What does it take to be a good patient marketer? There is no one background that makes a person a perfect fit for healthcare marketing. Certainly a good education, including within the discipline of marketing, is a good start. But I have seen successful patient marketers with a wide variety of backgrounds. Yes, they all have a serious work ethic, a sharp mind, a willingness to learn, and some rock solid skills, but they also typically have a few less obvious areas of strength that really distinguishes them. Here are four areas to consider as you start or continue your journey in patient marketing.
1. Good Physician Synthesis
The dialogue in the examining room between HCP and patient is typically short, and yet it is where a patient marketing campaign succeeds or fails. Amazing campaigns (unbranded or branded) may
fail if what patients are talking about when they get in front of their doctors falls on deaf ears. How can you best ensure the push/pull dynamic that critically affects your ROI?
To be a great patient marketer, you need to consider the other side of the house – pay attention to what your peers in professional marketing are up to. Collaboration with them greatly increases both of your chances of success. Empower your patient population to articulate their symptoms and desire for treatment, and more importantly, ensure physicians are primed to honor their request. Benefit to the patient: feeling heard by their HCP, satisfaction with their empowerment and ability to ask and receive.
As we move into a phase with a greater focus on specialty care and rare disease products, it is important to remember how
narrow these patient populations are. The patient marketers that know how to roll up their sleeves and get creative will prevail, since budgets are more modest for many new products and rare disease
categories. Even with a large brand with healthy budgets, it is not uncommon that the patient marketing initiatives are saddled with smaller budgets compared to traditional HCP marketing.
Being scrappy and finding ways to create strategies and tactics that are unique to specific patient populations is essential. Patients can sense when marketers have really thought about them, and what they need, which can in turn create a viral effect, as these tight-knit communities do a lot of sharing. And, ultimately, more trust and credibility for the brand.
3. Broad Awareness of Consumer Marketing Best Practices
Innovative consumer marketing is moving at light speed, and in healthcare we often know the basic trends, but don’t necessarily go deeper. We need to figure out what’s working and why. And we assume that because of regulation, many strategies won’t fly. While this may be true, new ideas come from exposure to examples of greatness. An exceptional patient marketer isn’t just seeking out pharma industry news, conferences and awards status, but is soaking up intelligence from other verticals, with an eye toward applications to their patient or caregiver population.
As young folks start their careers in healthcare marketing, is it reasonable to expect them to
truly be able to empathize with patients across a wide array of disease states? By the time of their first launch, few, thankfully, will have experienced the symptoms and diseases themselves. Maybe
there is familiarity through a family member of close friend, but sometimes we’re talking about rare diseases here, so even this is unlikely.
Perhaps empathy is a quality we develop over time as great patient marketers; perhaps we earn it. We study the science, and if we are lucky, are then able to participate behind the mirror in market research – struck by the emotional aspects of disease for the first time. And further, if we are very lucky, our marketing efforts allow the opportunity to meet and talk to real patients, absorbing the facts, the effects, the emotions, the significant and ongoing toll disease requires. Once we are touched by even just one conversation, one up close and personal interaction, we become better patient marketers.