Leading Digital Marketing Efforts in Regulated Industries

Just as it goes that not all digital campaigns are created equal. This is true especially in certain regulated industries like healthcare, financial services and others where there are certain parameters when it comes to running digital marketing campaigns. So what are those digital “boundaries” as marketers you need to be aware of?

This week I invited one such marketer who has been a part of digital marketing teams in companies like Discover, Medline, and many other organizations where regulation is part and parcel of every marketing campaign. We are excited to hear insights from longtime industry leader, Geoff Kass, Director of Digital Marketing at Medline University where he shares his learnings in managing digital marketing in regulated industries.

Tune in to this BobCast podcast and learn:

  • Challenges of managing digital marketing in regulated industries
  • The art of working in cross functional teams and still getting to the goals
  • Customer acquisition mix – balancing online vs offline
  • Managing people, leadership and team dynamics
  • And many other topics

Leading Digital Marketing Efforts in Regulated Industries


Our Guest Speaker for this Episode:

Geoff Kass
Geoff Kass, Director of Digital Marketing at Medline University

Transcript of this podcast – Leading Digital Marketing Efforts in Regulated Industries

Bob Tripathi: All right folks welcome to Digital Sparx Marketing and this is your host Bob Tripathi and as you guys know each week and we try to bring in some real experts, people who have been in the trenches in the leadership role but essentially in all areas of digital marketing and today we have a great guest with us today is Geoff Kass. Welcome to this and so glad you are here. Geoff is the director of online education. Some people refer to you as dean. I believe the dean of online education at Medline. And Geoff so so happy that you are able to do this so instead of me not doing justice to your resume. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Geoff Kass: Yeah absolutely. First thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today. So you’re right. I work at Medline Industries. It’s kind of a national leader manufacturing distributor of health care products and services. What I do is I’m the director of marketing for Medline University and Medline Universities is a free online resource for licensed professionals or any health care staff really to earn some continuing education credits or just advance their professional learning and professional skills.

Bob Tripathi: Nice nice super super super. Yeah I know. As I mentioned I was I ran an online education company for seven, eight years and as nice and as fun as it sounds super tough you know. And there is a lot of cultural dynamics but that is also you know you’re still running the marketing right.

Like because you still have to attract students and you try to look at goals and things like that but Medline What are your metrics that you measure. Because since the three and anybody can sign up so is sign up for the metric that you guys go after.

Geoff Kass: Yeah a little bit. So you’re right it’s completely free. Anybody can create an account anybody can earn credits. And so. So some of those traditional marketing metrics are out the window. You know you’re not looking at cost per enrollment or cost per lead or anything like that. What you’re looking for is enrollment. We want it to be a valuable service. So you know we tried to get the word out and we tried to get enrollments and completions. I mean that’s that’s my baseline metric. Quite frankly that’s what I report on on a monthly or quarterly basis is this is how many successful completions we had in the previous month. And completion meaning people taking the course as if And absolutely it’s individual courses it’s not like degree program right where you might spend 18 months or 20 months or two years in a degree program. These are individual courses and you know for licensed professionals varying by state there are certain requirements for them to meet some education requirements. This is an opportunity for them to access some of their content for free. So what we want what I measure is a measure of success for me with met with an emu is you know of all the folks that are coming to check us out. How many of them are finding content that’s valuable in enrolling in it. And then how many of them are completing it successfully you know passing it and earning their credit that they need for their to maintain their license. Or frankly just for their own professional development. So a completion year completion is a successful they’ve they’ve taken the course they’ve passed the assessment and they’ve added it to their certificate of their transcript.

Bob Tripathi: So do you do any traditional nurturing engagement kind of things like Hey I took a look I’ve watched a video and I did a little quiz and then I forgot about it. Do you ping them with e-mails or things like that.

Geoff Kass: Yeah you know what. Absolutely so I’ve been a Medline for just about a year. Kind of put my one year anniversary and you know with any organization there’s different degrees of opportunity for contact. I’ve got great visibility into what courses are the most popular ones that aren’t so popular. And I have the opportunity to tailor some messaging to that. So we do cultivate that database as often as we can.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah I know you’ve looked an online education for a while now. So let’s talk a little bit about the customer acquisition makes. So when you when you look at customer acquisition, especially when it comes to digital marketing right. How do you balance that like offline, online.

What does that makes look like. So you have in the past.

Geoff Kass: Well that’s a great question right now. The mix is probably a little heavier on traditional methods than it was in the previous eight years. So before Medline I worked in online education as well in the OPM space online program management space and most of our marketing in that case was digital. Every so often we might run kind of a traditional print advertising campaign you know to cut the last company I worked at. We did some interesting stuff in the Canadian market with outdoor advertising and transit advertising and things like that. But for the most part it’s been digital now Medline it’s a little bit of both and frankly quite a lot of it is actually word of mouth. You know you find an individual professional who has heard of Medline University because some somewhere else they worked right or appear peer of their somewhere in association or something like that and they say Hey you’re looking for your CEUs. You need to earn CEUs. Coming up on your deadline. Have you checked out Medical University you know a lot of licensed professionals are out there googling work and I find it now to be fair in the healthcare space if they Google health care CEUs they’re going to find us they’re going to find you. But a great deal of the folks I think are coming from referrals and they’re coming from. In some ways they’re being pushed down a little bit the admins you know the leadership staff or executive staff or you know day to day management staff of a facility or a group or an organization will say you know what we’re going to partner with MU you so that we can offer to you all of our staff will upload all of you get all of you access to this material.

Bob Tripathi: Now in the online education space like one is a part of knowing and you know giving your content to other things but in the online space like if you’re if you look at it from a top high level have you seen some tactics work really well compared to the others.

Geoff Kass: You know gosh I’m a I know I know you have a background in SEO and I’ll tell you I’ve got a pretty I’ve got a pretty high affinity for it. I mean I’m not an SEO expert but it’s real kind of passion of mine in between an SEO and PPC, paid advertising. That’s where I think the sweet spot is traditionally been honesty. You know we spent a lot of time renting or buying lists in particular markets you drop an email to reach for an e-mail isn’t great. Best rate of return was always in search engine optimization making sure that that Website was getting a lot of traffic and nice and high end paid advertising paid social and paid search. I think that’s the sweet spot for online education.

Bob Tripathi: Now I think I agree. Like even if that is you know online education according to me is like so need Based right. Like people. Hand races where they say that they’re looking to learn something. Right. So they have shown an interest and Google ads as you mentioned and inbound which is a SEO and things like that would perfectly great. Completely agree on that. So I think when you work in industries like you have like financial and online education and now healthcare are there any specific challenges that you face as a marketer. Because it’s so regulated right.

Geoff Kass: Yeah it really is. And I think I think I’ve been fortunate in some ways that I’ve kind of inherited some processes that make sure you’re running within those lines of regulation. You know education is definitely pretty highly regulated especially online. You know there’s some you know there’s some companies out there that that put kind of a bad varnish across online education for a few years you know and it resulted. It was actually turned out for the better you know because there were some controls put in place and it actually separated you know the fat from the lean meat I guess. I know that the operators who were operating legitimately anyway it only sweeten the pot for them you know and it gave gave more opportunity for the learner or for the searcher who would eventually become a learner to find something that was actually of value. And in the health care space you know there’s. Oh my gosh my my experience in health care certainly little more limited now by finding that you know the regulation you have to play in is even more by a great deal more tightly controlled. You know with a company working for Medline I am fortunate to have a lot of resources available to advise me appropriately. And of course you know the benefit of having inherited some best practices that helped keep me running running good.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah I remember like you know the old discover days you know like right. I remember starting this social program and the first week when we started tweeting that this is 2008 you know I had to go to the lawyers and get each and every food. Oh yeah. So it did a lot of education to them. So you know then that stopped. But you know those are the examples of regulated industry that I can think of. I mean probably, I’m guessing in the health care like you went the wrong word as you gotta pass it through legal I would imagine copies and things like that. Yeah absolutely.

Geoff Kass: You know you have to you have to make sure that whatever outcome you’re promising you’re actually delivering on right and you’re not over promising something that’s not actually true. And in the current space like I said I’m fortunate that it doesn’t touch and you doesn’t touch middle university too much. You know I have to make sure that you know if I’m going to offer some content in wanted to qualify for continuing education units that meet certain parameters and we kind of go through a particular process for that but I’m you know it doesn’t impact my messaging too much. You know I get to I get to talk a little bit about the value of the content but in the end. Yeah. Everything everything goes through approval. Everything goes with Ritual. Bunch of eyes looking at it.

Bob Tripathi: And you know I have nothing else that gives you so much. You learn patience. Right.

And my problem always working in large enterprises is you know I had a startup mind so like you you think of something and you implement it and you put it out in the market and see how it performs. And you know you’ve got to change that thinking which obviously you’ve been doing so well. But what are the specific challenges like one of the skills working in large enterprises like you have is actually getting things done and working with different stakeholders you know in cross-functional stuff like that. So what is the art when you’re trying to work in cross-functional Manner and you still have your marketing ideas. So how do you get it done and what are the tips and tricks that you’ve learned over the years.

Geoff Kass: Oh gosh that’s a great question. I don’t think what it really comes down to is kind of a social professional awareness you know be being polite and understanding that whatever stakeholders you have involved in a project. He asks you make you have to be considerate you know I guess it’s not too different from a family dynamic. You know you have to learn what pushes people’s buttons what motivates them and what kind of inspires them to want to help you. So if if you after a while I think once you’re your organization and you’re kind of working with the same players whether they’re in your function or not maybe they’re cross-functional you know maybe you’ve got a lot of folks in different areas that come together in a particular worker to accomplish a particular goal. I think it’s really important to work on the culture with that group you know and get gain some trust and be accommodating. So I guess that’s really my tip and trick is to not go in like a bull in a china shop don’t go in trying to knock stuff around and you’re trying to force your way through things. Be persistent but be politely persistent. I think someday I worked for a few years back at Pearson using that phrase quite a bit be politely persistent and that’s where you get the results from I mean too much of a destructor can be can be a little on the edge.

Bob Tripathi: So now that’s great because that leads me to another point and that is team dynamics and leadership. Now when you are running marketing departments and working with cross-functional team what other kind of skill sets you’re looking when you’re building your marketing team.

Geoff Kass: I’m honestly in my space. It’s not it’s not limited just my experience of course but I think it goes without saying you’ve got to you’ve got to have a good team dynamic. You have to have team players and I know that can be a little bit cliché but you have you have to be working with people who have that same sort of social awareness social intelligence I know is a big buzzword but I believe in it you have to have people that are receptive to not only how they act in a room but be able to read the room. And so if you’re going to build a really successful team you’re gonna get people that are in tune with each other you know and can kind of act or speak interchangeably. I know there’s going to be different skills brought to the table but they have to be a well oiled machine. If you don’t have a well oiled machine and you have awkwardness in conversation or in meetings and if you have uncertainty in deliverables or owners of those deliverables then you’re not going to be real successful. You’re going to miss deadlines and you’re going to ultimately Miss goals. So I think the real the real challenge comes down when you in building a team is you know getting that early getting that established early before you even start making asks of people get to know who they are and give a little bit yourself so they can find out who you are.

Bob Tripathi: The specific skill sets you look for when you’re bringing people on board or working with people I mean besides reading them and things.

Geoff Kass: You know I think it’s a little bit of empathy.I think it’s listening skills are important you know tactical skills it’s not necessarily a popular position sometimes but tactical skills can be learned if you find somebody who has a passion for what they’re doing and has a passion for learning lifelong learning is a big buzzword too especially in the last three or four years or so. If you get somebody with a passion for that then you’ve got an opportunity maybe to slide a little bit on the tactical skills because that’ll come in that personal interpersonal teamwork dynamic down first foundationally then I think you have an opportunity where people can learn that technical stuff. So I look for that I look for warmth I look for approachability I look for receptiveness I look for people who weren’t just waiting their turn to say the next thing you’re listening to what you have to say they have they just they have good social skills you know they’ve got good you know they’ve got high emotional intelligence well yeah I think you know just today I was doing a little presentation to a 25 group or so and somebody asked me how how do we know. Because it talked to so many agencies and candidates to hire for marketing so they’re like how can we tell if this agency this individual is they know that chops you know. Because if you’re an outsider you don’t know if you’re the CEO we stay aware and they don’t know everything. How do you do it. And I think what I tried to answer and I don’t know what’s your take on it is if they talk about data and marketing in are bringing data like how they increase something by X amount of dollars I mean that’s a good conversation. That means they know something about it. Where do you fall on that. Well I.

I mean well see that’s that’s that’s a that’s an interesting question. You know it’s it’s one thing I think if you’re if you’re on the buyer side right. If you’re looking to partner with an agency you want you want the folks who know that business inside out I really want some serious top notch tactical skills right. You want experience you want that you can ask them a question they don’t have to dig or spend three days trying to get the answer they know it. You know they’ll get back to you quick they’re getting the job done for you quick but at the same time you know you’ve worked with an agency you’ve worked with partners you’ve worked with contractors that may have all that they’re never on the same page when it comes to expectations and the communication is unclear and you know they they’re maybe a little wishy washy in setting deadlines or making it clear when they expect something back or when they’ll get something to you and you spend a lot of time maybe in the old days on the phone. But now on the computer you know with the email and you’re going in you just like guys understand what’s going on here why what are you trying to tell me. I think that’s that’s kind of the big kind of a big deal when it comes to working with partners that may not be part of your immediate culture.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah yeah no I think the same as with when you’re hiring folks right. Like you know you see those kind of things like yeah they’re in tune but this is good. This is a great piece of insights into all this. But Geoff as as you go into 2020 it sounds great. They need marketing technology is a tactic. So things that you’re really looking forward to something that you know you really want to do for your team for your business.

Geoff Kass: oh boy, So I’m kind of a as a consumer yeah living on this earth. I’m kind of an early adopter I’m kind of fascinated by new and emerging technology. But I’m also a little intimidated by them. You know there’s a lot of concern now with privacy and who has access to what sort of data. So as a consumer that that that’s a little intimidating, as a marketer, On the other side of it I think it’s I think it’s immeasurably invaluable to have this sort of information. It gives you the opportunity to put the right message in front of the right person at the right time because otherwise we’re just another voice in the wind you know. Yeah. You’ve worked in social you know the most successful social media strategies aren’t just throwing posts out there. You know you have to engage with people you have to follow with people you have to engage with your followers and other accounts and what have you. Otherwise you’re just you’re just some guy at a party or a conference thrown out your business card and whatnot. So I think as a marketer having access to the amount of data that’s out there that’s what I’m looking forward to. Being able to use that in meaningful ways not evasively not in any sort of predatory fashion but I want to make sure that if I have value that I’m putting in front of people that are going to appreciate that value not just thrown up blinking billboard lights hoping somebody that passes by we’ll see it and find value in it. I want to I want to make sure that they’re getting it the message from me directly.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah. No no that’s a great insight. I think the whole data mining and data and data enrichment and then the horror targeting part of it with AI brought in. I mean I’m sure a lot of things you do. But is there anything I didn’t touch upon right now Geoff that you would like to talk about. Maybe if I skipped it I know I asked a bunch of questions but no no.

Geoff Kass: You know I just I appreciate that we talked a little bit about that team dynamics thing you know you’re right and you have as well we’ve talked about a little bit we’ve we’ve worked now for you know 20-25 years and in such a variety of settings industries and environments and with such different team dynamics that you see a lot of how people work together. And we know we’re not we’re not. We’re preaching to the choir. I mean any of your any of your listeners will know that it really comes down to being able to have those relationships. I’m glad we had the opportunity to talk about if anything comes of this at all. It’s really having the opportunity to stress the value of team relationships and interpersonal relationships and connections.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah I know and I think I totally agree and that’s when good companies become great and flourish. Or as I like to the others go the Sears way. So I’ll end it here but thank you again Geoff for joining. Great to have you. And thank you for all your insights. Yeah so happy to be here. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you folks. That’s it from today. And we thought it was a great session. So please check us out at DigitalSparxMarketing.com And we’ll have the podcast and the video of Geoff online soon so thank you again and thank you Geoff for doing it.

Geoff Kass: Thank you. Thanks a lot Bob.

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