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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Stunned but Smiling

Found out yesterday that of some 500 industry analysts now on Twitter, I ranked 34th according to analysis done by the global PR firm, Edelman.  Wow!

As some of you know, nearly a year ago I started experimenting with the application/service Twitter and put a “Twitter Feed” on the site.  I approached the use of Twitter cautiously remembering when it first arrived on the scene in 2006 and thinking WTF, why would anyone except the most egotistical ever use Twitter to broadcast what they are doing at a particular moment in time?

Well, times change and so does one’s opinion.

I began using Twitter for two specific purposes, marketing and research.

On the marketing front, I found I could use Twitter to create a following of those interested in Chilmark Research’s reports, posts and musings on all things healthcare IT.  Today, nearly 1,750 people follow @john_chilmark.  Sure,it is not Bill Gates who just joined Twitter this week and now has over a quarter of a million followers, but for this analyst working a pretty selective niche in the IT market, I’m quite pleased with the results and will probably exceed 2,000 followers in the next month or so.

For research I found Twitter to be simply an amazing resource. Rather than RSS feeds that dominated my efforts to stay abreast of developments in the healthcare space, I now use those that I follow (around 440 others) to keep me informed on the latest trends in healthcare IT, technology (e.g., cloud computing), and policy. Those I follow basically act as my filter and tweeting only about those issues which are most relevant to them.  The trick here is to choose those you wish to follow wisely.

In the twitterverse, it is important to give as well as receive. Beyond announcing Chilmark’s latest post or research effort, an area that has been particularly fruitful for me to engage my followers is attendance at various events.  In the past I used to take copious notes and write a follow-up post on a given event.  I still do this but with less frequency and have instead migrated to using Twitter to give real-time, 140 character posts of the most critical things I am seeing, hearing and/or experiencing.

Lessons Learned:

Do not write off any technology completely: One never knows how a technology might evolve and ultimately prove useful in the future.  Twitter is one of Chilmark’s top research resources today.

Define your purpose: Twitter is messy.  If you do not go in with a clear objective of what you wish to accomplish in using this service you’ll flounder aimlessly and likely walk-away.

Choose who you follow carefully: When first joining, I began “following” many who were considered social media gurus.  Have come to the conclusion that many of these gurus are utter bores with far too many inane tweets. My rule of thumb: Do not follow someone who tweets one personal event like “buying coffee at airport Starbucks…” for every 20 tweets. Creates to much noise.

Be engaged and engaging: Engage whenever you can with others on key topics of interest to you (and your followers) sharing thoughts and ideas.  Be cogent in your tweets, share knowledge, contribute.

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Earlier this month we wrote about what is arguably some of the most innovative concepts (well, they have really only piloted one, which is now preparing for broader market roll-out) from any health insurer – that from Humana and its skunk works, CrumpleItUp team.

Following SlideShare presentation provides an inside look as to how this team leveraged new marketing media techniques/technologies to get the word out about Freewheel!n.  Some good lessons here for others to emulate, and not just payers.  Our only regret, the slide show does not have a “lessons learned” slide on what they would do differently in the future.

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Anyone who has listened to a recent WebMD quarterly results webcast clearly understands where WebMD sees growth. Not too surprisingly, it is not PHRs via customized portal solutions for payers and employers, despite them having over 250 clients including such household names as EMC, IBM, WellPoint and numerous BCBS plans.

No, it is in advertising and marketing. WebMD sees a big opportunity here as healthcare companies, particularly drug companies, look for new approaches to reach the consumer beyond traditional media. Being the number one site for healthcare content with clear Brand recognition, they have a commanding lead on their competitors, something Revolution Health could not overcome despite all the $$$ invested.

But on the Internet where everything moves at a frenetic pace, such leads may be fleeting even for a company like WebMD, who must constantly look over their shoulder. With both Google and Microsoft getting into the consumer healthcare market, WebMD’s long-term prospects are not assured and vigilance and aggressive moves will be necessary.

One such move is the announcement this morning by WebMD to acquire QualityHealth.com and parent company MTS Corp. MTS (Marketing Technology Solutions) is just what its name implies, a company designed to offer healthcare companies (primarily drug companies) a channel to the consumer market, that channel being the QualityHealth website, though they do have other Internet properties as well including Nubella, a nutrition specific site and Healthpages, a yellow pages like directory for finding healthcare service providers.

The QualityHealth website is just another one of those cluttered consumer-facing health content websites with an amalgamation of health related news, a number of health related tools, e.g., the all too common BMI calculator, some social communities (which were deceptively poor – lots of cross-posts to make communities seem more active than they really are) and of course, advertisements everywhere. More duplicative of the existing WebMD and not as well executed. Taking a look at traffic statistics on Quantcast and comparing them with those of the recent post on Everyday Health, QualityHealth ranks fourth not far behind the sinking ship of Revolution Health.

So why would WebMD acquire such a property?

First, MTS has a nice list of clients and partners that WebMD can further leverage across numerous properties. Secondly, MTS “claims” to reach 9 million consumers per month via its three properties. Third, MTS has an internally built analytics, rules-based engine for targeted ads and promotions that WebMD may find some value in. Fourth, and maybe most important, we are seeing consolidation in the broad category of consumer healthcare sites as there are simply too many in the market today and traction is waning. Fifth, WebMD got a good price for MTS.

Why a good price?

Looking quickly at the MTS properties via compete.com, one sees that though the QualityHealth site is seeing growth, the other two properties are virtually stagnant over the last year (first figure below). Secondly, when one looks at average length of stay at these properties as well as page views, each important metrics to assess stickiness of a site, these properties are stagnant or worse slipping.

Bottomline:

Expect further consolidation in the market as larger players with deeper pockets (e.g., media companies, established Web properties and others) pick-up those with an established presence, a client base and stagnant growth.

Update:

WebMD paid ~$50M for MTS which reported sales of $21M in 2007.  Assuming modest growth in 2008 puts sale at roughly 2x revenue.  But WebMD will pay a bonus of $25M if certain performance metrics are met.

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Where are the 200 PHR Solutions?

Over and over again I hear the oft-stated claim that there are currently over 200 personal health record solutions available in the market today.

Problem is, I can’t find them.

The bigger problem, however, is that I hear this claim from all corners of the healthcare sector, including most PHR vendors. If anyone should have an accurate read of this market, one would think it would be the PHR vendors, but alas, this is not the case.

So how many PHR vendors are there today?

Glad you asked. According to research to date, I have uncovered the following:

  • There are well less than 100 PHR vendors today, which includes both Web-based solutions and USB solutions.  Note: I have not done an exhaustive survey of solutions in other regions of the world and I do not include simple portals.
  • Of those, roughly 40% of PHR vendors have offerings that are so poorly designed with limited functionality and/or have non-existent go-to-market strategies as to be completely irrelevant.
  • Another 40+% have potential but either their marketing strategy is far ahead of their product or they have yet to create a sales and marketing engine to successfully take their product to market.  These vendors will struggle to become relevant.
  • That leaves roughly 20% of all PHR vendors in the market today has having some form of mojo, be it product, marketing or other, that gives them relevance today and may make them successful and relevant 3 years from now.

This is an extremely young and still very immature market. Much will change in the coming three years and it is difficult to predict the eventual outcome.  There is one certainty you can bank on, however, and that is applying the 80-20 rule to this market.  Pay attention to the 20% that matter and ignore the rest.

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