Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

10 Questions to Build Your Strategic Communications Approach December 4, 2012

Filed under: Betsy,Business,Decision making,strategy — betsymerryman @ 2:58 pm
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education_ins1I just returned from a college reunion in New Orleans.  One of the things that I loved about going to school in New Orleans was that the education occurred both in and out of the classroom.  As I reflect on that now, I realize that the same still holds….  My education has continued throughout my career, not only from graduate school, seminars and reading books or periodicals.  I have learned on the job and in the trenches, in the frying pan and sometimes in the fire, from people who were mentors and from people who were – well, let’s just say not mentors – and from other team members, clients and employees.

Marketing and communications is a discipline where you need to constantly learn both tactically and strategically.

  • Tactically, we’ve had a revolution over the last several years with the growth of new technologies and evolving and maturing ways to reach and engage with our target audiences.  We had to learn how and when to integrate them into our efforts.
  • Strategically, we always have to quickly get our arms around a new situation, challenge / opportunity, product, audience, etc.   We always have to learn and figure it out fast.

I learned how to zero in strategically from tools I got in a classroom, refined by years of real-world hits and misses (fortunately more of the former than the latter).  I now find myself going back to the same fundamental questions to help me figure out the best approach.  You see, I have a list of 10 questions I always start out with, the answers to which I must learn, research and often intuit.   I’m not saying that this is all I need to learn, but it’s a great head start.  For what it’s worth, here are my 10 questions:

  1. What are the business objectives?
  2. What are your main challenges/opportunities?
  3. Confirm target audiences and what they’re looking for
  4. Confirm marketing and communications objectives
  5. What are the key benefits of product/service and why should anyone care?
  6. Who are the competitors and what have they been up to?
  7. What have you been doing already and what’s worked/not – and why?
  8. What does success look like?
  9. What is the budget range?
  10. And you need it done by when?

Now I want to see yours!  (And let the education outside the classroom continue….)

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Blessings to my Healthcare Social Media Gurus September 26, 2012

Filed under: Debbie,DTC,marketing,Programs,Social media,strategy — Debbie Donovan @ 2:15 pm
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[I’ve updated this post from July 2010 because in the past 2-1/2 years a few things have changed.]

I am frequently asked to explain how “social media” works for health care companies and providers. After I answer specific questions and cite examples, the next question I get is a variation of, “How did you figure all this stuff out?”

The answer is pretty simple. Early in my self-guided study I stumbled upon what I can only describe as gurus. They provide a steady stream of examples of creative execution, critical insights on legal and regulatory issues and infinite enthusiasm for this communication revolution.

The big news is that gurus Ed and Lee have gotten together to make sure that Ed’s Hospital social media list has a new home at the Center for Social Media at the Mayo Clinic and title: Health Care Social Media List . It’s a critical resource for anyone selling products or programs to hospital administration.

I’ve learned that the best karma I can give is a shout out to those whose activity I can’t miss:

Namaste!

(C) 2012 eGold Solutions all rights reserved.

 

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.
 

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should November 29, 2011

I saw the results of a study recently that supports the practice of doing colonoscopies without sedation.  Now, I know one person who, for reasons that are still a mystery to him, had a colonoscopy without sedation, and I can tell you he wouldn’t recommend it.  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

I find myself saying the same thing with so many marketing and communications practices today, especially those are easy to do it yourself.  Just because you can blog, Tweet, send out a press release or whatever, doesn’t mean you should.  What sometimes gets lost and forgotten is that strategic fundamentals haven’t changed, despite the excitement around new channels and ways to reach target audiences.

I once had a client suggest that we should send out a press release every week so that we could then Tweet it.    While I’ll be the first person to agree that press releases are valuable beyond communicating with the press, I believe you should issue a press release to announce news that supports your communications objectives, and you should Tweet things that would be of value to your followers. It isn’t about making noise.  It’s about building your credibility, brand and/or reputation.

Strategic fundamentals include asking yourself at the outset, among other things:

  • What you are trying to achieve and does it help you achieve your business objectives?
  • Who is your target audience and why should they care?
  • What do you want them to do with your information?
  • Is this channel the best way to reach and influence your target audience in these ways?
  • And does it further your overall product brand and company reputation?

The bottom line is that tactics shouldn’t drive solid marketing and communications.  Strategic fundamentals should.  And just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should if it doesn’t fit strategically.

As for me, sign me up for sedation with my colonoscopy.  How about you?

(C) 2011 Merryman Communications, Inc.; all rights reserved.

 

Power of Combining Brands May 11, 2011

A colleague once told me that a health care provider is a value added reseller (VAR) of health care services enabled by great technology. This is no different then a VAR in the high technology computer industry. The best marketing programs for any VAR are cooperative–both parties contribute their brand and budget resources (money and time) to extend the marketing of a given product or service.

The main message is:

Obtain this [national brand] at [your local outlet]

Consumer examples:

Obtain a refreshing Coca-cola(R) beverage at your Main Street McDonalds(R)

Fry’s(R) electronics is an authorized reseller of HP(R) Printers

Health care examples:

Mountain View’s El Camino Hospital now offers the da Vinci(R) Si system for minimally invasive hysterectomy

Essure(R) permanent birth control is now performed in Dr. Mason’s Fresno office

Balloon Sinuplasty(TM) procedures are performed by Dr. Nathan at Southwest Texas Methodist Hospital

The value of the message is the exponential power of two brands joined together. Each has value on its own; however, when combined, the local health care provider legitimizes the availability of the advanced technology and the company provides advanced technology to the local health care provider.

Who wins? Everyone in the chain–the patient gets access to the medical company’s advanced technology from a local healthcare provider. I would propose that public and private payers win also and here’s why.

<Warning: Soapbox Moment>

Finally (thanks Shana Leonard) there is a conversation around devices becoming the new drugs driven off the analysis of the American College of Cardiology meeting by Reuters. Since diving into the medical device industry, I’ve come to believe if a health problem is mechanical then why not fix it with a mechanical solution instead of masking the symptoms with drugs? In many cases, this is a more cost-effective approach. Your thoughts?

(c) eGold Solutions, all rights reserved.

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In the beginning… July 14, 2010

PSB Church

During a recent discussion about when to hire marketing personnel, my client responded with ‘we’re not really ready for marketing’. This comment struck me odd, as I had been working with them on market development and marketing strategy. So I probed the thinking behind the comment. The client replied ‘we are not ready to roll out the product yet, so we don’t need advertising’.

In discussion with colleagues I’ve found that this thinking is not uncommon, and that many companies associate the term marketing with advertising and little else. It seems that what marketing is – is bewildering to some; sales and marketing are often used interchangeably when discussing customer interaction.

Peter Drucker is credited with the following quote; “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two – and only two – functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation create value, all the rest are costs.”

That quote perfectly defines my belief about business and marketing. I have long worked in marketing, the world of art and science blended to connect with and serve a customer.  I love that marketing consists of a wide breadth of functions and is core to a business.

The very definition of marketing through the four P’s defines the necessity of marketing early on and throughout the course of the product life.

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

While promotion is very important to the mix, it is the last in the list to master – and so much more successful if the other three are well attended to with hard core professional marketing.

Marketing happens in the earliest stages of a company.  An idea, a product concept or a service is presented to investors for early stage financing support, this is concept marketing.  Demographics, profiles and current practices provide a backdrop against which a new product or service is contrast; this is market definition.  Investigation into customer needs, behaviors, and loyalties is market research.

Marketing continues throughout the development phase of products and services, with a product requirements document, this is product marketing. Branding, product naming, product promotion, product training and service are all marketing functions.  All customer support and engagement are marketing. Public relations, education and training, pricing and promotion and market development are all marketing functions.  Even the discontinuation of a product or service is a marketing function.

Eric Brody, author of the blog Healthy Conversations, recapped the July Fast Company story about 10 lessons from Apple.  Among these key lessons is that ‘Everything is marketing’.  The recap and post can be read here.

It is true that my client is not yet ready to do advertising and should thoughtfully consider which marketing talent to hire. The best hire is someone who can do the marketing that is essential to the business at this point.  However, they have begun marketing, and if they are to be successful they must continue to do so.  Marketing starts in the beginning.

(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

 

 
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