To optimize the uptake of medical foods for disease treatment or prevention, medical companies need to target both consumers (patients) and healthcare professionals. These two target groups have a different level of knowledge and different needs, and therefore require a different marketing approach.
The Consumer as a Key Focus
Major medical nutrition players used to focus on delivering medical nutrition for malnutrition (for example countering a lack of nutrients). As these products are covered by health services and insurers in most countries, medical nutrition marketers traditionally focus on healthcare professionals: the prescribers. Limited attention is paid to convincing end-consumers. With consumers as final purchase decision makers, it is crucial to understand their needs and perceptions and how to best convince them to purchase these products. Hence a new expertise is required: defining successful consumer marketing approaches.
Influence of Healthcare Professionals
For a medical nutrition product, consumers often ask for their healthcare professional’s recommendation. The level of influence of healthcare professionals generally depends on the medical condition in question and the consumer’s level of knowledge. A patient suffering from obesity is likely to be more informed about their condition and therefore more confident about choosing a medical nutrition product. Someone suffering from memory loss or earlystage Alzheimer’s is likely to be more dependent on a physician for advice. Marketers therefore need to carefully assess the importance of healthcare professionals in the decision making process.
Efficiently Allocate Marketing Efforts
Given this scenario, it is crucial to make informed choices about who to target primarily and how to divide marketing budgets:
• To what extent do consumers feel comfortable deciding for themselves whether to use a medical nutrition product for their condition?
• How much influence do healthcare professionals have in the choice of certain medical nutrition products?
• Which healthcare professionals are key?
• How best to use the “pull and push” strategy?
Targeting Strategy for a New Nutritional Product
Product X is a new medical nutrition solution focusing on reducing blood glucose levels in patients with early-stage type 2 diabetes. The product would be available over the counter, but recommendations from doctors and pharmacists are expected to be a key driver of choice. The nutritional company wants to conduct research in order to determine who to target primarily and how to best use the “pull and push” effect. The approach is a three-step integrated choice analysis:
• Measure the preferences of all relevant players in the decision making unit, using a conjoint methodology. Not only for different products but also for various components of the offerings (for example brand, efficacy level, pack size, price).
• Evaluation of how likely they are to be influenced by preferences of the other players, for instance to what extent pharmacists will change their endorsement behavior for Product X based on consumers’ high or low willingness to buy this product.
• Integration of all players’ perspectives into one model that replicates the decision making process, to estimate the impact of recommendation or preference of one party on the choice of another party, and to simulate different scenarios.
Deliverables of the Case Study
By realistically replicating the decision making process for Product X, we found out the following:
Without any healthcare professionals’ influence, 50 percent of consumers prefer Product X rather than any other available options.
Power of Recommendation
However, 70 percent of consumers would strongly rely on their GP’s recommendation when choosing such a diabetic product while pharmacists have little influence on the preferred product.
Recommendation for Product X
Only 15 percent of GPs would recommend Product X, the majority prefer another product. This negatively affects the likelihood of consumer purchase.
Ultimate Customer Choice
To optimize the uptake of Product X, more efforts should be allocated to convince doctors of the benefits of Product X: they are key influencers, but their preference for Product X is low.