Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
To understand which tactics work best, we must first ask the question: What is a direct to patient marketing campaign? A direct to patient campaign is designed to reach consumers who are already aware of their current medical condition and ultimately empower them to take charge of their own well-being by giving them direct access to information about your product or service.
Medical device companies must cope with changes to the regulatory environment that require new marketing strategies that go beyond the longtime favorites: physicians and providers. They cannot afford to be complacent in today’s more demanding business environment. Yes, companies are dealing with more pressure than ever, with demands for increased transparency, more clinical data, lower costs, reimbursement strategies, and more. But the time to act is now. Medical device companies need to please the previously attention-deprived stakeholder: patients. To be successful in today’s new healthcare economy, you have to do more than sell to the healthcare provider. The product’s value is now dependent on the happiness of the patient.
Here are the 5 Tactics for More Effective Direct-to-Patient Marketing Campaigns:
1. Create Personas
Creating a campaign without solid personas is like setting sail without a rudder. If you have specific goals you’re trying to accomplish with a direct-to-patient marketing campaign, then you’ll want to get to accomplish them in the most efficient way possible. Personas ensure the right messages are delivered at the right place, at the right time, and to the right people.
Why It’s Important:
- Make sure messaging is on target
- Make sure content is appealing to the target audience
To learn more about patient personas, read Patricia Redsicker’s “3 Steps to Building Patient Personas for Content Marketing.”
2. Master the Language
How do patients refer to your product? How do they refer to the product category? How do they describe their symptoms or condition, and what are their attitudes and feelings about it?
In order to resonate with patients, you need to be able to speak their language. For example, during our research for Kimberly-Clark Health Care’s I-FLOW* product, a medical device for non-narcotic post-op pain relief, we found that the company was calling it a “Post-Op Pain Relief System” on their website. However, social listening data shined light on other words patients use to describe the product, such as, “pain pump,” a “pain ball,” and a “pain buster.” If messaging only referred to the product as a pain pump, it might miss a key group of patients who call it a pain ball.
Why It’s Important:
- Prove the company understands the patient
- Reach all types of patients regardless of what words they use to describe the product
- Craft easy-to-understand messaging
3. Account for Comfort Level
An important thing for healthcare marketers to think about for direct-to-patient marketing campaigns is how the patient may feel about the condition(s) they have and the required treatment(s). You need to think critically about how a patient might feel about the issues of their condition that are likely to heavily influence product adoption.
If your product serves an embarrassing need, such as erectile dysfunction, addiction, sexual health, bodily waste, or other issues likely to make patients uncomfortable, you need to be particularly mindful of this when planning your execution. Trying to encourage users to join a Facebook community of men who also have erectile dysfunction? Asking for people to share their stories about the inability to control bowel movements? Think again. If a topic is particularly sensitive, then patients are unlikely to be willing to share personal stories and may even be hesitant to interact with your content out of fear that they will be associated with the product in any way.
Does this mean direct to patient marketing campaigns are out? No. It just means that you need to understand the context in which someone would be interested in receiving information, and deliver the right content in a way that can be discreetly consumed. It’s also important to be empathetic when discussing these issues.
Why It’s Important
- Understand what kind of content to deliver
- Understand where to provide content
- Understand what you can ask of patients (i.e., user-generated content, sharing, commenting, etc.)
- Take into account sensitivities
- Show respect and empathy
4. Map Out the Decision-Making Process
It’s important to understand how the patient goes about choosing a medical device – and what factors influence their choice.
In the beginning of a healthcare decision-making process, the patient is likely to initially turn to the internet. Pew Research shows that 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information of one kind or another within the past year.
At this stage, there’s an opportunity for medical device companies to provide basic patient education to provide helpful information for the patient. With 8 in 10 online health inquiries starting at a search engine (Pew), companies need to provide content that can be easily found online. This ensures the company is involved in the process from the very beginning.
As the patient decision-making process continues, the context may demand different types of content, packaged and delivered in different forms. The key for direct-to-patient marketing campaigns is to understand what the patient needs and how to deliver it to them.
Why It’s Important
- Understand what types of content to provide at what stage
- Understand the different needs and fears at different stages
- Know at what points it is crucial to have product awareness
- Acknowledge the role of the patient in the decision-making process
5. Scope Competition
Competitive analysis should take place specifically within the context of where patient conversations, decision-making, and learning take place. You need to understand which brands are effectively speaking to patients, and who the influencers are.
Why It’s Important
- Avoid stale or duplicate ideas
- Understand where there are opportunities to carve out niche communities
- Avoid overlapping into another company’s efforts
- Seek out unmet needs and underserved audiences
- Learn from existing brand presence: what’s working and what’s not?
Check out our direct-to-consumer (DTC) case study below to see how we empowered consumers and promoted awareness ultimately growing sales.