Tiffany Wirth began her career at Microsoft in the Dynamics business, working with partners who sold the Dynamics enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. She then worked in quantitative and qualitative research to bring to market a new solution, a small-business accounting product that competed with Intuit QuickBooks.
An opportunity arose to own and extend an end-to-end marketing team at a small and rapidly growing consumer-directed healthcare software company. When Wirth took the helm as one of three people in the company focused on marketing, she went from having access to many tools and technologies to building something from scratch.
Through a series of acquisitions and mergers, that company became WEX Health. Wirth leads marketing for the this division of WEX Inc., including public relations, events, product marketing, brand, and partner marketing. She loves being able to do something different every day.
WEX Health sells through a partner distribution model, which is similar to Microsoft’s model during Wirth’s time there. One of the challenges that Wirth and her team tackle is tailoring marketing to specific industries. The WEX Health platform is used by many different types of organizations, from Kaiser Permanente and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to small, third-party benefits administrators. This provides a variety of challenges, as well as opportunities for inventive marketing tactics.
In our interview, we discuss navigating the partnership model and transforming the brand as a marketing leader.
Tell us about WEX Health’s marketing priorities and go-to-market strategy.
We must stay 100 percent focused on communicating with and helping our partners. Our distribution model is white label for the most part, and so a perfect example of a brand slogan that fits with our model is “Intel Inside.” This is what we’re trying to build from a messaging perspective around who we are. We’re the technology driving the business. Some partners are willing to share that, but others prefer that their employer groups not know they’re not sitting with the development team internally.
Our goal in marketing is to own the message and make sure development, sales, and all partner-facing teams have the same voice in external communications. It has been a journey building who we are and maintaining our culture and values no matter what the ownership model is.
How do you ensure success with the partner channel?
We have more than 50 percent of the Fortune 1000 employer groups using WEX Health technology. So, while we have big brands using our technology, what’s challenging is that we’re not often able to build customer testimonial videos showcasing the brands that entrust us with their tech and—in many cases—customer service.
We are the biggest technology player in the space, yet it is a very complex process to tell our story. As you can imagine, going through some of the biggest banks in the country and getting an approval to actually use their name, story, or even a list of employer groups that are utilizing WEX Health is difficult. This is also an issue when we’re trying to create references or success stories to support our sales team.
Every single implementation within our partner organizations is different. When you think about health plans and health plan design, they’re very customized to different organizations. And one of the challenges is understanding what to focus on to move the needle from a revenue perspective.
This market, and what we do from a competitive standpoint, changes all the time. So being comfortable with change and shifting course are key for our marketing team.
We support different levels and sizes of partners. Some partners have 50 people working on one thing, deeply embedded in their client’s organization. As such, we have to tailor what we do in marketing to match the partner.
How do you tailor what you do in marketing to match partner needs?
In many B2B organizations, the marketers have to rely heavily on what they’re hearing from other people in their organization, and they rarely get the opportunity to spend time in the field with partners to get a firsthand view and deeper understanding about what their pain points are and what they need to grow their businesses. A big shift in our marketing is getting face to face with our partners and actively listening—which is far different from simply listening.
For a while we didn’t have any one-on-one relationships between a marketer and a partner. Then we moved to this idea of providing consultative marketing services, where partners can get our help in their marketing—for example, brand value messaging and logo development.
Over the past 18 months, we identified a targeted group of partner organizations where we think a one-on-one relationship could really make a difference. We work in tandem with them and their account executives to coordinate meetings on campaign strategies, presentations, video assets, and engagement tools targeting end users.
We’re always trying to figure out how to help our partners tailor their message to resonate with the end user and deliver on our shared mission to simplify the business of healthcare.
Where have you been finding success?
Our annual Partner Conference event is the single most important thing we do. We have 99 percent retention for our partners every year, and it almost always reaches back to this event. It’s a great way for them to feel energized and a part of the community as well as to understand all the tech. There are technology sessions, training, and networking. When our most coveted prospects attend, we have more than a 90 percent close rate. If we can get someone to this event, and they can see the impact and the complexity of what we’re doing and talk to others like them, we’ll almost always close the deal. One of my success measures is continuing to have record-breaking attendance each year.
This was a new idea for our space when I started, bringing in competitors to a new industry conference. It began very small; we had 30 people at the first one. Now 700 people attend. It moves the needle and has become very important in our business model here.
We built out the network to where we now sell sponsorship, and it’s quite a revenue driver for us, which helps us offset the significant investment we make in creating memorable events. We can charge sponsors to host activities or get face time with our partner organizations. Along with the actual sponsorship dollar amounts and the registration revenue, the ROI is improving. It’s a really cool model.
How do you make sure your partner program is successful?
Microsoft’s partner program is a great example to apply here. People really covet being a full partner with Microsoft. You have to obtain certifications, meeting all the criteria, and those certifications boost your brand.
We work closely with our partner account executive and sales teams to understand which partners will move the needle from a revenue perspective. We do this every few months, and we’ll assign team members to engage with certain accounts based on the outcome.
Each person in marketing needs to own a few partner relationships directly; it helps them do their jobs better. They need to understand the partner’s business and where WEX Health can help.
We’ll earmark budget for go-to-market activities for our partners. We’ll help create or improve demo environments. It all starts with making sure our marketing team has the right touch point with a partner where we can say, “Here are some ideas we have for a campaign. Can we work with you on that?”
Looking at each marketer and matching them with account managers and account executives helps us coordinate how we deliver marketing services and grow the account.
How are you using marketing technology to drive the business forward?
For us, technology needs to provide our partners access to tools and resources to enable them to succeed. Accessibility and ease of use are important.
We also need to know that partners are getting communications and can access information, such as whom to contact on the WEX Health team, invoices, legal information, and marketing resources. We call this hub Partner Central.
For example, if you wanted to build a campaign to promote use of your customized WEX Health Cloud mobile app, you could find that information on Partner Central in the form of a downloadable kit that can easily be modified to reflect your brand identity.
On the back end is all the intel on what is actually getting used. Knowing what is getting upvoted or downvoted results in cutting down things that aren’t being used.
Getting our partner relationship managers to use our customer relationship management solution was a step forward for us. Sharing information about the partner and using that have been helpful. We’ve implemented nurture streams, as well as a tool that automatically updates slides, so everyone in sales is using the most up-to-date messaging and images.
Ultimately, it’s our event strategy that is taking us to the next level in our marketing. The culmination of that is our newly created SPARK brand. Our events and marketing efforts spark thought, discussion and action. They inspire ideas and are a catalyst for action. WEX SPARK Health 2019, formerly known as Partner Conference, will take place May 6–9 at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Florida. What an incredible venue to officially launch our SPARK brand.