Does your team have marketing goals for growing your business? Are these goals SMART? Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. And Time-bound.
Over the past few years, many horizontally-focused VARs and MSPs have pivoted into healthcare IT consulting, with varying degrees of success. Why have many faced challenges?
Because many of these legacy VARs and MSPs brought their bad business developmental habits with them and still market like it’s 1999 – if they market their firms at all.
What’s even more dangerous about this bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach?
Healthcare IT decision-makers now navigate the buyer’s journey drastically different compared to as recently as five years ago. Today nearly 60% of the decision has already been made before decision-makers are ready to talk with any healthcare IT consulting firms.
So what can you do to make sure that your firm gets found early enough, often enough, and in the right context?
Consider these 10 ways to reach your marketing goals:
(1) Get Specific About Your Target Market and Ideal Client Profile
Healthcare IT is not a target market, or at least not targeted enough to build a tight buyer persona around. Healthcare, in general, is very fragmented and way too broad for small technology providers to reach cost-effectively.
Why? Because different kinds of decision-makers and stakeholders have very different goals, plans, and challenges, it becomes nearly impossible to find a single message that resonates with all.
So can your firm really afford to market to “everyone?” While it may have been a valid approach 10 or 20 years ago, today, marketing to “everyone” in healthcare is not a strategy and can be a huge waste of resources.
To pinpoint your ideal client, make sure you know:
- What niche within healthcare you’re targeting
- Who is the IT decision maker
- What platforms or technologies they’re invested in
- Their biggest pain points
- Their geographic radius
- Number of employees companywide
- Annual revenue
From gathering this data, preferably from surveys and buyer persona interviews, you’ll be able to start researching keywords or potential topics to build content around.
(2) Set a Realistic Marketing Budget for Your Company Size and Growth Plan
The problem with this, however, is that you can’t set a realistic marketing budget until you’ve tightly defined your target market and ideal client profile. Again “healthcare” is not nearly specific enough to be a buyer persona.
For example, if your typical healthcare client onboards with your firm for a $20,000 initial project and then retains your managed services long-term for $2,000 per month, five years out, that client could be worth $140K+ over its lifetime.
So with that upside in mind, what’s it worth investing in marketing, nurturing, and retention for a client that’s worth at least $140K?
$7,000 (5% of $140,000)?
$14,000 (10% of $140,000)?
$28,000 (20% of $140,000)?
A lot of that decision depends on the complexity of your services, your differentiation, your sales cycle length, and how aggressively you want to grow your firm.
Either way, the $140,000 client merits a serious investment in scalable client acquisition.
(3) Put Some Leverage Into Your Marketing With a Minimal Budget
Even when targeting the $ 140,000-lifetime value healthcare IT consulting client, it can still be difficult for smaller firms to fund a $7,000 to $28,000 (per client) marketing budget.
But investing in those kinds of targeted marketing campaigns is extremely important to consistent lead generation, lead nurturing, and client acquisition.
So what should you do when lacking a budget of that size, where you have more time than budget?
Remember, the time spent on marketing is insufficient if your efforts are misdirected. So the best use of your marketing time is generally to add some leverage, even if on a minimal budget.
Look to build relationships with other trusted business advisors and non-competing technology providers that already do business with the kinds of healthcare IT clients that you want to add to your client list.
Social media can help with this, but offline networking is usually more effective for this need.
Key best practices include:
- Building meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships and friendships
- Digging the well before you’re thirsty
- Being patient as this won’t happen overnight
- Investing appropriate levels of time and effort
(4) Demonstrate How You Can Help
To show healthcare decision-makers how your firm can help, your goal should be to get in front of audiences primarily filled with these decision-makers in your target market and generously share your tips and wisdom.
While there are tactics that can tactfully lift the response rate from those in the audience, the real issue is just getting in front of the right decision-makers that match up with your buyer personas. You can
- Speak at local healthcare-specific trade groups
- Host or sponsor your own events
- Exhibit at local healthcare trade shows
Look to do this regularly to move the needle, perhaps as often as several times each year. And above all, be interesting, share stories from the field -- respect client confidentiality when needed, and keep it light and fun.
(5) Set the Stage for Your Value Proposition to Spread
Many in healthcare IT consulting have built small boutique firms, within their larger business, based entirely on word-of-mouth referrals. But word of mouth is not a marketing plan unless you introduce accelerants like trusted relationships and influencers.
To do so, look to capture and package the goodwill of your biggest fans to share with the skeptics. Social proof, such as testimonials, especially videos, can go a long way. And don’t obsess over perfection. In most cases, sincerity and authenticity are much more important than production quality.
(6) Make Your Website All About Generating Qualified Leads
Most websites of healthcare IT consultancies try to do way too many things at once, while the main goal gets inadvertently overlooked. What should the main goal be?
To do so, use soft offers such as white papers and webinars that promise solutions to your prospect’s biggest problems. And be sure to minimize website distractions.
Bear in mind that the worldwide nature of the web brings many unqualified visitors. To lessen this issue, consider how you target and stay local with your keyword research and link building.
Every page must have a goal. A key tool for this is the call to action or “CTA.”
At the risk of oversimplifying, most pages on your website should drive visitors to a highly-relevant, super-attractive free piece of premium content that acts as a lead generator. This is what’s known as a soft offer.
Put your ego and need for “brand building” on the back burner. And simply concentrate on consistently generating qualified leads.
(7) Tap Grassroots PR to Become Well Known Within Your Target Market
If you want to shorten your sales cycle considerably, make it so that many of your best prospects have already heard of you and your company before they enter the top of your sales funnel.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t need a big PR agency budget to get valuable media exposure. The key Ingredients:
- Write simple, relevant, search-optimized news releases
- Publish thought leadership content
- Build relationships with columnists and bloggers
- Make yourself available as a highly-valuable source and fountain of relevant info and insight on healthcare IT trends
(8) Build Your Own Channel Program
More importantly: Your company doesn’t need a big marketing budget to put together a simple, small, but very powerful channel program of your own.
Your partner program should formalize the relationships that you should already be building with trusted business advisors and non-competing technology providers. And it should get your partners talking to each other to expand the universe of available opportunities.
Who should you invite? Your target list might include trusted business advisors that work with clients in healthcare, including CPAs/CAs, attorneys, management consultants, designers, developers, and other niche technology providers.
(9) Develop Healthy Marketing Mindsets, Habits, and Routines
Marketing results are the lifeblood of new business opportunities. Healthcare IT consulting firms cannot reach their marketing goals without a plan and without results.
So your marketing needs to be very results-focused. If you have a rather limited marketing budget, 80%+ of that budget must focus on generating high-quality leads. After all, why else do you market?
All in all, many small consultancies are severely underinvested in marketing, specifically lead generation. Marketing can’t be an event that you do only when things slow down.
There are two very fundamental marketing needs that you need to address every week:
- Plan and manage a handful of campaigns that generate largely qualified leads for the top of your sales funnel
- Move qualified leads down the sales funnel with segmented lead nurturing and follow-ups
(10) Market the Results and the Relationships, Not the IT
For most consulting firms, which one factor ultimately determines the value of the business?
Is it their healthcare IT expertise? Or their client services revenue streams?
Most professional services businesses, including those that focus on IT, are more ”people” businesses, than “IT” businesses per se.
For software and equipment vendors, it’s different.
But when your value proposition isn’t proprietary and innovation comes more from marketing and service delivery, the relationships matter a lot.
Which relationships do you need to focus on? Frankly, all of them. Prospects and leads. Customers and clients. Employees, contractors, and vendors. And don’t forget media, lenders, and investors.
What’s the easiest way for prospects and leads to turn into customers and clients? Proven documented results with reviews, references, case studies, and testimonials.
What’s the easiest way to turn customers and clients into clients for life? It’s about their bottom-line results and measurable return on investment (ROI).
Then every project from there on out with that client is playing with the “house’s money.” And wow, does your sales process get easy! The challenge with all this is to continue managing expectations as if the client relationship depended on it – because it does.
And that’s the reason why it simply doesn’t pay to pursue and take on prospects, leads, customers, or clients that you don’t think will materialize into raving fans.
In this post, we looked at why healthcare IT consulting firms struggle to reach their marketing goals for growth and what specifically you can do about it.
What strategies have you found most helpful for growing your awareness among the right healthcare decision-makers? Let us know your take in the comments below.
And to begin inventorying your gaps and mapping out a strategy for your firm to reach your goals, especially if you also consult on SaaS and IaaS with your healthcare IT clients, be sure to enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.