Research: the ‘absolute backbone’ of a sales and marketing strategy

Research: ‘backbone’ of a sales and marketing strategy

When Clanwilliam wanted to explore the wider potential for a primary care insights product, it turned to Highland Marketing.

Lauren Turner, global director of marketing, explains why using an agency with a deep understanding of the NHS, and an eye on product development and messaging, was key to creating market research that was never just going to sit on the shelf.

Q: Perhaps we could start by setting the scene. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and about Clanwilliam and what it is that you do?

Lauren Turner: Sure. I’m Lauren Turner. I’m the global director of marketing at Clanwilliam, which is a global healthcare technology group. Broadly, we operate across Ireland, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Our core vision is to improve healthcare for everyone with technology: which means everything from GP practice management systems to pharmacy systems to the systems that drive operating theatres to data and insights for primary care.

Q: We’re going to talk about some research that you commissioned Highland Marketing to do. So, what was the background and purpose for that?

Lauren: As a global organisation, a lot of what we do is to look at products or innovations that we have in one area, serving one customer base, to try and understand whether they could benefit or fix problems in other areas for a different customer base.

That might be just a different healthcare sector, or it might be a different country or a different continent. With this particular project, we were looking at the potential for redefining or expanding one of our primary care data insights offerings.

We felt that it could have much wider potential across the NHS and public health, specifically around supporting population health management approaches. But we didn’t know in detail what that marketplace looked like, how the funding and procurement worked, and what competitors were operating in the space. So, we were really starting at absolute ground zero.

Q: The NHS is very complicated, isn’t it? It can be really hard for companies to understand how it works and the impact of budgets and policy annoucements.

Lauren: The interesting thing about the various healthcare markets we operate in is that a lot of the challenges are the same, but the way they are looking to navigate those challenges are really, really different. And the NHS is quite unique.

Plus, even when you think you’ve grasped it, things change. So, you need to stay up to speed all the time, and if you’re thinking of doing even a slight shift to the left or right, you need to re-navigate it. So, we definitely knew that wasn’t something we were going to be able to do by ourselves.

Q: So why come to Highland Marketing?

Lauren: Clanwilliam’s partnership with Highland Marketing goes way, way back. We trusted Highland Marketing to help us navigate the NHS landscape and to position ourselves when we first moved over into the UK market, and to help publicise our product offering to our customers. So, we knew you, we trusted you, and we really appreciated your input.

There was genuinely no one better, in my view, to help us navigate the NHS landscape and then unpick it and make it all make sense. Not just from a research perspective, but from the perspective of helping us to translate that into a proposition, and key messages. You’re just able to join those dots. So, I knew that alongside the research, you’d be keeping that end point in mind as well, which was super helpful.

Q: It turned out to be quite a long piece of work. What was the actual output? What did you get and how did you use it?

Lauren: That’s the wonderful thing about research! You find stuff out and then you want to continue to dig deeper. Initially, what we were looking for was a report to tell us about the marketplace and how it operates and how the money moves and what the challenges are in that space, which you absolutely delivered.

Highland Marketing provided us with a really detailed report that gave us that backdrop.But then you also delved really deep into some emerging themes. We had a particular interest in PREMS and PROMS and health checks. That was something we were known for in the primary care space, but you were able to unpick what that looked like from a public health sector perspective, and who the key players were, and what strategies and funding pools might be available.

That became a web of what could have been quite complicated information, but you mapped it out in a really easy to digest report that helped us understand where the opportunities were and what a positioning strategy could look like for us.

Q: That’s interesting, because it suggests that research is important, but it needs to inform product development and marketing.

Lauren: One hundred percent. Yeah, 100%. And this wasn’t the sort of report you’d only read once, either. We were looking for a data bible that could be used at different levels. Yes, it was for me and my team in marketing, but it was also to help Clanwilliam’s leaders understand the evolving NHS landscape, what it meant, and what we were looking at to help sales.

It’s also something we go back to when we want to challenge ourselves. And it also triggered quite a few additional workstreams in terms of tech development, in terms of further market research into competitors, in terms of further marketing work…

So, yes, it was fantastic to have that document, but it was very much a living, breathing output for us. We have been able to reflect back on it and use it to drive other workstreams, which has been really helpful for us.

Q: Do you think this is something other companies that want to work with the NHS should be doing: research to really understand the market before they try and sell to it?

Lauren: I think it’s integral. I don’t think anybody would challenge the idea that market research is important, but what we felt was really valuable was having that driven by professionals in the space. Highland Marketing has a deep understanding of the NHS, which really helps, but you were also able to challenge us and our way of thinking.

So, for us, this work was the absolute backbone of what we then went and built our sales and marketing strategy on. And now, with all of our go-to markets, this kind of work is the absolute ground zero. It doesn’t even make it into the sales and marketing section until we have had that initial market research piece done, so we really understand what the opportunities and challenges are.

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