Speaking exclusively to MarTech Vibe, Rami Zahran opines about the state of marketing in healthcare, the challenges CMOs are currently facing and his MarTech predictions for 2020.
1. How do you perceive the state of healthcare marketing in the current day and age?
Over the last few years, I have experienced a tremendous amount of progress in healthcare marketing which makes it a fascinating time to be in this field. Traditionally, healthcare marketing was seen to be conservative in its approach in comparison to other industries such as FMCGs for example, which tend to be quite active, have an extensive reach, spend healthy budgets and remain highly engaged with the consumer.
Healthcare marketing is shifting in this direction; it is now prevalent to be exposed to marketing content from a healthcare perspective daily. When I first started in the field, there was very little happening in the digital space. However, healthcare today, particularly from a providers perspective, is becoming increasingly active in this space. Besides, technological advancements have meant that more people have access to their healthcare regularly.
Patients no longer need to wait for their doctor’s visit to be able to interact with a healthcare brand. Today they have access to their own health information, doctors credentials, medical treatment options and health & wellness information on their smartphones. There is still lots of room for growth and innovation, which is why it makes this field so exciting.
Over the next few years, we are still going to see a lot of changes that focus on empowering the consumer – in our case the patient – which will mean that they will actively be part of our marketing efforts. Overall, I would say it’s in a healthy state. Still, with more budgets being allocated to marketing spend, more human talent being attracted to the field and with more people engaged and ready to push the boundaries and break away from the traditional way of marketing we will see healthcare marketing being a leader in the overall marketing field.
2. The meaning of CX changes in healthcare given the sensitivity in which healthcare providers must operate within. How do you marry technology and personalisation to deliver exceptional customer care?
While CX does change in the context of healthcare, it is essential to remember what is at the core of CX practices – regardless of the industry, the customer, or in our case, the patient.
If you remain focused on the patient and build everything around them, you can truly deliver an exceptional experience. There are definitely more sensitive data points in healthcare that we must ensure to protect for the safety and privacy of our patients. However, there is still a lot that can be done outside of that, for example, today in many hospitals patients can only access information which belongs to them such as lab results or their after-visit summaries if they physically go to a hospital and request them. This has to change. In today’s world where you can order food, refill car fuel or request a chequebook from your bank with the click of a button, people expect the same level of experience from their healthcare provider.
In our organisation, we have ensured to empower the patient and give them access to their own information, and we have provided them with self-service tools through a web-based solution and a mobile app. But this isn’t where the patient experience ends, it needs to be a whole ecosystem where everything is built with the patient at the centre of it, every touchpoint must be built around them. More recently, we received some feedback that patients wanted easy transportation access to our hospitals, so we partnered up with Careem, one of the leading transportation companies in the region to provide convenient and safe transportation for our patients to access our hospitals.
It starts with listening to the patient, and from there, you can customise any piece of technology to address the needs of your customer. Marketers need to break away from the idea that their responsibility is only to activate push strategies to increase awareness or drive more sales and start looking more broadly at other extremely important areas that are without a doubt part of the overall marketing scope, such as customer experience. They need to be more involved in how customers perceive their brand, how they want to interact with it, what improvements can be made, review the pricing of their services and products based on customer expectation and demands, look at the type of promotions and offers customers like to receive, look at what additional services and products could be provided, focus on inbound marketing strategies that are more appealing to customers, look at ways to automate the customer experience so that it can be seamless but at the same time customised to the specific user and overall push the boundaries and break away from limited activities that aren’t as meaningful to customers.
3. According to you, what are the challenges that CMO’s are currently facing in the region viz a viz other department heads (CEO, CFO, CTO)?
Regardless of industry, the challenges CMOs face will be pretty similar across the board, many marketers are incredibly passionate about big ideas and executing exciting initiatives that are innovative and creative and sometimes challenge the norm. It can take a lot of time to convince and get others on board with some of the initiatives suggested, that in itself is quite a challenge. Additionally, many of these ideas require budget and technology support which means that the CEOs, CFOs and CTOs need to be aligned and agree with the approach.
With the emergence of digital and the amount of analytics and data provided by digital marketing, there is a specific expectation that is now required for all types of marketing activities when it comes to reporting results. The expectation in many instances is that actions must provide direct results, perhaps sometimes looked at in terms of direct revenue. As marketers, however, we understand that there is a specific journey potential customers carry out with us as a brand before they eventually convert into a customer, so we apply a range of different initiatives to attract potential customers, eventually convert them and then retain them. Not all of these activities have a direct way to measure financial impact; some of them have a longer lead time.
To build a strong brand that is perceived strongly and has high equity takes years and requires budget and activities that will not see a return in terms of revenue immediately. The challenge for CMOs will be the ability to balance between quick wins that can provide immediate results and to also be able to execute initiatives that are highly focused on brand building.
4. What are your 2020 MarTech predictions for marketing in the region?
In 2020 I do believe that MarTech will continue to grow at a fast pace, but it will also start to filter out the good from the bad, and we will continue to see a consolidation of tools. Today there is a myriad of organisations out there focusing on MarTech which often provide great solutions that can often be far too complex. Simplicity is key, going back to the point about the customer needing to be at the centre of everything; customers want simple things.
The most successful technologies today keep things simple for consumers. If you think about some of the latest gadgets today, they are being sold without instruction manuals because they have become incredibly simple to manage. Today you can install a whole Wi-Fi system in your home with minimum hardware and a few clicks on your phone.
We have also started to see consolidation in this industry through acquisitions; however, these organisations need to ensure that there isn’t overlap in the solutions provided, which can cause further complexity and inefficiencies. This idea of simplicity needs to apply to everything we do, all our apps and tech systems need to be easy for anyone to use, and they need to be seamless. The end-user should be able to achieve what they intend to do within a few clicks of a button and a single log-on.
When it comes to MarTech, it is often the case that the consumers are the marketers using the tools, in this regard, vendors also need to ensure that they build solutions with the marketer in mind. Many times, I have been presented with demos for tools that are incredibly complex, have a lot going on, and you need to access multiple sections of the tool to be able to achieve what you want, this is too complicated and needs to be simplified. Many technology companies rely on IT to build the solution without considering what an end-user actually wants. Tech companies need to develop tools in partnership with the end-users so that ultimately we can provide an excellent experience for our customers.
Rami Zahran is the Group Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of the Saudi German Hospital Group in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is responsible for the company’s Marketing, Communications, Digital and Events activities in the region. In 2018, he was recognised as one of the top marketers in the Middle East by VMF Powerlist.
Rami has over twelve years of high-profile marketing experience and a proven track record in the healthcare sector. Most recently, he served as Director of Marketing, Communications and Business Development at American Hospital Dubai. Prior to that, he held a managerial role in the marketing department of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Earlier in his career, Rami was a Communication Manager at Leo Burnett Dubai.