Imaging and creating new value for your audiences starts with your brand positioning.

Sramana Mitra, strategy consultant and Forbes columnist, just ran an interesting series – Blogosphere on Positioning – that captures some interesting and complimentary thoughts on positioning from some pretty smart people: Steve McKee, Tom Asacker, Susan Gunelius, Rober Bly and David Meerman Scott.

Here are a few highlights:

• grow your appeal by targeting fewer people
• evaluate whether your positioning passes six key tests
• instead of trying to occupy a unique “position”, develop a unique attitude
• make internal changes to meet customers’ needs, which will lead to the brand experience and perception you want your brand to convey

Have a read. There are good insights here that you can start to incorporate into your efforts right away.

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View more presentations from Taly Weiss.

This is TrendsSpotting’s third annual prediction report following major trends in six categories. What I found really interesting was that for 2010, as part of their “Influencer Series” they adopted this “tweet style” format.

Across many of the predictions, they identified these trends they suggest will influence consumer behavior:

• Healthy, Value, Stability, Disclosure, DIY

Enjoy. The report is a quick read.

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Inspiration is often found where you least expect it. Looking at alternate categories far away from where you concentrate your sights each day often yields new ideas about how to create new and greater value for current customers, and how to create new demand among non-customers.

On this kind of search for another client (based on criteria of digital channel, destination site, big following, passionate participants), we found www.legoclick.com.

The meta description is “a little place on the Internet celebrating creativity and the everyday moments of inspiration that LEGO enthusiasts call CL!CK.”

Take a look. Enjoy. Be inspired. CL!CK here.

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For ISITE Design’s 2010 Web Strategy Report, they surveyed 268 organizations (from startups to Fortune 100; executives, marketers and web experts) on their outlook and approach to the web.

Here are the results of one of their key survey questions:

Key insight is that organizations are placing more of a priority on interacting with their customers in ways they value and want versus merely talking at them. Results bear this out, as 73.5% of respondents indicated that “Social media” was either a new priority or more of a focus, followed by customer measures including user experience and rich media.

Would your answers to this question track with what’s reported here?

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How can your healthcare organization create new and greater value for patients and expand the role of your organization in their lives? Climb the engagement ladder.

There are five steps:

Step 1: Converse. Though it’s the first step, you’ve acknowledged that to engage a patient, you need to move away from what your organization wants to say to what they want to hear and achieve. You understand that it’s not your story that matters, but theirs. To this end, you’ve integrated social media platforms alongside your traditional (talking at them) media.

Step 2: Transact. This rung is defined by event-driven characteristics. Your care (their care) is segmented, and the relationship is reactive (they get sick, you respond). This relationship is of limited long-term value to your organization, as it limits your business opportunity to one-off situations. It also limits the value to patients, as you’re merely providing just what they need.

Step 3: Support. Still on the 50 yard line, but closer to where you and your patients want to be. And closer to creating value together. Information and education is available to patients. Communities are formed around specific conditions. And you’re beginning to capture “customer” data beyond the patient.

Step 4: Enable. Your relationship gives patients what they want, when and how they want it. It’s more proactive as you understand the person beyond the patient. It’s not limited to a brand or therapeutic line. Instead, it’s organization-wide.

Step 5: Empower. Patients get exactly what they want, as you solve their jobs to be done. You maximize your business opportunity, become their trusted resource and earn their loyalty. The relationship is collaborative, open and evolving. It’s the ultimate win-win, as both patients and your organization grow stronger.

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This article – Just Shut Up And Listen? – originally appeared in the October issue of Accenture’s Outlook. It contrasts the recent past when life for marketers was far more simple (i.e. we talk and you listen), with today’s conversation-based practices.

The article also provides eight actions that you can take immediately to more meaningfully engage, and create more value for, your customers:

1. Monitor and measure sentiment. Gauge your customers’ needs, how they feel about you, their level of satisfaction, what competitors are up to. There’s absolutely no reason anymore to wait for the “annual market survey” to find this information out.
2. Embrace video as a communications medium. Chances are that you have a ton of instructional and procedural material that never gets read. Much better to be able to show them than tell them.
3. Create an online community of friends, fans and fanatics. Let them converse with you, and with each other through you. Facilitate, but don’t dominate, the conversation. This kind of third-person publicity is also more genuine and credible than any ad campaign you can run.
4. Cultivate brand ambassadors. The bigger your community, the more vulnerable you become. Brand ambassadors will proactively sing your praises, criticize if they feel its deserved, but also defend you when you’re back’s up against the wall.
5. Turn your people into a marketing asset. Enthusiastic customers want to hear from the people who create and design your products and programs and deliver your services. They humanize your company and strengthen the connection between you.
6. Credibility and authority are not necessarily linked. An important dynamic of communities is that credibility does not automatically accrue from authority. People want to hear from customer service, the engineers, the designers. Those people who are better equipped and more genuinely able to address their comments.
7. Generate traffic beyond your website. It’s no longer their portal to your company. Instead, reach them through social media – when, where and how they want.
8. Don’t forget your investors. Beyond your disclosure requirements, be their trusted, neutral and transparent source of relevant information about customers, competitors and trends.

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Healthcare brands that are fueled by a powerful core idea, and managed with a delicate balance of imagination and precision, have the ability to transform both organizations and their audiences.

Here are six tips for driving brand-led transformation:

1. Step outside of your box. Consider what you might be, and not what you are. Perpetuate the status quo and you’ll never see beyond what you already know. Question deeply held assumptions, consider the business from a new angle, and generate innovative ideas and ways to change consumer behavior. Consider Humana, a health insurance company that’s breaking the mold through their Crumpleitup innovation initiative designed to come up with creative ways to help people be healthy while having fun.

2. Get different. Rewrite the rules of the game. Zig when others zag. Follow the same path as others, and you’re limited to the same gains (or losses) as others. Consider Hello Health, a new healthcare organization that’s reframing the relationship between patient and physician.

3. Drive from a powerful idea. Every great business is built on a great brand. And every great brand is built on a great idea. An idea that’s simple, unique and compelling. An idea that can sustain the business for years down the road. Unilife is a rapidly growing medical device company, passionate in its quest to help its pharma and healthcare partners enhance and save lives through the reduction of needle stick injuries.

4. Get everyone on board. Transformation can only happen from the inside out. Paint a compelling picture of the future. Establish a sense of urgency. Let everyone participate in the journey. Ground change in your culture.

5. Execute meticulously. Sweat the details. Great brands get that way based on brilliant execution. Ensure your brand shines through across all its touchpoints – from products, to behaviors, communications and environments.

6. Be an open book. Open up your brand to participation. Let people contribute their own stories. Let them share their stories with others through you. Create a more powerful story together. After all, there’s always a new chapter in the works. Consider the support and participation through GSK’s Alli Drug community www.myalli.com.

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Here’s a good article from April Joyner at Inc. titled – 30 Tips For Using Social Media in Your Business.

While targeted to the “time-strapped, but socially conscious” small business CEO, every one of these tips actually represents a good piece of advice for healthcare marketers to provide greater value to customers through social media. Here are my top ten:

1. Offer a peak behind the scenes
2. Harness your expertise
3. Demonstrate what your organization does
4. Put your website’s content to work
5. Be candid
6. Interact with visitors – really
7. Don’t create a stand-in for yourself
8. See what other people are saying about you
9. Make amends with dissatisfied customers – quickly
10. Let customers help each other out

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Mayo Clinic is a pace setter when it comes to integrating social media into a healthcare organization’s marketing efforts.

It’s now creating new value for healthcare consumers and the organization itself through its partnership with DoApps. They’ve formed start-up mRemedy (website coming soon), to create new apps for smartphones based on Mayo’s research and services.

It’s first app, which just launched for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch is Mayo Clinic Meditation (perfect for those of us [all of us] who would love to take a few minutes out of our day for meditation). You can watch the video here:

This is another great example of Mayo:

• extending its relevancy (and generating revenue) beyond its traditional care services boundaries
• engaging audiences on their terms in ways they value and want
• creating new relationships with what will ultimately be a wide range of niche audiences sharing and spreading mRemedy apps

So how will you, as a healthcare leader, marketer or innovator, create and capture more value in 2010? What opportunities do you have to develop or creatively package your intellectual property?

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As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand marketing, digital, social or innovation leader. I’m pleased to have Dennis Urbaniak, Vice President of Innovation and New Customer Channels at Sanofi Aventis, as this month’s participant.

Here’s what Dennis has to say about the future of health brands and social media:

1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that…
….will embrace dialogue from key stakeholders as a critical source of customer insight, as well as a critical source for new ideas to drive innovation. Those organizations that develop true competencies in active listening and relevant dialogue will establish a credible presence among their key stakeholders. This presence will drive differentiated, sustainable business value.

Put simply, those companies that have the courage and vision to execute a real customer centric approach across their entire organization will run circles around their competitors.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?
Social media has forced our organization to realize that we have been too narrow in our communication focus. We know a lot about how our customers use our products but we need to learn a great deal more about what their priorities are, how they make decisions, and what they truly value. It reinforces the need to be relevant to our customers in our communications vs. pushing out a high volume of brand specific messaging.

Social media is also forcing us to consider the difference between short term campaign like bursts of communication compared to actively engaging and contributing to a community over time. It is helping to demonstrate the value of community and the need to earn a trusted place in the community to better inform our business strategy.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?
One of the greatest opportunities we face as we consider participation is the need to develop a common understanding of why we are participating, what we hope to contribute and learn by being there, and how to develop the competencies to be effective in our approach over time.

As we realize the risks of not participating greatly outweigh the common objections around control and the open nature of the dialogue, we are challenged with building a broad base of skilled individuals who can engage in the most effective manner.

4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?
The first is that you really need a strategy. You have to have a clear rationale for participation, a defined target audience you wish to engage, and clear expectations on the outcomes you hope to drive before you initiate one tactic. Chasing shiny objects wastes time and diminishes your credibility within the community.

The second is that your social media strategy cannot stand alone. You have to integrate the benefits of listening and dialogue that social provides with a broader communication strategy across multiple channels. By carving out social media as a separate initiative, you lower your chances of realizing the benefits and greatly improve your chances of offending the community.

And last is the need to think through the commitment you are making to the approach. It is very easy to get excited and jump in with a high degree of energy, but if you cannot sustain that effort, you will fail. Teams do not anticipate the long term requirements needed to earn a place as a valued, contributing member of a community. You need to be able to execute a sustainable approach to provide value over time or you will quickly be left out as the community builds around sincere, engaged contributors.

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