S2 #1: How To Use All That Data Your Startup Generates with Dusty Schroeder

Dusty Schroeder has become a marketing specialist for health tech startups. As the previous VP of Marketing for DocuTAP and current VP at VitalWare, he’s acquired expertise that can only be gained by helping a startup grow from 15 clients to over 3,000 in just 11 years.

What did he learn along the way? He discovered that data can be a powerful force when it comes to thought leadership. And that’s what he’s here to talk about today - how mining your data can help you become a front-runner in your industry.


DocuTAP focuses on building software solutions for Urgent Cares looking to implement better EHRs and patient engagement platforms, and Dusty got to experience the very early stages of a HIT startup.

When he started with DocuTAP, they had a mere 15 employees. But when he left just four months ago, they had grown to over 300 employees. According to Dusty, his marketing expertise grew along with the company.

Though he spent a brief period in sales doing his fair share of cold calling, the overwhelming majority of his career has been spent in marketing.

Now Dusty is VP at VitalWare’s marketing department. VitalWare focuses on mid-cycle revenue solutions specifically for hospitals by providing chargemaster management solutions.

Dusty Schroeder

Data exhaust and why it matters

Along his career path, Dusty stumbled across an important facet of marketing that I’ve never considered before - data mining.

In health tech, startups collect information out of necessity. With this organic gathering comes a wealth of unused information that could help startups become the go-to thought leaders in their space.

Dusty refers to this as data exhaust - information your software or product naturally amasses as more people use your tech solution.

In other words, right under your nose is a wealth of invaluable information that could revolutionize your content and set you apart from other leaders in the industry.

How data gathering impacts content marketing

During his time at DocuTAP, Dusty started capitalizing on this strategy in the form of a quarterly publication called the Urgent Care Quarterly. What he discovered is that data-driven content has an incredibly long shelf life that could be repurposed in multiple ways - infographics, webinars, blogs, social posts (you get the idea).

Data exhaust gave his marketing an endless stream of solid content - content that they knew their customers would find compelling and interesting,

For instance…

Consider patient relationship management solutions. How might they be able to use organic, anonymous data? For one, they could help their industry understand what consumes the majority of clinicians’ time. Or they could give PRM developers an inside look into how clinicians tend to use software.

On the patient side of things, data could show software designers and industry leaders what’s happening with patient experience - typical wait times, online check-ins versus walk in statistics, or overall patient satisfaction.

The whole point is this: if you’re a health tech company, you’re inevitably a data company. You have a wealth of information at your fingertips that could influence your industry for good.

The purpose of data gathering for marketing

The whole point is to use the information you have to position your startup as a thought leader - the one people come to to understand the pulse and developments in your industry.

If you’re careful and intentional with your data-informed content, it can be an indicator to your industry that you want to partner with them to improve health care. It also sets you up as an expert equipped with abundant resources to inspire and challenge others.

According to Dusty, very few people are doing this. Although tech companies are gathering piles of information, this data rarely becomes useful to anyone.

That’s why you need to mine your data so that health care can improve faster than ever before. Meanwhile, you can increase your bottom line by building brand awareness through original thought leadership content.

A test case: Health care reimbursement

Here’s another practical example of how data can drive thought leadership. There are so many different views and opinions surrounding health care reimbursement. And while there are factors such as government regulations to consider, data could also give insight into where revenue breakdowns occur.

Statistical information can show you major trends in reimbursement models as well as how systems are changing. In addition, the right data could even give you solid information about how payer relationships are affecting reimbursement.

But how much data do you really need to prove your point? To establish trends, for instance, you need a few years of information in order to compare certain months or years. But shorter time frames could also yield valuable insight about patient experience.

How to get started

So where do you start? Dusty gave a simple outline for getting your using data exhaust in marketing.

  1. Confirm that you can get the data.

  2. Gather the data.

  3. Analyze the information.

  4. Interpret the facts.

He really emphasized that before you ever try to frame a marketing strategy around data exhaust you first have to confirm that you can get the information you’re looking for.

That means that the first step is meeting with your product team to learn what kind of analytics they’re capable of getting. After that you can begin synthesizing data into a useable format.

What do most people get wrong when using data exhaust?

Dusty shared that one of the most harmful uses of data exhaust is to use these facts in a self-promotional way. Information analysis, he said, should be about sharing objective evidence that can assist the industry you serve.

He also pointed out that sometimes the data doesn’t always say what you want it to say. For instance, in his analysis of patient engagement software, his marketing team discovered, to their surprise, that patients were typically less satisfied with their patient experience when they checked in online than when they simply walked in to an office to set up an appointment.

Even though online check in created less wait time, patients were typically more dissatisfied. So their marketing team presented these facts and began to postulate why this might be the case.

All this to say, data gathering is a learning opportunity - one where you can learn how your product or internal team needs to improve.

Book of choice

Dusty is an avid audiobook and podcast enthusiast. For fiction, he loves sci-fi or dystopian books such as 1984 or The Time Machine.

His favorite marketing book, though, is one that’s been mentioned frequently on the podcast - Building a Storybrand. It’s so easy to overcomplicate your messaging, especially when you’re dealing with complex tech solutions. But Building a Storybrand gives you a framework to simplify your marketing so you can reach your audience.

Want to connect with Dusty? Find him here:

Twitter: @DustySchroeder

LinkedIn: Dusty Schroeder

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And, as always, if you need help with your marketing…

Let’s talk. You can book your free consulting session with me today.