Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Getting to Know You March 15, 2012

Filed under: Customer research,Lisa,Physicians — Lisa Pohmajevich @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Getting to Know You, The King and IIn my previous post I emphasized the need to know your customer before initiating promotional efforts.  Let’s assume you have a foundation of customer insights in the business plan.  Or, at the very least, tidbits that are collected in the early stages of the product development.

Now you need to develop a full-length picture of your customer. There are a number of ways to uncover key aspects about your customer.  The most useful information comes directly from them.

I’m a big proponent of primary research.  There are some very good research agencies available, budget pending.  I’ll share some of my preferred agencies later.  To make the best use of your resources, gather information about the basic profile of your customer first with lower cost tools and in-house elbow grease.

Start with simple surveys.

Two great resources are Zoomerang and Survey Monkey. Both sites have tutorials, samples and process instructions to help you.  Need a model to craft your questions, try @researchinfo.com for sample surveys with a focused audience. Now all you need is a list of names to send it to.  A quick internet search will provide a number of list brokers to choose from.  Keep in mind that this outbound approach may not yield high returns.

The Home Page.

A better approach is to post the survey on your product or company website or social media content page. Less intrusive as the customer comes to you, however, you may gather responses from customers that aren’t in your target audience.

Need more?

Need larger numbers of respondents and more questions answered? It is time to seek out services that have developed opt-in panels of clinicians who have agreed to participate in research. Three that come to mind are Sermo, Medometry and Epocrates. The benefits of using the research services of these types of businesses include large self-profiled highly targeted participants, trusted platform, easy implementation of the survey and quality reports from the collected data.

Windfall research.

Great resources with good insights can be found already published. Tap into Slideshare, Hubspot and wesrch.  Search the directories of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – AHRQ, American Medical Association – AMA, World Health Organization – WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC. Don’t forget the subspecialty association websites. Published findings are available at these sites for little, if any cost.

Shades of distinction.

Now that you have a good foundation of information that describes your customer, don’t let it languish. Update your knowledge base annually, yes, that often. As you acquire more customers and maintain customers longer, continue to learn about them. Don’t assume you know them because of an association with your company.  Challenge the thinking that defines your customer. With a strong understanding of the central core of your customer base, understanding nuances and distinctions may be needed to increase business among some segments. Consider exploring areas not well understood with experts who know how to mine for those subtleties. A couple of my preferred research agencies are Motivation Mechanics , the Kern Mueller Group and Kaplan Research.

Portrait or thumbnail?

Continued learning about the customer provides the best means by which to serve the customer.  You can never know enough about your customers. Working from a thumbnail image will limit your effectiveness in maintaining your relationship.  Go for the portrait, it is much more telling.

Have some other suggestions of gathering information or great research sources – tell us here!

(C) 2012 pH Consulting. All rights reserved.

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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.
 

May I have your attention, PLEEEAASSE?! September 30, 2010

If only we would stand still! Or

better yet – be consistently

predictable. So lamented my

client regarding their efforts to

sell products and services to

women. It seems that women

are everywhere – literally.

And yet, we ‘all’ are not in

everyplace. There is no one

place to find us. Therefore,

getting our attention, let

alone keeping it, is no small

challenge. Seth Godin posted

on the value of someone’s attention

(I’m paraphrasing here) under the

same post title. It is well worth

reading, as he describes how precious

a commodity is our individual

attention – making the compelling

point that it isn’t free. There is

a lot of competition for our attention.

As a mini experiment I tracked my

activities for one day to identify

how much of my time and attention

was available for promotional contacts of products and services. It turns out, not much. My day looked like the following:

  • Upright and dressed at 5:30a.m.
    • Note:  not particularly alert and NOT an early morning person
  • 30 minute walk – still dark outside
  • Breakfast at 6:30a.m., no background noise
  • Email at 7:00a.m.
    • Note: now alert, but quite yet at peak attention
  • Project work on computer 8:30a.m. – noon
    • attention at highest focus
    • some web searching, project related
    • Intermittent interruptions and phone calls
  • Stop  for lunch at  noon – radio in the background
  • Back to work on the computer 12:45p.m., no background noise
  • Client call at 2:30p.m.
  • Back to computer at 3:30p.m.
  • Errands to grocery store, bank and stop at neighbors’ at 5:45p.m.
  • Dinner preparation at 6:45p.m., dinner at 7:15p.m.
  • Clean kitchen, do laundry, read the paper, answer email at 8:00p.m.
  • Interact with family at 8:30p.m., watch 15 minutes of  Charlie Rose
  • ‘just-15-minutes-more-on-the-project-turned-hour’ on the computer at 9:15p.m.
  • Ready for bed at 10:15p.m.
  • Final chapter in the book of the week, month, who knows how long ago I started it…at 10:35p.m.
  • Asleep, probably at 10:40p.m.

When I looked at the places, activities, time frames and focus of one day, it became apparent, that unless a product/service was essential to me, and I knew about it, and it was in my path, it would go unknown. Therefore it would not be purchased or experienced.

This was one day, not all days are as well structured as that day was, some are more chaotic or disjointed. I don’t have children at home to further distract my attention, it can only be more of a challenge for women who do. I know through discussions with many a woman friend, colleague, relative and acquaintance, their days are similarly busy. As illustrated above, we have a lot of balls in the air, all the time. We rarely have free time where our attention is not otherwise diverted.

As noted in Seth’s post, our time is not free, as it turns out, in either of two dimensions.

A woman’s day is literally filled to the brink with activities and responsibilities. Precious little

time during a day is free from other thinking, doing or being activities.  Secondly, because

our days are not free filled, getting our attention – taking our time, will require

some effort and thus expense on the part of the pursuer.  Free time – NOT, times two.

Women are not going to readily deviate from a proven path or reliable schedule that gets us through a day, accomplishing the critical ‘must-do’ activities that facilitate our arrival at the desired finish line – our pillows. So what’s a marketer to do to get us to notice products and services? Where indeed can a marketer be that we will see their wares. [Rhythm and rhyme pure luck!]

I imagine such a place would resemble the image I have of an Egyptian bazaar. A place that has everything in a vast array of colors, sizes, styles, at every price point and in great abundance. However, no one location exists where all women visit and all marketers are present. Nor does it make sense that such place exist as women are not identical to one another.

It makes sense then to be ‘where’ we are, particularly when the introduction of new products and services are concerned.  We are at home, at work, preparing for presentations, in meetings, in our cars, on planes, at the store, bank, dry cleaners. We use computers and telephones.  We I listen to the radio, watch some network TV programs, read the paper and hard copy books.  And many of us also use new technologies – that allow us to eliminate the ‘noise’ of advertising.

Reaching us and getting our attention is not easy. There is not just one place. Our time is not free. And when we encounter and try new products and services, it will be because good marketers understand it is worth their effort and expense to be where we are.

Note:  If you know the illustrator to whom attribution can be assigned for the graphic in this post, please let me know.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

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

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