Raising awareness   

If you are a health tech company, how do you raise awareness of your products and services and the benefits and results they can deliver? It’s a key question, says Becky Mellor in the second of our blogs on how PR, marketing and communications can help with sales funnel challenges.

There has been a lot of excitement in marketing circles about the “sales bow tie”. The idea is that the familiar sales funnel – attracting and nurturing leads and then converting them into sales – becomes the left hand of the bow, while a new megaphone – encouraging purchasers to become loyal customers and even brand ambassadors – is added on the right.

It’s a neat idea for capturing the importance of existing customers to further sales. But it’s not much help if you are just coming into a market, and the big challenge is to get your brand known. If you are a tech company coming into the health and care sector, that can feel like an uphill task.

Start up headaches

Recently, we were asked to talk to some start-ups about marketing to the NHS. One founder shared his frustration at the challenges he faced in raising awareness of his product.

His company had one customer; an NHS trust that had successfully used his technology to address an issue that it faced. Two neighbouring trusts faced the same challenge; but he couldn’t even get them to consider the company’s idea.

Sound familiar?

So, how do you get yourself known? The place to start is your brand and messaging, which the first blog in this series about the left hand of the bow, or the sales funnel, addresses. But if you have developed your messaging, the next step is raising awareness.

Highland Marketing has been helping health tech companies to raise awareness of their ideas, products and services for more than 15 years, and we have put together a few pointers to help you  gain some traction.

Signing on the dotted line

Make sure that, as part of your contract negotiations, you get your customers to commit to marketing; and make sure they sign up to certain activity at specified milestones. This activity could be all or some of the following: press releases, providing a spokesperson for events, agreeing to interviews for a case study, hosting a workshop, or a full-on reference site agreement.

Benefits realisation

Healthcare IT projects have a terrible habit of missing out on opportunities to raise awareness of what they have achieved by failing to document how things were before, during and after an implementation. Set out clear methodologies for measuring the benefits and make sure the process is strictly adhered to. It should be a workstream that is included as standard in your project plan.

Find the story

Gathering the data isn’t enough. You have to ask: what story does it tell? Are the project outcomes helping your commissioning customer to respond to government mandates? Do the results show significant cash releasing benefits to the trust that has bought into your idea?

Has patient care improved at the GP practice you are working with? Have you got a patient group that is so happy it will stand up and say so? Keep these questions in mind when shaping PR. Too often companies fail to think about the story they have to tell, and this results in little to no pick up by the press.

Promote using the appropriate channels

Even then, a killer headline won’t be enough. You need to make sure that your target audience will read it. Which means you need to identify publications your target audience reads. Pitch your story to the editors or journalists and don’t give up until you have a response.

Share every piece of coverage gained on your social media channels and website. Don’t miss opportunities to appear in newsfeeds – use hashtags and twitter handles to alert your target audience to your story. This will all help with SEO so your target audience can find you.

Don’t rely on a one hit wonder

With a few pieces of coverage under your belt, it’s job done and on to the next task on the to do list. Not so. Like you, the audience you captured will soon move on. The story you have invested in creating has much more mileage in it to help maintain a spotlight.

Kick off a campaign to promote the stats gained from the benefits realisation study on social media and link back to the PR on your website. Repurpose the press release to create an award entry or an abstract submission for a speaker slot at an event. Use your story to form the basis of an afternoon educational workshop, held at your customer’s site, and invite the neighbours.

It works

Just one example of how Highland Marketing has seen this work. A company approached us to help them raise awareness of their brand and product in the NHS in Scotland.

The Highland Marketing team worked with the client to identify the story and to build a PR and lobbying campaign around it. From one story a campaign was developed which led to: extensive media coverage, awards for the company, increased engagement across online channels and meetings with key NHS Scotland stakeholders.

The art of raising awareness is a challenge faced by all companies targeting the NHS, no matter how large or small or what resources they have available to them. The key is to be smart, relentless and to maximise every activity. Re-use, re-purpose, re-post.

Raising awareness with Highland Marketing

Raising awareness is a key stop in the sales funnel. The next step is nurturing leads. Keep an eye on our blog for more tips on how PR, messaging and communications can help with sales funnel challenges. And, in the meantime, if you want to contact me then email Beckym@highland-marketing.com

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