Jen Spencer (02:29):
Well, we're not here to talk about U of A and ASU rivalries or Tucson or Phoenix. We are here to talk about Intelligent Inbound. And so, let's start with just really broadly, what does inbound mean in your revenue organization that you have at Pyx Health?
Christina Rice (02:46):
Sure. Our customers are payers right now. Since we went into market in 2018, we have always sold to the health insurance payer space. And so really for us, our buyers are the executives at the big national health insurance companies. We specifically focus on Medicaid and Medicare payers, so more of those vulnerable populations that they're serving.
But for us, inbound in particular, that means for us that we're getting either at a conference or through digital, those executives at health plans coming into us and saying, "Hey, I want to learn more about Pyx." Or, "I heard about you or there was a referral out in the world." And so as you mentioned, bringing digital to Pyx, we're only about a year into digital. And thanks to SmartBug, really, for helping us do that. And so for us, inbound in digital is relatively new for us.
Jen Spencer (03:48):
I mean, it's still very new for the healthcare industry as a whole, would you say? I mean, you brought digital into Pyx, but you've got this vast experience in the healthcare space. What is shifted that you've seen? Why does digital and inbound make sense for this part of the market?
Christina Rice (04:12):
Yeah, I think healthcare, although innovative in many ways, also is very traditional. If I think about traditional marketing, that's typically how healthcare does it. And so even when we first started, we got a lot of our sales traction doing those outbound efforts. So, we would do direct mailers to these folks. We had someone who did cold calls for a little while. And I think that really for us what shifted is when COVID happened and conferences stopped, people weren't in the office anymore. There was a really big shift in how are we going to connect with these executives that we want to get in front of? We can't do in-person visits anymore. And so it was like we needed something new in our toolbox. And so digital made a lot of sense to us.
And it also made us really take interest and look at our website to say, hey, it was always around for brand recognition for someone to land for someone to say, "Oh yes, this reputation is there." But it was never really a tool to attract. And so again, in that same effort had to make a big investment into the web as well.
Jen Spencer (05:25):
And I mean, we've heard this from a variety of industries, folks said they literally couldn't do what they were doing before. You couldn't travel. You couldn't go and drop into offices. You couldn't attend these conferences, and so you were forced to. I guess, how do you prepare your team, your marketing team, your revenue team, just the operations team in general? How do you prepare for these shifts and changes?
I think COVID caught a lot of people off guard, but it also, as people started to make adjustments, it's almost like they established some new processes for themselves. They got some new behaviors so that if something like this happened again, they were better prepared.
Christina Rice (06:14):
Yeah. Yeah. I think for us, I don't call us a startup anymore necessarily. We're big, we've raised enough money. We have enough revenue, but we still are kind of a fast-paced, high-growth startup in many ways. And so, one, that's good because we are all used to pivoting and change and being able to see the value quickly when we're making those decisions. We're also a really transparent company. I think with any change, whether we're shifting our marketing strategy or going into a new market, for us as a company, part of our culture is, and we say that it's clarity with kindness. It's one of our behaviors that we... And to me, that goes with it.
For us, when we're making these changes, we're really clear on why we're doing it and we can all feel it at the same time. We need to make this shift. We're not seeing the traction that we used to. And for us when we're doing this, and I think about digital specifically, we knew that we needed a leader who was not only an expert in this area, but was someone who this team would follow and love and trust that they were going to be successful in this new venture. And so that's the first thing we did is we found our EVP of marketing who was specifically very expert at digital. And really, it was so fast in how she was not only to gather the team's trust and get things into action, but actually see results.
Jen Spencer (07:51):
And then you mentioned that having that domain knowledge as well. Was that a critical component? Because the things you're describing of finding that EVP of marketing, that marketing leader, mean these are conversations that I've had with countless executives and investors where they want to know what's more important: the tactical skills of how to run digital marketing, run that kind of strategy and launch the strategies, being able to coach, connection to core values of the organization, domain knowledge of what it is that you do? When you were looking for that person, was it even across the board, were there some things that were more important to you than others? I'm wondering what we can learn because so many people have these questions.
Christina Rice (08:39):
Yeah. It's not a super simple answer unfortunately, of just, "Hey, this is kind of the roadmap to it," or, "At least this is what worked for us." But as I mentioned, our company is so strong in our culture. I mean, if you look at our website, if you get recruited by us, if you find a job posting, you kind of find us because you connect with our mission. It's strong. And so first of all, we have to find someone who's aligned with our culture or otherwise they won't be successful or they won't love us. That's kind of our first and foremost.
And then for sure, we needed someone who has done digital, not only strategy, but tactically. We don't have a huge bench of a team because we're not a huge company. And so for us we needed someone that was scrappy enough where they would get in and help the team learn. But also that could see, "Hey, you need to be here in six months and then we're going to learn and then take you to the next level in the next six." And so we were really lucky. I think that that's a little bit of a unicorn type of find, but again, I think if these companies can marry a strong culture with their search for this person, they're going to find who they want.
Jen Spencer (09:52):
Yeah. I think that that strong culture is really key and it's more reason to invest in your culture as an organization and to be really clear on why you do what you do and being as mission-driven as possible.
I have roots in nonprofit. I'm just, "Why do you exist? And if you didn't exist, if your organization didn't exist tomorrow, who would suffer?" And I remember being plagued with that kind of question. And I think nonprofit world lives and breathes that. The for-profit world has, I think, struggled a little bit more. But the more we can learn from those peers that we have, I think the better, because you're talking about fast growth, really, really quick to action, really needing to be all in on what's the goal, what is the vision for this organization? To your point, there are people that are out there, and investing in your culture and showcasing what you do. You're using inbound, a lot of inbound tactics, to then attract that talent as well, I imagine.
Christina Rice (11:07): Yeah. Yeah, totally.
Jen Spencer (11:10):
Let's talk a little bit about more changes when you are you're in an industry that could be a little bit volatile in a way that could be impacted by the market, by politics, by the economy. There's constant conference talk about, "Are we entering a recession? Softening in the market?" Impact on individuals. What do you see? Are there any threats or maybe there are opportunities that you foresee for your business, with the state of the economy, with the state of the market, with what's going on in our world today? Are those things that you're thinking about as you are rolling out initiatives at Pyx?
Christina Rice (11:57):
Yeah, sure. I have been in healthcare since I graduated college. I started on the provider. So, worked in academic medicine, went over to the payer side before coming to Pyx. And I don't think there's been one year in my career where healthcare in politics or how the economy's doing, it's not an industry that's not affected by it, which it also is why I love it. It's never boring. There's always change. There's always things that are going to come up that you get to pivot to or from.
But for us as a company, I think that we're all watching the economy. We're all listening to what's going on. We're anticipating what could be to come. But for our business specifically, we serve vulnerable population. So, that Medicaid, Medicare. And so if there were to be a recession or if the economy does make a change that's not for the better for us, we actually are poised to help more people. And so for us it feels like we have a really good opportunity to make a bigger impact.
We do have these conversations with our plans to say, "Hey, don't worry. We're here to help you. If your membership grows, we're going to grow with you." I would also say that that is a common discussion too around the exchange market. So, those folks that aren't on Medicaid or they're on the marketplace and they can move plans. That's a big thing. COVID allowed a lot of people to stay on Medicaid roles for a long time because they needed to, they should, but some of that's coming to an end. And so how are
these folks going to get served?
Again, we're always talking with our plans about these things. But for us in healthcare generally, and more specifically in the space we're in, we want to be there to help if this happens. We're not necessarily nervous of not being able to do that for our plans and our members.
Jen Spencer (14:00):
How does your marketing strategy tie in? Are you changing messaging on a regular basis? Are you targeting different entities? Is there any impact that external factors have on the way your marketing team actually operates?
Christina Rice (14:25):
Yeah, not quite yet. Mostly because I don't think the economy has appeared as clear as it might be in a few months, but our sales languages have changed or at least our outreach has changed. We know that if Medicaid roles are being redetermined soon, we're talking to exchange plans about, "Hey, how are you going to find and take over these folks who have been on Medicaid that need services? Let us help you keep a continuity of care." It allows us to follow the member wherever their journey is. And so in that case, our sales language has changed, but our marketing hasn't. And that's partially just because we've always been in this space, we're not pivoting into it based on what's happening with the economy. So, we're really familiar with it.
Jen Spencer (15:21):
No, that makes a lot of sense. Can we talk about sales a little bit, sales enablement? How do you go about enabling that sales team with those language changes? Whose responsibility is that in your organization to ensure that that team is really up to speed?
Because I have to imagine, in your space, I could think of so many other companies and folks I know, where those salespeople, they have to be really knowledgeable. They have to at least appear very knowledgeable. If you say the wrong thing, you can be dubbed as a charlatan and you don't know what you're talking about, right? How do you organize that from an operational perspective?
Christina Rice (16:11):
Yeah. Organizational-wise in our company, and this isn't super common actually, just kind of works for us, is that the marketing function, although heavily driving revenue... So, I would say 70% of their work drives revenue generation, reports under operations. And then we also have a chief revenue officer that runs the sales account management team.
Although on an org chart, split very aligned, I think that has to do with the leadership of both teams being best friends. And I say that a little bit tongue in cheek, but the sense of being able to call each other on the weekend and say, "Hey, here's what we're hearing in the market. What are you guys hearing? And what should we make changes to?" I would say our sales folks are incredible. They not only know the space so well, they've been in it a long time. We are looked at as experts in the space. And so our relationships with our plans are very tight.
And so many times these changes in how we're having conversations, it's coming from the market. It's them saying, "Hey, we have this problem. You guys have helped us solve it in the past. Can we talk about how we can solve this together again?" For us, and I think it speaks to the relationships that we're forming as we enter into these markets, is they're coming to us to say, "Hey, can we solution together?" Which I actually love because it means that we aren't saying the wrong thing, and actually we're looked at as true partners to them.
Jen Spencer (17:50):
That's really great and not very common, I don't think. And especially, because what you're saying is you don't even have marketing rolling up to the same executive as sales, right? If I kind of understood correctly.
Christina Rice (18:05): That's right.
Jen Spencer (18:06):
And that you feel like you got really strong alignment between your sales team and your marketing team. Come on, there's got to be something. What's that secret? I'm questioning that and I want to know. I want to learn because I've always had, over my career, had pretty tightly aligned sales and marketing organizations, but my secret weapon was they all rolled up to me. So, I was able to control that.
Christina Rice (18:44):
Eventually they might live together under revenue. I think that's part of just how we operate the business is we're going to put these folks where it makes sense organizationally, structurally, even just workload wise, and it's not perfect. So, don't get me wrong. I talked to the chief revenue officer today and she said, "Hey, I told your marketing director I need three things." And so, really I think what it is just transparency amongst each other. We're always going to be needing things. We're always going to be pushing and pulling between the teams, but we're all under common goal. And I think again, that comes from our startup background is we are running to goals either for reaching revenue targets, for maybe planning for our next financial event.
There are so many common things that we're all running to, that it limits the friction within our operations because we know why we're making these sacrifices, why we're having these conversations, why the sales team is asking for these things. And so sure, there's hard days and there's things that are like, "Gosh, do we really need to do that?" But at the end of the day, when we're running at same goals that are very clear, that we're all aligned around, that we all can benefit from, at the end of the day we get through it and we do what we need to do for each other.
Jen Spencer (20:14):
Awesome. How big of a role does data play in the way that your sales and marketing teams, the whole, this revenue org, the way that everyone's collaborating? Is there specific data that each team is looking at from each other that impacts the work that they do?
Christina Rice (20:33):
Yeah. We've definitely scratched the surface of data, but we're very data driven, but I wouldn't say that we're probably a company that is super sophisticated in the marketing sales data. I mean, we're still making sure that we are using sales enablement tools to drive our business and so forth. It's just because of our age and our experience in the market.
But everything that the sales and marketing team do is driven by data. The things that they share that makes a common language for sure is for our inbound digital leads. I mean, we track them on a spreadsheet. We can very clearly, both teams, regardless of how we feel where inbound leads are coming from, we can see it. We can track those leads back to whether they were digital or they were from a conference from a salesperson. I think that data allows us to really understand what the other teams need, where we need to pivot, and gives us that common language of, "Hey..."
I worked for a health system in my early days, and so when we wanted to do marketing for doctors, doctors always wanted to do a marketing thing that they thought would be super successful, but we didn't use data to drive that. It was like, "Okay, you want a brochure? Let's do a brochure." And so it changes the conversation. It's not, "I want to do this." It's, "We should do this because the data's showing us we need to do it." And to me, that is such an easier conversation to get aligned around and move things faster.
Jen Spencer (22:10):
Absolutely. And so you've got those micro, deep dive analytics, your lead numbers and those lead sources and conversion rates, I'm sure, and those win rates. But if you take a step back and you think about the way you communicate business success with your board or broader executive team, if let's say you could only share three key business metrics with your board that let them know, "Company is doing well," or, "Maybe there's something we have to inspect," what would those three be? People usually get frustrated with me that I only give them three, but I'm just curious, what's at the top of your list?
Christina Rice (22:58):
Yeah. And I feel like these are common. I don't necessarily know if it's going to be anything super fun, but revenue, obviously we're running at a revenue target for tons of reasons. And that is the lens, if you're not hitting revenue, why? Is your digital not working? Are you not getting leads at conferences are whatever it may be. It's such a number that tells you exactly how you're doing and how you're tracking the year.
For us, we're a tech-enabled services company. So, we aren't just technology. We have a whole compassionate call center that takes care of members all day long. For us, margin. We need to show that we are efficient with our people, but we're still caring and giving that services that we need. Again, another one, it shows that we're being fiscally responsible and not over-hiring or not using our resources wisely.
And then I think the third one really, when we're talking to our board, we started the year, I think with, I don't know, 60 employees. We're ending the year with 170. And so for us, retention. We also measure culture. So, I'm sneaking a fourth one. And so I'm totally cheating on this, but we actually measure how we're doing against our culture. Every quarter we send out a staff survey to say, "Hey, are we living up to these things?" And it's not just leaders. We're judging every single person. Are we, as a company, doing that?
And so for me, that's another important one. There's a lot of effort and money into hiring. And so once we're bringing these people on, are we finding the right fit? Are we the right fit for those folks? Are they finding happiness and fulfillment? And are we giving them the jobs that we said we would? For me, that is kind of the holistic view of how a company is doing.
Jen Spencer (24:51):
I love that, and I'm going to allow you the fourth. That's great. Because I want to talk about it. I want to talk about it a little bit. When did that start happening? Quite of a quarterly, are we living up to what we said, who you thought we were or who we said we were going to be? Are we living up to our culture of who we say we are? Was that something that is newer? Is it something that someone, founders of the organization, brought with them from somewhere else?
I guess it's not unique. There's a lot of pulse surveys and things, but for you to call that out as being one of the key business metrics that you would report to the board on the health of the organization, that's pretty significant. That to me means this is really, really important to you. This isn't just talk. Where did that come from?
Christina Rice (25:52):
That actually came from one of our... it's our only private equity partner. And so gosh, it was 2020. We took on... Their name is Rallyday Partners. They're out of Denver. And their private equity is different. It's four founders by founders. So, the four partners were founders of their own companies, which isn't super common. They were all operators.
When they took us on into their portfolio, they put all of their companies in what they call Rallyday Accelerator Program. And it consisted of two things. It was not only strategy. So, defining really what is your strategy and being able to put it into five kind of statements, but the second part was culture. It's not that we, at that point, thought of our culture or invented it, it's that we were able to, as a leadership team, directors and above all sat in a room, we put what was already happening in the company onto a piece of paper to say, "Hey, we were able to solidify what this culture is."
And it's different. It's not five pillars. It's not authenticity or trust. It's not that. We call it our BBOs. It's our beliefs, behaviors and outcomes. We have three beliefs as a company that have behaviors associated with the outcomes that we want. And really, that was kind of the document that gave us a roadmap, not only to measure. It's really easy for us to say, "Hey, as a company, are we prioritizing clarity with kindness?" And people can say, yes, no, one to five, whatever the scale is.
But it also allows us to have conversations with our peers, with our teams. We do it as part of reviews. And so it's just this common language that we can all use to make sure that, one, we have that available and hard conversations. And two, that it embodies who we are and what we do every day.
Jen Spencer (27:55):
Well, I think it's great. And I think we see and hear more organizations marching to that beat. And so I applaud you for really doing it from the ground up, and your private equity firm for inspiring it. That's great.
Christina Rice (28:11): Yeah. That was great.
Jen Spencer (28:16):
Let's go back to marketing for a second here. And I love to ask everyone to do a little bit of dreaming with me. I mean, maybe you've thought about this already, but I want you to pretend that I gave you just a blank check to spend on marketing. And I think this is funny. People are like, "Oh, easy." But it's hard. I've been asked this question about a business. Where would you spend it? I guess my first question is, I would love to know where you think you would spend it, but more importantly, I'd love to learn how you would go about deciding where to put those funds.
Christina Rice (28:54):
I think deciding wise, it would definitely be a conversation not only with our marketing team. They're close to our current strategies and what we're seeing success in and where they're seeing interest in. It would also definitely be a strategic discussion on where we're going to go as a company. Are we entering a new market that I want to blank check for? Or are we trying to go after a new TAM that would make it an easy thing?
I think just kind of in your question, in the spirit of it, of just putting a dream out there and being able to put a blank check towards something, we're a loneliness company, as you said, we were a loneliness company before COVID happened. We used to have to get into a room with executives and kind of convince them that this was something that was really important for them and their teams to focus not only their time, but also their money.
And then COVID happened. And it became a more common conversation. All of a sudden, all of us had experienced it ourselves or our loved one, but really we're category creators. There weren't companies around addressing loneliness when we were doing it. And so I still believe that that's part of what we do. And while we've made a lot of progress in that area, I think that you can probably agree PR has changed dramatically in the last five, 10 years, right?
Jen Spencer (30:26): Yeah. Yeah.
Christina Rice (30:27):
It's a way different strategy and approach than it used to be. And so for me, I would love to make a big investment in raising our profile as category creators and experts in the market, and these days that takes money. And so to me, for us as a company, as a loneliness category creator, that's what I would write my blank check to.
Jen Spencer (30:51):
Awesome. I think it sounds smart. It's great. And the backup plan is leaning into the idea of inbound marketing and really focusing on how are we driving value? How are we educating our audiences? How are we informing and letting that grow over time. Although wow, a really impressive PR campaign would be a really nice icing on that cake. I'm sure.
Christina Rice (31:22):
Yeah. I mean, again, I think it goes hand in hand. I think that's so powerful about digital and inbound market. As my EVP says, you have to have it on surround sound. And so I think the work that our team has done around digital and inbound, putting out the blogs and the articles, creating us a category and continuing to have people come in and view us, to me that is totally achieving what we're hoping for. But yeah, surround sound. That's what I want.
Jen Spencer (31:59):
Yeah. I love it. I love that way of thinking. Last question for you, Christina, as a business operator in a very fast-growing organization, more than double the size of your team in a year, if someone is listening and they're also a business operator in a high growth organization like yours, what advice do you have? What do you think is the most important thing for them to be focused on right now?
Christina Rice (32:31):
Gosh, I think for high growth, obviously you will grow. As operators, we are so focused on getting to the end of the growth. It is in our bones to do all of those things, to put down a plan, to execute upon it. We will get there. I think the thing that we need to remind ourselves to do is to pick our head up and watch it, appreciate it, check in with our people, because I know me specifically as an operator, I can completely bulldoze to the end and not even appreciate that journey.
But I think most importantly too, is the team around you, that you do it with, finding that connection, knowing that you're part of a team, not doing it on your own, that will make it fun. Otherwise, you get burnt. You got to find the joy in what you do. And so to me, that's what it is.
Jen Spencer (33:35):
I love it. That personally resonates with me having been on that journey, a former bulldozer myself. It's always right there. It's always right there at bay, right?
Christina Rice (33:50):
I mean, I feel like it's in my bones, so I imagine that's common.
Jen Spencer (33:55):
Yep. Yeah. I think it's what has made you successful, what makes you such a phenomenal asset to the Pyx Health team. So, thank you so much for joining me. If anyone who's listening wants to learn more about you, but also the work that you're doing at Pyx, where should they go?
Christina Rice (34:15):
Oh, you should definitely go to our website. It's easy. It's www.PyxHealth.com. You can learn all about us. You can learn about who we serve, and really cool data on what we've been able to accomplish and how we've changed lives. Yes, please learn more.
Jen Spencer (34:33):
Wonderful. Well, thanks everyone for listening. Please join us next week for another episode of the Intelligent Inbound podcast. You're going to get to meet another industry expert, just like Christina. And if you learned something today, please pay it forward by rating and reviewing on your podcast listening platform of choice. Make it a great day, everyone.