Marketing to Gen Y HCPs (healthcare professionals)

Are you adapting to this tech savvy groups’ rules of engagement?

Born in the mid-1980’s and later, Generation Y are teenagers and young adults just entering the workforce. Generation Y (also known as the Millennials) is the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce. As healthcare and pharma marketers compete to engage with healthcare professionals (HCPs), they cannot afford to ignore the needs, desires, attitudes and behaviours of this group of individuals.

Gen Y – Tech-savvy digital natives

Generation Y grew up with technology and use it more frequently and rely on it to perform their jobs, research and purchasing. Armed with BlackBerrys, iphones, laptops, ipads and other gadgets, Generation Y is plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This generation prefers to communicate through instant messaging (IM) and texts rather than face-to-face contact and prefers webinars and online technology to traditional brochure and lecture-based sales presentations.

We’re living in an age where information is everywhere and where everyone can reach them, however the Gen Y community is pretty selective about who they take notice of and engage with. If you were to look at their Facebook and Twitter accounts, you’ll soon realise that they tend to get their information from their peers and friends—not from sales reps they’ve never met, and certainly not from the media. And wait for this, the information they get from each other is not just via emails, they text one another; they IM; they blog; they tweet; they watch YouTube clips and network on LinkedIn. And sometimes they do all this at the same time! Most of the time, Gen Y doesn’t care about what you as marketers have to say unless you have been given the nod by their friends. They care about what their community says, and they take their network’s recommendations very seriously. You only have to look at the Sanofi-Aventis and GSK Facebook cases to appreciate the power and influence a community can have when companies aren’t playing to their rules! (Just in case you aren’t aware Facebook’s recent commenting policy now requires most pharma pages to allow commenting).

The importance of authenticity and transparency

So, it is fair to say that Gen Y tend to be more selective with the information they absorb and the people or companies they connect with. In their minds, you need to earn the right to engage with them, they decide whether or not they want to open their digital door to you and when it’s time for you to part of their network and conversations.

Generation X (they grew up with the phone and fax) typically don’t like to complain, they just vote with their feet and quietly walk away and don’t come back for more. However, Gen Y are different, they are more vocal and they make it their business to inform their community about your crap service or your products nasty side effects. They do this because they value their community and don’t want them to suffer in the same way – the bigger and more open the community, the more that community as a whole benefits, which is why people connect to individuals they are never ever likely to meet face to face.

Collaborate and connect don’t shout and sell!

So how do you engage with them? Well you need to be patient and you need to collaborate with them and connect up with their community by being helpful. One thing you certainly don’t want to do is take down your Facebook page as soon as you get some negative feedback from customers to prevent those comments from spreading. But spread they will, and more quickly and on a much bigger scale than you’d ever anticipate. You need to be part of the conversation and the community expects you to listen, respond and put things right, should things go wrong. The community want to be reasonable and open and so they expect the same from you. If you play by their rules and open up, be transparent and genuine, then you’re more likely to earn back their respect and trust. Social networks have made it very hard for any company to hide its weaknesses, so you need to embrace them and look at how you can leverage a community’s ability to become advocates of your products and services by opening up conversations, obtaining feedback, providing things of value to that community and most importantly being authentic and honest at all times.

Inbound marketing tactics are more likely to be more effective when trying to reach and engage with Gen Y HCPs. We’re all aware of how busy GPs are and they are likely to get busier when the NHS reforms take place. So, will they have the time to sit down with a medical sales rep and have he/she talk through their 100 strong portfolio of products, I’d say unlikely. Gen Y GPs and Pharmacists are more likely to be reaching for their smartphones or tablet PCs and carrying out a keyword search on Google or posting a message to their peers on LinkedIn or via Twitter to obtain information on a possible new drug or medical device for their patients. They are in control over what information they seek and trust and it is the search engines along with the social networks they participate in that they gravitate towards, after all this is the norm for them and part of their social makeup. I recently learnt that medical students at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School get given tablet PCs when they start their course and so I think it is safe to assume that they would be taking tools like these into their work environment also.

Practical strategies for engaging with Gen Y HCPs

Think about what you can to do for them that will help them to save time, improve their decision making and knowledge.

  1. Be in the right place at the right time. Can they find you when they need to? How visible are you on Google for keywords relevant to your products, services and therapy areas? If you’ve never done any search engine marketing before, run a trial pay per click advertising campaign to test which keywords put you in front of your desired target audience
  2. Discover the groups and networks that HCPs participate in and look to contribute to those conversations, with the view of adding value and helping that community as opposed to blatantly trying to sell something to the community
  3. Create digital assets – not just physical ones
    a. Use slideshare to upload presentations and YouTube to demonstrate product features or discuss clinical trials
    b. Optimise those assets so they can get found in search engines also
    c. Convert product brochures and research materials/technical/medical papers to ebooks and into formats that can easily be viewed on ipads, smartphones and ebook readers
    d. Think about how an app might help a GP with their day job, like calcualting dosage amounts or provide a surgeon with an interactive guide about how to correctly use a particular medical device
  4. If you do want to promote your business think about using the precision ad targeting opportunities offered by LinkedIn, but remember to think carefully about what it is you want to say to that community to get them interested. What information will you drive them to that can help them to save time, improve their decision making and knowledge.
  5. Think about how you can use podcasts and webinars to deliver product demos and to present clinical tests and findings, not only do they help to extend the shelf-life of your presentations but they allow HCPs to view them in their own time, which might be early morning or at the weekend.
  6. Lastly but by no means least, make sure you track the effectiveness of each channel using web and call analytics and URL shortening tools like bit.ly

By no means am I suggesting that healthcare and pharma brands ditch all their conventional marketing and outbound sales tactics but marketers do need to consider allocating a suitable proportion of their marketing budget to digital and if they don’t then they risk missing out on engaging with a whole new group of tech and web savvy healthcare professionals.

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