Top 10 Ways to Put Patients at the Center of Pharma Marketing
As healthcare marketers, we all know that healthcare is forever changing and that the need to “focus on patients” is critical to commercial success. However, the reality is that daily business pressures and deeply ingrained processes often subjugate patient centricity to a “plaque on the wall” in the conference room. Many companies find it challenging to implement change and create a truly patient-centric organization. These ten tips are a sure-fire way to help focus on what really matters: the patient.
1. Know that the ultimate “customer” is the patient. The doctor should be viewed as “a partner” in delivering the care and medicines that patients consume. Obviously, both physicians AND patients are important in marketing and communications programs but losing focus on your real customer results in a lack of understanding and a loss of connection to the patient.
2. TRULY understand patients. Sure, market research can help, but to really understand patients, you need to try to “walk a mile in their shoes”. It is important to spend time with patients and caregivers, create work groups, and involve them in your marketing planning. This connection is invaluable to all of your commercialization efforts and can keep your entire marketing team grounded and focused on why they are in this industry and on what they should be doing to build their business.
3. Become a “healthcare partner” in order to stay relevant. Healthcare partners are invested in a patient’s health and act in a way that is in the patient’s best interest. By going “beyond the pill”, companies can become a partner in health as opposed to being viewed as a vendor selling medicines. This isn’t just the right thing to do for patients; it is great for business.
4. Provide Innovative solutions that help elevate patient care. Physicians have less time to spend with patients and will have even less time in the future. Help them to better serve their patients by providing innovative solutions that ultimately provide better care for their patients.
5. When interacting with patients, don’t “sell”; instead, become a part of the community. Be upfront, honest and transparent. When patients believe that you are in it for your own self-interest, or just “selling a drug”, then they shut down and you become irrelevant. Connect patients to each other in an honest dialogue. If you have a great offering, then an authentic connection will be good for patients and good for your business.
6. Technology is your best friend. Don’t consider technology an “add-on”. Instead, integrate technology into the core brand offering. It will help to deliver better patient care and transform a “product-sell” into a healthcare solution for patients. Deliver “relationships of real value” beyond what your product delivers and you will become indispensible.
7. Create long-term relationships by creating a positive patient experience. Good health is very personal. People are ultimately looking for support and connection to help them to stay healthy and manage their lives. It is critical to nurture and facilitate this positive experience of how people manage their health and medications on a day-to-day basis.
8. Create patient advocates. Nurture relationships and enable honest and authentic connection. Advocacy should be one of the primary goals of any patient marketing effort. Harness this energy by creating vehicles (programs and tactics) that can stream your advocate’s messages back to other potential patients, doctors and payors. Ensure that positive patient experiences on your brand are measured and disseminated both locally – through patient doctor feedback loops – and globally – through publication and social media.
9. Integrate all marketing efforts. So often, healthcare provider and patient programs look, feel, and sound completely different. It is imperative to “close the loop” and to ensure that patient insights are integrated into all marketing programs. It is important to break down walls that exist between team members and agencies to foster an environment where truly integrated program creation and execution can occur.
10. Be authentic! Integrate patients and caregivers into your communications with both patients and HCPs. Real people speaking authentically about real issues is much more compelling than sanitized content that is disconnected and often irrelevant.