Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Simon Philip Rost, marketing director for EMEA at GE Healthcare on effective data-driven marketing strategies:

Shaheen Samavati 0:12
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with Simon Philip Rost, marketing director for EMEA at GE Healthcare, which is a global provider of diagnostic equipment and other medical devices. Thanks so much for joining us, Simon.

Simon Philip Rost 0:29
Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

Shaheen Samavati 0:32
So could you just start out by introducing yourself in your own words?

Simon Philip Rost 0:35
Sure. I’m Simon Philip Rost, you can hear by my accent that I’m from Germany, I cannot hide that. I lead marketing for a digital healthcare business in Europe, Middle East and Africa. So digital health is a broad scope, you can think of this as any kind of software you would have in a hospital or medical provider. I explain this to my grandmother, I always say we help our customers to use all the information they have to find insights, we make this information available whenever it’s needed to take better decisions.

Shaheen Samavati 1:10
So GE Healthcare is a subsidiary of GE, but it’s a huge entity in its own right, could you explain briefly what the company does and who your clients are?

Simon Philip Rost 1:19
Sure, we are a large, global medical technology and digital health company. To give you some scale, there’s actually 50,000 employees around the world in 160 locations, at this point in time. If you look how we are made up by business, we follow five business lines. One is our imaging business, any kind of device you would find in the Geology Department is affected there, like an MRI scanner, an X-ray scanner. You have the ultrasound unit, the second part. The third one is our life care solutions business, so medical devices you would find in an emergency department or in a high acuity care area, in OR. Counter to this area, we have a digital health part, which I’m part of. At the end, we also have a pharmaceutical diagnosis business. In total, we have around 4 million devices around the world, in imaging just 1 million all over, which means we have 16,000 scans performed by a GE devices swab every minute worldwide. If you take it to my business, I always like to make this analogy to stored images, which are an element of the geology departments. If you take all our stored images that we have around the world, it would be twice the size of the images on Instagram at this point in time.

Shaheen Samavati 2:42
Okay, so could you explain your responsibilities and what your role is like, you’re responsible for a particular business unit or marketing across all the business units in EMEA?

Simon Philip Rost 2:51
I’m responsible for the digital and health business unit and for marketing in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Shaheen Samavati 2:59
Okay, so can you tell us what it’s like in the day to day in your role as marketing director for EMEA?

Simon Philip Rost 3:04
Yeah sure, the beauty of my role in marketing is that it’s never boring, it spans a wide range of responsibilities and the large region of Europe, Middle East and Africa as well. I define marketing within my job as having four big roles that marketing plays and that my team supports the business with. One is marketing as a strategic partner. So we are the voice of customers, we are basically helping them to do planning, we also handle our key accounts and key opinion leaders. So that’s one big role marketing plays in our company. The second one is marketing as a differentiator, to help to differentiate our company. That’s where content marketing is a big part of it and also the entire process around creating value propositions for our solution. A third world marketing place is what I call, marketing at the worlds engine. So everything that helps to generate demand and generate leads for the buyer, this can be tradeshows, digital campaigns, virtual experience and social media marketing. All of the touch points I have to do in the end, generate demand. The fourth bucket all marketing plays is marketing as an enabler. We want to help our field forces to sell better, on the one hand, with trainings, product trainings, storytelling training and the likes. Also, we provide the tools that at the end, our field force can use to free up time that they then send to the customer. That’s what my day to day wall looks like, I distribute my time around all of these four buckets. If you take it, like in tasks, team management is a big one, customer management is a big one and then internal stakeholders. These are the 3 big buckets that in the end I spend my time on.

Shaheen Samavati 4:00
So your experience is really International, I think you’ve lived in five countries or so, right? How has that international experience helped you in your current role? In your role you’re dealing with people around the world, or at least across the EMEA region?

Simon Philip Rost 5:14
Yeah, for sure. I lived quite some time abroad in my life, which in the end helps you to be more flexible. On the one hand, you live through the situation and you don’t take it that seriously. That’s one big factor. The second one is, I believe in diversity, diversity is very powerful. If you bring together the right people with the right skill set and different opinions, magic can happen. I always say, if you’ve lived in various countries, you’ve had discussions that help with that. Picking EMEA, it’s such a wide region with so many different intercultural experiences. I guess, if you have been there and you tasted the experience, this helps a lot to understand how things are going in certain stock markets. I enjoy being in an additional environment and I enjoy working across countries and cultures. I think it’s a very enriching experience.

Shaheen Samavati 6:25
So your background is actually in management consulting, why did you make the switch to marketing?

Simon Philip Rost 6:30
That’s a good question. I remember my times in consulting well, it was all the typical stereotypes, work hard, play hard. I have to say, I enjoyed consulting very much because you learn early on to work on high priority projects, you get exposure to decision makers, you also get responsibility very early on in your career. My transition to marketing was not planned, it happened during my MBA, on an MBA you get time to really think and you can spend time evaluating where you are in your career and where you want to go. I think at this point I’m missing one critical part which is the implementation of things. I’m a person that takes a lot out of seeing progress and seeing how things move on. In management consulting, if you work on highly strategic tasks, you get your recommendation afterwards but you never implement. Why? Because it’s done by customers. I was missing this spot in my career, during the MBA there was this big, scary and audacious moment where this came out. I basically decided to go to a major company, like GE Healthcare, where I have been now for nearly a decade and marketing was the most attractive in this environment. But I think there are a lot of transferable skills that you can apply from consulting to marketing.

Shaheen Samavati 8:02
Sounds like there was some planning involved there, it was just a big pivot. You can’t take the planning out of your German ways, I guess. But you took a leap now in your career. So tell us, how do you think your consulting background impacts your approach to marketing now?

Simon Philip Rost 8:30
In consulting what you learn is several things. I would say one is that you work a lot with data, you make well informed decision based on data. I also believe that what I learned there is that you learn to rely on the network of experts quite a lot, because you as a consultant cannot know everything in detail normally. You have subject matter experts for the majority of fields who you want to have access to. I think that’s something in consulting which helps you. The third big point that I see is project management, which we did quite a lot, you learn how to manage large projects and how to hold people accountable. These things in the end are all transferable into the world of marketing, if you pair this with creativity, with imagination, diversity, I believe that’s when magic can happen. That’s where my team comes in. I’m very good on the numerical side, on the problem solving side and I try to get everything that I don’t have that’s there for marketing covered by my team. I believe that these skills in the end help a lot in today’s world as well, because there is more and more data. You can use this data for better and well informed decisions. What I took from my consulting days is exactly this, how you break down the data and find the insights that tells me to take the best decision going forward.

Shaheen Samavati 10:01
Okay, so going back to what you’re doing now, how does content play into what you do? Can you tell us about who your target audience is as well, for the content you produce? I noticed that on different channels you have very different types of content, so it looks like you’re targeting multiple audiences there.

Simon Philip Rost 10:21
Let’s start with the audience first. In terms of audience, health care is going through a change right now. We have decision makers, if you take my business unit, it’s normally the c-level so the economic decision maker on the one hand, CEO, CFO and CIO as such, the Chief Information Officer because they decide which kind of system is implemented at the end in a hospital. Having said this, also the clinical decision maker is playing a big role here, because all of these software solutions or digital solutions are used in a clinical environment. So it’s a buying centre that we are approaching, and you are right, we have to approach them differently. For each of these major target groups, the messaging is different, content will be different and also the channel likely varies for each of those target groups. When you ask about content, how it plays into that, I think Bill Gates said it in the past, “content is king” and I think that’s still valid today. I see marketing’s role as being a differentiator and content is exactly where you can differentiate because if your purpose is storytelling, I believe that your customers will read or use your content. If you ask me how, in the end, it’s about what is good content, it’s easy to find access on the one hand. It has to be understandable and relatable, I always say. It has to be somehow entertained, it has to be highly relevant to the target audience and sometimes it has to be personalised. I talked about the target audience, it’s essential in the end, but we also see the behaviour or the customer journey is changing strongly in our sector. I think in every sector it’s going to be more digital. But in our case it’s happening as well. What we’ve figured out with internal studies, talking to our customers is, I believe in numbers very much. So we see that actually half of them, before they actually purchase they educate themselves, right? So they consume the content on the one hand, then we know that they look into 11 pieces of reltable content before they reach out to our sales force as a company. We also see that roughly 70% of the buyers did the self education before they actually engaged with our customers. So they define their needs on their own without training, then at the end, that’s where content will make a difference.

Shaheen Samavati 13:23
Stop me if I’m wrong in my assumptions here, but I imagine your target, in terms of who you’re selling to, are health care providers who are buying your devices. I’ve noticed the obvious content to do there is maybe more technical content about the applications for the devices and things like that, which you obviously do. But on the other hand, I’ve seen you also do a lot of content that’s about the impact that the devices have in people’s lives. It’s about that storytelling side of things. So what’s the idea of that of that approach? Who are you trying to reach with that content?

Simon Philip Rost 14:01
We have a buying centre that takes a decision at the end, especially if we talk about digital health care solutions. I would say on the device side, it’s still a very clinical decision, what is a feature that helps. If you take my part of the business, in the end the buying centre is highly interested in outcomes. So how can a software solution and a management solution help you to either save costs, to take faster decisions, to increase throughput and to take better informed clinical decisions to increase quality, so there are clear outcomes. So that was the decision maker and if you take into account there are various formats that especially healthcare for our target groups are important, one is our outcome studies and white papers available. I think the second important one in terms of content which worked well for us is videos, mainly testimonials or subject experts that talk about things. The health podcast is increasingly important. Then the webinars that we use quite heavily to inform is a type of content vehicle that works well. Last but not least, user generated content will become more and more important, where you have users of your software or clinical users talking about their successes. I always follow this mantra but in the end customer outcomes is the best success testimonial and this also has to be in effect in your content.

Shaheen Samavati 15:38
Absolutely and I imagine that’s like a whole operation, finding those people to give their testimonials. I noticed you have a lot of them, but you’re huge companies so you have the resources to do that.

Simon Philip Rost 15:53
You’re right but for me, this key opinion or even with the switch to social media, digital opinion, leaders, dealers or KOL’s. In the end, I believe this has the highest impact. You don’t want to hear at the end from a company that tells you my product, or my service is the best. I mean that’s less credible than if you talk to the person who’s actually using it and who achieves the mentioned outcomes that I just said either in a better clinical quality, or increasing, doing more patients at the end. So that’s way more credible, I believe. So to get them, I think if you have good solution, people like it and use it, they are also willing to share the successes.

Shaheen Samavati 16:41
Absolutely. So I wanted to ask you on the thought leadership side, what do you think it takes to build thought leadership? How do you think companies get it right or wrong?

Simon Philip Rost 16:56
Yeah, we have examples. Hopefully a lot for rights but there are also some for where we got it wrong for sure. I believe there’s a mix of things that are important if you want good thought leadership. One is the storytelling along the entire thought leadership piece you want to create. There are clear steps you can follow, we follow the five step approach where you say, first, you have to have a relevant challenge in the world, ongoing right now. Then you have to see that there are winners and losers with this kind of challenge. The third part is you chase the promised land which at the end is our solution, like look we can help you with the issue that you have or with the challenge that you’re facing right now. The third part, you have to introduce some kind of magical gift or feature that your product or solution is providing. Then the last part at the end is you have to clearly prove that you’re actually achieving investigators testimonials. So I believe the storytelling thing or storytelling framework, whatever you use around thought leadership is very important. The second big point I believe is important is the actual thought leader as such who’s delivering that. This in the best case is testimonial, or a subject matter expert. The best case, as I said before, is a customer. For me, customer outcome is the best success testimonial or the best thought leadership you can achieve.

Shaheen Samavati 18:34
Okay, yeah. So that comes to my next question about how do you pull expertise from your customers or from members of your team or thought leaders in your field? A lot of times, those thought leaders are not necessarily great content creators, so how do you make content out of that?

Simon Philip Rost 18:55
Sometimes they don’t know how good they are, that’s what we see frequently. For us, in content, one big part is these outcomes and you only achieve these outcomes if you work together over a long period with your customers in a project. Large IT projects are not implemented then left alone, it’s normally a long period going into 10 or 15 years where you are together and you know exactly where they started and when and where they will end because you are part of this journey. We involve them early on which helps them to see where they are today, telling them this is how many patients you do per day, this is how many exams you can run. We do frequent checks of where they are throughout this period, which at the end is outcomes. If, at the end, customers see that this is really happening and it’s tangible, they also feel more comfortable to talk about that so that’s the important point, I believe. You asked me how do you define this? Normally if you’re a company like GE, we have many customers, but we tend to focus on the ones where we have success stories and develop them together with them. Then we talk to them about where we could implement these kinds of outcomes. That’s one way to identify them. Another way, at the end, is our internal knowledge, in a large company with more than 50,000 employees it’s also a big asset. So we have product specialists and customer enablement teams that know exactly what a solution like the one we provide is able to do. This kind of conversation sometimes also happens, we bring them together and have workshops where we identify what the best thought leadership article or piece would be.

Shaheen Samavati 20:57
Did you have an example of a piece of content that worked really well? Thought leadership content or otherwise?

Simon Philip Rost 21:03
A good one, I remember, an artificial intelligence webinar that we did right before COVID hit us. It has to be entertaining, it has to be relevant and it has to be something that’s relatable in the world. So we took a very hot topic, which is artificial intelligence, and we brought together various parts of the ecosystem to talk about that. So we had a lady from a startup that talked about the experience of artificial intelligence and what we needed to make it work from a startup standpoint, we had our chief medical officer who covered the GE side of things and the medical expertise there. We had one of our customers, the CEO, who covered the operational parts and we had an industry partner. We did this TV show based in like a moderated discussion. If you see the numbers, how many views we got, it was very successful, but it came down to the things I told you before. You take a relevant topic, you apply storytelling to it, then you make it relatable and relevant for the audience.

Shaheen Samavati 22:33
Yeah, that’s really cool to make it part of a broader conversation on a really relevant topic, like you were saying. Being responsible for EMEA means you work across markets in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. How do you make your content resonate across all these different regions.

Simon Philip Rost 22:49
That’s always the beauty but also the challenge of working in such a large region. In some cases you can use more generalistic messages but in many cases, you have to tailor it. Talking to a hospital provider or to a doctor in Germany about content or the the methods we use for a healthcare provider will be different to somewhere in Turkey or in Africa. The challenges they face are different from market to market. What we do here at GE, we try to focus on regions where we already have installations and where we want to tell a story. We have the teams on the ground that help us with that. So I’ve got a marketing manager for Europe, she’s very much looking into the markets there and i’ve got a marketing manager for the Middle East region which is different. Their job in the end is to see what content can be used for the entire EMEA region. But also how do we have to develop content that is used in the sub markets, this can either be by tailoring the existing message of something general or by creating content specifically for the region. On the one hand, the beauty is that we can share with them and we can learn from each market and apply it to somewhere else, but it’s also the challenge that you have different languages, different challenges. There’s a fine line between generalisation and tailoring content.

Shaheen Samavati 24:48
You mentioned that with your background in consulting, one of your strengths is analysing data. I was curious because content marketing is notoriously difficult to measure the results of it’s long term play. Do you have any tips or insights on what data is important to look at when it comes to measuring content marketing?

Simon Philip Rost 25:18
Look, I think content marketing gets more and more measurable. I can give you an example of a current virtual trade fair we took part in, we were able to see exactly how long customers looked at certain kinds of assets. So we could see in a video, that if the video is 12 minutes long and it drops in minute eight, that maybe there’s some kind of issue with the content you produced. So I believe data is out there a lot, you just have to get better to use it. You should take the typical KPIs that you look into as the number of clicks and this helps you to see, is it relevant or not, but you don’t know how it’s actually consumed. In today’s world, you have KPIs that give you exactly this insight on how content is consumed. It can be the length of how long people look at videos, it can be how much time is spent on certain pages in your PDF. There are ways to measure that. You just have to get better to bring the data together and make better decisions on that. But I would argue that it’s difficult to measure content marketing, there are ways that you can see how often it’s been looked and how long people look at it. Are they taking actions and downloading a second piece of thought leadership? But to bring all the data together, I agree is still a challenge, because it’s how often in various systems. But I believe that right now, we have a lot of data points you can use to measure the success.

Shaheen Samavati 27:00
Yeah, I imagine part of the challenge is there’s just so many data points and it’s like, how do you know which one’s really meaningful. Maybe someone’s looking at this page but if they’re not the right person, then it’s not relevant, right?

Simon Philip Rost 27:12
That’s also something where I believe you have to make the difference. I see this right now, it’s changing also because of the pandemic, because more formats are moving to a virtual environment. So you can track what the customer saw and what they are doing. I try to move my team right now to take more data based decisions and we do this by doing post-mortem meetings after any kind of initiative we did. We do a webinar, we afterwards re-group and we go throught the certain KPIs, and we say, why is this happening and we try to understand it. It’s not always easy, but I think, if not now then when, because right now we have the data points.

Shaheen Samavati 28:02
So we’re reaching the last part of the interview, I wanted to ask you about your recommendations. So first of all, what’s what’s your favourite app at the moment?

Simon Philip Rost 28:14
You mean on a personal or on a business level?

Shaheen Samavati 28:16
Either one, it’s an open question.

Simon Philip Rost 28:22
There are various. What I use quite a lot lately is Audible because I’m discovering hearing books, the app reads them for me. There’s an app which is called getAbstract, where you can basically get in a very digestible format, book summaries which help you to identify the next book you want to read or the next podcast. That’s something I use quite extensively. On a personal level, sportswise, there’s an app called Strava which I like a lot to track my results and try to improve my performance.

Shaheen Samavati 28:58
Nice. So what’s your favorite marketing or business book? Or one that you’ve read recently that you recommend?

Simon Philip Rost 29:13
I have one here to my right, which I enjoy a lot. I mean books, there are so many good ones out there. I can recommend If Disney Ran Your Hospital by Fred Lee. It’s an old one I just started from 2005. It tells you how you can apply customer facing techniques to patients. It speaks about nine and a half things that he would do differently. I wonder what the half thing is but I’m just at the beginning. I know it reads very well. There are many books out there which help not just marketing standpoint but also to undertsand digital health, which is an emerging topic. Deep Medicine is one which I would like to recommend from Eric Topol as well.

Shaheen Samavati 30:07
Very cool. What’s your best productivity hack?

Simon Philip Rost 30:13
You tell me. Productivity hacks, what I try to do is batch my email twice a day. As I’m working I’m trying to fight the email fluff that everybody deals with every day. But I batch them twice a day, I spend in the morning an hour and then before I end my day to not get distracted.

Shaheen Samavati 30:37
Do you actually schedule the time for the for the email, checking?

Simon Philip Rost 30:41
In the morning and before I stop working is when I focus on it. What I schedule is deep working times, where I literally tell everybody don’t interrupt me. Like right now my mobile phones are switched off. I try to also do this typical thing called eat the fox first, to tackle your biggest problems in the morning. Which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Shaheen Samavati 31:14
Those are good tips. Lastly, do you recommend any learning resources or online courses?

Simon Philip Rost 31:21
So many, what I recently tested if you want to invest money, is LinkedIn Learning. Without doing publicity here, they’ve got a very wide range of self paced learning courses which I enjoy. Then Coursera is always a good resource to go to if you don’t want to invest and search for free courses on digital marketing, online marketing, artifical intelligence. So there are many out there.

Shaheen Samavati 31:45
What’s the last course that you did?

Simon Philip Rost 31:48
The last course that I did was on digital transformation on LinkedIn Learning. A good one but also very dense. You have to schedule time to get it done and you have to dedicate like 45 minutes a day.

Shaheen Samavati 32:13
So we’ve reached the end of the interview, but I just wanted to give you the chance to give any final parting advice or takeaways for other marketers in Europe.

Simon Philip Rost 32:23
As I said throughout the interview, make data your friend. Try to base all decisions on data points it that helps. Second one, especially in times of the pandemic, be a little bit more bold and try new things because surely things that you did in the past are not working right now. Also, leave your teams with the space to make errors and to test new things and to be bold. The third one, which I try to do more and more is reach out to the external world, look into other sectors to see what’s working there because it might also work in your world. That’s a typical global consulting tip, I would recommend you guys to broaden your horizons a little bit and look more to the outside and not focus only on internal standards you have at this point in time.

Shaheen Samavati 33:18
Absolutely. That’s a very good note to end on. Thank you so much Simon for sharing your insights with us today.

Simon Philip Rost 33:24
Thanks for having me. It was truly a pleasure.

Shaheen Samavati 33:26
Thanks to everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out and keep tuning into the podcast daily for interviews with content experts. See you next time.

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