B2B vs B2C in Healthcare Marketing
In essence, Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing are aimed at two distinct audiences so it is important to understand B2B vs B2C.
B2B marketing describes marketing between businesses. In B2B marketing, a business markets its products or services to another business. In other words, its customers are other businesses, so all its marketing is dedicated to the needs, interests, and challenges of other businesses.
B2C marketing describes marketing between businesses and customers. In B2C marketing, a business markets its products and services to the needs, interests, and challenges of its customers or potential customers.
The same company can be involved in both B2B and B2C marketing. For example, Omron Healthcare, Inc. sells several kinds of blood pressure monitors to both healthcare organizations and individuals.
Parallels and differences between B2B and B2C healthcare marketing
While B2B vs B2C have their similarities in healthcare marketing, their differences can be the tipping point between success and failure.
- The consumer base differs
The first obvious difference between B2B and B2C marketing in healthcare is the consumer base. B2B marketing is aimed at healthcare organizations and B2C marketing is aimed at customers, in particular patients.
These two audiences differ profoundly. B2B audiences are professionals who work in healthcare for a healthcare organization and act on behalf of the organization. This audience requires high-level information and education from the seller.
In B2C marketing, individual patients and their needs are the target audience.
- Different marketing content is needed
B2B customers often make decisions that carry a lot of responsibility. They need detailed and high-quality knowledge before they can make any buying decisions. They need content that is informative and educational. They also need detailed information in order to understand precisely what a product or service can do for the organization. Their buying decisions reflect on them as professionals, so it’s crucial for marketing materials to be as detailed and complete as possible.
This audience needs to know more than the product. They need to know how the product will benefit the organization and contribute to its success.
B2C customers, on the other hand, don’t need detailed and expert-level content aimed at them. What they need more is relatable communication.
- The consumer relationships differ
It is imperative for B2B marketers to work on developing long-term personal relationships with their customers and clients. These long-term relationships are necessary for long-term business opportunities.
For instance, businesses that sell healthcare technology solutions usually spend several years working with a business client. Successful B2B relationships can lead to other opportunities, including referrals, and meaningful connections with other business professionals.
B2C healthcare marketing, on the other hand, is a brief and transactional relationship. B2C marketing often involves one transaction, like making an appointment, or undergoing a medical test, with the customer journey ending there.
- B2B and B2C data sets differ
When it comes to healthcare data, B2B and B2C marketers work with different data sets. Patient data used in B2C marketing must adhere to HIPAA and privacy laws. Healthcare provider databases are not so sensitive and contain, for instance, information to comply with the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.
- The time it takes to come to a decision varies
The B2B buying decision typically involves multiple levels of approval resulting in a longer decision-making process. For example, the approval process for buying a new medical device at a hospital may involve several people who all have to give their approval, including maybe a department head, a doctor, a nursing head, an acquisitions manager, a financial officer, or an accountant. The various interactions may involve meetings and email communications that might stretch over months.
On the other hand, B2C marketing is a much shorter process, typically involving only one person who makes an independent decision. Of course, there will be situations where the B2C interaction can involve more people, and take longer. For instance, in the case of family members who have to be consulted on behalf of an incapacitated patient.
Generally, B2C marketing takes less time and involves a single decision-maker.
- The language of communication differs
When marketing to B2B companies, complex medical terminology is normal and to be expected. However, the same expertise that impresses B2B customers might alienate B2C customers.
Communication with B2C customers must be simple, relatable, and devoid of jargon, technical terms, and industry buzzwords, as most of these customers are unlikely to be familiar with medical terminology.
On the other hand, the targeted consumers in a healthcare organization work in the healthcare industry and are healthcare professionals, so they can be expected to be familiar with medical terminology.
- Buying motivation differs
B2B and B2C marketers have to approach their marketing stories differently. Since B2B customers are focused on the business impact of their buying decisions, marketers must appeal to their sense of logic with facts and statistics about their product or services. Their marketing must convince B2B customers of the benefits of their product or services for the healthcare organization.
In B2C marketing, the consumer will most likely decide based on emotion. B2C customers can be swayed by uplifting stories of how a product or service benefited someone else. So, B2C content marketing can and should focus on emotional storytelling.
With B2C marketing, empathetic storytelling can be very effective in getting customers to spend large sums of money on certain treatments. For instance, fertility treatment is notoriously expensive and is often not covered by medical insurance companies. Marketing storytelling that references a customer who had great success with fertility treatment could convince a hesitating customer to agree to fertility treatment.
These kinds of marketing stories appeal to people’s emotions and can lead to a purchase.
Strategies for successful B2B marketing in healthcare
- Leverage data to identify your target market
The healthcare market is extremely complicated, with many actors playing different roles. To identify a target market in such a vast and complex industry, marketers need enough data.
For example, a marketer who works for a biotech company that wants to launch a new drug, can’t simply go to any hospital or doctor to sell the new drug. There are simply too many complex layers and people involved. The only way out of this forest of complexity is data and lots of it. Gathering as much data as possible is the only way to be in a position to segment your target audience.
Comprehensive data gathering holds many benefits:
- Indicates the size of a potential target market
- Enables a deeper understanding of the target market
- Allows for greater personalization
- Narrows down sales and marketing communications
- Enables improved marketing strategies
- Enables opportunities for growth within different healthcare sectors
- Understand the pain points of your target audience
Understanding your healthcare audience’s pain points is not as simple as it sounds. The complexity of the industry makes it difficult to comprehend the issues that challenge business units and different consumers.
Here again, your best ally is data. The more information you can collect, the closer you will get to understanding how your product or service can address a specific pain point for a healthcare provider or organization.
For instance, when dealing with a hospital as a potential client, the following information would be helpful.
- The number of physicians, residents, and employees
- The number of other stakeholder groups
- Hospital or healthcare organization revenue and expenses
- Readmission and mortality rates
- Patient experience scores
- Referral patterns
- Technology products in use
- Online and offline information channels that buyers use to learn about new products
This limited list is an example of valuable data points that can help marketers identify institutional pain points and how to address them.
- Reach out to your target audience
Once you know your target audience and its pain points, it’s time to know exactly how to approach them with your marketing message. In a vast and complex industry like healthcare, this is not easy to do. It can be difficult to know who you need to speak to.
Marketing experts recommend that marketers identify key opinion leaders (KOLs) to target in their sales and marketing strategies. KOLs are well-known industry leaders who are respected as credible experts in their field. .
KOLs play a critical role in both healthcare and life sciences. They are in a prime position to evaluate a new healthcare service or product and give their considered opinion on it. Marketers need to make every effort to obtain a KOL’s stamp of approval, since these individuals have a significant buying influence among their peers.
Through a relationship with such an individual, marketers could find out who some of the key decision-makers in various healthcare organizations are. Data such as medical specialty, number and range of procedures performed, board memberships, published research papers, international conference participation, and clinical trials can also reveal a KOL.
How to improve a B2C marketing strategy
Hospitals, pharmacies, and private practices all need to run viable businesses. To do it successfully, they need to market their services to their customers through effective B2C strategies.
- Leverage digital signage
Digital signage displays information or advertising on a digital screen. They are everywhere, informing passers-by where the gate for their flight is, or what’s on the menu of a restaurant.
Healthcare organizations can establish their own TV channels for patients to watch. In a waiting room, such a channel will have a captive audience, receptive to the content provided by the doctor, practice, or healthcare organization. Digital signage is an opportunity to provide marketing content, important health-related information, and educational video content. For instance, a patient can learn more about their condition or scheduled procedure.
In addition, watching digital content has the added benefit of reducing perceived wait time.
- Get on the social media band wagon
Most medical professionals probably hesitate to engage with social media as it can be a double-edged sword. However, research shows that consumers don’t only scrutinize social media for great restaurants, they also choose healthcare providers based on their social media reputation.
Regular posts on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn give customers greater insight into your organization and the people working there. It’s an opportunity to connect with customers and build relationships that could lead to positive patient reviews.
- Create a happy work environment
People who love their work, where they work, and who they work with, automatically talk about their experience and inadvertently become advocates for their workplaces.
If a clinic has 50 employees talking to friends, family, and acquaintances about the great work being done at the clinic, hundreds of people may be positively influenced to visit it next time they need to see a doctor or specialist.
Research has shown that consumers regard recommendations from friends as the most trusted form of advertising.
- Communicate through messaging apps
While most consumers have become numb to advertising and simply screen it out, they don’t tend to ignore text messages. Most people read a text message the moment they receive it. This makes text messages a great way to communicate with patients, provided the message contains important information like a reminder of a scheduled procedure, an appointment slot that has just opened up, an unavoidable cancellation of a scheduled appointment, information about a new treatment, etc. The possibilities are endless.
- Provide superior patient experience
Excellent patient experience is the result of being treated well by everyone at the medical practice or clinic, which can lead to positive referrals. Ensuring a positive experience for patients can result in an increase of nearly 50% in net margins, according to Accenture Consulting. That statistic applies to all sizes and types of medical practices.
In today’s climate, a patient who feels discontented simply turns to Google and finds another doctor. No medical practice, clinic, or hospital can afford to provide anything less than excellent customer experience.
While B2B vs B2C marketing are decidedly different, they share one significant similarity. When all is said and done, both B2B and B2C marketing boil down to person-to-person marketing since both depend on building relationships.