The NHS is under huge pressure right now and increasingly looking to the private sector for solutions to support unprecedented demand and reduced capacity.
Needless to say, the outlook for 2023 is going to be challenging for organisations working with the NHS. Budget pressures, political pressures, industrial action, and an intensive focus on the elective backlog will inevitably deprioritise certain activities.
Getting your marketing strategy right is more important than ever. The mission for partners working with the NHS is to keep the focus on what is going to make a difference in the short term without losing sight of the long-term game plan, maintaining engagement, and being consistent with your activity and messages. Finding the right route to market is critical to your messages being heard by the right people.
What are the key points to consider in your 2023 marketing and communications strategy?
1. INSIGHT: To design meaningful communications to customers you have to have a forensic understanding of them. What are your customer’s challenges and priorities? What’s keeping them awake at night? What are the policy drivers which sit behind their decision-making? What budgets are they responsible for and what are the expectations on these budgets now and in the future? How are they engaging with local stakeholders? What is the status of their integrated care system? Don’t guess this – some methodologies you can use to start to understand your customers include surveys and customer and stakeholder interviews, analysing policy and board papers, assessing the market and your competitors; and mapping out the buyer journey.
2. EXPRESS YOUR VALUE: Can you articulate what your value is to your customers? If you can’t, then don’t expect the NHS to know why they should buy from you either. Remember value is different from your product features – at the end of the day people care less about the nuts and bolts and more about what the impact of working with you is going to be. Providing credible proof points and evidence is critical to making your case and demonstrating how your product or service creates impact. Don’t forget social proofing - customer testimonials and awards reassure customers about buying decisions. And remember if you want to be known for something, then keep on saying it. Although you may feel bored saying the same thing over and over – it’s probably only at this point your customers start to understand.
3. KPIs: Make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve with your communications and how this feeds into your marketing funnel. This will support how you define KPIs for activity so you can measure the effectiveness of your work. Are you trying to create awareness through share of voice? Are you trying to encourage customers into action? Are you trying to create interest in a new offer?
4. KNOW YOUR MARKET: How services are commissioned has changed. Integrated Care Boards will be fundamental to commissioning services across integrated care systems. Each ICB will be different, so understanding priorities, their processes, local stakeholders, and “who’s who” is step one in getting to know your market. There are 42 ICBs and you can find links to them all here.
5. BE CHANNEL SMART: Not all communication channels are equal. They can perform different jobs depending on how you activate them. Designing an effective channel strategy should be driven by your overall objectives and content as well as your audience. It’s an art as well as a science – PR can act as awareness raising or lead generation, but what you will execute in either case will be different.
6. GET ADVICE: With a complex market landscape in 2023, designing and convening an advisory board as a forum for market insight, intelligence, and internal challenge will help to hone your wider approach to the market. Advisory boards can convey authority to the market, create connections, and open stakeholder conversations.
7. CONTENT IS STILL KING: It’s a comms cliché but your engagement will live or die on the quality of your content. Defining what you are going to talk about, adding insight, and developing engaging delivery takes effort and investment. Weak content won’t drive conversations or support brand positioning. Creating meaningful content based on unique insight will have a better cut-through and will give scope to adapt for different channels.
For over 11 years, ZPB has been supporting successful health service, tech, and pharma organisations to deepen their relationships with the NHS, growing their share of voice and of the market. Talk to us about how we can support you.