HomeResourcesWhy the digital pace of healthcare companies is defined by its organizational design


Why the digital pace of healthcare companies is defined by its organizational design

Healthcare companies arrived rather late at the digital party, but the good news is that they are catching up as we speak, which makes this an extremely exciting time! As many of our customers active in the healthcare industry, we are witnessing an interesting shift. Not only are companies setting up partnerships and ecosystems with tech providers or start-ups, but they are also taking steps within their organizations by, for example, creating new job roles with a focus on digital and/or customer experience.

Of course, this shift has an impact on their existing marketing organizations. In the past months, several healthcare companies reached out to us with questions such as:

  • How do we prepare our marketing organization to focus more on customer experience?
  • How can we train our people to be ready for this?
  • What kind of skills should we internalize, and which resources need to be hired externally?
  • How do we adapt our structure and processes to be future-proof?
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There is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, but a typical learning I’m sharing with all our customers is: please take a look at other industries and let yourself be inspired. Grasp the learnings from front-runners and adapt them to your specific needs.

For this article, I selected 3 recommendations for the healthcare industry that are based on our cross-industry experience:

Companies that already have an extended customer base after an intense acquisition focus can decide to have a look at their pool of customers and focus on how to offer and extract more value there. It’s the combination of both which is at the center of Value Management: with a better understanding of the needs and wishes of your customers, you are able to offer them more value through your products and services, and in return their lifetime value increases.

1. Make sure your board members have digital experience

To be able to accelerate in the digital field, a company needs leaders with the right technological understanding, an innovative mindset and industry experience. Despite recent shifts, the healthcare sector continues to lag behind most other industries and is not yet where it needs to be — truly transforming at scale. Moreover, there’s some time pressure, as agile tech players are invading the healthcare space.

The good news is that most healthcare companies have a board member who has end responsibility when it comes to digital transformation. This chief digital officer needs to be the catalyst who connects the digital dots in an organization. They will often manage the partnerships with technology providers to deliver platforms and analytic capabilities.

Unfortunately, we often see that the person who coordinates these initiatives does not have the digital experience him- or herself. This is a missed opportunity, simply because someone who lacks the experience will not be able to initiate challenging discussions with the people setting-up digital initiatives.

Is your organization not ready yet to commit itself to installing a digital experienced leader in your management board? Then, consider the creation of an advisory board. They can work alongside the management board on a specific area of transformation.

2. Install cross-industry experience in your digital marketing team

I challenge you to test it yourself. Read a vacancy for a digital marketer in a healthcare company. You’ll see that in 9 out of 10 of these vacancies, one of the requirements will be ‘experience in the pharma or medical industry’. While hiring someone with industry experience gives you the advantage that these people will onboard faster, it will slow you down instead of making you accelerate when it comes to future-proof marketing capabilities and innovation. Copying the initiatives of other healthcare companies will not make you stand out.

While it is widely acknowledged that diverse teams make better decisions and are more innovative, purely focusing on industry experience will make you miss out on many growth opportunities. Other industries, like retail, telco or financial services, are transforming at a much faster pace, so it would be enriching for your organization to hire such a profile in a digital marketing role. They will nurture your marketing team with best practices and out-of-the box ideas that will surprise and delight your customers. Don’t forget that one’s mindset, their eagerness to learn, and corresponding values are most important of all.

3.Encourage experimentation

Digital evolves extremely fast. Therefore, it’s a pitfall for healthcare companies to stick to the traditional ways of working, merely copying the marketing tactics that have worked the year before. Companies at the forefront of digital capabilities have one thing in common: they trust in data and experimentation.

Often, I hear pharma marketers complaining that starting a new initiative is extremely hard because each idea needs to be validated by so many different people who all have a different opinion… The result is that in the end nothing is left from the original idea. A funny quote I heard last week illustrates this: ‘At our company, the saying goes that you need to validate each idea with 20 different stakeholders and their dogs.’

When it comes to digital experimentation, it’s important to adopt a growth marketing mindset. There has to be room to test a lot of different initiatives on a small scale in order to know what works and what doesn’t. Experiments that do not perform are dropped, more successful ones are scaled.

You might think that all of this sounds nice, but you’re wondering how to do this in an industry where compliance or regulations often block ideas because it’s unknown or too risky? Well, it is possible. In the past months, we have been collaborating with several pharmaceutical companies, applying the growth marketing methodology. We learned a lot and had some very nice results!