With a track record of success in building national healthcare brands, Johnny Smith was recruited as a change agent for Encompass Health—the largest post-acute care provider in the country. As vice president of marketing services, he’s challenging the status quo of business-to-business (B2B) healthcare marketing to empower his team, enhance the digital experience and drive growth for the organization.
Johnny joined Encompass Health in 2020 to unite three disparate functions as one cohesive marketing team. In this conversation for our Healthcare Insight podcast, he talks about redesigning the organization’s B2B healthcare marketing discipline, casting a vision and fostering a culture that values strategic thinking and accountability.
His approach to leadership by “keeping your mouth shut and listening” is counter-intuitive—and highly effective. The first thing you have to do as a leader when you’re walking through the door is to just be quiet and listen. Listen to your team’s goals, their strategies and more importantly, the challenges they’re going through. Learn the company and its culture. Every organization and community has its own culture, and it’s important that you understand that and you don’t just jump right in. A lot of times leaders come in with our grand scheme and want to throw it out there. It’s important that you first sit back and learn.
In an unprecedented environment, vision is the north star. As head of marketing, I’m here to cast the vision and get out of the way so the team can thrive. As a leader, it’s important that you cast a vision and put guiding principles in place that ensure people not only understand them but also live them out. Everyone knows the role they play, and can answer the question: Where are we trying to go and what role do I play in helping us get there?
At Encompass Health, we’re demonstrating a different level of marketing value based on customer and market intelligence, brand equity and creating and enhancing the digital experience. Our approach has nothing to do with a press release, or a communication email or a piece of collateral. This is strategic marketing and what I would advocate for your listeners: Understand your business and find the value that marketing delivers outside of a tactical solution.
As a leader, your people are the priority. I use this acronym to illustrate priorities for leadership: PVP, which stands for people, vision, process. The people come first because you’re not successful without your team, which requires a constant investment in them. It’s important that we sit down one-by-one with team members and identify where they want to go in their careers. Once we’ve identified the development areas to focus on, we ask what additional resources and support can we provide to achieve those goals. That’s been my focus despite all the changes and being in the middle of a pandemic—and COVID has brought the team together in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.
Accountability involves managing the three Ws: who does what by when. This involves accountability between the individual teams, between each other and—more importantly—to the partners we’re serving throughout the organization. I want them to understand that I’m not successful, and the company’s not successful, unless the marketing services team is successful in positioning and building this brand.
He’s borrowing a page from the Lou Holtz leadership playbook. As they say in Notre Dame football, you have to focus on what’s important now (W.I.N.) and what’s important later. For Encompass Health, this means addressing COVID-19 while continuing to focus on our strategic direction and redefine ourselves in how we look for the future.
Let data be your guide. One major discipline we’re focused on is customer and market intelligence. This involves bringing in people who don’t necessarily drink the marketing Kool-Aid, individuals with a background in data analytics who can give a different perspective and challenge old-school, traditional marketing thinking. By understanding the data on our customer segments and our referral sources, we can see how they think and act, which allows us to target them more effectively. It’s a personalized, high-touch and surgical approach to engaging key referral sources.
Where Johnny Smith Finds Inspiration and Stays Informed
Here are a few of Johnny’s favorite resources for staying current on B2B healthcare marketing trends, leadership insights and other critical topics of interest:
- Encompass Health blog
- Encompass Health Powered by Care
- CMO Podcast
- Renegade Thinkers Unite
- How Leaders Lead
- TED Talks Daily
Listen to the full episode below!
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