Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast where we help marketers and CEOs learn the latest tips and tricks to help ignite growth in their business. This isn’t your typical marketing podcast. We push beyond platitudes to deliver you real-world stories from the trenches. Are you ready to learn? Are you ready to grow? Are you ready to have fun? Well then buckle up because you are about to enter the Ignite Podcast.
Alex: Hey everybody. I’m really excited today. We’ve got a real treat in store. We’ve got Leslie Gibbs from Modern Vascular. She’s been the CMO of a variety of really large medical groups around the country. We are in store for a lot of learning. I could not be more excited to intro and bring on Leslie on to Ignite. We’re going to learn a lot and I could not be more thrilled.
Leslie, welcome to Ignite. Give us a little bit of background. How do we get to Modern Vascular, tell us about your early start with your career and how you got in the marketing and then eventually made your way into medical.
Leslie Gibbs: Thanks, Alex. Hi, everyone. I started my career at Procter & Gamble. I thought it would be great to get that classic brand management training and I was able to utilize that to build my career early on. I spent five years at LensCrafters. During the period, they were growing super fast. I was at a family-owned company for 13 years. Then I had my first big opportunity to be part of a PE firm, flip, where they were trying to add value quickly to an established company and then sell it. I did that at a company called Intoxalock out of Des Moines, Iowa.
Then I came back to California to work for Western Dental. I was their chief marketing officer for two years. Then just recently made a move to Modern Vascular, also in the LA area, which is similar to the goals we had in Intoxalock, which is to grow a small company quickly and make it attractive for investors.
Alex: I love it. Leslie, you seem to have a knack for coming in when a company is still in the entrepreneurial phase of their growth curve, and we’re learning how to professionally manage, how do we build systems, how do we get the entrepreneurs out of every seat, that kind of thing. Is that accurate? You like to get in and get your hands dirty and grow? Talk to us about that. If that is your niche, what are some of the first things you look at and take on? What helps scale quickest when you’re coming into a situation like that?
Leslie: Absolutely, it’s my passion. I had an opportunity to do that at LensCrafters, Bonnie Bell, which was the family-owned company, Intoxalock and now again at Modern Vascular. What I love about it is coming in and taking insights from my 30 years of experience in other companies and being able to quickly add value to an institution to grow the business using just basic knowledge that I’ve learned other places.
The first thing I do when I come in is evaluate and improve on the current infrastructure. I’ll take a look at all the vendors, I’ll look at the resources and then I’ll make recommendations based on what’s missing from their infrastructure and also improvements I think I can bring in a vendor or a partner that I’ve worked with in the past.
Alex: I got you. The first thing you do, so you probably take a pretty relaxed first 90 days where you’re not making a lot of changes, but you’re analyzing everything going on what vendors they’re using, what vendors you should bring in, what is the current team structure. Let’s talk to Western Dental specific. Did they have a marketing team in place when you came in? Were you replacing another CMO? Were there in-house people, agencies? Talk through what you had there and then what you did in the first year.
Leslie: At Western Dental, that was a different situation. That was a billion-dollar company. They did have an infrastructure in place and I was actually trying to fix some things that were wrong with the company, that were keeping the company from being able to grow. I want to react to something you said that I take leisurely first 90 days, that couldn’t be more wrong. When I came into Modern Vascular, I’ve only been here 75 days. In that 75 days, I’ve signed an agreement with Salesforce, I’ve signed an agreement with Podium review management, I brought in a new digital agency, a new branding agency and I’ve restructured the sales department.
I don’t really let the grass grow under my feet. That’s one of the things people like about me. I have a lot of confidence in my instincts. I assess very quickly and make recommendations and started improving really from the third week.
Alex: I love it. Holy smokes, set the record straight. I like it, Leslie. You don’t waste a minute of time. You come in there, you know exactly what needs to change, and you make it happen. Let’s talk about Salesforce, that’s awesome. You brought in Salesforce, what were you looking to achieve? Was it CRM? Are you looking for more Marketing Cloud? Were you trying to understand patient acquisition attribution better? Talk to us about technology, I love that kind of stuff.
Leslie: We signed an agreement with Salesforce at the end of my first month. I had a great partner in our CIO who was very motivated to get that sort of infrastructure in place. I’ve worked at all these different companies and none of them had a CRM they were pleased with, and yet they were at a different place in their growth that they really couldn’t afford to start over from scratch.
Here, I had an opportunity to say wow, every company I’ve ever worked with wish they had built it this way, and here we are with only eight offices when I started, nine offices now. What can we do now to build the infrastructure, so when we’re ready to grow, it’s ready to grow with us? We did Salesforce both on the sales side. We upgraded to the enterprise systems, and I started working with the sales team to populate Salesforce in a way they hadn’t been doing before, so we can start building the reporting and the tracking that we need to really assess where referrals are coming from.
One the marketing side, we just signed up for Marketing Cloud and are just starting the integration. The hope there is to create a patient journey that really walks the patient through their decision, their procedures, and their aftercare.
Alex: I love it, Leslie. There’s so many medical groups. Healthcare in general, what we find is there’s a lot of red tape and so a lot of medical groups, especially the hospital ones or the hospitals themselves are finding it tough to implement this kind of technology. You’ve gone in and there was nothing in place and you’re able to implement the best in class stuff. I want everybody to take note, guys. Salesforce, we hack on it all the time. It’s so important to get a CRM in place because it’s the nexus for all of your marketing campaigns that will spider out. She mentioned journeys. You can use Journey Builder to build various journeys throughout there and nurture someone along.
Leslie, you also mentioned one other thing, that you’re trying to find out where your best referrals are coming from. You anticipate hooking the CRM to all of your ad platforms so you can tell whether Cindy came in through a Facebook ad campaign, saw a page, search along the way and then became an active and high-value patient. Is that accurate?
Leslie: Sure. I’m spending a lot of time building the tracking infrastructure. The new digital agency that we brought in is building their own tracking system that will be able to track not only where the leads are coming from, but did the leads convert into a consultation? Did the consultation show up? If they didn’t show up, were they referred for a procedure? That way, we can go through and we can talk about not only what’s generating leads but what’s the quality of leads.
It was very easy for me to see early on that our digital leads were not high quality. To go through and determine where the mistakes were has allowed me to communicate with the digital agency and tighten up that regeneration. We’re getting the same or greater number of leads but at a much higher quality.
Alex: Oh my gosh, unbelievable. Leslie, you must have read through us. That is the number one thing. We are a data-driven healthcare marketing agent. That is so important that you identified exactly where the best referrals are coming from and then modify the lead gen campaigns. That sounds like it was a huge priority in the first 75 days. Is there any other form of marketing that Modern Vascular takes on, direct mail, social, any kind of out of home stuff or is it mostly a digital lead growth strategy?
Leslie: We’re going to do all of it. I also hired [unintelligible 00:09:17] out of LA as our branding agency. I’m trying to put together a uniform brand strategy, a look, feel and language that we use with all our patients to talk about all our local offices. We have to have a national strategy that makes sense and then take it down to a local level to speak to our patients in the communities that they live. They’re also helping us with our press releases and creating a national reputation. Before we even come into the market, people have heard of us and can Google us and find out what we do. We’ve spent a lot of time on that.
We’ve also just signed up for Podium, which is review management. We’re going to start asking all of our patients to write reviews for us primarily on Google but also on Facebook. The services we give are life-changing, people are overwhelmed, and yet there’s no presence of that in the internet space. We’re trying to get those reviews and also to build up testimonial campaigns. Patients are hearing from patients how our procedures change their lives.
Alex: That’s huge. Man, Leslie, you [chuckles] don’t mess around. You’ve taken on a lot really quickly. Oh my gosh, that’s no joke. We’re trying to run patient testimonials. We got the branding agency to try to create a local feel for any market that you guys are going into. For Modern Vascular, give us a little bit of background on the ideal patient, and what is the growth strategy here? Is it going to be more markets or fill each individual location and get more providers? How is Modern Vascular taking this on? Because we have so many private equity back, medical groups that are trying to do what you do, and I think they plateau at various spots. How are you guys doing it?
Leslie: We’re still a very young company. Even our most mature offices have only been open for a couple of years. We have not even started to scratch the surface on direct to consumer advertising. We really get started on a referral basis, working with local paediatrist, working with primary care physicians, endocrinologists. People who come to see us have a syndrome called PAD, which is peripheral artery disease. It means the circulation isn’t making it into their legs, and it can manifest itself in resting leg pain. It can be wounds that don’t feel, a lot of prevalence in the diabetic community. In many cases, it gets really, really bad, and sometimes they even recommend amputation.
What makes us different from other vascular entities is that we specialize in treatment below the knee. When others would amputate, we actually go below the knee into a place called the pedal loop, which provides circulations to the foot and toe. Many times, people have been told that amputation is the next step, come to us, and we can recirculate the lower leg. It’s really important work that we’re doing, but it’s also highly targeted. Our median patient age is 70. Digital’s not going to take us all the way. We certainly have to get out in different formats. We’re looking at AM radio. We’re looking at health talk shows. We’re looking at billboards.
We also are definitely using digital because so much of our business comes from healthcare providers and other family members looking for solutions. So we touch it all.
Alex: That’s no joke. That’s interesting, exploring AM radio. When I think of a 70-year-old, I think Facebook and that just goes to show my head is always so much in just leading a digital agency. There are so many other ways to reach that demographic. Have you found any limitations or grow so far, Leslie? Is it finding enough providers in the new locations you’re going into or getting enough referrals? Do you have to hire the physician liaison? Do you guys foresee any growth?
Leslie: I forgot to answer that part of the question that says yes, our growth is going to happen within the existing footprint. Plus, we have an aggressive new opening strategy. For instance, this year, we’re hoping to go from 8 to 15 offices, and we hope to open even more the following year. We’re looking to open about 10 offices a year in the foreseeable future. A lot of my time is spent putting together playbooks that make that very simple. That we have these steps that take place every time we open a new office to ensure that we’re successful, and we get good growth out of the gate.
We don’t want to be recreating the wheel every time, so we’re putting these tools together. There’s a huge opportunity within the existing footprint as well as we educate the population, as we reach out to new venues beyond just our core referral. Reaching out into nursing homes, showing up at health fairs, building that kind of knowledge about what peripheral artery disease is, how it affects people, and how early intervention can change your life.
Alex: Absolutely. You’re trying to get everybody at every stage of the funnel. Digital will capture all the hand raises but also going into the nursing homes, we can educate people and make them aware of us. Leslie, I want to have a philosophical question for you. This is something that’s been on my mind. In marketing, when you find something that works, do you quadruple down on that? Or do you double down and then start exploring other things, other marketing channels and see how those work before you decide? That’s something I’ve often struggled with. I think other marketers struggle with. You’re doing just about everything it would take to go grab a 70-year-old patient for Modern Vascular.
A lot of other marketers get very myopic. “Hey, we’re going to do digital, we’re going to be a digital company. We’re just going to do that.” What’s your feeling there? How do you tackle that typically when you find something that works?
Leslie: I’m not an either-or person. If you find something that works, that has a positive ROI, there shouldn’t be a constraint of resources. I have always said to my management when they say, “How much money do you need?” I said, “I’ll show you the opportunity, and I guarantee you within a certain number of months, you’ll be saying, ‘What could you do if I gave you more?'” I don’t really think of that as an either-or, I’m going to take something that’s winning, and I’m going to push it and push it and push it. As long as the ROI is there, I’m going to take as much as I can.
You also have to be thinking about what your next growth play is, knowing that eventually, you’re going to get to a tipping point where the ROI starts to decline. What you want to do is have 10 ideas in the coffer at any one point in time knowing that one’s going to be a home run, three are going to be doubles, and six of them, you’re going to move on. You have to constantly have a funnel of ideas that you’re working on so you always have that next big play.
Alex: I love it. That’s a good lesson. It’s something that’s been on my mind, and I like it. I think a lot of marketers struggle with bringing that to their CMOs, and they don’t know how to present it to her and say hey, listen. You often get that question, how much do you need? That’s the wrong way about it. I think we have to prove the ROI in a small way of a marketing channel, and then it proves itself out and the funding will be there afterward. I like it. Always have a list of 10 ideas. Some will work out really well, some won’t, and we have to be comfortable with that as marketers. I really like those points.
Something interesting I saw in your background, this is a question I always like to ask because we have marketers coming out of college and have their bachelor’s, and they get a couple of years of experience. Leslie has her MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management. Leslie, was it worth the investment and time and money and everything else?
Leslie: Yes, it absolutely was. I actually got my MBA late in my career. I had planned to work for Procter & Gamble and after Procter & Gamble, go back and get an MBA from Stanford. That was my play. What I found, coming out of Procter & Gamble, was that I had a lot of people who are interested in working with me because I had worked at Procter & Gamble, and they were treating it as an MBA. I put my MBA on a back burner but it was always bugging me.
Then when I was in Intoxalock, I was told that they saw a CEO potential in me. I thought, Wow, that is a conversation that I want to be part of, and I would like to expand my contribution to organizations beyond just marketing. What was standing between me and being part of those conversations was the credential. Luckily, I had a wonderful CEO at Intoxalock. Her name is Kimberly Williams, and she believed in me and wanted me to go back and get that MBA that was bugging me. She made it possible for me to do it. I paid for my own MBA, but she gave me the time and the resources I need to go and get an executive MBA while I was still the CMO of Intoxalock.
Alex: That was going to be my next question. Was it worth it because you didn’t have to pay? But you put yourself through it, you paid for it.
Leslie: I paid, and it was still worth it because here’s what happens. Is that if you want to be a CMO or even a vice president of marketing, and you’re applying for these positions, and you don’t have the MBA, you’re put in the non-MBA pile. What will happen is that there are positions, there are companies that will take a risk on you. Intoxalock took a risk on me. They hired me as their VP of marketing without the MBA, but that’s 10% of the companies. 90% of the companies aren’t even talking to you because you didn’t have the price of entry.
By getting the MBA, you become part of 100% of the conversations. It opens doors. I would not be the CMO of a billion-dollar dental organization and I would not be a CMO at Modern Vascular if I had not done that.
Alex: You guys heard it here. Even if that MBA cost 100K, you can recoup it down the road if you’re really going to achieve the CMO position at a large company. Leslie, that was the best explanation I’ve got of whether the MBA was worth. I really liked that. I appreciate that. Guys, if you can get your current employer to pay for it, even better, save you some bucks. Leslie, you live in Southern California, which is my dream. As soon as my kids are in college, we’ll be moving out to San Diego or LA or something in between where they used to film that teenage show Laguna Hills, I think it was called. What’s your favorite part of living out there besides being able to watch Monday Night Football at 5:30?
Leslie: Oh, boy, that’s a good one. All the great TV’s on early. I get to watch the Academy Awards early. It’s amazing. This is my second time living in Southern California. I went to Intoxalock and then after that job, which I loved, my goal was to get back to Southern California. I love the weather. I love everything about it. If I had to pick one thing, it’s that my grown children both live in LA. I have a daughter that lives in Marina and another daughter that lives in Santa Monica, and I can visit them anytime and take them to dinner. That alone makes it worth the price of entry.
Alex: You heard it here guys, stay where the babies are. Don’t ever leave the babies. That’s the most important part. Even if it is 72 and sunny every day. When I was in San Diego last year, we were in Encinitas. I got in an Uber, and I said, “Man, it’s beautiful out.” The Uber driver said, “I don’t know.” I was like, “What the hell are you talking about?” She said, “It’s always 72 and sunny.” “Are you kidding me?” She goes, “Yes, we don’t have any seasons.” I said, “You don’t need seasons. You got the best one. You don’t need any others.”
Leslie: I can always vacation to see the trees change color.
Alex: That’s right. Leslie, thank you so much for joining us on Ignite. This is incredible and useful. We learned from your marketing strategies that technology to playing with is phenomenal it’s so ahead of the time for healthcare. I absolutely love it and how you’re coming in and just turning Modern Vascular upside down in the first 75 days, could not appreciate that more. I love people that don’t mess around. Thank you for joining us, Leslie. I’m sure people are going to want to reach out. Where should they go? Should they go to LinkedIn and search Leslie Gibbs, that’s URL lesliegibbsmarketing, is that the best way to find you?
Leslie: Yes, that’s perfect.
Alex: All right, guys. Hit up, Leslie. She’s been very gracious. I’m sure she’ll help you if you have any little questions you want to shoot over. Leslie, thanks for joining us.
Leslie: Thanks, Alex.
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