November 11, 2021 | Lynn Schear
One of the many ongoing lessons of the COVID–19 pandemic has to do with the instability of a global supply chain that placed the highest priority on low cost. As a result, healthcare supply purchasers are finding ways to build resilience into the system in case of future disruption.
Distributed domestic production is a big part of the solution, creating more potential for partnerships with small and midsize manufacturers within the U.S. "In the worst case, it is an insurance policy that is developed and never deployed. In the best case, it offers the groundwork for a powerful, flexible, new production model," The Harvard Business Review reports.
With buying habits on the table, healthcare suppliers are finding new ways to reach decision–makers within buying organizations, care institutions and individual practices – and perhaps the biggest challenge is creating messaging that resonates with busy physicians in a position to influence how budgets are spent.
How doctors factor into the decision–making process
Often, physicians are only indirect decision–makers when it comes to medical supplies, especially those employed by large integrated health systems. As a general rule, doctors and other providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, have more influence the smaller the organization. However, their importance even within large organizations should never be discounted.
Physicians are a driving force when it comes to requesting medical devices that advance treatment technologically, and their preferences are taken into account for more basic supplies such as PPE. When supply chain interruptions cause shortages, doctors and nursing leaders step to the forefront to demand immediate solutions for essential supplies. When doctors say, "We need this now," they are in the position to pass along specific offers from vendors they've become familiar with.
In addition, many large, innovative healthcare organizations with shared buying agreements, such as next–generation accountable care organizations, are physician–led, so appealing to doctors as providers can resonate even within the executive suite.
Fit your content into physician lifestyles
Doctors have a unique position as gatekeepers between medical products and patients. They’re one of the most sought–after audiences for marketers for everything from multimillion–dollar imaging technology to pharmaceuticals to latex gloves. They’re bombarded with sales messaging in the midst of schedules that rarely give them a chance to sit still, let alone reflect on which products might help their practice.
They're also keenly aware of the competitive sales environment that centers around them. As trusted gatekeepers, they aren’t going to click, download and purchase based on the first, second or even third sales touch point.
Digital marketing is more important than ever, with face–to–face sales reps finding themselves shut out due to COVID–19 protocols, staffing shortages and hectic schedules. In a recent Accenture survey, 43% of healthcare providers said they were restricting who can enter the office for professional reasons. Many doctors don’t even have their own offices, let alone the flexibility for a working lunch.
Increasingly, they're making choices based on information they’re fed through their tablets and smartphones during their valuable downtime. It’s a change that might be permanent. Accenture reports that nearly 80% of physicians now prefer getting their information online.
Multifaceted messaging resonates across channels
The first thing to remember about marketing to doctors is that, like all people, they all absorb information differently in what are known as blended learning styles. The more formats you present information in, the better chance it has of being retained.
First, build trust with physicians in the thought leadership space. Your online presence should include a mobile–responsive website with original content that does more than just try to sell products. It should appeal to doctors on both logical and emotional levels, while positioning your company as someone on the forefront of your individual supply sector. Consider mixing your content across a variety of learning models, from highly visual graphics to podcasts and even games and quizzes. For some doctors, to break through the clutter and make a real impression, interactivity will be the factor that defeats what is known as “the forgetting curve.”
A robust social media presence is also key. Drive doctors to your original content, but also encourage them to think of your account as a destination for news and analysis from industry leaders and medical journalists. The more that doctors interact with your company when you’re not trying to sell them something, the more legitimacy your brand will have when it comes time to buy. Physicians are scientists at heart, and all messaging should be rooted in science with better patient care as the ultimate desired result.
When it’s time to appeal to physicians with sales in mind, don’t beat around the bush. Show them how your product works and what differentiates it from competitor offerings. Make it easy for them to contact your company, find pricing data or pass information along to buyers. Above all, make sure you’re talking to the right physicians first by having the right healthcare data at hand.
A data–driven approach to finding your audience
Doctors with specific needs respond to specific, even customized, messaging. A one–size–fits–all approach isn’t an option, so start with focused data that fits into your sales systems and lets you analyze for success. Instead of sending a generic email to all pediatric practices on the West Coast, for example, get more specific. If your product has unique appeal to health systems in Oregon serving children with allergies, a more granular database search can narrow your audience dramatically, even allowing you to speak to individual doctors directly and start conversations about their needs while keeping your data costs down.
MCH has expanded and improved our healthcare database to include more job titles, specialties, institutions and individual provider information, as well as data on corporate ownership and shared buying alliances across the care continuum. If you’re ready to set up a one–on–one consultation about reliable, affordable healthcare datasets with integration tools that keep it fresh, reach out to us at 800–776–6373.
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