Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

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

 

 

  

 

Make Some Noise! April 26, 2010

Are your customers marketing to their customers?

Every contact or interaction customers have with companies or providers of goods and services, are viewed through our marketing lens. The four ‘P’s’ of marketing shape our perceptions. Attention getting [promotion] efforts must be followed with relevance [product], value [price] and accessibility [place] marketing efforts.

Perception versus Reality

Promotional efforts that are consistent and impactful convey the message that a higher caliber of good or service is available.  Inconsistent, bland and lack of promotion conveys a message that the good or service is not available or of poor quality.  The caliber of a good or service is held in the eye of the beholder, not in the intentions of the provider.

As patients we use the same marketing lens to evaluate our healthcare providers.  Each individual within a practice serves as an ambassador, marketing the care a patient can expect to receive.  All interactions a patient has with the practice staff will influence their perspective on the physician’s business, much the same way the physician is influenced through interactions with product suppliers.

Implementing good practice marketing processes will go a long way towards raising the perceived caliber of the practice and patient care.  A review on practice marketing considerations can be found in Debbie’s post ‘Practice Marketing is Not Rocket Science’.

However, practice marketing processes can only be appreciated by the patient once we go to the practice.  First the patient must know to go.

Which brings us to the question – are your customers marketing to their customers?

Intentional effort must be focused on getting the word out that the practice is interested and ready to serve specific patients.  A bare minimum of key messages to communicate include:

  • ‘We are here and ready to serve’
  • ‘We offer the services that meet your needs’
  • ‘We stay current in specialty training’
  • ‘We are uniquely able to serve patients in our specialty’

These are likely messages that are conveyed to patients in the absence of marketing the practice:

  • ‘We are not interested in new patients’
  • ‘We do not offer new services’
  • ‘We are not current in new techniques’
  • ‘We are indistinguishable from all other practices’

Gracious and respectful interactions, good follow through and high caliber patient care constitute powerful marketing.  Patients will reward physicians for this service through provider loyalty, positive reviews and recommendations, and new patient referrals.  But first, the patient must be inclined to seek the physician, and that requires making some noise.

For another perspective on the same subject read Stewart Gandolph’s post found here:http://bit.ly/d0OxNw

Next up – what role can industry play in physician practice marketing?

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

Baking from Scratch April 13, 2010

Recently a client asked me to design the ‘ideal marketing organization’. Specifically they wanted to create a marketing department that would serve customers and become the go to provider for all customer needs. This kind of challenge only happens in marketing dreams – or with a very forward thinking company. One would expect this type of request to come from a new startup company; however, this client is a large, well-established and respected company.

I eagerly accepted the challenge, relishing the thought of defining a dream team of talented professionals who could implement clear and effective marketing strategic plans.  I was asked to take a blank sheet of paper and from scratch, design a marketing organization with a full complement of the essential members baked into the structure.  No limits or restrictions applied.

At first glance this challenge appears straightforward.  Draw an organizational chart with boxes that contain titles and connecting lines establishing relationships one to another. This part of the challenge is relatively clear cut, but before populating those boxes and setting off to fill the positions, establishing the why and how such an organization is needed is crucial

Why = Goal

Two key business elements must be established to ensure that a marketing organization will be successful.  The first is a clearly stated goal.  It is the why element.  Why is a marketing organization with specific skills, talents and structure needed?  The goal is the accomplishment the team will need to achieve.  The actual accomplishment may be multifocal and many layered, but the goal should be clear, simple and succinct.

How = Strategy

The second element is a sound strategic plan. This is the how element. There are many ways to achieve a goal. Goals can be achieved without plans; however, planning significantly increases the likelihood of success. A sound strategic plan defines the methods to achieve the goal and identifies the essential means to do so. A team of people that can implement the strategy is essential.  The skills and talents of the team are implied in a sound strategy. 

With these two elements in place, the challenge of designing of an ideal marketing organization is straightforward.  Without establishing these business elements first, the concept of defining the ideal organization is half-baked.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

It’s Not About What You Say April 8, 2010

The recent explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia is bringing renewed attention to the mine’s owner, Massey Energy.  Like most people, I realize that coal mining is an inherently dangerous job, and unfortunately, accidents happen.  If that were only the story here, it would be sad enough.

Instead much of the attention has focused on the 3,000 plus safety violations Massey has racked up since 1995. Yet, as of April 7, the home page on the company’s Web site still proudly proclaimed that 2009 was “another record-setting year for safety.”  Hard to believe. (As of today, they finally removed that article from the home page.)

In fact, the company’s statements declaring the importance of safety are in direct contrast to its record of egregious safety violations and the reports that Massey’s chairman and chief executive, Don Blankenship, allegedly told workers to ignore the orders of those who instructed them to construct support beams and ventilation shafts for safety purposes and just “run coal.” It is companies like this that give capitalism a bad name.

The Lesson To Learn

What can healthcare companies learn from this tragic incident?  It’s simple. Always remember that actions speak louder than words.

No matter how many times your top executives express concerns for patient safety or piously proclaim that their mission is finding better treatments or cures for disease, if the company is rushing a drug to market before its full side effects are known, it’s a lie. If they are pushing a device through trials and suppressing negative evidence that would keep it from FDA clearance, it’s a lie. If your hospital touts patient safety, but every staff member isn’t following strict protocols to combat healthcare acquired infections, it’s a lie.

Words vs. Action

Communicators use words.  Lots of words.  We draft mission statements, company vision statements, key messages and yes, even positioning statements.  But no amount of words can take the place of action.

Action is key to reputation.  Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason—even at the expense of short-term profits—builds positive reputations.  And reputations are valuable.  A good reputation adds to the bottom line and helps companies weather the storms of crisis.  Just ask Massey Energy, whose stock has dropped nearly 12 percent and whose credit rating was downgraded below junk.  If that’s not enough to convince you, then just ask the families of those miners in West Virginia.

 

Ready or Not? March 22, 2010

Filed under: Corporate Preparation,DTC,Lisa,Market Planning — Lisa Pohmajevich @ 9:36 pm
Tags: , ,

DTC campaign here I come!  You’ve sweated the small stuff.  Well, not really small stuff, big stuff actually. And a lot of it. You took a step back and assessed the physician’s needs, your product benefits and your promise to the patient. The focus has been on attending to the physician – rightly so, ensuring they were ready to assume the staff of authority with your product and procedure.

You trained them, encouraged them and supported them. The reimbursement and insurance coverage gaps around the product are closing. Scientific and clinical journals have published clinical data and there are go-to clinicians, who are actively performing the procedure that new customers can contact.  Lastly, you’ve resolved distribution challenges and simplified the purchase process. 

And now you believe your company is ready to launch a DTC campaign.  If that is the case, you can confidently mark ‘yes’ next to the following 10 checklist items.

© Scholastic, Inc. October 1999/ Art by Gioia Fiammenghi

Company Preparedness Checklist                                              

1.    ALL departments agree it is time to launch and are ready to do so.

2.   Regulatory and clinical affairs are available to handle patient and consumer concerns customer needs.

3.   Sales is well prepared to support and manage customer needs

4.    PR, regulatory and legal are in alignment with their responsibilities and messages to address market reactions.

5.   Marketing is ready to support and usher customers, consumers and company personnel through the process of fulfillment.

6.   Manufacturing is able to respond to inventory ebb and flows.

7.   IT has everything online working and significant bandwidth committed to supporting demand.

8.   Customer service knows precisely how to handle all callers and questions.

9.   Finance is committed to releasing funds well in advance of actual media event. 

10.  Senior Management is well versed in the campaign purpose and goal and all employees are aware of their responsibilities.

In addition to the above readiness states, the following conditions also need to be in place.

  • A call center is prepared to handle all reactions from respondents
  • All customers are informed about the planned campaign
  • Referral physicians have been informed about the procedure and know who in their network performs it
  • All patient education materials are downloadable
  • Physician spokespersons have been identified and are prepared and willing to respond to press requests
  • Reimbursement references are available to assist with coding and coverage questions

These conditions are key in preparing the company to support a consumer reaching campaign.  All parties deserve information about the campaign, preparation to support the campaign and continued communication about the progress of the campaign.  Launching a DTC campaign should only be done when you can confidently declare ‘here I come!’

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

Legacy Marketing – If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well March 5, 2010

Filed under: Lisa,marketing — Lisa Pohmajevich @ 9:42 pm
Tags: ,

Legacy is defined as anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. When money, heirlooms, property or wealth are associated with the term legacy it holds a certain cachet.  Conversely, when prior work, earlier preparations or historical marketing activities are described as a legacy, the label can conjure a tarnished image, shifting from cachet to passé.

Legacy marketing is both experiential and influential. It can be onerous when thoughtlessly developed or poorly executed.  Alternatively, it can be masterful when well conceived or skillfully implemented.

Legacy marketing occurs on a regular basis. Someone somewhere for some company is marketing a product or service every day. The execution of marketing tactics and activities create product histories and set brand foundations. That which happens today, influences tomorrow.

As I was growing up my parents repeatedly encouraged me with the phrase ‘if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’. The unspoken conclusion to this aphorism was, ‘the first time’. I was meant to understand that if I was spending my time and effort to do something, doing it well should be the goal. After all, I was going to be recognized for the work, good or bad.

In my career I’ve had the privilege of working with high caliber professionals. I’ve also worked along side colleagues who were passing through, with little interest in the legacy they left behind. The difference between the two is in the quality of their work. The high caliber professionals produce rich and potent work. Their work creates strong foundations that support a brand. Future efforts benefit from predecessors work. Unremarkable work performed by those with little interest, results in weak and thin foundations, requiring future efforts to retool and rebuild rather than improve upon.

I am a strong believer in declaring legacy marketing as a goal. The kind of marketing that contributes to the future of the brand because strong and vital foundations are created. My parents convinced me that ‘doing it well the first time’ is the only acceptable approach. We all leave legacies; I want mine to be a ‘thing well done’.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

She Who Must Be Obeyed February 11, 2010

Illustration by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse

Horace Rumpole, the lead character in the British television series Rumpole of the Bailey, secretly refers to his wife Hilda as ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed.’ Hilda is considered formidable, thus the tongue-in-check endearment. The definition of She Who Must Be Obeyed, abbreviated to the acronym SWMBO, is a woman in authority’. The character Hilda could be easily considered the poster person for this title.

Companies promoting new healthcare solutions – products and services, would be ahead of the curve if they recognized that women hold collective membership in the SWMBO sorority. Women are formidable in their pursuit of answers to problems or healthcare concerns, particularly so in the management of their families health and welfare.

In a recently survey conducted in 2009 and published by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, the use health information technology (HIT) in U.S. households was assessed. Some of the findings include:

  • 61 percent of the sample used the internet to search for health or medical information
  • Women are more likely than men – 58% vs. 43.4%, to look for health information on the internet
  • Women are more likely than men – 4.1% vs. 2.5%, to access online chat groups to learn about health topics
  • Women are more likely than men – 6.6% vs. 5.2%, to request a prescription refill on the internet
  • Women are more likely than men – 3.5% vs. 1.8%, to make an appointment using the internet
  • Women are more likely than men – 5.6% vs. 4.2%, to communicate with a health care provider over email

The findings of this survey indicate women are actively seeking information, interaction and resolution to health care issues, using online means to do so, much more than men.  The survey summary can be found here[1].

There are a few companies that recognize women customers control the success of their products. These are companies that market and distribute women specific products such as contraception, breast care, and incontinence treatments. Some of these companies make the effort to connect with women customers by directing communications to them, providing information about products and identifying resources that may be useful in their search for solutions.

Women respond to these overtures by sharing their experiences, out loud – with other women.  This sharing includes discussions about anything and everything related to the product experience – credibility of the information about the product, the availability of the product, access to the product, interaction with the medical provider of the product, and so on. Nothing is off limits. Women take the lead in the discussions, just as energetically as they investigated the products before they purchased or were prescribed them.

In a 2008 survey conducted by Burst Media, women were identified as heavy users of health related forums, blogs and other websites when searching for information about a problem. The summary states “They [women] tend to be more proactive than their male counterparts seeking out family healthcare solutions as well as personal ones.” More of the findings can be found on the BizReport.com site, here[2].

Women search and research healthcare concerns. Women lead the charge for treatment and care of healthcare concerns. Women seek resolutions for their families as well as themselves. The road to reaching the consumer dealing with a health concern is typically traveled by a woman. She may be the wife, mother, daughter or friend of someone who needs help or answers for that which they suffer.

I know these descriptions of women and their pursuit of information and solutions to be true. I experienced these activities first hand marketing women’s healthcare products. I am also a daughter, aunt, godmother, sister, partner and friend of many, for whom I have done the same. I have gathered information from far and wide, and then armed with it I have navigated and negotiated the best available solutions for many a healthcare concern.  We women are resolute and formidable.

Companies that want potential patients to request their products, would benefit from remembering there is quite likely a woman in the mix, looking for answers for the patient. It is not just women specific products that women research. Any product or service that is intended for a patient, will be subject to review if relevant to someone they care about. Developing a well-planned strategy and communication plan, that takes into consideration how and where women go to get answers, makes good sense.

The declaration that ‘women rule the world’ may be ever-so-slightly premature at this point; however, if a direct path to the right patient is desired by a manufacturer, making it easy for her to gather information and access the product is strongly advised. Crafting a strategy that submits information and resources at her fingertips is the best way to enlist She Who Must Be Obeyed.


[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/healthinfo2009/healthinfo2009.htm

[2] http://www.bizreport.com/2008/07/women_rely_on_internet_for_health_information.html

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

 
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