Laying the foundation for integrated communications
In an increasingly crowded healthcare market, companies that want to get out in front of the pack are revisiting their approach to marketing, public relations and digital media. Instead of viewing these communication strategies as distinct and separate tactics, forward-thinking companies are taking an integrated approach that is more coordinated and impactful.
Messaging is the fundamental building block of any integrated strategy. Without a succinct message that resonates with potential buyers, healthcare vendors can fall short in communicating with their customers and prospects. This is especially important for vendors selling complex solutions that compete for limited dollars—these companies must clearly convey what they’re selling as well as how it uniquely meets the needs of the market.
Crafting a tight message can be daunting. However, by embracing a few key strategies, you can develop one that not only reaches customers but generates buzz and excitement about your company.
Commit to a planned approach. Fashioning a compelling and cohesive message is not something you do on the fly, scribbling a few notes on a napkin during a lunch meeting. Instead, you should engage in a formal process that involves regular meetings of key stakeholders. This group should review market research, discuss competitors’ positioning, and gather different perspectives about current and future branding. Being intentional allows you to focus your thoughts and shape a communication strategy that best supports the company’s goals. During the exercise, you may even stumble on some new or out-of-the-box ideas you haven’t considered before.
Define your target audience. Although it may be difficult, try to limit the audience to just those people who are ready to respond to your messaging. By trying to reach everyone at once, you risk diluting your message in the process, curbing the success of your integrated communications program. You’re better off starting small and then expanding to offer different messages that zero in on various audiences.
Sharpen your message. Before going too far down the path of revamping your message, evaluate existing brand perceptions to see if they match the desired brand image. If not, what information do you need to change people’s impressions? After gathering all the data, distill it down to the essential points your target audience wants to know and develop a cohesive and easily understandable language that conveys the information.
Seek an outside perspective. The good news is you don’t have to go through a messaging exercise alone—and it’s better if you don’t. A company that specializes in developing compelling communications can provide valuable insight into the best ways to narrow the audience and hone the message. Even if they only serve as another opinion, it can be extremely helpful to have an additional point of view. Going one step further, if you encourage them to test and challenge your ideas, it’ll make the final product that much stronger. The more dynamic the process, the more likely you are to end up with the exact message you want going to just the right people.
For a deeper look at how to develop more effective messaging, check out our white paper providing tips for building a sustainable brand through integrated communications.
Integrate content marketing and PR for maximum brand impact
Content marketing and public relations have traditionally been viewed as separate tactics to support brand recognition. While it’s true that each are distinct and offer their own sets of advantages, they can deliver even stronger results when integrated, helping marketers to achieve maximum impact for both sales and long-term growth.
First, let’s focus on the differences. Content marketing takes the story-telling, relationship-building strength of PR and combines it with the sales-focused, attention-grabbing strategies of marketing to accelerate brand awareness, audience engagement and conversions. PR, however, distinguishes itself by its ability to strengthen corporate credibility and brand communication, which are essential for companies preparing for an IPO or attracting the attention of a potential corporate suitor.
Rather than taking a “siloed” approach and continually striving to determine when and where to leverage PR or content marketing, marketers should strive for a hybrid strategy that leverages elements of both.
Content marketing is growing, not replacing PR. Content marketing generally relates to how a company thoughtfully and purposefully attracts, acquires and engages a prospect or customer. For many B2B companies, the allure of content marketing is clearly growing. For example, 67 percent of surveyed B2B companies reported marketing content as a top priority, while 68 percent of successful marketers cite lead scoring based on content and engagement as most responsible for improving their revenues.
Reading statistics like these, it might be easy to conclude that content marketing is quickly supplanting PR as B2B companies’ go-to marketing tactic of choice. However, while content marketing allows a company to control its message, media hits garner more eyeballs and more third-party validation.
Using a hybrid strategy. PR and content marketing can support company objectives and brand recognition in different but complementary ways, and the strongest B2B marketing strategies use both to augment and amplify the messages of the other.
Determining objectives for your overall communications and marketing strategy should be your first order of business, creating an umbrella across your PR, marketing and other communications efforts as well. The next step is to establish discipline and governance across communications efforts spanning all groups involved in the process to ensure inclusion and to justify efforts to senior leadership.
Establishing a campaign theme is also essential. When developing the content strategy, this umbrella theme and the associated sub-themes ensure your target audiences, regardless of where or how you reach them, receive consistent messages and stories that they relate to your company.
Integrated effort. Content marketers understand the importance of not letting content sit and become stagnant, but many of the same principles apply to PR as well. Some content pieces can meet both PR and content marketing needs, so companies should generate and maximize the use of these content workhorses. Conversely, leveraging PR wins from recorded speaking sessions to published articles as part of your content marketing campaigns adds additional third-party credibility to other self-generated content.
When delivered using this integrated strategy, content marketing and PR each play important roles and support brand recognition in different ways. B2B companies need to shift the way they look at PR and content marketing and realize that they can be used independently or in combination to augment the power of the other.
Want your content to rise to the top? Learn how to amp it up in this blog.
Get your message out to the world with social media
A well-designed integrated communications strategy increases brand awareness, establishes thought leadership and fuels demand for a company’s products and services. Social media is an essential element in this approach because it provides a platform that companies can use to immediately share relevant content, weigh in on newsworthy topics and be part of critical conversations. By fully leveraging social media, you can foster relationships with your target audience and position yourself as a dynamic thought leader.
Getting the most out of social media does require a degree of forethought. Here are a few key ways to fold this element into an integrated program.
Understand the various platforms. Just as brands are unique, so are social media outlets. It’s important to appreciate the personality and purpose of each venue, so you can get the biggest payoff.
For example, Twitter is personal and direct. Think about using it to launch conversations with your target audience and connect content to your brand. By sharing timely information on Twitter, you become an industry resource and demonstrate your thought leader status. You can also use it to follow emerging trends and learn about the content your customers crave.
LinkedIn is another powerful tool that provides a forum for industry-focused discussions. Posting compelling content on your LinkedIn company page can help raise brand awareness and educate potential customers. To take full advantage of LinkedIn, you should also actively participate in relevant groups, introducing different topics and responding to conversations to elevate your visibility.
Blogging is another valuable social media device that allows you to engage prospects, generate leads, increase web traffic and build trust. Not only can you share your opinion in the blog itself, you can also use it as content for other social media platforms, expanding the content’s reach.
Video offers yet another method for delivering meaningful brand messages. Each video-sharing outlet has its own advantages. Through Wistia, for example, you can post a highly customized video that prompts a call-to-action. The site also provides analytics, so you can see how often your video is being watched. Although not as targeted, YouTube brings tremendous visibility and watch time because it is the highest-trafficked platform.
Be intentional. Once you understand the different options, consider making a plan about how you’re going to participate in and share information on these sites—and how that relates to your overall integrated communications program. As you map out a strategy, look for ways to take PR and marketing content and share it, blog about it, weave it into conversations and so on. You’ve already done the heavy lifting in generating the message, now leverage various social media platforms to get the information out.
Stay aware of what’s new. To truly benefit from social media you have to do more than just tweet about a recent PR article or upload a white paper to LinkedIn. You should also actively follow your favorite publications, editors and influencers to keep abreast of what’s going on in the marketplace and how your target audience is responding. Make sure to share your thoughts when you have opinions. Keeping an ear to the ground helps your social media strategy stay fresh and focused on the right topics. It also positions you as a go-to expert when publications and editors start looking for thought leaders.
For more ideas on how to optimize social media and make it a part of an integrated communications program, check out white paper.
Increase efficiency and grow ROI with marketing automation
Sales and marketing are no longer at odds. Today, they’re a dynamic duo — like Frodo and Sam. They are each better and stronger when they work together, whether on a mission to deliver more personalized content or better enable the sales process.
Top performers are those businesses that have incorporated a strong marketing automation program that generates leads and nurtures prospects until the sale is ready to close. The Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class companies who integrate sales and marketing technologies achieve a 49 percent average increase in year-over-year annual revenue.
How marketing automation helps you. Marketing automation is a software platform that lets you automate marketing and sales engagement to reach more potential customers, close more deals and measure how well your marketing campaigns perform. Because tasks are done automatically, it takes the burden off marketing departments, saving time and money. Campaigns can run on autopilot, which means you can spend more time doing what you excel at. Even more, marketing automation shows you the whole picture of how your prospects are interacting with your company and gives you the tools to turn them into customers.
All these reasons, combined with the growing demand for content, explains why its use is on the rise. HubSpot notes that with today’s marketers spending upwards of 50 percent of their time on content, demand for marketing automation is worth $5.5 billion.
Integrating to get more from your investment. A Dun & Bradstreet survey revealed that while the majority of B2B companies using marketing automation believe it’s essential to business, nearly 75 percent say they haven’t used it to fullest capacity. Marketing automation benefits when it is integrated with other corporate communications initiatives. A company’s PR activities, digital tactics and advertising all create content and exposure that can be leveraged within marketing automation, while assets developed to support marketing automation benefit other corporate communication activities.
The platform has many tools to accomplish this, including:
- CRM integration. Combining marketing automation with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) workflow can improve lead quality, streamline marketing-to-sales handoffs and deliver insight into buyer motivations, helping both sales and marketing efforts.
- Email marketing. Email is still a relevant and integral tool used to communicate to prospective customers who, by the way, are increasingly mobile, with half opening their email on a mobile device. This makes it all the more important to have a tool that makes drafting, testing and sending emails easy and sustainable.
- Nurturing. Lead nurturing is one of the primary reasons why marketing automation is so successful. These programs allow you to stay in touch over time, helping you successfully guide a lead from initial interest to sales closure.
- Lead qualification. Marketing automation isn’t just a tool for marketers. The ability to score and grade leads means they can be qualified before passing them over to sales. And that score/grade can help sales prioritize which hot leads to go after.
- Social marketing. Social media is important for educating prospective clients, and it gives companies credibility when prospects are doing their due diligence. Using a marketing automation tool for social posting allows the engagement analytics to flow directly back into the tool and tie activities back to individuals.
- Reporting. Closed-loop reporting is important for measuring each channel’s effectiveness. Taking the analytics from disparate sources and bringing them together in one platform can show how the entire marketing ecosystem contributes to the overall customer journey.
Marketing automation is all about working smarter. Using the insight these tools collect means marketers can maximize each interaction, meeting prospective customers where they are in their buying process - at scale with marketing automation.
Learn more about the power of marketing automation in our eBook!