By: Jamie Williams, Chief Customer Officer & Co-Founder of The Customer Lifetime Value Group
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on business operations and finding ways to maximize the virtual-only engagements we have with our customers and colleagues. However, the travel limitations and arguably additional time that seems to add up over the week can have its perks. For example, one of my lifelong friends and I were able to find time to discuss how the pandemic has impacted our work. I was so genuinely impressed by her ability to adapt her marketing plans to the situation COVID-19 presented, I begged her to let me run a virtual Q&A with her to capture the details and reflect on what she learned. I hope it’s equally as inspiring to those continuing to work through building flexibility into their plan as it was to me! Kristi, and team, you have so much to be proud of!
Kristi Annes, VP of Marketing at Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO) and would-be “Top 8” (yes, a MySpace reference!), was up against an incredible challenge when her most high-priority trade show for 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19. This cancellation stimulated innovative solutions and responses from Kristi and her team, as well as a skillful display of agility and adaptability.
J: So, COVID-19 hit and your top event of the year was right around the corner. Give me a run-down on what the situation was from inside IMO…
K: It was a whirlwind. Three business days before the exhibit hall was scheduled to open for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, IMO made the tough but necessary decision to withdraw from the show. We had 100 pre-scheduled meetings on the books. Our staff was trained and ready to achieve ambitious lead goals. The entire company heard our plans to broadcast our new brand and unveil a gorgeous new exhibit booth. Our energy was palpable. We were poised to make this the most successful conference in IMO’s 25-year history. To say we were devastated is an understatement.
J: That is a lot to deal with and we can all relate to some extent on what your team went through – but what did you learn?
K: How critical our technology partnerships are and what level of strategic guidance they bring with them! When B2B decision makers consider a six- or seven figure investment in a tech partner, you better believe they have expectations that you will understand their current challenges, business priorities and KPIs, especially during uncertain economic times.
As conferences and events continue to get cancelled through the coming months, it is critical to empathize with how your target persona is impacted by these changes and adapt your approach to engaging them appropriately. Not only will your message resonate better, but you’ll avoid coming across as tone deaf if you don’t truly exhibit empathy.
J: It is so beneficial to expect the unexpected in these situations and have the right partners with you to see your plans through. What impact did foresight and planning have on swiftly shifting to plan b? What did it allow you to do?
K: In one day, we: decided to withdraw from the conference for the safety of our staff; created a new comms plan within the hour; and 2 hours later created a second comms plan after HIMSS formally cancelled. A week later we launched a new digital campaign with new content and creative material.
J: This is a great example of how important it is to have a strong toolkit prepared within our teams to pull out during unexpected times. What role did your customers play during this time?
K: We quickly acknowledged the lemons, then got to work making the proverbial lemonade. Our focus quickly shifted away from our pains and onto those of our customers – the health care systems who stood on the front lines. The cancellation of HIMSS meant our customers would miss out on peer-led education sessions and opportunities to strategize with their vendor partners. Our clients couldn’t afford to think about what might have been.
Now, facing COVID-19 head on was their reality: the need was to move forward constantly in order to serve their communities and the patients who live in them. Planning for a new campaign took economic and market conditions into consideration, along with customer behavior and engagement data derived from our CRM and marketing automation systems.
J: Absolutely – I know we agree that awareness of the customer’s experience is always the priority, particularly in such a sensitive situation like this… how does data and technology play a role in seeing that through?
K: Since I joined IMO a year ago, we’ve been very focused on bringing in new technology and building internal skills that help us execute more efficiently. Our tech stack continues to grow as we add new tools and integrations that enable our team to work smarter, not harder.
New tech is great, but it’s also important to have people on the team who can properly leverage the capabilities of your tooling, access the data, and construct insights that provide value in the decision-making process. For IMO, we focused on meeting the expectations of our customers when it came to alternative engagement opportunities. In this case, creating digital experiences was the only answer.
J: I am so grateful for the insight you’ve shared! Finally, I’d like to ask what recommendation would you make to any Marketing leader reading this today?
K: I would say 3 things:
1. Flexibility and speed enable survival (and sanity)
Our plans are only as good as the assumptions we leverage to create them. Leave room in your marketing plans (and your budgets) for unforeseen events. You will stress less, which frees up room in your brain to innovate and think creatively when your customers/the market/a virus throws you a curveball.
2. Be deliberate with strategic marketing investments
Naturally, during uncertain market conditions you should be prudent with budgets to support your overall business. If you can, use your team’s flexibility to evaluate partnerships. Halt investments that aren’t providing quantifiable results and find new partners who will innovate and invest in your success. Now is not the time to cut investments in marketing. We have to keep going. Continue to remain visible and supportive of your customers, in both predictable and unexpected ways.
3. Options can be good
Giving your customers different ways to consume your content is a good thing. Repurposing content into different formats – for example, turning a whitepaper into a webinar presentation, infographic and a blog post – provides customers and prospects with different ways to engage with you. Don’t forget to track that consumption so you invest time in creating the kind of content that best resonates with your audience.
At IMO, we are dedicated to powering care as you intended, through a platform that is intelligent, intuitive, and intentional. We offer a portfolio of products that includes terminologies and value sets that are clinically vetted, always current, and maintenance-free. This aligns to provider organisations’ missions, EHR platforms’ inherent power, and the evolving vision of the healthcare industry while ensuring accurate care documentation and administrative codes. So clinicians can get back to being clinicians, health systems can get reimbursed, and patients can more easily engage in their own care. As intended.
As pioneers in developing People Based Identity strategies and the application within digital transformation programs, The Customer Lifetime Value Group exists to create more equitable relationships between a brand and its customers. The boutique consultancy group combines 35 years + of world leading experience across Identity, Data and MarTech/AdTech, to develop a proprietary set of assessment frameworks, guiding principles and prioritised engagement blueprints which align Identity with business value. The CLV Group take an independent approach to showing brands different and more pragmatic ways to grow by developing identity assets, transformation strategies and investment decisions that span the Customer Lifecycle, whilst creating new stories and moments for their Customers.