How Quest Diagnostics successfully pivoted marketing – and Eloqua – during a crisis

By Chuck Leddy

New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics is a health diagnostics information services company. Quest provides testing services for healthcare, helping doctors make evidence-based decisions on treatment for patients. It offers an extensive menu of diagnostics tests. The company is in the Fortune 500, has some 44,000 employees around the US, and generated $7.6 billion in revenue in 2018. From a marketing perspective, Quest engages a wide range of customer segments, spanning both B2C and B2B spaces.

COVID-19 and the need to re-define customer engagement

Back in late January (2020), the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency. Between January 30th and March 9th, Quest Diagnostics developed a COVID-19 test in order to offer diagnostic services to identify who was infected with the virus. As March developed, the test was rolled out nationally and Quest scaled up a new testing platform, a high throughput test from Roche. In short, Quest had a lot of engagement with the pandemic, and from a business perspective it had a lot of key touch points with audiences in healthcare. 

How Quest adjusted its marketing and Eloqua platform

Quest’s Senior Manager of Marketing Automation, Christopher Crowe, knew they needed to pivot their messaging and tactics because of COVID-19. Crowe and the marketing team broke its “re-defined” strategy down into four core components: content, segmentation, offers, and data enhancement. We’ll describe how Quest re-defined each below:

  1. Content.  “We started by looking at what our existing (pre-COVID-19) campaigns looked like and then made a marketing decision to pause or restrict those for the time being,” explains Crowe, because suddenly those pre-COVID campaigns and messaging were irrelevant to address the emerging crisis. Instead, Quest focused new campaigns on COVID-19, developing fresh and relevant content to address its audiences amidst the national emergency. In addition, Quest ensured that its tone and cadence were appropriate for crisis-related messaging. “It was really a cross-functional effort here, across our entire marketing team to ensure that whatever communications we sent were reviewed from the perspective of the customer,” said Crowe. Hard selling, or any selling that lacked empathy for customers facing the crisis, was sidelined.
  1. Segmentation strategies. Quest identified four core customer segments to engage during the COVID-19 crisis: (1) healthcare providers (primary care providers), (2) medical specialists, (3) office staff, and (4) the different medical professionals who would need information from Quest. Each segment would receive content tailored to their specific needs and preferred communication styles/channels. Messaging to the medical professionals, for example, was targeted around issues like test availability, turnaround times, test processing, and acceptance criteria. The messaging Quest sent to its patient audience, on the other hand, was much different: “we provided communications about the testing and the safety around Quest’s physical locations, and what tests were offered, how to get testing, and all of that,” explained Crowe. Quest also had health systems and payers as a targeted audience (hospitals and insurers), and communicated differently to address their particular concerns. “Whatever was relevant to each of these segments, we made sure the messaging was targeted and focused on that.”
  1. Offers. “When we were talking about our strategies and our in-market offers, we were really harsh in evaluating what was inappropriate to send through,” says Crowe. “We identified two core offers at Quest: telehealth and consumer-initiated testing. We believed these were providing the most value to our healthcare providers, to our patients, and to the different audiences. That strong value had to be seen from the perspective of our customers, not from the business perspective of providing these offers.”
  1. Data enhancement. “We looked back at our segmentation, some of our field completeness, and where we had opportunities to build out our database with new contacts,” says Crowe. With this data in mind, and leveraging Eloqua, Quest then put together a series of forms targeted to contacts who wanted to gather more information about COVID-19. These customers were reaching out to subscribe to specific lists or specific preferences around COVID-19 information. “But we also had the opportunity to cross-communicate and cross-promote for other campaigns as well,” says Crowe. “So we used a variety of progressive profiles. This allowed us to have more robust tracking as we were dropping that cookie as part of the form submit, so we had a little more insight into who our contacts were within Eloqua.” For forms and data enhancement in general, Quest focused on providing value. If a customer or prospect submitted a form, they were getting targeted, highly-relevant content. Healthcare providers, for instance, were signing up for healthcare provider communications. For patients, Quest provided an option for submitting a comment or a concern. “We had those communications from patients go immediately to our call center representatives, so that they could be addressed and followed up on,” says Crowe. “So it was another source of value for patients.”

Pivoting took alignment and coordination

What Quest delivered as it pivoted its marketing and Eloqua to address COVID-19 was timely value to audiences who wanted it urgently. “We created a huge cross-functional, multi-channel experience” for our customers, says Crowe, “and we involved lots of teams at Quest, and a lot of those touch points were directly involved with Eloqua. All the components were fed through Eloqua and driven by our new strategy.” It took a team effort across the company to redefine how Quest engaged its audiences during COVID-19, a process involving people, teams, and technology working together.

The impact

Over the last four weeks (from about mid-March to mid-April, 2020), Quest launched some 15 unique campaigns targeted at different audiences with different messaging needs. “We sent a little over 20 million messages, and that just keeps growing. We have a high volume of sends that are going out and continuing to go out. We’ve seen approximately 10,000 form submissions,” says Crowe. On the Eloqua side, Quest’s unsubscribe rate is below the industry average, a clear indicator of the relevancy and continued interest in its content. Best of all, “we’re seeing our unique open rates growing about 50% from when we started this campaign to the point where we are today. So we’re seeing that interest just continue to grow,” explains Crowe.

By following the 4-part pivoting strategy listed above, re-defining its messaging and its Eloqua deployment, Quest Diagnostics drove great success in how it engaged its audiences during a crisis. As Christopher Crowe sums it up: “these pandemics and other crises really put our marketing and communication strategies to the test. The best path is to focus on the best practices of marketing, especially customer-centricity, while executing deliberately.” Quest Diagnostics pulled it off with great success, as the burgeoning level of its audience engagement proves.

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