Healthcare marketing: What you need to be successful



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Healthcare marketing can be more challenging than other types of businesses. Rarely do we think of one customer. Instead, we focus on many types of customers. Some healthcare brands may need to focus on the end consumer or patient. B2B healthcare brands need to focus on healthcare professionals who are end users who need the to perform their jobs. Pharma marketers or OTC brands may focus on the healthcare professional as the decision-makers on behalf of their patients. And, it could even get more complex when the focus should be the parents of younger children or the adult child looking after a senior parent. For healthcare marketers, we teach how to think strategically, how to use brand positioning, how to build a marketing plan, how to make marketing execution decisions, and how to analyze the brand. 

Regardless, healthcare marketers must use their brand positioning to establish a reputation and create a bond with customers. Healthcare decisions by customers are much more emotional, yet too many healthcare companies focus on product features as the main differentiator and use price as their usual deal closer.

I have a special spot in my heart for healthcare marketing. Having spent 12 years between Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson, I worked on OTC (Over-The-Counter), consumer healthcare, and prescription brands. And, as a consultant, I have worked with many healthcare brands, including OTC, pharmaceutical, medical equipment, leading hospitals, and scientific discovery brands. Clients have included the Mayo Clinic, Pfizer, Ontario Health, Alexion, Johnson and Johnson, BD, Shopper’s Drug Mart, and Signia hearing aids.  

Are you a healthcare marketer?

Learn how to think, define, plan, execute, and analyze.

To define a healthcare brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement, a customer profile, and a healthcare professional profile. Then, we introduce our customer benefits ladder with lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. 

We explore the step-by-step process to develop your brand idea and bring it together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. We show the two-sided coin of a healthcare brand concept, expressed to the healthcare professional and the consumer. 

Building the brand plan.

Healthcare marketers must know how to build their brand plans. I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for creating a brand calendar and specific project plans. 

To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on execution around creative communications and media choices. I provide all the tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, customer, channels, healthcare professionals, competitors, and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know to run your brand. 

We have translated most of our brand tools into brand management templates in downloadable PowerPoint presentations that you can purchase at 

My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential in your career. The big difference with our Healthcare Marketing Training program is that every example I use will be a healthcare brand. 

To illustrate what healthcare marketers must know, click to zoom in. 

Healthcare marketing strategy

Strategic thinkers see questions before they see solutions

Ever hear someone say, “That’s a good question?” It usually means someone has just asked an interruptive question, designed to slow everyone’s thinking, so they reflect and plan before acting. 

The strategic thinking side of marketing is logical and has to map out a range of intersecting decision trees by imagining how events will play out in the future. There is a risk of being too strategic if you think too long, you may spiral around, unable to decide. Moreover, you may miss an opportunity window.

Everyone says they are strategic thinkers, yet few are. I confess that I was more of an instinctual marketer early in my career. Healthcare marketers need to slow down and organize our thoughts to learn strategic thinking. We look at five elements of strategic thinking, including the vision, strategic program, focused opportunity, market impact, and performance result. 

To help healthcare marketers, we have created a flywheel where the strategy keeps fueling more power and profit.  

Click on the diagram to zoom in on our strategic thinking flywheel

To illustrate how healthcare marketers should think, click to zoom in. 

Using Gray's QuitFix to demonstrate strategic thinking

Gray's QuitFix Healthcare Brand example for our marketing training program

Gray’s QuitFix is our healthcare marketing case study that we use to demonstrate our tools. It is a late entrant into the Quit Smoking business. The market is cluttered. Moreover, the open space is an idea that combines the physical and psychological elements of quitting—focusing the brand story on helping get past the cravings and mood swings. It needs doctors to carry our story to their patients. 

Gray’s relies on prescriptions through doctors. Professional marketing must trigger conversations between doctors and patients. The main benefit of Gray’s is that it handles the physical and psychological side of quitting, supported by the brand idea of “controlling your demons.”

Five elements of smart strategic thinking using our Gray’s QuitFix example:

1. Set a vision of what you want

Gray’s wants to be the first quit smoking brand to combine the physical and psychological benefits. Gray’s will be a $100 million brand by 2030. Like many new brands, Gray’s need high trial from doctor recommendations. 

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

As an idea-led brand at the rapid growth stage, Gray’s needs to build a strong bond with GPs to gain recommendations that will lead to trial, while using our success stories with patients to get other customers.

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

Gray’s recognizes the opportunity created by the failure of the mainstream gums and patches that are perceived as lightweight options by healthcare professionals.

4. Leverage a breakthrough market impact

It is the first prescription solution that doctors have been waiting for, and they are ready to push for high trial rates among their patients, which will enable Gray’s to gain significant market share results.

5. Achieve a performance result that pays back

Gray’s will drive high trial rates among the final stage of quitters who have failed many times, driving higher sales and establishing itself as the new prescription-strength brand

How to turn smart strategic thinking into strategic objective statements

Now, let’s look at turning your smart strategic thinking into writing a strategic statement that can provide specific marching orders to everyone who works on the brand. Writing strategy is an essential skill for healthcare marketers to know.

The process covers all five elements of smart strategic thinking. You can see that the brand vision and key issue statement cover the first strategic element. However, you need the strategic objective statement to cover the remaining four other strategic elements, including the program investment, focused opportunity, market impact, and the performance result. 

To illustrate how healthcare marketers must organize their thinking, click to zoom in. 

Here’s how that strategic objective statement breaks down:

Program investment: 

  • The strategy statement calls out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. In this example, the strategic program is to “Communicate Gray’s “stay in control” positioning.”

Focused opportunity: 

  • A breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. In this example, the focused opportunity is “to get smokers to start a conversation with their doctors.”

Market impact: 

  • Achieves a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is customers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers. In this example, the desired impact is to “who will inform them of Gray’s benefits to trigger trial.”

Performance result: 

  • Drive a specific performance result linked to the market impact, making the brand more powerful or more profitable. In this example, “drive higher market share.”

Writing your brand strategy statements

This unique strategic model will force you to pick answers to build a strategy statement with marching orders for those who follow your plan. As you develop your brand plan, I recommend using these four elements of smart strategic objective statements to ensure you structure the thinking.

Below is how we teach writing strategy statements in our Healthcare Marketing Training program 

The strategic program addresses what you are investing in and the target? And, focus provides a distinct opportunity to take advantage of. A market impact maps out the desired response as you move the customer along their journey. And, the performance result harnesses the power or profit.

To illustrate how healthcare marketers must write strategy, click to zoom in. 

Healthcare brands

How to define your brand positioning to set up your brand to win

If you do not define your brand, then you run the risk of the possibility that your competitors will define your brand. And you might not like it. 

I will show you the homework you must do to figure out a winning brand positioning statement. The tools are designed to help decide who your brand will serve and what you will stand for as a brand. Narrow the target to those customers who are most capable of loving what your brand does best. 

I will show you how to find the ideal balance between the functional and emotional benefits, to find which ones are simple, interesting, motivating, and ownable for your brand

To illustrate, click to zoom in. 

Brands have four choices: be better, different, cheaper, or else not around for long. 

As you create your brand positioning statement, look for the ideal space to play and space your brand can win. Your brand might be fast, but if your competitor is even faster, then you will lose out if you try to play in that space. 

Defining the ideal target market

Most marketers think of the type of customers they want to attract. Why not change your thinking and go after those customers who are already motivated by what your brand offers? So instead of asking, “Who do we want?” you should be saying, “Who wants us?”

I use seven fundamental questions to define and build a profile of your ideal target:

  1. Description of the ideal target?
  2. What are their main needs?
  3. Who is their enemy who torments them every day?
  4. What are the insights we know about the ideal target?
  5. What does they think now?
  6. How do they buy?
  7. What do we want them to see, think, do, feel or whisper?
For healthcare brands, you should do profiles for both the consumer target and the healthcare professional.
Healthcare Customer Profiles Healthcare Professionals Patients

Brand Positioning for Healthcare brands

Using the customer benefits ladder for healthcare brands

Once the customer profile has been completed, brainstorm all possible brand features that give your brand a competitive advantage. Move up to the functional benefits by asking, “So, what do I get from that?” Then move up to the emotional benefits by asking, “So, how does that make me feel?” 

To help brand leaders, I have created benefit cheatsheets with over 50 potential functional benefits and 40 potential emotional benefits. We show how to build your brand positioning around the right benefits. Then, add in the ideal reasons to believe that allow you to complete the brand positioning statement. Below is the brand positioning statement for Gray’s QuitFix, an example of a pharmaceutical brand.

Pharmaceutical example

To illustrate, click to zoom in. 

Other examples of healthcare brand positioning statements (click to zoom in)

Medical equipment/supplies (B2B)

Medical Equipment (consumer)

OTC (over the counter)

Scientific Discovery

Consumer Healthcare

Hospital or Research Center

To illustrate, click on any of the examples above. 

Building your brand idea

To me, the brand idea simplifies everything, not just for the customer or healthcare professionals, but for everyone working on the brand. The dictionary definition of the word “idea” means a thought, opinion, belief, or mental impression. A brand idea must be all those things. Healthcare marketers must know how to define their brand idea. Describe the products or services. What is the customer reputation? What about influencer HCP reputation? Cultural inspiration? And, then figure out the brand idea.

Brand Idea - Pharmaceutical example

To illustrate, click to zoom in. 

Brand idea checklist

For healthcare brands, find a brand idea that is interesting enough to engage and entice customers on a first encounter to want to know more. Keep it simple enough to gain entry into the customer’s mind. 

Your idea must be easily layered to organize everything you do to match up with the five customer touchpoints, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and customer experience. 

Build a brand reputation

The idea must be unique enough to build a reputation so customers will perceive the brand as better, different, or cheaper. Your brand idea must be able to motivate customers to think, feel, and act in ways that benefit your brand. The idea must represent the inner brand soul of everyone who works on the brand, inspiring employees to deliver the brand promise and amazing experiences. 

Finally, the brand idea must be ownable so no other competitor can infringe on your space, and you can confidently build your brand reputation over time. 

Brand idea - medical equipment / supplies

Brand Idea Medical Equipment brands (B2B)

To illustrate, click to zoom in. 

Brand idea - medical equipment for consumers

Healthcare Marketing  training program

To illustrate, click to zoom in.

Healthcare Brand Plan

Healthcare marketers must look at the plan as a decision-making tool that guides everyone who works on the brand. We teach how to come up with the brand vision, purpose, goals, key issues, strategies and marketing execution plans. If you are a healthcare marketer, you need to know how to build a plan.

To illustrate, click to zoom in.

As you write the annual brand plan, use the vision to steer the decisions. Then lay out the key issues and strategies as the guts of the plan. Lay out in a one pager. Or, use our template presentation. 


The analysis section lays out the summary from the deep-dive business review with an overview of the top three points, which envelop what is driving your brand’s growth, what is inhibiting your brand’s growth, which threats could hurt your brand and what opportunities your brand faces.  

Key issues and strategies: 

The key issues and strategies section focuses on the top three issues getting in the way of achieving your vision, which you should put in question format. Moreover, the strategic solutions are the answers that match up to each of those questions. Set goals to measure your brand’s performance against each strategy. 

Execution section: 

The execution section maps out the specific plans for each of the chosen execution areas that aligns with the most essential customer touchpoints.  

Pharmaceutical example

To illustrate, click on the Brand Plan to zoom in. 

I first came up with this “brand plan-on a page” format when I led a team with 15 brands. It helped me see the big picture quickly, rather than having to hunt through a big thick binder. Also, the sales team appreciated the ability to see the entire plan on one page quickly. Most salespeople also had 15 brands to manage with each of their customers. Everyone who works on your brand should receive the one-page plan and keep it close by to steer their day-to-day decisions. 

Other examples of marketing plans

Medical Equipment/Supplies

OTC / Consumer Healthcare

To illustrate, click on any of the examples above. 

Healthcare marketing on social media

Manage your customers through their purchase journey

While we talk a lot about customer-based social media options, we are seeing bigger opportunities for healthcare brands, whether you are reaching patients, healthcare professionasl or B2B customers.  It allows us to find prospects and move them through their journey. We look at attract, inform, close, service and delight. 

Attract and inform

To drive awareness, you need your marketing communications to stand out and be seen in a crowd using messaging that balances being creatively different and strategically smart. When your messages are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. On the other hand, when your messages are different but not smart, they will entertain customers, but do nothing for your brand. Your communications must be smart enough to trigger the desired customer response to match your brand strategy.

To move healthcare customers to the consideration stage, use influencers to teach those who seek to learn more. Use public relations to make the brand part of the industry news, whether through traditional, social, or blogger channels. Engage online user reviews or industry-specific review sites.

For more complex or higher risk purchase decisions, many healthcare professionals will rely on search for almost everything, even if to confirm what makes sense. Marketers can use search sites, such as Google, expert review sites, and online content or long copy print media. 

Over the last decade, I see a shift where healthcare professionals prefer to take the time to do their own research rather than a face-to-face call from a sales rep. The brand website comes into play and should include the right information to close off gaps or doubts, then move customers towards the purchase decision.  

To illustrate, click to zoom in.

Servicing through account based marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) can be used to move customers along their purchase journey to help trigger an initial purchase with displays, trial programs, or sales materials to prompt customers. Remarketing is a great tool to push customers who might feel stuck at the consideration stage to reconsider and buy.

After the purchase, use the account-based marketing to turn usage into an early purchase into a ritual among your most loyal users. Cultivate a collection of brand fans, using VIP programs and experiential events with exclusive deals — layer in emotional marketing communications to tighten the bond.

Delighting those who love the brand

Once you have a strong base, you can mobilize your brand lovers by intentionally creating shareable experiences, which will trigger brand lovers to share your brand communications with their network through social media. With the new social media tools, the smartest brands are getting their most engaged customers to drive awareness by sharing your message – and even enthusiastic user-generated content.

For B2B healthcare brands, always keep in mind the four-headed monster we talked about in the customer session, with the user, decision maker, buyer, and influencers. As you shift to engaging individuals, recognize the role each plays, and then match up your marketing communication to their specific needs.

Healthcare brands impact on media

Healthcare marketing training

Our healthcare marketing training will make your marketing team smarter. You will see them deliver their best possible performance on your brand. At Beloved Brands, we empower the ambitious healthcare marketers to achieve the extraordinary. 

Below is our brochure that explains how our healthcare marketing training can help your team

Engage the buttons to enlarge (X) or advance the slides (>).

How our Healthcare Marketing Training makes your team smarter

Strategic Thinking:

Our healthcare marketing training teaches brand leaders how to ask tough strategic questions to slow everyone down. Healthcare marketers need to approach strategy in a thoughtful, analytical way. We created a Strategic ThinkBox that allows marketers to interrogate their brand. Most importantly, it helps them look at the most important issues of the business. Furthermore, we force marketers to take a holistic look at their brand’s core strength, competitive landscape, tightness of the customer bond, and business situation.

Brand Positioning:

Our brand positioning process starts by finding out the ideal target is and how they would benefit from the brand. For healthcare brands, the target could be a healthcare professional, consumer/patient, or a decision-maker. We teach marketers how to find the emotional and functional benefits their brand can deliver. Then, we show how to find a unique space for their brand that is interesting, simple, motivating, and ownable. Furthermore, we introduce our brand idea tool and show how to communicate that brand idea across the organization. In addition, healthcare marketers learn how to write a brand concept, brand story, and a brand credo document. We show a range of healthcare brand examples.

Marketing Plans:

The marketing plan is a decision-making tool that communicates the expectations to everyone who works on the brand. We teach healthcare marketers how to put together the vision, purpose, goals, key issues, strategies and marketing execution plans. Our healthcare marketing training provides various tools including our one-page marketing plan and ideal presentation deck. Most importantly, we go into detail on how to write key issue questions and strategic statements that forms the foundation of the marketing plan.

Marketing Execution:

Our marketing execution training starts with the development of the creative brief, which serves as the bridge between the plan and execution. We review line-by-line of the creative brief and give you examples of the best and worst. Furthermore, we even provide participants with a checklist to make smarter decisions on your next marketing campaign. We introduce our creative checklist to help make smarter decisions on creative communications. All our examples are healthcare brands. And, we emphasize how to match up media choices to the consumer journey. Essentially, the skills will help your team get better work from their agency partners.

Brand Analytics:

Our comprehensive brand analytics sessions teach healthcare marketers how to lead a deep-dive business review. They need to know how to assess their brand’s performance, and set up smarter strategic thinking for their marketing plan. As a result, we get marketers to look at the marketplace, consumers/healthcare professionals, channels of distribution, competitors or other brands in their industry category. Finally, we show how to lead an audit on the performance indicators of the brand.

All our examples are healthcare brands

With our healthcare marketing training, every example we use in our training is a healthcare brand. We believe healthcare marketers will learn the concepts if they see brands that are similar to the ones they are working on.

Contact us

Looking for more information on our Healthcare Marketing Training programs? Contact Graham Robertson at [email protected]

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