Know Me: Personalizing the Customer Experience with the Power of Marketing Automation

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01/30/2019 in Blog

This article was provided by the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) of the American Hospital Association. It originally appeared in SHSMD’s Spectrum member newsletter. 

It is no secret that today’s consumer is more digitally focused than at any other time in history. In fact, a recent study by Adobe found that American consumers spend an average of 7.8 hours a day engaging with digital content[1]-- about the same amount of time they spend sleeping. Marketing leadership at Children’s Health in Dallas saw this trend as both a challenge and an opportunity.

“The Adobe consumer survey found that 42 percent said they get annoyed when their content isn’t personalized,” said Kay Kerman, Manager of Email and CRM at Children’s Health. “With so much digital content readily available, it’s hard to capture attention. Personalization strategies are becoming table stakes for brands that want to effectively compete in the digital landscape.” Children’s Health is the eighth largest pediatric health care provider in the nation, with two full-service hospitals and one rehabilitation hospital. Kerman’s team wanted to use marketing automation to deliver personalized content that met their organization’s critical business goals.

Marketing automation provides the ability to reach prospective and current patients with tailored and refined messaging,” said Sara L. Hartley, Senior Director, Client Development at Healthgrades, which is Children’s Health’s customer relationship management provider. “It allows the customer to define what is relevant to them, and enables the provider to deliver intelligent and responsive experiences that are personalized.”

Getting Started

The first step, according to Kerman, is working with your internal teams to determine the most important goals they want to achieve and what manual processes could be automated. In addition, marketers need to know who the target audience is and what the call to action should be. It is also important to test the messaging. During her due diligence, Kerman learned that the I.S. and Health Information Management departments had concerns that Children’s Health could be losing out on significant Meaningful Use (MU) incentive payments that are tied to patient use of electronic medical records.

Marketing Automation Best Practices 

Starting in September 2017, one of the first marketing automation initiatives the team developed was an engagement campaign to establish a relationship with the parents of their pediatric patients. The goal was to engage them in a frictionless registration of their child in MyChart, Children’s Health’s electronic medical record. Meaningful Use requirements mandate that providers have at least 5 percent of their patients using a patient portal in order to qualify for the MU incentive payments. MyChart enables parents to message their child’s care team, access medical records, view appointments, request prescription refills and pay bills. 

“If a patient is discharged and is not enrolled in MyChart, the parents will receive an email the following day,” Kerman said. “The email highlights the benefits of MyChart and has a link to sign-up..” Kerman tested the email subject lines to determine which had a better open rate. However, enrolling in MyChart is a two-step process that involves access codes that are valid for only 30 days. (Slide 34) After learning that many access codes were expiring without activation in MyChart, Kerman’s team introduced seven- and 28-day email reminders to register, resulting in a 12 percent decrease in the number of codes that expired. (Slide 37) Over the last 12 months, Kerman notes that 56,000 new MyChart accounts have been created, thanks in part to this initiative. 

Another marketing automation strategy deployed by Children’s Health was a re-engagement campaign. “Even though consumers may subscribe to our communications, not all of them will engage with the email,” Kerman said. “Internet service providers monitor customer engagement by domain and if those rates are low, or are marked as spam by too many recipients, they could automatically place emails in recipients’ spam folders or stop delivering our emails altogether. We decided to launch a re-engagement campaign to address this.” (Slide 48) The emails gave unengaged recipients the option of unsubscribing from emails or continuing to stay subscribed.

Early results of Children’s Health’s re-engagement campaign were initially worrisome, but eventually proved the wisdom of the strategy. “The number of people on our newsletter subscription list dropped by about 40 percent,” states Kerman. “But afterward, our email open rate increased 53 percent, and our click-through rate increased by 59 percent.” As a result, Children’s Health has now set its re-engagement campaign to run monthly. 

Key Takeaways

Marketing automation can be used to personalize and improve the customer experience and achieve company goals. Kerman advises:

  1. There is no one size fits all approach. Map out your marketing automation strategy as a flow chart so you understand what action to take next, depending on the response of the consumer.
  2. Involve your operational teams to understand how you can address their business concerns and gain buy-in before implementing marketing automation strategies.
  3. Test, test and test again. By varying the subject line verbiage in Children’s Health’s engagement campaign for MyChart, Kerman was able to see substantial improvements in the campaign’s open rate.

“There is no easy button for marketing automation,” Hartley says. “But if you do it right, you can break through the noise to create a personalized positive customer experience.”