3 Ways to personalize your “non-personal promotion”

Learning from the B-to-B superstars

This is the sixth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Non-personal promotion. What a weird concept. As my extrovertic partner, Bill Fleming says, “In any other industry—the direct mail, digital marketing and telephonic selling—would just be called marketing.” The term “non-personal promotion” is an artifact of the pharmaceutical industry’s insular focus on the sales force model. If anything, most other industries involved in business-to- business (B-to-B) marketing are focused on making every contact, no matter what the channel, more personal.

Here are three good examples from the all-stars of B-to-B marketing worth exploring:

1. IBM – Using social media to personalize telesales. According to an article in ChiefMarketer.com, when telemarketing and email were failing to produce results, IBM got personal. IBM knew that the IT decision makers they targeted were active on social media. IBM’s studies showed that the IT decision makers they were after were likely to use social media as a part of their purchasing decision making in the future.

So IBM created social media profiles for a small team of inside sales representatives on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. To make it seamless for the reps, IBM created a robust content calendar available via an RSS feed. IBM also provided hash tags specific to their verticals such as #informationsecurity, so the reps could listen to relevant online conversations.

The results? IBM has over 50,000 LinkedIn connections (up from 535 in the beginning of the test), over 20 major sales wins and has experienced a quicker uptake of their promotional offers. Check out Stuart Michie’s YouTube video for a good example of how to talk about a representative’s expertise.

2. Cisco – Video takes center stage. Again, customer understanding formed the basis of their strategy. According to an article on OnlineVideo.net, Cisco’s research found that 96% of IT decision makers and tech buyers watch videos for business. And most importantly, 84% either forward, share or post tech-related videos. So Cisco started creating videos, over 1,000 new videos a year.

And Cisco uses a disciplined process of creating videos for each step of the sales funnel: thought leadership videos to build awareness, case studies for customers in the consideration phase, video data sheets to aid in the design phase and training videos for the post-sale phase. This customization is yet another way to personalize non-personal promotion.

Too expensive? Think again. You don’t need the production values of a DTC commercial or a MOA video. According to Cisco’s Leslie Drate,“it doesn’t really matter how much we spend on producing the video. The results for what we spend $100,000 on could be similar to what we spend $1,000 on. It just has a lot to do with content and audience.”

3. CenturyLink – Understanding your customer’s self-conception. Consider how CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) tapped into its customer mindset with their Ultimate Problem Solver campaign. According to a post on the CEB Marketing Leadership site, the key insight driving this campaign was that CenturyLink’s buyers saw themselves as professional problem solvers. So CenturyLink created an online game that let customers show their expertise with lots of difficult problems to solve. By aligning the company with their buyers’ self-conception, the game helps humanize and make the company seem closer to their buyers.

The key concepts to extrapolate from these B-to-B all-stars is to understand your customers and embrace the technology they use to market to them. So here are a couple of thought-starters on how to export the best of B-to-B marketing to payer and provider marketing:

  1. Try a social media pilot program. Provide either a telesales rep or payer national accounts manager with a Facebook page. Levels of access to information can easily be controlled. Content could include interesting stories related to your therapeutic area, patient support material or journal articles. According to a QuantiaMD study cited in Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News, over 65% of physicians use social sites for professional purposes.
  2. Get into the video business. Evaluate all your printed materials and determine what makes sense as a video. Distribute the video widely, especially on YouTube. The Google algorithm favors social media such as YouTube and Facebook over other online media properties.
  3. Know your customers on a deeper level. How do your payer customers see themselves in the new health care environment? As crusaders against high costs? As protectors of the profit margin or as brining power to the patient? Wouldn’t their self-conception make a difference in the types of content you provide? 

Check back next Thursday for the seventh post in the twelve part series, “How to write health care copy that people will actually read.” In this post, I explore how to apply the journalistic approach to better engage patients in their health.