Maybe you have a spouse who refuses to get an annual physical? Or an aging parent who denies they’re having problems remembering things? These moments, more aptly referred to as “points of concern,” are the basis of important conversations—conversations that happen before scheduling a doctor appointment.

Yes, such conversations can be personal, awkward, stressful, and often devolve into conflict. And unfortunately, sometimes they don’t ever happen. According to Dr. Steven Gans, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Attending Psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, “Many of us have a natural tendency to avoid conflict and do not want to upset or embarrass those we care about. Yet, when conversations like this take place, they often lead to better patient outcomes.”

Turning Conversation into Action

According to JAMA, pharma brands spent $9.6 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising in 2016—nearly 5x what they spent just 20 years ago. These campaigns focused mostly on preparing patients for informed discussions about a specific treatment at a specific time with their healthcare team.

This model assumes, however, that the patient-at-hand is a self-aware and willing participant armed with the knowledge and desire to seek treatment. But, sometimes patients don’t know, or simply refuse to admit that they “qualify” for specific pharmaceutical offerings. This is the critical point when a concerned family member or friend can facilitate action through a conversation.

A Marketing Opportunity Uncovered

Marketers should educate patients and their caregivers at specific points of concern to help promote discussion and propel the decision-making process. Ultimately, more informed conversations at the point of concern will lead to more actionable doctors appointments and thus more entrants into the top of the marketing funnel.

In fact, there are definitive ways on how best to approach important conversations, and Dr. Gans suggests the following guiding principles during challenging discussions (which marketers should also consider):

  1. Perspective: Approach the dialogue from a perspective of curiosity and express a desire to problem solve together. A lecture on the facts is often not the best way to communicate.
  2. Personalization: The better you know a person, the better you can appeal to their individual personality. Avoid hot button words or concepts that will put them off.
  3. Timing: Frustration, anger, and other intense emotions make it hard to speak from a place of concern, so “strike when the iron is cold.”

We can’t always see things in ourselves that we aren’t motivated to see. But working together at the point of concern will only help everyone reach a more unified front.

  • Rob Parisi

    Rob Parisi is SVP & GM at Verywell. Rob has over 15 years of experience in digital media and has served in senior financial and operational positions with Dotdash and its predecessor companies since 2008. Prior to joining Dotdash, he held positions at WebMD Health and Arthur Andersen LLP. In 2016, he led the team responsible for conceptualizing and launching Verywell, which has since won several awards including best redesign.

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