What Should Healthcare Marketers Know?

These are my views addressing Healthcare marketers who are coming in (with technology) for the future. A twitter conversation with @HealthIsSocial is shared to encourage you to post your comments.


Healthcare Conversations

Rameshwaram Discussions X Social Media Gist

A friendly discussion at Rameshwaram about the place, where to stay, what to see and how social media is relevant for a hotel promotion. It was one of those days of north-east monsoon storms that we get usually. So it was windy and hence you might have to use an external speaker or use your headphones to listen with good volume. You can learn a great deal about Rameshwaram and can buzz Raghu who is in the video by using the above link of his hotel.

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Why I Am Upbeat About MSME Moving Towards eCommerce

7K0A0947I have been talking, thinking and discussing about eCommerce for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) and posted a few thoughts in the last few posts.

The reasons why I think MSMEs will be good successful participants of eCommerce are

  • Single Owners (single can mean individual or family)
  • Own Capital (most of them run their businesses on their own capital)
  • Owners can take decisions (Decision Makers)
  • Decision Makers control and manage the business on a daily basis
  • Most of them will have experience ranging from 10-40 years in business
  • Most of them know all the business challenges of their respective businesses

Don’t you think there is a strong case for their moving towards eCommerce with such strong attributes which help the decision making and transition required. Feel free to comment or add what you think.

 

Taking MSME Towards eCommerce

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

I wrote The Vegetable Vendor And The eStore and eStore: Get Inspired By Volvo.

I had said that training programs, with basic content, educating about eCommerce will help rates of adoption. 

Training Programs

  • The training should start from introduction to Internet, mobile Internet and online market concept.
  • Businesses should be taught to think of opportunities. 
  • They should be encouraged to check with their existing customers and see some proof.
  • Seeing their name on the internet will sure encourage them to do this exercise of showing and getting more feedback.  
  • They can be taught to start from the Contact Page (even their promotion to customers can start here).
  • They will see a lot of relevance when they start from this page. They can be taught to spend a few hours everyday online.
  • Simple designs, video testimonials can be easily picked up by them while they learn. 
  • It should be explained that eCommerce can be tried as a part of overall business while they are on the learning curve with limited resources.
  • They can use Signage and Hand-outs to promote their presence online with existing customers and/or at their current traditional outlets. 

What sellers can do over the internet:

  • Learn Internet as a market place
  • Learn marketing over the internet
  • Learn actual selling over the internet
  • Learn to share information
  • Collaborate internally (with employees)
  • Learn the advantage of expanding markets, if they can deliver over the internet

Factors that could encourage people adopt eCommerce

  • Increased sales
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved customer service leading to increase in sales
  • Supply chain streamlining and solving continuity issues
  • Overall efficiency compared to traditional methods employed

Shortcomings

  • Lack of Internet access
  • Lack of skilled staff
  • Consumer indifference
  • Security concerns
A comparison of current costs, necessary capital costs, ongoing costs, timeline to experiment, measuring some of the factors discussed above and a review of all these every 3 months can be done with businesses to encourage adoption or to alert them to fine-tune to make it successful or even to discontinue. 
 
Such training programs can be done through trade associations and so many other non-profit associations which work in the welfare of MSMEs.  
 
I am sure increasingly eCommerce will become the order of the day. But those who help businesses gain advantage will lead from the front establishing themselves through conversions by creating a good ecosystem for the growing eCommerce. 

eStore: Get Inspired By Volvo

I posted The Vegetable Vendor And The eStore.

It attracted comments as follows (Taking the liberty with Sumant and Rajesh to post it here).

I believe that people who offer eStore  like Net My Store can start a new trend and help people maintain their customers and also improve upon them. The vegetable vendor is only an example. There are so many traders/other vendors who are struggling to keep up their businesses with increasing costs and loosing customers fast. They have no clue to what hits them. Most of them have to shed what they have been doing for generations and look for new work. That is not easy. They suffer a lot.

I was thinking about Sumant’s question of  “Are they “equipped” enough to use it?”. Good question. Answer is “obviously, they are not”. Through the last one-week it was running in my mind.  Will they be “equipped” ever? That looks tough if we think standing on their shoes. So the next question: Is there anything that such people who promote “eStores” can offer to them?

Take a break. Another thought today.

In recent years, we find Volvos plying everywhere. How do you think they have won? It is just not their vehicle. If they had kept talking about only their vehicle and has left it in the hands of those who are not “equipped” to handle it, it would have been very tough for both them and the buyers. I think their success can be attributed to their investment on Driver Training Program. Read this page here.

Now back to what we were discussing. I know a lot of differences exist. I know acquisition costs will be higher if you do the training as part of your selling. But let us forget the differences. Is there any learning that we can capture from it? Can the eStore guys put together an “Online Store Training Program” ? Will it make a difference? Can it be sold? If yes, it should be done through channels like trader associations which will make it easier.

I am sure such training programs with basic content (will write about it sometime later) will be very attractive and might even create a lot of new jobs in other areas of work. What do you think?

Or will these stores prefer to wait for them to be “equipped”? And is that the right thing to do? Just thinking loud.

Feel free to comment. I am here to listen.

How To Start Pharma Digital Journey

courtesy: HubSpot offers

courtesy: HubSpot offers

Context

I recently had a discussion about “going #digital” with a pharma executive. I showed him this. He confided that he believes digital as the way forward but simply does not know how to propose to his management. He also said that it all looks fantastic to talk but when you want to start, you go nowhere. He was sure that his management will not accept any proposal which talks about a budget for gadgets.

We shall go about discussing some aspects of it to the extent a blog post would allow it. I confine this discussion to what pharma can internally decide and execute because that’s where I want them to start with their learning curve. I welcome you to join this discussion by reading, making notes of your thoughts and sharing your comments.

Pharma Campaigns

Pharma marketing operates with 3-6 campaigns every year. On an average, a minimum of 4 meetings (one per each quarter) are called for, to meet with the reps within the company. The expenses incurred for such a campaign briefing meeting (every company has different names for such meetings) include

  • Expenses of Reps travelling from the towns they are based to where the meeting is held (to and fro)
  • A place for them to stay for 2-3 nights
  • Food for them on all these days
  • A meeting place
  • Paper-based stationery and training material
  • Going by our own experience, atleast two working days get spoilt other than these meeting days (yeah! you can contest that)

What happens in a campaign briefing meeting? The following list (indicative but not limited to) gets discussed

  • Product priorities (seasonal, new launches etc.)
  • Mapping the product priorities to the Drs List (a term pharma people understand well)
  • Sampling strategy
  • Detailing strategy
  • Detailing priorities within that individual detailing strategy
  • Follow-up calls (Number of times to visit each category of doctors)
  • Targets (primary and secondary)
  • Training/briefing reps to execute these
  • Analysis of last  quarter sales figures or YTD sales (year-to-date)
  • Announcements of incentives against achievements and for future achievements

You will find that most of the above are mere communication except the training part. In my experience such meetings will not allow time for individual attention of reps and hence not much of individual discussions happen during these briefing days. They happen with respective bosses after these meeting days (mostly while working in the field).

Now consider the fact that most of these can be done through digital platforms with much more efficiency at a fraction of the costs that are currently incurred.

Efficiency because

  • The training material as videos can be played back any number of times by the rep to learn without additional costs. A series of 2 minutes video learning in between Dr calls might be more effective than once in a quarter learning.
  • Mock sessions through digital platforms, which will improve the rep, costs next to nothing and can be a continuous process as part of the work regimen.
  • Product quizzes can be done online and can be part of the evaluation for further training.
  • Feedback Systems that I spoke about here

Generally I get two objections:

1. Nothing like physically being together for motivation, team spirit, blah, blah, blah…(I come from the traditional background and hence I know every inch of that territorial objections to give soltuions).

2. Investment costs of gadgets are high

1. Being together:

You can do the 3-6 campaign briefings through digital platforms and use that savings to take your reps to exotic locations for being together, develop team spirit and for unwinding once or twice a year. That way, you fund yourselves and, I bet, the reps will like both being sophisticated in work with the gadgets, learning and also the exotic unwinding trips. You will start a trend which others shall follow. You will attract the best talent too.

2. Investments

This is a false objection. Because you dont need to be a maths genius to know that if you calculate the costs of all those campaigns over a period of 1-3 years you can fund yourself for the gadgets and still might save some money. And listen, the benefit is not just the cost. Imagine how your company will get transformed through this and also how customers will perceive your reps and your company. Hence investing(initially) and transforming your company through digital platforms should be a no-brainer. It is an investement that pays itself off and also ensures your future. In the long-run you can have huge cost savings too. All those digital creations can be used in the training departmernt for new comers. That again is a big benefit because these are created for real situations and a huge experience with instituitional memories come along. Such realistic company owned training materials will stand you in good stead for years to come. So much of ROI. Think about it.

Have Both?

Some still might feel that their successes live on their physical campagin briefings. Even if you conduct your briefings in a traditional way, digital platforms can help you increase effectiveness by follow-ups in a bettter way. Traditional ways and digital ways are not the same. Hence a word of caution here. Old strategies with newer tools dont work. But you can make a start by demarcating some parts of it to go the digital way. This is not something that you have to achieve overnight and it is not possible too. But you can make a start towards survival for the future.

My question (or rather answer) to those pharma executives

As pharma person, you know from where these false objections come from and why. You also know how to overcome them. Why will you not apply them interally and convince your management to move forward? We are not even talking about rep-physician relationship or relationship with distributors, chemists and finally patients. We are talking about internal implementation with your own people. What say? You are the best judge.

Is there anything that I did not factor in? Add them. Feel free to share your comments. I will be willing to talk to you if you need help.

The Vegetable Vendor And The eStore

http://www.vvarma.com/2012/12/jackfruit-design-and-illustration-part-2.html

We buy our vegetables from our regular vendors. They come with their cart or some of them carry the goods on them. In this age of fashionable supermarkets and hypermarkets, we still buy from the vendor who comes to our gate and showcases what they have.

Advantages

  1. No use of plastic bags (they bring in their eco-friendly big basket and transfer to our small baskets)
  2. No travel in traffic, no parking issues, no pollution for us (they too mostly walk and push their carts around)
  3. No need to remember to buy vegetables. One reminder less on my gadget.
  4. No need to remember what was bought recently. They know and hence bring the vegetables in rotation.
  5. No need to stock-up for a week and hence more fresh (they come almost daily or on alternate days). The load and space on the fridge is available for other things.
  6. Most of them bring garden vegetables and hence better.
  7. For them it is just not a business. Their earning supports a family. Sometime you get to know their progress. Feel good factor.
  8. If there is a quality problem, no need to argue or show bills. They accept and even if we don’t return or deduct, they take more care next time.
  9. No bills, less paper, ecofriendly.

Drawbacks

  1. Some variety of veggies we might miss. We need to go in search of them and buy.
  2. Hygiene: sometimes we need to be wary of this. (Though applicable for supermarkets too).
  3. If all our neighbours buy from him/her, more or less the same dish will get cooked and might affect the exchange of cup-sized tasting measures between neighbours and hence might affect that culture.

Occassionally we buy from those superstores too. There are distinct advantages in buying from such stores too.

Where do you buy and why? Add them in the comments.

Extending thoughts for these vendors:

Instead of worrying about supermarkets destroying their sales, some of the vendors can capitalize their relationship with customers and cater to them with newer tools of technology like eStore. It costs as low as INR500+ for a store on the net (eg: NetMyStore). Some of these vendors are big enough to afford these low cost stores and can try to increase their volume, turnover and profits by catering to segments like office-going households.  Who knows may be they can even think of an APP in near future? Most of them are a well-knit group, which will allow some of them to join together and cater with demarcated geographical areas using a single store. Has anyone done that?

Technology can play a great leveler and improve these vendors’ lives to newer heights. What do you think? Feel free to comment.

Empowering Systems For Pharma

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

I wrote about a pharma case-study here: Big Data and What they can do

Meaningful reports on time

There are many situations in pharma where quality feedback in a timely manner is of paramount importance.  All of us in Pharma believe, and know, the reports of feedback that are written during the same work session or the same day is of higher value than what is written after a week. Hence many pharma companies have the practice of daily reports or feedback then-and-there. But for a working representative it is highly difficult to write such feedback reports. He has to take the time-out and this is always difficult when he runs from clinic-to-clinic in the race of finishing the day’s work of mandatory Dr calls. (“Dr calls” being the jargon used to state the number of doctors to be seen by a rep every day of work). While the unproductive data of whom he saw and what he did can wait, the feedback from the doctors (whenever, wherever applicable) could be very productive and important. Pharma people can well imagine how this can even work with Doctors’ requests for some information or a sample and how far it can take them with the competitive advantage it can provide. In a cut-throat market any slight differentiation towards better support to the field sales force creates a good distinction resulting in huge success.

Feedback through voice calls

Imagine if the representatives can just give their feedback taken from the doctors by voice calls. These can be submitted online immediately through the phone and will be available to the management almost on real-time. Evaluate such a feedback on the merits of its quality, timeliness and also relevance of being acted upon. It could apply in such a way that that one of the three or all the three could be of use in any given situation.  I am sure the field sales force people will be highly motivated to use such a system and also the results will be much more realistic feedback with better quality and will be timely too.

The system of voice call feedback that I am referring to is being used today by other industries for taking “customer feedback” in an audio form and there is enough proof to say that the feedbacks are getting better going by the number of customers who opt for such systems. I am not even suggesting that Pharma take a leap and start with such systems for “adverse reaction reporting” or for other patient feedback, which needs to be seen through the eyes of regulatory and legal departments in Pharma. But they can sure use it with their representatives for market feedback, which will stand them in good stead and allow them to learn a lot to fine-tune their market strategies.

There are quite a number of options available within these systems and everything is customizable. One can use just a phone for the voice call or through Internet or through APPS or through a smartphone APP with Internet. So it will fit many situations in many ways.

Incremental efforts yet effective results

Pharma has to think of new systems in the coming years to reduce the barriers of reporting and equip their field sales forces in a better manner in this digital age.  Many such systems are simple, yet effective and can offer solutions for many of Pharma’s pain points today.  Pharma can take incremental steps to try out newer ways and solutions towards a better future.

Feel free to post your comments on what you think.

Sharing As A Competitive Advantage

foto courtesy: Hubspot offers

foto courtesy: Hubspot offers

Let me share a few good articles on healthcare that I had read recently and bookmarked:

Are physicians still responsible for mistakes in health care?

Communication: the missing piece in the adherence puzzle

RESPECT FOR THE PATIENTS AND THEIR TIME

What do you do when you read a nice meaningful article? I share them through twitter, linkedin, Google+. If you are around, let us get connected there. I bookmark some of the articles that I read to share later. I share them in a relevant way with people when we have related discussions. This helps me substantiate what I say during the discussions and add a lot of credibility. It makes other people share what they find relevant for me to learn. Talk about win-win.

I look at sharing as a competitive advantage.

The two major tools that I use are diigo and evernote. Emailing to my evernote is an awesome feature that I love. I share my lists from my diigo library with associates and my clients so that when we discuss a topic I can refer the shared article and they would know what I am talking about.

What do you use? How do you share ideas? How do you store them to use it in a relevant way for the future?

Feel free to comment and also get connected.

My Point Of View To Healthcare IT Entrepreneurs

 

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

Context

I get a lot of connections of IT(information technology) people through my IT and pharma friends. Whenever there is a discussion of IT applications in Pharma and/or healthcare, the discussions get referred to me (Thanks Guys). When companies pitch me with their products, they appreciate my understanding of their objectives and the underlying technologies that they explain. Since this comprehension of mine is more than the average pharma/healthcare person, my feedback is taken well and word-of-mouth gets extended leading to more references.  I am happy to work with them.

Good Aspects

Some of the good aspects that I see include:

  • These entrepreneurs are sincere
  • They are young, energetic and work very hard
  • They use the online resources well and do their home-work well
  • They try to understand as much as possible
  • They have enough expertise on the technology side
  • They are able to think through the IT processes in a good fashion
  • They are all futuristic

Areas of learning

I repeatedly find that these entrepreneurs have some (same) issues. Here they are and my point of view on each of them.

#1. They think IT is a cure for everything.

My pov: It is not. IT is just an enabler. It is not going to be bought like a cure for every problem that is being faced. It is going to be evaluated with respect to how much it can support the present system, how much it can enable things and how far it can take them as futuristic solutions. Patients must be at the center of your solution and healthcare practitioners must endorse (just not your claims) that it is a better solution than what they are currently practicing and the barriers of change can be overcome. Benefits should override the resistance.

#2. Most of the so-called entrepreneurs claim that they know about healthcare when they really don’t.

My pov: If you are from IT and have read extensively through articles on healthcare, know the jargons and their meanings well (well that gives a good intro), still you are far away from healthcare as it is practiced. Even if you had worked on a healthcare product at the back-end services team and have interacted with a lot of healthcare people, it doesn’t mean you know healthcare enough to launch a product. Reality of healthcare practitioners, as they live it, is completely different and they are not going to like your pretense about knowing what they do and how they do it.

#3. Some entrepreneurs show their experience from past with teams that developed healthcare products for western markets as part of outsourcing work and they think they can tweak it and introduce it in India.

My pov: It simply does not work. Instead of wasting time in tweaking and failing completely, try to understand what are the underlying differences in healthcare practice and learn that you need to develop a product from scratch for every market that you work with. It is easier, faster and better. Do not apply extension of IT product logic alone in healthcare solutions. This is far more serious and completely different.

#4. At most of the pitches that I get, I end up being asked, “What do you think should we be doing?”

My pov: Most of the time I see that you do not have a person who has real experience with healthcare or pharma. Have a member in your team who knows the insights having worked with the domain. Even if they are not able to give you all the answers, they will guide you to the right person/place where you can get a lot of answers and validate your thoughts and take you closer to reality. Such a person in your team will be complimentary and will bring a lot of synergy into your activities.

Most of the entrepreneurs initially resist but agree with me when I tell them these points with examples customized to what they are building as a product. I hope to see some of them quickly finding their way into healthcare/pharma domain and wish them to come out with flying colours.

There is a great deal of potential with healthcare and pharma for IT applications. There is a lot of space for many more entrepreneurs to enter and contribute to healthcare/pharma and in turn building a successful company. There is so much potential for both IT and Pharma people to come together and create solutions. That way it will be more successful.

What do you think? Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts.