Being Customer Focused vs. Message Focused
One of the interesting challenges facing marketing, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, is the message. Not that we have a hard time coming up with key marketing messages. No, it’s the fixation on delivering that message even if it’s to the detriment of the customer relationship that is the problem. Should marketing be message-focused or customer-focused?
Every marketer will say, “Of course we’re customer-focused. We know who our best customers are and what they want.”
But in reality, everyone gets focused around the big creative idea. The Message.
In many ways, the TV show Mad Men reinforces the concept that the marketer’s genius is in finding the words, images and metaphors that will stir customers’ hearts and emotions enough to motivate purchase behavior.
Typically, however, messages are developed in a sterile focus group environment with the marketer sitting behind the one-way mirror. A handful of specific messages are trotted out to find which one gets the best response from a group of carefully selected physicians.
This seems to be a straightforward, logical and cost-effective way to build a communication approach to which physicians will respond. But the physicians used in market research may not only under-represent the larger physician population (most active physicians don’t have time for market research), the research is done completely out of the context of a physician’s crazy, busy day. A typical primary care doctor will shuttle from exam room to exam room seeing 18-20 patients in a day with rarely even a couple of minutes to see a sales rep. This is context where messages and value are truly tested.
It’s Time to Take a Step Back and Focus on What the Customer Cares About
A revealing conversation with a busy primary care physician:
“Any smart rep is going to be able to look at my practice and know right away the kind of patients I’m seeing. I’m in Bucktown in Chicago and you can figure out right away the kind of demographic that I’m dealing with: I’m prescribing birth control, I’m dealing with high blood pressure, I’m dealing with some obesity, some type 2 diabetes…
“If you’re smart you know what my patient load looks like and you know the kinds of issues I’m struggling with. When you come see me, bring some initial ideas, and ask me about my patients and what kind of support I need.
“I’m scrambling to get the right kind of patient education in the hands of my patients. I’m running over to the Xerox machine and copying something that’s been Xeroxed seven times already, and isn’t even aligned properly. You want to give me something that’s really going to help me and to begin to build a relationship? Well, then talk to me about what I need. Or get my attention by making an educated guess at what my patient population needs.”
This perspective is a distinct and qualitative redirect of how we, as marketers, should be thinking.
A 5:1 Give-to-Get Ratio
One solution to this disconnect between what physicians want and marketers need is an approach in which we start by offering value and only ask for the business when we’ve earned the right. To make it real and not just a passing sales fad or manipulative sales technique, I suggest a ratio of 5:1. Five times out of six, offer your physician customers helpful information about particular disease areas that may relate to your product, but it’s information that they’ve asked for, not content that you’re trying force feed.
For the next five sales calls talk about things your doctors care about, topics that are relevant to each one on an individual basis, and then on the sixth call offer, “Oh, by the way, Doc, we’ve been talking about high blood pressure… here is some interesting data on our product that I thought you should know.”
At this point you’ve built a rapport and created value. It’s the Give-to-Get side of marketing. It’s born out of a focus on who the customers are and what they care about, versus always hammering the message.
Give-to Get in Digital Marketing: Creating Conversation
We’ve been talking about the relationship between a sales rep and physician, but it’s the same in digital marketing. As we think about moving customers through the adoption cycle, from awareness to consideration to trial – we’re going to use online interactions as ways to create dialogue, creating opportunities to sell from a position of value.
Once you’ve identified who your targets are, and you’ve done at least an initial differentiation on value, then the next series of communications shouldn’t necessarily be just message focused around your brand. At this point you should try to create a conversation. A conversation around what is fundamentally important to the customer, not to the message.
This marks the ultimate move to customer-focused messaging and customer-focused marketing…