Podcast #59

How to Reach Patients in 2023: Insights from Michele Hart, BostonSight

From print marketing to Google Ads and everything in between, Cardinal’s CEO, Alex Membrillo, and Director of Marketing and Communications at BostonSight, Michele Hart, cover all aspects of the marketing mix. Join the two healthcare marketing experts as they discuss: BostonSight’s marketing strategy for 2023, the impact a recessive economy has on the non-profit, tactics for reaching new providers and patients, and tips for a small budget.

Episode Highlights:

Alex Membrillo: “How do you track results? I’m curious, is it just overall lift and procedures in that area? Are you able to track one-to-one?”

Michele Hart: “Yes, actually it is more about inquiries from patients, referrals from doctors because we do target doctors as well in some of these advertisements. A lot of it is tracking the increase in web views and seeing if people are actually getting to the page and looking at it and spending time. We don’t look at bounce rate, but we look more at if they take a journey through the website. To see if they’re like, “Oh wait, this might apply to me.” If they’re clicking on to learn more, then we know we’ve got some content out there that is hitting the right person.”

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: What’s going on, everybody? I promised you that in 2023, we’d have not just our team on the Ignite Podcast, but we would get the experts, the best marketing directors in the country to join us on Ignite. Today I’ve got Michele Hart with us straight out of Massachusetts. Michele, welcome to Ignite.

Michele Hart: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Alex: Absolutely. Michele, tell everybody where you’re at, what group you work at, and what your favorite form of marketing is.

Michele: I’m Michele Hart. I work at a nonprofit called BostonSight. We are an ihealthcare company. We do research, we provide treatment, and we also manufacture a product. My favorite form of marketing, which is what I’ve been doing mostly for much of my career, is content marketing and sales marketing, reaching our customers through various media channels.

Alex: It sounds like you have several different customers. You actually see the inpatient, but then you also got practitioners or providers that you need to get on board onto BostonSight. Tell us about the business model.

Michele: It’s always hard to get that elevator pitch. We have specialized treatment for those who have the most challenging ocular surface diseases, so lots of difficulty with their eyes. That treatment is provided only by about 25 practitioners across the world. It’s highly specialized. You tend to have to go either to our clinic here near Boston or at a tertiary medical center, so maybe at Baylor, Weill Cornell Medical Center, or Johns Hopkins, et cetera. We also manufacture a product called a scleral lens, and that is for patients with eye challenges, but might not be as severe as what you would have for PROSE treatment.

A scleral lens is an oversized contact lens. It’s hard, it’s not like a soft lens and it rests on the white part of your eye, which is the sclera, and it goes over your cornea. It does not touch your cornea. That’s key. There’s a little reservoir that’s created by that, that fluid goes in and it bathes the eye all day long to keep your eye healthy and improved vision. That is used by optometrists in Latin America, North America, across Canada, India, and we’re moving into parts of Europe in 2023.

Alex: I think I heard Espanyol is coming. Good, we just lost to Morocco. I’m trying to get over it. When you wake up in the morning, your first thought is, I need to get in front of who first.

Michele: It’s a pretty 50/50 for me actually. We are a very small marketing team. It’s myself and my marketing coordinator. We both work under a business development executive. I am working on finding new optometrists to buy our scleral lens and fit our scleral lens on their patients, but I’m also looking equally for patients to seek out PROSE treatment. PROSE treatment is still not widely known. It’s often the last resort when somebody is going down this eyecare journey. It’s hard to get that information out there because it’s often associated with rare diseases.

You’re also explaining the disease state to folks as well to make sure they understand the correlation.

Alex: They have to go through a bunch of other stuff before they get to PROSE, we deal with that, sometimes the behavioral side. Let’s talk about the patient side first, as we must all listen to this are more focused on patient acquisition. The PROSE, how do you advertise the PROSE? Do you target around New England, around Boston, where that center is, because that’s the main? Do you advertise at all? How do you get the word out?

Michele: We do a number of things. We do use targeted display ad and Google ads. We have a Google ad grant, which is wonderful. We target around several 100 miles around each of those PROSE provider sites. The one in Boston is one of those sites, the tertiary medical centers, as I mentioned, those are our network sites. We’ll target around all of those. Providing patient education is key. Patients are their advocates. They’re their own best advocate for seeking out treatment. They’ll often bring the PROSE treatment, model to their doctor and say, “Tell me more about this.”

Then their doctor will find out more because they have to have a referral to seek PROSE treatment. That’s key.

Alex: From an optometrist.

Michele: Yes, or a corneal specialist.

Alex: It’s a disease, it’s some kind of disease that yields it or that was?

Michele: Many diseases, often rare diseases.

Alex: They have to have a referral. We get requests like this all the time that it’s like we need to get to the inpatient, but then have them go educate the provider, and makes me nervous. I’m like, “Oh my, it’s too many stuff, I can’t track all that.” You got the Google ads grant on Google. Are you able to run any Facebook, any kind of social medias, I don’t think they have any grants, Facebook, Instagram, or anything, so no advertising outside of Google?

Michele: We do some social media advertising. We have a very small budget that we allow to that. We’ll run campaigns in three-month chunks and see how they do and try not to spread it out across each site, because even with 20 sites with a small budget, that’s too much. We really have to stay focused on one or two sites at a time to see if it yields any results.

Alex: Going back to Google. If someone’s search, you’re doing contextual display, so you’re letting Google try to find the patients that may fit. No search results because people don’t know to search for this? They’re not searching for PROSE and they might be typing in other stuff that’s more symptom or disease that, I don’t know.

Michele: Yes. We use a keyword finder. I do a lot of research to see what people are searching for that might be similar. Often we will use keywords that are the disease itself. For instance, graft versus host disease is something that happens when folks have a bone marrow transplant and the body rejects the bone marrow. Ocular GVHD is a subset of that where the eyes become extremely dry. Bone marrow transplant is probably more commonly known than PROSE treatment, so we’ll start working that way.

We’ll start with the disease, find what people are searching for there, and then continue down the keyword chain.

Alex: How do you track results? I’m curious, is it just overall lift and procedures in that area? Are you able to track one-to-one?

Michele: Yes, actually it is more about inquiries from patients, referrals from doctors because we do target doctors as well in some of these advertisements. A lot of it is tracking the increase in web views and seeing if people are actually getting to the page and looking at it and spending time. We don’t look at bounce rate, but we look more at if they take a journey through the website. To see if they’re like, “Oh wait, this might apply to me.” If they’re clicking on to learn more, then we know we’ve got some content out there that is hitting the right person.

Alex: That’s smart. I never thought about a leading indicator KPI type thing. What are they landing on? Is it a locations page, like all of those ads? Is it a locations page, or service or product information page about PROSE? Where do you land them and what does ‘Learn more’ do when you hit that?

Michele: Some of them it depends on what the ad is. If we’re targeting somebody about DVHD, we have a special landing page with a patient persona about somebody who has GVHD and the success they’ve had with PROSE treatment. Occasionally it will be to a provider site page, often it’s to the PROSE treatment page for patients.

Alex: ‘Learn more’ does what? That’s not a page that has everything on PROSE or what is ‘Learn more’?

Michele: ‘Learn more’ tells us the basics of PROSE treatment and from that page they can go off to find different disease states and conditions.

Alex: That’s smart if you’re looking at lift that way, and then whether they came into the page– Now let’s talk about the other side a little bit while I gather my thoughts over there. Waking up, trying to get optometrists also on the program are familiar with BostonSight. This, I feel like we’ll go very hand in hand with provider recruitment-type stuff because the way you reach them is similar. What are the tactics? You mentioned you love content marketing. Is it creating content and getting eyeballs on it, what are you doing?

Michele: Actually for us, the most successful piece of marketing is you’re old-style e-mail marketing. It actually works the best for us. When you think about what doctors are doing during the day, they have very little time to get on social media and play around. It’s not that they’re not there, but it’s not the best channel for us, or channels I should say. We did run a survey, we always run surveys. I highly recommend this for anybody, just asking your audience how they like to be communicated with, the frequency, and where they’re at.

Our audiences tend to like print ads that’s still alive. They still see print ads, they like e-mail marketing. We reach out to our customer base twice a month into our leads, one to two times a month based on what we learned in the survey data. It’s not always a hard sell. It’s a lot of educational content.

Alex: Then they come around when [crosstalk]

Michele: Then they come around. That’s it. Exactly. We want to be top of mind when they’re looking for a solution.

Alex: I want to go through a lot of that. How did you do that? You got the optometrist e-mail us and then said, where do you go to learn?

Michele: We created a brief, I always keep it under 10 questions, we know that doctors respond well to an incentive. If it’s not a customer base, we offer a $50– actually even for our customers, a $50 gift card. Not for everybody who completes the survey, but you be entered into a raffle for a $50 or $100 Amazon gift card. Then we designed the questions based on what we needed to know, which social channels are you on? Then it was a multi-just select a button, how often do you want to be communicated with?

Again, make it very easy for them. They shouldn’t have to think or enter a lot of texts. They should be able to click a button and finish the survey. No more than two minutes.

Alex: What’s the prints like? Your advertising in TopDocs or what how do you get their attention?

Michele: Again because we’re such a specialized industry, and this was fascinating we also surveyed separately the young optometrists those fresh out of school, because everybody’s going to think oh they’re on TikTok, and Instagram, and whatever. Most of them actually read print publications in our industry called Contact Lens Spectrum or Optometry Review. That’s where we will do full-page ads, and with those ads we often get an e-blast to their database. We’ll target those when the ad comes out.

Then we’ll send an e-mail follow-up basically. Trying to again stay top of mind and just be in their frame of reference, but it was really surprising.

Alex: That was pretty good. You’ve got a killer marketing system for such a small team. All right, kudos to you, you run a lot of channels.

Michele: Thank you.

Alex: All right, so we’re looking at whatever downturn recessive environment, well, whatever you want to call it 2023. It’s not going to be as Merry go lucky as ’21 in later part of ’20 where, does that impact a nonprofit? Are you seeing less donation? Are you concerned with that or are you going to change any advertising or bit unique in the multi-site provider than [unintelligible 00:11:08] impact y’all?

Michele: Actually what was really interesting, especially in 2020 is we saw an increase in donations. I don’t know necessarily if it was because folks were home and they just wanted to feel like they were doing something. We did reach out to our donors quite a bit, and again just provided information about what was happening and how we were managing the pandemic. All of the changes we had to make as a healthcare organization which were many, to continue to see patients because we did not close down completely, whereas some organizations had to.

We don’t have to pivot as much as many other organizations during a recession. I’d say the biggest change we’ve seen is that patients are less willing to travel far distances over the last few years. I can see that happening during a recession especially if folks are worried about money, and that sometimes fitting our lens, our PROSE lens can take quite a bit of time. Sometimes patients will stay for two weeks in the Boston area to have that complete. We are starting to use some really great technology now that scans the eyes and gives you better data so that you can get to that fitting end point much quicker.

Alex: Much quicker. You guys are ahead of the game. You see some potential hurdles and you’re trying to expedite get things faster. Maybe the radius targeting’s going to be smaller if people aren’t willing to travel or let them filter out I guess. Looking at the upcoming year we’ve got a lot change, healthcare moves slow but marketing is changing quickly. Health is starting to catch up. Are you going to change your investment levels from your current channel mix? Google Ads is I guess the 10K grant, it’s free but are you looking at layering on any new type of digital advertising, or print or whatever?

Hey we’ll let the print people get excited too.

Michele: Yes we actually were able this year for 2023 to increase some of our our print just a touch. We changed up the mix. We’re trying some new options, just trying some new publications based on those survey results actually. Same with Google Ads guess is free but then the targeted display Google ads and the social media ads we were able to increase our budget a little bit for those, because we are seeing pickup in those website views, and on that journey through the website.

We again did not have to cut back on our budget this year, and we’re actually trying some really fun stuff in 2023. Our chief medical officer drew a cartoon version of a contact lens of a scleral lens. He told me about it and I said, “Okay, just show me,” and I’m thinking it’s going to be garbage, and it was adorable. I had a graphic designer recreate it as an EPS, and then I sent it to a custom plush company and they designed a custom plush. Now we are going to be using that in 2023 for a donor campaign, where if you donate X dollars we will gift a her name is Lindsay, a Lindsay plush to a pediatric patient, or you can keep it for yourself.

We’re really excited to kick that campaign off, and what was wonderful is Boston Children’s Hospital got wind of it and we’re working with them now on creating some patient materials, just to take away some of the fear around putting a big lens in your eye when you’re a child.

Alex: That’s really cool. How’d you do the plushy? That’s a company that makes these or you have what–

Michele: Yes I found a company based out of California. They’re called Adorable World and I think it was about $400 for the prototype, so that’s the expensive part for a nonprofit. We are ordering 250 or 500 I can’t remember what we landed on, and they come out to about $8 a unit. I think we have a good opportunity to make some decent donor dollars on this program.

Alex: Yes, that’s brilliant. All the nonprofit hospitals out there will love hearing out that everybody is going to have a plushy soon. Okay, all right, very cool. That’s exciting. Anything else that you see on the horizon that you’re really stoked about? Any new technology, tracking technology, anything like that you guys are changing?

Michele: No, I would love for us to implement a better CRM system right now as a nonprofit, we’re really using a lot of Excel to manage communication calendars. We’re using Constant Contact still and Salesforce and none of them worked together well. I would love to find a more cost effective solution for us. We cannot swing HubSpot but something that would provide better functionality for drip campaigns and things like that for our customers.

Alex: You said you are using Salesforce and it’s not married to– What are you using? The Service Cloud not the CRM.

Michele: Our account manager uses it just for sort of a data maintenance program. I believe there is an e-mail section of that. We don’t have access to that particular product. Overall Salesforce is really too robust for our needs [unintelligible 00:15:58].

Alex: That’s what I’ve heard from a lot of people.

Michele: It’s too much.

Alex: Journey Builder is too much and stuff. I don’t know if HubSpot is HIPAA compliant, I need to talk to them and see, but a lot of people b2b non-healthcare love it, so that’s interesting. What, we got to talk to Benioff and the HubSpot guys and get it to give them to you for free as a non-problem. This is silly.

Michele: That’d be wonderful. Free would be great. You [unintelligible 00:16:20] across to something called SharpSpring which is a [unintelligible 00:16:24].

Alex: Yes, that’s for agencies actually I think usually.

Michele: I like their format quite a bit, so we’re looking at that for possibly 2024.

Alex: Is that going to be to track patients through the journey or optometrist to the signup journey? How are you going to use it?

Michele: That would be for optometrists.

Alex: Optometrist, okay.

Michele: Yes.

Alex: All right.

Michele: We don’t have enough patient information or potential patient information to create an e-mail campaign journey. We have our own patients and of course, we keep in touch with them. I will say this is not dead. Facebook groups is still a fantastic place to find information. All ages. I’m part of some of these eyecare groups. It’s a great place one to find what the pain points are, what your patients are looking for, what needs they have, and so then you can create content off of that as well.

If you have a blog, or you’re doing videos, we come across a lot of information that patients are really struggling with there. Again it’s all age ranges. It is not just older folks.

Alex: Yes like us me. I won’t say you but–

Michele: Then me.

Alex: Just haven’t said my birthday.

Michele: Then me.

Alex: That’s– hold on

Michele: In that way.

Alex: Everybody needs to know that. You’re joining General Eyecare or any kind of eye issue groups and–

Michele: Dry Eyes.

Alex: That’s smart for all of our clients to be or we should I guess be monitoring what types of content. That’s how you find out what content to create. That’s smart.

Michele: A lot of times it is, because like I said the patients unless– you have to be very careful of course about reaching out to patients, and then there’s all the patients that we don’t actually have as patients yet, so trying to find out what they’re looking for. One of the things that was really interesting is we treat patients who have had issues after LASIK surgery. They’ve had an unsuccessful LASIK experience, they have ghosting dry eyes, they can’t see at night. It’s just a nightmare. We were unsure how to reach this audience and how much they knew.

I got into a LASIK support group and they were really savvy. They were using all of this technical language that you wouldn’t think they would know. It’s not across the board that you can go along with this but it gave me more confidence to be able to use some of these more technical terms in our outreach, because they were a very savvy group of people and this was even a group that had thousands of people, doesn’t mean they all know it.

Alex: That’s so smart, more keywords to target and different things like that, and then your landing pages you’re creative can all include some of these more. Michele, it’s really smart when you say you love content marketing that’s what you love. Is getting in the heads of the end client, seeing what they care about and then addressing that, and that’s sophisticated. I haven’t talked to another marketing director that knows anything about Facebook group or is in [unintelligible 00:19:09].

Maybe everybody does but that’s really sharp. I’m going to talk to our team say get into all these Facebook groups, start monitoring what these patients care about. That’s smart. Okay, any other [unintelligible 00:19:17]? Come on, give me some more secrets that now everybody will be doing after this.

Michele: I don’t know secrets, gosh, I have such small– mines are small again as having a very little small budget we cannot afford to have an SEO expert or anything like that, so we make do with small tools like Yost on our WordPress website. It’s again probably not a perfect solution. Certainly not like having a full-time person doing something like that. It does help I think to follow some of those rules and just give you some guidance so you’re just not sort of throwing things at the wall hoping it works.

Alex: You use contractors on Upwork ever? You go there to find contractors?

Michele: No.

Alex: Okay.

Michele: No we don’t. We do use freelance graphic designer for some of our work, which has been great and we do traditional public relations outreach as well. I write pitches every week.

Alex: To get in what? The optometry public case?

Michele: No. This is more for general media like Boston Globe, NBCUniversal, more local media stations here. I was talking with the Boston Channel ABC and their Chronicle program. You have to be a little creative about this because a lot of times folks are thinking, “I just want to talk about my product or just my service.” I found that the Chronicle, which is a half an hour show that airs every weekday night at 7:30 after the news, it covers New England, but they have a segment every now and then called Maiden Massachusetts.

They highlight these companies that manufacture things. Well, we also are a manufacturer. We manufacture 25,000 scleral lenses a year and ship them all over the world. That was my little nugget into them so now we’re talking about a potential program.

Alex: My takeaway from that is no the audience and what that publication wants to address before you’re reaching out with blanket pitches because for that one, it was a manufacturing angle. That’s what the end was, I suppose. Boston Globe is different. Are you trying to get the PROSE product in front of them? Is that why–

Michele: I am. So more Boston Globe is more about patient experience than patient story so, yes. The PROSE treatment behind it. That’s all we do every day at our clinic is see these patients with these they either have rare diseases or extreme ocular surface disease. Sometimes I think rare diseases aren’t covered as much because not that many people have them as compared to some other conditions. Those patients really need a voice as well, so that’s the angle I’m taking, trying to get the PROSE treatment.

It’s really amazing. I saw a patient go from 2,400 in one eye to 2040 in one eye instantly while I was sitting in a room watching, I was allowed to sit in with this patient and take away all of this pain. I just wish more people knew about it earlier in their eyecare journey.

Alex: Yes. Can I ask a stupid question? LASIK would not be a solution for these diseases or issues? Is that where you’re competing again, is totally different? Right?

Michele: Totally different. LASIK is more optical, so it does affect the cornea, but that is only for optics so your visual acuity, we’re dealing with the entire ocular surface. Severe dryness, redness, your eyelids on the inside might feel like sandpaper and they’re going over your eye constantly.

Alex: Michele, when someone is– but when they’re wondering what the hell they have, are they googling? Should I get laser? Or they already know because their optometrist said, “Hey, no, like LASIK’s not the solution like looked into different option ends. Right?

Michele: At that point, they would not be googling LASIK.

Alex: Got you.

Michele: We are trying to find people who’ve had LASIK and had a poor outcome. That’s one of our audiences.

Alex: I think you’ve can target through polls point and stuff like that. ICD-10 codes and do symptom or treatment or condition-based advertising. No, PHI but yes, I think you can, and I’ll just do lookalikes. I don’t know, have you heard of any of this stuff? Is that possible or no?

Michele: We were talking with a company actually right here in Framingham. I was able to use–, so it depends on what the code is. Are ICD codes, is that ophthalmology or is that something–

Alex: It’s for every [crosstalk] condition, I think for anything medical.

Michele: Okay. Yes. There are some times you can funnel down to optometry is more difficult, but ophthalmology being Medical MD. You can tend to get distill down some of that data and we don’t have the budget for it at this point, but there are some good options out there.

Alex: Everybody listening, go give $100 to BostonSight. Okay, we need to get the budget to try some new types of advertising. Michele, this has been awesome. Any final tidbits, any nuggets of wisdom or encouragement that everybody needs to hear for 2023?

Michele: Yes, I think that no matter how big your marketing team is, you can be successful, find a few things, and do them well. Don’t spread yourself too thin and any piece of content you have, we just created a two-minute patient video, repurpose it. We have clips that we’ve used for social media, we transcribed it into a blog post. It’s on our website. You can use parts of it in an e-mail blast. Just many ways you can reuse the same content without spreading yourself too thin.

Alex: Yes, and remember back to what Michele was saying earlier on, they had a limited budget so they didn’t allocate it evenly to everybody. Spread it out across the entire year. Just condense it into a quarter-long blast. Get it in front of as many people as you can before you’re spreading the ad budget. We see that problem with our clients all the time. Hey, spread it out and run it for the whole year. You won’t get enough impressions, just do it for a quarter. Brilliant suggestions. Michele, thank you so much from plushables to print ads. We covered it all.

Michele: You did it all.

Alex: Thanks for joining us, Michele. Really appreciate it.

Michele: Thank you 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 blog @cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

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