Jennifer Michelle, President of Michelle Marketing Strategies highlights what is voice of customer marketing, how to capture it, and the best way to leverage it to bring in new clients for your agency.
Welcome to Vision | The Home Care Leaders podcast, I’m Miriam Allred from Home Care Pulse. My guest today is Jennifer Michelle, the Founder and President of Michelle Marketing Strategies. Jennifer, welcome to the show!
This is such a neat opportunity. You have been connected with Home Care Pulse and for a number of years now. And you’ve got experience with marketing in a couple of different industries, but have kind of tailored your services towards healthcare organizations over the last few years. So we’re excited to hear a little bit about yourself and about voice of customer marketing. That’s kind of your niche focus for healthcare at large, so excited to have this conversation.
Let’s really jump right in and talk about voice of customer marketing and research. That’s what you’re helping organizations do. So break it down for our audience, really just high level. What is voice of customer marketing and how do you go about the research?
Well, voice of customer marketing is really about putting the customer, whatever the business is at the heart of your marketing. So instead of trying to push something on them and make them think the way you want them to think, you kind of try and explore and understand what they’re already thinking, what they’re already wanting and feeling, and then use that information in your marketing so that it already resonates. And it’s just, not only does it help you better understand what they’re looking for, but it’s not as difficult. You’re not pushing to get into their mind. Like I, an example I heard years ago was like, you know, you’re going to have a hard time convincing people that crest suddenly makes marinara sauce because everybody thinks toothpaste. So you know why try and fight it, you know, just go with what people are already thinking. It does. So if people are already thinking certain things about, you know, a home health care and what they’re wanting, and what’s important to them, then lead with that in your marketing, instead of trying to go in a different direction. It doesn’t mean you can’t add additional things on. It’s just really about meeting people where they are. Let’s
Talk about the steps to efficiently capture, you know, the voice of your actual customers. I know you work with all sorts of organizations, large and small and different industries, but let’s talk about some of the steps you help them walk through to capture and use the voice of their actual customers.
Well, you know, it really, it depends what your resources are and they can vary, you know, depending on the situation, but there are usually the in-person things. So you might do an interview for instance, with some people who are your best clients, so that you really understand what the people who love, what you do. I’m sorry. So that you really understood that people who really love what you do love about what you do. You know, like, you know, that they’re really happy, but what is it that makes them so happy? So talking with them, talking with potential customers so that you have a sense of what they’re looking for when they’re still searching. Sometimes you have a group of people and in home health care, that could be your caregivers who could hear directly from your clients, what it is the clients talk about and what they’re asking.
It could be the people in the office who talk with the families and listen to what they’re saying, what they’re worried about and what they’re asking about. But it’s not always that direct, you know, you can’t always do that. Sometimes people do surveys and surveys can be incredibly beneficial about asking for things that maybe you can’t ask people directly, or maybe you can only ask a handful of people directly, but with a survey, especially with email, you can get that out to a whole lot of people, but sometimes you can use other sources. For instance, if you have online reviews there, you know, they are wonderful sources of information for what people are valuing and the way they phrase it and the way they think about things. So just exploring all of that information, even if you ever get like a thank you letter from a family that in and of itself is a source of information about understanding what was valuable to them and how they value you for the things that you do and how they think about it. That might not have been what you expect.
And I’m sure a big part of this is habit and training your staff or yourself to document, document all of these different touch points that could be used in your marketing. And I think, you know, maybe people shy away because they think it’s a lot or it’s additional to their existing workload to document all of these instances where they could capture this voice of customer, voice of their customers. So any advice there on just getting started and training yourself, your office staff, to gather this feedback ongoing?
Well, it’s so funny the way you say that, because we’re both marketers. So we do see it that way, but I think most people just think, oh, we got to thank you notes. So they’re not thinking that this is really valuable that this is a lot of insight right here. So I think it’s just helping people understand that every interaction is important. So collecting that information, it could be just a weekly or a monthly debrief about, you know, what are people talking about when you’re, you know, when you’re meeting with your clients, you’re, if you’re seeing their families, what are they talking about? What is coming up? You know, are you hearing any thing about what they’re looking for or what’s concerning them? So it can be a mixture of reminding people, you know, make a note of what they say, or, you know, save things that are, you know, little emailed thank yous, or, but it can also be just making a regular touch point in your normal meeting schedule or your normal, just talking with people, review schedule to say, Hey, what are you hearing? Because you know, the people who are hearing it may not understand it the way that your marketing team understands it, but they’re hearing it maybe more because, you know, we’re as marketers, we’re usually back in the office, we’re not working as directly one-on-one with people. So it’s really just about helping everybody maybe understand that that information is very important and then just working away and to collect that.
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s take a step back a little bit. You’ve got a background in international health, epidemiology, parasitology, you know, you have kind of a medically trained background, but then, you know, marketing caught your attention. I’m just curious how you found this niche and this need for voice of customer marketing in the healthcare space.
Yeah. It was nothing like that. Actually. I wouldn’t say I have a medical background. It’s epidemiology. I have a public health background, more specifically a maybe an international or global health background. And I was working on a number of different projects and some nonprofits USAid contracts over the years. And on the side I started an athletic wear company. I started doing clothing for pole fitness and I, cause I couldn’t find any that I liked and I wanted nice clothes like yoga has, you know, but that would literally work for the acrobatics involved. And so I started designing them and I really designed them just for me because I needed them. But then of course I wanted to sell them or I couldn’t have afforded to make them just for me. And in doing that, I realized I had been so focused on getting the first batch produced and going into business to make that first round of manufacturing.
And I never thought about Ben, what happens in somebody I knew at the time looked at me and said, okay, so they bought one pair. Now what, you know, they bought the shorts, they bought the magic athletic wear that you made. What happens next week? How do you keep them interested? What are you going to want them to buy a second pair? You know, I hadn’t even thought about it. I just was so focused on the creation. And after that I was like, huh. And I started learning about content marketing and I learned about how Google search works and started doing that more and more and more just in my spare time reading about it and then building a website and doing all of that on my own. And so I got this really kind of self trained, but intense immersive experience learning, just trying to sell this online and learning what worked in learning what didn’t. And after a few years, I just thought, you know, I really love the marketing. I don’t really love clothing design and I’m a, got a little burned out on public health and I thought, wait a second, what about marketing? And then I lucked into a position where I was marketing director for a healthcare technology company. And I realized now this fits, you know, this is a lovely combination of both sides of what I’ve been doing and I’ve been doing that ever since.
So it’s super interesting background, but I think it, it really ties together nicely in that these concepts of using your, the voice of your customers in your marketing is, is universal across industries. But we’re seeing it a lot in, in B to C and healthcare home care specifically is, you know, direct to consumer and we’re seeing it more across the industry, but I think health care and home care is adapting and focusing more on reviews and focusing more on using the voice of the customer because it is one of the most efficient ways to market. And so I love how your, you know, your own side business turned into this love for marketing, but then you were able to kind of come back to healthcare industry and bring that expertise so that you could help businesses implement what you learned, you know, at their own agency. I think that’s so neat.
Well, it definitely been fun. And it’s, I think the part that I love is, I mean, because they’re all different layers, there are, as you say, there’s like actual voice of customer in terms of an online review. But in terms of then using that in your marketing, it’s about really pulling out the phrases or the concepts that you get from reviewing all that and putting that into your brochures, putting that into your website, putting that into your social media so that it resonates. So it’s, it’s about pulling it together. And then speaking to people with the words they’re already using to think about this and what the concerns they’re already wondering about. So I, in some ways I call it connection marketing because it’s really about connecting with people better. And I think in healthcare that is so essential. I mean, I’m always telling people you’re not selling shoes. You know, this is more important. So you have to be more aware of, of what people are feeling and what they’re wanting.
You mentioned it there briefly using what you’re capturing in your marketing efforts. You mentioned website social, let’s talk about, you know, best practices there and a cadence of what a business should be doing and how they can use it most efficiently.
Well, first of all, and I’m just going to say, here’s the thing you always want to test it because what we think is going to work, doesn’t always work in practice. And so I don’t want people thinking this is some, you know, laid in stone kind of thing, written in stone thing here because obviously I don’t know the individual situation, but what I think is always very problematic in healthcare in terms of marketing is that there are all these very important stories and very emotional stories all over. And yet things often get watered down to sound kind of corporate EAs to sound kind of, you know, official. And then you lose that connection. And with home healthcare, I don’t think you can afford to do that. So instead of saying, you know, we provide meals and we, we do you know, we can do daily visits or whatever it is that you want to say, maybe taking a quote from one of your clients that really says something.
And, you know, I, you know, you’d want to say, and maybe not an exact quote, but something that captures the feeling that you hear about, just so that it resonates with people like at last, I don’t need to worry about my mother’s or something that just says the main thing they’re going on about. So it’s, it’s about finding that phrasing and maybe even, you know, adapting it a little bit, but hearing enough in what you’re hearing in the interviews and the surveys in the, in the documentation that you’re reviewing to get that information, I’m listening to it enough to pull out what it is and put that front and center in your outreach, in your marketing. So you’re letting it do the talking for you. So you wouldn’t lead in a one-on-one conversation when somebody just told you, wow, I’m really worried about my mother’s care. You wouldn’t lead with, well, we’ve been doing this for 15 years, da you would lead with, you know, are you worried about your care? I understand that you’re worried and you would go from there. So it’s, it’s just trying to hit that emotional note with what you have learned. They’re interested in hearing about
That’s so powerful and just like you said, you know, it’s, it’s the best way to lead is with, Hey, you know, our other client, Mrs. Johnson just had this experience and said this and our caregiver said this, and just providing that as kind of third party credibility to reassure, you know, potential clients and give them real feedback from other clients and caregivers. And, and you mentioned that before, you know, using your caregivers as, as you know, they’ve got their ear to the ground, they’re, they’re providing the care, they’re talking to the clients one-on-one every single day. And so using your caregivers and training them to be listening for that type of feedback, and then, you know, taking it back to the office staff and saying, Hey, you know, this is what she said, let’s document this and use this.
That’s so powerful. Let’s talk a little bit about building a kind of a client centric organization. Once you start listening to your customers and using their feedback, you know, for your own benefit, I think there’s kind of the shift in mindset and your, your organization will become kind of client-centric or putting your client first. What are, what are some recommendations you have on making that happen?
Well, you know, it’s so much easier said than done, but listen, listen to what they’re saying. You know, we all think that we’re hearing it, but we’re not always. And the thing is when you start going more client centric, in many ways, it gets easier because you don’t have to figure out what to do next. You don’t have to think about, oh, how do I stay ahead of the curve? If you keep listening to what your clients are saying, then you will stay on top of it. And you’ll know what to say more like I’m always telling my clients, you know, there, you know, there’s this idea in marketing that you want to come up with this, this perfect little magical tagline. That just sounds so amazing. But really that is now what you want to do. You want to come up with something that just clicks for the person reading it that understands them so much?
They’re like, I was just thinking better. Yes. That’s what I’m worried about or yes, that’s what I’m looking for. And when you get that, yes, then they’re going to want to know more. And that’s when they’re going to go through all the other details about what you offer and how it works and all of those things. So I think, I think the ease is one of the biggest benefits of doing it. And then I think when you reinforce it, like you were just saying about third-party testimonials and things, when you, if you put the voice of customer, you know, on your website and then you support it with actual case studies, and then you have the testimonials there that links to the online reviews, and then you have more and more information coming in, maybe quotes from your caregivers and things. It just becomes something that, you know, it’s all wrapped up in a bow.
And it just seems like a group that really is focused on taking care of people as opposed to selling a service. And that makes a big difference. But in terms of making that transition, I think, well, any transition in terms of the company culture and organizational culture, it starts at the top. And so when the people at the top start saying, no, we’re switching to the focus on the client, then that’s what starts happening. And then you start listening more and you start just starting every, you know, every planning session thinking, well, where are we now? What are we hearing? And then you start asking for different things from your team. You know, if you’re hearing this, let us know, or if this comes up, let us know, or, you know, it just, it, it spirals like that and, and grows.
I’d love to hear some experiences you’ve had with organizations that have adapted and started prioritizing voice of customer in, in their marketing. I know you’ve worked with a number of organizations. I’d love to hear maybe an example or two of when you’ve approached, you know, an organization that wasn’t doing this you’ve explained it to them, then they started implementing it. And kind of what happened. Can you kind of walk me through a sequence of what that’s looked like with an organization you’ve worked with?
It’s interesting, I’ve worked with a number of health information exchanges, which are usually state or regional groups and they’re non-profits, and they help link the data for any patient care from different hospitals and different clinics in the area. So that if someone who goes to say Dr. Smith winds up in the care of Dr. Johnson at a different emergency room, that both doctors will be able to access the data, to know what’s going on with that patient that they now share. So it provides better care because obviously if you’re behind him, if you’re a wind up in an emergency room, you want the data to let them know, well, this person has this chronic illness, or they’re on this medicine, or this is normal for them. And don’t worry about that, you know? So it makes a big difference. And what I found was interesting is that even though I’ve worked with several of them now, they’re their voice of customer results were often very different.
And one, I remember thinking was very interesting was one, instead of just focusing on the data, one of the groups, their group was very community focused. I mean their, their their customer base. So their customer base kept saying the collaborative efforts here are so important to me, and we wish you would take a lead in us, move forward in more of these kinds of social issues that are affecting health for our population. And how can you help with that? Whereas other ones I would do the work for would wind up coming back with, well, we just want the data. We just love the data. And the more you can get the data and the better the data and the more of the data we want. And so even when you’re in the same exact industry, which they all were, they were all non-profit health, health information, exchanges, what your particular audience wants varies.
And I always think that’s very unique because I really didn’t expect that I was at first expecting that they’d all say about the same thing and they really didn’t. So in the case of one of them, I know they had they were trying to act as a, kind of a collaborator in their community bringing different groups together. And they had truly thought that one of the things they offered that people valued so much was that they were a neutral party doing that. But actually that wasn’t really mentioned in the voice of customer data that we got back, people weren’t saying, oh, I love that they’re neutral. They didn’t even seem to be worried about it. I think they just took that for granted. So we realized, instead of emphasizing that as much, we should do a little switch and change more into, we bring people together.
It’s, we’re focusing on the community and emphasizing bat. And that was another thing we did as well as yes, they talked about collaboration, but what they were really talking about was community. And so we use their word, but we also expanded that a little bit more to talk about the good of the community and what that’s doing. And that seemed to be more of a click. And even when I just rewrote some of their, their messaging and gave that back to them to look at like just basic mission statements or, or what we call in marketing, as I know you don’t Miriam is, you know, the elevator speech, that little 32nd description of what you do. Like their whole team was like, oh yeah, that’s it that’s so much easier. And what we’d done was really subtracted out all that corporate, you know, wording that is so prevalent in healthcare. And we put in the phrases that their customers were using and it instantly made more sense. And it honestly seemed more welcoming, which was a big push for what they were trying to do.
Great example. And I just love what you were saying there at the end and using that verbiage on your own website, you know, I think home care agencies are sometimes prone to using kind of like you put in corporate wording messaging. That’s pretty generic. And I think, whereas home care, especially right now is this stiff competition. There’s really stiff competition in one metropolitan area. You know, there can be 50 to a hundred to, you know, hundreds of agencies in one area and you’ve got to stand out and you’ve got to use really custom messaging to your agency and pulling that directly from your customers is a really impactful way of going about that. So I don’t know, that’s kind of one piece of advice we’re offering agencies right now is just make sure you stay away from that corporate verbiage and custom tailor your messaging, your web messaging, you know, things you’re putting out there on social and your blog posts, all of that to really, you know, use your voice of customer and use that messaging as much as possible because it feels customized. It feels less, you know, corporate. So really good points there. Anything else you want to add?
Well, I just, I think what you’re saying is so, right, because especially in home health, a corporate tone sounds cold and that is so not the, the feeling you want to give in home healthcare. Right? So it’s just, but I think everybody still has the steel from what seemed to be what we needed to do to be a real business from like 20, 30 years ago, the sense that you have to sound corporate. And it’s just, it’s just, off-putting, especially in home health care, you want to use the warmth. And again, like I was saying with those health information exchanges I worked with in home health care, there, there are so many different groups doing the same thing, but there is going to be a differentiating factor for what makes your agency different from another agency. And that is something that you may already know, but it’s something that you might also learn by doing this voice of customer research and finding out from your clients, why they like working with you, what you do, that’s different. And that can be something that you then put forward on your website or in other campaigns that you do
Let your customers be your competitive advantage and let their voice be your competitive advantage, because you know, they’ve chosen you for a reason, find out why, and then use that to attract more clients.
Okay. And it’s so much easier, isn’t it? It’s so much easier than just trying to guess, which I swear is what most marketers starts, their careers thinking they’re going to have to do. And it’s what you see on TV all the time. When somebody gets a job in advertising, they’re just like, oh, this will sound good. And I’m like, oh my God, we don’t do that. But it’s not what we do. St.
Principles ring. True. On the caregiver side, we talked about this kind of before the call, but I just want to echo that a lot of these, you know, we’re using the phrase voice of customer, but same for voice of caregivers. You know, we know we’re not talking too much about recruitment in this episode, but recruitment is a huge challenge for a lot of home care agencies right now. And using your voice of caregiver, find out what they enjoy, find out, you know, what, why they’re doing this job and use their exact wording verbatim, you know, on your website or in your job ads to recruit other caregivers you know, just use these best practices on both the client and the caregiver front.
Exactly. And, you know, in all kinds of health care and home health is no different. So you usually have more than one customer. So even though you might think of the client as a customer, as you said, the caregiver is another kind of customer for your agency because you need to recruit the caregivers or the whole thing falls apart. So it’s the same thing, whether you’re recruiting or you’re attracting a client, the same kind of research and the same kind of marketing, you know, use what they’re saying, because caregivers are going to tell you very different things than a client, but you want to use the same method and you want to use that back. Exactly. I like how you say voice caregiver. I love that!
And they work really well in tandem, you know, added, like you said, at an agency, your clients and your caregivers are really both your customers. And so using their voices in tandem is probably the best approach so that you can attract both and, and knowing that your caregivers are speaking highly of the clients and vice versa just works really well together. And so just using them in tandem can be, you know, a really good way forward. Really just in closing, Jen, you have, you know, worked with a lot of organizations, any last advice in marketing in general for home care agencies and just share with our audience the best way to get ahold of you. If people have more questions.
Well, I think the best practice I would say is, you know, kind of rehashing what we already said, which is, listen, you already have kind of that inside track on finding out what is going to be the best way to approach your clients or to approach your caregivers because you already have clients and caregivers talk with them, survey them let them, you know, look at how they respond to your emails or what they, they tell you in letters, pay attention to what they say. And, you know, you might not use it immediately, but let it filter into your brain and think about, okay, am I seeing patterns here? Is there something that they’re saying is really important? Should I, you know, use that in some way to let them know we can offer that or we can help with that. And the more you do that and the more you get used to listening, then I think it gets easier to start adapting your customer, your customer outreach, and your caregiver recruitment to that. So, and for anyone who wants to reach out to you, as you said, I’m at michellemarketingstrategies.com.