Vendors must do better understanding CIO needs, survey shows

Photo: Erin Erban

Only 60% of health system chief information officers say they believe health IT marketers understand and market to their unique needs, a new report shows – while 55% think marketers could do a better job of understanding the problem they are trying to solve.

These are some of the findings of a report titled, 2023 Healthcare Technology Marketing Guide: Marketing and Selling to the Health System CIO, which surveyed 20 health system CIOs. The report is the product of the Merritt Group and 72Point’s research division, OnePoll.

The Merritt Group is a woman-led strategic communications firm celebrating its 25th anniversary. A mid-sized agency, it has a dedicated healthcare practice and specializes in public relations, messaging, branding/creative, content strategy and creation, demand and lead generation, and more.

Healthcare IT News interviewed Erin Erban, a healthcare expert at the Merritt Group, to dive into the survey results.

Q. What is the overarching thrust of what you’ve discovered from the survey? What’s the message healthcare CIOs are sending?

A. What we discovered is many vendors are not meaningfully connecting with CIOs in the way they think they are – or hope to – with their current marketing efforts.

CIOs want vendors to do more research and bring in voices that actually understand the realities of working in a health system – or better yet, voices that work in one. CIOs want vendors to make it easier for them to learn about products’ value and impact through short, digestible content.

And rather than just being self-serving and promotional, vendors should offer proof related to how their solutions can help – not just ideas. The CIOs surveyed also made it clear that cost and ROI are paramount, which is unsurprising given the current climate in the healthcare industry.

Q. Where do health system CIOs go looking for new vendor products?

A. Our survey found the top place CIOs get information about new health tech products is events – surprising given the anecdotal buzz we have heard about many events still not quite living up to their pre-COVID days. 50% of CIOs also say they learn about new products from their peers and colleagues, third-party or industry analyst reports, and content from vendors themselves.

Interestingly, the top market force influencing health tech buying decisions is media and news coverage. In terms of where CIOs like to get their news – the most popular answers were trade publications, medical journals, and national or business outlets.

Despite just 50% saying they get information from peers/colleagues/word of mouth, those CIOs that do seek out the advice of peers and industry influencers also said they were heavily influenced by it. In fact, 90% of CIOs say key opinion leaders are very or somewhat influential in the purchasing decision.

There are a wide variety of avenues to reach and influence CIOs, and it is important that vendors keep all of these stakeholders in mind in their efforts.

Q. What types of vendor content do health system CIOs like the most?

A. When asked about preferred health tech vendor content, the top response from CIOs was informational or online videos with 75% of CIOs responding with that answer. This was somewhat surprising – we certainly did not expect videos to be the No. 1 answer.

Visuals are clearly important to CIOs, so vendors should keep this in mind when developing content and determining which types of content to lead with in pitches or at industry events.

Coming in second was case studies, which was unsurprising. Demonstrating impact via case studies has been a tried-and-true method to reach and influence CIOs.

It is important that vendors show their real-world value and impact, and examples of how the technology is currently performing are critical – but of course there is a broad spectrum of how vendors develop and present case studies, so it would be interesting to explore how their length impacts the degree CIOs find them valuable.

Vendor websites and webinars each had 60%. There has been a lot of conversation in the industry around webinar fatigue, but webinars are clearly still a somewhat important source of information for CIOs. It is important that vendors be strategic about the content in their webinars and on their website and ensure that it really speaks to the needs of health systems.

Q. What do health system CIOs think of the current trade show landscape?

A. Anecdotally, we have heard many events held since COVID-19 are not reaching the same scale and having the same impact they used to – many of our health tech clients have noted this to be the case. It’s interesting because health system CIOs seem to disagree. The majority of healthcare CIOs (75%) say they prefer to get information about vendors from events.

Something we may infer from this but would warrant further discussions is that CIOs still find value in attending events because they can ask very specific questions about their unique needs that likely wouldn’t be answered in content, but also that there is less room for vendors to “hide behind the curtain” of a sharp marketing program.

For better or for worse, CEOs probably draw conclusions about vendors based on how much they are impressed by their representation at these shows.

Q. What should health IT vendors take away from your survey?

A. The top takeaway for health IT vendors is that the traditional PR and marketing methods are working – they just need to be used wisely and presented in the right way.

We know media, case studies, events, video, etc., are powerful tools, as long as the right messages are weaved throughout them. CIOs made it clear they want to see two key messages: cost savings and clinical validation. Spending too much time on content without them might just be a waste of time and not achieve what you’re hoping to.

When asked about the biggest sources of conflict between themselves and other stakeholders involved in the buying decision, the top two answers were cost and the level of clinical validation. 60% of CIOs would like vendors to lead with a cost-benefit/ROI message.

Vendors must be better about demonstrating their value in these areas in order to make the buying journey smoother for CIOs – especially during challenging economic times where every penny is scrutinized.

In every piece of content that is written, video that is created, event that is attended, health IT vendors must lead with an ROI message. While newer companies in the space may not have that data, they can use patient and provider stories, or demonstrate how they are working to collect that data. Showing that ROI and clinical impact is key to moving forward and moving health systems forward in a vendor’s marketing funnel.

There certainly is more research to be done, but we hope this survey provides some valuable initial insights for the mature and emerging health tech vendors developing their marketing plans for 2023.

Follow Bill’s HIT coverage on LinkedIn: Bill Siwicki
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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