In an increasingly digital marketing world, the role of the traditional sales force in the healthcare and marketing industry has been expected to be slowly phased out over time.

In reality, the emergence of important factors such as integrated marketing, promo models and customer segmentation have made the sales force a more viable option than ever for the healthcare field, which has changed dramatically over time. As an increasing number of workers begins to embrace Central Resource Management (CRM) methods, the sales force can create multi-wave marketing campaigns that pre-measure campaign return on investment (ROI) analysis, execute and measure response and engagement rates in real-time, as well as share insight and recommendations for campaigns in the future.

A new and slimmer sales force now dominates the healthcare marketing sphere, and they use the latest tools and other dynamic strategies to reach new audiences. Specifically, using social media, mobile devices and other mediums that are tied back to CRM systems will allow sales forces to maximize their ROI and develop winning campaigns, which can dramatically improve the public profile of a business and its programs.

Modernizing Integrated Marketing

Since the idea of integrated marketing was first visualized, using multiple platforms to deliver a singular message has been wholly effective in all forms of business. According to a November 2012 study from respondents in a number of business-to-business healthcare companies, more than 84% of those surveyed said that their marketing budgets for online advertising would remain the same or increase in the foreseeable future, while 43% reported that their print-level spending would remain the same.

In addition to some form of online and traditional advertising, the respondents believed that website design, multimedia presentations and social media were their main areas of interest when evaluating marketing budget plans. By spreading out resources among these variety of channels, companies can better tailor their messages to meet the needs of specific customers, while still remaining consistent in the process.

This form of customer segmentation has been popular in the marketing field for years, and using mobile health data and analytics platforms makes them even more effective in helping a company better control its resources and deliver them where they are needed most.

Digital Outlets

While integrated marketing has evolved thanks to the digital revolution, this has meant major shifts for healthcare and pharmaceutical sales forces. A November 2012 study of pharmaceutical sales forces by BioPharma Alliance found that the sales group diverged into a two-tiered force of professionals with one group on the ground and on the phone handling person-to-person interactions, while the other is in the background working to deliver new information through a number of digital outlets.

This illustrates the huge challenge that many sales forces face in a digital world where information, promotion and opinion flow freely on the Internet and social media. Ultimately, it’s a sales rep’s job to tailor the message to the initiative’s needs and use data and analytics to figure out where their budgets should be concentrated to deliver the best results.

Targeting the Ideal Consumers

Customer segmentation is one of the biggest benefits of some of the latest data and analytics platforms as they allow healthcare marketers to tailor their strategies to new and emerging markets, and as well, deliver a customer-centric message to physicians and patients.

The healthcare marketplace has changed dramatically over the past several decades, as have the demographics of those who find themselves in hospitals. A Temple University study of inpatient data from U.S. hospitals from 1995 to 2000 showcases a growth in the amount of available patients who may be considering major surgery or other healthcare services, but a 1.4% decrease in surgical cases and a 3.6% increase in less profitable medical cases such as emergency care. While hospitals can’t exactly pick and choose what kinds of patients come through their doors on a given day, these trends have encouraged healthcare marketing sales teams to seek out prospective patients who may wish to use them for major health decisions.

Wendy White, founder and president of Siren Interactive, a marketing firm that specializes in studying the behaviors of patients, physicians and caregivers, believes that increasing numbers of healthcare choices are now being put into the hands of patients. Expanded access to online information and other resources on the part of patients has shifted the focus of sales teams toward understanding their consumers on a human level.

Forging Future Healthcare Strategies

According to Deloitte’s 2012 Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers, healthcare marketers have to contend with an increasing segment of the population, typically the millennial generation who were born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, who are not engaged with their current healthcare plans and tend to go for value and convenience instead. This represents the largest portion of the healthcare consumer population and represents a major challenge for healthcare marketers as they seek to use a combination of strategies to encourage this generation to take important healthcare decisions off the back burner.

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Data and analytics programs that determine the best targets; offer both personal and non-personal promotion; measure engagement rates and work in tandem with integrated marketing, customer segmentation and promo model strategies provide a wealth of exciting possibilities for healthcare sales teams (see Figure 1). The healthcare industry is rapidly moving toward patient-centric care environments, and sales response to those changing behaviors and attitudes through real-time data and metrics will prove to be invaluable to improving ROI and optimizing campaigns for the future.

  • David Duplay

    Dave Duplay is the president and founder of MedTera, an integrated marketing solutions company dedicated to improving education, promotion and communications in the healthcare, life sciences and pharmaceutical industries

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