Focus messaging to docs on cost, time benefits

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Having worked for more than 20 years as a marketing executive and management consultant for biotechnology companies and hospitals, Sarah Wilcox brought significant expertise in the health care field when she joined marketing communications agency Draft Chicago in 2003. Wilcox established the Draft Health vertical practice, stepping up the agency's specialization in this niche.

She currently oversees marketing efforts for several large drug companies, as well as CVS pharmacies.

BtoB: What should marketers be touting to get the attention of physicians and hospitals?

Wilcox: It's very difficult to get their attention, especially doctors who work in smaller practices. They're busier than ever and can't devote much time to consider every marketing message aimed at them. Products and services designed to save physicians and administrators precious time and money are more likely to get noticed. So will new drugs or equipment that will let them significantly improve the quality of patient care. But be aware that many doctors and hospitals are squeezed for cash; because of the billing and insurance payment processes, both businesses have serious cash flow issues. They won't be looking to make any serious investments unless there are direct and immediate returns. Meanwhile, it's hard to cut through the clutter with parity products-such as bandages, hospital gowns or office supplies-unless the marketing is done very carefully with messaging that touts improved convenience or savings.

BtoB: With all the specialization going on in health care, what's the best way to identify target audiences?

Wilcox: If you're marketing something that's beneficial to doctors in general, it's probably most efficient to target the large physician groups. Not only do you benefit from the scale of such businesses, but they most likely have dedicated office managers or procurement specialists who are likely to be more open to your marketing efforts than individual doctors. If you're marketing a specialized product, you have to realize that the lines between specialties are blurring and you'll probably have to market to several specialties. For instance, new endoscopic equipment allows interventional radiologists to perform procedures that have traditionally been done by gynecologists, oncologists and other specialists. And don't forget that consumers play an important role in marketing these days. They're much more educated about health care issues and influence their physicians' decisions-especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals. -Roger Slavens

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