Gauge the health of your marketing communications

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Your next customer may be from the health care industry. According to a recent report, “U.S. Health Care IT Expenditures by Category, 2009–2014,” by global consulting and market analytics company Compass Intelligence, IT spending will increase significantly over the next four years. The firm expects health care organizations including hospitals, private practices and clinics to spend about $73.1 billion this year on products, and services. That number will hit $85.0 billion by 2014. The take-away for technology marketers, said Stephanie Atkinson, a managing partner at Compass Intelligence, is that there are plenty of companies in dire need of advice and help.

“For marketers, the focus should be how do you share information and collaborate with the health care companies that need to make these purchases but may not have enough knowledge to do so,” she said. The biggest problem, Atkinson said, is that health care companies are being pushed to modernize their records and streamline access to patient information, but they don’t know—software aside—exactly what they will need to get it done. Add in the fact that they will be fined if they don’t make the move to electronic medical records (EMR) and you’ve got an environment ripe for mistakes and panic.

Atkinson suggested talking in ecosystem terms: How will the prospect integrate your technology into the rest of the assets and infrastructure they will need. “When you think about EMR, there are a number of things a customer will need to implement,” she said. “There’s the application and software piece. You have the network piece and the ancillary hardware components—the server, backup technology, contingency plans for emergency plans. The part of the marketing message that’s going to be really important is how will your technology make the transition to EMRs easier?”

The other wrinkle: Your prospect may be less IT-savvy than you think, she said. Sure, a large hospital will have a CIO or the equivalent making purchasing decisions, but there are more influencers to consider, even in an enterprise-size facility. Doctors, nurses and administrators, who will be using the technology, are going to have a say now, too. “Especially in the younger generation, people are coming into the health care field with opinions about technology,” Atkinson said. “They may not know which network equipment to use, but they do know they like this netbook or that handheld device. That’s going to affect the way you market. You need to market to the CIO level as well as the end user.”

Finally, pricing will be crucial for the health care market, which—in addition to the normal recessionary problems—has been hit with escalating fees and reduced rates as of late. From a technology standpoint, vendors are going to need to be more creative, she said. “More and more customer are looking for monthly reoccurring fees rather than outright purchases that affect the capital expenses budget. If you can tie the equipment cost in with any service fees, you’re going to have a significant selling advantage.” The same goes for service providers, Atkinson said. “People don’t want rated services. They want a flat fee,” she added. “Anything you can do to help someone manage their cash flow is going to create a loyal customer.”

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