What will heathcare reform mean to Relationship Marketing? Be smarter. Be better. Be prepared.

By August 4, 2009Uncategorized

Today, when I woke up, I did the usual weekend "surf-your-sites-with-coffee" ritual. What was different was that on my Facebook page, besides the normal silly crap that fills the Wall, I found the beginning of a thread on health care reform prompted by a query from a person who works client side….they asked why the 'public option' could not co-exist with insurance companies like FedEx co-exists with the US Postal Service. I joined in and enjoyed the discourse, but wondered the whole time: shouldn't we be discussing the implications this has on our business?

As most of us pharma/biotech folk are engaged in the anti-vacation practice of brand-planning, it would seem Reform should be on the table as an issue. At least for the marketers we should be acting on Reform as if it were a huge competitor coming into the market (it still being too soon for the rest of the Access/Managed Care, manufacturing and other arms of the corporate body to react since they have nothing to react to.) But we marketers do know enough to make some cogent decisions: marketers take responsibility for not just doing patient communications, but doing them in the better, smarter way.

Let me lay it out:

Insight is most important, but it's about listening and interpreting. Research is a great tool, and finally pharma on the whole has made the revolutionary move to actually being patient-centric from product-based. That is huge, but it still needs a guiding hand from those really know insight — mass marketers. Take Dove for example — true, none of us are selling soap, but what brand has more brilliantly gone from being about "99.9% pure" to "Campaign for Real Beauty" — from product attributes to aligning your inner Self image? That transformation is amazing and all of pharma/biotech could learn from what Dove does to engage with customers. And that whole change occurred because of Insight.  And always remember: insight is not asking them what they want, it's a LISTENING exercise and from that gleaning the Truths you can build upon — do not underestimate the power of intuition.

Think multi-channel and that means integration. Use as many channels as you can afford, but do not think of it like separate channels, but challenge yourself at every turn to leverage and maximize what each channel does best; and do not fall into the pit of making one channel stand alone or act in a silo. Example: if you have a DRTV spot, the 800 number should be up at least 40 of the 60 seconds (Best Practice). If you ave a strong drive-to-Web, then make sure your site integrates the TV message and offer on the home page, not some buried link or as some sort of navigation call-out. In the same way, you do not want people to change the channel, you do not want them having to work and click their way to an offer, be it financial or informational. In the same vein, do not assume that creating more direct mail or some custom-pub magazine is an answer, in reality it is nothing more than another media touch point and needs to incorporate the Web and call center. (One aside: be careful about your agency promising it can do all online and offline work; the skill sets for offline are becoming harder to find because the creative and account folks have gotten younger and many only know digital.)

AcquisitionConversionRetention. Think of them as one word. Consumers, patients, human beings, love media — they are hungry for more. Why else is everyone obsessed with Social Media? Also, consumers are used to loyalty programs, so at acquisition, get them into your RM/adherence program.

Adherence still needs to be funded. the number one issue for pharma/biotech that will help both form a revenue and PR perspective in the coming Reform will be starting to embrace LifeTime Value (LTV) and working with everyone on keeping patients on their therapies. Of course, what pharma marketers may not like an LTV approach is that you need to intentionality separate those you spend the most against to get the most back, and not treat everyone equally.

So, in the end, putting the patient at the center of your communications — what we have preached for years has now taken hold. But embracing a strategy is no guarantee you execute it well.

More on Brand Planning coming soon…