In our international network, worldwidepartners.com/healthcare we exchange regularily our views on trends in healthcare and pharma marketing and communication. „ A lot of turbulences and challenges“ that's how global expectations for the near future were characterised.
There are a wide variety of deep changes to be managed: intensified governmental regulations, fragmented target groups and an ever increasing cost pressure. This means additional challenges for all players in the pharma and healthcare industry. The cost and time for developing new products reach highs never seen before.
Cost pressure puts marketing budgets under scrutiny, as so often before, especially the traditional means of the past will be under pressure. Nevertheless in future there are a lot of opportunities for marketing, as the need to think and act in marketing increases. Changes require new approaches – in direction of marketing and communication.
New target groups have to be addressed, payers move into the center of interest. The collaboration with health insurance organizations and health economy marketing will be more relevant. Regulation bodies, associations, media, patient organisations gain importance. The pharma industry has to regain trust through transparency.
Healthcare professionals remain the most important target, but content, form and timing change. Marketing has new tasks assigned, in presales and aftersales and in the integration of the total communication process. Not only because sales was reduced in many cases due to cost pressure. According to Forrester, up to 60% of all B2B-purchasing decisions are already made before a potential buyer gets into contact with the sales team. That's why branding remains so important and why communication needs to meet the differing type of information needs at the right time.
The role of patients changes the most: they inform themselves and exert more influence on the choice of medication. From sick-care to well-care: the empowered patient becomes an empowered consumer, for all products that are no more prescribed and paid for. They will, whether young or old search and pay for means to improve their general well-being- at least in societies with strong purchasing power. The healthcare and wellcare business will grow. That is why marketing needs to acquire more expertise in consumer marketing and social media communication.
The following topics are high on the agenda:
Marketing is asked to manage every customer touchpoint throughout the lifecycle to drive an integrated communication stream that deepens engagement and improves loyalty. The buyer has to be directed at the right time to the right sources of information. Touchpoint analysis help to find out, who wants to be addressed and involved into a dialogue with which message at what time.
From B2B research we know, that at each phase members of a buying center look for different information. During the inspiration phase they look for neutral evaluation, when they actively search they prefer case studies, when they compare it's facts and ROI numbers and the image of a brand that is most convincing and in the after sales phase they need reaffirmation through service offerings. So clients may be convinced to become fans and remain loyal. In a time when patients rely more on their iphones, doctors welcome support to help them to interact better with their patients.
Customer centricity means even more content that is dedicated to meet the needs of the audience. What is of interest for the doctor, the patient or the decision maker in a healthcare organsiation? What content resonates with them, What are the key issues and dynamics involved in their purchasing decisions, what keeps them awake at night? Content marketing has to focus on helping the audience, to offer additional value, solve problems, inspire the customers to think differently about the problems they face or allow them to expose their own brand or expert knowledge. Sometimes even entertaining or distracting content helps to create trust and a close relationship. Once this trust is gained hc-professionals or patients might decide for a brand without reviewing detailed research studies first (be honest: statistics and long studies is what most do not like to read).
Social and Mobile Marketing
The healthcare industry in social media is lagging behind. In Germany expenditures for digital communication stagnated at 3%. Activties in social media represent only a small part of this already low number, in contrast to users, who are moving fast to social media. Patients and professionals search in specialized and knowledge portals, exchange with friends and foreigners on social networks and are bonding with healthcare provider networks or form patient to patient groups. There dialogue has never been greater. Health is of highest interest for nearly everybody, be it symptoms of illness, treatments, prevention and rehabilitation, healthy nutrition or healthy lifestyle. Mobile channels are mostly used to look for and find these information.
Some healthcare companies are using social media to generate new business leads, while others are using it to establish more intimate customer service relationships. They are creating consumer communities or special sites related to an interesting topic. But in general these type of activities are not pursued strongly, probably because many companies feel that it is difficult to control and manage patient-to-patient dialogues. Companies may only be moderators of the process that requires a lot of sensitivity and knowledge on legal conditions, e.g. in case someone wants to reroute from patient sites to brand or product ones.
In other mobile applications the healthcare industry is leading. M-Health is more than marketing communication, it offers new business fields and moves to care delivery. From this perspective “mHealth” is an exploding category.
Big data is the hype in consumer marketing. The abilty to collect data, to analyze and interpret them promises high ROI and success despite high investments. Big data and data mining service providers promise: If payers and healthcare providers improve customer insights and know to better segment target groups, they may adapt their product offerings and develop more efficient communication programs. All data are fascinating, be it demo-, socio- and psychographic data, consumer insights on lifestyle and lifestage attributes, buying habits, health attitudes or health related behavior. Strategies derived from the analysis of these data help to gain and retain customers. But in the German health scene big data is seen extremely critically. Not only health professionials, but also patients react very sensitively if not negatively to any collection of health data.
Also B2B companies are more wary of big data. They normally do have smaller target groups and smaller budgets that have to be allocated. Nevertheless it is vital to analyze data, even if it is not big data, in order to optimize the communication and marketing mix and to measure and prove marketing's success.
Branding and creation
Analysis is basic for successful marketing. Good strategies and content are a prerequisite to survive. But without creative excellence, everything remains grey theory. We are flooded 24/7 with information and will be even more so with the new mobile channels. That's why it is more important than ever to be distinctive and unique in order to reach the audience in a simply and fast way.
Consistent Branding, extraordinary images and videos, content that is emotional and stories that are easy to grasp, address emotions, incite desire and build trust – all this gains importance. Coding and data may not replace art and copy. In contrary: brilliant brand consultants, creatives with big ideas, copywriters and writers of relevant content and video ninjas will be marketing managers' best friends. They inspire with their stories in old and new media, engage prospects and customers and help marketing to drive sustainable business success.
Ingrid Wächter-Lauppe is CEO and owner of Wächter & Wächter Worldwide Partners GmbH. Munich, Germany .