Improve Performance: Know Your Customers

Eric Talbotbusiness, Healthcare, management, Marketing, strategy

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could read the customer’s mind? Knowing what consumers are thinking you would be able to reach them with the most effective message, via the best channel for the products and services they are interested in. Knowing your customers would improve your company’s performance.

The Patient as the Customer

In today’s healthcare marketplace understanding patients as customers has never been more important. Unfortunately, this has not been a strength of healthcare companies. Across the board from pharma to providers to payers historically the patient has been seen as a secondary customer. As such healthcare’s expertise in understanding the end user has lagged behind the likes of consumer health and CPG companies.

The irony is that healthcare’s data is extremely rich in terms of depth and breadth. Thanks to the highly regulated and complex industry structure, de-identified data is available at the longitudinal patient level. This longitudinal patient data presents amazing potential for consumer analytics. And this is just the beginning, we are on the verge of big data sets comprised of self-reported patient data and device data. In the right hands the use of data analytics to feed evidence-based marketing decisions will improve promotional performance and profitability.

Doing More with Less

In comparison CPG companies have done more with less in getting to know their customers. Working with point-of-sale scanner data and panel data they have achieved more because it has been their focus. While consumer product companies focus on consumers, pharma has continued to view the prescriber as their primary customer. This has created a self-fulling prophecy in that professional promotion, mainly detailing, is the largest contributor to volume. these tactics often have near breakeven ROIs. The prizes for the most promising ROIs and Marginal ROIs often go to analytically driven DTC activities.

Providers take note. Hospitals and clinics have recognized the importance of the patient journey and need to influence referrals but physicians are only part of the equation. Physicians can make all the suggestions they want but in the end it is the patient who will make the final decision. Patients are the consumer and ultimately should be seen as the center of universe.

Ways healthcare organizations can begin to understand their patients as customers:

• Start with the patient in mind: Expect for the directionally challenged we arrive were we plan on going. To become consumer oriented the customer has to be the focus from the beginning. Deliberate steps need to be taken to ingrain the patient as the consumer into the organizations cultural.
• Create a competitive advantage with analytics: There is a difference between having analytical capabilities and competing on analytics. Analytical development and sophistication can be segmented into one of four types; analytical laggards, industry norms, analytically aspirational and those leading with analytics. Organizations that lead with analytics are those who make it a business’s imperative and are willing constantly experimenting with new data and methodologies.
Stages of Analytical Development
• Be innovative: Successful companies are not afraid to try new things. One of the biggest obstacles to innovation is insular thinking. Challenging established norms can be hard as fear of failure is often stronger than the desire for success. For companies and teams that are not naturally innovative the use of external vendors or consultants can help inject new ideas and unlock latent potential.

As the healthcare industry spends billions of dollars each year on DTC promotion the importance of reaching patients is not a new concept. The challenge for organizations today is not to determine if consumer promotion is of value but rather how to maximize it value. The key to realizing greater value from DTC activities is in connecting with the audience.

Developments in data, analytics and media present new opportunities to increase promotional efficiencies. Embracing patients as consumers and leveraging new concepts to reach them such as programmatic media buying will produce a competitive advantage. The key differentiator between those who succeed and those who are left chasing will be the willingness to push traditional boundaries.


Eric Talbot is with Epiphany Insights, a marketing analytics consultancy helping companies increase sales and profitability by advancing the use of data and insights via evidence-based decision making. Prior to Epiphany Insights, he was VP of Strategy & Insights with Univision and is a healthcare industry veteran with nearly 20 years of consulting experience.