The ease with which you can sell your products or supply your services to the public sector can vary drastically depending on which department you are targeting – and the multifaceted, interconnected nature of the NHS makes it arguably the most difficult public department to sell to.
Whether you mass-produce medicines, manufacture equipment for hospitals, provide medical uniforms and PPE, deliver on-site cleaning and security services, or you design innovative health tech platforms – you will be faced with some of the public sector’s most rigid procurement rules as you bid to join an NHS approved suppliers list.
To better understand the complex structure of the NHS market, and the best tactics you can deploy to become an approved NHS supplier, we recommend you read our article, “An in-depth look at how to successfully sell into the NHS”
Whether you’re looking to sell directly to trusts or primary care organisations, through the new NHS Supply Chain, or via government tenders and contracts, marketing will play a vital role in your ability to grow as an NHS supplier.
Furthermore, growing your brand presence and authority through sustained marketing activity will also help you to forge new partnerships that could allow you to sell products indirectly into the NHS. For instance, Dave Burrows, NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow and CEO of Damibu, said:
“Many companies have a widespread belief that it’s required to sell direct to a trust or a CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), however sometimes it’s actually easier not to go directly to the NHS. There are providers to the NHS whose commissioning rules aren’t as strict, so you could instead go to a healthcare provider servicing the NHS.”
What are the best marketing tactics when selling to the NHS?
To aid you in this journey, we have pulled together a selection of top tips on how to best market to the NHS and their providers – and what you can be doing internally to stand out from the crowd.
Invest in your website when selling to the NHS
This sounds rather obvious, but the importance of investing in your website cannot be underestimated. First impressions mean a great deal, and it is highly likely that any potential contacts will browse your website early on during the buying process.
Use your homepage to provide an easy-to-navigate overview of your services and solutions, with deeper pages used to go into specific detail. Many businesses also use unique landing pages for certain topics, or when targeting specific people or vertical markets. For instance, the tone of voice or product messaging may vary slightly when writing for the CFO of a healthcare company, compared to medical staff.
Include social proof and testimonials to build trust among your audience. Third-party recommendations from healthcare customers already using your services and/or products will hold a lot of sway during the decision-making process.
Whilst they take longer to produce, in-depth case studies are also an effective weapon in a company’s arsenal. Clearly describe the problem your customer was facing and how you solved this – with evidence to back it up. When taking part in an NHS tender process, you are likely to be asked to share examples of when you’ve delivered ROI, so having a polished case study or two will certainly help.
Correct language is key, and don’t make assumptions
When selling to the NHS, write with the customer in mind, clearly explaining the value you deliver in an approachable and conversational tone of voice. Share how your solution will solve a challenge the NHS is facing, or how you will be able to deliver ROI.
Make sure you avoid hyperbole and jargon and don’t assume a buyer from the NHS will speak/use specific industry language. Be thorough so the reader is not left with more questions than they started with.
CTAs and collecting contact details
On your website, make it easy for NHS staff and other healthcare professionals to contact you. Use strategically placed call-to-actions (CTAs) throughout your website – this blog post from WordStream shares some good ideas.
In addition, well-designed forms should be used to collect people’s contact data. If you are hosting high-value content on your website – such as a whitepaper on digital health trends or industry research on managing doctors’ workloads – you may choose to make this “gated”, where people can only download the content if they fill out of form. You will then be able to market to them in the future, however, remember to be GDPR compliant.
Inbound marketing to attract customers from the NHS
Whilst selling into the NHS differs greatly from selling into other privately-owned organisations, you can still use inbound marketing campaigns to generate a pipeline of warm leads.
HubSpot describes inbound marketing as a “method of growing your organisation by building meaningful, lasting relationships with consumers, prospects, and customers. It’s about valuing and empowering these people to reach their goals at any stage in their journey with you”.
Map out campaigns that are specifically designed to attract NHS staff and senior healthcare decision-makers – built around high-value content, including social media, blogs, thought-leadership articles, video content etc. In addition, incorporate this content into a wider SEO strategy, to drive traffic to your website through the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Whilst Google AdWords will be a better fit for stereotypical B2B marketing teams over NHS suppliers, they can still deliver value and drive enquiries. Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can generate immediate results, as well as complement long-term marketing activity.
Email and telemarketing
Don’t discount traditional marketing methods, such as email marketing and telemarketing – however, you will be required to source your own data and it is imperative you adhere to GDPR. When executed correctly, email marketing can deliver huge value for money. Telemarketing is still highly effective, but preparation is key. Firstly, you must be confident you’re speaking to the right person, and secondly, you must have the right set of questions ready to determine whether there is a solid opportunity to sell your product. You don’t want to waste people’s time, as that could negatively impact your reputation.
Get in front of the NHS at trade shows
When it comes to getting in front of NHS staff and other industry professionals and innovators, there is no better opportunity than trade shows and conferences. By exhibiting at industry events, you will be able to engage and build a rapport with key decision-makers, which can make all the difference when it comes to securing future contracts.
At GovNet, we continue to build a strong portfolio of specialist exhibitions and conferences dedicated to the NHS and the wider healthcare sector, including Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT), the Leading Healthcare Innovation Summit (LHIS) and many more, including hundreds of training courses through Inside Government.