• Aetna, Accountable Care Solutions needed to shift from customization to real-time personalization
  • Marketing automation was deployed to provide information specific to buyers’ needs
  • Using a single platform also makes back-end content management easier

As customers increasingly leverage technology to seek peer-to-peer recommendations and reviews to help make buying decisions, B2B organizations also can take advantage of tools to optimize their customer advocacy efforts.

Dana Cutter, director of marketing communications at Aetna, Accountable Care Solutions, noted during our recent interview that his group reached this tipping point a few years ago, as it started building a network of hospital systems across the country. 

“The challenge we had with these relationships is that all healthcare is local,” he explained. “We needed a single platform to promote through a single URL but serve up personalized information about our products and pricing, which vary by market.”

In short, the group needed to shift from customization to real-time personalization based on location, but its existing separate applications for email, landing pages, forms and other components made campaign management difficult.

“We also wanted to get away from customers having to customize [their experience] themselves,” Dana said. The old system of separate pages and quote systems for each vendor made things too complex and limited what Aetna could present on a one-to-one level. Meanwhile, online components viewable anywhere in the world would display products that couldn’t be purchased in certain markets, leading to dead-end inquiries from would-be buyers.

After building a business case for a new platform and issuing an RFP, Dana and his team evaluated multiple options before deciding that Marketo offered the right features and functionality.

He describes the build as “complex,” noting that the organization contracted with Marketo and an additional external vendor to help build out campaigns in several geographies and segments.  Personalization centered on three elements – products, pricing and promotion – delivered to the individual groups that the division serves.

The 32 hospital systems in 26 markets that are part of Aetna’s partnership system can access content through a single URL, avoiding the hassle of creating new URLs for new markets or partnerships, or forcing partners to remember a more complex address.

Depending on the visitor’s location, however, the Web site experience changes dramatically. From subtle touches like updating background photos to depict the skyline of the local city and showing contact phone numbers with local area codes, to providing market-specific data on the cost savings that Aetna provides, the site is fully personalized.

“That’s where the power lies,” Dana said. “When the customers are on our site, they immediately see the solutions that are relevant to them, and we can measure the amount of time they spend and get information on how easy the process was.”

With real-time personalization in place, the sales team reported an increase in qualified leads and a greater ability to respond immediately to requests. Dana and his team also deployed several formal test campaigns to compare results to baseline – a form of testing that wasn’t even available with the old systems. Response rates improved 20 to 30 times over baseline, he notes. Further experimentation with different messaging and dynamic content changes have yielded additional gains.

On the back end, the single platform and single site greatly reduce the labor burden for ongoing content management. Given the rapidly changing regulatory landscape in healthcare, messaging updates are frequent, and logging in a single time to republish everywhere offers obvious advantages.

For other organizations looking to deploy real-time personalization on their Web sites, Dana recommended starting small and keeping expectations in check.

“There’s a lot you can do with these platforms – be smart about what you leverage first,” he said. “For us, it was getting geography right, showing the right product names, the right pricing and the right videos. That alone is a major challenge.”