Podcast #41

Your First 90 Days: What Healthcare Marketing Leaders Need to Know

The first 90 days are pivotal to all new healthcare chief marketing officers (CMOs). How can you ensure that you’re in alignment with your executive team and meeting expectations?

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone

Lauren Leone: “The website’s your digital storefront. What does the user experience look like? How findable is that website on search engines? We know in healthcare, patients are taking the ball in their court, and they are going out and researching and finding their own solutions. We’re not relying on referrals anymore.”

Related Resources


Speaker: 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: Excited to be back. We took a little 8-month break from the podcast because we’re focused on building 100% healthcare-focused website so that we could provide you guys more value. You’re going to be seeing our weekly podcast coming back, round tables, events, conferences, community, blogs, case studies. Wow.

We’ve got Lauren Leone here. She’s our SVP of healthcare marketing. You’re going to be hearing a lot from her every week because she gets to meet with all the CMOs, VP, marketing directors at high-growth healthcare groups, and hear about all the anxieties they have, all the different ways they’re building their teams, all the different ways they’re building out their marketing, and all the ways they’re tracking the effectiveness and getting to a cost per patient that’s acceptable to their leadership area managers, the whole thing.

That’s what you can expect through the next X amount of weeks. We’re going to be doing this indefinitely. You’re going to hear all of the tangible stuff that helps you build a high-performance, high-growth multi-location healthcare group. We know you guys want to find more patients, we know you guys want to look like superstars, and we know you guys want to do new stuff every single day in marketing.

Healthcare’s not boring anymore. Healthcare, you can do a lot of fun stuff in marketing and stay within the rails. We’re going to help you know exactly the kinds of things you can do, can’t do, and what we’ve seen work.

Lauren, welcome back to Ignite.

Lauren: Thanks.

Alex: Haven’t aged a day in eight months, even though you’ve had a kid.

Lauren: Just a little bit more gray hair.

Alex: You’ve had a kid.

Lauren: I’ve had a kid, yes, another kid.

Alex: Another kid. Too many kids.

Lauren: Yes.


Alex: New CMO comes in, marketing director, VP, it doesn’t matter, she’s in charge of marketing. What is she doing the first 90 days? What do you recommend? What have you seen work? Because it’s interesting, you get to see how she’s feeling, what she’s doing without the anxiety yourself of having to do something about it. What do you think there? What do you see has worked for them?

Lauren: If you are coming from a healthcare background, I think getting the lay of your organization, you have to understand the operations, you have to understand the patient, the path for the patient to convert. If you’ve never been in healthcare before, you need to get the basics of healthcare marketing. Usually, what I see is you’re being brought in because you are seen as someone who can upgrade, who can get the company to the next level, and so, getting an understanding of the baseline and benchmarks is usually really important.

What’s interesting in healthcare is we know it’s lag behind some other verticals, that benchmarking doesn’t always exist. I’m usually helping people to audit their existing efforts, “What does my digital presence look like? What does it cost currently to acquire a customer or a patient? What am I spending?” Then just sussing out whether that is meeting goal, coming in below goal, and then developing a gap analysis.

Alex: Okay. We’ll get more into the infrastructure that you need to analyze. You mentioned that sometimes a marketing director– it’s interesting, sometimes a high-growth group, well, medium growth that wants to be high-growth, will bring in a marketing director not familiar with healthcare, they’ve just been a great marketing director in another industry. That’s okay. How do you get her up to speed really quickly on healthcare?

Lauren: Resources like our podcasts, like internal trainings. We get asked a lot to do some education when– I spend quite a few hours on the phone just consulting with individuals around what’s the impact of HIPAA compliance on marketing, what are some of the restrictions in patient targeting, patient privacy? I get a lot of asks from people not from healthcare, like, “When can I upload my patient lists into Facebook and start targeting them?” That’s not a thing in healthcare. Just learning the nuances and understanding the compliance side I think is really important.

Alex: Yes. Taking all the calls possible. Lauren, a great person to take a call with, free consulting, apparently, but we’re charging for it, but also lots of vendors in our space that specifically do different things from advertising directories, reviews, website stuff, take calls with all the vendors and maybe eventually do business together.

Okay, let’s get back to infrastructure. You come in, CMO, first 90 days, and you want to evaluate current benchmarks and goals and we can help with that. Cardinal does something for B groups, the digital due diligence when they’re looking to acquire a firm, and they just did, to get a lay of the land.

Do you go through a similar iteration? What are you looking at within the infrastructure? What is it, like website quality, [unintelligible 00:04:11]

Lauren: Yes, let’s start with the website. The website’s your digital storefront. What does the user experience look like? How findable is that website on search engines? We know in healthcare, patients are taking the ball in their court, and they are going out and researching and finding their own solutions. We’re not relying on referrals anymore. Assessing the quality of that digital storefront. Is the brand properly represented? Do you need to undertake any type of project work to reposition the brand, to redo the website, to modernize it, to bring it up to current speed? Then sitting behind that website, what does the actual tech stack look like [unintelligible 00:04:49]

Alex: What does it need to look like? Early stage, what’s the basic infrastructure they need to have?

Lauren: Basic infrastructure, consider online scheduling integration, consider a call tracking solution so you can understand. In healthcare, 40% to 60% of touch-points are still on the phone. People feel comfortable doing that. Understanding what’s happening when someone picks up the phone, who’s answering the phone, what is the quality of that conversation, and what are some of the outcomes? If you are using something as simple, and this is okay, as a form to request a callback, diving into what’s happening to those forms, are people getting called back in an appropriate amount of time? What’s happening with those conversations?

That is basic framework. It does require collaboration, usually, with a call center manager or someone on the ops side to understand what the intake process looks like, but you don’t have to come in, in first 90 and just blow everything up and add CRM and change your EHR. Those are maybe long-term goals.

Alex: Those are longer term. Yes. That’s how you get to your cost per patient acquired and things like that. Do you need CRM to get to those? What are the first benchmarks you want a marketing director to have? Is it just CPL? Do you need to know what your cost per lead is?

Lauren: Let’s get to the lead first. Let’s at least understand what are we spending to drive a new patient inquiry, because half the time, we don’t even know that. That is just not where healthcare organizations have been. Let’s get cost per lead. Let’s understand what we’re spending, and what channels we’re spending it on.

Then what we’d like to suggest is maybe a little bit of proxy or estimation work on the backend. Getting with that call center manager, getting with the practice manager, whoever’s doing intake, and understanding roughly what percentage of those different activity types are turning into new patients. Can you start with a percentage, and then can we apply that to understand roughly what a cap or cost per new patient is? That’s just the starting point, just to give you some north star to work towards.

Alex: Yes. If they have different services, stuff, does that get tricky, the proxies, because is it like a surgery? Was it just an ongoing treatment?

Lauren: That is step two. We’re crawling first. If you don’t have just a general average across your system, let’s work there, then you can start to get into some more of those nuances. You see it in all the verticals. What are your highest quality opportunities? What are you doing to drive those differently than some of your lower cost or lower revenue.

Alex: The entry points [unintelligible 00:07:27] is something that you’re also looking at, that everybody wants to know how to build their team.

Lauren: All the time.

Alex: What are the core functions that an early-stage team needs? Often you find marketing director is doing enough, but when she wants to expand out a little bit, what are the core things that need to be in-house, and then the agency for everything else?

Lauren: If you’re coming in and you’re a CMO and you’re the first hire, or maybe there’s one or two people on your team, assessing who owns the brand? Who is in charge of, “This is who we are as an organization, this is who we serve, and this is why we’re different, and why we should be chosen.” Expecting an agency to do that for you, I think is unrealistic. No one is going to come in and determine who you are, and what you want to be. If you’re the CMO, and that’s your role, great.

If you have 200 other things to do, like figure out new patient acquisition strategies, maybe you have someone on your team, a director or a manager who can own the brand. That brand is everything from the messaging on the website, what are some of the headlines that you’re using? What do your digital assets look like? What imagery are you using to represent who you are? Just owning the visual identity of the brand is usually a good starting point.

Alex: Can’t be at an agency owning that. Also, organic social, get out of here, don’t ask us to do that. Okay.

Lauren: That is a brand thing, because that is a one-to-one conversation with your patient, as is responding to reviews. I get asked to do that, and always decline that. Because that is a personal touch in healthcare. It also has the potential to cross the boundary of HIPAA compliance. You really should keep those things internal.

Alex: Yes. “Glad you had your ACL surgery with us, Jan.”


Lauren: Don’t say that. Take it offline.

Alex: A CMO, marketing director, she comes in, she often has to report to two different places, especially the larger groups that have different territories and affiliates, and so they’re going to have area managers, but then they also have their CEO and leadership. How do you get her to balance those two? Do you need different reporting sets, do you got to look at your dashboards? Where do you start?

Lauren: Information and data is great, but too much of it can also be overwhelming. Rolling things up in a high-level view, what does the leadership care about? They care about cost to acquire a new patient, and then developing a consistent and reputable system to spend that amount for a new patient over and over again. What do they need to know? They need to know, “Here’s the general channel mix, here’s the overall spend, here’s our benchmark today, here’s where we’d like it to get to, and over here is maybe some testing opportunities.” As you’re rolling it down, that type of information would be extremely overwhelming. To boil it down to what is your region doing? Oftentimes, we get asked what could my field team be doing better? How could they be helping you? Maybe it’s less about, here’s just a bunch of numbers and a little bit more about here’s some key activities. Here’s what those are yielding, but here’s what your field or local teams can be doing to help.

That’s where things like– let me roll out that review generation response. Let me delegate that out to the field, to the people closest. Those are some things that you may want to be looking at.

Alex: Yes. Absolutely. Those field teams we’re finding out are more and more important, more important than we thought. [laughs]

Lauren: I think. I always knew they were important [unintelligible 00:10:43]

Alex: We lost a pitch because the field team was so important [unintelligible 00:10:47]

Lauren: It’s interesting. I see oftentimes that the field team tends to exist first before any centralized marketing effort. They may not carry those marketing titles, but that’s who they are and what they do. Figuring out what resources they have, what they’re doing, how you can help them.

Alex: We often get the call when our client, former client, moves to a new provider group and they say, “I just got a new gig. I’m excited to bring you guys in.” Is that what you recommend all the time though? Marketing director comes in, should she just blow everything up? Get all new benefits. Obviously, I’m walking you into the answer here, but what do you think? Is it always best bringing all your old friends or take a look at, maybe there’s a new friend.

Lauren: Slow down just a little bit. That’s where that benchmarking comes in. I think it’s fair to reach out to the people that you’re used to working with. If you were a former client of ours, you go somewhere new, let’s engage just to talk about an audit. We’re going to be transparent with you all if what we see is something really great going on, and I think it’s also fair to give your agency, your vendor, your partners, whoever it is, a chance to explain why the situation is what it is.

If there wasn’t a CMO in place, they may have been only as good as the information being fed to them by a non-marketing lead. Do they have the structure, the infrastructure, the right team, the right specialization to get there if you dedicate 90, 120 days to bringing them up to speed alongside you? Shaking things up can be challenging in that first 90 days because you already have a lot on your plate. I think start exploring and auditing, whether that’s with vendors or not, and then make some educated decisions based off if that vendor or provider can get you there.

Alex: Give the incumbent a chance.

Lauren: I think so.

Alex: I think it’s fair. Cardinal’s better than every other agency in my opinion. I still think if someone is doing good marketing, you got to give them a chance, and maybe that’s a new friend you should know. Before you even take the job, this is a good way to find out if you should take the job, go talk to their vendors if the leadership will let you, if there’s not an incumbent, you’d be taking the job of. Go talk to the vendors, talk to leadership, see what they are reporting on, see what’s really going on here from the agencies. Leadership just makes the marketing director do all kinds of stupid– That’s not a job we want. When the C-levels don’t understand alert. They don’t understand marketing.

Lauren: I think what’s interesting I see happen to some new marketing directors or CMOs too, is they are [unintelligible 00:13:13] and they are the investment. To come in and think, I’m going to get investment to then put into marketing, you are the investment, and so you’re expected to do it all. I think assessing too and understanding coming into it, what is our budget going into next year or if the right case is made, asking the leadership, what is your cost per new patient acquisition threshold? If I’m able to meet it or exceed it, is my budget open for conversation?

Alex: That’s right. How much more are you going to give me beyond my own [unintelligible 00:13:47] It can be really exciting to get a new title and a big new job, but sometimes you’re everything that they had. Then you don’t have money for PPC, Facebook ads, SEO. You’re like, “What the hell? Why did I take this?”

Lauren: It’s happened. I’ve seen it.

Alex: “I can’t do it all myself.” Those are the calls we get that they say, “I’m a one-woman show. How much do you cost? We can’t. I can’t help these groups.” It’s like, “You should have gotten that ironed out before you took the job.” Number one biggest mistake CMO makes first 90 days on the job?

Lauren: That’s a good question.

Alex: Answer: doesn’t call Cardinal. We can get a different answer also.

Lauren: Definitely a mistake, I think. Bringing in partners or team resources without having done that due diligence and really assessing your tech stack and what you’re trying to do. Like I said, you’re only as good as the goal that you’re all working towards. If that goal doesn’t exist, if you haven’t come in and said, “This is what I’m trying to do in my first year,” and you can effectively communicate that out to an internal team, a new hire, an agency partner, you’re all just going to be spinning your wheels.

Alex: You got to have your strategic objectives really clear because we see then you start getting the affiliate noise and the providers, they acquired start barking. It’s like, “I thought the point here was to increase patient volume, not put out more brochures in Alabama.” Then you start getting leadership wants the providers taken care of and you get a lot of noise, a lot of noise.

Okay. Thanks for joining me on Ignite, Lauren. Our first episode.

Lauren: Again.

Alex: Again. Happy to be back. This is fun. We’re going to do a lot more every week. You’re going to be hearing, seeing us, whatever the hell this is, you’re going to be getting that. You’re going to be getting Lauren and some of our other leaders. I want to do some other different stuff this year. I might bring in random panelists occasionally to get more of an inside peek, not just have panelists on round tables, might get them on the podcast. That could be something fun and different. Keep tuned in every week. At some point during the week, whenever we get around to it, there’ll be a new episode.

Thank you for joining me, Lauren.


Speaker: 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 blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

[00:16:50] [END OF AUDIO]


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