Digital Health and Social Media – Dr. Jonah Berger on Spreading Ideas in Health IT #HIMSS16

From keynotes to education sessions to the exhibition floor, the ideas shared between Health IT professionals at HIMSS16 this week have been impressive. The new technologies and trends brought forth at this year’s conference have the ability to drive tremendous change in the healthcare industry, both throughout the United States and worldwide.

Now, as this year’s conference winds down and thousands of health IT professionals carry new ideas back to their organizations, what remains to be seen is how those ideas will spread.

As best-selling author and Wharton School of Business Professor of Marketing, Dr. Jonah Berger, noted in Friday’s morning keynote session, 91% of new business in B2B markets—including healthcare IT—come from existing business. That means it’s not the direct marketing messages, but those our current customers will share with their peers, that will ultimately make the greatest long-term impact.

If you missed this morning’s keynote or are following the conference from afar, here are the four biggest takeaways Dr. Berger shared this morning about improving your healthcare technology’s business’s word of mouth marketability.

The Curse of Knowledge: Can Your Grandma Understand Your Message?

As you walk through the exhibitions halls and sit in on education sessions at HIMSS16, one of the first things an outsider may hear is a sea of acronyms and buzzwords. HDHP. EMR. HCPCS. Interoperability. After awhile, it all starts to sounds like a foreign language. And that, Berger argues, is a health IT marketer’s biggest curse.

“When you know a lot about something,” Berger says, “you assume that everyone else knows a lot about it also. But if our audience can’t understand our message, it doesn’t matter that we understand it.”

To illustrate this, Berger noted the classic litmus test. Could your grandma understand what you’re talking about? Many health IT marketers will argue that it’s not that simple. After all, the products and ideas behind changing healthcare IT solutions are highly complex.

But Berger pushes back. “If we can’t explain something the way our audience can understand it, it doesn’t matter how nuanced and complex it is. They won’t adopt it.”

Social Currency: How Can You Make People Feel Special and In the Know?

Whether in healthcare IT or any other industry, every marketer everywhere is looking for that magic idea, video, or marketing campaign that will go viral—but Dr. Berger argues that especially in the B2B avenue of health IT, viral campaigns aren’t actually what we need. After all, this isn’t just about social media. Only 7% of word of mouth happens online.

“We don’t need a viral video,” Berger says, “all we need is each person we’ve worked with to share with just one other person.”

Health IT marketers can achieve those one to one word of mouth connections through what Berger calls social currency.

“The best way to get others to share our message is to make them look good. The better it makes them look to share, the more likely they are to share it.”

Triggers: What’s Your Peanut Butter?

“Complete this sentence,” Berger asked, “Peanut butter and…”

“JELLY!” The audience responded in unison.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Berger argued, “Peanut butter should really get a kickback from jelly for that kind of marketability.”

We all know that healthcare technology isn’t always naturally remarkable. It’s complex and nuanced. Frankly, for the average population, it’s pretty boring. Health IT isn’t the kind of thing people naturally talk about—so how, then, are healthcare marketers supposed to build word of mouth marketing for their messages?

The answer, Berger says, is to find your peanut butter. What is something that your product can be integrated with, so that whenever someone thinks of that thing, they are more likely to think of your product as well?

This may be a partnering product that is commonly used with yours, or even a product you can solve. By creating an association with something that is more likely to be top of mind, Berger encouraged that Health IT professionals can more easily make their own product or service memorable as well.

Stories: The Vessels That Carry Your Ideas

Whether in the keynotes, the education sessions, or on the exhibition floor this week, an amazing amount of information and incredible ideas have been shared this week at HIMSS. But as attendees head home to their day-to-day lives and careers, Berger encouraged, “notice what ideas stay top of mind a week or two after the conference ends. It’s the stories that you’ll remember.”

Healthcare technology is a tremendously data driven industry, and with good reason. Providers and payers are making critical patient care decisions every day, and they need the best information available to do so. But to carry those kernels of information to your audience, you need the engaging exterior of a powerful story.

“People don’t share product information,” Berger argues. “You need the trojan horse of a good story to carry your message along for the ride.”

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