February 27, 2017

SIM Partners Unveils Velocity Health Website

By Jay Hawkinson

simhealth website

The SIM Partners Velocity Health platform helps healthcare systems acquire and engage with patients anytime, anywhere.

Those are the first words you see when you visit the newly launched SIM Partners Velocity Health website. With our new website, we have created an experience that will drive access and engagement with our own customers, leading healthcare systems. As you’ll see when you visit the site, this is an experience that focuses on solving for your needs in healthcare and what you need to know to understand how we can help you.


With this website launch we are articulating a vision for Velocity Health and our clients. That vision is all about using technology to improve patient acquisition and retention for healthcare systems, private practice, and retail health. We want to help you engage your patients where they live, work, and play by transforming the patient/provider experience and deliver the care your patients deserve.


Businesses inside and outside healthcare often think of location marketing platforms such as Velocity as tools to drive patient access at scale. Indeed, Velocity Health makes it possible for healthcare systems to acquire more patients by making providers and facilities more easily findable through accurate provider location data, data management, and optimized provider pages.


Additionally we believe healthcare systems have a tremendous opportunity to retain patients by empowering their providers to find and refer other providers within their networks. As mentioned on our site, we apply our search background to develop user-friendly patient-facing find-a-physician directories to create similar search tools behind the firewall for physicians to use, too.


Velocity Health goes beyond patient access and retention. Professional services and products like paid media, mobile proximity campaigns, and provider directories that can improve patient engagement complement the platform. Take a moment to explore the new Velocity Health website and learn more about how we can improve patient access and retention through our location-based technology platform. We welcome your feedback. Meanwhile, contact us if you would like to discuss more on how we can help you apply technology to drive patient acquisition and retention.



February 17, 2017

Google Maps: More Social and Personal

By Adam Dorfman

Google Maps Favorite Places Share With Friends

Google has made Google Maps more personal and social.

In a recently published blog post, Google announced that users can save locations to personalized lists and share those lists with others through social networks, email, and messaging apps. For example, someone planning a trip to the SxSW festival in Austin might want to create an “Austin Night Life” and “Austin BBQ Joints” list and store Google Maps destinations ahead of their visit for easy access when exploring the city during the event. The lists could be stored offline if needed and shared with other friends attending SxSW to do some planning together.

Our take: this development underscores why it’s so important for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations to manage their location data and content effectively. Businesses that maintain accurate location data and compelling content will enjoy a multiplier effect when someone shares the business’s information with other users through social and messaging apps. But businesses that do a poor job managing their online identity will pay for their lack of attention many times over.

  • Make sure you claim and optimize your Google listing via Google My Business.
  • Ensure your location data is correct.
  • Include quality photos that encourage people to visit your location. (Per Google, “Businesses with recent photos typically receive more clicks to their websites.”)

It’s also interesting to speculate what this development means to the future of Google Maps. I would not be surprised if Google eventually incorporates into its ranking algorithms information about businesses stored in personal lists as well as titles of personal lists, thus putting more power into the hands of users. It’s also not unreasonable for Google to use personal lists to suggest things to do and places to go, akin to a vacation suggestion via algorithm. Or, Google could repurpose list data for its Google destinations product. After all, we know two things with certainty about Google:

  • Google wants to create an end-to-end experience that keeps users on Google.
  • User data is king. Google is always looking for ways to put user data to work. And personal lists are a treasure trove of user preferences based on data.

Whatever happens down the road, brands can prepare themselves by getting the basics of local data and content management right. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

February 13, 2017

Giving Back for the Greater Chicago Food Depository

By Jay Hawkinson

Give Back Chicago Food Bank On February 7, a dozen of us from SIM Partners gathered at the McCormick Tribune YMCA in Humboldt Park on Chicago’s west side to package and distribute produce for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. This is the third time SIM Partners has volunteered to help the Chicago Food Bank. Fortunately on this chilly February day, we were mostly indoors packaging hundreds of bags of produce to given to families in need.

When our team arrived around 8:45 a.m., there was already a large crowd of people waiting the inside the YMCA gymnasium where the food distribution would happen. Most of those folks had been there since 5 a.m. We were behind schedule since the delivery trucks were still circling the block so we had a lot of catching up to do. Good thing our SIM volunteers were up to the task because the work was non-stop from the moment the truck doors opened. We stacked all the boxes of produce (squash, radish, tomatoes, grapes, green beans, etc.) along the walls of the gym in stations where a smaller group would bag them up for handing out.

give back Chicago Food Bank

The bagging is where the real work began. The plastic bags were a challenge unto themselves, proving very difficult to open. In most cases it took one person assigned to opening the bags so the others could place the precise allotment of produce inside. After a couple hours, we had a sufficient amount on the pallets, and the Chicago Food Bank reps had all the families queued in a long line that snaked back and forth across the gym floor. During the next hour we handed out food to more than 200 families. Some of them came back for a second round until all the food was gone.

By the end we were breaking down the boxes and sweeping the floors. It was an exhausting yet fulfilling morning at the McCormick Tribune YMCA that went by very fast. We are pleased that we could offer our time and effort once again to help the Chicago Food Bank provide for those in need.

GB blog post_z

February 6, 2017

Amazon Fires a Super Bowl Warning Shot to Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

By Jay Hawkinson


If you were watching the Super Bowl 51 ads closely, you might have noticed Amazon putting brick-and-mortar retailers on notice. During a 10-second spot known as “Finger Lick,” a couple in their home watching television restock on Doritos by telling Amazon Alexa to “reorder delivers from Prime Air.” Then a voiceover announces, “Look for delivery soon” as a drone hovers outside the couple’s window. Very clever.


The ad was another reminder that Amazon is going to continue stepping into the turf defended by U.S. businesses that manage multiple brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon has already launched drone delivery in the United Kingdom, and getting necessary government approvals to do the same in the United States is going to take some time. But make no doubt: Amazon has the muscle and money to fight U.S. brick-and-mortar businesses for on-demand customers.


We saw other signs of Amazon’s intent when the company launched physical book stores and then announced the roll-out of Amazon Go grocery stores, which promise a frictionless shopping experience. But brick-and-mortar businesses don’t have their hands tied behind their backs. They have plenty of tools at their disposal to compete. For instance, Walmart’s pilot Pickup and Fuel stores offer dedicated drive-through for shoppers to pick up online grocery orders, and 7-Eleven has been piloting drone delivery in Nevada for months.


We recommend that brick-and-mortar retailers:


  • First set a foundation for stronger location marketing by getting the basics right: for example, ensure that your location data is accurate and that your content is optimized for search, especially mobile search.


  • Take a closer look at your customers’ on-demand habits. As Google has been noting for months, consumers in general are using mobile devices in “micro-moments” to make split-second decisions about where to go and what to buy.


  • Capitalize on something that Amazon does not have: an in-store experience. For instance, how well are you taking advantage of event-based marketing to create in-store promotions and integrating those promotions with your online content?


At SIM Partners, we work all the time with brick-and-mortar businesses to strengthen their location marketing through our Velocity platform, which manages location data and content. (In 2016, we introduced “Ride There with Uber” functionality to Velocity so that your customers can order Uber rides to your business directly from your location pages.) Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

February 3, 2017

Location Marketing Is Changing — Are You?

By Jon Schepke

Local Marketing

Never underestimate the changing nature of location marketing.


A year ago at this time, many location marketing experts thought voice search was little more than a passing trend, and the notion that people would use emoji to do business with local brands was a novelty. Yet, in February 2017, businesses are rapidly rethinking how to optimize their local content for voice search, and startups are emerging to create commerce out of emoji-based communication. My newly published Street Fight column, “Three Ways Location Marketing Is Changing in 2017,” takes a closer look at trends shaping how people discover businesses with multiple locations.


As I mention in the column, the fundamentals of location marketing remain as relevant as ever: businesses that operate multiple locations need to create contextual content, unleash location data, and provide compelling experiences to convert consumer searches into sales. But people are searching differently. They’re using emoji, voice commands, and social media to find what they want on demand through a variety of channels and devices. As a result, businesses need to be more nimble and imaginative in the way they convert online searches into offline sales.


Read my column for more insight, and contact us to discuss how we can help you build your business locally with our Velocity platform.

February 1, 2017

SIM Partners Earns Funding and Industry Recognition

By Jon Schepke

SIM Partners Earns Funding and Industry Recognition

These are exciting times for SIM Partners. Today we announced that we have secured $5 million in funding to drive customer acquisition with our Velocity platform. As discussed in a press release, our investors are excited about SIM Partners because of great work we do and the industry recognition we’ve received — such as a newly published Forrester report that features SIM Partners as one of the elite location management platform providers.


The report, “Vendor Landscape: Location Management Platforms,” by analyst Collin Colburn, identifies the top location management platforms that help businesses with multiple locations drive customer acquisition. Forrester names SIM Partners as one of only six providers that offer a full range of capabilities to enable consumer discovery for physical locations.


Those capabilities include support for local listings, landing pages, local customer reviews, local paid search, local display, and local paid social. The report, available exclusively to Forrester clients, also identifies a number of ways that businesses can leverage the value of location platforms like ours, such as enabling discovery across a wide variety of channels.


The Forrester report also articulates why location marketing platforms like Velocity are becoming more strategic to businesses that operate multiple locations. Especially as consumers find brands through increasingly diverse channels, businesses increasingly need outside help — to do the heavy lifting needed to share their location data, but also to provide expertise such as organic search and paid media. Because of Velocity’s depth and breadth, SIM Partners is a preferred choice. Contact us to discuss how we can help you attract and retain customers with location marketing.

January 26, 2017

Content Refresh: A Missed Opportunity in Location Marketing

By Charley Vail

Content Refresh

Local marketing campaigns tend to become very complex. Providing a user-friendly experience means managing many different elements. A vital element that should not be overlooked is on-page content, which can include content blocks, copy about the individual store, and information about current products or services that a store is offering. Unfortunately, on-page content can be neglected and not seen as a priority. Brands should be dedicating more resources to making sure the on-page content is timely and relevant. Plan ahead and develop content so that when a customer lands on your page, they can ingest something that applies to them. Be ready for current seasons, trending topic, or behavioral shifts.


Why You Should Regularly Refresh Content


Refreshing page content regularly is a strong signal to Google to improve page rank, which makes your business more visible at a local level. Doing so helps visitors searching locally find store location pages and connect with them on relevant topics. In 2010, the Google Caffeine update allowed pages with updated and relevant content to index quicker and take priority over those that are outdated. Updating page content has been something Google has favored for six years running now. It’s likely frequently updated content  is something Google will favor for years to come and should be viewed as a priority. Take advantage of knowing this information and provide local users with the timely and relevant content they desire.


Prompted search should be a key-determining factor on content creation. Internal and external events are affecting Google search queries on a daily basis. As my colleague Gib Olander explained in an October 2016 Street Fight article, prompted searches occur when an external event or a brand-generated event inspires people to perform branded and non-branded searches locally. Everyday provides a new opportunity to be found, if a brand is ready with relevant information. How are the people you want to attract behaving? Have you started an event that prompts behavior? Has an external event happened that prompts behavior? Examples of prompted searches can be found here.


Why Businesses Don’t Refresh Content


Don’t be a company that fails to dedicate necessary resources to maintain your content. Doing so starts with people. A company’s team could lack a dedicated content strategist or manager. If one is on staff, having them dedicate time towards managing this is vital. If the resources are available, define an approach that works best for you, based on your knowledge of your customers. An approach doesn’t have to perfect, but there needs to be one. Companies should find one that works best for their vertical or their products/services. Keeping up with the latest information and trends is simple because multiple platforms will assist you in this endeavor. Twitter is an instantaneous news source and a fantastic platform for digesting content. Analyze what is being said in Google or Yelp reviews. The path to relevant content can be found, but make time to look for it.  


Refreshing content applies to businesses in all industries, ranging from retail to healthcare. You might not think of hospitals constantly refreshing their content, but they do. In fact, they have to. Large medical centers usually include a network of providers who live in a state of change, whether updating the hours they keep or the locations where they work. But medical centers also have constant opportunities to revise content beyond necessary changes to name, address, and phone data about their providers. The Cleveland Clinic offers a steady stream of content ranging from articles about the risk that cheerleaders face for suffering from concussions to videos welcoming new members to its team. It’s interesting to note how well Cleveland Clinic balances the usefulness of fresh content with the need to provide essential data such as location addresses.


Ways to Get into the Habit of Refreshing Content


It is important to establish an editorial calendar and regularly update content based on your brand’s planned marketing and PR events at a local level, which are natural opportunities to create visibility. The calendar should also track external events in your area, which will generate opportunities to tap into annual events, especially if your business participates in them in some sort of sponsored capacity.


Additionally, regularly perform topic and keyword research and update your content to take advantage of trending content. Be sensitive to opportunities for promoted search. And above all, start taking action. Your refreshed content doesn’t have to be extremely different than what you have now. Add new images for content on your site. Re-write topics you are already talking about with slightly different keywords. Include new inventory for products you offer or user-generated content. Rotate in new content blocks that touch on products or services that have been in your portfolio or inventory for years. Define a strategy and implement it. And at the very least, do these tasks once per quarter and you will be putting yourself in a better position to succeed.


January 24, 2017

Moving Forward with Wellness Care

By Mike Hill


I recently got a glimpse of one possible future for healthcare when I came across a TechCrunch article about Forward, a San Francisco startup that wants to be “the Apple Store of doctor’s offices.”


According to TechCrunch, Forward offers patients a medical staff equipped with technology such as artificial intelligence and proprietary digital stethoscopes to more effectively monitor your health and treat symptoms before they develop into full-blown problems. Member patients pay $149 monthly to manage their wellness care with providers who do everything from blood testing to nutrition counseling. The fee includes access to staff, a native app, and wearable sensors. Its state-of-the-art office contains six exam rooms and a testing lab onsite.


In a post on Medium, CEO and Founder Adrian Aoun explained that the idea for Forward arose after a family member suffered a heart attack. The experience made Aoun more sensitive to healthcare’s use of antiquated technologies — and also to the healthcare industry’s application of technology to treat costly afflictions such as heart attacks rather than treating patients while they are well. He saw an opportunity to empower physicians with the right tools and environment to help them adapt to a focus on wellness care.


But he decided that he needed a fresh approach. Rather than try to reengineer existing healthcare system, he created an alternative in Founder’s subscription-based approach. As he wrote:


The primary function of software in the healthcare industry today is not to take care of people — it’s to make sure everyone gets paid. No one has the incentive to build tools and algorithms to predict your heart attack. Because the sad truth is that your traumatic heart attack is someone else’s financial windfall. The resulting heart bypass surgery generates $100,000+ in revenue for the hospital. There is no one villain here. The entire system is set up for failure.

We started Forward to deliver better health to people at a lower cost. But if we had to do this by working within the existing healthcare system, we wouldn’t even know where to begin. How do you unwind everyone’s broken incentives, retrofit ancient software, and convince a bunch of people to change a system in which they benefit from the status quo? We felt it would make more sense to instead start from scratch and to build things the right way from the start.


Our take: Forward is definitely on to something — and the healthcare system is more incented to change than its CEO might realize. Payment structures for healthcare providers are moving from rewarding physicians for outcomes provided as opposed to fee for service. In the future, providers will be compensated based on how well a provider manages a patient’s health before they required service. And with consumer healthcare premiums and deductibles shifting more of the cost of care to patients, stakeholders in healthcare have more of an incentive to pay for staying healthy than for getting treated for an illness.


Forward has provided a glimpse of how physicians can use technology to manage wellness care — and also to provide a more pleasant experience. In healthcare, combining an experience with data and content creates both patient access and long-term retention. Forward gives all healthcare systems a glimpse at engagement coming sooner than you think.

January 18, 2017

Think “Paid, Earned, and Owned” to Succeed with Location Marketing

By Jon Schepke

Think-Paid Earned-and Owned-to Succeed with Location Marketing

One of the most significant research reports of 2016 was published way back in March: the Forrester Wave for search marketing agencies. This report assesses the strengths and weaknesses of marketing agencies that provide search marketing expertise. But the report is also useful because it discusses trends that affect the way agencies help clients master search. I read these evaluations carefully to identify white spaces of opportunity for companies to grow their businesses through search, especially local search.


The 2016 evaluation uncovered a number of white spaces, such as the reality that many brands and agencies continue to focus narrowly on search tactics, seeking value from organic search and efficiency plays for paid search without thinking holistically about search as a strategy. In my recently published Search Engine Land column, I urge marketers to adopt a broader approach to search. In doing so, businesses should reframe their metrics to measure the value of combined paid, earned and owned media. I discus how a SIM Partners client that implemented a comprehensive organic and local search strategy lowered its blended cost per lead from $80 to $31.67 for pay-per-click advertising.


Check out my column and let us know what white spaces of opportunity you have uncovered in search. We’d love to help you improve your location marketing approach. 


January 16, 2017

Healthcare Creates an Omnichannel Future

By Brian Westrick

Healthcare-Creates-an-Omnichannel-Future-SIM Quick Take

Northwell Health, a network of 21 hospitals in based in New York, recently shared how the healthcare system is making a move toward providing omnichannel care. As reported in Internet Health Management, Northwell Health is developing a portal that will give patients telehealth services ranging from management of personal records to physician booking. Internet Health Management describes the portal as providing “omnichannel care” because the healthcare system is combining the offline experience (going to a hospital) with online (using the portal).


Our take: the article demonstrates how much progress healthcare systems need to make in order to become omnichannel. Being omnichannel means that a business provides a connected experience across the entire consumer journey, from awareness to becoming a customer. Doing so requires delivering the right content in the right touchpoint, ranging from mobile to social.


Leading-edge retailers have built omnichannel experiences that have influenced patient expectations of healthcare providers. As discussed The Healthcare Guide to Omnichannel Discovery, recently published by SIM Partners, patients live in a world where they can reasonably expect to order a shirt from and pick up the product in store, with the sales clerk having knowledge not only of the transaction but also of the customer’s purchase history. That expectation transfers to healthcare.


Patients expect healthcare systems to travel across devices and channels with them. They want accurate and complete information about physicians, their specialties, and insurance covered, and essential data such as hours of operation whether they’re visiting a healthcare system’s website, researching a ratings/reviews site, or calling a physician’s office. They want to book an appointment online and offline through any device or channel. When patients arrive at the physician’s office, they expect the physician to possess complete knowledge not only of the appointment details but also of the patient’s history.


A patient portal like the one being developed by Northwell Health is technically not a completely omnichannel experience, but it is an important building block. And kudos to Northwell Health. You don’t create an omnichannel experience by waving a magic wand. You build one piece by piece, by harnessing data, content, and experiences across multiple devices and channels. Healthcare systems like Northwell Health are building an omnichannel future.


Contact SIM Partners to discuss how we can help you develop an omnichannel patient access and experience strategy.