046 | The Genuine Power of a HealthTech Brand with Bethany Hale of Cedar | Studio CMO
The Episode in 60 Seconds
Bethany Hale, Head of Marketing for healthcare billing leader, Cedar, believes that a strong brand is an essential element to grow your business and change patients’ lives. She has thoughtfully and strategically built her brand. On this episode of Studio CMO, Bethany lays out:
- Why to Carefully Consider Brand
- Keys to a HealthTech Company Gaining New Business
- How Brand Helps HealthTech Companies Recruit Talent
- Your Prospect’s Experience Matters to Your Brand
- Telling Your Brand Story
About Our Guest
Bethany Hale is the Head of Marketing at Cedar, a data-driven patient payment and engagement platform. She brings 15+ years of experience across marketing strategy, brand development, content and performance marketing, and customer experience design to this role. Prior to joining Cedar, Bethany spent 7 years at IBM, most recently as a product manager on the healthcare team where she created an AI-enhanced, pre-configured marketing automation platform, in partnership with Adobe, that enables healthcare & life sciences marketers to drive improved healthcare consumer experiences, increased revenue and more effective marketing campaigns. Bethany is a creative storyteller and thought leader who has worked with other notable brands including American Express, Samsung Electronics, Hertz, Pfizer, Microsoft, and Chevron. She has an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and a B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University.
Cedar was mentioned as one of the fastest-growing HealthTech companies in 2020, second only to Amazon. Find out more in this report from KLAS and this study co-sponsored by Forrester and Cedar. Hear the story at 25:40.
“It always confounds me the fact that my daughter, who’s six years old, can figure out how to find her favorite show on Netflix, by herself. Yet I, with an MBA and someone who works in healthcare, still can’t decipher my own medical bills. That’s the real gap in that consumer experience. People expect to understand how to pay a bill. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish at Cedar.” —Bethany Hale
Why to Carefully Consider Brand
Brand is important for:
- your company
- talking to potential clients and buyers
- recruiting potential talent
- communicating with the community at large
- establishing yourself as a thought leader
Coming out to the market, you want to know who you are first, what your position is, and why you’re different. —Bethany Hale
Bethany Hale wrote this article about the story behind Cedar’s rebranding.
Golden Spiral’s VP of Design, Bennett Farkas, breaks down how to build a Brand’s Visual Identity System in this article.
Keys to a HealthTech Company Gaining New Business
- Can you prove that you can do the work?
- Can you demonstrate your success with a health system like your prospect’s?
- How do you work with and/or integrate with the key electronic medical record providers?
- How do you integrate with other leading healthcare systems?
- Do you understand the patient populations you’ve worked with in the past and of the prospect’s?
Good brands are consistent, differentiated, and clear. — Bethany Hale
How Brand Helps HealthTech Companies Recruit Talent
You will not be able to meet your financial goals nor touch the number of lives you desire without the right talent.
- Does your brand demonstrate your diversity in all ways?
- Does your brand reflect the patient population of the US?
- Can potential employees understand your vision, values, and mission?
- Do your recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding practices communicate how your company works and how you meet your goals?
Listen to Studio CMO host John Farkas discuss the importance of brand for recruiting the right talent at 20:43 and following.
Your Prospect’s Experience Matters to Your Brand
Cedar’s mindset is: “You can’t miss this!” Curating a VIP event over a virtual platform is challenging because naturally occurring conversations that happen at a live event don’t happen—without intention—online.
- Cedar is thoughtful about its online events:
- How do we inspire conversation?
- How do we gain engagement?
- How do we include the right people?
- How do we build communities?
- How do we create a “white glove” experience?
- How do we cut through the clutter?
Ashton Kutcher is an investor in Cedar. Read about a recent “white glove” event he hosted.
Virtual Events Can Be Stronger than Live Events. An article from Golden Spiral.
Telling Your Brand Story
“When you’re telling a clear story that sets above the rest, that’s going to create a confidence. That’s going to create something that people are not accustomed to seeing in the space. Because what they’re accustomed to is very confusing, multidimensional messages that are hard to make your way through. And if you can hold something up and say, ‘Clearly, here’s our value. Here’s what we look like. Here’s what you can expect when you relate with us. If you can set some of that forward in a way that is clear and comforting, it inspires movement. —John Farkas
Brand building: First, build trust with your stakeholders, then build relationships, then provide value. — Bethany Hale
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John Farkas: Your brand is more than a logo. It is a complete picture, a subjective sense. It touches all the different elements of how you bring your story into the market. Paying attention to that, making sure that that is very clear picture and a captivating picture that gives people confidence, that inspires them to dig deeper is invaluable as you are working to engage your market. Developing a brand, it is a critical component of the marketing equation. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today on Studio CMO.
Mark Whitlock: Welcome to Studio CMO. You’re listening to the podcast that is designed to help health tech marketers understand market positioning and build better demand generation than ever before. This podcast is brought to you by golden spiral, and our CEO and chief storyteller John Farkas is with us. John, happy morning.
John Farkas: Hello everybody.
Mark Whitlock: And Anna Grimes, my sidekick and fellow co-host is with us. Anna, glad you’re on board with us again today.
Anna Grimes: Delighted to be here.
Mark Whitlock: And John and Anna, I am looking here on this morning before we roll tape at three bills, medical bills. And I’ll tell you what. I’m trying to track down what the special bill code is, and where on the website to input that data, and whether or not they take my FSA card has just been a challenge. Medical payments is a thing. Or do you guys face that John and Anna?
Anna Grimes: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
John Farkas: I’ve faced it way more in the last two years than I care to admit or ever care to replicate. So yes.
Anna Grimes: And since it’s part of the family business, it’s always front and center. And grew up with it as a discussion around the dinner table all the time.
Mark Whitlock: That’s right. So today we’re going to be diving into what has to be one of the far and away industry leaders in the medical payments area.
Anna Grimes: Yeah. So we are delighted to have Bethany Hale join us today from Cedar. She heads up marketing for them. Cedar is a data-driven patient payment and engagement platform. She brings 15 years of experience across marketing strategy, brand development, content, and performance marketing, and customer experience design to this role here at Cedar. Before she joined the company, she spent seven years at IBM, most recently as a product manager on the healthcare team. And then she has also worked with other notable brands like American Express, Samsung, Hertz, Pfizer, Microsoft, and Chevron. So we are delighted to have her here with us today, and welcome Bethany.
Bethany Hale: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me.
Mark Whitlock: Glad to have you here. And tell us a little bit, give us your perspective of what Cedar does better than anybody else.
Bethany Hale: Well, I’ll start by saying the intro that you gave talking about medical bills and how painful that process is, that’s why we’re here. That’s what we try to tackle. We try to help patients through that process and help providers through that process as well. When I first joined Cedar, everyone I told what our mission was, it sort of struck a very visceral chord in everyone’s memory of everyone. I told has an experience related to a bad medical billing situation. And given the fact that it’s been something that everyone I spoke to can relate to, I knew I was in the right place. Because it does feel very emotional, very important. It’s something that’s broken that shouldn’t be, like there’s no reason for it to be broken. And it felt like the right problem to try to tackle, especially with this interesting way of saying let’s move everybody into a digital world. Let’s focus on healthcare consumer experience end-to-end, and provide a platform to do that. So that’s kind of what Cedar is here doing. And when I joined two years ago, it was really what struck me and why I wanted to join.
John Farkas: And it’s really interesting Bethany, because I don’t know how old you are, but I’m just guessing you’re younger than I am.
Bethany Hale: A lady never tells.
John Farkas: And what’s become apparent to me as I’ve start to engage a little bit more in the healthcare system is I can’t imagine that people coming at it from a digital native perspective are going to put up with the way things are for very long. Because the more people that are 45 and younger have the opportunity to encounter more of healthcare, there will be a rebellion. Because it is ridiculous. And the way things happen now are so archaic. And I’m thrilled to see that some smart people, which if you have any chance to look at the about section on Cedar’s website, you will see that they are full of smarties on their team. Smart people are going to get engaged and solve this because there’s no good reason for it not to be. So congratulate on where you guys are, and super interested to dive in and have this conversation.
Bethany Hale: Yeah, you bring up a great point John just around the digital natives and how that’s a growing percentage of the population. It always confounds me the fact that my daughter who’s six years old can figure out how to find her favorite show on Netflix, by herself. Yet I with an MBA and someone who works in healthcare still can’t decipher my own medical bills. So that’s the real gap that we’re seeing in that consumer experience that people expect to understand how to pay a bill and have it be something that’s easy for them. So that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.
John Farkas: And we could go down a whole different rabbit hole that’s not related to marketing. Although the point is, there’s a clear problem when we’re looking at bringing things to the market. Having a really clear view of the problem of the pain points of what it means to get at what needs to change and build the bridge between where things are right now and where things need to go, is the essential work we get to do. So that’s what I’d like to dive in and talk about.
John Farkas: I am really curious because as I look at Cedar and look at where you all are right now, one of the very quick, apparent things to me is that you have spent a lot of time in the exploration, and the development, and careful consideration around brand. That says something because that’s not always the case, especially when we’re looking at B2B companies, companies that are selling into the provider’s universe. It’s often an afterthought. And you guys very evidently have spent a lot of time, effort, and energy in that space. I’d love to get your perspective on that.
Bethany Hale: We are a B2B2C company. We’re also white label. So that might make you question even more why we focused so strongly on brand. But I felt brand was very important to us as company talking to our potential clients and buyers, talking to potential talent, coming in to Cedar and Cedar as an employer. Talking to our community at large, being a thought leader in the health industry. All of those things to me meant that we needed to have a brand, and a really strong brand, and a brand that was differentiated. It’s like coming out to the market, you want to know who you are first, and what your position is, and why you’re different. Those are the main aspects that we try to focus on first.
Bethany Hale: I see a lot of companies in the B2B space in particular trying to dive into popular trends around demand generation, and account based marketing, and individualized messaging to different buyers and things like that. But they’ll focus on that before they really have a brand that’s strong, and differentiated, and consistent. And all of those things aren’t going to be as optimized if you don’t have a brand, right? Who are you? What are you trying to say? What do you stand for? Your message starts to become real fragmented when you’re talking to all these different audiences if you don’t have a strong position on your brand first.
John Farkas: That takes some effort and energy, and some budget. How did you build a culture in, I mean was that a preexisting assumption that you were going to do that? Is that something that you had to cultivate within the organization? What did it take to build that understanding within Cedar?
Bethany Hale: We had a lot of buy-in in the beginning to say, we want to tell our story, but we want to do it in the way that makes the most sense. And initially, we wanted to raise brand awareness. So to raise awareness, we needed to have a brand to talk about in the first place. So there wasn’t a lot of pushback from the leadership around the direction that I wanted to take with brand to say okay, if we’re going to have a website, we need the messaging to be clear. We need an icon and a logo that are going to resonate with people. We have to have a brand story. When people ask us where we came from and what we stand for, we have to have a story around that that makes sense to people and will resonate with our buyer. So we did focus on that first.
Bethany Hale: We did a lot of it in-house to be completely honest. I got lucky with a few of the people that joined the team on the early side of me joining. So a couple of my first hires were really skilled in this space, both on the copy side and the brand voice side. But also, the visual elements of our brand. And it came together. We did have some agency help when we relaunched our website. And they were great. But in the meantime, we had a pretty strong in-house team. So we didn’t have to spend as much money as you would if you completely went out through agency to do the whole process.
Anna Grimes: And I do love your icon.
Bethany Hale: Thank you. Yeah, the whole team, when I came in to Cedar just over two years ago, there was already a lot of internal affinity for the logo that we had, even the fonts and the colors that we had. So we didn’t want to change things too dramatically when we did the rebrand. But we did want to make it more modern, make it speak to the right audience, really have some thoughtful stories and linkages between the visual elements, and the voice, and tone, and the things we were saying to the external market. So yeah, we spent a lot of time the first year focusing on that.
John Farkas: So as you look at building brand awareness, what would you say is the anatomy of that? You kind of went through a quick list there. Because often, people think about brand awareness as just getting it out there, getting some PR placement, making sure that we’re being loud. But as you think about brand in the context of awareness, what needs to be there? What are the essentials that you are aiming for that as you looked at that, needed to be in place?
Bethany Hale: From a brand perspective, we knew that good brands are consistent, they’re differentiated, and they’re clear. So the internal side, that’s what we focused on across all of our messaging and our visuals. Also, it’s important to note that we’re not trying to boil the ocean here. We don’t need everyone in the U.S. to know who Cedar is. We need a very specific group of people within health systems and medical groups to know who Cedar is. So we target people who are focused on the financial side of the patient experience. So we really were able to target our messaging and the way that we reached those people, building detailed personas, having conversations across the board, using advisors to make introductions, and things like that. We could be very targeted with industry events where we were participating. We did have a small budget in the beginning, and we still are pretty frugal with our marketing spend.
Bethany Hale: We tried to do things that were as targeted as possible. I tried to build content right away when I started. Content is so important to a marketing program, especially in the B2B space. But you could argue across all marketing programs. We focused a lot on industry events initially, but it’s hard to break through … coming from IBM, it was a whole different kind of budget. When we would go into an industry event like HIMSS, our booth was a city block as far as how big, and we could have our own conference within HIMSS from an IBM perspective.
John Farkas: And at several conferences, you had two city blocks, or two booths that were a city block.
Bethany Hale: Exactly. At Cedar, can’t do that. At Cedar, we had to take a very different approach to be more targeted, work with some of the industry affiliated groups to reach the key people we needed to contact. And we were very precise with how we spent our budget and got in front of the key people who needed to know who we are.
John Farkas: Bethany, give us a little bit of the trajectory, the growth trajectory of Cedar. What have you seen in the last three years? What are some of the important points? And what’s that trajectory look like?
Bethany Hale: The last three years has been almost the full length of the company’s life. We were founded in 2016. The last three years have been pivotal because we went from organic, real early stage innovative companies, willing to take a risk on a startup. That’s one of the things we have to overcome in this space. It’s like we’re new and we’re innovative, but we’re not risky, right? We’re playing that balance as a company. And especially when we’re working with folks who are typically in the financial side of healthcare. So they really need to know a technology is going to be around for the long haul. And that’s kind of what we focused on is we’re innovative and we’re going to provide a great experience for your patients. But we’re also not going to be a risk that you have to worry about. That’s kind of what we focused on initially and got some great early adopter clients that we put a lot of time, and energy, and partnership into those clients. And they helped us along the way. So it was kind of a slow first year. And then once we had that track record of great performance, we were able to really leverage those relationships to say, “Can you provide references? Will you do testimonials? Will you do case studies? Will you come speak at our events? Will you talk about the results that you’ve had with Cedar?”
Bethany Hale: Those are all key to get additional clients and get additional interest, especially in healthcare, right? It’s like you need to have proven that you’ve done the work and had success with a health system that looks just like the one you’re selling into. Everybody wants to know that you’ve worked with the key electronic medical record providers. We need to be able to integrate into certain systems. They want to understand the patient populations we’ve worked with, and where we’ve had success, and stuff like that. So we really have to focus on those key niche areas, and leverage those successes that we’ve had.
Bethany Hale: So when you look at the last three years, 2020 was a year where we basically doubled our business. And we’re on track to do that again for 2021. And that’s again in the wake of a pandemic where we had a few months that nobody knew what was going to happen. And everybody stopped thinking about their payment platform conversations for a few months for obvious reasons because they had to focus on their clinical care. And getting patients the support they needed, either through virtual health technology or just really triaging their patient population and making sure they were prepped on the clinical side.
Bethany Hale: But then I think the pandemic really helped us gain momentum as a company because health systems, they really accelerated their adoption of technology, right? So that’s the huge wave that we’re riding right now is health systems saying, “Okay, we’re going to stand up a telemedicine or telehealth program in three weeks.” And they went from right three years of runway, to now it’s going to be up and running in three weeks. So that acceleration has really happened in other areas of digital health as well, including focusing, “All right, let’s overhaul our patient experience and the digital financial experience for consumers.” And make sure that people who don’t want to sit in a waiting room and touch the same pen that everybody else is touching, have another option. They can check in on their phone or they can check in standing outside of the waiting room or whatever it is. So I think those are some of the things that we’ve really seen as a company help accelerate our growth. And that’s what we’ve seen.
John Farkas: So pretty meteoric movement in the last 18 months certainly as you look at what’s going on. I mean, fast growth no matter how you slice it. But the last little bit has been really fast. As you are dealing with that in the context of brand, I’ve got to believe, and you mentioned this just briefly earlier, but I’ve got to believe that talent acquisition is a big part of the equation right now on success frame for Cedar.
John Farkas: As you are looking at your brand presence, as you are investing in that, how big a consideration is the acquisition of talent and putting a good picture forward for potential great people, how big a consideration is that for you?
Bethany Hale: It’s one of my top three considerations, I would say. It’s really high up there on my list. Because we as a company aren’t going to be able to meet our goals, financial goals. And touching the number of lives we want to touch and making the impact that we want to make this year without being an employer of choice, without getting a great pipeline of talent coming in. That means diverse talent. That means really reflecting the patient population of the U.S. that we’re here to serve. So making sure that our potential employees know that … and anyone coming in to interview with Cedar, we want them to have a great experience. We want them to understand our values. We want them to understand the mission that they’re undertaking. We want them to know that we’re focused on diversity and inclusion. All of those things are on our mind all the time. And making sure that that occurs is really the only way we’re going to meet our financial and business goals.
Mark Whitlock: And you’re growing quickly. We noticed on the website, there’s seven marketing positions at the time of this recording that are open and that you’re recruiting for that.
John Farkas: That’s just marketing, and they’re not a marketing organization.
Bethany Hale: That’s right. And one interesting thing is so because it’s a B2B enterprise sale within Cedar, it’s like we have a lot of folks focused on that real deep relationship building, and lead nurture process, and making sure our current clients are well cared for and happy with the Cedar experience. We’ve sort of started to grow the marketing side of the organization only recently. I have seven people currently on the marketing team. And I think we’re on track to at least double if not triple that number this year. So we’re hiring. Come all marketers. From a brand perspective, we do need to continue to grow, and evolve, and change, and get the help we need, the talented people to come support our mission.
Mark Whitlock: Nearly 50 open positions total.
John Farkas: Now it’s just such a critical part that is so often overlooked. If you are not going to build a great brand for any other reason, if you’re a growing organization and your organization in today’s world is dependent on sophisticated, smart people who you want to bring in to be a part of a team to build something magnificent, they have a lot of choices right now. There’s a lot of different directions they can go. There’s a lot of companies that are pushing envelopes and generating change in the world. And if you’re coming into this as a technologist, as somebody who’s some sort of change agent with some missional component about who you are and what you’re trying to do in the world, and you’re looking for a place to plug in to exercise your gifts, and bring your abilities, and invest in something that you’re going to feel good about at the end of the day, there’s a lot of great companies telling great stories, and there’s a lot of attractive places to go.
John Farkas: So if you’re an up and comer, and you’re making your mark, and you’re doing something like medical payments. Which for somebody who’s maybe just circling the market, isn’t going to be their first thing that they’re out going, looking, “I can’t wait to get into the medical payments world.” You have to bring them into the story. You have to let them know why that’s important. It has to have a heartbeat. You need to show that there’s something more going on in this organization other than just helping people pay a bill. That’s not a great story. Transforming an aspect of healthcare that’s beleaguered and has a lot of difficult challenges associated with it that really frustrate people, that starts getting interesting. And then if you help them into a culture where they know that you can grow, and develop, and take root, and expand, that’s an important part of your story. And it’s very neglected and something that I think if you’re in a growing organization and you’re not paying a lot of attention to your brand, you’re severely curtailing your ability to grow. That’s the bottom line.
John Farkas: Not just in the market, but because talent is such an important equation when you are in a fast-growing organization. Boy, you better have that piece together. And Cedar’s doing a great job of that.
Bethany Hale: Thank you. Agreed. I never thought I would find myself in medical billing. and not only that, I would have never guessed I’d be this excited about it. But when you talk John about the heartbeat that exists, it does go back to that issue that I brought up where everyone I tell the story to of what Cedar is trying to do, most people who come in and interview talk about a billing experience that they had, or usually it’s a current experience that they’re going through in this moment.
Bethany Hale: It’s also really interesting to read the patient comments that we get on the platform. I mean at best, paying a bill is a frustration or it’s annoyance. Nobody really wants to pay their bill. They want to pay their bill, but maybe it’s not the most part of their day, right? They just want to forget about it. So at best, it’s something they want to forget about. At worst, it’s a traumatic life event that could put you in bankruptcy, right? Or damage your credit score. Or, it does get emotional and dramatic potentially really quickly. So to give people an experience that is less terrible than that is good. It’s a great start. And that’s not where we want to finish. This is just step one. But I think that makes it a little bit of an easier sell from a brand perspective is that we are trying to change lives and transform healthcare. And it’s one of the things that attracted me to this field is how broken the U.S. healthcare system is and how much potential there is to make it better. So again, as a marketer, I could have fun selling a product, and talking about its benefits, and getting people to buy the latest soft drink, or shoe, or whatever it is. But I feel meaningful impact when I wake up every day, and come to work, and do what we do, and tell stories about patients that are having a difficult time.
Bethany Hale: And on the provider side, healthcare providers deserve to get paid for the services they provide to patients. So there’s a lot of broken aspects of this. But being that connection point between the two is really rewarding. So from a brand, we try to maximize those stories and make that clear to our constituents as well.
Bethany Hale: One funny story I had, which goes back to brand, but it can be difficult to measure brand awareness. Especially when, I mean there’s firms out there that will do it. And we’re working with a firm like that currently.
Bethany Hale: Because about a year ago, right around the time we relaunched our website in February of 2020, we were listed as one of the most innovative healthcare IT companies. And it was Amazon and then Cedar listed. And my whole team is Googling is there another Cedar out there? This can’t be us. There’s no way that we were on this list. And it was a survey of over 300 healthcare executives asking them straight up, “Which IT company is really going to be innovating in the next year? Who’s on your watch list?” And Cedar was listed in the same breath as Amazon basically. So we were super excited about that.
John Farkas: Why? I can’t imagine why?
Bethany Hale: But the funniest part was we had no idea. And in fact, our whole marketing team that works hard every to make sure people know about our brand, we were like, “This can’t be us. There’s no way this is Cedar, our Cedar.” But it was.
John Farkas: I’m really interested, and I know that it’s really hard to quantify this, but I’d be curious if you have any estimation what that mentioned was worth to you all. What kind of lift did you see come from that?
Bethany Hale: I struggle to answer that question because we had just launched our new brand, our new website, and put a lot of-
John Farkas: So there was a lot of concurrent components going on?
Bethany Hale: Yeah. We had a huge celebration internally back in February to launch the brand and the website. And we ended up I think getting that mention the same week. So it’s hard to tell. I think what we’ve done a good job of I think in our marketing organization and across Cedar in general, because it’s not just marketing that is getting the word out there. But we’re just building momentum constantly. That’s the one thing I’ve learned as a marketer. It’s just like you have to continue to build your arsenal of … leverage all the tactics that make sense for you to just continue to build more and more momentum around the messages you’re trying to get out there, your brand, those kinds of things. So we did a pretty good job of having this tiered effect of okay, so this is happening. And now a month later, this is happening. And now a couple of weeks later, something else is happening. So we ended up having a bit of a domino effect there, which worked in our favor.
John Farkas: Yeah. Never hurts. Never hurts. That’s awesome. So another word that I’ve picked up that you’ve used several times, and I know is a part of the picture of Cedar is the idea of experience. Obviously, you’re all about the customer experience and people’s experience around the payment sequence. But that filters through all of how you present, right? That’s a big part. And you’ve got a backdrop in product. So I’m guessing you’re bringing some of that sensibility into how you approach the brand experience. But talk about the experiential elements and how people engage with your brand, and how you hold that as you look at the whole marketing picture.
Bethany Hale: Yeah. Experience is very important to us. Because again, we don’t have the kind of budget that an IBM or a big global company might have. So we pivoted kind of early on away from these industry events where we were getting lost from a sponsorship perspective, to an idea of a more intimate, curated, edited, special white glove experience. It helps that we’ve got great investors and great connections that can help us do that. So we have a lot of VIP events with thought leaders. We have help from our board members who are well known across the healthcare space. But also, we’ve got investors like Ashton Kutcher who will come stop by the office and say hello to the employees, and talk about why he wanted to invest in a company like Cedar. And we can invite our clients to that. We invite employees, and friends, and people who want to work at Cedar. And we have these kinds of events that you couldn’t get elsewhere. And it’s a pretty special situation that is highly curated and thoughtful.
Bethany Hale: And we try to continue to do things like that, where our mindset is anything that Cedar puts out, we want it to get to that level of you can’t miss this. Right? It’s interesting. We’ve got to cut through the clutter somehow of all the noise that’s happening right now post pandemic, everybody trying to get attention, and mind share, and things like that. So we want to provide value to the people who are engaging in a relationship with us. So that’s what we’re trying to do is raise the bar on this special experience, the value that we provide, the thought leadership that we provide. But also the experiences that we’re able to give to our clients to propel them forward in their careers or forward as thought leaders, like include them in events to put them on a public stage talking about the great things that they are doing personally or their health system is doing. Those are all things that are top of mind for us, because it’s a deeper relationship that we’re building with our key stakeholders. And again, trying to provide value.
Bethany Hale: I think it’s a very different approach than just having a big booth at an industry event, especially now that most things are not in person currently. So trying to break through with new ideas in that world is challenging. But I think it gives us a lot of opportunities to do things differently.
John Farkas: What are two or three of the things about these white glove events that are more difficult than a traditional trade show? How would you coach somebody who wanted to get into a more VIP experience event?
Bethany Hale: Curating an intimate VIP event over a virtual platform where people aren’t in the same room is just really challenging. And the reason it’s challenging is because those naturally occurring conversations that would happen if you were in person don’t happen over Zoom in the same way. So we have to be really thoughtful about how we inspire conversation to occur, and get engagement, and include people, and build communities in ways that are really challenging. And I think some of it is we’re just testing and learning across the board. So in some ways, things are easier because we can get on speakers’ calendars a lot more easily. We just had Chelsea Clinton and speak. We’re having Paul Ryan come and speak this week tomorrow, actually. By the time this airs, that will have passed. But we’ve got these great speakers coming in. And I don’t know that we would have been able to get them, had it been an in-person event.
Bethany Hale: On the other side of that, we have to be really structured about how the conversation goes, and how to get people engaged, and how to make sure people feel included. And that they’re really getting value out of something in a different way than you would in-person. And our test and learn approach is really just sheer numbers, frankly.
Bethany Hale: So in 2019, I believe we did 12 events. Most of those were in-person. A lot of those were industry sponsorships and industry facing events. And in 2020, we did closer to 21 events. So we almost doubled the number of events that we did with the same size team. One events person focused on this, and then the whole team coming together to pull these events off. But we doubled that number, and we tried a lot of new things, and we took feedback from our guests that came to these events and tried to improve each time.
John Farkas: I’m curious as we’re looking at the idea of brand, and how it translates, and how you were engaging people, I know that you all just had a recent round of funding, which was how much, again?
Bethany Hale: 200 million from Tiger Global Management.
John Farkas: And what was the valuation?
Bethany Hale: 3.2 billion post money valuation.
John Farkas: Yeah. So not a shabby little equation there.
Bethany Hale: We feel good about it. We like it.
John Farkas: And I’m going to ask you a question here that’s impossible to answer, but I’m comfortable in the impossibility, and I’m also comfortable with the subjectivity. But if you are looking at the idea of brand as it pertains to valuation, completely intangibles that we’re walking into here, but I’m just curious. How would you equate brand presence, the idea of brand and what you have invested in creating a mystique around Cedar, and how something is valued? How would you equate those two?
Bethany Hale: I think there’s a very high correlation. Again, I could never tell you the exact percentage of where brand falls into this equation. But I think there’s a very high value there. Because if you have that differentiated, consistent, clear messaging across the board and you’re actually getting in front of the right people at the right time with the right message, I think that is the difference for Cedar. And we do approach things differently than our competitors. And we do have a product that works. And we put a ton of research into the design of that product, and the analytics that we pull through our platform, and all of that. So it’s all got to work. It can’t just be the brand obviously. But I do think the brand goes a long way to setting us apart. And helping us get a little edge in some of those conversations and be memorable to people and create this, I like the word you used mystique. This aura of something bigger and something that people want to be a part of.
John Farkas: If you can kind of harness that subjective sense, and we know buying decisions are largely emotional at the end of the day. I mean, emotions pull a big part of that. That’s another piece that is yes, intangible, hard to measure, all of those things. But we do know, I mean there’s documents, lots of foundation around final buying decisions being a big part of that equation is in emotional factors that lead to that. But any of this when you look at the value of an organization, so much of it is about how we feel about it. How we feel about when we engage, how we feel about when we interact, how that all comes together.
John Farkas: So often, it is downplayed or ignored. But when you’re an up and coming organization and you’re trying to make your way through the woods of some of these conversations, especially in healthcare where it is so crowded and so confusing. When you’re telling a clear story that sets above the rest, that’s going to create a confidence. That’s going to create something that people are not accustomed to seeing in the space. Because what they’re accustomed to is very confusing, multidimensional messages that are hard to make your way through. And if you can hold something up and say, “Clearly, here’s our value. Here’s what we look like. Here’s what you can expect when you relate with us.” If you can set some of that forward in a way that is clear and comforting, it inspires movement.
John Farkas: We talk all the time about how B2B conversations are increasingly being informed by B2C sensibilities. I understand what it means as a consumer to follow the path of least resistance, follow the path that becomes evident for me. And so much of that is about how clear the experience is, how well articulated it is, how it looks, how it feels. All those subjective factors. It’s important. And people who ignore it are just missing out on a really important part of the equation. And it’s a part of the equation I’ve seen Cedar do really well. I’m curious Bethany, if you have any stories of experiences that you’ve had with people kind of reflecting things back to you.
Bethany Hale: Yeah. I love what you just said. And I agree wholeheartedly that the brand, it really is the first look that people have many times of a company. And it’s your key moment to build trust, that first step of trust, right? So you’ve got to have trust with your stakeholders, and then you build relationships, and then you provide value. And all of those things have to continue to happen over time and build over time. But if you can set the tone of building trust with your brand because it’s consistent, and differentiated, and clear, then you’re a step ahead of where you would be otherwise. Instead of it being a hurdle for people, it’s actually something that’s driving them toward you and taking that next step in the conversation with you. So that I think has really helped Cedar as we’ve continued to grow.
Bethany Hale: And as far as stories that I have of the feedback we’ve gotten, we did early testing of the logo that we developed, and the brand voice, and things like that. So we did get reactions as we were building out the visual elements of our brand. Because we did want to come across as friendly, and smart, and somebody who you want to work with and that’s going to be a partner. Those are all things we wanted to institute, the fact that we care in this brand, across the brand. Not just the voice, but the images as well. And that we’re human, and we want to humanize healthcare, and we’re approachable, and all those things. And again, I think we all at Cedar, are patients, and so we’ve got our patient hat on. And we’re providing value to both patients, but also the provider community. Right?
Bethany Hale: So at the end of the day, we’re talking to providers about how we, as an approachable, safe, friendly company, can help them get closer to their patients, and build that same loyalty and trust with their patients that we hope to build with them. So it’s almost like we’re walking the walk as far as if our brand weren’t approachable, and easy to understand, and consistent, how does it make any sense that our product would be? So for me, that’s the connection of if we’re saying that we’re going to provide the best patient experience out there, the best provider experience out there, our brand needs to say that consistently through everything we do.
Bethany Hale: So the feedback I’ve received recently, I’ve had some people even go back to when we launched a brand a year ago. We took special care to … I mean, this was sort of maybe marketers indulging themselves. But I wanted to tell the story of the brand, and why the logo looks the way it does, and why the voice sounds the way it does, and why we picked the fonts, and the colors, and what it all meant. Because we did put a lot of work into it, and I do think it makes a difference. So I’ve had a lot of people comment on the blog post that we published around that time and loved the thoughtful way approached it.
Bethany Hale: You see that in a lot of consumer industries, but it’s a little more rare in healthcare specifically. So I think we’re just trying to continue to take things that work well for consumers and in consumer facing, consumer centric industries, and bring that empathy, and care, and thoughtfulness into the healthcare space.
Anna Grimes: And it’s so needed, too. Bethany, what are the immediate next steps for the brand? I mean, you’ve mentioned that you’ve started these more intimate events, and that you’re getting a lot of traction with those, and that’s a really good thing to understand more about as we move into maybe more of a hybrid situation where we’ll probably see some more in-person events. But it sounds like you guys have really gotten some solid footing on how to master these virtual events over Zoom that as you say, don’t allow for as much spontaneity and intimacy as an in-person event does, but you get there. So what are the immediate next steps for the brand? What are some of the other tactics that y’all are using and refining, now that you’ve got this nice funding announcement behind you, and building out your team, and all of that good stuff?
Bethany Hale: We’ve really already started this pivot to be more focused on account-based marketing and really driving more intimate messages within our key audiences and break that down by segment, break it down by account. Really know our buyer and the pain that they’re experiencing so that we can tailor our solutions and how we talk about those solutions to individuals and make a difference in that way. And for those of the audience who knows anything about ABM, it’s a lot of work upfront. There’s a huge runway to build enough content to really understand that level of detail about your potential customers, and the value that you want to provide to them. So that’s one big initiative that we’ve kicked off this year that we’re going to be growing over time.
Bethany Hale: I think initially, we were like, “Okay, we need to make some traction in the market,” and really focused everything on external audiences. And now we’re saying all right, our employee base has tripled. And we need to focus on internal communications. We need to focus on analyst communications. We need to focus on our current clients and making sure they’re having an optimized Cedar experience across their life cycle. So we’re kind of building out a few different audiences to focus on, and we’re also becoming a multi-product company at the same time. So I think product marketing and the nuances of the features, and the products, and our roadmap, and what we’re building out, that’s going to be a big focus going forward. So it’s one of the reasons I’m going from a team of seven, and it’s going to start to feel like team of teams soon as we build out our demand generation and marketing ops team, product marketing, visual design, content, corp comms, all of this is happening kind of at the same time.
Anna Grimes: Right. Got you.
John Farkas: So Bethany, I don’t know how you feel about being a frequent guest on a podcast, but you just introduced several different topics that we could spend a lot more time on. And our time is about up for this one, but thank you so much for your insights here. If there’s somebody out there that has not been to Cedar’s website, I would really encourage you to visit cedar.com. Awesome URL, nice five letter asset that Cedar put together there. And dive in, and look at that experience. And see how they’ve communicated differentiation. See how they’ve put experience forward in the context of what they’re doing and have told a really clear story that shows great value to their buyers. I think it’s a really thoughtful story that they’ve put together and is indicative of a company that is really meeting a market need and seeing the results. So Bethany Hale, thank you so much for being with us today.
Bethany Hale: Thank you. And yeah, I’ll come back any week you got, I’m here. So call me up.
Mark Whitlock: And we have it on the disc.
Bethany Hale: I can talk for a while as you can tell. So thank you. Very nice to meet you, John, Mark, Anna. Really appreciate all your time.
Anna Grimes: Thank you. Nice to meet you too.
Mark Whitlock: And we’ll link out to everything about Cedar from our show notes page. So come on over to studiocmo.com/046. That’s the Cedar interview with Bethany Hale. We’ll link out to that blog post that she wrote about the overhaul of their visual identity system and how she told the story of the brand. And we’ll link out to the conversations with Chelsea Clinton and Paul Ryan that she mentioned as well. Plus we’ll put a link in there to the careers page if you want to see how a company tells their company story, builds their company brand, and recruits employees all within the context of one URL. It’s a beautiful thing.
Mark Whitlock: When you’re at studiocmo.com/046, we’re also going to link out to an article written by our VP of design Bennett Farkas on the true value of a strong health tech brand identity system. He kind of breaks down some of the components to help you look at your own brand for your health tech company and decide where you need to bolster or pat yourself on the back and say, “Yeah, we’re doing a good job there.” So we’ll link out to the true value of a strong health tech brand identity system as well when you come to studiocmo.com/046, and for the show notes.
Mark Whitlock: And while you’re there, we would encourage you to subscribe to Studio CMO. If we can have Bethany back would be a great thing. And you’d be the first one to know when she’s back on Studio CMO, if you’re one of our subscribers.
Mark Whitlock: And also, leave a comment. You’ve heard a lot of conversation today. If you scroll down to the bottom of any page at studiocmo.com, you’ll have a chance to leave an audio comment that we might use in an upcoming edition of Studio CMO. So check those things out, and we would love to have you onboard as an inside subscriber for Studio CMO.
Mark Whitlock: You’ve heard today how a brand lives out the three core tenants that we talk about on every episode. And those tenants are to truly understand your buyer’s problems.
Anna Grimes: Lead with an empathetic understanding.
John Farkas: And always look for great opportunities to make your buyer the hero.
Mark Whitlock: We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.
Mark Whitlock: Studio CMO is shaped by Golden Spiral, an agency providing market positioning and demand generation for health tech. We help healthcare technology companies establish and communicate their unique message to the right decision-makers. Realize your market potential. Contact Golden Spiral. Our music is provided by some of Nashville’s hottest studio musicians who make up Human Music of BMG Production Music company. Find out more at humanmusic.com.