Account Based Marketing in a Healthcare Setting
Below is an in-depth brief of the use of account-based marketing (ABM) tactics and loyalty programs specifically within the B2B sector of the healthcare industry. However, our research comes with two important caveats.
First, while the request's reference to loyalty-based programs suggests that there is a focus on increasing the engagement of existing clients within the healthcare industry, this is not directly stated. Therefore, our research below assumes that both new and existing clients are in the scope of the project criteria.
Second, there are fewer examples of case studies in the healthcare industry in which all the principles are named than we have found in other industries. Where detailed case studies are available, they tend to give the name of only the vendor. We hypothesize that this is due to public suspicion about inappropriate vendor/client relationships in healthcare but did not pursue that question.
Account-Based Marketing in Healthcare
- The consolidation of healthcare systems means that an ever-growing number of people are involved in the decision-making progress; this buyer collective, which averages nine distinct personas, is sometimes called the value analysis committee, or VAC.
- Because of the complexity of dealing with VACs, many vendors opt to simply deal with potential clients as companies rather than as individuals within companies. This is a mistake: B2B buyers expect personalized marketing experiences just like B2C buyers.
- Again quoting Salesforce, "The rise of the VAC has caused more healthcare organizations to abandon traditional transactional relationships with sellers in favor of deeper, more collaborative, and longer-term relationships with suppliers," making account-based marketing (ABM) strategies vital to healthcare vendors.
- While simplifying the VAC is necessary for successful marketing, it is difficult; they are often siloed into different areas of expertise (e.g., physicians, administration, etc.) which limit their intercommunication, requiring powerful tools to track both individuals and patterns across whole VACs.
- While exploring these platforms is beyond the scope of this brief, Ovum recently released a report on "Advances in Customer Engagement Platforms" which may prove useful as supplementary reading.
- As described by HIMSS, a healthcare marketing firm, "In its most simple terms, account-based marketing is a targeted approach to market to specific key accounts... a comprehensive methodology to organize your marketing efforts." They describe a basic-level ABM strategy as encompassing the following (quoted verbatim):
- Identifying target accounts, or businesses you want to sell to
- Researching those accounts to identify the buyer personas and key players in the buyer collective
- Formulating a hypothesis based on your observations about which marketing tactics will be most effective
- Implementing those tactics (especially content offerings), personalizing for the account profile
- Documenting the impact and effect of those methods
- Reiterating, improving and finding data-based trends based to identify what works best
- Aligning your marketing and sales departments to ensure a smooth lead hand-off
- Expanding this model to lookalike accounts, personalizing as needed
- 87% of marketers claim that ABM "delivers better returns than any other approach."
- However, ABM is very time- and cost-intensive, requiring the organization of targeted customers into prioritization tiers based on their "revenue potential, difficulty to close, and how closely they align with your ideal customer profile."
- Because ABM is, by its nature, iterative, the introduction of any element (e.g., a loyalty program) must be approached like a scientific hypothesis, with a willingness to collect thorough data on how well that element performs. Whether the element is tweaked or tossed out must be based on a ruthless analysis of the data.
Challenges in Healthcare ABM
- Due to the shortage of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the US, access to HCPs by marketers has dropped 36% in the last ten years.
- As noted in a Salesforce ebook, "Many HCPs simply aren’t allowed to take sales calls or answer marketing emails."
- While only 46% of physicians are considered "reachable" by marketers, among those that are reachable, 70% prefer to receive communication by email.
- Other key communication channels include informative websites, social media, and marketing apps.
- Live events, such as VIP dinners or invitation-only networking events, can add value to the vendor's proposition, but success "requires cash and creative investment in activities that set your company above the rest."
- While 70% of healthcare marketers say that connected customer journeys across all communication channels drive more client loyalty and willingness to recommend products to others, driving more revenue growth, only 25% coordinate their email messages with their other communication channels.
Note that while case studies of ABM in a healthcare context are not uncommon, most focus on the success of a particular platform (e.g., this case study from Hubspot) that the case study amounts to no more than an advertisement, with insufficient details about the actual strategy to be suitable for the purposes of this brief. We will present the most relevant in the next section.
However, in the course of our research, we discovered an interesting concept which does connect to the report criteria, and that is what one source calls account-based storytelling:
- Since ABM requires focusing on the needs, fears, concerns, and aspirations of the individual, a powerful narrative that speaks to them and "gives them a reason to care" is incredibly important in building a connection.
- As noted by GoNarrative, "Case studies, whether real or hypothetical, are often used in account-based marketing (ABM) efforts to deliver the right information to the right prospect at the right time... And a well-executed case study is a prime example of what I call account-based storytelling."
- Of course, it's impossible to create a case study that perfectly fits every client's situation. "The goal, then, becomes telling a story that's relatively close; relatable enough that your target prospect can envision themselves in your case study story."
- It is important to not only show the client a case study that they see themselves in, but to paint a picture of a future that meets their real needs and compels them to take action.
- Once the client's personality and needs have been matched with the right case study, the story can be woven into the overall ABM strategy.
ABM Case Study: Medidata
- Medidata is "a cloud-based platform of enterprise resource planning and platform services supporting the clinical trial process at top pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms." Said clinical trials take an average of a decade and $1 billion to implement.
- Their ABM strategy "was designed to offer an additional layer of reassurance" to the many decision-makers at their client companies, which meant "understanding the needs, fears, and aspirations of every individual involved in the purchase process."
- Working with SiriusDecisions, Medidata developed a target list of 1,600 individuals across a hundred target companies which represented $9.1 billion in potential business.
- As a result of its ABM strategy, Medidata "achieved a seven-fold increase in engagement and tripled revenue from targeted accounts, generated more qualified leads, and increased purchase velocity from initial contract to signed revenue."
Loyalty Programs in Healthcare B2B
- While it is not uncommon to find loyalty programs and B2B marketing discussed in the same article, loyalty programs that specifically target B2B clients are relatively rare.
- Companies who market loyalty program platforms and other solutions sometimes note that their solution is suitable for B2B programs as well, but these are more often tacked-on as an afterthought than offered as a key feature.
- This seems odd given the many benefits of improving customer loyalty in B2B relationships:
- "A brand’s business value has a 21.4% impact on perceived benefits, while personal value has a 42.6% impact" (Loyalty 360).
- "90% of B2B and consumer audiences agree that brand experiences delivering stronger personal interactions offer more compelling brand engagements" (Loyalty 360).
- "About 85% of B2B decision-makers start the buying process after a referral from a friend or colleague" (Loyalty 360).
- "81% of B2C content marketers are concerned with creating content that builds loyalty with existing customers" (PointVisible).
- Despite an exhaustive search of B2B marketing company articles, healthcare industry sources, and marketing award sites, we found only a single case study within the healthcare industry, which we will present below with a caveat; as noted by Annex Cloud, "there is no one-size-fits-all loyalty program. Especially not in the business-to-business industry."
- We found several case studies of other B2B loyalty programs. However, in all cases, the industries were so different from healthcare that, upon reviewing the case studies, we judged that they lacked applicability for this project.
- For example, we do not see that a B2B loyalty program by oil manufacturer Castrol for its mechanic clients would provide any insights relevant to the project criteria. Most case studies involved a similar manufacturer-to-retailer relationship.
- IBM's Know Your IBM (KYI) B2B loyalty program may have more applicability since it rewards taking online courses that train retailers in the use and repair of IBM hardware and selling IBM products. However, while this program was wildly successful (62% of IBM's 2018 revenue came from the 15% of its business clients that participated in the program), we are not convinced that the program would be applicable in a healthcare context.
Physician Loyalty Program Case Study
- Annex Cloud presents a case study in which their client, an unnamed "a large specialty healthcare company with an array of products like over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals," wanted to build a loyalty program targeting their physician clients.
- The client implemented a tiered program in which discounts depended on a given physician's spend. The exact details are not disclosed.
- The results: