In order to execute a proper healthcare marketing strategy, you need to first understand where the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are for your business. You also need to evaluate where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go. There are 4 steps to assessing your healthcare marketing strategy: a management audit, a customer audit, a competitive audit, and a brand audit.
Here are the 4 steps to a better healthcare marketing strategy:
1. Management Audit
It’s important to understand how management would like to see the brand perform, evaluate current healthcare business dynamics, and uncover the management team’s view of the future.
It’s also important for the management team to evaluate:
What core competencies currently exist, are in development, and are being contemplated/planned in order to compete successfully. This could include:
R&D for new products and product improvements
Commercialization through strategic alliances
Intellectual property, including patents and trademarks
Shorter product development cycles
Probe for a clear and far-reaching vision. The long-term vision should guide short-term brand decisions. Learn more about forming your vision, elevator pitch, and 10-minute presentation.
2. Customer Audit
The customer audit is intended to understand the relationship of your brand to its customer base, both desired and existing, and other key stakeholders.
Develop an understanding of existing brand equity among key stakeholders, including patients, providers, physicians, payers, board members, and others.
Identify the key attributes/needs that are the foundations of loyalty/preference. For example, what are the most important needs of patients who are looking for a continuous glucose meter (CGM)? What are the attributes of a CGM that patients can't live without? What attributes of other CGMs have caused patients to continue brand loyalty even though there are other, more technologically advanced options available on the market?
Audience segments that define the current marketplace.
3. Competitive Audit
Review the current industry landscape and healthcare marketing trends to determine how competitors position and express their brands and product lines across varying points of customer interaction. Map competitors across a variety of end benefits to understand where they are positioned in the minds (physical benefits) and hearts (emotional end benefits) of customers. These positioning maps will help identify benefit gaps in the marketplace.
Conduct an industry analysis to understand:
Forces and barriers to - heavily patented spaces, litigation, investment capital intensity, complex trial enrollment, history of non-approvals, etc.
Existing economies of scale - these could provide an important leg-up as healthcare companies work with fewer available resources, fewer operations flexibility, and longer times before a company is profitable because of pricing pressures and demanding regulatory timelines.
Scope - single vs. multi-product, domestic vs. global, etc.
Stage of industry development - ranging from emerging, to mature, to decline.
Size distribution - fragmented versus oligopolistic.
Strategies - low cost vs. differentiation.
Resources and capabilities.
4. Brand Audit
Look at all potential points of interaction with customers and other key stakeholders for:
A clear picture of how your brand is currently using communications and what the public is actually seeing. This should include all key stakeholders, including patient, physician, provider, and payer.
Assess the current range of brand expression to better understand the brand's current equity and image sources. Does your brand have a consistent image, look and feel across all touch points? If a patient first interacts with your company online, will they recognize it at the doctor's office or in a magazine?
Analyze brand architecture and the communication system. Do providers understand your product line and what's available? Do patients understand the differences between different product names in a product line? Do you have a product that also shares the name of your company, leading to confusion? It's important to consider brand architecture because weak brand architecture makes it more difficult to capitalize on brand equity. It will also pose problems if you need to communicate an expanded offering created through M&As and partnerships.
Look at components of brand expression: signature system, packaging, customer responsiveness, etc. Does your company proudly boast how dedicated it is to making the lives of diabetes patients better, but then lack adequate customer service? You should have a strong brand platform as the basis of your communications.
Look at brand communications: advertising, direct marketing, website, email marketing, social media, promotions, etc. Is there a consistency to the style, look and feel, and voice of your communications? Do they look like they all come from the same company? Does your website look like it's from 1980 and only provide patient information in PDFs? Learn more about the importance of a good website for healthcare companies.
Once you finish these 4 audits, your marketing department will be better prepared to execute on-brand marketing communications. If at any time you feel that your brand communications aren’t yielding the measurable ROI you need to justify marketing spend, revisit this 4-step audit. If you find that your company is left with more unanswered questions than answered questions, consider doing a more in-depth brand evaluation or seek the help of a healthcare marketing agency. A healthcare branding agency can bring a deeper, more specialized level of expertise to your brand management. The investment in a strong brand strategy will set the tone for the rest of your brand communications.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.