CMO Insights: Suzanne Sawyer, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Penn Medicine

November 1, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Suzanne Sawyer, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Penn Health Systems.

In this video, Suzanne discusses

  • The changing role of marketing over the years and especially in healthcare marketing
  • How to balance being a customer-centric organization with the need to ensure personal information is secure
  • The importance of developing a roadmap with meaningful data, not just a mashup of data

Learn more about Suzanne from her LinkedIn profile and follow Penn Health on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to have Suzanne Sawyer, who is Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Marketing at Penn Health Systems, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Suzanne, welcome to the show.

Suzanne Sawyer:

Thanks Jeff. Great to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So first of all, wow, what, what a great institution. I grew up in South and central Jersey. So very familiar with the university of Pennsylvania. So, but tell us a little bit more about your role and who are you marketing to and some of your responsibilities?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Well, well, first of all, I’m so thrilled to hear that you’re familiar with Penn. It’s an incredible organization and very delighted to be part of it. My role is a VPN CMO is really to help build the brand and medicine and really to help build the business course. And who are we marketing to? Well, we’re really marketing to the mid Atlantic region. People who are patients or consumers, even don’t currently have healthcare issues, but who certainly have health that they want and need to maintain. And so you talked to the general public in that way, but we also speak to what you might call more of a B to B kind of audience. We speak to community-based referring physicians or community based specialists may send patients to Penn medicine or subspecialty care.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. So what are some of your differentiators? So, because I know there’s a couple of big health systems right in the area, some other conglomerates of hospitals and institutions. So what is it that makes Penn stand apart?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Well, Penn has been known for many, many years as an institution that focuses really in advanced medicine and subspecialty care. So when I say that, that means things like the most advanced cancers issues in terms of the neurosciences, heart failure, heart transplantation, rare and orphan diseases, things like this. And so that has been the legacy of Penn medicine. And when recently through acquisition and affiliations and alliances, Penn’s health system has grown and we’ve partnered with and acquired community-based hospitals, health systems as well. And so now Patty is more than we’ve been if you will, in a certain sense.

So we still have that legacy strength of being one of the top 10 hospitals and health systems in the United States among the highest one, two or three medical schools in the United States and big recipient of NIH funding. But in addition, we now also have community based partners who offer primary care and care close to home. So regardless of where you are in the region, you can access the medicine physician for both frequent every day, primary care needs, as well as easy access to subspecialty care.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s fantastic. So, you know, you’ve been doing this for awhile. What what’s changed the most in marketing for you over the last few years?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Yes. I think there have been an awful lot of changes in, in marketing in general and certainly in healthcare marketing. And I think for us here at Penn and really throughout this industry, it has been our real strong focus in what we call precision marketing. And it’s really the use of marketing technology, marketing data, and an effort to really connect more one-to-one with each of these key audiences that was about the referring physicians, as well as patients, families, caregivers and the like, and so it has really been the fact that as mentioned, there are so many health systems that are really terrific organizations in this market. It made us really rethink how we go to market a little bit differently. Out, I would say about seven years ago, we felt that there was essentially a mass media arms race going on in the Philadelphia market about six academic medical centers near the 80 acute care hospitals.

And there was an awful lot of mass media expense, as you might imagine in this market. And while Penn has always enjoyed a very strong brand here, I think we felt that this is a conservative organization, and I think we felt that we were not likely to continue, we’re willing to continue to spend in mass media, same levels. And so it really got me thinking that it would be a good idea for us to look at taking a more precise David driven approach to trying to connect with people who were actively searching for healthcare. And that’s what led us to first invest in a CRM platform and then to build it from there.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. So you mentioned technology a few times besides CRM. What other types of technologies have you invested in?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Well, we use our CRM for lots of things, certainly to connect with those audiences that I mentioned. We also use it with our physician liaisons go out and communicate with that physician audience, as I said, and then we also integrate it into our call center, which is a large customer facing call center. In addition to that, that CRM for each of those audiences, we also have a CMS system. And we have really all, all of the tools in the set, social listening marketing automation. We really have all of the technology stack if you will, that we might need for the garden market activity personalization from the CMS. And then we’ve also invested significantly in our data, really our data set and the development of the marketing data warehouse as well.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Do you have any unique challenges because you’re in healthcare, dealing with the governance with clients, how you are approaching, setting up your technology and how you’re doing your marketing?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Yeah, that’s a really great question. We do, you know, when it comes to healthcare, it’s very important to do a couple of things. One is to be very customer centric, patient centric, and to understand that when people are searching for information, it’s very often because they are facing a difficult medical situation. And so being sure to communicate in a straight up responsible kind of way, people are looking for information, they’re looking for answers, they’re looking for the best way to connect. And so we take that very seriously.

It can’t be about hype. Can’t be about fear. It has to be straight up communications. That’s respectful of the patient and the caregiver. First off, I would say in addition to that, there are always privacy concerns. We call it hip hop. As many people are familiar with patient privacy issues. And so it’s very important that we as marketers understand what the rules of the road are in terms of personal health information. And in fact, you don’t access any of the personal health information for any purpose, other than to communicate with existing patients to let them know about additional resource that could be available to them, like support groups or clinical trials or care associated with the condition that is that they are being treated for. So yes, there are some special circumstances around marketing.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. So tell me a little bit about the type of teams that you build. One, because you have obviously invested in a lot of technology and data over those last few years is the type of person that you’re now hiring or skills is that changing in terms of what you’re looking for and then to have you changed the structure of your team in any way to address how you’re doing marketing now versus what you were doing a few years ago,

Suzanne Sawyer:

We certainly have changed quite a bit. When we first got started, actually, when I first arrived at Penn just about out 10 years ago, we were good at essentially getting the print ad to the newspaper on time. We were strong tactically and strong in traditional types of tactics. And switching over to more of a precision marketing focus has really led us to think about what kind of skills did we feel like we would need. And so we started then to reimagine our structure and the kinds of positions that should have. And in those early days, I would say required for three basic areas. One was strategy strategy first, really having a good understanding of what are the business needs of our clinical partners. When we have a large cancer center, when we have a large neurosciences program, we want to help make sure that they reach the kinds of patients that are most likely to be most need of their services.

And we want to reach those referring physicians and also appropriately send patients at the most appropriate point in the, in the course of their care. So strategy first was important and that’s also important because as I suggested a moment ago, once upon a time, I think this team was probably viewed more as order takers and for sure makers and things like that, but we really felt that it was important to represent marketing as a strong strategic business function. So strategy first, and then next, we really realized that while we had a good strong web team, we needed to think about that group in a broader view. And so we, for technical skills to help us with things like building landing pages and really helping us integrate a lot of the data that we would have also, which leads me to the third area, which is analytics.

We knew that by running digital campaigns and all that goes with it we would have access to an enormous amount of data as we know have. And what that meant is how would we make sense of it and how would we really use that data to understand what works, what doesn’t work and even how to do predictive modeling around who’s most likely to be at risk of certain kinds of diseases and conditions, and how do we best engage with people based on their search habits and patterns and how they react to different types of campaign activity.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Wow. That’s so it sounds like you’ve put off a lot of work to do this. So with these changes, are you measured on different things today than what you were a few years ago? And then what is your day, and then what are you holding your team accountable for?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Well, now that we have so much data, we can, we can track so much. We have really invested, you know, marketing in that X and now have live Tablo reports that our teams use really for three different levels of reporting. The first it’s really taking a look at campaign activity, really from the managing the campaign that we have, what’s working, what doesn’t, you know and what to do about it. And then next is really kinds of metrics that are appropriate to share with our internal clinical colleagues and clients internally, if you will, people who, as I suggested in cancer, in the sciences, cardiovascular, and so on are really trying to achieve certain business targets and they’re relying on us to help help them do that. So we have a set of reports around where are we in terms of our, say a quarterly budget for talking about, for example, heart failure and how many needs have come in.

And are we ahead of pace or behind pace in terms of where we thought we would be against that budget and against effort. And so we monitor that regularly among so many other metrics, but those are the kinds of things that we share with our internal colleagues to say, here’s where our targets were. Here’s how we’re performing. Now, let’s think about this sort of in a portfolio marketing sense of, should we shift, or should we shift effort? Should we test some other approaches and how to differentiate? Of course. And then the third level of communications and reporting with a lot of this data and analytics is really at the executive level. And there we take a look at, as I was suggesting sort of the whole portfolio of all that we are doing, not just for clinical service lines, but for all of our hospitals, our sites on employed faculty are affiliated providers and so on. So there’s a lot to share.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So Suzanne you’ve definitely had a great handle on everything. In closing any words of wisdom or some of your colleagues as they approach some of their own transformations?

Suzanne Sawyer:

Well, I think one of our biggest learnings over these last several years is I, you know, I think we, we we invested significantly both in the technology as well as in the people and the data. And I think we’ve learned that in many ways, while it’s been extremely successful for us putting it all together is harder than it looks, making all these systems work well together, mashing up the data, if you will pending new data sources to existing records and make it come out in a meaningful kind of way. So that we’re really getting at the other end, what we were hoping to by having more data, not just having more data, but making it meaningful. And so I think one of the things that we’ve learned is at thinking about it as essentially a marketing maturity over time, not trying to do it all at once.

It really we’ve invested ourselves in taking time to develop a roadmap first, a strategic marketing plan. How does everything fit? What are the priorities, but to add to that, a marketing technology roadmap, what are we investing in in a multi-year kind of way, and how are we going to support training for the people who we’re bringing on board? And to that end, I think we’ve just found that it’s easy to either get tools that we may not be able to support well right away out of the box, if you will, unless we invest in training, unless we have a plan and then to hardwire things as we go and as we learn. So I guess my point was it’s a little bit harder than looks, or then sometimes people make it seem like it’s going to be what was the proper amount of planning and hiring good people, at least here at Penn, and really pleased that we’ve been able to pull it together in a meaningful way.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Very well. So Suzanne, it’s easy to see why you’re having so much success over there. Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Suzanne Sawyer:

Thanks very much Jeff, it’s been a pleasure.

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