Jennifer Forster

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Andreea Borcea:
Welcome to the Marketing Mondays podcast, where we explore how we can make your offerings stand out in the health and wellness space. Through conversations with thought leaders and innovators in health and wellness marketing, we'll discuss marketing best practices, case studies, and innovative ideas to help scale your business and grow revenues with impact. I'm excited to be your host. My name is Andreea Borcea. I'm a fractional CMO and owner of the Dia Creative Marketing Agency.

Andreea Borcea:
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Marketing Mondays on Outcomes Rocket. I'm excited to be talking today to the VP of Payer and Market Strategy at SimpliFed, Jennifer Forster. Thank you so much for being here. Now real quick, let's start off with, what is SimpliFed?

Jennifer Forster:
Sure, so thank you, first of all, for having me. I'm so honored and excited to be speaking with you and your audience. So SimpliFed is a tele-lactation company that provides judgment-free breastfeeding and baby-feeding support to parents on their baby-feeding journeys, whatever that might look like. Parents connect with SimpliFed's network of clinically trained lactation consultants. They're often international board-certified lactation consultants, they come from a wide background of life and healthcare experience. Many of them are RNs or NPs working in labor and delivery and family health and OB-GYN, so parents connect with them from the comfort and safety of home via our secure telehealth platform. Our mission is to create a new model for optimal feeding by building trusted relationships with parents, partnering with healthcare payers and providers, and ultimately shifting policy practice and narratives around baby feeding to drive health and economic equity, starting with babies' first foods.

Andreea Borcea:
That's an incredible journey and such a powerful message. So to me, it sounds like your target customer obviously is the mom, but is it also then birthing centers, hospitals, like are you trying to get to the professional first and foremost to be introduced to the moms, or are you going directly to the moms?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, all the things and, it's moms, and it's parents and it's grandparents and it's dads and all the people that surround birth givers and people that are raising babies. So, yes, intuitively, moms with breastfeeding, but there's a whole myriad of people that support and grow babies in our community, and so starting with parents for sure, and there's a lot of direct-to-consumer marketing to build our brand awareness. And we all know how powerful the mom machine is, I think that the power of a mom-to-mom referral is really, really great and important to us, but also building those relationships with providers in the healthcare ecosystem because they are trusted. They're the ones that parents go to when they're having feeding difficulties or problems sleeping or anxiety about whether or not their baby's getting enough to eat or if they're thriving and growing, so, yeah, pediatricians, OBGYNs, labor and delivery units at hospitals. We also talk to other providers that are kind of on the outskirts of what you would traditionally think of as baby-feeding support. So like pelvic floor therapists and chiropractors that are helping parents postpartum or maybe through pregnancy, dentists that are helping with tongue ties for babies that are having trouble latching. So they're all kind of within our scope as well.

Andreea Borcea:
That's incredible. Were you, how long has SimpliFed been around?

Jennifer Forster:
SimpliFed, that's been around for a few years, I think since 2019 is when our founder started.

Andreea Borcea:
Oh wow, so pretty recent.

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, and we've, we were doing mostly direct-to-consumer, and then starting this year we went live with a few payer contracts, including with Tricare, East, and West, which has been really exciting and very forward-thinking of the government and Tricare to expand access to these services by allowing board-certified lactation consultants and lactation counselors to provide services.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, I was wondering. I was like, so did you, it sounds like you had to start B2C to just make sure that you could find product market fit and really understand how to message this. It feels so tricky, like there's health and wellness anyway, which is its own thing, but now on top of that, there's all these social competitions or challenges happening around breastfeeding and what that means, and I feel like it's such a tricky area to message in. How did you really figure out how to speak?

Jennifer Forster:
It is, well, so yes, we started with direct-to-consumer and really found that product market fit. So we found that parents really do need these services and need help starting in pregnancy, that was a big finding and supported by the literature, was our hypothesis. The sooner you can provide that baby-feeding support, the more successful you're going to be on that baby-feeding journey, and the better you're going to feel about it, so there was that. Also, we found that 60% of the parents that were reaching out to us were Medicaid enrollees, which in some way isn't surprising because it aligns with the number of Medicaid recipients in the United States and the large percentage of births that are financed by Medicaid, but also something that a lot of parents don't know is that this is they're right, that breastfeeding support is actually covered under the Affordable Care Act, and so Medicaid expansion states as well as marketplace plans and commercial plans, need to comply and provide parents with that baby feeding support. And so I think that when we talk about education, a lot of it is educating parents on what they have available to them and their rights to receive those services on top of all the other things that go along with baby feeding, right? All that pressure to breastfeed, the AAP extended the guidelines to two years, which is really overwhelming in a country that doesn't really have parental, paid parental leave. It's a whole systemic ecosystem that we're navigating, making baby feeding really complicated and messaging around that even more, so there's a lot of, we call them mommy wars and just mom guilt is so real. I don't know if you're a mom yourself, but I've got three children and I spend a lot of time thinking that I should or shouldn't be doing certain things, and then to feel that pressure from my friends and family and the world about how things, quote-unquote, should be done is really hard. And so it's SimpliFed we really try to message around about parents, and our vision is that every parent feels good about how they feed their baby. And so it's not one or the other, it's not breast, it's not bottle, it's not fed, it's that you feel good about how this is going. So it's, we support all parents in whatever way they choose to feed their baby, whether that's breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pace feeding, donor milk, exclusively formula feeding, some combination of all of the things we're supportive of, and we really just want to make sure that parents have the information and the support they need to be successful.

Andreea Borcea:
That's really powerful, and it feels like that messaging alone is a great first step because of the societal pressure, because of guilt, because of shoulds, and expectations, I can see a lot of moms not wanting to talk about it. I'll figure it out. It should work. And I just, the world's gotten too complicated and there's too much stress out there to think anything's just going to work straight out of the gate anymore.

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, yeah, and we talk a lot about how breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't come naturally to everybody, and that's okay. You just need the support to get to where you want to go, and whatever those goals are, we'll center on them, and then we'll get there, so yeah.

Andreea Borcea:
So I can see how this works really well, especially when talking directly to the moms now that you included payers and hospitals and etc., etc., etc., professionals, how have you had to adapt to that? Is it same messaging working or are they looking more like, bottom line, give me the money value?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, you hit it, then that's our challenge, is that we've got so many stakeholders, right? And so when you're talking to payers, I come from a Medicaid managed care background, so I understand pretty deeply how Medicaid works and what payers are concerned about and that's about doing the right thing, but also about the bottom line. And so what are the cost savings associated with baby feeding support or breastfeeding support? And there's a myriad of literature out there about how improving breastfeeding and improving support to breastfeeding provides parents with longer breastfeeding, duration, and intensity, and that breastfeeding itself has many positive effects on both mom and baby, and so there's a lot of ROI that can be shared with a health plan. In addition to that, fun fact, that it's mandated under the ACIN, the majority of health plans actually don't have a network of providers that can serve exclusively around baby feeding support. Of course, OB-GYNs and pediatricians, and midwives have a lot of expertise in the area of perinatal health and can help with baby feeding, but the truth is that they don't have the in-depth clinical knowledge exclusively around baby feeding to, or the time when you're in those very quick postpartum appointments or a quick well baby check to get into the details. So we talk a lot about, on the provider side, optimizing their time and being able to support them and ensuring access to care and providing that continuity of care and sharing those clinical notes back after the post-appointments and being able to enhance and, enhance that in-person care with a virtual platform and specific expertise.

Andreea Borcea:
It's a lot to balance, but it does feel like you got one down, one channel down really well before you started even considering the next ones.

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, absolutely, so the data c stuff we spent a lot of time getting right and proving that product market fit and then moved on when I came onto the organization in November of last year focusing on the payer and provider partnerships.

Andreea Borcea:
Interesting, has there been any big marketing wins for you since starting, or like some big campaign that surprised you one way or another?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, we had one campaign that far surpassed all the others and it was something to the effect of it was like a cartoon baby. I think it was a social campaign and it was like this cartoon baby, like adorable little thing, like crawling. And it said something to the effect of like, breast, bottle, they all end up eating Cheetos off the floor anyway, or something like that, and I think that really resonated with parents. Like, yes, right? Who cares? At the end, you're just like, oh, they're fed, they're happy, I have peace, whatever, and so that kind of goes along with like another one that we did around like, like breast, bottle, both, whatever you choose, basically, was kind of the message behind that. And I think we're at a unique time in our country to be talking about like, choice, and an inclusive care and centering on women who know what they need to do to support themselves and their children and really listening to parents, and I think those messages really resonate.

Andreea Borcea:
Absolutely, and it is still such a tricky healthcare system that people don't know what's covered, so they don't even know that this resource is available to them. I feel like that's, that alone is a huge weight off when you can just come and say, we can help you. And they're like, yeah, yeah, but how much is it going to cost me? I can't afford it, or what, you know? And you're like, Nope, nope, it's included.

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, and that's honestly been a tricky, that's been tricky for us, especially when it comes to the Medicaid population, which has been underserved and it is very distrustful of the healthcare system. So when we come at it as this is free to you, they are almost suspicious. And that's why it's so important, I think, at least in, within that population and that market, to get that buy-in of trusted partners like providers and community-based organizations and other moms. But just hearing that, we did some outreach for a short while on behalf of a health plan and that failed, failed, failed, because people don't trust their health plans and especially Medicaid enrollees. They've just been hurt by the system in the past, and by associating, I think with the payer isn't helpful. The Tricare population is definitely more savvy and understanding of their benefits. They have some skin in the game and need to usually pay a portion of their coverage not dissimilar from a commercial member, so they are definitely more aware. They tell us that they heard about us more from their health plan directory. They know where to go to find those resources, whereas I think the Medicaid enrollees are less likely to understand what the services are available to them, and then when you tell them they're distrustful about it's actually covered.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, have you found anything besides just time and effort to grow that trust with that population or any good partners to work with there?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, and I think it's something that we're still working out. We just spent the last three days as a team together, really tackling this very issue. And so if I had a silver bullet, I would use it, but I think that you're right, it's time and effort and building those relationships and following up with them. We're talking more about community-based organizations. So for the Medicaid population in particular, maybe working with like food pantries or diaper banks as a way to kind of quickly get some brand recognition. But it's tough when you're newer to a market and you're working with a population that may not be as aware or as healthcare literate as others.

Andreea Borcea:
Definitely, I did have a project years ago trying to launch an app to help improve habits to prevent type two diabetes. And we had to go in, we started partnering with African American churches, and if you could get the church leaders on board, then it wasn't a bunch of white scientists coming in and telling you how to eat better.

Jennifer Forster:
Yes, exactly, and they get it. Yeah, we've been stopping by churches and barbershops and salons and daycare centers and those community organizations, but it's hard because they're not institutional, right? So it's really about having boots on the ground and developing those relationships, and the word of mouth.

Andreea Borcea:
Which is a lot more of an expensive marketing experience than, let's just put this out there and see what happens.

Jennifer Forster:
Yes.

Andreea Borcea:
So along those lines, is there any particular interesting things that you think marketing is heading towards or things that people should keep in mind when they move towards the future of health and wellness marketing?

Jennifer Forster:
It's a good question and I wish that I had some more time to kind of ponder that.

Andreea Borcea:

Jennifer Forster:
You know, I think that it's got to be multimodal. I, and I think that, like we were saying before, it's so important that it's coming from both like on the ground, from those mom-to-mom conversations as well as from a reputable source, like a provider or even the health plan. I think that people just want to know it's legitimate and like a real business, that they're not getting scammed and it's as good as it actually is, and so it's balancing those things and knowing how much time like we were talking about those, the feet-on-the-street take, it takes a lot of energy. So, but really understanding that there's got to be a balance. And we talk a lot about like seven touchpoints. You hear it once and it's not going to make a difference twice, three times four, it really does take those seven touchpoints, and we're doing it all. We've got thank you notes going out to providers, but also to moms that have had appointments, and I should say our NPS is ten. I mean, it's, everybody's happy, and once they have those services, it's because they feel heard, they feel heard and supported. And we spend so much time as parents really wondering if the things that we're doing are enough and right, and most of the time they're doing just great and they need a little bit more support or a couple tips to just get that confidence to feel good about what they're doing, and that really reflects in our amazing providers and our allies who are like peer support moms that are coordinating care and checking in with parents between appointments and reminding them about appointments and telling them that they're just doing great and keep it up. And it's a reflection on just what we need as parents, just a little bit of support and love and help and grace. So, I mean, it's, we're, I think we're doing all the right things, it's just a question of kind of doing it at scale and really getting the word out as we're entering these new markets.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, the scale thing is the hard part, especially because you do need that more community support. Are you finding like influencers or user-generated content is working or is that too like social and out there and not community boots on the ground enough?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, we're doing a little bit with influencers. That's actually not the area that I focus on, but I know that there's been some work done around that and we'll continue to do, the mom-to-mom, like the user-generated content is very powerful. We've put out some stories from past patients and some quotes about how good they felt after they had that appointment and how they felt really supported and wanted to continue breastfeeding after meeting with our providers when they thought they were going to give up, and even if they did want to give up, that'd be okay too, we'd help you with whatever you want to do, but that's been very powerful and as we continue to develop that, we'll certainly make better use of it. I think like the next phase for us is probably going to be some more video content and storytelling, and so that will be in our next chapter for sure.

Andreea Borcea:
Nice, with payers and just the way healthcare is evolving in the US, do you see any particular challenges on any sort of company like yours that wants to work with payers or major hospital systems or other markets that are more in the professional space?

Jennifer Forster:
So many challenges, which is why I think you don't see many. This is why this is part of the problem, this is why you don't find lactation consultants in network with payers because it's too hard to work with them. It's, especially in the Medicaid space, there's a lot of bureaucracy. If you're going to be a Medicaid provider, you first need to be a Medicaid, you need to be accredited by the Medicaid agency within that state. There's 56 different Medicaid agencies, so let's just start there. Secondly, we're in a space that's not well-defined. This profession has not been treated with the respect that it should and hasn't been recognized as one that's important to the health and wellness of our children and our parents. So just starting there is just, the specialty needs to be elevated for sure. And as a result, when you try to get a Medicaid number in a state, you can't even find a specialty around breastfeeding or baby feeding support. So you can't even like, let's just start with, you can't find the down button, the menu selection for the specialty that you are. So there's, that's the first barrier. The second is a lot of, even though CMS has made it very clear that baby feeding support and breastfeeding support is a covered benefit under Medicaid, a lot of states don't offer it in an outpatient setting. They say that they're covering it by, under what they call a global, I'm getting really policy and wonky for you, but there's a global …

Andreea Borcea:
No, no.

Jennifer Forster:
Payment and that covers you. It's a payment for prenatal care through the postpartum care visit, including the delivery. And a lot of hospitals have lactation consultants on staff, so they're like, oh, we covered it, we provided them with the option to see a lactation consultant after they had their baby. And that's great, but if you've had a baby, you know, your milk doesn't even come in, so you get home, and then that's like there aren't three sets of hands trying to help you latch, and that's also part of our value proposition as a telehealth company. We know that you're going to be sitting there with no pants on holding the baby and, like a phone in one hand, and so everything has to be really accessible and we need to be able to meet parents where they're at. I mean, other barriers to entry, I think as much variety as there as there is in the states focused on Medicaid at least, there's as much variety among payers about how they cover the benefit, and if they cover the benefits, that's challenging. And depending who you talk to at a health plan, they may not understand the value of it. I spoke with somebody who is very high up in a health plan the other day and they said, I'm struggling to find the value in this. And I mean, it's a mandated benefit and there's ample research to show that breastfed babies are healthier, have fewer ear infections, less stomach issues, that it reduces the risk for moms, but sometimes honestly talking to men, they, non-clinicians, they might struggle with why this is an important service to provide to their members.

Andreea Borcea:
There's, that quite a few layers of challenges, let alone from the technical, but it sounds like a big one is the, either not acknowledging it or being like, oh, we, we gave her 20 minutes to talk to a lactation specialist at one time. We're good now, right? Even though you need to do this for the next two years and life is changing and, you're fine, 20 minutes. Probably asking a lot, and it surprises me too, because it's like it's feeding babies, which is, should be enough of a value prop, it's just like.

Jennifer Forster:
Right?

Andreea Borcea:
You just created this child, and we'd like to be able to feed them properly.

Jennifer Forster:
Well, we haven't even talked about the formula crisis. I mean, we are in a really scary time where parents can't get food for their babies. And so we're talking to a lot of parents who are calling us saying like, oh, crap, I thought I was going to be able to rely on formula if I needed to or combo feed, or, and now what? What do I do? Help! So, yes, you would think that there would be some urgency out there, and for some payers there is, but the reality is that large organizations kind of don't move as quickly as they want to, and there's a lot of layers to getting that operational.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, yeah, I wonder if your argument that it's like, well, legally you're supposed to cover this, is actually more impactful than think of the babies and the people that need to feed them. It's sad that that's what we've come to, but it is true. Well, cool, thank you so much, Jennifer. I've had so much fun chatting. Are there any last thoughts that you want to leave anyone else that's in the health and wellness marketing fields? Any good lessons you've learned or something they should keep in mind?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, I think it's just super important to listen to your consumers, or patients in this case, and center that message on them because they are the ones ultimately that are the purchasers of your service. And so we could do the best job ever marketing to providers and to payers, but we really need to establish that trust with parents, and so I think it's really important that you continue to listen to them and iterate upon the messaging and don't be afraid to try things out. We do a lot of experimentation and we learn from it and make it better. So I think that's been a really, it's been a great approach that's served us well and there's still more improvement to go, but that's to be expected if, we're never going to get to the end, we're always going to keep working on this.

Andreea Borcea:
Yeah, that's, I think that my favorite part of marketing is the experimentation, as I love that you just kind of keep trying. There's always a way to get better. There's always something to learn. It never gets boring. Well, perfect, and then last question for our audience is where can they learn more about SimpliFed?

Jennifer Forster:
Yeah, we have a website. It's www.SimpliFed.com. It's S I M P L I F E D and there's all sorts of information there, so visit us. We'd love to hear from everybody.

Andreea Borcea:
Well, thank you so much for your time. Once again, this has been Andreea Borcea with Marketing Mondays, a podcast on the Outcomes Rocket Network. Thank you so much.

Jennifer Forster:
Thank you, Andrea.

Andreea Borcea:
Thanks again for listening to Marketing Mondays. If you have any marketing questions at all, feel free to reach out to me directly at DiaCreative.com. That's D I A Creative.com.

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Summary:

Every parent should feel good about feeding their baby regardless of how they do it.

In this episode of Marketing Mondays, Andreea Borcea interviews Jennifer Forster, VP of Payer and Market Strategy at SimpliFed, a lactation company that provides baby-feeding support to parents on their feeding journeys from the comfort and safety of home. Through a telehealth platform, they provide services marketed mainly toward parents, any person around a baby, and providers within the healthcare ecosystem. Breastfeeding support is a right not many know they have, so SimpliFed focuses on letting parents know what resources are available to them around whatever method they choose to feed their baby. Jennifer talks about the challenges SimpliFed deals with when establishing relationships with payers, in making them understand the value of breastfeeding support and building trust with the potential consumers who might need their services.

Tune in to this episode to learn how SimpliFed is creating a new model for optimal feeding connecting with parents, payers, and providers!

About Jennifer Forster:

Jennifer Forster leads SimpliFed’s market and payer strategy. She is responsible for creating

and executing SimpliFed’s market strategy, focusing on health plan contracting and improving

patient engagement and utilization through the development of strategic partnerships with

healthcare providers and community-based organizations.

Prior to joining SimpliFed, Jennifer was the Director of Medicaid Strategy at Cotiviti (previously

HMS), where she was responsible for developing and implementing the Eliza consumer

engagement market and sales strategy. In this role, she also acted as the organization’s

Medicaid subject matter expert and contributed to thought leadership, product development,

client discovery, and implementations.

Jennifer started her career at a Medicaid-managed care organization that was acquired by Tufts

Health Plan. As Director of Public Partnerships, she was responsible for Tufts’

government-sponsored insurance contracts and led a team that supported contract

management, government relations, compliance, and reporting.

She is a tremendous advocate for women, children, and families, and believes strongly in

healthcare for all, reducing barriers to care, and improving maternal health services and

outcomes.

Things You’ll Learn:

  • Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t come naturally to everybody.
  • The sooner you can provide baby-feeding support, the more successful the journey.
  • Breastfeeding support is covered under the Affordable Care Act, and so Medicaid expansion states as well as marketplace and commercial plans, need to comply and provide parents with it.
  • Breastfeeding has many positive effects on both the mom and the baby.
  • Lactation consultants have not been recognized as important to the health and wellness of children and parents the way they should be.
  • The United States of America is going through a baby formula crisis at the moment.

Resources:

  • Connect and follow Jennifer Forster on LinkedIn.
  • Follow SimpliFed on LinkedIn.
  • Visit the SimpliFed Website.
  • Visit the Dia Creative Website for solutions to any of your marketing needs.

Title Options:

  • You Deserve Support to Feed Your Baby
  • Improving Baby Feeding Support
  • Reaching Multiple Stakeholders Involved in Providing Baby Feeding Support
  • Can We All Agree that Our Babies Deserve to be Properly Fed?
  • How to do marketing with multiple stakeholders
  • Marketing in the Baby Feeding Support Industry. 

LinkedIn Post

Every parent feels good about how they feed their baby.

In this episode of Marketing Mondays, Andreea Borcea interviewed Jennifer Forster, VP of Payer and Market Strategy at SimpliFed, a lactation company that provides baby-feeding support to parents from the comfort and safety of home through a telehealth platform. She talks about marketing, education, and challenges around the breastfeeding support services SimpliFed offers when building relationships with all the potential stakeholders in the matter.

Tune in to this episode to learn how SimpliFed is creating a new model for optimal feeding connecting with parents, payers, and providers!

Listen here: bit.ly/MM-JenniferForster

Click this link to the show notes, transcript, and resources: outcomesrocket.health

Anchor Description

Jennifer Forster, VP of Payer and Market Strategy at SimpliFed, talks about marketing the services this tele-lactation company provides for baby-feeding support to parents, payers, and providers.