Getting to “Opt In”: A New Relationship with a New Customer
Prill Kozel, Associate Creative Director
The customer is now in charge. We get it. The Internet has forever changed the marketer-prescriber dynamic, as well as the dynamic between the marketers and patients and even prescribers and patients.
So, now what? How do we market to these newly empowered customers? Brand teams everywhere are scrambling to keep up with the next big digital thing, dipping their toes in the water of social media, and trying to figure out how all the new stuff integrates with the old stuff.
But what’s happening now is a shift that’s much more than tactical. It’s attitudinal. Prescribers not only have a lot more choice about where, when, and how they get their information but also more choices in brands and treatments. And patients have virtually been told by the media to take control of their health care, from demanding generics to being informed about medical errors.
What health care marketers need to realize is that the real challenge is not figuring out how to reach customers, but how to create a dialogue, an experience, and a relationship that makes customers want to buy.
I attended a creative seminar recently at which a particularly insightful speaker claimed that there is no such thing as a Unique Selling Proposition anymore. Customers want to buy, but they do not want to be sold. Yes, they are in charge.
So if we want to navigate these new waters smartly, we need to make some significant shifts in how we do things.
- Connect, don’t proclaim.
Today’s audience isn’t going to believe what you say just because it’s in your advertising. They know they can find opinions and experiences at the click of a mouse. So watch your language and tone, and always talk more about them than your brand. A terrific example of a brand connection I walk by every day (here in frigid Chicago) is an outdoor promotion for Tylenol. They’ve installed heat lamps in bus shelters to promote their new Warming Liquids. The takeaway? Tylenol not only takes care of you when you’re sick, but even when you’re freezing while waiting for a bus.
- Be everywhere.
The same speaker I referred to earlier talked about “appointment-based interaction” with today’s customer. The bottom line is that thanks to things like DVRs and podcasts, people today watch TV and use the Internet where and when they want–they’re not captive to any one medium. This thinking spills over into physician-sales rep interactions, as doctors see fewer reps, require appointments be made, or even ban reps altogether. Physicians know there are many other information sources today, so they call the shots on rep interaction more than ever before. The lesson here is that your brand has to be in as many places as your target is.
- Be true.
This should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. The Internet means you can’t afford to be anything but genuine and authentic in your brand communications. If you’re not honest or your brand doesn’t perform as you’ve said it will, people will find out. Fast. And they’ll make sure everybody knows about it.
- Have fun.
Granted health care isn’t Diet Coke, so fun may be a relative term. But in order to get your customer to choose to listen to or interact with your brand, you’ve got to be intriguing. (Some things never change.) Consider the things that catch fire and fly around the Internet–they’re usually funny, entertaining, and often have very little traditional brand messaging in them. But they get seen, experienced, and passed on.
The bottom line is that today’s customer is more complicated, more choosy, and more in charge than ever before. If you work with that, you’ll get your customers involved with your brand. And if you listen closely, they’ll tell you what to do to make your brand more successful.