Podcast #74

Building a Strong Brand: How Lynn Robbins is Guiding Traditions Health’s Marketing Strategy

With 30+ years of healthcare experience, Lynn Robbins, Vice President of Marketing at Traditions Health joins Cardinal CEO, Alex Membrillo, to share her insights into the world of home health, palliative care, and hospice marketing. From conducting market research to navigating staffing shortages, the two healthcare marketing experts cover it all. So, tune into this episode of Ignite to hear the latest trends and challenges within the industry and get an inside look into Traditions Health’s marketing strategy.

Episode Highlights:

Lynn Robbins: “Right now, some of the focus of growth for us are what we call De Novos and doing standing up new branches. We recently have stood up two new branches in Texas and they’re doing pretty well… We also are calling ourselves an in-home health system. Not just hospice, palliative and home health but an in-home system. Much like hospital system calls themselves healthcare systems.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: Guys, this is going to be so exciting, man. I’m thrilled here. We’ve got Lynn Robbins, the VP of marketing for one of the biggest home health groups in the country, Traditions. Lynn, welcome to Ignite. How are you doing?

Lynn Robbins: I’m great, thanks.

Alex: Lynn, where are you based out of?

Lynn: Well, I’m based out of New Hampshire, a little seacoast town called Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but Traditions Health is based out of, our executive offices are in Nashville, Tennessee, and our corporate support center is where we were founded in Brian College Station, Texas, basically College Station.

Alex: Then moved to Smashville?

Lynn: Nashville. They moved the executive offices and a lot of the executive team. Nashville is a healthcare mecca. My prior employer is also based there, HCA or the Hospital Corporation of America. There’s a lot of expertise in that one city. We’ve been there since April of last year and so I spent a little bit of time going back and forth to Nashville and back and forth to College Station.

Alex: Do you have direct flights to BNA?

Lynn: I do.

Alex: Good. From what?

Lynn: From Logan.

Alex: You got to drive a little bit. Lynn, you’ve been in healthcare marketing since you got out of school only five years ago, right?

Lynn: Five.

Alex: Since you got out of school and on the dark side of that, tell them how you got to Traditions because you’ve done a little bit of different things and that’ll frame up your experience and insights you will give.

Lynn: I got out of college and didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I could write well, and I did some reporting for print at that time. Then I moved into a boutique agency, advertising agency that specialized in healthcare and actually real estate at the time and so I really resonated with healthcare. My sister is a nurse. I just knew I couldn’t do that side of healthcare because it makes me icky. [laughs] I’m so grateful for the people that can do the hands-on care. That’s where I felt resonating with doing the support for patients and families and getting that word out.

Then I ended up being asked to start at a new position at a large hospital that served Central Florida and was really the safety net hospital. If you know anything about hospitals, some are academic safety nets, some are academic, some are a little bit less safety net-oriented. This was a safety net hospital that really did some great work. I was brought on to start the communications and marketing around a LRDP, what they used to call Labor Recovery Delivery Postpartum. It was an all-in-one suite and we did babies, NICU, just everything. That was a great way to get started in acute care.

I learned a lot and molded my position into overall marketing, public relations, communications for the hospital itself and the health system. Then I met and married my husband. We moved to a different location, and I spent a little bit of time in media relations for a NPR-PBS affiliate. That was fun. Little deviation. Then came back to healthcare in the post-acute space, which is, in that case, was hospice and palliative care and pediatric palliative care. Then moved northeast again where I grew up and my husband grew up and spent more time in post-acute care, but on the business development side and developed about a 24 to 25-town region for a VNA hospice and community services, senior care services.

Then returned to acute care and worked for the New Hampshire market of HCA, specifically Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Parkland Medical Center. That was a really interesting experience around working for a national company with a local footprint and how that scalability and support at a national level helps us do the work locally. That was a really great experience. Then I was recruited for this position based on just having that post-acute and acute marketing background with national organizations. I’m really thrilled and privileged to be supporting Traditions, which has three business lines. One is home health, the other is hospice, and the third is palliative care.

Alex: Tell us about those three. It’s cool. You worked in the hospital care coordination, you got comms, you got media, you got marketing, and now marketing is your favorite and that’s the best thing you’ve done, but that’s cool. Traditions was smart to bring someone that’s done a little bit of everything and worked with the hospitals that I assume are a big referral system. They wanted to know how do we get more, I guess. Lynn, tell us the difference. Home health, because we got dental marketers, derm marketers, and so I want to outline what does Traditions do. Talk about three service lines and then the main way used to acquire patients. Is it just direct? Is it just through hospitals? Tell us everything.

Lynn: I do decide that’s dual. Just like pharmaceuticals and medical devices and hospitals market to consumers or potential patients, post-Acute must do that too to continue to grow as organizations. Instead of just assuming the referral source will make the referral to Traditions, you also want to push the patient family member to understand not only your brand but the value promise of your brand and what it means. I was brought on to build the consumer marketing side as well as support our sales team, which is very broad, with the referral source messaging.

We do both, but we came on as an organization for marketing around really that external resource and then also providing support both digitally and imprinted pieces and promotional pieces for our sales teams to do their referral source work.

Alex: Very cool. You not only need to hope that the referral comes but you also want to go grab the patient. Adult [unintelligible 00:06:33]

Lynn: Vey true.

Alex: What’s your proportion?

Lynn: Our main, as the marketing team hitting the consumer side, our main audience is women, 40 plus. They are usually making the decisions. Doesn’t mean that men don’t, but we had to be very specific and focused, laser-focused on what that audience primarily is and how they make their decisions. That is our main focus. As I said, we also do referral source marketing as well, but that is our second focus right now because we’ve got this huge sales team obviously out there doing that day in, day out, face-to-face. What do we do to help undergird that? We do a lot with online and digital in addition to the printed side of the house.

Alex: Undergird, we’re learning a new word. I haven’t heard that one before. I like it. I’m learning new ones every time I’m talking to people.

Lynn: That’s good.

Alex: Let’s get to the second most important way of acquiring new patient and then the first way. We call them patients and senior care, not resident, not [unintelligible 00:07:39]

Lynn: Patients. They’re all patients.

Alex: I’m not as familiar with the senior space as my colleagues.

Lynn: It’s not just the senior space, Alex. You could need home health if you broke your leg and you went to the hospital and it was complex and you came home and you need a PT. We would come in your home and take care of you. It isn’t just a senior-level space. Worst case scenario, you had a heart situation and you had to go into the hospital, they brought you home and you needed some additional nursing care or, again, therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy. We do all of that in the home space. It’s not senior-only.

Alex: What proportion of the home health is senior?

Lynn: I don’t know the exact percentage, but I would say that probably three-quarters.

Alex: It’s majority but still it could be me at [unintelligible 00:08:29]

Lynn: In fact, my husband just had home health unrelated to anything senior-level-oriented, but it happened and he needed some additional support at home.

Alex: Man, you’ve got a lot of people to market to, multiple service lines, B2B, B2C, different demographics.

Lynn: Alex, we just did something really cool. To your point of how you bring in [patients] and be methodical and innovative, when I was brought on I said market research has to be done in this space because we don’t always know what we don’t know. I was asked to do two things when I came on board. One was to do a new website, which you know about, and then the other was to do some very specific work around brand. You can’t do work around brand without doing research and market research is expensive, but it’s really important in understanding who are our audiences and what do they think of us, what is it that they need, and how do we gain market share from those insights and implementing those insights into recommendations and then eventually tweaking, refreshing, and/or rebuilding a brand.

That’s what we have just finished doing. We just finished the market research, which is pretty extensive. It included referral sources, it included consumers, both quantitative and qualitative, and then it included our key stakeholders and employees. Employees are referral sources.

Alex: Did you hit the clinicians or home health?

Lynn: Yes, we did do referrals.

Alex: Yes. That’s, you hit them all. Did you use an agency or you guys did internal, you got someone third party?

Lynn: Yes. I’d love to say that I had a team of people that could do that. We were building a department at the same time we were doing this, so we used an agency and they’ve been pretty successful.

Alex: What’s the name of the agency? Let’s give a shout out.

Lynn: Franklin Street. Out of Richmond, Virginia.

Alex: I’m going to hit them up too. My new friends. I like that. I’m totally into market research lately. I think it’s critical as we’re entering in a recessionary period, you got to do more with the less, can’t just [unintelligible 00:10:42] your marketing dollars anymore.

Lynn: If you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re making decisions in a vacuum. We know that marketing is being asked to do more with less. If we’re doing more with less, we need to be also understanding, being data driven. If that’s true, marketing for years never really reported off based on how we executed and how did we affect change. Without data and without that research that informs the data, we can’t move forward.

Alex: You’ve got the research back from Franklin Street?

Lynn: Yes.

Alex: Now any big ah-has? The adult daughter actually doesn’t even care what the hospital tells her to go? Any big ah-has you got?

Lynn: There were some ah-has for sure. This is across the board. Acute care, post-acute care. We like to focus on quality. Quality scores, quality indicators. What makes us super outcome oriented, superior outcome oriented? How do we extend that information to our referral sources and our patients and families so that they feel that we are the best and that they’re in the right place for the right care? What’s interesting is that most people, especially consumers, assume that’s the case. You don’t need to tell them that. They’re going to assume it because that’s what they believe. How do we take the importance of quality metrics and make them relevant to the consumer who assumes it anyway? How do we make that engaging?

I found that interesting in both my experience in an acute care environment as well as post-acute, that the average consumer assumes quality in healthcare.

Alex: Just saying highest quality how comes, a consumer says, “No duh.” Why?

Lynn: Tell me something else. Deliver this message in a more–

Alex: Quantifiable?

Lynn: Quantifiable, but not even that. Make it more gut oriented. How does that resonate with me emotionally?

Alex: Get mama home faster.

Lynn: Get mom home faster. Get her healed faster. For us, one of the things that we do a little differently than some of the other post-acute providers is we have wound care certified nurses going out to do wound care in home health and hospice. How is that important to the end user? For someone that doesn’t know much about home health, again, the assumption is you’re going to take care of us and it’s going to be the best. How do I pivot that important certification into an emotional resonance for the patient?

Alex: To where they’re going to pay more too.

Lynn: We all get paid the same depending on Medicare.

Alex: Reimbursement hasn’t changed but wages have gone through roof. You provide specialized wound care people when other competitors aren’t. Tough.

Lynn: Tough, and in a staffing shortage across the board, this isn’t just hospitals that are running across. Healthcare is in a staffing crisis. You’re doing all these things and you want to do them safely with the right number of staff. You had asked in some of the questions ahead of this podcast, “What are some of the biggest challenges you have?” For sure it’s how do we optimize our staff for the best quality outcomes for our patients? How do we also engage potential staff with those things that are important to them and bring them on and retain them?

Alex: Should I assume you’re not just helping out with consumer marketing but also brand ex, corporate branding, brand experience?

Lynn: Yes, and supporting our recruitment team.

Alex: You are?

Lynn: Yes. That’ll be the last thing I’d say that we do super well. What we do is they’re the experts. We help them with the social and online aspects of recruitment and how that works.

Alex: We are getting more requests every day for help on the recruitment side. Can’t go get clinicians for you career site, say the right things, get the listings for SEOs so that you drive in some more staff so the recruitment team can focus on the clinical roles instead of worrying about front off. Anyways, I’m not the expert. April 27th, we have a great webinar coming up about talent staffing.

Lynn: I’ll check it out.

Alex: That one will be really good. We got a partner, Talent Care that specialize in infant healthcare. That’ll be good. What is the other biggest challenge? Recruitment, staffing shortage? What’s the biggest thing you’re going to deal with this year?

Lynn: Well, I think for us too, we have been growing exponentially through mergers and acquisitions and we put a pause on that for a number of reasons… When you’re bringing on all these new employees and onboarding them and enculturating them there’s a challenge in them feeling embraced and understood. They’re all in different states and they’re coming on board to a bigger, more nationally based post-acute environment. How do we make them feel a member of Traditions and also make them feel supported and know that we’re going to be providing the care they are proud of and want to be a part of?

As we came into the end of Q3, beginning of Q4 of 2022, we put a pause, intentionally, so that we could do a better job in embracing the folks that we had brought on board in the past year. Right now, some of the focus of growth for us are what we call De Novos and doing standing up new branches. We’ve just recently finished, we never finish, but we recently have stood up two new branches in Texas and they’re doing pretty well. That’s part of our next steps. We also are calling ourselves an in-home health system. Not just hospice, palliative and home health but an in-home system. Much like hospital system calls themselves healthcare systems.

We’re a system of care and we want to be a system of care and a partner to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities who are discharging home. We’re just the next step of that transition.

Alex: You don’t want to just say it’s a whole continuum, because you’re hoping out of home health they don’t need anything else after that.

Lynn: Well, hopefully they’re independent and that’s the hope. Then if they do have to transition to palliative or hospice, that’s their option. Then another area that we’re really concentrating on for a number of reasons, for growth purposes too, is palliative care. Some people are in chronic illness over and over and over again, like COPD is a good example. They may not be ready for hospice, even though they technically fall in that category. They may be ready for something called palliative care, which provides symptom management and comfort measures while allowing you to pursue curative treatment.

That gives you the both/and, and it’s a really important service to provide a family, especially as they’re trying to put their heads around what’s next for their loved one.

Alex: How long people can be in palliative? For a year, plus?

Lynn: Forever. Not forever but palliative isn’t a time-based service, where home health is based on episodic or episodes and hospice is six months or less. Palliative can be as long as the patient needs it.

Alex: I was the adult son that made the decisions for my dad.

Lynn: I was the adult daughter too.

Alex: The hospital gives you three options but then you go look them up and then you go do your own research.

Lynn: Great. Hopefully I’ve done the right job with the team of people that are smarter than me, serving you up that information digitally. Very easy.

Alex: You now have a nice website that’s easy to navigate and you and SEO faced.

Lynn: Yes. Thanks to your team.

Alex: I hope so. It does come from both ways. Lynn, very sharp. You’re talking about tough challenges coming. What are you most excited about? You have a lot on your marketing plate. Lynn’s a VP. We talked managers, directors, very service alliance. You stand up the PBC and get tracking. Lynn you’re overseeing everything, including recruitment support. What are your favorite tactics this year? We’ve got a lot. This is April. I don’t mind dating these things. ChatGPT is all the rage and we’ve got tons happening with the algorithms in Google and all that stuff. What’s your favorite channel? What do you plan on investing more into? We’re in the early part of 2023, what are you excited about?

Lynn: Gosh. Well, again, doing more with less. We meet weekly with our team, our digital team, to really hone, be nimble and pivot when needed on our digital tactics. They drive that to obviously our website, our request care form, which was built to bring in referrals through referral sources, patients, caregivers. We evaluate that and determine what digital channels are best.

Alex: You’ve got a digital team in house. I only got you three more minutes. Talk about the in house team that you have and then how do you do more with less this year? Are you using contractors, agencies?

Lynn: Yes, a little bit of everything.

Alex: Tell everybody. You’re big and you’re still constrained.

Lynn: Yes, we’re still constrained. We’re always looking at how can we build our organic footprint as well as our paid footprint. We have a five-member team. One is very specialized in digital, one is very specialized in marketing operations and collateral. One is specialized in events management and the other is specialized in graphic design. We work together very intentionally. Then we also have a team that we work with, we’re owned by a company called Dorilton.

Alex: Williams Racing.

Lynn: Stop it. Yes, we’re like sexy Williams and then Traditions.

Alex: You’re bringing the sexy back for home.

Lynn: That’s what we’re doing. Bringing the Williams team in. No. We are excited about the fact that we have a team there that also support us digitally, are able to pull some very important reporting matrix from our EMR or Electronic Medical Record and basically our growth.

Alex: Is it a marketing function at Dorilton that’s doing that or those are the finance advocates?

Lynn: No, we have finance and marketing together. They have marketing for 12 portfolios and so we have a team of two that work with us very specifically.

Alex: Listen, my smart PE firms have the marketing function at some of my smartest ones. They have a marketing function that support makes it cheaper.

Lynn: Supports all of the– yes.

Alex: You’ve got marketing ops, design full-time and a digital lead. I love that, I’m seeing that more and more.

Lynn: Honestly, events are important. They’re costly. If you can do them in-house when you have an 18-state footprint and you need to bring them all together for either a national sales event, a national administrator event. Those are important functions to have and people come with some specialty toolkits. She does a lot more than just events, but that’s something we do too. What I’m excited about too is building out our content and content curation. You know about search engine optimization, obviously. The more that we’re building out content that can be found and curated correctly and through multiple channels, we’re focused on that because we didn’t have a lot of, say, video and blogs internally and we started building that almost immediately.

Alex: Good and the video that AI can’t do yet, so that’s good. Keep going on that. We’re trying to keep up with the time. I sound like a grandpa.

Lynn: No, we understand.

Alex: There’s too much around.

Lynn: We’ve talked about chat bots, we’ve talked about all of that too. You got to be careful about, especially in the post acute space, being personal and also nimble and innovative. We’re still talking about all those things. Marketing automation, of course, is very important. We’re an adolescent, we’re a big company, but we’re still growing into ourselves.

Alex: It’s not fun to be an adult. The events person, that’s, the B2B side and what are they doing? Local activations for hospitals?

Lynn: Well actually she’s going to be doing two things. She was hired to do, and it wasn’t B2B events, it was our own events that we would do. If we had a national sales event, a national administrator. We have administrators of every single branch. We have over 130 branches, but we also have a community relations event side. Building events toolkits that you can take out every person, account executive, administrator can work with our event person to build their event matrix.

Alex: They just get referrals from senior living too?

Lynn: We do.

Alex: Do you have to, a hospital have an issue and then they find you? Is all the senior living type stuff?

Lynn: There’s assisted living, there’s independent living. Sometimes there’s these three in one communities from independent assisted to skilled, and then there’s senior housing and all of those are important.

Alex: Got it. Who markets, those are your salespeople?

Lynn: Salespeople and we help support them.

Alex: Collateral, making sure you’re found on Google?

Lynn: Yes. Well, and you know what’s a big part of that is Google business profiles. Also just building those out. Reputation management is another one that doesn’t get enough. It’s not sexy until you have a lot of negative reviews.

Alex: And then it’s too late.

Lynn: Then it’s too late. If you’re doing your social listening, you’re doing your reputation management, you’re monitoring your Google sites, then you’re starting to really pay attention to what’s important and getting out in front of anything.

Alex: Are you using Yaks and Opodo?

Lynn: We’re hoping to, yes.

Alex: Good. They’re good There [unintelligible 00:25:04] but the tool is the best one right?

Lynn: We’re trying. Again, we’re an adolescent. As we build our reserves for those kinds of things, right now we’re doing it on our own. I got to tell you, our digital marketing person is amazing.

Alex: That’s too much. Good for the digital. The reviews, what are you doing? You listen?

Lynn: We’re going to. We haven’t yet because you have to have your branches ready for that. That’s part of the plan for 2023 is getting those branches up and ready for that because if you’re soliciting, you’re going to also be soliciting locally for those things and so you want your branches ready to embrace what’s coming in. That takes some strategy in advance but right now we are talking through those that already are out there. The positive ones we respond to obviously with a great response, and then the negative ones we send forward and we talk it through and most of the time it’s pretty amazing. Either they’ve had the dialogue or it’s not a real review, or it’s something Google can be disputed on and taken down.

Alex: For the most part, when you’re actively soliciting, you’ll get the positive Pollys. If you’re just waiting, you’re only going to get the negative.

Lynn: Honestly, people aren’t going to give you positive, they’re going to tell you negative. If you don’t solicit positive, people are wired to complain. You expect in health care the good stuff, you dispute the bad stuff, right?

Alex: Yes and that’s never the care you get. It’s always for an office, insurance, verification all that type of stuff.

Lynn: Don’t start me on the insurance.

Alex: It’s always that. Any final words then that you want the rest of healthcare marketing marketers around the country to know? Some insight you found. I love the market research talk we’ve had. We jumped hearing a cardinal, and I’m like, “What’s your value ? How are you different?” You don’t even know anyways. Anything else?

Lynn: Research, review, evaluate, and then make sure that you’re telling your leadership team how marketing is making a difference and producing results and returning investment.

Alex: What are things you show?

Lynn: We do monthly scorecards.

Alex: That contain Leads, ROI, patients activated?

Lynn: Yes. Good example is here’s where we succeeded with monthly qualified leads with our digital paid search campaign or our display campaign. Then we talk about we have melt water and sprout on platforms. We talk about how earned media can translate into what it would have cost to actually spend that money. We talk about pitches. We talk about the digital footprint. We also include how much time you’ve spent in the month producing the required referral source needs. We build out what traffic we manage. There’s all kinds of things you can do. We build out our Google Analytics and say, “Here were the top pieces,” and then we talk about our blogs and our videos.

Alex: That’s awesome and a lot of people don’t do that. Guys, it’s just as important to report up to leadership the business. You need to understand the business. Remember how Lynn was talking about M&A has got to stop, and it’s because the multiples are inflated, but lending is high. You have to understand the business and then pivot and say, let’s pivot to de Novo. She’s reporting up to leadership while they’re probably on their team and saying, “Hey, listen,” and listen to what she said. Earned media. We’re translating that to what it would cost to buy media.

Brilliant. Brilliant. Lynn, if you’ve got a dumbed down, non-secretive version of a scorecard that we could maybe. Something non-secretive, take out all the secret parts, but man, I would love to feature. That’s awesome. That is awesome. If you don’t feel comfortable, I get it but we aren’t doing that as marketers and you know what happens then? Six months later, we get the call, Cardinal gets a call. We have to prove ROI, and we’ve got 30 days to do it. Are you joking? What are we going to do?

Lynn: It’s a discipline you got to get into and honestly, right now, we’re just focused on digital and we got off the broader template. To your point, I can certainly share the template. I might not share what’s inside it, but the idea is for us to show return on investment for their marketing investment.

Alex: They’re paid back by Dorilton. You guys heard it, and most of our clients and listeners are, too. Especially when you’re paid back and you’re not like the catch-all hospital system, it does matter. The ROI matters. Get ahead of it. Lynn. I’ll share a little bit of what you can on the scorecard. I’ll post it, we’ll promote it. I want everybody to see it and get ahead of it. Now, if you bring that to your sea levels and say, “I’m creating a scorecard and I’m going to educate you every month,” you’re getting a raise. You’re getting more money as the director of marketing. I love that.

Lynn, thank you for joining us all the way from north of Boston. I appreciate you coming here. If they need to find you, traditionshealth.com or go to LinkedIn, Lynn Robbins, it’s not going to be out in the email, but go LinkedIn. Lynn Robbins. She’s been incredibly helpful to us, to me, to our agency. I know if you ping her there with a question, she’ll help you.

Lynn: I’ll welcomed it. Absolutely.

Alex: Lynn, thanks.

Lynn: Thanks so much.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our [email protected].

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