Many cannabis manufacturers and dispensary owners I talk to don’t have a direct sales team; most don’t like making sales visits or calls to key physicians and virtually all say they don’t have the time to do more on the development side of their business. Does this sound like you or your practice?
As competition between post-acute health care providers continues to tighten and the market for medical cannabis and CBD expands, medical cannabis providers must begin to think differently about where their business comes from and how they seek out and cultivate new business opportunities. Who are the physicians that refer you the most patients? Do physicians understand the full scope of how medical cannabis can help their patients? Are you reaching your full market potential?
If you are not asking these questions, someone in your market is, or soon will be. I think it is fair to say the medical cannabis market is booming, attracting interest from patients, physicians, as well as investors, and private equity groups looking to cash-in on the next big bubble. The high level of interest, combined with the volume of Americans that could be helped utilizing medical cannabis and/or CBD, and a fragmented provider community are all contributing factors in new, well-funded competitors popping up across the country. They are well-funded and have learned lessons from what works in adjacent post-acute health care markets, chief among them, physician targeting and conversion.
Pharmaceutical companies learned this lesson decades ago; the more you communicate with key physicians, the more likely they are to prescribe your drug or refer the patient to a preferred provider. In order to focus on key physicians, pharmaceutical reps were able to use data that ranked physicians by the volume of prescriptions they write for targeted drugs. Medical device companies were not far behind pharma in their adaption of utilizing data to identify and rank top opportunities, whether physician or provider based.
So, why have medical cannabis providers missed the memo on the importance of physician-direct marketing to growing a business and educating key stakeholders on the efficacy of their breakthrough medical treatments? Most cannabis business owners I’ve had the pleasure of knowing got into business because of a family connection, entrepreneurial spirit or a genuine desire for helping patients. When their businesses took off with the recent surge in positive cannabis-related legislation and regulatory changes, many have seen significant growth and have been forced from patient care to some level of business management.
Business acumen is on the rise, so what is the next step for a medical cannabis business owner? Data analytics can dramatically increase the efficacy of your strategic growth planning efforts. A provider looking to enter a new market? What if we could define the market opportunity based on the total volume of relevant patients diagnosed with targeted disease states over the past year? How about which hospitals or physicians treat the highest volume? Targeted sales engagement with key, high-value referral sources in your markets is a must. Whether you have a dedicated sales or marketing staff or not, a modern health care provider must effectively communicate with referral sources and seek out new opportunities with physicians working with local competitors to remain relevant.
A good place to start is to review which physicians drive you the most patients. This is data that every medical cannabis business has, but likely not utilizing as part of a referral source management or sales enablement strategy.
Once you’ve determined your key physicians, assign a key account manager; this can be the owner, or a sales representative. The goal is to put a professional face on your business brand and engage in targeted, tactical conversations that strengthen your relationship through effective and timely communication. Dr Johnson, I wanted to follow up with you on a patient who you recently certified a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis for the purposes of receiving medical cannabis treatment from our office. Would you have a few minutes to discuss how our treatment has affected their day-to-day activity? This strategy can also be useful in determining which offices to target for education or in-service lunches, etc.
The physicians currently driving you business is a good start, but if you are already working with them, the growth factor is limited to just a fraction of the overall market. The next level of sales targeting involves finding physicians that do not currently top your key physicians list but are actively treating patients with targeted disease states. Investing in targeted claims data to identify and rank by volume, physicians diagnosing patients with MS, epilepsy, cancer, ALS, and other afflictions found to be helped by medicinal cannabis will help you compete with large, structured sales/marketing operations without investing in a large, structured sales force.
Depending on your market and geographic footprint, a dedicated sales person, or a dedicated practice owner, can truly have a significant impact in sourcing and converting high-value referral sources that are not currently sending you business. One person cannot do the job of 10 unless they are much more efficient, nimble and armed with the most relevant market intelligence for your business development strategy. Investing in data allows a small business to boil all of the relevant referral sources in a market down to a list of your best opportunities for growth. Value and segment those opportunities based on potential reward and create tiered contact plans for each segment. The top, cream of the crop opportunities, should be the full attention of management, with additional engagement from sales/marketing staff. As you work your way from the top prospects, down to the second and third tier, the management involvement will be reduced and supplemented with other staff.
Whether you have a sales team or not, targeted referral source management and business development strategies are a must for medical cannabis businesses to compete and grow in 2019 and beyond. If you are not talking to your referral sources or trying to find new ones, I assure you someone else is, or soon will be.