Five months of pandemic observation offers some initial clarity around the healthcare market landscape. The following action-oriented imperatives define what makes the biggest difference between healthcare businesses that are growing and those that are stalling in today’s uncertain terrain.

1. Engage in an Open Dialogue with Your Customers

From on-the-fence purchasers to your heaviest sales hitters, understanding customer experience matters now more than ever. Conducting formal and informal research affords you critical insight to the gritty reality of how practices and health centers are adapting throughout a constantly shifting pandemic landscape.

How hard have they been hit financially, really? How is morale among their current staff? What are they most concerned about over the next six months? It’s likely the answers will span a broad amount of variance, making your communication strategy more complex than usual.

On an individual level, initiating experiential dialogue has powerful subtext—the simple act of listening communicates support (even if the path is uncertain), and it creates a valuable separation from your competitors, especially if they’ve been absent in driving their own dialogue.

2. Structure for Decisiveness

Endless headlines, articles, and speculation around the pandemic impact has afforded one universal axiom: No one knows how this will play out in the long run.

Behaviors and perceptions swing dramatically month-to-month, leaving less tolerance than ever for standard, corporate bureaucracy. This is a time when smaller, nimble companies are making rapid moves resulting in significant market-share gains (or losses).

Speed is more critical now than complete risk mitigation. The landscape is already volatile; strategic blunders are more forgivable than they’ve ever been as companies humanly navigate the environment. Agility allows for real-time course-correction which is better for businesses in both short- and long-term scenarios.

Reducing committee decisions, trusting and empowering your team, and permission to act quickly gives an undeniable edge over competitors left standing in their own way.

3. Evolve Your Corporate Guidelines

If there was ever a time to relax strict brand guidelines, it’s now. Device and pharma companies’ rules around communication, tone, and language were not crafted to be effective during the restrictions of a global pandemic. If you’re finding your marketing efforts hamstrung by what you can and can’t say, it may be time to change the rules.

As executives trade in boardroom environments for the vulnerability of video conferencing within their own homes, their companies’ need to reflect that same level of authenticity and humanity.

Old school messaging around corporate power and strength while ignoring tradeoffs is being marked as tone-deaf. Meanwhile honesty, effort, and collaboration soar in value as universal traits customers can relate to. Big brands no longer need to be all things to all people. They need to be the right thing, right now.

4. Personalize Every Sales Approach

Companies engaging in dialogue with their customers are most likely seeing a diverse range of needs in response. Since every practice is developing their own protocols during the pandemic, it’s important to develop internal methodology that ensures practices are approached precisely in the way they prefer.

Clearly one-approach-fits-most has worked in the past, however it’s moving to the wayside in today’s environment as the depth of customer preferences widen (particularly when it comes to sales representatives physically visiting offices).

Allocating proper time to screen and strategically considering engagement needs can pay off with dividends. These decisions drive the customer experience and ultimately the perception of your team and brand.

5. Use the Best Tools for the Job

At this point, most businesses have chosen their video conference provider. Some out of necessity, and others selected solely because that’s what was in place prior to quarantining.

Sadly, not all conferencing software is created equal. Some provide useful features such as breakout group presenting, auto-transcription services, and higher quality audio/video. Creating a small task force to take stock of your current platform could make the difference in keeping your team engaged and cutting back on repetitive micro-nuisances that can occur on every call if they’re using sub-par technology.

Fast-tracking your IT department to vet third-party conference providers for security and integration can help alleviate some of the strain of video conference fatigue across your culture. There’s simply no room for frustration with communication tools in this environment.

6. Validate the Promise of Innovation

The final and most critical imperative is to actively challenge the claims made at a corporate communications level. Nearly every single healthcare company, large or small, lists “innovation” as a key differentiator amidst other businesses.

The COVID-19 experience is quickly revealing which companies are actually innovating solutions throughout and exposing those that are not.

Innovation needs to span beyond R&D and product offerings now. Companies that wish to grow must keep an ear to the ground and eyes steeled ahead throughout this experience to be able to spot silver linings and opportunity among all the change.

The novel coronavirus is proving itself an equalizer in our arena. Businesses that wisely leverage internal, agency, and developmental resources to stay proactive will grow and thrive throughout this experience. Furthermore, they’ll be in prime positions as health restrictions are slowly lifted and more businesses find their footing.

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