With HIMSS 2017 just around the corner we wanted to find out what the big trends are for healthcare IT marketers in the coming year. So, we reached out to Scott Pearl, Vice President of Marketing at ZH Healthcare, a leading marketing professional in healthcare IT to learn more. Scott’s career has been focused on helping organizations across several very different, but related verticals, develop their businesses to make a positive impact on the health and well-being of people around the world.
Modern Marketing Today (MMT): Scott, thank you for sitting down with us today; tell us a little bit about yourself, your career, and your role at ZH Healthcare?
Scott Pearl (SP): I have worked in varying capacities across corporate, nonprofit, association and social enterprise sectors as well in the agency world as well. I started in the telecom industry, migrated to technology, and then moved to consumer products and services. In addition, I have co-founded or advised successful startup ventures in related and unrelated segments and sectors and had the privilege of serving in senior positions for large advocacy organizations and global NGOs. What was most rewarding in this role was to drive fundraising, advocate on behalf of children, and deliver resources and support to those living with rare diseases around the world.
I recently joined the team at ZH Healthcare, a global health IT company and developer of blueEHR, one of the most powerful, complete electronic health platforms available and used by thousands of healthcare providers, practices, health systems, and health IT companies in over 100 countries worldwide. In my role as VP of Marketing, I have global responsibility for marketing, communications, positioning, digital and outreach and conversion – leading teams across the U.S. and India – and supporting our many dedicated resellers and channel partners in countries all around the world (while uncovering new markets). I have also been involved in reshaping the company’s pricing, messaging and service delivery to increase market competitiveness globally.
I made a conscious choice to join ZH Healthcare because the company, the team, the founders and the board are truly committed to making a difference and making healthcare accessible and affordable worldwide, and disrupting the existing healthcare paradigm with respect to how healthcare embraces technology. This is a strong mission which is aligned with my personal ambition to make a measurable impact and to deliver positive change. In the U.S., electronic health records are prevalent – yet systems often suffer from rigidity or lack of usability and interoperability. Worldwide, electronic health is only now emerging or still nonexistent. ZH Healthcare can make a difference. That’s why I am not just excited to be part of the company, but honored to be part of this great team.
MMT: In your career you’ve had a lot of experience growing startups and building up successful marketing teams within agencies. When you first enter these organizations, how do you asses the environment and begin to plan new programs? How do you take those first few steps?
SP: Entering a new organization – or creating a new one from scratch – is never easy without first building trust. However, that takes time. From day one, in any environment, I tell my team(s) that I want to be part of the same team with each of them. I want to hear from everyone on the team. I want to learn about each member of the team, and hear their opinions on the following: (a) what drove them into the field; (b) why they like, or dislike, what they do; (c) what they see as their biggest accomplishment – in their current role, in their past roles, and otherwise; (d) where they see areas for improvement – for themselves and the company; (e) how I can best help them succeed; and, (f) if they were in my shoes, what would they do first to help – and why.
Gaining perspective from everyone on the team, and potentially across the company, gives you a sense of the areas where you can make the most immediate impact. Based on what you learn about the team, you assign roles, responsibilities or tasks that align with their respective strengths, and you uncover areas where you roll up your sleeves or source help and support. Separate from the team input, I also review whatever documentation is available (from the company or otherwise) and generally conduct a market analysis of my own to uncover the areas where I see the greatest opportunity, potential niche market placement, or the apparent need for investment of time, money and/or resources.
With a clearer picture, I then focus on building and execution of plans; all while encouraging my team to challenge, push-back and make suggestions. I am always ready, willing and able to listen to constructive feedback and criticism. I want that from any team I work with, and I adjust quickly and accordingly. As marketers, we need to be aware that the next great idea can come from anyone – regardless of their title or role – and must always be open to receiving new ideas.
Beyond actual plan development and execution, I believe in regular, consistent, open communication with the team, colleagues and those invested in the project(s) and often create shared mediums for all to review which highlights not only actions, but results vs. expectations, takeaways and any follow-on items as a result of what was achieved or learned for each element of the plan.
MMT: Marketing and sales alignment grows business revenue, but it can be difficult to pull off. What is your advice for marketers looking to align their teams with sales?
SP: Some may think, or believe, that marketing and sales can be at odds and in many organizations, that is the case. Sales wants more leads, and marketing wants more effective close rates and sales. However, given my experience in both areas, I often approach sales and marketing alignment in different ways. I frequently remind both teams of the fact that is often more expensive and even more difficult to solicit and acquire a customer than it is to retain the existing customers you already have. In fact, I have tried to ‘shake things up’ on occasion and switch the functions (and teams) of sales and marketing, and have both areas of disciplines understand more clearly what one function does in support of the other.
To effectively align sales and marketing, I believe you need to understand what drives each, and flipping the paradigm allows both sides to fully understand the value of customer relationships and the fact that ‘sales’ continues to happen long after an initial sale is complete. Simply put, the real value of most sales occurs after an actual sale is complete. Marketing can more effectively support sales, and vice versa, if a clear value path is defined and followed by both – from the time of initial contact, to the proposal phase and the close, and then the follow-on customer success, onboarding, implementation and hand-holding, support, follow-up and frequent communications that engage customers with a brand and brand value.
By effectively aligning both sales and marketing, organizations can achieve a virtuous circle – one continues to feed the other – with leads, insights, feedback, results and support, and helps to drive new business as well through referrals, testimonials, and more.
MMT: What are the top three trends or solutions marketers should keep an eye on going into 2017?
SP: Marketing automation is certainly high on the list. Although it has been available in the general market for years, it is surprising how many marketers have not yet embraced the value of a planned or triggered calendar of communications driven by the customer, tied to building deeper relationships while creating enhanced personas as well. I believe 2017 will be a big year for marketing automation, which will continue to grow in value for marketers looking to engage, not just ‘sell.’
Following on marketing automation, and the impact it can have on customer engagement and, eventually, the sale, I do see a stronger alignment of sales and marketing organizations. In fact, I think that companies will continue to place value in merging the two responsibilities and forming stronger customer experience and customer lifecycle team. I believe that these two areas cannot function without the other – and the closer these responsibilities work together, the greater the experience will be for customers.
Moving into 2017, I believe we will see customer engagement stretch into connections across mediums, whether social media, email or otherwise, and in-person experiential. With that said, and with a customer potentially basing buying decisions on a relationship with a brand or company, it will become increasingly important to build campaigns, engage in conversations with customers (online / offline), and engage in outreach strategies to reinforce trust and confidence in a company and brand. Once you have established the trust, the value of interactions with customers will increase – and the end result will potentially be an increase in sales revenue through retention and/or frequent buying from customers.
Lastly, I tend to believe artificial intelligence (AI); will play a much larger part in marketing – especially in personalization, support and pricing. It applies to many industries. For example, within ecommerce, I believe AI will allow for stronger recommendations during the buying cycle. The ability to analyze data, customer actions, and feedback in new ways will also lead to stronger content development as well, created (or curated) for individual customers – this could (and will) affect many business models. Some say the “future is now”. In that sense, AI will change how companies build or display pricing – driven by demand at an exact moment in time – and it can change the service model as well, from not just answering routine questions but to actually carry on conversations, direct customers to appropriate products online, or track and/or alert internally based on any number of actions or occurrences. AI is already being used everywhere, in many different ways, and I believe this will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond.