Why do you work in healthcare marketing? Meaning. If you’re like me, you believe the work you do matters at a very high level because it ultimately improves human healthcare. The products or services you market either literally touch patients’ lives or are one degree away from doing so.
Yet in an exchange I had with author Bob Gilbreath, a P&G vet and author, he appropriately reminds me that “trust in many healthcare companies, particularly pharma companies, continues to decline and has about the same trust levels as the tobacco and oil industries.” He’s right. Much of this distrust is due to our marketing strategies and tactics. This is why I found the concept of marketing with meaning in his book The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning refreshingly innovative, customer centric, and purposeful to me as practicing marketer.
Marketing with Meaning
His book, an Ad Age top 10 for 2009, challenges us to move away from talking at customers through traditional marketing tactics, like TV advertising, e-mail blasts, and sell sheets. It classifies these tactics as interruptive, self-serving, and ultimately ineffective.
Marketing with meaning attracts customer participation by providing unique and personally valuable benefits. It aims to educate, inspire, and earn credibility, rather than promote—pull versus push. It’s marketing that people chose, want, and even seek to engage with. The book’s primary premise is that our marketing, itself, can directly improve customers’ lives and in return improve our business outcomes.
The Hierarchy of Meaningful Marketing
To create personally valuable marketing, you have to deeply understand your target audience. Bob aligns his marketing model with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a way to uncover unmet needs and desires. The model is a pyramid with three phases:
1) Solution marketing: provide valuable information, incentives, and services, for example, how-to education, samples, and coupons.
2) Connection marketing: create value-added experiences that customers can share with others, for instance, contests, viral entertainment, and community building.
3) Achievement marketing: help customers improve themselves, their families, and the world, for example, linking your product to a relevant social cause, teaching a skill, and improving their health beyond the use of a product.
When you elevate your marketing within your target audience into the higher marketing phases, customers will seek to engage with your brand. Meaningful engagement will lead to product differentiation, price protection, and long-term loyalty. Ultimately, it will lead to better business outcomes.
From Concept to Implementation
Once you settle on a strategy, there are hundreds of examples, case studies, and ideas peppered in this book that can help you brainstorm. In my dialogue with the author, he cited three recent healthcare best practices: “Bayer partnered with Nintendo to create a video game that helps kids with diabetes learn how to test their blood sugar regularly. Also in the diabetes category, Sanofi-Aventis created an iPhone app called GoMeals that helps people manage their diet. And last year, Pfizer created a program that provides free prescriptions to people who lost their jobs due to the economy.”
The book gets into detail on how to implement this type of marketing with metrics, objectives, and processes. For more information, you can download a free iPhone app in Bob’s blog (marketingwithmeaning.com) that has links to over 500 examples. You can also view a video presentation at Authors@Google.
I recommend this book to marketers who are looking for new ideas to drive business by better serving their target audience. The concept, if executed, can also help you live a more fulfilling career. In our way, as marketers, it serves as a reminder that through our work we can better our world.