Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Left Brain, Right Brain, Slow Start, Fast Forward February 26, 2012

This weekend while observing physicians learning a new technique, I was asked about stimulating interest and accelerating adoption.

This isTHE challenge for makers of new products, especially in life sciences.  After years of work and significant investment, when the time arrives that a company can finally move into the commercialization stage, the foremost thought is how to make everything happen faster.

In my experience, sustained acceleration follows a slow steady start. Taking the approach of learning to walk before you run will reduce the severity of a fall from the inevitable stumble.

Slow start

When I say a slow steady start I am referring to really understanding your customer from their perspective when it comes to buying your product.  The very best way to do that is to conduct research to draw out what they think, what they will respond to and how they will react when you put your offer in front of them.

It seems so straightforward, and surely after having spent extensive time developing your product working with a ‘few good advisors’ the customers reactions should be predictable. However, frequently they are not predictable, and without a sound understanding of their thinking, you will be challenged to get the reaction you desire.

Decisions in the ‘blink’ of an eye

Behavioral research continues to uncover the triggers behind the choices we make. A favorite author of mine Malcolm Gladwell detailed fascinating examples of how we make decisions in his book Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. Apparently we make decisions in the blink of an eye, or in real time terms, under two seconds!

Two seconds is not much time to convince a customer to buy a new product, adopt a new approach or change behavior. To get a customer to do those three things, knowing their thinking beforehand is critical. Mind-reading is truly a gift of very few. Thus, simple clean research of the target customer is the best way I know of understanding their thinking.

Buy button

Roger Sperry, a neuropsychologist/neurobiologist initiated a study of the relationship of the brain’s hemispheres for which he and scientists Hubel and Wiesel were awarded the Nobel Price in Medicine in 1981. Sperry et al, found that the left half of the brain tends to process information in an analytical, rational, logical way. The right half of the brain tends to recognize relationships, integrate and synthesize information and arrive at intuitive insights. These differences are frequently described as the left-brain is logical and the right brain is emotional. The brain doesn’t have a ‘buy button, rather it draws on several different processes when considering a purchase decision. Emotional response is recognized as a strong influence over making purchase decisions – in that two-second space.

Cues that compel

In the case of accelerated growth it pays to understand the thinking of the target customer such that companies can present their offer in a way that compels the customer forward. In a post by Sam McNerney, who blogs for Scientific American on cognitive psychology, he provides examples of written, verbal and visual cues that drive desired behavior (Especially compelling, the ‘fly in the urinal’ example!).

Really learning what the customer thinks before pushing forward with the heavy lifting of sales activities is a step that shouldn’t be skipped if fast forward is the goal.

 

(C) 2012 pH Consulting. All rights reserved.
 

Physician, Google Thyself* Part I November 11, 2011

[Republished 11/11/11 to expand on an excellent post from Doximity Advisory Doard memberBryan Vartabedian, MD, is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospitaland blogs at 33 charts]

This is the first in a set of posts designed to educate physicians on how their names are being displayed. The education should lead to an evaluation of their current situation and motivation for them to execute basic activities to manage their reputation on-line. Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV

EDUCATE:

Excellent reputations spread via word of mouth (WOM) has been and is still the most valuable “referral” marketing tool for any physician’s practice. WOM reputations are spread from health care professionals and the family and friends of patients [1].

The transmission vehicle for WOM referral marketing has changed substantially with the widespread availability of the Internet. Rating and reviewing services for restaurants, dry cleaners, hair stylists and other service-based businesses have popped-up all over the Internet (e.g. Yelp). The ability to review service-based business has been added to map and phone directory listings and these reviews are displayed in search engine results (e.g. Google Maps displays reviews from InsiderPages and Yahoo Local).

In addition to general rating services, there are dozens of health care professional directories. These directories purchase lists from medical associations, state licensing boards, and other data aggregators. Clinical specialty organizations (e.g. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons) also publish physician locator services as a benefit of society membership (here’s a directory of directories from MedlinePlus). Healthcare systems, hospitals and insurance companies also maintain on-line directories of service providers in their networks.

The latest entries the internet community are the social media platforms—FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, et Al. These new platforms provide patients with a “global soapbox” on which to tell their story and spread it electronically.

The challenge for health care providers is the lack of control of the content on these services and platforms. Of special concern is the protection of personal health information (PHI) defined by health care privacy laws (HIPAA) [2].

With the current marketing craze around social media, what is a trained health care professional to do? Being aware and managing your on-line reputation is mission critical to maintaining and growing your practice.

Next Up:  Evaluate your situation

Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV

(C) 2010 eGold Solutions

*************

*Thanks Elizabeth Cooney for the great post title (July 08); great minds think alike.

[1] http://www.hschange.com/CONTENT/1028/1028.pdf

[2] http://mamedicallaw.com/blog/2009/10/19/social-networking-101-for-physicians/

 

Practice Marketing is not Rocket Surgery October 17, 2010

Filed under: Debbie,DTC,Physician Preparation — Debbie Donovan @ 2:05 pm
Tags: , ,

[Oct 17, 2011: I just had to re-post after viewing the Hubspot capabilities video–they talk about marketing not being rocket surgery! I’ve consumed many of their helpful inbound marketing resources so check them out.]

There is a fascinating process that converts a consumer with a health problem into a patient whose symptoms have been successfully resolved. Reaching the consumer with the health problem your products can solve is a fun challenge for medical device companies. It’s not rocket surgery–which is to say it is not expensive or complicated.

Many a time the marketing department is told, “just put ads on TV and sales will take off like a rocket.” When considering Lisa’s 6 Criteria for DTC campaign readiness, points 1, 2, and 6 rely heavily on the health care professional trained to perform a branded medical procedure. The burning question is “Are your customers really ready to receive patients?” Here are ways to evaluate customer readiness:

  1. Does the staff understand which patient population will call and what questions they will ask to get more information about the health problem and product?
  2. Do the patients already in the practice know their doctor performs the branded procedure to resolve a health problem they may not have mentioned?
  3. Does the referral community know that their local specialist is trained to treat the health problem with the latest technology?

If all three questions can’t be answered with a solid yes, then there is work to be done at the local trained specialist point of care.  Preparations can and should be simple, inexpensive and easy to implement so there are no excuses for not completing the tasks.

Next up: Simple, inexpensive “must do’s” to prepare a practice for DTC/DTP.

(C) 2011 eGold Solutions; all rights reserved.

Related Information:

Hubspot’s capability video–they talk about rocket surgery

 

Good products do not a business make August 3, 2010

I love Mexican wine. Yep, you read that correctly, especially Mexican wine from the small vineyards in the Valle de Guadalupe on the Ruta del Vino. If you like wine, and haven’t tasted wines from this region yet, you are seriously missing out. 

I have a goal to visit and taste wines from all the regions in the world, especially the little known regions. Unfortunately, Mexican wines still qualify as ‘little known’. While wine has been produced there since the 17th century, it was mostly for and by the Catholic Church, after a ban was imposed by the Spanish government preventing ‘New Spain’ from producing highly palatable wine, through a heavy-handed political power maneuver.  Bless the hearts of those defiant Jesuit and Dominican priests for keeping a good thing flowing! 

Fast forward and thanks to Russian immigrants fleeing the czar in the early 1900’s, replanting and winemaking revived many years after the Mexican Reform War.  During this period many church holdings were confiscated by the state, and wine making was abandoned.  

Mexican wines are relatively new again, having taken root, so to speak  in the 1980’s.  I traveled to the region a few years ago to seek out these wines. The wines and the region were more than worth the trouble to get to them.  However, even some twenty odd years later, the wineries were just beginning to develop businesses around the wine.

Wine clubs, restaurant wine lists, tasting rooms, wine events and out of state shipping were not part of the early product offering.  Nor were winery cave tours, branded websites, restaurant lists where wines were served, locations of wine stores where it could be purchased or wine stewards recommending pairings part of the winerys product offering.   Spanish wine was still served for official state dinners at the capitol in Mexico City until the early 2000’s!  Mexican wine, good as it is, was a product, not yet a business.  Each vintner and winery struggled to build businesses, even with a good product.

This situation repeats itself in many life science startup companies. New and innovative products are developed and then introduced to the market with the fundamental wrappings of sales brochures, 800 numbers, return policies and training materials. Companies pin their hopes and earnings projections on the basis of the product being novel, leapfrogging the competition, and winning awards for best in class. 

But it takes more, much more for a good product to be successful and a company to become a business. For a twist in thinking about successful businesses based only on the most innovative  and novel products, read the post by Greg Satell on Crappy Innovation.   Note in particular the references to Charles Schwab – not a crappy product. 

To turn a good, novel or even crappy product into a successful business requires servicing the customer beyond the product.  For life science technologies that includes advertising, PR, education, training, clinical data, publications, technical and reimbursement support, at a bare minimum. 

To develop a strong business the product offering must extend beyond the fundamentals and the traditional offerings.  Servicing the customer must meet their needs beyond the transaction. Providing new services like co-marketing, data sharing, virtual training, community building, cross technology development, and even competitive alliances that facilitate physicians’ abilities and enhance patient outcomes creates significant intrinsic value. If a company is to become a robust business, the product is not the be-all, end-all. Rather a good product must be the beginning of creating a robust business for the customer.

A few final words on Mexican wine – should you find a bottle of Mogor-Badan Chasselas or Casa de Piedra’s blend of Cabernet and Tempranillo, drink them to good health and think of me.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

Enhanced by Zemanta
 

Fish for Your Supper May 18, 2010

 

Fishing with nets, tacuinum sanitatis casanatensis (XIV century)

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. 

Teach a man to fish; you have fed him for a lifetime.  

Teach a man to sell fish and he eats steak.”  Author unknown      

In a previous post I suggested that industry could play a role in physician practice marketing. To do so successfully defining a common purpose and identifying the intersection of that purpose is primary.  

Physicians and healthcare product companies have related interests, and very different roles and responsibilities. Because a patient exists, physicians and healthcare suppliers have purpose. The patient is at the very nexus of these interests, roles and responsibilities.   

If physicians desire greater demand for their special services and skills, saying so out loud, as discussed in prior posts Practice Marketing is Not Rocket Surgery and Make Some Noise, is essential.  Physicians are accustomed to communicating with patients through a one-on-one interaction.  While this is an effective means of communicating, it will take a bloody long time before this approach is impactful. A broader approach is needed and industry can provide effective lessons in marketing to a larger target audience.       

Essential Foundation   

 To effectively implement practice marketing programs a company must be committed to the following three fundamentals:   

  1. Focus on the patient as the primary reason for communications programs
  2. Grounding of all marketing activities around the needs of the physician/practice
  3. Establishment of professional marketing expertise before designing third party services

 Once these three fundamentals are well established, the tenets below will be useful in creating practice marketing programs for the physician.    

Program Framework   

Be a role model   

  • Develop, implement, measure, analyze, fail and refine all programs and processes first, before you ask your customers to do it.  If you haven’t tried it, why should your customer?

Identify common goals   

  • Clearly define the marketing goals and gain commitment by all participants of a practice marketing program in advance of implementation.  Hint:  The goal should be eerily similar to Fundamental #1 above…

 Start where they are   

  • Keep in mind that physicians’ expertise is in patient care, professional marketers excel in marketing.  Effective practice marketing starts the beginner at the beginning and advances them as tolerated.

 Respect boundaries   

  • At all times the doctor-patient relationship is a two person ‘only’ relationship.  Professional marketers can provide guidance, examples, recommendations, support and encouragement, but never patient care.

 Differentiate and collaborate   

  • The same methods and measurement models may be used in commercial and physician marketing programs; however, the objectives of the programs will differ based on the audience. Both parties will benefit by learning from each other.

 Teach and release   

  • When teaching and training the physician and staff on marketing practices take the opportunity to develop program champions and practice trainers. Success from doing/failing/learning/redoing will more likely encourage the practice to be self sustaining in their marketing efforts. 

 Applaud and move backstage   

  • Support the physician with information, analysis, recommendations and additional opportunities and then let the physician and practice staff take center stage with the program and the patients.

 Learn and adapt   

  • Each practice will experience their program differently than the next. Take notes, ask questions, and adapt the master program to incorporate the best and most innovative elements gleaned from the individual experiences.

 Healthcare companies can play a role in practice marketing by teaching the practice personnel new skills.  Teaching physicians to cast their net for a larger target audience will result in greater demand.   

Note:  There are defined regulations and restrictions that companies must adhere to with regard to practice marketing programs; the specifics of these are not covered in this post.  Y68BQHEBG7DJ

 (c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

 

  

 

Yes, Doctor, This IS a Business April 27, 2010

“Thank you for calling. Our office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  We’re closed from noon to 2 p.m. for lunch. If you have reached this recording during normal business hours, please leave a message. We will get back to you by the next business day.”

That’s the message I keep getting when I try to schedule an appointment with one particular physician.  And I have left several messages with no response.

Under normal circumstances, I would have zero tolerance for this total lack of responsiveness and would simply have called another doctor. But in this case, I have already seen the physician for a particular injury, went through the trouble of getting an MRI and would really like to get the results.

Where’s the Disconnect?

Given the practice’s troubling habit of not responding, I should not have been surprised when I called again this morning only to learn that the phone number had been disconnected.

When will physicians really grasp that they are in business and that to stay in business, they need to start treating patients as their customers?  Ok, I understand that doctors went to medical school, not business school.  Still, somewhere in between anatomy and pharmaceuticals 101, were they not taught that private practice requires more than office space and a listing in the phone book?

Running a successful physician’s practice takes the skills and talents of multiple staff members, from the front desk person who answer the phones to the physicians and nurses who provide the clinical expertise.  The one thing each of these people has in common is their interaction with customers—the practice’s patients.

Basic Customer Service

There is much a physician can learn from studying the successful marketing and customer service standards of other businesses:

  • Return phone calls and emails promptly, and always within 24 hours
  • Provide continual staff training on customer service excellence and how to handle difficult customers in a professional and effective way
  • Provide multiple ways for customers to contact you including phone, email and website

These are a few of the simple fundamentals that physician practices must take seriously, especially in today’s tough economic climate where consumers are judicious in how they spend their money. Mastering the basics is also a prerequisite before a practice can effectively implement a marketing or public relations campaign.

For more information on practice marketing, refer to Lisa’s most recent post and Debbie’s post on ‘Practice Marketing is Not Rocket Science’.

 

Physician, Google Thyself* Part IV April 23, 2010

This is the fourth in a set of posts designed to educate physicians on how their names are being displayed. The education should lead to an evaluation of their current situation and motivation for them to execute basic activities to manage their reputation on-line. Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV

ENGAGE:

So now you might be asking, “What if someone gives me a low rating or posts an unfavorable review?”

In Barb’s recent post about crisis communications she outlines the importance of actions over words and considering we are talking about health care, it couldn’t be more true.

Is a single bad review a crisis? Let’s put it into perspective using the two primary tenants of social media–authenticity and transparency.

Authenticity:

Is every patient’s symptom/condition easy to treat? Are you a perfect fit for every patient? No, of course not. If someone decides that their experience with your practice was not perfect and they decide to tell the world, that’s their first amendment choice (note: they are breaking their confidentiality on the Internet, not a very smart move from a privacy perspective). Please don’t let one disgruntled patient post discourage you from actively managing your reputation.

Transparency:

If they have a legitimate issue with their experience especially on a “logistical” level (e.g. appointment SNAFU, staff having an off day) then it is worth engaging, privately. If it is a post in an open review field, you could, with full transparency, you post something like:

“Thank you for your honest feedback. Our practice would like to resolve your issue and because of HIPAA privacy laws we are bound to do it privately, please contact XYZ person at our office ASAP. We look forward to hearing from you and correcting our processes to better serve all our patients.”

Best Antidote:

Getting more perspectives–providing lots of good ratings and reviews. Ask your patients to engage on the directories, forums, social networks that have an accurate profile of you (all the stuff you did in Part III). I’d recommend printing a list of rating and review services on the back of your practice business card and handing to especially satisfied patients. Here’s an example from Dr.  Score.** Here’s a post by physician blogger KevinMD from January 2010 which echos this strategy.

A Special Note About Managing Social Media Platforms:

This is an exploding issue that is worth addressing. I will again reference this excellent blog post from Eric T. Berkman from Mass Medical Law Report October 19, 2009. Their first recommendation is to not “friend” patients. I will add by saying if you want to keep a personal presence on social media platforms do so with a strict policy to not connect with patients. You can respond to anyone with a simple message:

“Thank you for your invitation. I value all my relationships highly especially those with patients who have selected me as their health care provider. Due to HIPAA privacy laws, I have decided to decline friend invitations from all my patients. Thank you for understanding.”

Note: setting up a profile for your practice is a good idea if you have a social media strategy as part of your practice marketing plan, but that’s a topic for another day.

Professional networks are very important. Health care professional forums that allow you to keep up with classmates and colleagues is mission critical for managing any successful career.  Linked In is one of the most popular business social networks. Although I am inclined to recommend extending the above policy to patients, I recognize that many patients may start out as professionals in your career network and vice versa. In those cases, I believe as long as you can keep any on-line conversation strictly away from their personal health care issues then linking to them is likely to be a good idea.  If someone unintentionally crosses the line, then use a variation of the above paragraph as a gentle reminder:

“Nice to hear from you. I value all my relationships highly especially those with patients who have selected me as their provider. Due to HIPAA privacy laws, I can not answer your question here. Please contact my office at xxx-xxxx and make an appointment so we can address your health care issue. Thank you for understanding.”

Lessons learned:

  1. You already have a presence on the Internet and you have some control on how you are displayed.
  2. You are motivated to be proactive in increasing traffic to your practice website (or are now convinced you need a site or make improvements).
  3. You’ve made some policy decisions on how to manage social media invitations.
  4. You are not afraid if something bad gets posted because you will a) know about it and b) have a process for managing the situation.

Summary:

Providing quality primary or specialty health care services has always been competitive and health care reform will make it even more so in the coming years. I hope this series has provided you with some knowledge, motivation and peace of mind to efficiently and effectively manage your on-line reputation.

Next: March 2011 Update

Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV

(C) 2010 eGold Solutions

*************

*Thanks Elizabeth Cooney for the great post title (July 08); great minds think alike.

**Disclosure: There are several customer satisfaction survey tools available and www.DrScore.com is one I am familiar with from my corporate work. In 2007 I constructed a pilot corporate program to measure customer satisfaction amongst a subset of customers in a given specialty. The survey instrument is available in English and Spanish and recently was recognized by ARHQ as a valid tool in measuring patient satisfaction.  Purchasing reports is very affordable at $149 per physician per year.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: