Marketers in the B2B healthcare space face unique challenges that practitioners in other fields simply can’t fully appreciate. With an entire regulatory maze to navigate around and a slew of highly specialized customer expectations to meet, healthcare marketers need to constantly evolve and develop creative solutions both more quickly and more carefully than their peers in other industries.
Right now, as the pace of change continues to accelerate, many healthcare marketers remain on edge, wondering whether their strategies will still stay relevant in an ever-evolving healthcare landscape, while others simply haven’t yet taken stock of how their marketing programs measure up against all these developments.
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the current and future state of B2B healthcare marketing, then identify and fill the gaps in marketers’ approach to meeting these pressing challenges.
B2B Healthcare Marketing: Diagnosis and Prognosis
Let’s first take a step back and try to diagnose the biggest problems in B2B healthcare marketing today, and then dissect trends shaping the industry.
The Unique B2B Healthcare Buyer
Having a clear picture of your target buyer makes things so much simpler in marketing. But things aren’t as easy in the realm of B2B healthcare. Buyers in this industry belong to a class of their own, and this is largely what makes marketing in this vertical very challenging.
According to Andrew Macy from SmartBug Media, today’s decision makers in healthcare companies/organizations vastly differ from other industries because:
- Most buyers in healthcare are risk-averse and move very slowly through their purchase journey, especially with an overwhelming amount of options available to them.
- Healthcare companies tend to follow different budget cycles, typically in terms of fixed fiscal year periods, unlike other industries which can make purchases any time of the year.
- Healthcare companies form buying committees which make purchase decisions. This can slow down the purchase process since buying decisions require every member’s nod of approval.
- Many healthcare firms rely on a group purchasing organization (GPO) to negotiate and make the final purchase on their behalf.
Trends Reshaping B2B Healthcare Marketing
While B2B healthcare marketing also shares some common trends with other industries, the healthcare sector is currently undergoing a number of industry-specific marketing developments which drive how marketers reach out and nurture opportunities (as pointed out by Futurescan and HITMC):
- Movement from B2B to B2C (also known as the consumerization of healthcare) as patients become part of marketers’ core audience (in addition to traditional healthcare decision makers)
- Growth in the self-directed path to purchase as 72% of potential buyers start off with a search engine query, and as buyers are 60% to 90% through the purchase cycle before reaching out to a vendor.
- Increased use of omni-channel and multi-channel touches as more customers prefer consistent and relevant experiences across different channels and devices
- Addition of both influencer marketing and thought leadership into marketers’ initiatives as potential customers make digital research a primary activity in their buying journey
Chief Marketer translates these changes into key challenges that healthcare marketers need to overcome:
- Aligning their pipeline with a shift in buyer behavior
- Determining which content types work best for their audiences
- Combining traditional and digital marketing tactics
- Optimizing the marketing mix
B2B Healthcare Marketing: The Treatment Plan
Now that we’ve figured out which problems need fixing and why, it’s time to talk about ways to actually address these difficulties.
1. Help prospects find the information they need
An overwhelming number of your potential customers start out the purchase process with an Internet search. Your job as a healthcare marketer is to help your target buyers get the information they need.
You must turn the bulk of your online presence into a tool that your target customers can use to glean actionable insights from the vast amounts of information available out there.
2. Make the customer experience the main focus
More and more B2B buyers want a B2C experience. That is, they look for a unified, consistent experience with your healthcare brand, regardless of channel or device. In fact, a Forrester survey reveals that B2B buyers expect to view product information, analyze activities, complete transactions, etc. across different channels.
From your website to your emails, to your social media presence, you need to deliver a coherent engagement experience to your target audience.
3. Build and strengthen your thought leadership position
Half of all B2B marketers use content marketing for thought leadership. That’s because thought leadership content influences buying decisions. According to a LinkedIn survey, as much as 39% of C-level executives said that thought leadership content had led to an RFP; and another 47% said it had resulted in a purchase.
But becoming a thought leader in the healthcare space doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent value, quality content, distinct identity, and an engaged community.
4. Master the art of influencer marketing
As digital research continues to be a go-to information resource for many healthcare buyers, influencers are increasingly becoming an important component in B2B healthcare marketing. Influencers can vastly expand the reach and engagement of your content, helping you make an impact on your prospects’ buying journey.
Influencer marketing is all about quality over quantity. While influencers with a large audience can be promising, it’s influencers who have an engaged audience that will really help you out.
5. Restructure your sales process around your prospects’ buying cycle
Earlier, we learned about the healthcare buyer’s unique budget cycle and how this affects their buying decisions. To improve the quality of your touches, you need to keep this in mind, especially when timing your nurturing activities.
Another way to align your sales process with your prospect’s path to purchase is to look at past campaigns and look for key milestones and include these into a sales timeline.
The Takeaway: It takes the right approach to effectively reach out and engage potential healthcare customers. With these timely insights and guidelines, you’ll be in a better position to avoid making the usual B2B healthcare marketing mistakes and getting the right kind of results.