Online customer reviews, and even more so reviews through Google My Business (GMB), are a critical part of digital marketing efforts for businesses with physical offices or retail locations. According to BrightLocal, the average consumer reads at least ten reviews before making a purchase, with 91 percent of consumers relying on positive reviews to make purchasing decisions. In addition, up to 76 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends. This user-generated content about your business is influential to consumers who are deciding whether or not to do business with you. Every time a customer reviews your business is a chance to impress future customers.
Growing your business through customer reviews
With so many consumers researching businesses online before deciding where to shop, Google customer reviews are an excellent place to show off just how great your business can be! GMB is often the first place potential customers interact with your business online, so an up-to-date listing full of positive reviews—and thoughtful responses to negative ones—can be a powerful driver of traffic to both your physical location and your website, which in turn can help increase your revenue and grow your business. Below, you’ll find specific techniques you can use to get more positive reviews for your GMB listing, keep your online reputation healthy, attract new customers to your business, and retain existing ones.
Have stellar customer service
Without this, nothing else matters. The best way to encourage positive GMB reviews is to ground your business in the fundamentals of good customer service. No amount of content strategy can save a business from consistently bad customer experiences. Staff who act as your last point of contact with customers—be they cashiers, receptionists, or waiters—must be able to defuse situations that lead to unhappy customers venting their frustrations online. Treat people exceptionally well, both online and in person, and they will be more likely to spread the word about your business to potential customers.
Claim your GMB listing
Creating or claiming your Google my Business profile makes your listing eligible to appear on Maps, Search, and other Google services. By verifying your ownership, you can take charge of your online reviews and begin to attract more foot traffic to your physical location and online traffic to your website.
Because consumers rely so heavily on user-generated content when making purchasing decisions, having an effective online presence is one of the most powerful ways to bring in paying customers. A healthy online reputation attracts potential customers who find your business through a search engine, social media, or review sites. Happy customers attract more customers through word-of-mouth advertising, bringing in increased revenue and so on. By abandoning your GMB listing or only checking it sporadically, you risk missing out on the opportunity to show your prospective customers that you run a lively, responsive business.
Ask your customers to leave reviews
Ask and you may receive! This strategy is so simple, yet so effective. To drive this tactic home, show your customer how easy and painless it is to write up a quick review. Here are three simple steps to remind your customers how effortless it is to review a business:
- Search the business’ name on Google
- Click the Write a review on the GMB listing
- Rate and write a review
Asking for reviews helps give potential customers a balanced, accurate view of your business, counteracting the undesirable effects of negative reviews, which tend to pile up faster than positive ones. Unfortunately, this is simply part of online life: people who have bad experiences with a business are more motivated to leave public feedback.
Don’t be tempted to gate reviews
It’s important not to engage in practices that violate GMB policies, such as “review gating.” Review gating occurs when companies take proactive steps to discover whether customers had positive or negative experiences before they leave reviews. Customers likely to leave positive reviews are invited to do so while customers likely to do the opposite are dealt with privately in an effort to head off uncomplimentary reviews. This practice is a violation of Google’s most recent guidelines and will hurt your online reputation if it is discovered.
In general, allow customers to leave whatever reviews they want. If the review is negative, reach out publicly to the customer to resolve the issue. Even if that customer cannot be satisfied, other viewers will see your willingness to make things right. Try to interfere with your GMB rating, however, and at the very least you set yourself up for a listing suspension.
Don’t pat yourself of the back and write your own review
If you work there or run the place, don’t write a review. Generating false positive reviews is a direct violation of GMB guidelines and is a quick way to get your listing suspended. As if that weren’t bad enough, nothing will turn away customers faster than the realization a business is lying. Avoid getting your listing tangled up in unnecessary and costly suspensions by following GMB guidelines to the letter.
How to manage customer reviews on your Google My Business page
Your Google My Business listing is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution for drawing in foot traffic and website visitors. On the contrary—unless you take an active role in managing your GMB listing and reviews, you’re likely to find negative reviews pile up on their own while positive reviews get pushed aside. There’s more to GMB review management than making sure your online reviews are positive! It’s also important to have a steady flow of new user-generated content coming in to refresh your online presence.
Recent reviews can have a big impact on your local SEO. In fact, they have a far greater impact on SEO than out-of-date feedback has—last year’s five-star reviews tell potential customers very little about how a business is performing today. Google has also confirmed that prompt responses to reviews impacts local SEO. Doing so also demonstrates your appreciation for customers who take the time to rate your business favorably. But who should be replying to these reviews?
Google My Business Management: Who should be in charge?
Responsibility for review management should fall on someone in your business with the authority to solve customer-facing problems. There are 3 types of users for listings:
- Site managers
When potential customers search the web or social media for information about businesses, they’re hoping to see not only positive reviews but also meaningful responses to negative ones. Make sure whoever you put in charge of online reviews can quickly make matters right for your customers. Don’t simply respond to negative reviews with empty promises to make things better—follow up on every promise you make. Keep your word with your customers, and they will remember your integrity and reward it with repeated visits.
Review management should overlap with your customer-appreciation strategy. Use review management as an opportunity to increase customer trust in your brand by responding quickly to all feedback on your listing. Always remember that GMB is a marketing tool, meaning you should present yourself and your business in the best possible light at all times. Ignoring reviews for too long or arguing with customers will hurt your online reputation in ways that can be hard to fix.
Handling customer reviews: The good, the bad, and the fake
Like any other marketing tool, Google My Business is an opportunity to showcase your brand’s professionalism and commitment to its customers. That being the case, it only makes sense to respond to customer feedback with courtesy and, when necessary, with an eagerness to fix any problems a customer may have had with your product or service.
Consider this—your GMB reviews may well be the very first thing a potential customer sees about your business. Long before they reach your website, new and returning customers will be gauging the state of your business by how well you respond to reviews through GMB—and how regularly you do it.
Be graceful and receptive to your negative reviews – no matter what
A bad review may feel like a personal slight, but it’s really a marketing opportunity—a chance to demonstrate to current and future customers that you respond to feedback quickly and gracefully to resolve customer complaints. Negative reviews also offer you a chance to identify repetitive issues and customer-facing concerns to improve business processes. Whether you own a franchise with multiple locations or a single storefront, GMB customer reviews help you establish credibility with your customers in real time while growing your business.
Whether responding to negative reviews through GMB’s online portal or through GMB messaging, it’s important to always follow customer service best practices. Above all else, when dealing with bad reviews, do not become defensive or argue with customers. While you may feel that a particular review is unfair to your business, it’s not worth countering an upset customer’s grievances in a permanent public forum.
As satisfying as it may feel in the moment to correct a customer’s mistaken impressions, doing so will harm your business in the long run. Online records of arguments between a business owner and customers are devastating for a business’s online reputation. If an exchange gets heated enough, it can go viral on social media, turning a small, easily fixed problem into a big one far beyond your control.
Here’s an example to leave you screaming and show you the opposite of what should ever be done:
In the end and no matter how untrue this phrase can be, every business has to live by the customer is always right, within reason of course. Respond professionally to all online reviews. Thank all customers for their feedback, and if they feel that they’ve had a less-than-perfect experience or frankly terrible, offer to solve the problem for them. Providing your business’ phone number can be helpful here—a personal conversation can often help you and your customer reach a resolution more quickly and amicably than you can online. If you have a dedicated support email address, direct the customer there to work out the matter together.
However an online customer interaction turns out, be sure to extract some form of constructive feedback from the negative review. Pay attention to what was promised to the customer that they felt wasn’t delivered and the questions and concerns they raised. Use this feedback to improve the customer experience your business offers.
Even if after trying your best you find that you aren’t able to come up with a solution that satisfies a particular customer, their review may still contain valuable information about how you and your team can approach customer service, layout, and other issues. No matter how negative a review may be, do respond. Silence speaks volume of apathy towards concerns directed at your business.
Don’t take reviews for granted: Respond to everyone!
Thorough, timely responses to customer reviews are a key part of local and online reputation management. Potential customers pay attention to more than just ratings in the online reviews attached to a GMB listing. They’re also hoping to find out whether your business is responsive to customer feedback—in other words, that you care what they think and regularly update your business accordingly.
Customers who feel a business truly values their opinions and feedback are much more likely to speak about it positively, both online and in their day-to-day interactions with family and friends. They’re also more likely to generate repeat business.
By contrast, customers who feel a company is indifferent to their thoughts are far less likely to return for business and may leave bad reviews out of a belief that negative feedback is the only way to get the business’s attention. By encouraging customers to leave a review for your business and by responding promptly and courteously to all of them, you can decrease the number of negative reviews customers leave and boost your online reputation, leading to greater numbers of visitors and increased revenue.
It takes time and effort for a customer to leave a review, so be sure to offer a sincere thank-you, just as you would if someone complimented you in person. Be specific in your response to show customers you aren’t just going through the motions or using a standardized response.
Be sure to mention specific aspects of your business that your happy customer liked and appreciated. A quick thank-you is also a great opportunity to invite the customer back for another visit! Ask them to return and enjoy your services again the next time they’re in the area.
How to handle fake or spammed reviews
This world seems to be filled with spam and Google reviews are no exception. Often originating from multiple accounts, these reviews have no basis in fact and may be created by unscrupulous competitors, disgruntled ex-employees, or customers who, for whatever reason, have chosen to try to ruin your reputation.
To start, Google will only remove negative reviews if they violate Google review guidelines. So make sure the questionable reviews are actually fake or spammed. Then, you have to do the following:
- Flag the review you suspect is fake or spammed as inappropriate. There are three vertical dots to the right of the reviewer’s name. Click on those dots; then click Flag as inappropriate.
- Open your GMB profile; click Support on the bottom-left corner of the navigation panel; then click Need more help, Customer reviews and photos, Manage customer reviews, and then Email support.
- In an e-mail, submit your case to Google for removing the fake or spammed review.
Looking to further improve your GMB listing? Check out our full guide to Google My Business or download our quick start guide below!
Successful selling requires support from an organization that can offer training, software tools, and other resources to improve sales effectiveness and performance at the individual and team-wide levels. The best way to build this infrastructure is through a sales enablement strategy, providing a framework to facilitate the collaboration, communication, and support that are necessary to excel in today’s business world.
But although sales professionals widely agree on the value of sales enablement, they don’t always have the hard numbers and other insights to back up their return-on-investment claims. This creates limitations for their sales enablement strategy, and not only because they can’t communicate the strategy’s value to other leaders in the business.
Without insight into your sales enablement performance, your department is unable to validate the results of its own efforts and use that feedback to improve its sales strategy. Validation of your enablement strategy will help you ensure that all of your strategic decision-making and sales best practices are evidence-based.
The best approach to validation is through in-depth reporting that can analyze sales interactions and other activities to identify strengths, weaknesses, and other trends related to your sales enablement strategy. Here’s a look at how your organization benefits from validation through reporting, and how to set it up at your company.
Benefits of using reports for validation
When it comes to sales enablement, knowledge is power. Here are some of the benefits that come with report-based validation.
Prove the ROI of your sales performance
The primary goal of sales enablement is to increase the overall value of sales efforts — that is, the revenue generated by a sales department, relative to the cost of those sales efforts.
Implementing a sales enablement strategy comes at an added cost, so it needs to deliver an ROI that not only exceeds its own expense, but also elevates the ROI of your overall sales performance to a level that justifies spending on sales enablement versus other value-added activities.
Business leaders will want to see this ROI as they evaluate sales enablement success. Reporting allows this information to be displayed in an easy-to-read format, using rich visual illustrations to quickly communicate the most essential information. Meanwhile, sales leaders can segment these reports to evaluate ROI by campaign or other parameters. This helps them evaluate the sales enablement strategy as it relates to specific aspects of sales performance, helping them better manage sales enablement to increase ROI in the future.
Improve accountability across your sales team
Reporting can provide an in-depth look at both team-wide and individual performance, highlighting areas where sales enablement has succeeded, as well as where it has fallen short. In some cases, poor performance could be a product of a failure to supply individual sales professionals with the right resources or training. But it could also help identify individuals who haven’t bought into the strategy and processes dictated by leadership.
Whatever the case, reporting offers visibility into sales performance that often isn’t possible without a data-rich validation process. This visibility will give leadership the ability to evaluate each individual’s contributions to ensure everyone is being held accountable in their assigned role.
Identify and address workflow bottlenecks
Managing the sales pipeline is crucial to the efficiency and productivity of your sales team. When bottlenecks develop, it puts conversion opportunities in jeopardy, and it can even damage your brand’s reputation — in addition to the internal cost of disorganized sales, and poor sales and marketing alignment.
Analytics and reporting can help identify these gaps and bottlenecks that are disrupting sales efforts and inhibiting sales performance. Whether it’s bottlenecks in the lead qualification process, poor communication, or other lapses in the marketing-to-sales handoff process, or a trend of other sales tasks not being handled promptly and properly, reporting can help identify these areas of weakness in your sales enablement strategy, giving your organization an opportunity to take corrective action — and possibly boost its ROI as a result.
Track performance by team, campaign strategy, and other segments
A digital reporting platform offers deep visibility and segmentation capabilities, allowing you to contextualize and evaluate performance at a granular level. Performance can be segmented according to team, campaign strategy, stage of the funnel, or other criteria to help you drill down to insights that wouldn’t be possible without the help of data-driven reporting.
This is even more powerful when you’re using sales technology and sales enablement tools that integrate with your reporting dashboard. With better connectivity and access to data, blind spots get eliminated, allowing you to analyze sales performance from any angle.
Improve time and resource management
As you leverage a sales enablement strategy to improve sales performance, resource allocation and management will take a central role. Whether it’s sales tools, specific training, or other solutions or development opportunities, you need to use sales enablement to manage the allocation of these resources in ways that deliver the greatest benefit to your sales team.
In a similar way, sales enablement can help you ensure your team is being utilized in the right way. Depending on performance numbers, this could mean asking a certain team member to focus on a specific campaign or strategy for which they deliver greater success, taking them off strategies and campaigns for which their numbers aren’t as strong. By managing staff and resources, you can ensure that your company’s sales assets are being applied in ways that optimize your performance potential.
Use historical sales data to improve your sales enablement strategy
Growing ROI and optimizing sales performance is a process that depends on access to historical sales data and analysis to identify opportunities for improvement. Just as with any sales or marketing strategy, sales enablement doesn’t deliver optimal results straight out of the box. Instead, this strategy provides a structure to enhance sales and increase ROI over time.
Reporting plays a crucial role in this process. With detailed reports and historical data in hand, sales leaders can oversee strategic changes that support better, more efficient sales practices. The combination of reporting and analytics enables deeper insights than the surface-level performance data provides, which allows your sales team to become smarter and more responsive to developing trends.
Even though historical data is reactive in nature, it offers incredible value in helping you better understand your existing sales strategy and how you can plan enhancements to that strategy.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the benefits of using reports to validate your sales enablement strategy, but it does demonstrate why the combination of validation and reporting is important to organizations that want to remain competitive in today’s sales landscape.
The next challenge is figuring out how to integrate reporting into your current sales management practices.
How to implement better reporting
Many of today’s analytics and marketing tools provide built-in reporting for all of their users. These reporting tools can be customized to deliver exactly the kind of insights you’re seeking to enhance your sales enablement strategy.
The first step is to integrate a sales analytics solution that offers a suite of reporting features. Specifically, you should ensure that your reporting tool offers the following:
- Automated report generation: Make it easy to view certain types of reports by establishing filters that will automatically track and populate data, minimizing your management of these reports.
- The ability to create custom reports: Although basic, automated reports can offer great insights, you will want to be able to analyze data according to specific criteria. The ability to manually create reports through a reporting dashboard is key.
- The ability to download reports as CSV files: These files can then be added to Excel and other software programs for additional analysis and data manipulation, and to repackage that data in a more shareable format.
- An easy-to-use dashboard: Part of the benefit of reporting is that it simplifies the task of collecting and organizing data. You need a dashboard that is user-friendly, is easy to navigate, and doesn’t require much management.
An effective sales enablement strategy is built through not only an intuitive understanding of your sales team’s needs and selling success, but also an integration of the insights uncovered through sales analytics and reporting.
As you implement a sales enablement strategy, reporting will help you validate your results and optimize your efforts going forward. And as these changes take effect, continued validation will help you chart your progress in managing change and optimizing sales performance to deliver more value to your organization.
The post Validate your sales enablement strategy with better reporting appeared first on CallRail.
Sales enablement is a fast-growing service offered by many marketing agencies, but we want to dive deeper into how agencies like yours can better embrace this practice internally to improve sales. As agencies face the challenges of scaling their sales efforts and improving conversion rates and ROI, they’re increasingly seeking out tools and strategies to raise the ceiling for what their sales professionals are capable of. And in that search for the best sales enablement tools, there is no shortage of options that can deliver value to your sales efforts.
Innovations in business technology have contributed to huge growth in the sales enablement market, and that growth is projected to continue over the next few years. In fact, the global market size for sales enablement platforms is expected to rise from $1.1 billion in 2019 to $2.6 billion by 2024, according to MarketsandMarkets.
As a result, today’s marketing agencies are facing a buyer’s market when seeking out the right solutions to support their sales efforts. With so many market entrants competing for your business, you can afford to be picky when choosing enablement platforms that will take your sales performance to the next level.
No sales enablement strategy is possible without a customer relationship management platform. This solution serves as a hub for both marketing and sales, centralizing data, tracking engagement, storing prospect contact information, and managing the sales pipeline.
Having a single source of truth for customer data is essential, especially as organizations scale their sales efforts, because of how easily a disorganized sales department can yield lower productivity, squandered opportunities, and less revenue.
But a CRM offers even more value to sales enablement than the features and tools offered within its platform. As one of the central solutions in any sales and marketing technology stack, the CRM integrates with many other sales solutions to collect and share data, elevating the performance of other solutions within your stack. For this reason, it’s hard to understate the value of a CRM to any sales enablement efforts.
2. Outreach automation and tracking
If your agency is serious about scaling its sales efforts, automation is key. Automation helps you generate more points of contact with prospects than you could realistically manage with a fully manual sales process. And, in many cases, automation also offers added efficiencies by optimizing the timing of outreach efforts and generating a bunch of data points that can power deeper, more valuable insights to guide your sales strategy in the future.
Automation and tracking can be deployed across many different sales engagement channels, including phone calls, email, text, direct mail, and other channels used to interact with your sales targets.
With automation tools as part of your sales enablement tool kit, you can increase productivity at the individual and team level and optimize selling strategies to improve results, whether you’re talking face to face with a prospect or engaging with them through these automated channels. With automation and tracking, you can directly enable your sales team to accomplish more than ever before.
3. Process and workflow automation
Managing the sales process is just as crucial to success as the sales engagement efforts taking place on the front line of your department. Better management of the sales process and workflows can unlock new efficiencies for your sales team.
One of the best sales enablement tools you can incorporate into your business is a sales management solution that automates some of these processes, ensuring that the pipeline moves efficiently and that sales personnel and resources are used wisely. Simple process and workflow automation allows sales professionals to focus on the demands of their jobs by alleviating the administrative demands placed on the sales professionals. For example:
- Tasks can be managed and automated.
- Reminders can be triggered either manually or automatically.
- Follow-ups in the sales process can be automatically delivered to help sales staff stay on top of each prospect they’re targeting.
Meanwhile, workflow automation data can be used to generate valuable insights about how your sales team functions. You’ll have an easier time understanding how and why bottlenecks are occurring, where your sales team needs better training and support, and how to better utilize resources and channels to drive better results. Process and workflow automation provides direct support for sales professionals, and it improves visibility for sales managers to improve the entire department’s performance.
4. Sales resource library
A sales resource library is a great centralized asset that sales staff can use to engage clients faster and with greater efficacy. Whether your sales team is looking for email templates or other sales content, such as phone scripts or battle cards to guide conversations regarding your top competition, a modern sales resource library makes it easy to store these resources in an easy-to-access place, keeping them organized and available whenever they’re needed.
A cloud-based sales resource library can also extend access beyond your office walls, supporting sales staff when they’re working remotely or traveling to meet with top clients. Sales managers can update this library over time, adding new templates, scripts, and other information that will help sales professionals put their best foot forward.
5. Reporting and analytics
Everyone likes the sound of analytics and data-driven insights. But sales teams generate a lot of data. In order to get value out of these insights, the information needs to be distilled into an easy-to-understand format — especially when you’re conveying this information to executive decision makers at your agency.
In this sense, reporting and analytics go hand in hand. After analytics generates meaningful insights that can enhance and optimize your sales performance, reporting organizes this information to provide the best visualization and rendering of sales performance, guiding strategic decision-making in the pursuit of better future results.
A good reporting and analytics platform will offer the ability to segment information and insights according to a number of different criteria, including specific time frames, as well as easy-to-use drill-down capabilities.
Sales enablement success goes beyond technology
These sales enablement tools combine forces to provide a critical final component of successful agency selling: communication. Although it’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing sales performance on an individual basis, the reality is that sales is a collective effort. The rise of sales enablement is a reflection of this reality, improving collaboration and support within a sales department to elevate performance metrics and deliver more value to the organization as a whole.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that sales enablement isn’t limited to the sales department itself. The best sales enablement tools deliver value through their ability to improve communication between sales and marketing, sharing important information and insights that sales professionals can use to improve their outreach and selling strategy.
Likewise, it’s important for executive leadership to understand the value offered by the best sales enablement tools. Through a combination of professional sales staff, a team-oriented culture, and the latest and greatest sales technology available on the market, your marketing agency can build a foundation for improved sales performance that continues to build on its own success well into the future.
Sales enablement tools are essential to your agency’s tech stack. For more information on building and maintaining a high-performance suite of solutions at your agency, check out our new Tech Stack Guide.
The post Best sales enablement tools for any marketing agency appeared first on CallRail.
If you’re a PT, OT, or SLP in private practice, then there may be some love lost when it comes to referral marketing. After all, building and maintaining referral relationships with other providers can be time-consuming and—depending on your comfort level with referral marketing tools—less profitable than you might hope. Yet, it’d be awfully lonely to be in practice and not have strong relationships with other practitioners, which brings me to the topic of this post: the many similarities between referral marketing and dating. Read on to learn how to set yourself up for success with our candy-coated, Valentine’s-Day-themed take on the subject.
1. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Cliché? Certainly, but just like there are tons of potential dating partners in the world, there are also tons of potential referral partners. You just may have to think outside of your usual type. For example, instead of focusing only on physicians in private practice, consider also developing relationships with practitioners who provide ancillary services to your ideal patients—for example, naturopaths, massage therapists, and nutritionists. You could also focus your attention on physicians in large networks—even those who typically refer to in-house PTs. After all, if you can demonstrate value beyond what their patients typically receive—especially in a niche field that their therapists don’t touch—then you may still be able to win their favor.
Invest in matches that make sense.
That said, you don’t want to waste your time on a relationship that has no future, so use your best judgement. As WebPT’s Melissa Hughes wrote here, a sports PT isn’t going to get much out of a referral relationship with a Medicare physician, and vice versa.
2. You’ve got to get past the first date.
Back in the day, a fruit basket here and a catered lunch there were really all a therapist needed in order to win over a local physician. But the market today is too saturated for that to be effective, and doctors are a bit more discerning about who they partner up with. In fact, some even employ referral gatekeepers—full-time employees who manage referral relationships—which means you might need to focus your energies there instead. Either way, you’ve got to get past the first date—that is, the first meeting—in order to develop a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship that ultimately provides exponential value to your shared patients.
Play up your best assets.
So, how do you score a second date? Skip the small talk, and instead focus on communicating exactly how your care will benefit your colleagues’ patients—and do so using language that’s meaningful to them. In addition to presenting relevant patient stories, come prepared with outcomes and NPS® data objectively demonstrating that patients measurably improve when they come to see you—and enjoy a positive care experience, to boot.
3. Open and honest communication is key.
You might think that once you establish the referral relationship—and your referral partner starts sending patients over—your work is done. But, that’s not really the case. Most referral partners want to be kept in the loop about how their patients are doing, so be sure to communicate any big changes in patient progress with your partner, especially if you run into challenges. After all, open and honest communication is the backbone of any successful relationship. Most referral partners would prefer to hear it first from you—not the patient. That’s especially true if the patient is displeased.
Validate your partners’ decision to choose you.
The same holds true for good news, too. In addition to providing updated outcomes and NPS data on a regular basis, be sure your documentation clearly demonstrates each patient’s progress and results. That way, your referral partners will be more likely to send even more patients your way. According to Hughes, “If you want to build rapport and trust with a referring provider, you have to close the communication loop and give him or her meaningful information…that affirms his or her decision to send patients to your practice.” Beyond that, you’ll also want to provide relevant updates to your practice. For example, if you launch a new aquatic therapy program or running clinic, your referral partners should know about it.
4. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.
Not all dates are destined for happily ever after. So, if you feel like you’ve done your part to deliver and demonstrate value—and you’re still not receiving referrals from a particular provider—then it might be time to let him or her down gently.
Focus your efforts on referral partnerships with staying power.
Unlike dating, though, these decisions usually require more than a gut feeling, so, per Hughes, be sure to keep tabs on:
- “Active referrals,
- “Referral source contact frequency, and
- “Revenue by referral source.”
That way, you’ll know for certain which referral partners are generating new patient volume—and which aren’t. Then, you can focus your attention and appreciation on the ones who are actually worth the effort.
There you have it: four ways referral marketing is like dating. This Valentine’s Day, show your top referral partners some love—or branch out and connect with someone new. Have your own tips for wooing potential referral partners? Tell us in the comment section below.
Just like W-shaped and U-shaped models, Z-shaped attribution models are named so due to the shape that they make when you take an overall graphical-level view of how each channel receives credit.
As you might’ve guessed, Z-shaped attribution is a multi-touch model that gives credit to all touchpoints in the customer journey. It’s also a position-based model, meaning that it decides how much credit to apportion each touchpoint depending on its particular position in the sales cycle/buyer’s funnel.
How does Z-shaped attribution work?
Z-shaped attribution is pretty easy to understand. The four most important touchpoints in the consumer journey are given 22.5% of the credit, with the remaining 10% of credit split equally amongst the rest of the touchpoints. But which are the touchpoints that receive 22.5%?
First touch = 22.5%
The first one, perhaps obviously, is the first touch. This is as simple as it sounds–the first time that a prospect interacts with your brand (be it through organic search, coming to your stand at an event, or coming across an online ad), is given 22.5% of the total credit for the sale. After all, if a customer never even knew about your brand in the first place, they would never have converted.
Lead-generation touch = 22.5%
The second key interaction to receive 22.5% of the credit is the lead-generation touchpoint. Lead generation on the surface might seem slightly complex to understand. After all, how do you know when a prospect is a lead (or vice-versa)?
Lead generation always involves a quid pro quo–that’s to say, a prospect exchanges something of theirs (usually their contact details) in return for something else (such as a thought-leadership eBook). Once this process has taken place, and a prospect has agreed to be contacted by your company, they then qualify as a lead. Needless to say, this is also a very important step: if you can’t get prospects to voluntarily agree to be contacted by your company, and receive marketing materials, it’ll be very difficult to lead them down the funnel and convert them into paying customers.
Opportunity-creation touch = 22.5%
The third touchpoint to receive 22.5% of the total credit is the opportunity-creation touch. But what exactly does opportunity-creation mean?
Let’s imagine that you’re an L&D provider offering management courses. You decide to send out a newsletter promotion offering a free class to all those on your newsletter promotional list (in other words, all your viable leads). One of your leads sees this email and decides to sign up for the free course. This–or something similar like signing up for a demo–counts as the opportunity-creation touch.
Customer close = 22.5%
Lastly, the final touchpoint in any one consumer’s journey (that is, the last time they interact with your brand before becoming a customer of yours) also counts for 22.5% of the total credit.
And this makes sense, right? After all, there’s little point in leading prospects all the way down the funnel if they never actually convert–so the final touchpoint, while it may appear to be a formality, is still incredibly important.
So there you have it. In total, four critical touchpoints will receive the lion’s share of the credit (90%), with the rest equally splitting the remaining 10%.
What does this mean for your marketing strategy?
The overall goal of attribution is to guide future marketing investment: allowing you to pinpoint which strategies work and therefore are worth continuing. Over time, a Z-shaped model will begin to highlight certain strategies and channels as being particularly effective. This obviously means that they’re worth prioritizing going forward, but you need to remember to compare revenue brought in with any outgoings incurred.
It’s easy to look at the amount of revenue that your expensive new series of Youtube guides brought in and think they’re the be-all and end-all of your marketing strategy. However, if you don’t balance out the fact that they cost so much to make, you’ll begin to have a skewed perception over how effective they really are. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but some marketers are so focused on the end result (on what actually brings in customers) that they forget to compare this with what it initially cost them in the first place.
How do you set up Z-shaped attribution?
In order to set up a Z-shaped model, you first need to ensure that your current attribution provider is tracking all relevant touchpoints. This might sound obvious, but if you’re currently using a single-touch provider then there’s no possible way that you can tweak it into a Z-shaped model. Once you’ve set your attribution parameters to multi-touch, you then need to ensure that your software/provider has the correct math to get it going.
As mentioned above, this follows a strict protocol: 22.5% to the first touch (this is easily identified), 22.5% to the lead-generation touch (essentially the first time a prospect exchanges their details with you), 22.5% to the opportunity-creation touch (there are a few options here, such as signing up for a demo or calling your company to find out more), and then 22.5% to the final touchpoint. Last but not least, the final 10% then needs to be shared amongst all other touchpoints.
It’s worth noting though that you might not necessarily see results from a Z-shaped model for a little while yet–especially if you have typically long sales cycles or are a smaller company with relatively few customer conversions.
For example, let’s say you’ve transitioned attribution provider to go from using a very basic single-touch model to a Z-shaped model. In this case, you might not be able to retroactively assign credit to previous touchpoints that occurred under the old attribution model. What does this mean? Well, it means that one of your customers is going to have to go through all stages of the funnel (from initial brand awareness all the way through to becoming a customer) until you even begin to see the full benefits of the model.
The benefits of using a Z-shaped attribution model
In short, a Z-shaped attribution ticks many key boxes. It’s multi-touch, meaning all touchpoints in the customer journey are considered to have had at least some impact on a lead’s decision to convert. This is key, because many attribution models only cherry-pick one single interaction and assign it 100% of the credit (which therefore skews your entire perception of your marketing strategy). Instead, Z-shaped attribution takes into account every single interaction a customer has with your brand prior to conversion.
In reality, this is the only way to make sure that you’ve got an eye on how all your strategies work in tandem–how you initially pique a prospect’s interest, the key touchpoints which lead them down the funnel, where they pass from being simply another lead to a viable opportunity, and why they decide to convert.
A Z-shaped model is also highly effective in terms of the way it distributes the total credit for any one sale. It’s always hard for marketers to know precisely which touchpoints had the most influence over a customer, and it’s not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination. This model largely takes the guesswork out of this process. The math follows a simple formula designed to highlight the key touchpoints and put all others in the back burner, while still recognizing them to a certain extent.
If you lack in-house data scientists who can pour significant time and energy into working out precisely how much influence each touchpoint has, Z-shaped attribution is a great way to go. After all, what are the core stages of the funnel that all prospects need to pass through? They’re brand awareness, becoming a lead, becoming an opportunity, and converting into a customer.
If they don’t ever go through the brand awareness stage then you can’t even begin to effectively market to them–it’s as simple as that. You can’t offer them a personalized experience based on what they’ve demonstrated they like, or make any substantial attempt to lead them down the funnel.
And if they never become a lead or an opportunity (in other words, if they never demonstrate significant interest in your products or services), then you’re also going to be hindered in terms of how you market to them. Sure, you can still make a sale–there’s a very small chance they jump all the stages and just purchase from you outright–but it’s going to be a lot harder to lead them down the funnel and appropriately nurture them into a viable prospect.
You won’t have any idea of what they’re looking for and which pain points they want to solve. After all, this is the crux of marketing: especially in the B2B realm.
B2C is a little simpler (especially if you’re selling low-value goods). Sometimes, people like what they see and buy there and then. There might not be a funnel so much as an immediate jump from brand awareness to becoming a customer. With B2B, however, people are a lot more cautious with spending their company’s money–so they need to make sure that they’re making the right choice.
The shortfalls of using a Z-shaped model
Despite singing its praises, there are still some areas where a Z-shaped attribution model is slightly lacking. That’s not to say that it’s necessarily bad–in fact, it’s one of the best models out there–but it’s not perfect, either.
Firstly, the way that it apportions the overall credit for a sale isn’t very nuanced. A customer journey is rarely a linear, easy-to-follow path. Many times, a prospect might come across your company for the first time (the much-sought-after first touch), only to browse your website and be thoroughly unimpressed. Only a while later, once you’ve brought out a new range of products, tweaked your messaging, and updated your website, do they actually start to like the idea of what they see.
That first interaction was less than positive, but a series of adverts featuring your updated products and brand messaging was what drove them back to your website. However, with a Z-shaped model, this first touch would wrongly receive 22.5% of the credit and all other touchpoints–those which actually brought the prospects back into the fray–would just share 10% of the credit between them.
Just because the customer’s first touch is the first touch, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily all that effective. For example, let’s say that you pour money into a series of social ads designed to lead first-time visitors onto your website. These ads, when clicked on, lead prospects onto your blog page so that they can browse through your content marketing efforts. However, the blogs are irrelevant, contain spelling and grammar errors, and aren’t formatted in a very user-friendly way. As a result, the prospect leaves your site wishing they hadn’t clicked through on the ad in the first place.
But say that this prospect does somehow eventually end up converting and becoming a customer (through a wide range of marketing efforts). A Z-shaped attribution model would look at the overall customer journey and give 22.5% of the credit to the first touch–even though this first touch played no significant role and was actually fairly detrimental.
The key message here is that we, as marketers, can never make general assumptions about how important any one touchpoint is.
Liking an infographic might seem like such a small and insignificant interaction with your brand–but not if the person then showed it to several other members of their team, all of whom were very impressed with it and decided to themselves further research your brand.
Therefore, does it seem entirely correct that this touchpoint would only receive 10% or less of the final credit for the sale? Its importance would be diluted amongst all other touchpoints in the customer journey–even those which didn’t have a positive impact in the slightest, like the blog posts that we previously mentioned.
In defense of the Z-shaped model, it’s almost impossible to know just how much influence each touchpoint had on the customer’s decision to purchase. But it’s still a flaw of this model–the way credit is apportioned is too formulaic, lacking personalization according to the individual customer and their buying journey.
When should you use a Z-shaped attribution model–and when should it be avoided?
Z-shaped attribution models are ideally suited to companies with long and complex sales cycles where customers have to be effectively nurtured and guided down the funnel. On the flip side, if you find that customers usually buy from you the first time that they come into contact with your company (or only after a few interactions), then a Z-shaped model might not really work.
At its core, a Z-shaped model assumes that there’ll be at least five touchpoints in the customer journey. Therefore, if your customers usually convert after one or two touchpoints, the benefits of this model are basically null and void.
Looking for more information on attribution models? Follow along in our attribution models guide as we break down each model.
According to one 2020 Graham Sessions attendee, the PT field is facing a pretty grim future. “We have a pretty dire landscape,” he said. “It costs more to earn less.” PTs struggle, he argued, because we know what we’re worth—but that value is totally at odds with how the market values us. PTs are worried—and can you blame us? We’re worried about the future of our profession—about our jobs, our incomes, and our families. We’re facing a heap of problems that we can’t continue to shove under the rug—but we also don’t seem to know how to solve them. And it’s not for lack of awareness; another seasoned Graham Sessions attendee pointed out that some of these issues are not new. We, as a profession, have not managed to—or have simply chosen not to—solve them.
Stuck in this dour mindset, it’s easy for us to point fingers at payers (especially CMS), the APTA, or even our competitors. It’s easy to blame them for our financial woes and our struggle to attract and retain patients. It’s easy for us to gripe about health and wellness businesses that steal our patients—or young therapists who are apathetic about APTA membership and PT advocacy efforts. But, it’s even more difficult to have the humility to realize and accept that we are at least partially to blame for many of our own problems.
All that said, I left the 2020 Graham Sessions with one overarching takeaway about PT professionals: we are our own worst enemy, and before we defeat ourselves, we must figure out how to come together as a profession so we can achieve our prime objective of successfully transforming society.
We still cannot figure out how to define our value—and we are not built to scale.
What’s cool about the Graham Sessions’ open forum setup is that, by the end of the conference, you’ve heard (and perhaps even voiced) a great number of perspectives about a great number of topics. What’s even cooler is that this setup helps us identify industry sore spots, because some ideas continue to poke their head up—no matter the topic. And this year, despite covering a lot of conversational ground (think everything from “Medicare for All” to competency assessments), attendees often returned to one singular point: PTs are stuck at an impasse. We can’t make progress or stride forward as an industry, because we can’t collectively define our value.
The PT brand identity crisis is fueled by our inability to function—and grow—as a unit.
The physical therapy brand crisis is a perennial problem for our industry. It has cropped up at the Graham Sessions year after year after year—and yet, we’re no closer to solving it. We know that we heal through movement, but beyond that, the title of “physical therapist”—and the value of our services—remains undefined to the general public.
Part of the problem is that the title “PT” encompasses countless specialties. And because each specialty—and all the providers therein—is so unique, each individual group of therapists has its own set of wants and needs. Not surprisingly, this often puts us at odds with each other. A regulation that might be great for inpatient therapists could be equally detrimental for outpatient clinics. A win for pediatrics may come at the expense of geriatrics.
We’re dreaming too big.
I think another big part of the problem is that we spend too much of our time trying to be everything to everyone. We want to be patients’ health coaches and their primary providers; we want to be the alternative to surgery—while continuing to be a post-op go-to. We want to provide wellness services that promote optimal sports performance or overall health, assist with fall prevention for elderly patients, eliminate (or at least reduce) back pain, and become health care’s first line of defense—and offense, for that matter—for musculoskeletal issues.
All of these goals fall well within our scope of practice—but the reality is that they’re scattered; they all serve different purposes for different patient populations. We can’t seem to fit our services under a single umbrella—and as a result, we don’t have a unified brand. Without a unified brand, we can’t execute a unified marketing strategy, which means the wider patient population (and even other providers) have no idea about the amazing things we’re capable of accomplishing. We are the profession that’s an inch deep and a mile wide.
The opioid crisis could become our uniting banner.
That’s why I’ve said time and time again that this is the perfect opportunity to push physical therapy as the universal solution to the opioid crisis. Everyone—from payers to employers to patients—is paying attention to this conversation, and it’s our time to shine, because those who are affected are spread across our entire spectrum of specialties. We can use the inherent power of inspirational patient stories to capture the public’s eye and make waves—especially during this election season. We must help elect officials who understand the power of physical therapy and who are willing to support us with their legislative efforts.
Most importantly, we need to remember that a rising tide raises all boats. We cannot let our segmentation prevent us from supporting each other—even when it doesn’t directly benefit us as individuals. A big legislative win for one specialty may not immediately help another, but it’s our duty to support PT wins wherever we can find them. There’s strength in numbers, and we will be at our strongest when we work together and help each other climb the ladder.
We have not tended to our patients’ social needs—often to their detriment.
I’d bet big money that most therapists (and healthcare providers in general) do everything in their power to steer clear of tense, hot-button conversations about social issues with their patients—and not without reason. In today’s political climate, conversations about social issues and personal beliefs too often devolve into shouting matches, and that’s not the best look when we’re trying to create raving fans of physical therapy. But, avoiding tough conversations within our internal governing bodies (like the APTA house of delegates) about social status, economic disparity, and internalized discrimination has done a disservice to our patients—because these social issues are proven to affect health and outcomes.
We have a moral and clinical responsibility to address our patients’ social needs.
The sad truth is that, despite our best intentions, health care—in terms of both quality and quantity—is not distributed evenly across our country. There are literal geographic gaps in care (dubbed Health Professional Shortage Areas [HPSAs] by CMS), where patients do not have the freedom to choose their providers—if they have access to a provider at all. And even if a patient does have access to a PT clinic, there’s no guarantee it’ll be well-run, because PTs haven’t developed uniform clinical standards to ensure that all clinics provide equally excellent care. During this year’s meeting, we discussed how inequity in access and quality can, and often does, impact population health. For instance, ample research has proven that “blacks and minority groups in the U.S. experience more illness, worse outcomes, and premature death compared with whites.”
Obviously, there is no easy fix to these problems. The best we can do is make an effort to support all of our patients—including our underprivileged and minority patients. We can educate ourselves, diversify our industry, and support initiatives (whether grassroots or legislative) intended to create better access to care—and we must make an effort to recognize and shelve our inherent biases.
Our expertise can shape legislative conversations that affect our patients’ health.
One of the topics we discussed this year is whether or not the APTA should insert itself in the national political arena and take strong public stances on widely recognized social issues like gun control. I’m not going to pretend like I know whether or not it’s a good idea for the APTA to take on strong political stances, but I did think the discussion raised some interesting points about how we view population health.
Usually, when we talk about improving the health of populations, we focus on how we can actively encourage healthy lifestyles and promote preventive care. But, that only scrapes the surface of good health. If you shift your perspective just the slightest bit, population health encompasses mental health, public safety, affordable housing, general accessibility, food and water quality—really anything that affects the well-being of your patients.
It may be worthwhile to take a look at social issues that heavily affect the well-being of your patients and decide whether or not they fall under your expertise. If they do, perhaps there is an opportunity for advocacy; your expertise as a healthcare provider could be valuable to the conversation. Just be careful not to overextend yourself. “No organization can throw resources at every topic,” one Graham Sessions attendee said. “We have to prioritize to be successful and sustainable.”
Our new grads are plagued with uncertainty.
Many new grads are entering the rehab therapy industry wondering if they made a huge mistake—and frankly, I don’t blame them. We have not set up our new grads for success. They are entering the field feeling overburdened by debt, limited by skill deficits, and isolated by the very people who are supposed to mentor them.
Many Graham Sessions attendees came to the conclusion that we’ve overdeveloped our new grads’ clinical skills. In theory, that sounds like a great problem to have. A more knowledgeable provider sounds great, right? But the time spent developing these clinical skills comes at the expense of time spent developing personal, interpersonal, and communication skills. These are often referred to as “soft skills,” but one attendee pointed out that “soft skills” is kind of a misnomer—at least in our field. “Calling soft skills ‘soft’ implies that they’re ‘nice-to-haves,’” she said. But the truth is that these skills are mission-critical. Our best work happens when there is a strong alliance between a PT and his or her patient—and that cannot happen without strong personal, interpersonal, and communication skills.
Many attendees brought up their experiences with new grads who have deficits in these areas, saying that, while these graduates are whip-smart and wholly knowledgeable about the human body, they seem to lack a personal touch. Therapists must cultivate strong, trusting relationships between themselves and their patients; otherwise, the patient-provider therapeutic alliance crumbles.
Experienced PTs need to reach out to students.
New grads are our future, so if they’re starting to feel desperate about their prospects in this field (especially when it comes to their debt), then the next generation of therapists may be sparse. We can take more steps to ensure that our profession will thrive for many years to come. It’s our duty to prepare new grads for the trials and tribulations they will face in a PT career. If our new-grad PTs feel unsteady on their feet—which, by all accounts, they do—then we are failing them. And let’s face it: a lot of training happens on the job during clinicals. It’s on all of us to take this opportunity to coach them—to mentor them—and ensure they have all the skills they need to succeed.
We can talk all day about why PT schools should teach so-called “soft skills”—but that won’t mean anything if we don’t reinforce those skills in the clinic. We should be modeling these behaviors to our new grads. We, as employers, need to listen to them—and, when appropriate, reach out a hand to help them. If that means mentoring our young PTs in leadership skills, then so be it. It all comes back to company and industry culture. We need to ask ourselves what our profession stands for.
We need to assist the APTA in reaching out to disaffected PTs (including new grads).
It is our job to safeguard our future—and I also think it’s on the APTA to do a little more safeguarding, too. Our association should be striving to bring fresh PTs into the fold by any means possible—not ostracizing or criticizing them when they speak out against the organization. One Graham Sessions speaker encouraged everyone to reach out to non-APTA members (especially new grads!), seek their input, and be welcoming. “‘My voice doesn’t matter,’ is a damaging thought to cultivate in this climate,” she said—and I couldn’t agree more. That’s especially true considering that one of the best ways to advocate on behalf of our profession is to pledge membership to our professional association.
We are only as strong as our weakest link, and our chain is fractured in a million different places. Our PT voice is not united—partially because only 30% of all physical therapists are members of the APTA, which means we’re missing out on valuable input from those outside of the association. I don’t want to see us become an insular echo chamber; we can only grow and evolve if we’re willing to listen to new input and consider change—even if it makes us uncomfortable.
PTs may be facing an uphill battle, but the future is not all doom and gloom. We can fix the problems in our industry, but we have to be willing to check our egos at the door and look critically at ourselves. We have so much potential, but we’re getting in our own way.
I’ll leave you with one last quote from the Graham Sessions: “We need to collectively get it together, and we need to go out and show people what we do because we change lives every day…People are desperate for us.” Let’s do this!
The post We Are Our Own Worst Enemy (as Told at the 2020 Graham Sessions) appeared first on WebPT.
Channel partners provide several benefits to your company. Customer acquisition cost is reduced, existing relationships are leveraged to win business, and overall reach is extended into new markets. Successfully managing partner relationships and maintaining channel sales results is key to your success. We asked some of the top channel leaders about the keys to partner success:
1) Put In The Work for Your Partners.
“To us, successful channel partnerships are about reversing the logic from them selling on behalf of you, to you selling on behalf of them. It’s the vendor’s job to invest time in discovering partners that share the same market philosophies, and use their intelligence to open this up to the benefit of all. For example, working as part of their team to bring highly targeted firepower to the partners’ market opportunities. We see far too many vague partnerships that don’t result in any tangible value for any party, and in fact, are detrimental to both.”
David Hancock, Director at Clarify
Takeaway: Realize your partnerships are two-way streets and put in the effort for them.
2) Team Up With Partners to Create a Dynamic Offering.
“It may be a very obvious tip, but still the one that defines our success – choose the right partner and put a lot of thought into that! Something that works extremely well for me is finding partners with complementary service but focusing on something slightly different that I wouldn’t want to expand to.
For example, I run a digital marketing agency. Partnerships with PR and content agencies are the best as we desperately need each other’s help to make our own services more efficient. So, it is a mutually beneficial partnership that creates a win-win situation for all of us and helps us all to gently upsell each other services to our clients. Once you’ve got that choice right it is difficult to not to succeed.”
Alisa Nemova Director at White Horse Agency
Takeaway: Use the differentiators of your services to create a new, unique solution.
3) Collaborate with Partners to Better Serve Customers.
“Collaborate with vendors to better understand customer needs. Close contact with vendors that work directly with customers can be a great way for channel partners to know more about common use cases, customer pain points and successful product implementation. Ultimately, participation in joint marketing activities (e.g., Lunch and Learn sessions) and training programs provided by vendors can enable channel professionals to boost sales and bring more value to clients.”
Also, address the needs of organizations from different industries. Channel partners often have to work with organizations from different industries, e.g. healthcare or finance. To address the specific needs of these customers, channel professionals need to bundle industry-specific services with solutions that can help clients resolve their burning issues, often associated with compliance and security (e.g., auditing).”
Ken Tripp, Director of Channel Accounts at Netwrix
Takeaway: Close collaboration with partners will ultimately result in happier customers.
4) Win The Confidence of the Channel.
“Be active in mutual communication with channels. Keep doing market research and analysis. Look at others and competitors to learn new things. Deliver complete business outcomes to the channels. Win the channels’ confidence by presenting yourself updated with market trends and keep a bird’s eye view for the opportunities that are fruitful for both parties.”
CJ Xia, VP of Marketing & Sales at Boster Biological Technology.
Takeaway: Prove your value to partners to gain their buy-in.
5) Empower Partners with Relevant Content.
“Instead of forcing partners to use content, resources, tools, and tactics that don’t align with their goals, IT vendors need to start thinking about what’s best for the partners’ businesses. What content, tools, and tactics are really going to educate, engage, and enable their Partners? How are they going to use them in their day-to-day lives?
First, educate partners on proper demand generation. Next, engage them on the platforms that you want them using. Every single channel executive should be connecting and engaging partners on platforms like LinkedIn, so the partners learn to use them to engage prospects. Finally, enabling partners doesn’t mean giving them the same old content over and over again. Think about demand generation best practices and figure out how to drive partner demand generation that will help them in the long run.
Noah Selzler, Social Content Writer & Strategy Specialist for Channel Maven Consulting
Takeaway: Make sure your content is relevant and aligned to get the best marketing results.
6) Track Your Marketing Results.
“Keep track of your progress. Know your existing stats before you begin your channel marketing partnership so you’ll have base figures and then measure your progress along the way. Knowing whether you’re getting the sales you want or not is going to be of help when deciding where to give supplemental efforts and where to remove excess resources.”
Norhanie Pangulima, Content Marketing Executive at Gigworker
Takeaway: Make sure you’re tracking the efforts of your partners so you know how much they’re worth to your business.
It’s been more than a year since CMS added rehab therapists to the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)—but it’s still the talk of the town. Providers are trying to decide if participation is right for them, but weighing the pros and cons of MIPS is proving to be a little more difficult than expected. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the structure CMS chose for MIPS is complicated, which makes successful participation difficult at best. This problem is only amplified in small practices. Their revenues are lower—which means the stakes are often higher, as a bungled MIPS participation effort could seriously strangle a clinic’s cash flow.
So, should small practices participate in MIPS?
Maybe. There are certainly benefits to MIPS reporting, but they’re not guaranteed—and it can be tough for small practices to check all the boxes required to earn a worthwhile incentive. But, MIPS participation is currently the only official way to offset CMS’s recently-announced reimbursement cuts. And considering that the stakes may be even higher in the future—think universally mandated participation and a steeper penalty—it may behoove small practices to get on board with the program sooner rather than later. But before we get into a detailed cost-benefit analysis, let’s cover the basics of the MIPS program.
What is MIPS?
MIPS is a budget-neutral quality payment incentive program. It’s CMS’s most recent attempt at improving the Medicare patient experience by motivating healthcare providers to improve their care. Providers who perform well can earn a positive adjustment of up to 9% on all of their Medicare claims for a whole year—and providers who perform really well can earn a 0.5–10% adjustment on top of that.
But, even though that cash incentive sounds pretty rad, it comes with a serious catch. Providers who participate in the program and perform poorly can lose a heap of money—up to a negative 9% adjustment on all Medicare claims. Those reductions directly fund the reimbursement bumps high performers receive—thus keeping the program budget-neutral.
Download your copy of The Rehab Therapist’s Guide to MIPS.
Enter your email below to receive a free guide that will help you understand—and conquer—MIPS in 2020.
What are the benefits of MIPS reporting?
A positive adjustment could help mitigate the impact of the 8% and 15% cuts.
If MIPS has been the talk of the town, then the sweeping 8% cut to rehab therapy reimbursements—as well as the 15% reduction to assistant-provided services—has been the talk of the nation. Even though it’s been months since rehab therapy providers received word of these reductions, the industry is still reeling. Therapists—especially those who see a high volume of Medicare patients—aren’t exactly sure how they’re going to adapt (or even survive) once these cuts go into effect.
That’s why we’ve mentioned (a couple of times now) that therapists may need to take a more serious look at MIPS participation in 2020. Sure, the program comes with its fair share of risk, but it may be the only way for therapists to recoup some of the money CMS is planning to take away. Most MIPS incentive payouts won’t fully cover the impending reductions, but it’s something.
It may behoove therapists to practice MIPS reporting before it becomes mandatory.
Some compliance experts predict that MIPS will eventually become mandatory for all healthcare providers. While we can’t say for certain that this will happen, it’s a possibility—and what we can say with 100% certainty is that the program has become increasingly difficult each year since its inception, and it will continue to do so for at least a couple more years.
So, while MIPS participation may not sound terribly appetizing to some providers in 2020, it’ll be a much tougher pill to swallow once the performance bar has nearly doubled (as it is slated to do). It may behoove therapists to familiarize themselves with the program before the stakes get even higher. Most participants have earned positive scores so far, and earning enough points to avoid a negative adjustment seems manageable—for now.
CMS is awarding bonus points and providing special reporting accommodations to participants in small practices.
CMS recognizes that reporting in a small practice is way different (and way more difficult) than reporting in a large enterprise organization. Small clinics don’t always have the resources (e.g., MIPS reporting software) to fully support participation, and it’s often more difficult for therapists in these settings to find the time to complete extra reporting. That’s why CMS is offering bonus points and reporting accommodations to clinicians who work in small practices.
Small-practice providers are eligible to receive six bonus points in the Quality category, and they will earn double points in the Improvement Activities category—effectively cutting the workload for that category in half.
What are the drawbacks of MIPS reporting?
When it comes to MIPS participation, the risk is high and the reward is minimal.
MIPS is a zero-sum game—at least from CMS’s perspective. CMS won’t shoulder the expense of the program, so every incentive payment comes directly out of the pockets of the providers who perform poorly. The problem is that, during the first two years of the program, the vast majority of participants (I’m talking 93–98%) have earned a positive adjustment of some kind. This has kept the incentive payments extremely minimal (think 0.00–1.88% max), while penalties soared to the opposite extreme.
It’s a little bit harder for small practices to perform well.
Though most MIPS participants from small practices have successfully participated in the program, they’ve done so at a significantly lower rate than the general MIPS participant pool. To give you an idea of what I mean, only 74–84% of participants from small practices have earned a positive payment adjustment in the program thus far. Don’t get me wrong—those are still great numbers, but they’re a far cry from the 93–98% overall success rate.
What are my MIPS reporting options?
You can report as an individual or as a group.
If the idea of solo MIPS participation is making you sweat, take heart! You don’t have to go it alone. In fact, you can choose to report as a group with the other clinicians in your practice—as long as y’all have reassigned your Medicare billing rights to your clinic’s TIN. When you report as a group, CMS amalgamates your work and evaluates and scores your group’s performance as a whole. In this scenario, everyone receives the same MIPS adjustment—even if some individuals perform better than others.
You can report via claims or Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR).
When you choose to report for MIPS, you can choose to do so on paper (i.e., via claims) or digitally (i.e., via QCDR or verified registry). Claims reporting is the most burdensome option, as you have to do all the work by hand (including your risk adjustment calculations). However, for small practices that can’t afford to purchase MIPS reporting software, this may be the only viable option.
Alternatively, you can report digitally via QCDR or verified registry. These pay-to-play software solutions typically integrate with your EMR and do all the work for you. They’ll help you submit your measures to CMS, and they may even automate your risk adjustment calculations.
You can practice reporting and take money completely out of the equation.
If full MIPS participation feels too risky for you or your clinic, you do have the option to voluntarily report for MIPS. If you choose to report voluntarily, then you’ll report MIPS data and receive a score as if you were a full-fledged participant—but you won’t be subject to any of the financial incentives or penalties. Voluntary reporting is a happy-medium option, because clinicians can practice MIPS and determine if participation is really right for them without diving in head-first.
At the end of the day, most therapists who work in small practices aren’t mandated to participate in MIPS—and reporting might not necessarily be in their immediate interests, either. But, that doesn’t mean that they should simply kick the MIPS can down the road. Participating now could help them lay a strong foundation for the future—and who doesn’t want that?
Like other similarly-named models (think W-shaped and Z-shaped models), U-shaped attribution is a multi-touch, position-based model that vaguely resembles a U when you take a graphical look at how it apportions credit.
A multi-touch model means that it takes into account all the different touchpoints along the customer journey, while it’s classified as a position-based model because the amount of credit given to each touchpoint depends on its position within the funnel.
A U-shaped attribution model is pretty easy to understand; the first touchpoint (i.e. interaction that a prospect has with your brand) is given 40% of the overall credit for that sale, while the last touchpoint (the final step before they convert and become a paying customer) is also given 40%. The remaining 20% of the credit is shared equally between all other touchpoints, no matter how many there are.
Using a U-Shaped model for your business
Let’s imagine that you’re a B2C company selling home insurance. You invest heavily in search engine optimization (SEO) and, as a result, most of your prospects initially become aware of your brand organically.
One such prospect browses your website, reads a couple of bog posts outlining why home insurance is so necessary and the potential costs of not having it, and so they then decide to fill out a form requesting a callback. A member of your sales team sees the request and calls them back the following day. Impressed with your prices, and convinced that they need a new home insurance policy, the customer decides to go ahead and buy a policy from you. Of course, in reality, things might be more convoluted than this–the vast majority of consumers would likely check out multiple different insurance providers across a longer timeframe to ensure that they’re sure they’re getting the right deal.
In this example, the first touchpoint–that’s to say, the first time they clicked onto your website from their organic search query–would be given 40% of the credit. If the customer had spent $1,000 on a policy with your company, this touchpoint alone would therefore be worth $400. The last touchpoint (when your sales team called them back) would also be worth another $400, and any other touchpoints in between (such as reading your blog posts) would split the remaining 20%.
Why would this help my marketing strategy going forward?
While you shouldn’t base your entire marketing strategy off one single sale alone, using a U-shaped attribution model will give you an overview of how all your marketing channels and strategies work together to bring in customers.
They might demonstrate for example that most prospects tend to come to your website initially via organic search–so investing in paid ads (i.e. making sure your company is right at the top of relevant queries) and SEO best practices are critical strategies if you’re going to bring in more customers.
On the other hand, you’ve just spent a lofty $2,000 on a comprehensive report highlighting the number of people without home insurance in the US, and what it ends up costing them each year. But as interesting as this might be, it hasn’t received much traction and hasn’t actually featured in any of your customers’ buying journeys. Perhaps it seems interesting to you as a home insurance company, but for the average Joe, they don’t really care about macro-level insurance statistics. In fact, they just want to know that their possessions are safe.
A U-shaped model, by highlighting the touchpoints involved in a prospect’s journey down the funnel (in particular the critical first and last touchpoints), will demonstrate that in the future you should probably avoid creating in-depth research reports and double down on your SEO efforts. By comparing the amount of revenue brought in by any one touchpoint with the amount that it cost your company in the first place, you can subsequently guide future investment into genuinely high ROI activities which will garner the best results.
The Benefits of using a U-shaped model
A U-shaped attribution model is fairly comprehensive when all things are considered. Its nature as a multi-touch model means that no stone is unturned as it will take into account all the different touchpoints along the customer journey, but give credit to the most important touchpoints. This is especially beneficial for organizations who are looking to maximize every aspect of their marketing strategy.
If you’re just interested to know the bare bones of how customers become aware of your brand, (or which touchpoints usually help them convert), then a single-touch model might be all that your company needs.This notwithstanding, any genuinely useful insights offered up by attribution models tend to come when you stitch together every single touchpoint. After all, the customer journey is just that: a journey. Ignoring all but one of their touchpoints means you’ll miss out on seeing the bigger picture.
Secondly, the rough theory behind how the U-shaped model apportions credit is fairly sensible (all things considered). It’s pretty hard to argue with the fact that, overall, the first and the last touches are by and large the most crucial parts of the funnel. Unlike a linear attribution model, which evenly distributes credit to all touchpoints in the buying journey, a U-shaped model has a bit more thought behind it.
If a prospect never knew about your brand in the first place, they would never become customers; if they hadn’t gone through the last touch, they would never have had the opportunity to convert. The formula also gives you a way to make sure that you’re taking all touchpoints into account without needing specialist data science help.
The cons of using a U-shaped model
While this model is easy to understand and easy to use, it may not be the best option for your business. The U-shaped model is pretty restrictive, assigning 40% of the credit to both the first and last touchpoints, with the remaining 20% split between all other touchpoints. While this provides you with the pivotal points, it gives you a very simplistic view of your customer journey.
Let’s say that your marketing strategy involves plenty of nurturing touches (blog posts, testimonials, newsletters, etc.). This might happen if you’re selling a particularly high-value good. After all, building consumer trust doesn’t happen overnight and customers want to know that they’re spending their hard-earned money on something which is right for them. With a U-shaped model, all nurturing touches would be significantly undervalued (particularly if there are quite a few of them). As these are the true drivers of this customer journey, the U-shaped model is not well suited for such detail.
When is a U-shaped model best used–and when should it be avoided?
As we’ve just discussed, it’s not particularly great if your marketing strategy emphasizes plenty of nurturing touches. For this reason, companies selling high-value goods with a long lifecycle should probably avoid using a U-shaped model. But if you sell lower-value items and you’re just looking for a fairly basic outline of the buyer’s funnel, a U-shaped model might be what you need.
If your customers generally tend to convert after only a few interactions with your brand, then the first and the last touchpoints are arguably the main ones you need to be focusing on–the other touchpoints, while interesting to note, aren’t really that important to you.
Looking for more information on attribution models? Follow along in our attribution models guide as we break down each model.
By: Bianca Buliga, Senior Marketing Manager
Exciting news: SEED SPOT is partnering with the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the leading advocate for women in STEM, to run a 2-Day Launch Camp in Phoenix specifically crafted for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)!
The program, running 2/25-2/26 at Galvanize in Phoenix’s Warehouse District, will provide mentorship, AWIS and SEED SPOT’s specialty curriculum, and step-by-step support to early-stage women founders starting an impact-driven business with a STEM focus.
This is a continuation of SEED SPOT’s partnership with AWIS over the past couple of years. In 2018, SEED SPOT and AWIS served 28 entrepreneurs in Washington, DC including Safe-Li, LLC, a venture that discovered and patented Graphene Monoxide, a form of carbon monoxide that improves the energy efficiency of lithium ion batteries.
Elder Nourish, another AWIS and SEED SPOT 2-Day Launch Camp alum, allows seniors to age in place by providing a delicious and nutritious alternative to assisted living. The Elder Nourish chefs provide meals that are entirely customized to take into account individual food preferences and dietary restrictions, and works with dietitians to be sure that each menu is in alignment with an individual’s health goals.
“While taking part in a SEED SPOT 2-Day Launch Camp in Washington DC, SEED SPOT opened my eyes not only to the scalability of my venture, but also to the need to leverage technology,” said Kimberly Lipinski, CEO and founder of Elder Nourish.
With only three percent of venture capital going to women-founded ventures in 2019, SEED SPOT strives to not only level the playing field for women entrepreneurs creating solutions to global problems, but connect them to a larger national community of resources, support, and funding.
The post Women Starting STEM Ventures: Get Help at AWIS & SEED SPOT’s 2-Day Launch Camp appeared first on SEED SPOT.