Growing a healthcare business is hard work.

In fact, it can be exhausting. But it can also be exhilarating and fun if you have – among other things – the right marketing strategy in place. In this blog series, we’ll explore what it takes for healthcare B2B marketers to contribute to real business growth. From market expertise to marketing excellence, we’ll give you tips and insights for cutting through the noise and increasing your market share and revenues. You’ll emerge with a toolkit adaptable to your unique situation and designed to accelerate your company’s success.

The journey starts now.

 

B2B Marketing Part 1:
Know Your Market to Grow Your Market

 

Successful businesses cultivate market expertise. It’s the foundation for global strategies, partnerships, new products, pivots, and more. Furthermore, prospective clients expect you to be an expert, with 96% of buyers reporting they want more expert insights from the companies they engage (Demand Gen Report 2016). It’s a differentiator and a competitive advantage.

In this blog post, we’ve distilled market expertise into three core components:

1. Global market understanding

2. Target market expertise

3. Buyer knowledge

For the new marketers out there, consider this a primer. If you’ve been around for a while, enjoy this brief refresher.

Let’s dig in.

 

Global market understanding

This is a broad and deep knowledge of what’s happening in the industry. Before you can understand where you and your product or service “fit” in the market, you have to grasp the bigger picture: what are the key issues affecting the industry, what are the drivers behind these issues, how are they being addressed, who are the key players, etc. It may sound like a no-brainer, but many organizations get so distracted with what’s happening inside their four walls, they lose touch with what’s happening around them. It’s like taking your eyes off the road while driving – recipe for disaster.

Having the information and staying current with it is step one to achieving global market understanding. Step two – and this is where lots of folks fail – is synthesizing all of that information into insights, or true understanding. That means you’re able to connect the dots and develop a meaningful narrative about what’s going on in healthcare. It’s the cornerstone of credibility.

Follow these tips for developing and maintaining your global market understanding:

1. READ. Or listen to podcasts – whatever medium works for you. Set aside an hour (even 30 minutes will do) every day to learn about what’s happening in the industry. There are any number of tools to help you curate industry content, or you can subscribe to industry news feeds. Popular, free content curation tools include: Google Alerts, Feedly, and FlipBoard. For industry news feeds, we like Kaiser Health News, Healthcare Dive, Becker’s, and Rama on Healthcare to name just a few.

2. ENGAGE. Get outside of your work environment and engage in the industry. Join industry groups, participate in committees, attend conferences and workshops, and network with colleagues outside your specific area of focus. There’s nothing like connecting with other ideas and insights to up your market understanding.

3. CONNECT. Take the pieces of your newfound knowledge and connect them to craft your perspective on the industry. This is how you demonstrate the “understanding” part of global market understanding and it can take some time and practice. It’s also a continuous process, evolving as the market evolves.

 

Target market expertise

Now that you have a good grip on what’s happening broadly in the industry, it’s time to go deep into your target market. Make it your mission to be the expert. Remember: prospective clients expect you to be the expert. Nothing kills credibility – and sales opportunities – more than failing to understand a client’s world. If you don’t understand them, how can you possibly demonstrate how your products and services fit into their world and make it better? You can’t.

Follow these tips to become the expert in your target market:

1. GET THE FACTS. Folks, data is really important to understanding your target market. It provides the unbiased perspective necessary for making informed decisions about strategy and in setting priorities. It’s easy to let our personal assumptions and emotions about our target market push us down the wrong path. Validating what your theories will pay off in spades, so take the time to do it.

Many data sources exist to help you out. The specific sources you use will depend upon your target market, but some that have broad appeal (and don’t cost anything) include Kaiser Family Foundation, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Commonwealth Fund, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you need hospital data, the American Hospital Association is great. If you’re targeting accountable care organizations, check out the National Association for ACOs. Health plans a focus? The America’s Health Insurance Plans site is a useful tool. Talking to colleagues, taking note of frequently-cited sources in publications, and searching online can yield other great options.

While we love access to a credible source that’s also free, it’s quite possible freebies alone won’t meet all your needs. In those situations, consider investing in a resource/database that details your particular target market. Some examples include HIMSS Analytics (for hospital and health system insights), Definitive Healthcare (physician practices), Gartner, (multiple market segments), and AIS Health Data (health plans).

2. TALK TO YOUR TARGET MARKET. This could take multiple forms: a survey, focus group, advisory committee, or round table to name a few. If you don’t have the time or skill to pull these off, get guidance from someone who does or opt for outsourcing.

3. JOIN THE CLUB. Find out what industry groups your target market frequents, sign up, and become active. You’ll make contacts and connections that deliver insights you simply cannot get sitting at your desk.

 

Buyer knowledge

You have a solid grasp of the industry and you’ve cultivated a deep understanding of your target market. Now it’s time to get to know your buyer. Your buyer is an actual person (or persons). Understanding *who* is involved in the purchasing decision informs *what* you communicate to them, along with how, when, and where all of that happens.

You know where this is headed…buyer personas. No, they are not last year’s news. Personas remain important tools in the marketer’s toolkit and there are lots of free templates available to help you get started. The key is to complete the personas, keep them up to date, and integrate them into your planning and strategy workflow. Done right, buyer personas will become the litmus test for all marketing decisions. Does it resonate with the buyer? Yes – then do it. No, then change course.

Follow these tips for building buyer personas that enhance your marketing strategies:

1. START SMALL. Starting with just 1-3 personas will help you get in the groove of developing these valuable assets.

2. CREATE A TEMPLATE. As mentioned above, there are lots of free templates out there. Pick one and modify it to meet your needs. Check out HubSpot or Xtensio for ideas.

3. USE THEM DAILY. It may feel a bit clunky at first, but you’ll find that testing ideas against your buyer personas will simplify and speed many decisions.

4. KEEP THEM UPDATED. This needs to be someone’s assigned responsibility. Get in a rhythm of reviewing and updating your personas on a regular basis – at least once a year.

 

Recap

Successful growth strategies require us to cultivate deep knowledge of the markets we serve. Absent this, marketing becomes a guessing game of tactics. Develop broad industry understanding, target market expertise, and buyer knowledge to establish a strong foundation for your marketing strategies.

Make it part of your routine to keep this information current, use it regularly, and watch it become an integral part of your marketing methodologies and processes. You’ll wonder how you ever marketed without it.