Sectra’s approach to marketing has been less about selling, and more about promoting ideas. Jane Rendall, Chris Scarisbrick and Caroline Marjason explain how driving change through discussion and debate, with the support of Highland Marketing as a long-term partner, has made a difference.

Sectra is at the forefront of helping to transform diagnostic services in the NHS. Head-quartered in Sweden, the medical imaging technology provider has become highly respected in the UK, where it works across cutting edge areas that are fundamental to patient care.

A significant number of NHS trusts and consortia covering populations of millions of people have turned to the company to help to modernise and improve the way diagnostics operate. This includes improving access to crucial patient imaging for many thousands of professionals and their patients, regionalised radiology collaboration, and the advancement of digital pathology, integrated diagnostics, and AI initiatives.

Driving change through debate  

Back in 2014, Sectra set out to engage the UK market in a way that would put it at the forefront of discussion.

“We weren’t interested in spending our marketing budget in taking out a page to advertise a solution,” says Jane Rendall, Sectra’s UK managing director. “We wanted to drive change and encourage discussion and debate through thought leadership, rather than pushing forward sales messages to sell our products.

“We sought a partner to help to gather intelligence and to help develop how we wished to appear in the market, in a way that complemented the type of culture we have and our product portfolio. We wanted to talk and comment on market interests, not just corporate message.”

After careful consideration the company appointed Highland Marketing to help support on this ambition, and a very successful partnership has continued since.

“In the same way that we choose to enter into long term relationships with our customers, we chose to enter into a long term relationship with Highland Marketing,” says Rendall. “The better our partners understand us, the better we understand how we can work well together, and the more productive that relationship is.”

Work has ensued that has positioned Sectra’s authority across key media titles and conferences. This has helped to demonstrate the company’s interest in helping to enhance healthcare and in pushing boundaries with its technology, and has shown Sectra as supplier that makes a difference for its customers.

Sectra’s UK marketing manager Caroline Marjason explains: “This isn’t about placing random articles. It’s about understanding what areas to talk about at the right time, and being the first people to talk in those areas.”

Trust and partnership

In addition to driving forward new ideas into the market from people at Sectra, the company’s strategy has also involved promoting the work of its NHS customers to show world class innovation that has interested the wider market. But this has required a degree of sensitivity at a time when the health service is extremely busy.

“We are protective of our customers, but it has been important to give the team at Highland access to the right people,” says Rendall. “We don’t want to waste our customers’ time, we want them to get something out of a piece of communication. Those that have engaged here have enjoyed the process. They want to share good news, lessons learned and inform other people in the NHS.”

“Whatever we do, it must be mutually beneficial for the customer, the wider NHS and for Sectra. That’s an important dynamic,” she adds.

Chris Scarisbrick, Sectra’s sales director in the UK says a level of trust with the company’s communications partner has been important. “Because of that element of trust, we can have an open dialogue and we can work together in relaxed conversation to get the best stories. It’s important to work with people who get you. That has also helped our NHS customers to say what is important to them and get the message out there.”

“The Highland team knows what we want to say, and how we can best do that,” adds Marjason. “Whether it’s written thought leadership, media announcements, case studies, or video, we look at lots of different formats and ways of getting stories out there. The team makes our lives a lot easier.”

Projection in the market: On the tip of the tongue

Communications activity has helped to position Sectra effectively with new customers and continues to “challenge and attract conversation with industry partners and influencers”, says Scarisbrick.

“Our partnership approach has helped to raise awareness of Sectra in subtle ways so we are right on the tip of the tongue with the people we want to engage with, because of our projection in the market. That doesn’t happen overnight. It requires longevity – a concerted period of taking opportunities in order to stimulate growth.”

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