Beyond the core lies more value for your customers and your organization.

Fueled by a powerful brand idea, you have more opportunities than you think to create new and greater value for your health brand customers beyond your core product and service offerings. To introduce marketing innovations to drive sales as much as new product development.

Here are five pathways (along with some examples) to generate new brand-led growth through marketing-led innovation and to add more value to your customer’s lives – along the way introducing new dimensions for distinguishing your brands.

1. New Experiences: If you’re a high-end spa brand like Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spas, and your target audience just happens to be well-to-do females, how about creating the Red Door Spa wedding experience?

2. New Audiences: If you have a strong foothold in the weight-management category like Atkins Nutritional, why not help fight obesity by working along with schools to assist school-age children to eat healthier meals?

3. New Partners: If you’re Octane Fitness, committed to making the best elliptical machines in the world, how about partnering with Apple (another brand committed to “best in the world”) to build readers into your machines?

4. New Channels: If you’re Glo Professional, a beauty company with products that are supposed to be great for post surgery skincare, why not pursue the professional healthcare channel?

5. New Dialogue: If you’re an everything-bicycle retailer like Performance Inc. –  how about creating an online social community among bike enthusiasts and asking them to contribute their favorite bike routes across the United States, thereby creating tremendous value for riders through your brand.

What have you done today to surprise and delight your customers through marketing innovation? Please share.

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Your market is changing all around you.

Traditional competitors are evolving. New ones are forming. Market forces are redefining customer expectations and challenging your traditional definition of “value.”

So how are you responding? What’s the idea that drives your brand and gives you permission to imagine and create new value for your healthcare customers and your organization?  Success, today and in the future, requires you to take this idea and translate it into adding more value to people’s lives beyond your core products and services.

Virgin takes its passengers to and from the airport. Cirque du Soleil gives its audiences theatre with (and redefines) their circus. Mayo Clinic is creating lifestyle products and mobile apps for its patients and expanded customer base. Fairmont gives its guests a BMW with their hotel stay.

How about you. What do you do to surprise, delight, and add more value to your customer’s lives?

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There’s a new book just released called Age Of Conversation 3, and it’s the third book in the Age of Conversation series.

A crowdsourced publication, it brings together 150+ authors from around the world, leading marketers, writers, thinkers and creative innovators contributing individual chapters, investigating the roles that community, conversation, experimentation, engagement, and collaboration play in shaping the 21st century’s economy of ideas. I’m proud to be a contributing chapter author.

The book helps readers use social media. Teaches them how to use it smarter, better, more efficiently.  Shares stories, ideas, strategies and observations. And in the spirit of community, all profits from the sale of the book are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The book is broken down into these sections:

At the Coalface
There is much to be said for good strategy, but what happens when the strategy is done? This section is about working at the coalface of social media. It’s about the real world lessons that come hard and fast – case studies and the stories and events that are much better in the re-telling than in the moment.

Conversational Branding
What happens when a brand ventures into online conversation. What does it mean to participate in these conversations? Is this earned media? Is it paid for? Or is there an in-between space?  How important is brand in the social media space?  How does the conversation shape or change the brand?

Much is made of influence, but what does “influence” mean in social media? Who has it, and who creates it? Does influence mean different things to different people?  Is it hype or can it make the cash register ring?  Is influence one of the new currencies?

Getting to work
They say that the best approach to social media is dive in. But getting to work can be harder than it first appears. What have you done to quickly get to work?  Or perhaps this section is about how you use social media to get to work — literally.  Is it a viable tool for networking and job hunting?  Or maybe this section is about how social media is changing the face of work.

Corporate Conversations
There’s plenty of coverage of social media when the focus is on marketing or advertising. But what is happening in other parts of your business? Or if you’re a consultant or agency, how do you introduce social media to the C-level at your client’s business?  How do you make social media more relevant to the bottom line?

Can you measure social media? Many claim you can and many claim you can’t. But if you can, should you? And how do you measure it?  In terms of ROI?  Or influence? Or ability to do good?  What are the metrics that matter and how do you get to them?

In the boardroom
Is social media a fad dreamed up by the marketing department to get the attention of executives? What are the hard questions and firm answers that get thrown around the boardroom. And who, if anyone, is best placed to answer?  What role should the C-level executives play in a company’s social media strategy?  

Pitching social media
The work has been done and the late nights are weighing heavily on your shoulders. But it’s time to buck up – to pull it all together and wow your client. What do you do to impress? Is there a new art to pitching social media? Or, if you’re from the PR side of the table, how are you pitching your client’s stories to social media’s influentials?

Innovation and Execution
People make great claims for social media. Is it the long dreamed of silver bullet? Can the tools and techniques be harnessed to drive innovation? How can you take an idea or a strategy and make it work for your brand or your business?  How do you move from idea to actual execution?  

Identities, friends and trusted strangers
Many people are now living much of their lives online.  Who do you call friend?  How do you set boundaries or decide who to let into your circle of influence?  How do you know who to trust when you can’t look them in the eyes? What tools, techniques and sites do you find most useful in creating your online brand?

The book can be purchased from Channel V Books, a company that works with business thought leaders who need to publish books in order to promote themselves and their businesses, enhance their credibility and attract new opportunities.

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Where’s the value through your social media program? What’s in it for your audiences? How do you align your social efforts with your strategic goals, and the goals of your customers?

Here’s a quick presentation that contains ten questions that must be answered (along with some additional thoughts to get you underway), if you’re going to deliver real value for your customers and your organization.

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Aetna recently announced that it will be reaching out to its members on the-Go through a mobile-friendly website that’s easier to browse from a handheld device, smartphone “apps,” and text messaging. These mobile solutions will be made available to the majority of Aetna members – regardless of whether they have a basic cell phone or a smartphone with full Internet access.

Just a few examples of the benefits, as stated in the company press release, include “being able to look up the status of a claim while standing in the doctor’s office. Finding a cardiologist and making an appointment during a train ride to work. Researching the price of a prescription from the grocery aisle.”

According to Meg McCabe, vice president of consumer marketing and product for Aetna – “It’s imperative that we meet our members where they are with resources that engage them in making well-informed health care decisions, improve their interactions with their physicians, and even help them save a little money along the way.”

Through On-the-Go, Aetna accomplishes an important, yet somewhat elusive, objective for an insurance company – actually building relationships with a broad spectrum of their customer base. By allowing them to access important information, wherever and whenever they want it, the company is extending and enhancing its interactions with members – in ways they actually value and want.

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PatientsLikeMe is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of patients diagnosed with life-changing diseases. It was co-founded by Ben and Jamie Heywood after their brother Stephen (who has since passed away) was diagnosed with ALS. And make a difference they have, as they were recently recognized by Fast Company as #2 on the list of the top ten most innovative healthcare companies.

They state that their goal is to enable people to share information that can improve the lives of patients diagnosed with life-changing diseases. To make this happen, we’ve created a platform for collecting and sharing real world, outcome-based patient data and are establishing data-sharing partnerships with doctors, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, research organizations, and non-profits. Their collective data has shown enormous power to comfort, inspire, explain, predict and empower.

PatientsLikeMe is a wonderful role model for how modern brands will succeed by helping customers (in this case, patients) achieve more than they ever could on their own. Here are some reasons why:

1. Committing versus campaigning. Going forward, brands will be defined not by what they say to people, but by what they say and do with people (in this case, 45,000 patients).

2. Value through content. We go to the web because there’s something we need to do; a problem we need to solve. So we’re looking for information, insights and advice that we can use.  In this case, it’s content that’s literally saving and enhancing lives.

3. Collaboration. PatientsLikeMe brings together company, customers (patients) and partners (doctors, pharma, medical device companies) collaborating together to help each grow stronger.

4.  Becoming integral to people’s lives. PatientsLikeMe members don’t just share their experiences and stories; they turn their symptoms and treatments into hard data. By telling and sharing so much, members are creating a rich database of disease treatment and patient experience.

5. Transparency. While many companies, and healthcare websites, have a Privacy Policy, PatientsLikeMe has an Openness Policy. They believe that data belongs to you the patient to share with other patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and anyone else that can help make patients’ lives better.

6. Understanding How Your Audiences Integrate Technology Into Their Lives. PatientsLikeMe patients are heavily involved in what Forrester Research refers to as the groundswell. So this site is the perfect medium for them to contribute, comment, write, upload and publish.

7. Creating brand advocates. People who feel a sense of ownership in the brand, and are motivated to help it succeed will take an active role helping friends or family members make  a decision about a product. In this case, the motivation is literally a matter of life and death.

8. The product is the marketing. And PatientsLikeMe has created a better product.

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On CMO.com, there’s a handy guide created by SEO and social media firm 97th Floor which analyzes which tools (across the social channels) are best for Customer Communication (add engagement here), Brand Exposure, Traffic To Your Site and SEO.  Here’s the link, where a downloadable pdf is also available.

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Here are ten planning questions that you need to answer to deliver real value for your customers and your organization through your social media program. Note that by real value, I’m referring to important measures of influence, attitude and action (based on engaging on a deeper level and truly understanding what drives your customers) and not the less meaningful ones like page views, followers or fans.

1. What are your business goals; e.g. awareness, thought-leadership, support, prospecting/leads, public relations, corporate social responsibility
2. What are the practices of your audiences and competitors; e.g. who are they, where are they, why are they participating
3.  How well do your audiences know you; e.g. familiarity, frequency of interactions, your reputation among them
4. What is your one thing; e.g. your niche or singular message
5. What’s your big-picture strategy; e.g. thought-leader (influencer), education (knowledge), entertainment (experience), empowerment (involvement)
6. How will you approach your content and conversations; e.g. what type, style, sources; guardrails (frequency, quality, legal implications, authenticity)
7. Type of outreach channels; e.g. what are the vehicles you’ll use to gain maximum participation; and how will you use traditional media to compliment and pull to social
8. How will you/can you marshall your internal resources; e.g. how much internal time and resource do you require; who will be your social face and voice; how will you get employees on-board
9. What policies are in place; e.g. for employee participation, brand consistency, handling of confidential and proprietary information, crisis situations
10. How will you monitor progress and performance; e.g. ongoing internal monitoring, performance criteria, qualitative and quantitative metrics

Are there any questions you’d add to this list?

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Does your marketing in and of itself add value to your customer’s lives? Does it help them in some way do more than they can on their own?

If not, why not? Why aren’t you moving beyond traditional one-way tell and sell advertising to actually connect and interact with your audiences (whose expectations are greater every day) in ways they actually value and want?  Why still simply send a fleeting message when you can interact in more meaningful and personal ways, gain valuable insight, spur innovation that helps you and your customers grow stronger, turn customers into brand advocates.

Here are seven ways, along with examples, of how to create greater value for customers (and your organization) through your marketing:

1. Be Considerate. Demonstrate that you understand what they’re going through. J&J’S babycenter.com
2. Motivate Them. Be an inspiration. Nike Plus (Nike + ipod) running.
3. Give Something of Value. Beyond what you’re selling. sanofi-aventis GoMeals.
4. Show You Care. Listen, respond and repeat. M•A•C Cosmetics Viva Glam.
5. Surprise Them. Keep your relationship fresh. P&G’s beinggirl.com
6. Keep Communication Going. Stay in touch. Perricone MD’s DailyPerricone.
7. Spend Time. Create an experience that brings you closer. Olay For You.

What did I miss? I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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Your health brand customers can buy reliability, efficiency and convenience just about anywhere.

But what they’re increasingly looking for is the ability to buy from brands that have a healthy heart. Brands that provide other reasons to buy – and create greater value for themselves and others – beyond price and quality.

Signs of a healthy brand heart include appealing to higher values of community, causes and advocacy. Helping people reinforce their own meaning and purpose and helping them achieve what they can’t on their own. When customers align with these brands, they become a statement for what they themselves believe.

Here are four key characteristics of heart brands, along with some examples:

1. Be true to who you are. Your actions must resonate as sincere with your customers. Which means they must already be reflected in your brands’ story and ambition and backed up by your organization’s actions. Luxottica Group’s OneSight Foundation, is a family of charitable vision care programs dedicated to improving vision through outreach, research and education – which grows out of the company’s values of “protecting the eyes of men and women all over the world…to maximize their well-being and satisfaction.”

2. Help customers themselves do more. Help them be proactive, through their purchases, in ways they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do so. Purchasing from The Body Shop allows customers to affirm their commitment and support to the values that guide the company and their everyday lives – Activate Self-Esteem, Against Animal Testing, Support Community Trade, Protect Our Planet, Defend Human Rights.

3. Be selective in your stand. The legitimacy of your brand territory can only extend so far. So better to go deep and make a significant difference through your efforts than try to be everything to everybody. Humana’s CrumpleItUp innovation initiative, exists to come up with creative ways to help people be healthy while having fun.

4. Don’t fake it.  Today’s info-empowered consumers will not tolerate lip service. At some point, too, you always get caught. Unless you’re willing to demonstrate real commitment, transparency and accountability – take a pass. Rather than out one of these brands, I’ll focus on a positive role model. Since 1997, L’Oreal has raised more than $18M to fight ovarian cancer, the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers – thanks in part to sales of charitable products such as those in its Color of Hope cosmetics collection.

Give your customers something to believe in. Everyone wins.

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