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In Conversation

In Conversation: Marketing in the Digital Health Industry

Marketing strategies change when working with digital health. We talk about the method, the limitations, and the restrictions on digital health marketing.

July 16, 2020

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The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, SHIFT - In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the SHIFT - In Conversation podcast here


Elliot Miller - Managing Partner & Co-Founder - Bracken Marketing
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - SHIFT 

Grace:
Tell us a little bit about Bracken Marketing and what you do.

Elliot:
We coin ourselves the growth agency for digital health, which means that we use a blend of sales, design and marketing tactics to grow revenue for digital health businesses. Our mission as a team and as a company is to improve the success of companies whose tech improves health. And that relates to everything from health administration systems to detailed and complex pieces of tech that help with medical research all the way through to wearables.

Grace:
How does digital health differ from health care? Are those two different things?

Elliot:
It's a really broad name for a category. The broadest definition is tech that relates to health, but you can get much more specific with it. There are organizations out there that define it more narrowly as tech that actually improves health in some way. My specialty and Bracken's specialty is actually more in the medical research community, focusing more on the high regulatory, scientific-natured sections within the category. 

Grace:
When someone in the digital health space comes to you, what are some of the specific services you provide? Are they comparable to what any other marketing agency might do for their clients?

It's sales, it's design, branding, web design, there's even customer service components that all work together with the ultimate goal of revenue growth.

Elliot:
We do identify as a marketing agency, although I love the term growth agency because it speaks to the fact that it's not just marketing. It's sales, it's design, branding, web design, there's even customer service components that all work together with the ultimate goal of revenue growth. So that could be social media, that could be video content, it could be hands-on sales. It could be building a pipeline and talking to people and networking on behalf of our clients. It could be building their websites or going through the creative process of a new logo. Our focus is always on how those processes and those tactics measurably grow revenue.

Grace:
Are there specific things about marketing in the digital health industry that people in other marketing industries might find unique? 

Elliot:
This industry typically has sales cycles that can sometimes go over a year long. A two year sales cycle is not unheard of. That’s in contrast to completely different industries, where you may have new competitors coming in every quarter by the dozen. Ours is a slower moving and really long sales cycle market. What that means is that it is a different style of marketing altogether. You also have higher contract values. You could be working with businesses where one sale represents a $3 million contract. All marketers love to talk SEO, and this is one space where we get very niche SEO, which is really interesting. You're not always concerned about the big keywords that get all the traffic, but rather beating this other competitor on this one keyword that gets less than a hundred hits a month. But it's really important to your business that you show up and not the other guy, because those hundred hits could represent buyers from a $3 million contract. This is a space that's made me think really critically about video content and distribution. How do you connect with people and succeed for your clients when it's about a new immuno-oncology development and it's for a chief medical officer? How do you make that engaging and make sure that it still has storytelling and is creative, but also passes all the marks on scientific talk and regulatory talk?

You're not always concerned about the big keywords that get all the traffic, but rather beating this other competitor on this one keyword that gets less than a hundred hits a month.

Grace:
How important is the regulatory piece for the work you do? Does it add additional restrictions?

Elliot:
Oh, definitely. Even just putting content out there, it has to speak to regulatory components. You can't do much in the space without always considering the regulatory angle. And you can take that in a number of different directions. For example, building a CRM. It looks fairly similar for most B2B companies and non-regulatory spaces, and then all of a sudden you get into healthcare and you have to deal with HIPAA compliance and building everything on a certain type of database. 

Grace:
How has COVID changed the work you do and the specific way you work? Has the fact that this is a health crisis changed the messaging that you guys are using?

Elliot:
Something that jumps out to me for any industry out there is the tone of the marketing that we’re seeing. And it seems obvious, but don't be tone deaf, don't be opportunistic, and make sure that if you're putting a message out there that it’s valuable to the person that's reading it. What that looks like now is a lot more brand marketing than product marketing. You need to be less product focused and more brand focused at a time like this. In our marketing mix that looks like doing less bottom of the funnel sales stuff, and really working more on top of the funnel awareness stuff. Industry specific, something that jumps out to me is the timeline at which everyone has embraced remote. Things like virtual patient visits to administer a procedure, or enabling patients to administer their own procedures by shipping them something with really clear directions. You can do a lot more now than you could two months ago in the healthcare space.

Don't be tone deaf, don't be opportunistic, and make sure that if you're putting a message out there that it’s valuable to the person that's reading it.

Grace:
Are there different categories of marketing messaging that you’re seeing now?

Elliot:
There's three buckets that people are falling into now. We touched on this idea of fatigue, and creating fatigue doesn't really create any value for anybody. So one of the buckets is being a brand that consistently says we're here for you, but without actually demonstrating some sort of value on the topic. The second I think is actually quite a good fit for most companies, and that’s what I'd call the flash in the pan bucket. After a crisis you have maybe a month, maybe six months, whatever feels appropriate, where you talk about the crises that’s taken place and how it’s affected everybody in your space. It's topical, you're there to help people make sense of it and you have a point of view and that's it. That's your response. The third bucket I think is difficult to do right, but it’s the thoughtful approach for business. How do you harness the energy of your response into a more long term conversation? How can you be there for people in a way where it lasts, where you use this as a time to reflect and communicate your values, but also make sure that it is consistent with the story that you're putting out about completely different topics six months or a year from now. Coronavirus itself is not really what I would consider a content pillar. Think about how this topic is a wrapper on top of your other pillars.

Grace:
Internally at Bracken Marketing, what has your response been? What are you doing right now to make sure you're still getting in front of those audiences that you want to be getting in front of?

Elliot:
I'd like to think that there are things that we were already doing, such as just taking care of our people and being a team. Being there for our clients. This is a time to be there, to not push so much on things like dollar values. This is a time where we're all trying to figure out how to respond. If I need to work through the night to get this thing because you're hustling and you're fighting for this business that you've been building for years, then I'm right there. It's not about a contract that's in place. It's going to just remind you of your values and to place even more attention on the important things that were there the whole time.

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Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information.

 

Grace Amodeo is a program manager at SHIFT, where she oversees the annual SHIFT Creative Fund grant program. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
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