Building your health system's martech stack
What is a martech stack? Where should a healthcare marketer begin? Listen to Core Creative’s chat with Ed Bennett, founder of Martech.Health, to learn how to establish and grow your martech stack.
Listen using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.
Angi Krueger: Hello. My name is Angi Krueger. Welcome to The Core Exchange, a healthcare marketing podcast. Today I welcome Ed from MarTech.Health. He's going to be talking with us today about his organization and the MarTech stack. We're really excited to be talking with you today, Ed.
Ed Bennett: Well, thank you very much. I'm really happy to be here. Of course, I'm always happy to talk about my new business and let people know what's going on with it. So, I've been in the healthcare marketing industry for almost 20 years. Started back in 1999, spent most of my career at a large academic medical system helping establish their digital program, and then building out that program over the years. You know, everything from setting up websites, getting new content management systems, learning about search engine marketing and search engine optimization, and social media, and mobile, and all those bits and pieces in between.
Ed Bennett: I left that organization a few years ago and started a company that I had been thinking about for a very long time, and this was a service for the industry, which is a vendor directory specifically for healthcare marketers, communication people and digital folks. I selected those three areas of interest inside healthcare organizations, because so often their needs and their projects overlap, and they're looking for the same type of vendors.
Ed Bennett: During my time at the hospital system, I probably was involved in close to 50 different vendor selection projects, whether it was for my own team or for my partners, working with my partners and other departments. I've been thinking for a very long time what would be a tool or a resource that could help folks inside those organizations, make it a little easier for them to find the right vendor and connect with them, and make good choices? That was the start of MarTech.Health.
Ed Bennett: About two years ago, I started actively building it. It's now getting pretty well-established, I'm starting to see a very large uptick in the number of people coming to the directory and using it. So it's very exciting to see that happen.
Angi Krueger: Yeah, no, that is great. So, can you tell us a little bit about, you know, obviously it's a great tool and resource for healthcare marketers out there. Can you tell us a little bit about how it works? So if I'm a healthcare marketer at a health system, and say I'm looking for a digital firm to help me build my next website.
Ed Bennett: Okay.
Angi Krueger: Can you kind of walk me through that process of how that would help me kind of narrow it down, and figure out who might be the best fit for me?
Ed Bennett: Sure. That's a very good use case, and a very typical use case. The goal of the directory is to be very focused on the healthcare marketing digital communications niche. So, the vendors that you would find inside this directory, and there's close to 600 now, these are all vendors who, either are 100% focused on healthcare, or it's a very significant part of their practice.
Ed Bennett: Inside the directory there are 40 categories of services, everything from web development, to physician transparency, to PR, to patient engagement and so forth and so on. So, one of the things that you can do, as the end user, the person coming in and trying to find a vendor, is you can come to the directory, there's a category for web development in the example you just used, and there you'll see a list of firms and companies that have web development as one of their key services. Again, in the healthcare industry.
Ed Bennett: Once you see that list, there's all sorts of sorting options. But one of the sorting options, I think that's most important is to be able to sort by ratings and feedback. Because one of the key features of this directory is the ability for users to come in and rate and get feedback and comments on the vendors they've used in the past.
Angi Krueger: Yeah, that's really nice.
Ed Bennett: That's really important. This is an industry that I've always been very pleased to see is very collegial. So, hospital folks know each other across, you know, different hospitals. We know each other from conferences we go to, and the forums that we're on. We're very open in sharing information and advising our peers. So, I see a lot of that kind of conversation going on in the hallways at conferences and in other places.
Ed Bennett: So, this website is a way of getting that type of sharing in a place that is there all the time with the tools and features to make it a little easier to narrow down that search.
Angi Krueger: Yeah, that's great. Then, you know, obviously you can do further research on that organization through website links and other content that those organizations can also put on your site.
Ed Bennett: Exactly. That's another very large segment of the value of the site. It's not just a list of vendors with a link to their website, it's a place where the vendors can create a very sophisticated, robust profile of who they are and what they do. They can also publish articles, presentations, embed videos.
Ed Bennett: There's a rapidly growing section of the site, which I'm calling the resource library, so that, if you're a marketing person who's just come back from a conference and you're hearing all about a new trend or a new technique, you will be able to come to the directory, do a search for that term, and find what the vendors in the industry are publishing about it, what they're saying. So there's going to be a good educational portion of the site.
Ed Bennett: I believe as that grows, and vendors do a good job providing thought leadership and educational content, case studies and things of that nature, it's going to be a very useful part. You'll be able to discover vendors by the type of information they're sharing.
Angi Krueger: Right. Yeah, no, that's really helpful. You know, being on the agency side from Core, you know, and I'm in marketing and business development too, so I see, you know, the RFPs come through. I'm usually one of the first touch points there. It's always very interesting, from the healthcare marketer's perspective, of how they go about that process. I always ask, you know, "How did you hear about us? Where's the connection?"
Angi Krueger: A lot of times it is referrals, and people in the industry really connecting you with them. But I think what's nice about this too, and how I think it can really help healthcare marketers, you know, if I was in that position, is just really helping narrow the field quicker. Because we've been part of processes where, you know, there's 10 agencies they're looking at it.
Ed Bennett: Right.
Angie Krueger: Honestly, from the agency perspective, it's a little frustrating, in the sense that it's a little, you know, cattle callish and there's too many people. I think what's really nice about your tool is that you're forcing the vendors to really pick their areas of strength.
Ed Bennett: Right.
Angi Krueger: Because you know, in a case like ours where we are more full-service in the healthcare space, yes, we do web development, or yes, we do brand, or yes, we do ... You know, to even just take that and really hone in on our niche of what we're really, really good at, I think is helpful for the healthcare marketer to really make that decision.
Ed Bennett: Thank you. That was definitely a consideration when I designed the infrastructure of the site. A vendor can go in and select up to 10 categories of services. They can do that, but I recommend that most vendors hone it down to three or four at the most. Because one of the outweighs of that, a user can go in and sort a long list of vendors, is by what is their focus?
Ed Bennett: So, if you're an agency and you said, "We do web development, but we also do nine other things." When they say sort by area focus for web development, that's going to be a tiny part of all the things that they say they do, so they're not going to be at the top of the list.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Ed Bennett: So, it puts the onus on the vendor to be very strategic about where they want to be listed. Then there's advantages to not trying to say we do everything.
Angie Krueger: Right, right. No, that's really helpful. Yeah, it's a great tool for, you know, healthcare marketers out there to use, and I encourage everyone to check that out. So again, tell us about the name of how you came up with that, and that little back story.
Ed Bennett: Sure. Well, there's two parts of the domain name that's MarTech.Health. The MarTech part is, I was observing in the industry that the term MarTech was becoming a more and more common term. Of course, that stands for marketing technology. But I'm finding that the term encompasses so much more than just the heavy duty software that is very technical. It's sort of encompassing all the different types of services and functions that a marketing department, or a digital department, or communications department, need in order to, you know, function and achieve their goals.
Ed Bennett: So, I wanted a short domain name that could communicate that, and it felt that the phrase MarTech has now become very common, it's a very well understood industry term. So I decided to go with that. But the caveat, that it's a little bit broader than just something very specific to technology.
Angi Krueger: Right, right. Yeah, sure.
Ed Bennett: Then the .Health part is the, I was introduced to a new top level domain company called .Health, and was very impressed with their vision of what they were trying to do with the domain. I had seen, going back 20 years, other companies grab a domain name and say, "This is going to be focused just on medicine." 20 years ago it was .MD, right? They were charging an insane amount of money to get a domain name, but then it turned out that they weren't doing any sort of oversight about who could get those domains.
Ed Bennett: So, there were all these domain names that ended in .MD, and they were not the type of thing that a legitimate organization would want to be associated with. The .Health people were really taking a very different tact. They oversee who's getting the domain names, they make sure that those are legitimate organizations. It's a domain name that I'm seeing start to slowly get much more traction. I'm seeing many hospitals picking up a .Health domain. Not usually to replace their main website, but use it for a lot of other marketing opportunities.
Angi Krueger: Sure, sure.
Ed Bennett: So I decided to go with .Health, and make it nice and short. So it's MarTech.Health.
Angi Krueger: Yeah, no, I like it. It's very memorable. In fact, we recently took on a .Health URL as well for Core Creative. We have CoreCreative.Health, which is really our specialized healthcare marketing practice within our organization, so we really wanted to brand it that way. So it is a nice branding opportunity for organizations to use that URL.
Angi Krueger: So let's just talk a few minutes about MarTech.
Ed Bennett: Sure.
Angi Krueger: And that whole topic in general. There's a lot of misconceptions about what the MarTech stack even is.
Ed Bennett: Right.
Angi Krueger: Some people even wonder why they may need it. I was just wondering if you could help us understand what it is, and what it isn't?
Ed Bennett: Sure. Well, I'm not going to come down and try to create the definitive definition of what MarTech is. But I think if you step back and you look at what your options are, as a marketing department inside a large organization, obviously things have changed dramatically in the last 10 or 15 years. So now there's a heavy focus on digital connections and digital communications via email, via search optimization, search ads and all that stuff.
Ed Bennett: So there's an awful lot of that infrastructure already in place. Then you have, as a hospital or healthcare organization, you have this enormous set of data that's in your internally about your patients, and you have information about them. Then you have your business goals of what you're trying to accomplish, who are the type of patients you're trying to bring in?
Ed Bennett: So you pull all that together, and now you need pieces of technology to make it easier to track that. How do I track the the interest and the demographics of the people that are already our patients? And where are those people when I'm trying to reach out to get new patients coming in? How do I communicate with them? Whether it's through email or through texting, or other types of forms of communication. How do I track what they do? And how do I track what types of advertising approaches are working?
Ed Bennett: So, then you have the tools like CRM's, customer relationship management tools, which is probably the foundation of a MarTech stack. The word stack simply means that you have different pieces of software that stack on top of each other. Information flows between those pieces of software, and then each piece of software has different functions.
Ed Bennett: So you might have a CRM as the base of your MarTech stack, which is a central repository of all your patient information from a marketing standpoint. Then you might have things like the email campaign tool, if you're going to be sending out emails, you might have another one. You might be connecting into your content management system on your website, that's part of your MarTech stack also.
Ed Bennett: So, you want to be using that to do things like creating landing pages for the campaigns that you're doing. So there's a lot of intricacies there, but the bottom line is the MarTech stack is simply the range of software applications that you use in order to do your business.
Angi Krueger: Sure.
Ed Bennett: A good MarTech stack is one where those applications talk to each other and are easily integrate with each other. Of course, the big application that every hospital deals with is their EHR, [inaudible 00:15:10], et cetera. There's been a very big positive change with Epic and the other EHR's. They really are now truly opening up and making it easy for outside vendors and software organizations to connect into their databases.
Ed Bennett: So, it's a really exciting time as a healthcare marketer, that you now have all the pieces you need to pull this together and have a very effective program.
Angi Krueger: Right. You know, it becomes very complex and daunting for many healthcare marketers. You know, why should building that MarTech stack be such a priority right now for them?
Ed Bennett: Well, there are couple of reasons, efficiency. This is now, with the proper programs in place, you, now for the first time, have a really good way of tracking what works and what doesn't work in all of your marketing efforts. You have that, you now have the expectation from the patients or consumers that they'll be approached in ways that is now common. They expect a certain level of personalization and the messaging that comes through them from the organizations they work with. You really can't do that type of personalization without the effective tools like a good MarTech stack.
Angi Krueger: Sure, sure. Yeah, very true. What are some of the common barriers that you have seen for building a robust MarTech stack?
Ed Bennett: Yeah, there's several. First of all, it's not cheap. It's not something that you can, you know, go and budget, you know, a few thousand dollars for. It's a significant investment, and it touches many different parts of the organization. Used to be marketing was an island, and it was very self-contained.
Ed Bennett: But now because everyone expects personalization, and they expect functionality in the communications that come to them, what you do as a marketing person has to meld into your IT systems, your scheduling systems, the EHR, and many, many, other things like that. So, that is a barrier, in a sense that, you now have to bring all these people to the table, make sure that everybody agrees on the vision and what you're trying to accomplish, and then set up those processes to make sure that it works internally.
Ed Bennett: The other big obstacle that I find in many healthcare organizations is that they underestimate the amount of investment they need and people. I've seen so many CRM projects at hospitals fail, because they spend all of their effort and resources in purchasing the CRM, and then there's nothing left over for the daily care and feeding of it.
Ed Bennett: If you're a medium to large healthcare system and you're not budgeting at least two full-time FTE's to manage your CRM and all the other pieces around it, then you really should step back and ask if you're ready to do this. It does take that level of investment.
Angi Krueger: Right. Yeah, you can't buy the treadmill and then never run on it, right?
Angi Krueger: Goes back to all of that, all the time. Yeah, I mean, that's a really great point. You know, and we do, as healthcare marketers, have limited budgets. So, what do you say to healthcare marketers, you know, who say they can do it all themselves or can't afford a MarTech stack? I mean, where should they start? I mean [inaudible 00:19:07]
Ed Bennett: Well, let me just say that, for the first time, the ability to prove ROI on a marketing investment is now feasible, and it really wasn't for a long time. So, you can look at any type of situations. Let's say, for example, you're trying to increase the efficiency of your call center, and you're looking at all the people that are calling in by phone and asking questions. There's now systems out there that can automate that through chatbots and tools of that nature, AI, to a certain extent, so that people can go to the website and get answers to their specific questions without having to go in and talk to a human at a call center.
Ed Bennett: That is a significant ROI, because now you're freeing up the call center people to handle those questions that are unique and needs very specific attention. Then the majority of stuff that is routine and repetitive is now handled through a automated interface. That's just one example of how you can very quickly demonstrate ROI. I think that once you have those type of use cases and you can show the ROI, then it becomes easier to justify further investment, because those tools are in place.
Angi Krueger: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, you know, within this MarTech stack, kind of tying back to your business of your website, you know, I need to, as a healthcare marketer, build, you know, kind of an empire of vendors who make me successful in this area, right? So, you know, where do I begin?
Ed Bennett: Right. Well, you probably should be starting by attending the conferences that are in our industry, and then you can really hear from the hospitals themselves, where they have use cases and they show the results of the different projects they've done. That's probably the starting point. But then, if you're sort of at the point now, "Okay, I'm really ready to pick a particular component, or start building this foundation," then the MarTech.Health directory is a tool that you can use.
Ed Bennett: Let's say you bring up a list of a dozen different CRM manufacturers. Well, the tool has everything organized so that you can see what's the typical budget that those vendors are looking for? They might say, you know, "We only look at projects that are $100,000 and above. That may be out of your budget." You can ignore that.
Angi Krueger: Right, right. That's not cool.
Ed Bennett: So there's that. You can see how big the organization is. So I'm gathering a lot of very structured data. What's the size of their organization, in terms of people? What size projects did they focus on? Then there's a place where they can list their named clients, so then you can see, are they working with other organizations like me? Or are they working with organizations that are really are very different from me, and maybe are not appropriate?
Ed Bennett: So, it's fairly easy on the system to very quickly narrow it down to a list of a few possible candidates. Then once you've logged it, you create a free account, it's always free for the end users. You blog in for your account, you can bookmark the vendors that you would like to follow up with. There's a comparison tool where you can throw up a table to see some of the basic information and a comparison grid. There's the ability to reach out to those vendors anonymously and ask them questions.
Ed Bennett: This is something that I find a lot of the marketing people really love. They may be down to choosing between three vendors, and they've got four or five specific questions, but they don't want the call backs, they don't want to be hounded. So they can use the tool and send an anonymous message to those vendors and get those questions answered, and then follow up on where that leads.
Angi Krueger: Yeah, it's a really great tool.
Ed Bennett: Thank you.
Angi Krueger: So yeah, is there anything else that you'd like our audience to know about how this, you know, can really help them meet their needs?
Ed Bennett: Well, I think the bottom line is that this has been built by someone who has been in the industry for 20 years, who understands the pain you're going through, because I lived for a very long time. I am always going to be open to all feedback from the end user, so what their user experience is, and I'm there to help you.
Ed Bennett: If you come to my site and you're looking for something, and you couldn't find it, I want to know about it, and we'll have that conversation, and I'll make sure that the data's there for you. So, I'm a very active participant in the industry, and I'm very hands-on in making sure that this tool works for the people that need it.
Angi Krueger: Great. Well, thanks so much for your time.
Ed Bennett: My pleasure.
Angi Krueger: This is really helpful and hopefully it helped our audience better understand what your tool can do to really help them. I think it's a great tool. Even being on the other side, being a vendor in the list, it's helpful for us too, because we want to, you know, help our audience understand what we do well too. So it's just a really great tool.
Ed Bennett: Yeah, and then they don't need to look for any other vendors in your category, but there's lots of other things that they can make use of.
Angi Krueger: Right, right, exactly. Well, thanks so much for your time today, and we'll be in touch. I'm sure I'll see you at several other conferences in the near future.