When you post something online, it’s easy to forget actual human beings will see it. Yes, you’ll get some “likes” and if you’re lucky, perhaps a few comments. But those digital interactions just don’t feel, well, “human.” The computer screen, website interface, and random emoji response serve as seemingly impenetrable buffers between you and the person you’re trying to engage.
For those of us in healthcare marketing, it’s more than just digital technology that creates a buffer between us and our customers. Take the term “HCP.” It sounds like a business improvement process or a synthetic ingredient found in sunscreen. This isn’t to say we should do away with the acronym (just look at the title of this blog), rather, those of us in the business of marketing to doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other, uh, HCPs, need to know our customers, know them well, and message to them like the individual human beings they are.
So, Know Thy Audience. Repeat, Know Thy Audience.
Writing 101 professors tell their students to “write what they know.” They do this because students who write what they know will be able to drum up enough content for a story and, be able to discern what details to include and what to omit. For healthcare marketers, this advice couldn’t be more valuable. We need to know our customers to message them effectively. But what does it mean to “know your customer”? Obviously, we can’t know them all intimately as there are sometimes thousands of them.
This is where data comes into play.
We all know that real-time data presents a transformative opportunity for healthcare marketers to gain insights that were impossible to gather just a few years ago. For example, the HCP-focused social media service SERMO provides a way for you to send out surveys to their user base. What do oncologists on the East Coast think about biologics? How are primary care physicians dealing with smoking cessation in the rural Midwest? It’s easier than ever to get these questions answered. There are many other methods of data capture that can help you get to know your customers better and once you do, it’s time to create your message.
Craft the Right Message to the Right Audience
A solid example of knowing your target audience is told by the marketing team behind the Ford F series truck campaign. Nearly everyone in America knows the slogan “Built Ford Tough.” When it comes to the marketing of consumer trucks, Ford is the king, and nobody even comes close. They’ve had the top-selling truck in America for 44 straight years and the top-selling overall vehicle for 39 straight years. Which their marketing efforts and their innate ability to understand every single nuance of their target audience, have had much to do with.
The most recent Ford truck commercial to is “We Built Them a Truck.” Like all great ads, it tells a story, and in about a minute and a half, it tells the story of how Ford built its products to meet the changing needs and desires of its customers. The audience to which this truck is aptly built for. This is a hallmark of most of Ford’s truck advertising. Note that they rarely mention the price or how beautiful the vehicle is or what kind of warranty it has, simply because Ford knows that their customers don’t care about those things. They care about horsepower, how much it can tow, and how much abuse it can handle doing dirty, tough jobs. In all, Ford doesn’t trifle with their customers' intelligence or spend too much time trying to be cute or hawk the bottom line. No, they simply talk to their audience in a style that’s relatable, based on the data they’ve gleaned to know their target audience profile better than anyone else in the market.
Last, Always Get to the Point
The most important thing we in healthcare marketing can learn from Ford is that we need to know our audience (HCP) and get to our point, quickly. Refraining from “cute” graphics or messaging that trifles our audience’s intelligence. Our audience is smart, they know their therapeutic area, they know how most of the therapies on the market work, and they know how to use a search engine. And, the fact is, they are also human. It’s our job to address them as such, and share the key insights we’ve uncovered with them—things they don’t know yet need to know. And as stated earlier, we need to know our audience intimately to do just that. What are they actually concerned about? What are their challenges and what biases might they already have? If we truly know the drug we’re marketing and the HCP customer that’ll use it, we can move beyond a mere digitally posted transaction, and become a more transformative partner in the healthcare marketplace, human to human.