By: Jane Weber Brubaker
Ask the Expert, with Don Stanziano
Don Stanziano is corporate vice president of marketing and communications at Scripps Health, an integrated healthcare delivery network in San Diego with ߸ve acute care hospitals; 30 ambulatory clinics; 14,000 employees; 3,000 physicians; and $2.9 billion in annual revenue. Stanziano leads branding, public relations, internal communications, and call center marketing, as well as digital-߸rst demand generation marketing for service lines, digital marketing technology platforms, the consumer website, and social media.
Don Stanziano is corporate vice president of marketing and communications at Scripps Health, an integrated healthcare delivery network in San Diego with five acute care hospitals; 30 ambulatory clinics; 14,000 employees; 3,000 physicians; and $2.9 billion in annual revenue. Stanziano leads branding, public relations, internal communications, and call center marketing, as well as digital-first demand generation marketing for service lines, digital marketing technology platforms, the consumer website, and social media.
Like many health system marketers, Stanziano’s background is in public relations, not digital marketing. So we were intrigued when we heard him make this statement in a recent podcast: “We’re not doing any offline marketing until we’ve got the online marketing piece wired.” How did Stanziano make the shift from a “PR guy” to data-driven marketer?
In our latest interview, Stanziano shares his thoughts on the evolving role of marketing in healthcare organizations, and how he keeps himself and his staff current to meet the ever-changing demands of today’s digital environment.
eHST: You’ve been in your current position for seven years now. How have things changed for you and your department?
DS: There’s been a move away from traditional marketing communications tactics toward shifting those resources to more measurable data-driven marketing.
eHST: How have you been able to make that shift?
DS: We were not data owners in marketing when I took over the role. As a PR guy coming in and having responsibility for marketing, I started asking, “How do we know if what we’re doing is working? Why are we choosing this strategy? Why these tactics? Why these messages?” And it was clear that the decisions were not being informed by data, and there was no way to track and measure really what was happening as a result of our campaigns.
eHST: How did you correct that?
DS: One of the things I’m most proud of in the last seven years is that we’ve brought on a CRM. I started talking to other colleagues around the country and vendors in the space. I realized we needed to get a CRM so we could have access to our own data, connected with what was going on across the health system. What was interesting is the fact that, because we didn’t have a legacy CRM, we were able to really look at the intersection of data and digital.
eHST: How has the CRM changed things?
DS: Our entire approach to marketing has become more demand-generation focused. We’re tagging and tracking all of our tactics with the goal of generating leads, and working with operations to make sure that the leads are converting. This past year we installed a new software system in our marketing call center that’s an extension of our CRM platform. We’re not running any campaigns that are not running through our call center or our website, so we can see those conversion points and we have more control over what’s happening at the conversion point.
eHST: What advice can you give other marketers who are strong in PR but aren’t digital experts?
DS: First of all, I absolutely respect anyone who has a deep background in any area of the marketing portfolio. I am not a digital marketing expert in the sense that I am not doing the hands-on work. But I think if you’re going to lead this function, you need to have enough understanding of how it works, and how it’s connected.
eHST: How did you educate yourself? And what advice do you have for other healthcare marketing executives?
D: Get out there and talk to people. I go to conferences, SHSMD, HMPS, and HCIC. I look outside the industry too. I read trade publications like yours, Ad Age, and others. There’s plenty out there, available to you. I’m a big fan of HBR—I like its coverage of marketing. Getting perspectives from outside of healthcare is important.
eHST: Have you had to make adjustments in your staff to execute on the shift to digital?
DS: When we chose Evariant as our CRM vendor, I leaned on them to provide consulting to help evolve my team, and I did bump up the digital team. We added some FTEs there, and that allowed us to bring in some more sophisticated talent on the digital side. That was helpful in getting our consumer-facing website and our digital marketing work to another level. I’m hopeful that over the next few months we’ll be bringing in additional new talent that will take the team to the next level. I learn a lot from these younger people who are digital natives and have spent their whole life in this space. I think it’s healthy to have a certain amount of turnover so that you can continue to refresh the talent pool.
eHST: Do you feel the analytics tools strengthen your department’s profile within your organization?
DS: I’ve worked in health systems long enough to know that financial success ebbs and flows and marketing communications is always an area that’s targeted for cuts when times are tough. I want to make sure that I’m delivering value, and I can’t do that if I can’t report out on the effectiveness of the work that we’re doing. That’s the only way that we’re going to be able to protect and preserve our budgets and our staffing.
eHST: I hear from many organizations that marketers are often placed in a reactive rather than proactive role. Has that been a challenge for you?
DS: One of the challenges that I have had with staff is that they were so programmed to be pleasers and order takers. It’s been healthy to have some turnover to bring in new team members who want to be proactive and drive a strategy with an internal client. I’m a big believer in that you have to give to get. You have to build rapport with your clients and your stakeholders before they will accept your counsel. I tell my staff that good counsel isn’t about saying no, it’s about doing the work that we believe is going to add the most value. It’s about reframing the conversation with your stakeholders, with your internal clients, in a way that you’re talking about the business need. What does success look like? If you’re starting a conversation with tactics, you’re already in trouble.
eHST: So how do you reframe those conversations?
DS: When I end up in those conversations, I might say, “I understand why you might want to do that sponsorship. I understand why you might want that billboard. But can we just take a couple steps back and talk about what’s really going on here with this program? What do your volumes look like? What’s the contribution margin on this service? Let’s talk about your payer mix? How do your patients come to you? Is this even a service where patients are self-referring? If not, then we need to talk about how we’re getting information in front of your referring physicians.” And so, when you start going down that path, you start to see light bulbs go off in their head.
eHST: Can you give us a specific example?
DS: I’m often asked why I’m not spending more on TV advertising. There’s an assumption that if we don’t have TV commercials on during Jeopardy! or Good Morning America that we’re not marketing. But we’re doing several service line campaigns right now that use only online tactics. This data-driven approach is mostly digital with maybe a little bit of offline. We’re looking at offline as a way to lift the digital efforts instead of it being the foundation and making digital the afterthought. Paid search. Well-developed landing pages. Engaging content. Multiple calls to action. We’re delivering results and our stakeholders get it. When they see the leads generated and new patient volume, they stop asking about billboards and TV ads.
eHST: A lot of organizations feel marketing doesn’t have the respect that the marketing department feels that it deserves. Where do you think your organization is in that regard?
DS: I think we take a couple steps forward and then we end up taking a step back. As a discipline in this industry, we still have a long way to go. The good news is that we are on track to make big gains in the next few years through the data we are collecting across our digital platforms. Our standing in the organization is tied to our ability to demonstrate—to quantify—our value with data. We will get respect when we can draw a direct line from marketing effort to the bottom line of the organization. Did we increase patient enrollment? Did we generate new revenue? Did we grow market share? Or, in a population health model, did we encourage patient behavior toward wellness programs? Did we keep the patients inside our network? When we can do this, marketing will no longer be seen as a cost center but a strategic investment. That should be every health system CMO’s goal.