Part 1 of 5 in our Animal Health Challenger series.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the veterinarian was the customer in the world of animal health. But now, the notion of a monolithic, centralized “customer” is receding as the industry changes.
Back in the day, the veterinarian was the person to whom the pharmaceutical representative had to sell the product. Sure, the animal may “consume” the medication and the animal owner might pay for the medication, but for all intents and purposes, the veterinarian dictated what would be purchased and administered. What’s more, the veterinarian’s authority extended beyond prescription pharmaceuticals to include everything from food, collars and grooming aids. It was an authority that was broad and exclusive.
New decision makers to influence
Now, a pharmaceutical rep walking into a veterinary clinic might need to talk to multiple people. The vet might ask an animal health technician to sit in on a sales call and the questions he or she might ask are entirely different from those the vet might think to ask. The vet might ask about efficacy and adverse effects, while the tech might want to know about syringe-ability and storage requirements. The actual purchase decision might involve technicians, the manager of the technicians, the business manager and the clinic owner.
Today’s clients are well informed, price sensitive and opinionated in a way that clients just five to ten years ago were not.
Plus, we have to recognize the evolving role of the animal owner. Empowered—for better or worse—by Google to diagnose their pet’s maladies, they aren’t passive and deferential. They ask for alternate diagnoses and different treatment options. Today’s clients are well informed, price sensitive and opinionated in a way that clients just five to ten years ago were not. To top it off, they are more likely to say “No” if the price is too high, they disagree with the diagnosis or if, for whatever reason, they feel their experience as a client hasn’t been great. (In this respect, the veterinarian has become a sales channel, explaining the title of this post.)
Within this growing complexity, there’s also a need to recognize that none of the players involved in the purchase decision are entirely logical or objective. Historically, marketers have viewed “the customer” as a rational black box—provide the appropriate information or data and anticipate a reasoned response. But we know from our own experiences as customers that there’s more involved than that: we have personal biases, conflicting motivations, and unseen emotional influences. We need to break through the black box and see what’s inside.
Addressing the challenge
Whether we view this new reality as a blessing or a curse—or a little of both—is a matter of perspective. Granted, the growing number of players involved in the purchase is increasing. With so many moving parts and potentially conflicting motivations, it can, and will, get confusing.
Get the right alignment between customer(s) and channel(s) and you’ve created a new kind of competitive advantage.
But this degree of complexity means that there is the potential for huge payoffs for any marketer willing to address the challenge. Get the right alignment between customer(s) and channel(s) and you’ve created a new kind of competitive advantage. We can start this journey by acknowledging that our animal health customers are distinctive individuals. They each bring a unique outlook and set of ideals—animal lover, medical professional, business person—to their roles. So it’s important that we get beyond their clinical roles and acknowledge and address the complexity that they bring to work each day.