Brand Managers: Why Do You Need Regional Marketing?


By Kip Kelly

Let’s be honest, all brand managers understand that NYC is not LA is not Chicago. They certainly understand that top CBSAs (Core-Based Statistical Areas) have more potential than mid-tier CBSAs. What they may not know is why 2 CBSAs - Miami and Seattle - for example, are more similar than different. Intuitively, marketers know that there are regional differences across a national campaign but often are not in a position to understand why or what to do about it. The easy solution is to keep putting resources into the top CBSAs. Surely, this will keep the field forces in the top CBSAs happy and cover the top potential markets. But what if spending an additional dollar in a top CBSA was not as valuable as spending it in a high potential area where your return would be that much greater? What if the size of a major metropolitan area was not one of the key drivers in your brand performance and NYC was not the best place to play? What if regions were defined as both geographic and virtually?

Many brand managers think they know how to do regional marketing. To make matters worse, there are plenty of vendors offering tactical solutions that feel like they fit the bill. But doing regional marketing well is not just about customizing your tactics to a specific geography. Good regional marketing is equal parts solving a consulting problem and creating solid, engaging, locally relevant tactics.

"Good regional marketing is equal parts solving a consulting problem and creating solid, engaging, locally relevant tactics."

A marketer may understand that regional variation impacts brand success but struggle with homing in on the reason. But understanding why various geographic, or virtual, areas are different is key. It means a brand manager can tailor the message to improve engagement and, hopefully, impact. Market analytics teams, as good as they are, may not have the bandwidth to execute on a regional variation analysis on a broad scale and the marketer may not be able to make such a request. This is where a specialist in regional marketing can share experience and competence.

Also, sometimes the variation in brand impact has less to do with the differences in CBSAs or regions and more to do with other market drivers. For example, the ratio of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to MDs and DOs in a given specialty can have an incredible impact on a brand. Another very relevant example comes from recent news headlines. What impact is COVID-19 having on healthcare? What impact is the variation in openings and closings of states having on a brand’s strategic priorities? How will telemedicine, which is becoming de rigueur, change how healthcare providers (HCPs) interact with patients and, therefore, change how we, as brand managers and marketers, interact with HCPs?

Understanding how market drivers cause this variation across your markets can help you deliver tactics at scale. Surely, no marketing team wants to develop tactics for every possible permutation. But, by understanding which areas have similar business driver issues, a short list of impactful tactics can be scaled to fit. The business driver analysis may show that there are “virtual regions”. Instead of finding areas that are geographically aligned, the marketer may end up with clusters of like areas. For example, the analysis may show that one virtual area has better ROI with peer-to-peer programming. Another may show that you can load up on non-personal promotion or that allied health professionals play a major influence. These drivers would call for a small set of tactics that can be scaled to fit any area that has the same driver characteristics.

For years, pharma and biotech have been working with national thought leaders to capture mind share in the market. These national campaigns have proven to be successful repeatedly.

However, in order to achieve even greater results, our campaigns must evolve to “think local.”

There are too many local dynamics - like organized customers, regional payers, and social determinants - that make treating patients different at the local level. Often, the best source of influence is a local thought leader, someone who recognizes and deals with the same dynamics that influence your customer’s treatment decisions.

"...regional marketing is all about understanding where to play and then developing locally relevant, highly engaging tactics that can be deployed in a multichannel way."

So, regional marketing is all about understanding where to play and then developing locally relevant, highly engaging tactics that can be deployed in a multichannel way. It’s no longer acceptable for a grocery store to just sell groceries. The chains have evolved to understand their customers through loyalty programs and to deploy tactics, like point-of-sale coupons, that are highly relevant and, therefore, engaging to the customer. Regional marketing helps brand managers emulate this model with their customers.

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