Healthcare Marketing Strategy Needs Martech, Bigger Thinking — Before There’s a Tragedy
Healthcare marketing strategy prevents triage and Band Aid measures. But too many medical and pharmaceutical marketing teams are reacting with taped-together approaches, instead of preventing disasters.
So says Ned Russell, managing partner of healthcare at MDC Partners, in his piece on Tuesday in Medical Marketing and Media.
In a consumer-oriented marketplace, healthcare marketers need to take advantage of bigger-picture hiring strategies, martech implementation, data-driven thinking and even changed definitions in the public’s mind of the concept of “health,” he says.
Everyone who’s ever watched doctor dramas knows the scene: a quiet emergency room, then an influx of victims of the latest mass shooting arrive and overwhelm the place. In these scenarios, the physicians know exactly what to do.
That’s what Russell says healthcare marketing teams need to be able to do, too.
“We all know the scene. There’s Roy Scheider, at the stern of the boat Orca, shoveling out chum, and mumbling to himself that he isn’t going to take any more abuse from Captain Quint (Robert Shaw), when suddenly the biggest great white shark anyone had ever seen comes out of the water to let Scheider — and everyone else — know how badass he is. Scheider, now ashen, walks onto the bridge and tells Quint, ‘You’re gonna … need a bigger boat.’
“This scene from Jaws closely parallels the situation healthcare marketers and their agencies find themselves in today. Think of poor Scheider as the marketer; Quint as management; chum as — literally and figuratively — the traditional tactics and plans marketers have used to attract their customers (old, and with an unpleasant stink about them); and the great white is … well, that’s what’s coming to eat you, my friends.”
Hire Talent Outside of Healthcare Marketing
Don’t let your marketing strategy be chum. Stale thinking means healthcare marketers only hire people like them. And if they don’t change themselves, they always do what they’ve always done — but they won’t get what they’ve always gotten, because consumers have changed and won’t react in the same way to traditional healthcare marketing approaches, Russell says.
Healthcare marketing strategy needs to anticipate the challenges that come with “the rise of consumerism in healthcare, soon to be evidenced by Amazon opening a giant can of whupass on Rx as you knew it. It’s the omnipresent fact that every business is a technology business, and health leaders can only continue to keep their heads in the sand for only so long.”
(Just ask retailers what impact Amazon had on them, pharmaceutical marketers.)
Martech Is More Than a Stack
Russell says healthcare marketing strategy needs to encompass more than an app or an internal effort.
In a consumer-oriented environment, we published an example on Oct. 16:
“John Hancock noticed its life insurance policyholders were enjoying the customer experience of its fitness tracker app. So at the end of September, the company required new policyholders to use the app and existing ones to adopt it. About 40% of customers now use ‘Vitality,’ reports cbinsights.com on Sept. 25 in ‘Why Is John Hancock Selling Only Interactive Life Insurance?’ The piece opines: ‘This seems to be more about driving higher levels of customer engagement with Vitality, and allowing the company to collect more data on what behaviors make people healthier. It’s less about winning more market share in the life insurance space.’ ”
Be Data-Driven, But Not Creepy
We’ve reported on how consumers trust their healthcare providers above all others when it comes to content marketing and more.
Here’s an example from Russell about how healthcare marketing strategy can embrace data and target consumers, without sending them direct mail about their diagnosis, for instance.
“A company launching a specialized therapy, such as a monoclonal antibody, might delve into the data to call on provider organizations and vet EHRs to identify the right patient population, and then target those patients whose payers cover the drug therapy by informing their providers that this therapy is available. In this case, the cost is taken down on all sides — the provider and payer would incur far more expense if an ‘event’ happened, because the patient was not on the drug, and the outcome for the HCP and patient is far more preferable.”
Consumerism Is Your Friend
In the past, healthcare marketers may not have seen the point of embracing the whole patient, when just the bottom line mattered. But that didn’t go over well with consumers.
“I recently sat through a presentation where a C-level executive for a major Blue Cross/Blue Shield organization told the audience that her company’s research indicated that consumers increasingly feel that the healthcare industry doesn’t ‘have their backs,’ and it doesn’t really care for them at all. In 2019, this perception is not good for healthcare marketers and brands.”
So caring about consumers is now “in.” But it actually enhances profit, done right. Russell says this is the most underleveraged healthcare marketing asset. Brands that have already discovered this are doing well in the space, making patients’ lives easier.
He cites the examples of “Oscar (and Google’s investment in it); Voro (an ‘Open Table-like’ community for reviews of local physicians); the change in delivery of primary care via retail outlets and telehealth (think CVS and Aetna, or NY Presbyterian kiosks in NYC Duane Reade pharmacies); or, of course, the initiatives of Amazon and Pill Pack.”
Some healthcare marketers have been heeding this advice for years now. Target Marketing blogger Chuck McLeester says pharmaceutical marketers benefit from providing educational content, perhaps as texts, to patients to help them understand why they’re taking their medications — thereby, creating an environment of medication adherence and continued drug sales. The patient wins and the pharmaceutical company sells medication.
Broaden the Definition of ‘Health’ in Content Marketing
John Hancock gets it with the fitness app. McLeester embraces the larger concept of healthcare marketing with educating consumers about why their prescriptions are good for them. Physicians who understand Baby Boomers who value their independence may prescribe self-service injectable drugs over in-clinic experiences.
All of this is about a healthy lifestyle.
Russell says healthcare marketing strategies that integrate more than diagnosis and treatment — that think of health as including emotional, nutritional and economic factors — will win.
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.