Story | Roche Diagnostics

“Development of the new website has helped us to chart a course in our home market.”

Early in his career, Rasmus Julius Hansen assumed a lot of responsibility at Roche Diagnostics, a leading company in the worldwide market for blood testing equipment. As a part of Roche’s digital transformation, the 29-year-old Product Manager has been at the forefront of the company’s efforts to develop a new Point of Care website for its broad-based target group of private consumers as well as decision-makers in the healthcare industry. The project has called for top-notch professional skills, adaptability, and endurance and stamina, which Rasmus can personally relate to from his grueling 200-km-long cycling marathons.

Roche employs 94,000 people worldwide. The company has two divisions, Roche Pharma and Roche Diagnostics. Among other things, Roche Diagnostics offers an extensive range of products for blood work, urinalysis, and tissue diagnostics. This includes everything from the industrial-scale lab systems encountered in hospitals to compact on-site blood testing equipment used by primary care providers to perform blood tests rapidly and effectively. Naturally, Roche seeks to build positive relationships with individual customers as well as professional decision-makers, from the typical Danish family, who are able to remain at home and monitor their health, to primary care providers and the myriad of decision-makers and users in Danish hospitals.

“As Product Manager, I’m responsible for eight different products,” explains Rasmus. “So, I’m focused on ensuring that the market for the products has a bright future, on introducing the right new products, and on collaborating with the people who are interested in using our products. In the healthcare field, it’s all about project collaborations and talking to the nurses and lab techs, who are our end users. We also speak with purchasing managers at hospitals in order to find out which products they’re currently using and which ones they feel they’ll need in the future, just like we talk to individual patient groups.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Most of all, it’s about finding out whether we have the right products on the market and what products should we introduce next.”

A matrix organizational structure enhances our internal value chain

While many companies suffer from an inability to think outside the box, Roche Diagnostics encourages innovative marketing approaches from its different departments. Thus, Rasmus and his colleagues receive input from a wide variety of sources: “I’m in the marketing department but am also involved in projects centred around business development and sales. It’s a very collaborative process and includes pilot projects, where we try to identify the key insights to enable us to be prepared for the future. We work in close cooperation with a matrix-oriented structure.”

“We interact with our users and customers on different levels. For example, we may send one of our technicians to check out an instrument. He might learn something that is of interest to me or to someone else in our sales department. This might be a problem that needs to be solved or some insight that we can incorporate into our new products.”

An ambition to be Best In Class

Many companies are, of course, actively working on digital transformation, but few of them have such clearly articulated goals. When it comes to the company’s digital marketing profile, Roche Diagnostics has set the bar high and aims for nothing less than to be “Best In Class”. Naturally, Rasmus has put a lot of thought and reflection into this.

“At times, it can seem like some strategic PowerPoints are a little shallow because they say that we need to ‘become a digital market leader’ or ‘become this or that’. Slide presentations like these can make you wonder: ‘Okay, just what exactly does that mean? Exactly how can we become that?’”

“Digital marketing can mean an incredible number of things. Finding your way around and navigating is a big challenge today. We’d really like to be modern, do things the right way, and be up-to-date, and that places some self-imposed demands on us.”

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean that our customer and user types are ready for digital. A big part of what works best for us is engaging in close and personal dialogue. It’s all about going out and talking to customers face-to-face and really understanding their needs, and by understanding a need, coming up with an idea on how to solve it. This is where our marketing works best.”

“I think we’ve succeeded in introducing some new ideas in an industry that’s fairly resistant to change. At any rate, shaking up the status quo and thinking in new ways is one of the results I’d like to deliver and put on my resume.”

Both a digital and mental transformation

While digitalizing a business is a complicated and stressful event, it’s a valuable opportunity to gain new insight and change your business practices, which has a ripple effect that makes an impact beyond the digital environment. Roche Diagnostics is a sterling example of this.

Rasmus explains: “Thanks to the digital transformation, we’ve started thinking in a new way. We’ve increased our use of LinkedIn, we’re about to employ Facebook in a new screening campaign for HPV, and within my own area, we developed a new Danish website, Roche Point of Care, aimed at professionals.”

“In the course of adding content, we discovered how to write and communicate in a new way that is more interesting to our target audiences. Naturally, nobody in our target group (not doctors, nurses, patients or other users) type in our brand names when they perform a search on the Internet. Even people who work with our products on a daily basis don’t refer to them by their brand names. If the product measures blood sugar, they call it a glucose monitor or a blood sugar monitor. They aren’t thinking about the name of our company or the names of our brands.”

“So, we take some of the insight we’ve gained from listening to our users and customers, apply it to our solutions, and see if anyone reacts to it. It’s kind of a trial-and-error process, coming up with the right website: A site that by definition appeals to the right audience because it’s in a language they understand and reflects their needs.”

“In working on our new CoaguCheck website, where the audience consists of patients, we also think a lot about creating value for patients digitally. This is the focal point of everything we do, and it’s also reflected in our thinking about new digital platforms. Therefore, we focus on creating high-quality content that is inspirational for patients and beneficial to them in their daily lives. Patients today are quite digitally-oriented and they demand cutting-edge solutions. We listen to their requests and try our best to accommodate them.”

The goal was to create an online store, the solution turned into a whole platform for knowledge sharing

Initially, Roche wanted an online store. However, full implementation required integration with the ordering system, SAP, logistics, customer service, etc. So, instead, we decided to pretotype the idea and handle incoming orders manually. Ultimately, over the course of the process, we learned more about what was, in fact, critical for the project.

“We whittled down the project and discovered that we, first and foremost, wanted to find out who was interested in our products,” explains Rasmus, “because Denmark isn’t such a big country and the number of hospitals and primary care providers isn’t so large that we can’t handle all of the queries that might come in. So, actually, it was more about discovering the right people to target and attract to the website.”

“In the final analysis, it took 3-4 months of collaborating with Sunrise to develop the platform and get it ready.

After that, we became our own bottleneck due to the vast amount of content that needed to be added. I think the process has been unusual because, on the one hand, we had a clear idea of what we wanted whereas, on the other hand, we have an extensive global branding guide, so our hands are tied on a lot of things and we can’t just do as we please. It’s required a lot of deliberation and debate, and I definitely think that’s taken place. Sunrise has helped us chart a course in our home market.”

“One of the biggest value creators has been the exercise of developing it in-house. Just creating the website and adding content has been a learning experience in and of itself for my team and me personally. It has taught us to think less about our own brand and more about what our value points are. So, the features we have on the site highlight the value that we’re creating for our users. Sitting down with the team and thinking strategically about all our products, our history, everything we’ve learned from users, and how a content-based website can create value for them has been a learning experience that has also been a boon for our sales force. That’s actually what we think has been the best thing of all. If nothing else, it makes me believe that we’re delivering value. It’s facilitated the transformation process for our entire team.”

Why not apply digital insights to non-digital customer encounters?

Maybe it was the decision to abstain from the development of an online store that opened Roche’s eyes to the fact that new insight gained from the transformation process could also be applied outside the digital realm. When implemented properly, it’s also worth its weight in gold in the analogue world, as Rasmus clarifies: “Roche’s POC site collects all the available information about our products in one convenient place that users can turn to. We can see how much is being downloaded and used from the site: user manuals, reports, package inserts, brochures…

This provided insight that changed the overall way in which we interact with users and customers. Before, our meetings with users were very product-oriented, where we invited them to come and learn about a specific product. For example, our h 232 point-of-care system works more or less like this. But now, we hold theme days instead, where we perhaps have 14-15 speakers on hand from 9:30 to 5 and run various programs throughout the course of the day.”

“So, whether you’re a policymaker, nurse, primary care provider, or lab tech, you can find something that’s relevant and interesting, regardless of whether it’s something policy-related, a viewpoint relating to the future, or something down-to-Earth and practical. You can choose your own agenda for the day. We’ve also set up at conventions, where we have iPads while our competitors stand around with lots of printed flyers. This way, we get people’s e-mail addresses and can send them exactly what they need. At the same time, it provides us with sustainable customer profiling.”

“The way the Danish Regions administration, hospitals, and physicians purchase has changed, so there are additional people we need to invite who we didn’t need to in the past. Before, we focused on the customers: what they thought, what they were doing, and how they used our products. Now we believe that we also need to contact some of the people whom our customers talk to, specifically, end users. When end users are happy, who do they tell that they are satisfied with our products? In this way, I would say that our user philosophy has become somewhat broader.”

Key takeaway

Roche is a textbook example of the mindset that leads to effective digital solutions:

  1. Lofty goals focused on the customer
  2. Start the journey even if you don’t feel 100% ready
  3. Be willing to change course as you gain more knowledge

Where the axiom once read “build it and they will come” (only to discover that people ended up getting lost on their way to the “field of dreams”), Rasmus and his team have deliberately whacked the ball to the opposite side of the field. Roche has not only talked to customers and users, it’s also developed a solution for them. The company has even taken this one step further and implemented digital insights throughout its offline mar-keting and customer service functions.

For Sunrise, being a partner in this ambitious undertaking has been both a veritable pleasure and a rousing vote of confidence that we are extremely proud of.

Do you want to hear more?
Contact Digital Director & Partner
Mikkel Wendelboe
+45 26 18 16 18 or

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