The rise of digital has transformed consumer-facing marketing, redefining how companies sell products to customers and through which channels. Interestingly, in recent years even B2B companies have been engulfed in this sea of change. That’s because today’s buyers, be they in the B2B or B2C world, still crave that omnichannel digital experience.
It’s for these specific reasons that we’re seeing a number of new trends in B2B healthcare buying. It’s forcing marketers to shift away from old outbound sales strategies and utilize inbound tactics that meet their target audience where they are. Below we look at those major trends.
Changes in the path to purchase
In the old days, strong initiatives from sales teams would initiate the first steps in the sales cycle, but now the path to purchase is changing. Like with B2C, the majority of B2B healthcare buyers start off down the sales pipeline with a simple search engine query, just like someone shopping for a new TV or looking for a good restaurant. This in itself has upended the entire funnel, as now buyers can be as much as 90% through the purchase cycle before the first contact with a vendor.
So what does that mean for marketers? Well, simply put, it means you have to be better than your competition at giving your audience the information they seek online. Your website needs to be properly optimized, as does your content. And speaking of content marketing, it needs to incorporate everything, from blog posts and videos to white papers and ebooks.
Increased omnichannel marketing
B2B healthcare marketers must realize that buyers are now looking for a unified purchasing experience across various channels and devices. The buying cycle may start with a simple internet search, but if you’re giving your audience the information they desire and helping them down the pipeline, that cycle will grow as they view websites, social media channels, search for product information, reviews, etc. With this in mind, you’ll need to ensure a coherent experience across all these channels, while making other initiatives, like email marketing, part of this overall experience if you want your strategies to be effective.
The rise of influencer marketing in B2B healthcare
In truth, influencer marketing is nothing new in healthcare. Simply defined, influencers are just people whom the general public trusts on a certain issue to make recommendations. Remember all those “9 out of 10 dentists recommend…” advertisements on television? That’s the earliest form of influencer marketing. It makes sense to utilize this strategy in the B2B healthcare sector.
The key is how exactly to go about doing it. Marketers will certainly want to follow some best practices for influencer marketing. First, choose influencers (physicians, patient advocates, etc.) who not only have large social media followings but who have an engaged audience as well. Look at feedback from their followers. Do the influencers engender many comments? And do those influencers respond to comments and queries? After all, an influencer with lots of followers but no comments are probably relying heavily on bots and paid likes to pad their social media profiles.
Next, look at the channels the influencer is using. Marketers want to deal with influencers who are active on many social media networks beyond LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s also a good idea to consider influencers with an even wider reach and utilize other channels like television and even print media. These mediums still have audiences, so it would be remiss to ignore them. Be aware that, according to stats, influencer marketing campaigns yield 11x higher ROI than other forms of promoted content, so you’ll want to adopt an influencer strategy sooner rather than later.
The importance of thought leadership in B2B healthcare
Building off the last point, it’s increasingly clear that to maximize effectiveness in the B2B healthcare space, marketers need to position themselves and their brand as thought leaders within the industry. A LinkedIn study uncovered a number of eye-opening revelations, including that thought leaders within the space, received more request-for-proposal invitations, and, conversely, that those who didn’t strongly position themselves as thought leaders lost business opportunities.
Other statistics from the same study that buttress these findings state that some 55% of C-Suite executives give information to marketers whose organizations are perceived as thought leaders. Moreover, 89% of C-Suite executives acknowledged an increase in respect for those same organizations.
Now that we’ve established trends consistent with a change in B2B healthcare purchasing, it’s time to sum up the most efficient ways to address these trends. First, align your sales pipeline with this new shift in buying behavior. Look at where the pain points are in the pipeline and ensure you’re educating and solving problems every step of the way with your marketing strategies. Tailor your content specifically for your target audience. And above all else, reinforce the value you provide over that of the competition.