Alexander Group’s Healthcare practice hosts weekly virtual roundtables for commercial leaders to discuss management strategies to navigate the pandemic.
In total, nearly 300 executives have gathered to exchange ideas and experiences. Below are leadership insights from the most recent sessions.
COVID-19 is serving as a catalyst to change the healthcare buyer’s journey, accelerating changes beginning to take hold with leading organizations. As a result, companies must quickly revise their marketing and sales models to include virtual selling. Organizations who previously invested in digital strategies are ahead of the curve while others must now increase their investment in digital sales and marketing technologies to keep pace.
Planning vs. Reacting: How to Forecast Growth
Our participants agreed that there was no “single source of truth” to accurately guide them for the future. As reopening plans emerge on a state-by-state basis, companies must quickly react to new scenarios.
Despite reopening plans, hospitals continue to experience a dramatic reduction in services. EPIC (EMR Co.) reviewed oncology screening rates for March 2020, showing an overall decrease of 94%. Medical device sales have been hit extremely hard, but pharma remains resilient due to existing prescriptions but will be impacted by fewer new prescriptions. In a Q1 earnings call, HCA reported a decline of 30% inpatient admissions, 50% in ER visits, and 70% for outpatient surgeries, year-over-year for April 2020.
Negative public perception and fear are still guiding consumer and buyer decisions. When people feel safe to re-emerge and seek healthcare services, most firms anticipate an increase in business activity. In the meantime, hospitals and their business partners should act now to define new buyer priorities.
The New Buyer Journey
The new buyer journey must address engagement and enablement by putting a digital selling infrastructure in place. While this new infrastructure cannot be achieved overnight, small investments and a progressive approach should be used.
Buyers have embraced digital technologies in recent years with over 80% knowing what they want prior to a sale. Two-thirds of our audience agreed that digital marketing is a high priority for reaching customers. Content marketing and digital tools are now on the radar as companies map the new buyer journey and target investments to meet changing expectations.
Digital Strategies Investments
Alexander Group studies show that faster growth firms have higher investments in digital strategies and use an agile, nimble approach to implement. Companies investing in technology and responding quickly were three times more likely to hit their revenue targets. While our research was performed pre-COVID-19, digital sales and marketing enablement investments remain critical to the future of healthcare, with average companies spending 0.6% of revenue on their technology stack. However, market leaders spent twice that amount, or 1.2% of revenue, on their technology stack.
While digital tools will not replace the face-to-face selling model, web and collaboration tools are now a table stakes investment, as 75% of our participants noted. In the healthcare arena, providers have become much more receptive to virtual interactions.
The healthcare sector has been traditionally reluctant to invest in digital tools. But COVID-19 made these platforms necessary and mandated for nearly every participant. Delivery of care via telehealth also saw a swift uptick in adoption as providers and patients found themselves with little choice but to adopt and adapt to a new way of interacting.
Re-thinking Marketing, Sales and Customer Success
As the buyer journey continues to evolve, firms are revisiting the traditional, linear model of defined roles for marketing, sales and customer success. They must now reimagine how those functions can work in new ways to meet changing buyer expectations.
Healthcare leaders can take lessons learned from the tech industry, who adapted quickly to changing buyer demands. They employed marketing automation and outbound call campaigns to generate demand in their existing customer base. Healthcare firms will require additional investment in data analytics, technology, marketing content and digital marketing strategies to successfully reach their customer base.
Several roundtable participants are arming their inside sales teams with increased knowledge and digital tools to better serve customers. As a result of COVID-19, over half of the participants are actively investing in Inside Sales. Additionally, the use of hybrid models is likely to increase, as a common trend is decreased investment in field reps. Virtual selling is here to stay. Nearly 70% of participants site the reliance on digital selling interactions as a lasting impact of the current environment.
Healthcare has lagged other industries with the Customer Success function, citing regulatory concerns. Given the new environment, companies are revisiting this function to align it with the new buyer journey and sales resource needs.
Where Are Leaders Investing?
Our roundtable participants indicated their new priorities are, in order, 1) urgency to adapt to new norms, 2) new customer expectations, and 3) scalability. The primary investment is their key accounts, with 1/3 of leaders investing in this area as they adjust their messaging to focus on education and training. To reach their customers, they have increased their investment in web conferencing and collaboration tools and performance metrics.
Alexander Group also performed a digital survey of 100 leaders reflected that companies must continue to invest in digital to continue to grow or run the risk of being eliminated. Data analytics is also a primary investment necessary to understand buyers while continuing to prove ROI.
Virtual selling is now a way of life. Digital infrastructure investments, paired with a rethinking of the commercial model, will support firms as they navigate through the challenging months to come.
For More COVID-19 Insights
We encourage you to register for our upcoming virtual events. If you are unable to attend, or would simply prefer to speak with someone directly, please contact us. You can also visit our COVID-19 Response Resources page, where we will continue to share insights and practices.
The Alexander Group recognizes the challenges facing businesses during these uncertain times. Contact us to answer any questions or provide additional insight on how organizations are managing through and eventually, out of this crisis.
Authored by The Alexander Group, Inc.®