Brand and Customer Role in Healthcare Marketing
Episode

Don Stanziano, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Geisinger

Brand and Customer Role in Healthcare Marketing

Understanding business and customers is crucial for better marketing in healthcare.

 

In this episode of Marketing Mondays, Andreea Borcea talks with Don Stanziano, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Geisinger, about his experience in healthcare marketing and the lessons he’s learned from it. Coming from a journalistic communications background, Don transitioned towards healthcare marketing successfully, thanks to his natural curiosity. In the spirit of Customer Relationship Management within healthcare, he answers how patients should be treated in terms of services offered and highlights the importance of healthcare professionals’ presence within the customer pool. As a marketer, Don believes his role benefits significantly from building trust relationships inside his organization and with external stakeholders.

 

Tune in and learn about key things to have in mind for brand and customer management in healthcare marketing!

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Brand and Customer Role in Healthcare Marketing

About Don Stanziano:

Don Stanziano, MHA, APR, is the chief marketing officer for Geisinger with responsibility for all enterprise marketing, brand management, public relations, internal communications, consumer research, digital media, digital marketing, and digital customer engagement platforms.

Stanziano joined Geisinger in January 2018 from Scripps Health in San Diego, California, where he had served for 16 years, including eight years as vice president for marketing and communications. He also held positions at Scripps as senior director for public relations and corporate communications, and director of public relations.

Don’s experience includes serving as press secretary and communications director for a member of the House of Representatives, and more than 10 years as a professional journalist in print and broadcast media serving as an editor and reporter.

Stanziano earned his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and his Master of Healthcare Administration from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He is accredited in public relations (APR) and a graduate of the Health Care Advisory Board Fellowship Program. A frequent presenter on healthcare marketing and communications trends, Stanziano is an active member of the American Marketing Association – Healthcare Executive Summit, the Public Relations Society of America, and the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) of the American Hospital Association.

 

Marketing Mondays_Don Stanziano: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Marketing Mondays_Don Stanziano: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Andreea Borcea:
Welcome to the Marketing Mondays podcast, where we explore how we can make your offerings stand out in the health and wellness space. Through conversations with thought leaders and innovators in health and wellness marketing, we’ll discuss marketing best practices, case studies, and innovative ideas to help scale your business and grow revenues with impact. I’m excited to be your host. My name is Andreea Borcea. I’m a fractional CMO and owner of the Dia Creative Marketing Agency.

Andreea Borcea:
Hey everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Marketing Mondays. I’m your host, Andreea Borcea, CMO of Dia Creative, a health and wellness digital marketing agency. I am excited to bring to you Don Stanziano, who is Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Geisinger. Don, thanks for being here.

Don Stanziano:
Thanks, Andreea.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, so tell me a little bit about how you got into health and wellness marketing. What was your journey to get here?

Don Stanziano:
Yeah, it certainly wasn’t a direct path, I’ll say that.

Andreea Borcea:
I think that’s common.

Don Stanziano:
Yeah, if you had told me earlier in my career that this is where I would be and what I’d be doing, I would have laughed. But I started out as a journalist and was a journalist for ten years, which evolved into hospital public relations. My first job in healthcare was as a public relations media relations specialist at a health system in San Diego. And from there I continued to advance into on the communications side of marketing and communications in San Diego and went to another health system from there and had the opportunity to, when the chief marketing officer left at the organization I was working for, had the opportunity to be promoted and take on the marketing piece of the portfolio as well, and really enjoyed that path. And I think being someone who believes in lifelong learning and is naturally curious and I say this a lot, I guess I’m at that stage of my career where I’m reflecting more and I tell folks who are earlier in their career that curiosity is one of, I think, the most valuable qualities that I’m looking for when I’m hiring, because I believe being naturally curious sort of leads you to seek interesting and new solutions to the challenges that we face and better understand what’s going on in your organization. I’m sure we’ll get into that more, but that was my path and a recruiter tapped on my shoulder five years ago and said, there’s this interesting opportunity in Pennsylvania, would you be interested and could we pry you out of San Diego? And they were able to do that, and it’s been an interesting ride.

Andreea Borcea:
Definitely, I like that you came from not a marketing background and now had to take on marketing, especially with that journalistic communications background, what shifts or adjustments, what did you have to learn speaking of like loving of learning to really embrace that side of the communication side?

Don Stanziano:
Yeah, well, that transition happened at an organization called Scripps Health in San Diego, and I felt like I had a really good handle on comms in healthcare, and I hired somebody really strong to fill my role. And I started talking to the marketing team about what we were doing and why we were doing it and how do you know? And that led me down a path of we really didn’t have a lot of data to support what we were doing, and that wasn’t a fault of the team. There had never been the investments in the infrastructure needed to really build that data, that data infrastructure. So I became a student of marketing very quickly and started talking to peers, and fortunately, I had some really great mentors who connected me to others who had been doing healthcare marketing longer and started talking to vendors, quite frankly. Help me understand what you offer, how does this solve my problem, that interest in data, and demonstrating sort of the why of the decisions that we needed to make? Because marketing dollars are limited and marketing budgets are always vulnerable. And I had been within the marketing communications function long enough to know that if I can’t justify what I’m doing, I’m going to have a challenge continuing to advance the program that I’d want to build. So that got me down a path of CRM and really wanting to understand how do we start to build a customer database, how do we start to build a data infrastructure and led to a great partnership with the CIO at Scripps at the time, and we, together, invested in CRM, customer relationship management system, which also required staffing and a change in staffing and a change in mindset with the legacy team that I had inherited. And that, while brand is important and we can talk about branding if you like, but growth marketing certainly requires ownership of your data and command of your organization’s data, and that isn’t just marketing data, that’s the data from the rest of the organization as well, helping you understand how those customers are engaging with you. Even using the word customer in healthcare is controversial, and I was on the front lines of that early on as well.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, that’s a pretty big shift going from patient to customer or even like user.

Don Stanziano:
Right, right!

Andreea Borcea:
User data. So did you find that when you had taken on that role that the focus was a bit too much on brand building with this? Because I see the value in brand in health and wellness because you need to build trust, right? And I need to know that you’re legit. But it’s a very interesting shift to start bringing in growth marketing, which is traditionally not in health and wellness. So did you feel like you had a lot of pushback? Was that really the transition you had to make is shifting mindset into, it’s okay to want to grow? Health and wellness, and especially with something as massive as Scripps.

Don Stanziano:
Yes, and I had allies and champions within some of the service lines who felt like they weren’t getting enough attention for their great work and wanted, or wanted to build, they had capacity for growth and wanted support from marketing to do that. And I don’t think that brand marketing and growth marketing or lead gen marketing are mutually exclusive, they are part of an entire ecosystem, if you will, of a marketing infrastructure. You need a strong brand and my comms background plays into that and this is what I tell my communications folks, you all create, certainly the external communications folks, you all create an environment that allows marketing to be successful. And so reputation management heading off issues before they become a big deal, continuing to sort of burnish the brand through strong communications, but then brand marketing is also about being top of mind for that consideration. I can’t sell something to someone who doesn’t know who we are and what we stand for, right? So you have to have some of that. I do think that healthcare organizations, particularly healthcare provider organizations, tend to overindex on brand, one, because that’s what the organization is asking them for, and there’s a lot of meta-marketing going on in healthcare. They have a billboard, why don’t we have a billboard? And we can talk about outdoor and where that fits in the mix if you like but, and I think digital has really helped us, at least for me, help clarify my narrative in my organization about the value of brand and lead gen marketing and how those two complement each other because I just did this presentation about a year ago to our boards, to educate them on our program and why we were making the investments we were making and the idea that branded search, for example, performed so much better than generic search. So if you already have a consumer who’s going to a search engine and typing in your name and wanting to know if you offer something specific and where it’s offered, you’re already ahead of game versus I’m looking for a knee replacement, who offers it? And then I’ve got to make sure that I’m top of the search results, I’ve got the right landing page, I’ve got the whole journey mapped out. I can have a less-than-optimal lead gen and lead conversion journey on my website if I already have a consumer who’s motivated and predisposed to choose me, and I’m not making excuses for bad digital, but you get my point. And so brand does play an important role in growth as well, and that, so understanding sort of what that mix needs to be and that’s going to be different for every customer and even by line of business, depending on your competition, your marketplace, the maturity of your product, all of those things.

Andreea Borcea:
That is one of the biggest challenges, I’d say, with health and wellness marketing, especially in the healthcare system like Geisinger is, and Scripps, because I don’t necessarily, like I don’t know that I’m going to need a knee replacement at some point, so it’s not like you have to fit into my head that, well, this is a brand that I should pay attention to just in case I need a knee replacement someday versus like the restaurants. Like, I know I like Chinese food, so let me just find a local, like that type kind of fits more into your psyche, but healthcare, I think in particular, your end customer doesn’t really want to think about their healthcare until they have to. So then that lead gen really has to be more about like, do I want to get on a knee replacement list? No, I don’t know that I need that. So that’s really nuanced, I think, with how you tackle marketing. So how much of your marketing effort is spent on just being the right solution at the right time for these customers versus how much is just like, let me make sure you know we exist just in case you need that knee replacement at some point or you know somebody who does?

Don Stanziano:
Right, right, so it’s a great question because it’s a conversation I find myself in a lot because we, at Geisner, I have invested a lot in brand, we did a whole brand refresh a couple of years ago after I arrived to reposition us in the marketplace to sort of reintroduce us to the communities we serve and to build a platform on which we could put that lead gen marketing, right? And the services and product folks who want us to support them for growth are always asking, well, why can’t we put one of our messages in that space versus a brand message? I just had this debate with one of our clinical leaders around a facility that we have a sponsorship, it’s a sports facility, athletic facility for kids, and in that community, it’s the place all the parents go, there’s a lot of sporting events there and it’s a great way to reach families. And we have some sports medicine doctors who are there providing services, and the idea was, why aren’t we talking about sports medicine versus just having the Geisinger logo and, because those same families need primary care, they need pediatrics, they need urgent care, we have insurance products as well, we have an insurance business, so they’re buying insurance, I want to be top of mind regardless of what they need, right? That oh, Geisinger is trusted, Geisinger is high-quality, Geisinger is easy to access, those are the things we’re trying to plant those subliminal seeds in the minds of our consumers so that when they find themselves needing healthcare because we’re selling something most people don’t want. So positioning yourself as a wellness brand is great from that perspective, but we offer, and this is the other challenge with healthcare, at least for organizations like mine, I’ve talked about this in the organization and with my team, our challenge is everyone’s our customer.

Andreea Borcea:
Nobody wants to be your customer.

Don Stanziano:
And nobody, nobody wants what we’re selling, right, most of the time. So you have to sort of get to that hearts and minds sort of place in your marketplace, but then this is where the CRM, the customer relationship management, work, and the data is so critical, understanding segmentation, and targeting so that the spend that you’re investing in that lead gen is really for folks who are in that place where they actually do need a knee replacement. Their likelihood to need something like that is, we can build outreach lists to find those folks and have folks opt-in through our outreach as well, so that we’re nurturing folks along that journey, regardless of what the service is, whether it’s a knee replacement or some other service.

Andreea Borcea:
With Geisinger in particular, you have so many different offerings, and my expectation then is you actually have so many different target customers, both on the, yes-people, which is a lot we’ve been talking about, but on the professional side, right? So can you talk a bit about how you’ve had to shift communication when you’re talking to professionals in the space and especially with like legal and regulatory concerns on top of that? Like it gets very complicated.

Don Stanziano:
Yes, well, I’ve certainly had a crash course in regulatory marketing with the addition of the health plan, because health insurance is highly regulated. And everything that we market, particularly for government-sponsored programs like Medicare and Medicaid, all has to go through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid before everything we put out there. And so you have to be very thoughtful about your campaign build so that you’re baking in that review and approval. We did, I’ll give you an example, we did an infomercial for, Medicare Advantage open enrollment is always in the fall, it’s October to December every year. So we’re working on that campaign in late spring, early summer, and mapping all that out, and that creative gets built in the summer and super early fall, but we’re in market as early as September within the regs, and then enrollment starts in October. We did an infomercial for this fall’s campaign that was not approved until November, so we were halfway, so you have this very short window for customers to you and you have this asset that you want to put out. So we had to shuffle and fill that airtime that we had some credits from the broadcasters we had bought time with, other time we filled with other assets. But that regulatory requirement certainly forces you to think differently about how you work. You also asked about professionals, and that’s the other thing that in healthcare is interesting. While there’s a lot more consumers than in healthcare and patients, the case for marketing is always if the consumer has a choice and there’s been a rub in healthcare for a while around, are they patients or are they consumers? And my answer to that question is they’re consumers when they’re making the consideration to choose us for that service. Once they make that selection and they’re under our care, they’re a patient, but that consumer is, never goes away. We always have an opportunity to delight them or lose them, disappoint them if we’re not careful, and that’s a process that all healthcare is going through in terms of that customer experience or patient experience. Are they a patient when they’re paying their bill?

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, I really like that distinction because, like you’re right, patients don’t make that decision, consumers make that decision. And once they’re in the system, yeah, then they’re a patient, but it’s not like patients don’t really get marketed to, it’s the consumer. At the end of the day, I’m making I’m a consumer in this and I have to make a decision of where I want to get this service taken care of.

Don Stanziano:
Right, now, a lot of people will say, well, my insurance tells me where to go, or my doctor referred me. Which gets back to your question about marketing to professionals or communicating with professionals. A lot of the services we have and all the services in healthcare require a referral from a provider or you’re under a treatment plan and you’re trusting your providers, your physicians to guide you. And it’s through those relationships that they’re making decisions about where to send their patients for the next level of care for something highly specialized that they don’t offer. So physicians are the customer for us as well. We have to be trusted, we have to have relationships with them, we also have to be easy to use. So a lot of Geisinger physicians are employed. Most of the physicians on our medical staff are employed by us. That doesn’t mean that all of their patients always stay with us for services. So we’re on a constant education that when we offer something new or we’re providing a service that may not have always been offered, we have to make sure that our physicians understand that because they may be in a pattern of referring those patients out for those services, but there are a lot of physicians in the community who send their patients to us. So one of the things that my digital team manages, among many, is an authenticated portal for referring physicians to digitally refer their patients to us. So we’ve really spent a lot of and made a lot of investments in that portal to make it easy to use. We listen to physicians about what some of the pain points were, how do we optimize that experience for them, and it was a lot of back-office stuff. So this gets into another thing that I think is really important for marketers, especially in healthcare, is we have to be part of some of the processes and workflows that impact our customers that we don’t own directly, right? So how do we partner with the operations team? How do we partner with the clinical team to say, I’m sending you these leads and they’re not converting and they’re not converting because they can’t get in to see anybody for three months or six months? And so how do we fix that? Or these physicians are referring patients to us, but there’s a back office issue with how those referrals are being managed. So it’s really important that physicians are seen as customers as well.

Andreea Borcea:
Do you feel like I mean, a lot of what you’re saying right now is the challenges are not just in the marketing space? So as a CMO, you also have to probably partner, like you said, your CIO operations and probably up and down the line because part of this customer experience that you’re trying to sell is out of your hands, right? So how do you build those relationships internally to get to on the same goals?

Don Stanziano:
That’s super important, and I think that is my primary responsibility as the leader of the function, and it really helps that I’ve spent a lot of time in healthcare. I’ve been in healthcare since the mid-nineties, so I kind of understand how these organizations are. Now, they’re, everybody’s a little different. Going from Scribbs to Geisinger required me to sort of learn, navigate a different organization with a different org chart, but the key components are there. I recognize and know who I need to know, and that’s always something I have to keep in mind when we bring folks in from out of industry that we have to be responsible for their orientation to healthcare and how healthcare works, very relationship oriented and understanding how it works is really helpful in building trust with those other folks. I do here, and especially early on when I moved to Geisinger, to this role of Geisinger, when I would meet with leaders in different parts of the organization, that there was a bit of a surprise that I understood their area. Oh, you understand this? Yeah, I do. I know how this works, and I don’t know that as healthcare marketers, I think there’s some trepidation or fear of leaning in too hard. I don’t think there’s ever a reason not to do that. I think you can always win by leaning in, and I guess back to that curiosity I mentioned earlier, if you engage and, help me understand how this works, help me understand what the patient’s going through and I’ll go all the way back to when I was doing public relations and I wanted to understand a procedure. Can I shadow the surgery? That’s fascinating, right? So I think the more we can do that as marketers, not only do we gain more knowledge of how our businesses work, understanding the business, but it also builds trust.

Andreea Borcea:
I love that level of curiosity that you actually sit in to see the procedures. So I don’t know that a lot of people in marketing do that.

Don Stanziano:
I haven’t done it in a while, but I certainly did it early on.

Andreea Borcea:
That’s very cool. So given your history with marketing in health and how it’s evolved and the industry is evolved now, we’ve got electronic health records, now we’ve got more choice in health plans and doctors and procedures, etc. Where do you see marketing going? How do we continue to meet that customer and patient moving forward in the health industry with the way it’s evolving?

Don Stanziano:
I really hope that marketing in healthcare is elevated over the next 5 to 10 years to a direct report level to the CEO, which in most organizations like mine it is not, and that the role is expanded going back to the consumerism and that the title maybe is even evolved to Chief Consumer Officer or Chief Growth Officer with marketing just being a component of that portfolio, because in most other industries marketing is at the table, you know, it’s the piece, you know, it’s product and price, and in healthcare, we’re not really involved at that level, it’s more about promotion. And so I think evolving us beyond our role as promoters and to really being involved in the product, which in healthcare is a service given by people. So we should be involved in all aspects of the culture of the organization. We should be involved in the customer experience, from scheduling to clinical care to the billing. And I’m not suggesting that we should be telling doctors how to do their job, but I think we should be aware of what the customer pathway is and be part of those conversations on how to improve the overall experience.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, I’ve been seeing a lot more of that, even with, even just the decor of the office almost being like I would consider that an extension of marketing, right? Because if you’re already going into a medical situation, you’re terrified, it’d be nice if it’s a little like less clinical looking and a little bit more comfortable, right? And that’s marketing, that’s the experience you’re looking for, right?

Don Stanziano:
Exactly, exactly, I will say that at Geisinger we’ve made a little bit of progress there. We partnered with the facilities team on entryway and lobby redesigns so that there’s some standardization that when you come into a Geisinger facility, it’s a Geisinger facility, you know, Target, Starbucks, others have figured this out. So we’re just beginning that journey, but it was taking that brand refresh and bringing it into interior design, which is really cool.

Andreea Borcea:
I’m loving the fact that more health marketing is kind of acknowledging what other brands have already done, like you brought up Starbucks and the rest, like they have to be a destination and they have to have all their branding marketing growth tied in properly because they can’t exist without it. But healthcare technically could exist just not very well without marketing, and so now do you feel like the industry, not just in the marketing communication space, but the industry as a whole is starting to realize that there’s value in focus on marketing, consumers, branding, growth, etc.?

Don Stanziano:
Definitely, and I’m very fortunate to work in an organization like Geisinger where leadership does understand and is very interested in where the consumer is going. And one of the reasons that I made the decision to leave San Diego for central Pennsylvania, but the overall opportunity for sure, but it was clear that there was a real interest and respect for marketing and communications, and that translates also to the consumer. I think we are very aware and I think healthcare overall needs to really appreciate this even more, that our patients have expectations based on not what they experience with other healthcare organizations, but with what they experience in their whole life. So our digital experience needs to be more Amazon-like, our in-store experiences need to be more like Starbucks and Target, and we have to take those lessons from out of industry. We’ve talked a lot about hospitality for sort of the inpatient experience, but so much of healthcare now is delivered outside of the hospital that we have to think about it beyond just what others in our industry are doing. We have to take lessons from retail and others.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, that’s a great point about digital. I remember when electronic health records came out, everyone’s like, oh, this is going to be it. It’s going to be a great experience. And then I’m looking at these things like, oh man, this looks like it was designed in 1992, it’s awful. So I can definitely appreciate that. Okay, let’s close out on some final thoughts. Any advice for anyone that is trying to get into marketing or start to take a better control of their marketing for their health and wellness organization?

Don Stanziano:
First of all, understand the business. Not all healthcare organizations are the same, but make sure you’re understanding who your customers are, how you make money, the revenue path in healthcare is very convoluted, and understanding that I think is really important for marketers and understanding the customer experience. How do they come to you and what’s their experience once they’re inside your organization, all the way through, and how do you influence that? I think that’s really, really important. And then obviously, you know, agnostic of your industry, healthcare otherwise, we’ve got to be really comfortable with data and we’ve got to be willing to talk about the numbers, our numbers, and the numbers from the business and how those work together.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, that’s huge, absolutely. Well, Don, thank you so much. I appreciate you being here. And thanks, everyone, for listening. So once again, this was an episode of Marketing Mondays. And our guest today was Don Stanziano from Geisinger. He’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. And I think you gave us a lot of really amazing insights over the last couple of decades of healthcare marketing and where it’s evolved and how things need to change. So I super appreciate that. Where should people learn more about Geisinger or about you?

Don Stanziano:
Oh, first of all, thank you, Andreea, this was a great conversation. I appreciate joining you today. Our website is Geisinger.org and you can certainly find us on all social media channels, just search Geisinger.

Andreea Borcea:
Awesome, well, thanks so much, and make sure to check back in for more episodes of Marketing Mondays.

Andreea Borcea:
Thanks again for listening to Marketing Mondays. If you have any marketing questions at all, feel free to reach out to me directly at DiaCreative.com. That’s D I A Creative.com.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • Curiosity leads you to seek an exciting and innovative solution to your challenges.
  • To better understand your organization’s business and customers, marketers need to be curious.
  • Marketing budgets are usually low and every penny must be justified before it’s spent. 
  • Growth marketing requires ownership and command of your organization’s data.
  • One of healthcare marketing’s biggest challenges is that everyone is a potential customer, yet no one wants healthcare until they need it.
  • Everything that is marketed for government-sponsored programs has to go through a review and approval process by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid before being released.
  • This approval process can take a long time, so it’s best to build campaigns with plenty of time in advance.
  • A large percentage of healthcare delivery occurs outside of hospitals.
  • Healthcare marketing has to cover services and products that are not traditional. 
  • Other industries could teach healthcare marketing how to work with non-traditional services and products.

Resources:

  • Connect and follow Don Stanziano on LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Follow Geisinger on LinkedIn.
  • Discover the Geisinger Website!
  • Visit the Dia Creative Website for solutions to any of your marketing needs.