IT'S ABOUT THE STEP BEFORE THE FIRST STEP

Think about creating a “good story” for disease state education or sharing your brand’s value proposition. How do you approach it?

We likely jump to thinking about how to create a hook: an interesting, engaging story customers will want to hear. But how often do we begin with the end in mind? Instead of focusing on the behavior we want to change, most of us dive into creating that memorable story primarily focused on awareness of a mechanism of action, a new product, or fresh scientific data. Awareness is great, but we should really begin by thinking about behavior(s) we want to change, create, or reinforce. Otherwise, we have no way of knowing if what we say is relevant—or worse, irrelevant.

Create a Behavior Roadmap

As pharma marketers, we almost universally think of the behavior change as: prescribe more [INSERT PRODUCT NAME HERE]! While this is the ultimate behavior change we seek, we should consider addressing other behavior changes first. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) prescribe other brands over yours for a reason. Understanding those reasons can help you map the behaviors you must address or embrace. For instance, the reasons could be due to formulary, guidelines, patient request, or habit to name a few.

Barriers and Biases: Identify and Remove Them

As you identify behaviors, it is important to also understand whether barriers and/or biases exist that could interfere with your efforts change those behaviors. For example, if the barrier is that HCPs don’t segment their patients the way your brand’s label recommends, how can you even address that barrier? What if there is a negativity bias based on HCP customers’ past experiences with another brand in the same medication class? How do you tackle that? To craft that compelling story, we must identify and address each of these barriers.

Changing Behaviors

The behavior and associated barriers or biases you seek to impact will drive your approach with customers. Does the behavior change require addressing beliefs around potential consequences? Addressing goals they set with patients? Hearing from colleagues who have found success treating specific patient types? How you determine the most appropriate way to change the behavior will significantly impact your approach to storytelling.

Progression of Behavior Change

Think about the last time you changed one of your behaviors. Did you change after one exposure to one piece of information? Like most of us, I live with a chronic medical condition. I had been taking a certain brand of medication for years—a medication I felt adequately controlled my condition. I also knew that newer medications and treatment options were emerging. I was extremely hesitant to change medications because I had finally found an “adequate” one. My belief that changing medications would send me down a path of no longer being able to manage my condition drove my inertia.

Regardless of what my physician shared with me, I remained stubborn. It took a close friend sharing their experience with a new treatment option to finally change my belief about my current medication and seek alternative treatment. In my case, I needed to gain knowledge through my own research and conversations with my physician. I also needed to experience consequences that nudged me to question whether I really was adequately controlled. Even that wasn’t enough—I also needed a peer to share a personal experience. Most behavior changes occur this way, which means we as marketers need to address behaviors like these in multiple ways and along a progression.

The moral of the story? Becoming more sophisticated about how we approach changing behaviors will lead to more successful results. An engaging story alone cannot carry the full weight of behavior change. The story must contain relevance and bring your customers along a journey worth taking that will lead to better outcomes in the end.

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About the author

Rob Spalding

Rob Spalding has more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry, 15 of which he spent in large pharma companies across several brands in global and US markets.

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