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Customer-First Marketing: How Optum generated closed contract revenue of $52 for every dollar invested

Karen Thomas-Smith, Vice President, Provider Marketing and Reference Management, Optum


"We literally flipped all the roles on their side,” said Karen Thomas-Smith, Vice President, Provider Marketing and Reference Management, Optum. "We don't even want to talk about campaigns. We want to first look at a list of all the content, all the topics we need to be talking about, then build a campaign.”

At MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, Thomas-Smith shared how she transformed Optum's approach — and her team — to better serve customers and improve marketing results. This transformational effort led Thomas-Smith's team to win Best in Show in MarketingSherpa Awards 2016.

In this session, Thomas-Smith broke down the key steps in this transformation:

Step #1. Restructure the team

Thomas-Smith shared her view of a marketing organization maturity model and how she restructured the team to change not only their role, but their focus.

"Everyone was talking about their product. Inwardly focused … we were talking about ourself all the time and not ever talking about our clients or our prospects,” Thomas-Smith said.

Step #2. Build personas

Thomas-Smith realized her team needed to move from "one and done” marketing and ad hoc reporting to deep customer knowledge. So the team engaged in research to discover how to best serve their customers with their marketing. Since their ideal customers are high-ranking executives, this was no easy task. But she discovered an important insight about how to reach this influential group.

"Whenever you're trying to get C-suite of any kind's time and attention, don't ask for a 30-minute meeting. For whatever reason, you ask 15, you ask 20, they think they can have another meeting after that, they'll accept it,” Thomas-Smith said.

Step #3. Create high-quality content

"How do we tell what we do to the marketplace in a way that matters to them?” Thomas-Smith asked.

Thomas-Smith's team created a business strategy to help healthcare organizations navigate the journey from providing care to managing health.

"We were not really thinking about a campaign; we were thinking what story do we need to tell in the marketplace,” Thomas-Smith said.

Step 4. Reimagine content and design distribution plans

Thomas-Smith created a content machine to get the though leadership content in the hands of potential customers.

"Nuggyifying is what we did. We learned we needed to have little nuggets of information,” Thomas-Smith said.

Step 5. Enable Sales

In addition to the content machine, they also educated and engaged potential customers with a lead nurturing campaign to get them to the point they were ready for a conversation with Field Sales.


As a result of this overall, Thomas-Smith's team generated more than 12 million impressions, more than 10,000 downloads of gated content and more than $120 million in sale pipeline.

"Companies can be high customer or high self. You've got to change your lens to be high customer,” Thomas-Smith said.

Watch the full, free session from MarketingSherpa Summit (embedded above) to learn more about Thomas-Smith's campaign directly from her so you can replicate her efforts in your own company.

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