For those of us who have built careers in the healthcare field and driven successful consumer-facing marketing campaigns for
the bio-tech, pharma, or nutraceutical industries, we know that this is a dynamic and fast-evolving business category. There are multiple reasons why healthcare marketing also demands, in
and of itself, extraordinary attention to detail when it comes to external communications.
For one, healthcare marketers typically are representing products and services that are directly tethered to consumers’ physical health and wellness. For this reason, the responsible sharing of information via product messaging that is both accurate – and also broken down into communications that can be easily digested by varied audience groups – is absolutely critical. Additionally, while regulatory compliance is standard within our industry, the sheer magnitude of the legal medical warnings often imposed on product packaging and in advertising creative can frequently get in the way of the primary messaging that marketers are trying to focus on and convey.
Despite these intricacies within the healthcare marketing milieu, the opportunities that exist today to bring truly remarkable advances to the lay public are unprecedented. And as healthcare marketers, we act as an essential mouthpiece for these advancements – making the ongoing dialog with the consumer more exciting than ever before. But given the multiple communications touch points through which potential consumers receive information about health-related products and services, the age old challenge looms large: How to best reach target audiences?
The answer is to begin with a fundamental core marketing presence– supported by a strategic blend of traditional press communications, social media, direct marketing, retail relations and a special events agenda – that works in concert with word-of-mouth advocacy, guided at both the peer-to-peer sharing, physician, and other third-party Subject Matter Expert (SME) levels. By establishing a core marketing presence, external awareness building efforts can be fully integrated with key product or brand promises, benefit messages, research defensibility, and overarching sales strategies.
Here are a few foundational tactics in the healthcare marketer’s “Essential Toolkit”:
Online Knowledge Center – In addition to establishing a strong Public Relations function and setting up the standard social pages (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), healthcare products companies can benefit from the creation of a consumer-directed Online Knowledge Center. This Web destination is typically an adjunct Internet site to the main company sales channel. The function of the Online Knowledge Center is to serve as a repository of information (including commentary by third-party experts, FAQs and clinical trial results) to educate consumers about general healthcare, nutritional, or consumer-facing medical technology products.
Spokesperson Utilization – The decision to utilize a celebrity spokesperson or other notable expert as part of a healthcare product marketing campaign is highly subjective, based on campaign goals and end-strategies. It’s not a one-size fits all solution. Retaining a highly visible representative to serve as a public face to your brand can be expensive, and not always worth the return of investment. But this form of engagement can also be extremely effective in quickly shifting consumer opinion. A key rule of thumb: Will the spokesperson help to make the brand or product more relatable and accessible to intended audiences in a positive way that will incite engagement – especially if this goal has been elusive via other marketing channels?
Health Fairs and Expos – These venues offer strong, direct exposure to target audiences. Attendees are typically pre-disposed consumers who are already taking a proactive interest in their health – and are at least moderately committed to seeking out information, lifestyle tips and advice, cutting-edge developments, and new trends related to the wellness, pharmaceutical, or vitamin supplement space.
In-Store Engagement – Visibility “on the floor” at key retail outlets delivers healthcare product marketers (vitamin and food supplement providers, cosmetic and wellness product manufacturers, holistic dietary and lifestyle aid manufacturers, etc.) obvious benefits. Having a presence in mass market super stores and warehouse locations with heavy foot traffic (such as Costco, Sam’s Club and Target) in the form of product demos, sampling, and sales presentations directly at the Point of Sale can and does impact the closing rate.
Email Marketing Newsletter – Healthcare is a marketplace that – by the nature of the business – is both competitive, and also highly scrutinized. Direct, “opt-in” email to a consumer database offers a consistent, controlled medium by which to deliver competitive offers, key messaging, product news and support claims.
While many of these tactics are the tip of the iceberg in terms of building a large marcom agenda, they do offer a cornerstone “way in” to grow a consumer market presence. They also offer a great starting place for newer entrants into the healthcare products space who are looking to build a sustained visibility – especially when they are used in combination with other fundamentals such as Public Relations, social media, SEO, strategic partner relations, and affinity marketing.