In Healthcare, Focusing on your Marketing Niche is Key

Dan Martin

Personalizing stories and focusing on target audiences within your market niche is crucial in healthcare marketing. Here are some tips professionals can use to discover their niche, own it and achieve success.

Healthcare marketers are faced with many challenges in today’s ever changing landscape, and we can expect the industry’s complexity to only grow.

Working closely with CMOs and other senior marketing executives — spanning HIT, hospitals and care facilities, life sciences, pharma services, and medical devices — we help a broad array of companies across the healthcare spectrum tell their stories, generate awareness, position themselves as leaders and tout the benefits of their products and services. In the course of doing so, we’ve noticed several critical elements continually emerge. It’s important to keep in mind that the general term “healthcare” covers a lot of ground; marketers with clients in these spaces should be acutely aware of their own niche within the overall landscape and understand the importance of tailoring their specific programs to their market and audiences for maximum impact and results.

Understand and align business, marketing and sales goals. Segment the goals into business, marketing and sales, and then define — and communicate internally — what each are and why they are important, how they are connected/impact each other and how they are to be measured/expected results.

Business goals (the vision and direction of the company) help see the bigger picture. What is marketing doing this year that can help move the needle for the company?

When creating marketing goals, break them down into other components. For example, what do you hope to achieve with inbound marketing? How do these goals differ from your traditional, push marketing efforts? Do you have goals for a specific channel? More webinars? Establish a corporate blog / generate more blog content?

A key — and often overlooked — component of successful marketing is having solid communication with the sales team. What does the sales manager need to report each month? How are the leads doing that marketing sent over last quarter? How can marketing better help sales going forward? Understand the needs of the sales team, what numbers they need to hit, how long the sales cycle actually is from lead to customer, etc. Knowing this helps develop tactics to support and move the needle.

Conduct product and services audit. Know your products and services. Create a matrix that aligns the product with their target persona. Who uses the product and services you offer? Why do they need it? What problems does it solve? How is it different/better than other offerings out there? How will trends in your industry affect your products or services? Having a clear understanding of what you’re offering and how each product or service works, will allow you to be better able to market it effectively.

Clearly define buyer personas. Knowing your buyer personas can make or break your marketing efforts so be sure to define them. Do your homework. Talk to your existing customers. Review current marketing trends and see where your site visits and customers are coming from. Read industry news. Do what you can to know who these people are and create the persona. This persona will be the audience you target in all of your marketing efforts and how they communicate will affect your messaging, visual assets, and every other piece of your marketing.

Remember, it’s extremely important that you hone in on your area of the healthcare field and learn your niche. There is a large difference between targeting “clinicians” vs “payers” vs. “hospitals and health systems.” Get specific with your research, and know who you are targeting.

Take a look at who’s making the business and purchasing decisions. Who will be buying your products and services? It may be a businessman more than medical staff, but that’s who you’ll want to focus on.

Don’t ignore the sales process. Marketers should have a clear understanding of how their marketing efforts currently tie in with the sales team’s efforts. When developing a marketing plan, get into details about the sales process. Include buyer pain points, best lead sources, why customers buy, common sales objections and overview of the customer buying process. It is also helpful for marketers to sit in on sales calls with qualified and unqualified leads if possible.

Secondly, understand lead identification requirements (what defines a marketing qualified lead, what defines a sales qualified lead). Once these are agreed upon you can ensure marketing goals match with what the overall objective is.

Take a deep dive into all marketing efforts. Take a look at the current approaches you’re taking to gain customers and then do an analysis of your website and all external/customer-facing content and see what can be improved. Look at what competitors are doing that you can do better. Review how you are attracting visitors and turning them into leads and see what you can improve. The gap analysis will help you dictate your strategy for the year as it will open up many areas of opportunity.

In addition to marketing efforts, know what is going on within your company (product launches, milestones, business direction/stragey) and do an analysis to see how you can support the company as a whole. If you work with outside agencies, like a PR firm or inbound marketing agency, make sure their goals and efforts are aligned with yours and that everybody is on the same page.

Build the foundation. Clearly define and outline the marketing foundations you will need to set up in order to complete the tactics in your strategy. Define the marketing platform you should use and how to set it up. Set-up social accounts (LinkedIn is a great platform for targeting healthcare professionals; promote to the groups where your audience hangs out; Twitter is great for reaching and engaging influencers). Develop email templates. Consider tradeshows and events as pillars for thought leadership and further getting your story told. Look at content (themes and timing/ flow) and how it supports/drives all other initiatives.

Identify your experts / spokespersons. Know who your subject matter experts are from the outset. They will be your go-to people for generating ideas, writing and reviewing technical (and non-technical) pieces of content. They’re the ones that will check for factual accuracy and ensure the tone matches that of your audience (i.e. doctors can be much more formal than other audiences). They’ll be the ones that serve as the face of your organization and are instrumental in telling your story through the media to key influential stakeholders.

This post originally appeared in O'Dwyer PR Magazine's October 2015 Healthcare issue, on page 36.

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