practices, and what can you learn from each.

Because what I find is a lot of times, marketers are just individuals, right. You specialize, you pick an industry, you stay in a lane your whole life. It’s awesome. You develop that specialty, but there’s so much magic to putting things together that rarely are, and just seeing what happens and being creative around, “I wonder if that consumer technique would work in selling healthcare software? Let’s try it.” Oftentimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. The market decides. That’s one of the great things about marketing.

Alex: At the end of the day everybody loves a brand. Some of those really neat things that B2C does [unintelligible 00:07:20] the consumer retail-driven companies. They’re really good at branding and advertising. That’s not something B2B or healthcare is really that good at. Bringing some of that for you is probably really fun. What are some of the other things that you’ve noticed in other industries that you’ve been able to bring over to healthcare? Healthcare I love, but man, it can move pretty slowly. Bringing some of those, what else have you noticed? What have you brought over?

Cody: It’s funny, but digital marketing still in many ways is new for a lot of healthcare companies. Especially now, with everything that’s happening in the world. Digital transformation is this huge innovation that healthcare is having to go through. It’s growing pains. Some of these companies it’s like we had a two-year digital transformation plan and we’re doing it in two weeks or let’s get all of our 20,000 providers to do Telehealth. How does that work?

Bringing those digital marketing tactics to healthcare, which a lot of it is process and ways to think about measurement and analytics, and what is our target cost per acquisition cost, and therefore, how much can we spend to drive a lead? Applying some of those business metrics to marketing, because frequently you come into a healthcare company that might have 500 people, and one of them is a marketer.

It can be a real leverage point when done correctly. That’s been exciting to peek under the hood and kick some rocks and be like, “Hey, what do we think about this? What if we tested this and do a proof of concept and then build from there?” Which I’m sure you’re familiar with.

Alex: I love health care. It’s really easy to look really smart as a marketer coming to healthcare organizations. I don’t claim to be the smartest in the room ever, but it’s so fun. Because there’s so much blue sky when you’re coming into a healthcare org, because 499 out of 500 have never done marketing. They’re so reliant on provider referral. They have this whole thing of like, “No. We need to become like a retail org and actually go get patients without waiting for a referral or an insurance referral” or anything like that.

It’s so fun getting to teach them. It’s crazy, guys, just to timestamp this interview right now. We are in the middle of Coronavirus. It is April 15th. Cody was just mentioning getting 20,000 providers on Telehealth. That was probably a two-year thing for a lot of behavioral health Telepsych, TelePCPs. Now they’re having to do it in two weeks. [laughs] It’s just crazy. It’s crazy. Cody, let’s talk about rapid scalability and deployment of a campaign like that. What’s the first thing? When you get a request from a healthcare group? What’s the first thing you say to them when they say, “Hey, we really need to deploy a huge campaign like this really quickly”? What are some of the levers you’ll pull in media, et cetera?

Cody: Yes, sure. Often it’s not, “We need to deploy a campaign quickly.” Usually it’s, “We’re doing this in the business. How can marketing help?” Frequently, my entry at the business is moving to Telehealth, and we’re going to have this new Telehealth offering. How can we accelerate that? The idea of a paid marketing campaign may not have even been originated. Thinking through, what is that?

Frequently, it’s first validating that that is an opportunity. Our people, our consumers searching online for things that we want to be there for. I usually start with intent based, right. Search ads, search engine optimization, which takes longer, but ads are quick, but they’re costly. We got to make sure that we do it profitably. Your aspect on referrals, sometimes there’s amazing B2B-like marketing that you can do towards referral sources to get in front of those doctors, get in front of those discharge coordinators to be top of mind as well.

There’s a lot of different ways that marketing can help. I try to take more of a consultative question-based approach and say, “Hey, we’ve got a giant pantry of marketing over here. What kind of meal do we want to make today and what’s the best one that’s going to feed you the best and the healthiest right now, but also grow up big and strong going forward?”

Alex: Yes. Beautiful. “Eat your vegetables. Make sure it’s SEO. It takes a while, but you got to [unintelligible 00:12:07]. I love hearing the SEO reference. You’re so media focused these days and all marketers talking about media. SEO is tried and true, takes a while, but man, it pays off. Very cool to hear that. They come to you with a business problem and then you concoct the recipe. Basically, the prescription to solve their ailments, and then you’re going to present that to the group. Cody, in your role are you also staying engaged? Is it like– Are they asking you to get involved with campaigns or you merely get to steer the ship? Which I think a lot of people want to know about, because it sounds like a real fun gig.

Cody: Yes, it runs the gamut. Sometimes I’m in there building a campaign from scratch in AdWords. Starting a fresh campaign, doing the keyword research writing the ads. I still get in there, roll up my sleeves. It’s still fun. I think it keeps you sharp. These platforms change like crazy. Other times, it’s organizing, “Hey, here’s a great resource or a trusted party that you might want to speak to, to help you execute that.” Cardinal being one of them potentially.

Alex: I didn’t pay him to say it. I didn’t pay him to say that.

Cody: [chuckles] “Hey, I know this great guy, Alex. He’s got a great firm. Maybe you should talk to them and see if they can help you.” I like to think of my role is a connector first and foremost. Our portfolio is doing amazing things. It’s the reason that Summit invest in them. They’re growing like crazy, they’re profitable. They’re doing amazing work. We’re a partner. A lot of times it’s learning from the best practices and novel things that things are doing, and then share those across the portfolio.

Oftentimes it’s sharing resources. Making connections to different referrals and making connections to different talent, individuals, contractors. But sometimes, nothing beats the speed of just doing it yourself when the payoff is worth it. It’s a pretty complex prioritization framework.

Alex: Guys, you heard it from Cody. Even when you become a VP and you’re leading a really important group like this, you still need to be able to roll up your sleeves and get in there. I see too many people, director plus levels that cannot go in, create a search campaign, optimize a website or deploy a paid social campaign. Never completely get out of it, guys. That’s not fun and you eventually lose your ability to talk to clients, because you don’t have the leverage work anymore.

Cody, something you mentioned that sometimes you’ll provide a referral, sometimes an education piece. You and I have spoken before. You do a lot of internal education. Not everybody’s working at a PE firm and needs to do that kind of education, but this is good for in-house marketers to try to recruit the rest of their healthcare org on board and to try to educate marketers around the units. What do you do from an internal perspective to keep everybody up to date with best practices in marketing? The most innovative stuff.

Cody: One of the main things that I do is I write a weekly newsletter. It’s primarily for all of the marketers within our portfolio. All the marketing leaders and individuals, what are the best practices in marketing that I’ve seen or heard about or I try to come up with a theme or a topic of the week and then organize resources around that. Probably half of Summit is a subscriber on that newsletter as well and they’re reading what the latest is in marketing, what we’re doing. We try to be really, really data-focused. Being able to measure results, publish results and share results is one of the best ways to get buy-in.

A CEO might not understand or a paid search campaign or an SEO campaign, but they can understand your lead volume from inbound went up 100%, and those leads for quality and drove 20% increase in inbound revenue generation. That you’re starting to speak their language. A lot of it is, is understanding who your audience is and translating what you’re doing, which might be tactical into strategy, but then also outcomes.

Alex: We’ve got a lot of medical groups. You said something really interesting there, of educating and showing the numbers to really get by and around the campaigns. How do we do that before there have been campaigns run? As we know, healthcare is so referral driven. How does an in-house marketing director, get the CEO or the C level to buy-in before there’s the data? What do they say? “Give me X amount of money for 90 days. This is how I’ll prove it.” How do you get the initial buy in? That’s where I see a lot of marketing directors get hung up. They can’t even get started. They can’t even get buy-in.

Cody: I think the key is to think like an entrepreneur. I think the best entrepreneurs are marketers, and the best marketers are entrepreneurs.

Alex: I would agree.

Cody: [laugh] Speaking as an entrepreneur, Alex, I think you would. You’re not a marketer. If you’re a marketer in-house it’s really, “What is the funnel for the business?” Not just, what is marketing’s role in it, but how are you reaching patients or driving new customers? What revenue is being driven by that individual? We talk a lot about unit economics and I like to say, “What’s the process from impression to new customer to repeat customer or referral or patient?”

Some businesses are repeat patient businesses, some patients are one time patient businesses. Getting a real understanding about, maybe– You might need to ask finance. It’s like, “How much do we make on a new customer or a new patient? What goes into that dynamic? Are there better patients that we should be driving versus others? Are there regional differences? Are there clinical differences?” If you map out that funnel, and sometimes you can take best guess estimates on conversions between those stages.

The average website visitor calls in five 5% of the time. A call in turns into an appointment, 50% of the time. An appointment turns into a new patient, 50% of the time. A new patient brings us X amount of revenue. Then you can start doing the math to say, “If we drive leads at X, I have a hypothesis that we’re going to have a profitable engine.” Once you start there and it’s like, “I get it. We’re driving a new referral source or a new referral engine, and we’re doing it in a way that’s profitable.” You’re thinking like a business owner. I’m asking you– You bought my trust. Now, I ask you, “Great, how do we do that?”

As soon as someone asks you, “How would you do it?” or, “What’s your recommendation?” You have the buy-in. Now, it’s just about making the best MVP, Minimum Viable Product or prototype of that campaign, proving it out and then scaling it.

Alex: I love it. I think thinking like an entrepreneur is incredible advice. If every employee did that, you would never have a lay-off. You would never have anybody to let go. Because at the end of the day, that’s what the executives want to see. Is people that understand the business problem at hand. I think oftentimes, marketers will get so in the weeds on tactics, that we forget that we’re actually trying to solve a business problem with driving growth for the business.

Guys, you heard it here from Cody. You really need to start by understanding the unit economics of your business. How much is a customer worth? What are the best customers to go get? Understand the regions, the demographics you’re going after, and then start to backtrack into what is the lead worth? How many do we need to close? What will the ROI be per lead? Then you come up with the hypothesis, like you mentioned, and then you’ll get to buy in on X amount of money, then you can deploy it and see if you were right. You mentioned every good marketer should be an entrepreneur. Every entrepreneur needs to think like that as well.

I think entrepreneurs often get hung up in the life cycle– Sorry, the lifetime business phase. Where it makes them a bunch of money and they don’t jump in [unintelligible 00:20:29] growth phase. That’s because they don’t understand what a growth agenda is. It’s a very nervous investment to go seeing 10K a month or whatever it is into some kind of marketing, because they don’t understand what the unit economics and cost per– [unintelligible 00:20:42]

Cody, great insight. What do you love most about marketing? Cody, where do you see things going here over the next few years? We haven’t been able to go to conferences because we’ve got Coronavirus. We’re learning online from each other. What do you see the big trends coming are going to be? What should we be paying attention to?

Cody: Well, the biggest change is disruption and change. It’s going to be a trend that’s here right now, real quick, but it’s going to be constant. It’s one of the things that I love about marketing, it’s never the same. I like to say that it’s a blessing and a curse, but I constantly feel inadequate, because I don’t know everything there is to marketing. No one does and that’s one thing that’s just beautiful about it. Learning from each other inforums like this, podcasts, thought leaders, following different blogs and subscriptions are great ideas. I always say it’s super helpful to do. Then one of the best ways to learn is to teach. I”m trying to write. Trying to put a newsletter down for me with a goal for 2020, because it forces me every week to do my reading, distill my thoughts and try to share those with the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

I think what’s really interesting right now is that new behaviors are being developed. It’s like, habits form in two weeks and with repetition. People have been quarantined. I’m in San Francisco, this is week five of quarantine. There are new habits being formed in my life, and in consumers’ lives all over the place. What are those new behaviors that are going to be going forward? What are those new ways that we might be more opportunistic around? Telehealth is being adopted rapidly right now. For years it was always an option, but was never really being adopted. Butnow you have this rapid adoption. My wife used it over the weekend, it was phenomenal. It was, five minutes on the video into CVS, got your prescription, and you’re back. That’s a new behavior that’s probably going to be here to stay in healthcare.

Alex: It’s going to stick. The only good thing about the virus, is it expedited this. You and I have known this for a while, but working remotely a couple days a week is hella good for productivity. The rest of the world figured that out as well. It’s wonderful how quickly marketing changes. I will agree with you. I always feel like the dumbest one in the room. Marketing is always changing so quickly, and I love it, because it’s job security. [laughs] We’re not accountants where it’s the same shit. Everybody’s going to bring us in, and there’s always something new to teach and learn. You can’t get rid of the marketing team that you have, because your SEO, the algorithms are going to change. Your Facebook guys are no longer going to have reach at some point. [crosstalk]

Cody: As long as you’re drive in results, Alex.

Alex: It’s all that matters. That’s all that matters. Talking about results. I only have one or two questions left for you, Cody. Talking about results. It’s beautiful and wonderful to say, “Yes, we have a CRM. Our marketing platforms are all tied into the CRM, so is our call tracking, the email tracking.” That’s all great, but a lot of mature healthcare orgs have really convoluted EMRs, and they don’t have CRM. What do you recommend starting with as a starting point, if you can’t even get into CRM? What are the key measurement points you’re using? How can you do this in a very basic way for some entrepreneur that just can’t get it to the CRM and all that stuff from the jump?

Cody: Yes, it’s a hard problem, right. Seeking perfection on instrumentation or analytics is in many ways, a fool’s errand sometimes, and you end up wasting more time. There’s a real balance that you need to strike. I think the concept of the MVP is the best approach to do. Say, you’re a multi-location healthcare organisation. What’s one location that you can try to help? What’s the one or two intake specialists at that location who’s probably manually inputting referral source into the ERP systems.

Sorry. Just having a phone call with that person and being like, “Hey, we’re going to do a test where we’re trying to drive digital traffic or digital leads to your business. We want you to know that that’s going to happen. Digital lead is now going to be a choice in your drop down menu for referral, we just want you to put that in, and we’re going to do it for a week.” We’re going to say, “Hey, beforehand, we had zero or five. Now we had 20 and we spent 500 bucks.” 500 divided by 15, here’s how much our leads were.

Was that profitable or not?” That can-help you get buy in to say, “Okay, now we should invest in a call tracking software” or, “Hey, now we should invest in a new CRM tool or maybe we should roll it out to the region, and then roll it out to the nation.” Really trying to start small, it’s going to help you. Because you can try to solve for scale, but it often just prevents you from getting anything done. Because you’re trying to be perfect, and it’s just the enemy of good in a lot of cases.

Alex: As Mel Gibson would say in the Patriot, “Aim small, miss small.” Still one of my favorite Mel Gibson movies. [laughs] I like that, guys. It doesn’t need to be super convoluted. You can start with a couple locations. There’s always an intake specialist working there. Just try to get him or her to put down something. Trying to make the forums multiple- or randomized, so they know not to [unintelligible 00:26:19] every time. I’ve seen that happen.

[laughs] [unintelligible 00:26:22] like, “Did you hear about this on Google?” “Yes.” “Okay, got it.” I love getting credit, but that can screw up the test a little bit. Guys, like Cody said, start really small and work from there. Cody, just one more question, you mentioned that you’re following blogs and things like that, learning from each other. What are a couple of good blogs or people that everyone listening can learn from? Healthcare or otherwise. I don’t think it matters for this. Where should people be looking, reading and listening?

Cody: Yes. One of my longtime favorites, classic is Search Engine Land. They do a daily newsletter. It’s always worth skimming through. What I do is, I save them for the week and then I crush all of them on Tuesdays, before I write my newsletter on Wednesdays. Look, they have links that they go out. It’s very search-focused as you might imagine, paid and organic. That’s one that I really like. CXL Institute is another good one that I like. Conversion XL.

Alex: [unintelligible 00:27:26]

Cody: They’re great with content, SEO, conversion optimization, training as well as content. Another one that I like is SaaStr. Obviously, more in the SaaS space, but there’s a lot of translatable skills. I think that’s one thing that, if I had a tip for healthcare, it would be to look into other industries to see what you can apply as well. Then put your connector cap on and say, “Hey, this content is written for SaaS, but what might I be able to apply to my business around that?”

Those are three that I really like, tried to true. I read them weekly. Also, I like to say I’m a LinkedIn power user. I’m probably on there too much. I love following different people, commenting, engaging. That’s really where you learn, is putting yourself out there, seeing what other people are doing, and staying your finger on the pulse. That’s really how I try to emerge my themes, because here’s what people on the marketing street are talking about this week.

Alex: That’s right. You had also mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to learn is actually the teach. Write, teach, put your thoughts together. It forces you to [inaudible 00:28:45] expertise. One quick thing that came to mind when we were talking. Reading the stuff on SaaStr, while it’s B2B, you also have– I mentioned, guys. If you have been listening, he had also mentioned in healthcare, there’s a B2B component often with physician referral sources or hospice getting in, the nurse intakes at hospitals. I don’t know exactly how that works, but there’s B2B components within healthcare org. Reading everything, B2C, healthcare.

But also B2B can help you guys a lot, because there’s going to be things in email and automations that you need to learn for the B2B component of your business. All right. Very cool. LinkedIn, and then you had mentioned Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land– Sorry, Search Engine Land. Search Engine Journal, also a good one, and CXL. We put our people through [unintelligible 00:29:26] through CXL trading. My salespeople are going through that right now.

Cody: Nice.

Alex: Okay. Insights on the world from Cody. The future president of America, 2024.


Cody: Thanks, Alex.

Alex: Cody, thanks for joining us on Ignite.

Cody: Yes, you bet. Have a good day.

[00:29:42] [END OF AUDIO]

Get Started

Ready to Grow?

Great partnerships start with great discoveries. We start with your business goals and budget, and then help you find the right digital marketing strategy to fuel growth.

Fill out the form to get started!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.