In a world inundated with enough healthcare ads to give anybody a headache, every marketer wants to rise above the noise to get and keep the attention of consumers. Beyond that, every brand wants to build lasting connections with its customers, even as the crush of distractions and fierce market competition conspire to keep them apart.
The magic formula? Healthcare brands can use data and technology to anticipate the needs and desires of customers, and give them the best experience possible by delivering the “next best action.”
Simply put, next best action, also known as next-gen engagement, refers to the deployment of models that use predictive analytics and machine learning to recommend, in real time, actions that are likely to be taken by a customer, based on the customer’s profile, previous actions and needs. Among a universe of potential actions, the next best action is that which most benefits the consumer (delivering them what they need and desire) and the brand (providing access to the best customers, in real time).
Think of it as personalized marketing—on steroids, caffeine, plus a B12 vitamin thrown in for good measure.
First, it is instructive to look at why this level of personalization matters. It matters not only because it informs marketing strategy, but more importantly because consumers today demand it. According to a Salesforce survey, 66% of people now expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations. They want brands to know them, anticipate them, remember them, empower them, respond to them and deliver a reliably consistent experience, all in an environment that respects their personal information and their privacy.
To maximize personalization, brands must invest in customer data, insights and content to support decisions that deliver the right messages at the right time through the right channel. This is where next best action comes into play.
The personalized marketing playbook traditionally has amounted to this: A brand makes assumptions about what messages a customer or segment might want to see, then bombards the customer by automating the delivery of that message. Next best action is the antidote, focused on the mission not to overwhelm the customer with advertising or marketing but, rather, to serve customers the messages that are very likely to satisfy a need or desire they have at this very moment, sequencing them through a journey and preempting needs that may arise down the road.
The concept of next best action has seriously taken hold in the realm of healthcare marketing in particular, where the benefits are not limited to the well-being of a brand but also encompass improvement in healthcare options and decision-making for consumers, healthcare providers and health companies. Healthcare and marketing technology companies like PulsePoint and Optum are among the industry leaders deploying next best action strategies.
The four D’s
But first, it is important to consider the “four D’s” that make up the elements of a data-activation framework deploying a next best action operating model:
- Data foundation: Create a customer-data platform to provide a 360-degree customer view.
- Decisioning: Deploy advanced analytics and machine learning to create customer scoring (“signalization”) and real-time triggers.
- Design: Develop a content factory model, apparatus for digital asset management and agile marketing techniques to drive experimentation
- Distribution: Deliver marketing and experiences across channels and feed response data to the customer data platform.
Here is how next best action works for a healthcare provider, for example. A company uses the latest data technology to explore a physician’s digital activity, breaking down the physician’s visits to search engines and other websites. Then, deploying synchronized decision rules and triggers, real-time brand engagement data is instantaneously synthesized and recorded. This information triggers a specific creative to serve to users, with the aim of optimizing performance. Enterprise agreements are then created to measure the full customer experience, ultimately presenting a unified view of engagement with the healthcare provider.
The benefit of the next best action approach to the customer (in this case, the healthcare provider): Using the most sophisticated data and technology, it breaks through the clutter to deliver only the most relevant ad messages, in real time, while simultaneously cultivating a lasting relationship with the customer moving forward.
And the benefit for the brand: It eliminates wastes of time and marketing budget (thereby also reducing the costs of healthcare to the consumer) to home in on the targets that are the most valuable to the brand.
There is little wonder, then, why next best action is sweeping the world of healthcare marketing, and why it can work for your brand today.