The Rigors of 2009: What Consumers Want Today

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10 Essentials for Marketing to Healthcare Consumers

What happens now?  Change and consumer power are facts of life. How to become leaders of change rather than at the effect of it? How to optimize our brands in the current environment?

Ten thoughts to consider: 

  1. While consumers have generally put medicines over less essential purchases, especially for life threatening conditions, there will continue to be increasing pressure from generics, and consumers will place more consideration at each prescription refill.   Doctors are likely to consider the impact of a prescription on their patients’ pocketbooks.  Continued spread of ‘gap’ impacting patient adherence – not filling on time or not at all – trying to spread the length of time between scripts…i.e. skipping weekends, skipping days,  or taking less when feeling ok….or stopping if not seeing and feeling the value.  Perhaps an opportunity to expand how consumers observe Rx benefits?
  2. People want to learn and hear from others like them, not from the pharma industry.  Marketers can create more opportunities to build community and dialogue. But using social media often involves accepting less control over marketing communications.  It’s a huge challenge for brands to design how to play in this world, and find the right balance to engage the consumer within ever- stricter DDMAC requirements and the threat of a less-friendly political environment. 
  3. Consumers want healthier and more balanced lives, and to be able to live and function with what they experience as ‘control’.   Marketers can create more opportunities to help people be successful with less stress.  Informational content and value-add services can be helpful here, especially when tailored to the individual’s needs and desires.  Think personalization to help drive engagement and learning.
  4. Giving back – supporting their communities – will be even more important in ’09.  Marketers can also encourage ways for customers to give to others.  Companies from all industries are demonstrating generosity, giving back to the larger community, even with no direct benefit to their company/brand.  Consumers are supporting these companies ‘help the world be a better, safer, greener place’ with their dollars. But beware…authenticity is a must…
  5. Tight budgets beg for being hard-nosed about strategies and tactics that will get the most bang and return. Red line/cut the old favorites, prioritize resources (human and financial) more fiercely, and when you invest in tactics, do it right: find the elegant solution –   plan carefully and spend enough to make it work. And ensure that you have the right metrics in place for each tactic and customer program.
  6. Focus on meaning.  Simplify communications and information for customers and internal stakeholders. Less is more: simplify offers and services, and even the way you do business. Re-evaluate your internal processes to create more efficiencies and effectiveness while keeping the customer at the center.
  7. Keep innovating. Don’t give in to risk-aversion.  Last year’s solutions won’t be good enough.  New and fresh will win the day.  The Marketers who win will be asking, “How can we do it better?”,  innovating before its too late…And this doesn’t mean just adding ‘bells and whistles’ or new high- tech trends du jour, but ideas that solve real problems for your customers…
  8. Instill less fear; stimulate optimism, provide support and hope. Consumers feel burned from the economic crisis and are often highly frustrated with healthcare systems, but this goes for internal stakeholders as well. When employees are scared, they don’t speak up; they aren’t capable of new thinking or putting the customer first.  Fear will prevent the open and honest collaboration that builds critical relationships inside and outside organizations.
  9. Demonstrate real value – don’t be tempted by incrementalism.  This environment demands hard calls on drugs in development.  If they don’t provide clear significant advantages, they’re likely to be a resource and financial drain. Focus on the few Rx products in your portfolio that can truly make a difference to patients and their doctors…then spend the time and resources to do an outstanding job understanding and motivating those segments.
  10. Make the leap to keep consumers/patients at the center of your thinking. This requires deeper insight, more value, better claims, fulfilling needs – not just lip service, but testing and measuring.  This may be the biggest opportunity of all.

Is the consumer/patient really at the center of your thinking each day? Do they have a seat at the table during key decisions and choices?  I’ve seen too many clinical plans in which the consumer’s voice has not been considered, costing $billions of revenue.

If your claims don’t address specific patient concerns, bite the bullet:  invest in Phase 3b/4 studies to ensure that your claims are immediately meaningful to consumers and their physicians. This will also greatly improve your DTC communications.

Change opens opportunity for those who are willing to let go of what worked in the past, and discover what will work in the future.  Consumers can be your partners in success – or not. 

Are you ready?  I look forward to hearing marketing essentials that you consider imperatives for 2009 healthcare success with consumers.