Gratitude in the Med Tech World

Thanksgiving.

In America, the holiday wakes up a lot of people to the good in their lives and they feel thankful.gratitude

I believe that for those of us whose work results in preventing disease, allaying pain and suffering, or restoring health, we have something to be thankful for everyday. That includes every person involved in med tech, healthcare, life sciences, health insurance, etc.

You have chosen to work in a field that inherently has meaning and purpose. Of course, it’s easy to lose sight of that, with the relentless pressure to come up with the next big thing, to be fast to market, to hit your numbers no matter what. And if your work is far from the front lines of patient care, it can become harder to connect what you do with the ultimate outcome of better health.

Stay motivated by connecting your work with its higher purpose – improving health and well-being. Here’s a story that brings to life how you can imbue meaning in what you do everyday, by repositioning your own thinking.

Sir Christopher Wren was a renowned astronomer, writer, and most notably an architect – a real renaissance man. He designed many of the most famous churches in England in the late 1600s. One day when Sir Christopher was inspecting the work on his masterpiece St. Paul’s Cathedral, he walked up to one stonemason and asked, “What are you doing?” The worker said “I’m laying stone.” Sir Christopher thinks about it, nods his head and keeps walking. He turns the corner of the building and walks up to another stonemason. He walks over to him, and once again says, “What are you doing?” This man looks at him, looks up, smiles, and says: “Sir, I am building a monument to God!”

He was doing the exact same work as the first mason, but the second mason connected his actions with a powerful vision and greater meaning. You can imagine this second mason was far more driven, focused, and committed to the results of his work. Why? He imbued his work with a higher purpose. It was no longer about the stones he laid.  It was about building a monument to God. His recognition that he was contributing to a significant purpose was the source of his focus and clarity.

So you’re not just managing work streams, developing product specs, writing code, editing copy, or selling products. You are contributing to better health, to less pain and suffering, to hope for living a better life.

Remember – especially when you feel overwhelmed with details and deadlines: YOU are making the world a little better.

Thank you.

The Critical Step Before Business Model Innovation…First Things First!

ambiguityOnce upon a time there was a little division in a big med device diagnostic company that wanted to extend into the unfamiliar territory of disease prevention.

The division was trying to win internal support and significant funding. They knew they needed a strong business case but had not yet figured out the specifics of their offering. There were a lot of unspoken assumptions and hypotheses. Moving forward by simply saying “we think we can, we think we can!” might work for little engines, but was not a good business practice for this group.

In short, the group was at a fork in the road. Going to the left they could travel on “Ambiguity Lane.” Staying to the right, they could move forward on “Clarity Way.”

Ambiguity Lane
In some ways, Ambiguity Lane seemed easier in the short-term because it postponed figuring out the foundational stuff that really needed to be figured out. Ambiguity Lane involves jumping ahead into business model development and skipping over the work of first gaining sufficient clarification on the offering or identifying and validating key assumptions. In this context, people travel Ambiguity Lane with a passive and often unspoken ambiguity that serves to postpone commitment.

On one hand, getting a business model in place sounds concrete and has an element of CYA, which can have a certain appeal. On the other hand, this sequencing also means living and speaking in ambiguities that avoids real commitment.

Even those team members that felt the seductive pull of Ambiguity Lane also saw its risks: 1) Internal leadership could more easily ignore the project or refuse to support it since it was lacking in substance and focus, and 2) The business model would be weak and not very actionable because it was built prematurely and based on too many hypotheticals.

Clarity Way

Going down Clarity Way was a happy choice to some; and initially felt risky to others. Clarity Way requires an honest assessment of what the team knows (and doesn’t know) about their offer and how desirable it is to customers, how feasible it is technically, and how viable it is financially. This road exposes critical business assumptions and opens them up to verification or correction. Clarity Way gets key questions on the table and solved in order to move into business model innovation with a solid foundation and in the right sequence.

The team members that wanted to travel on Clarity Way felt it would be premature and risky to jump into business model innovation without conducting some due diligence first. They did not want to pretend they knew more then they actually knew or use ambiguity as a cover for not having worked things through. They felt that the other road, Ambiguity Lane, was actually the greater risk.

 

Making the Choice

Turns out that Clarity Way has lots of blue sky and sunshine. Its travelers believe that transparency gets the best results, in line with the famous statement by Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Ambiguity Lane is grey and misty. It’s easy to get lost or misled when it’s hard to see clearly. As common sense philosopher Thomas Reid said, “There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.”

After some soul searching, the little division in the big med device diagnostic company choose Clarity Way. They knew how much was at stake for the company by extending into the unfamiliar territory of disease prevention.

The Clarity Way travelers also saw the value of first getting everyone’s ideas, concerns, and questions on the table, identifying which hypotheses needed to be tested, and getting initial input from customers. By doing so, they felt they’d be able to make informed decisions, understand and avoid internal roadblocks, and solidly move forward into developing their business model and business case to unlock investment.

Happy Ending!

Once the team came together on Clarity Way and shared what they knew and what they assumed, they immediately recognized that the appeal of their offering was predicated on three major hypotheses. They did a fast round of customer research and validated two of those mission-critical assumptions. One assumption however, related to how desirable their offer would be to customers, was way off. With egos aside and a quick pivot, they corrected their thinking and modified their offering substantially. Doing so called for a totally different business model than would have been developed had they not made the commitment to do first things first. The team got the investment they sought and solid support from the CEO.

Life and business requires enough ambiguity, and we definitely need skills to navigate through it. But don’t let passive ambiguity be an excuse for not diving in and doing what needs to be done. Please get clear on your offering and why customers want it and will pay for it. Then and only then should you work on your business model so you can really get it right.

First things first!

 

Better Med Tech Marketing Campaigns: The “Donald Trump” Lesson

MTMUnlike the most controversial presidential hopeful Donald Trump, med tech marketing campaigns often shy away from saying what they really mean. Call it political correctness, fear of failure, legal restrictions, or CYA. But regardless of what is driving the ambiguity, the result is watered down messages and poorer results. Say what you believe as explicitly as you can – at least in your brainstorming and creative strategy development. Then (also unlike Donald!) tame it in your message execution if you have to.

In the 1990 movie Crazy People, Dudley Moore was an advertising exec turned mental patient who got his fellow patients to create wildly successful campaigns. Their gift was honesty – unvarnished, blunt, explicit honesty. For example, their Jaguar car campaign targeting men showed a scantily clad woman next to a shiny new Jag with the line “Buy a Jaguar. Get Laid.” Now most of us may not be able to get away with that degree of explicitness in our ads, but we can in our creative thinking.

I recently saw a billboard for a mortgage firm that boldly proclaimed “your loan sucks.” Which is more typically the unspoken claim. As always with bold messaging, you need to weigh the attention-getting effect against the turn-off effect.  Check out our “Think/Feel/Do” messaging framework here, for more guidance.

So, in extremely plain language, answer this: What is it that are you not saying, but you want customers to think? Then do your customer messaging research to see just how explicit you can be, while improving your reputation and increasing sales.

Med Tech Marketing: From TMI to JEI

“Wait until you hear about our amazing new technology!” the CEO exclaimed to a group of potential hospital executives. With great enthusiasm he spewed out more jargon-laden technical details than anyone cared to hear. Deep inside, the CEO sadly wondered why his audience is less than totally entranced.TMI

This unfortunately happens a lot. Really smart people make this mistake. Why? They let their passion blind them. They get carried away with their own stuff, lose sight of the customer perspective, and give way too much information (TMI). And they somehow convince themselves that their audience needs to know all about the technology in order to appreciate it.

Maybe it’s the CEO of a biotech start-up who spent years developing her ideas and designing prototypes. She really truly believes her technology is super-amazing. And maybe it is. Or perhaps it’s the product manager enamored of all the specs and product requirements his engineers are diligently working on to bring their next gen device to life. Or it may be the marketing person who is expected to give customers ALL the data her team thinks is important.

Note that the issue is NOT whether your technology or device or software really is amazing. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that your customers care about your product. That requires you to give them just enough information (JEI) so they know what it is they are caring about and why. Remember JEI: Just Enough Information.

One challenge in shifting from TMI to JEI is what Noble Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman calls the “illusion of validity.” That is, when people hold onto their judgment even in the face of contradictory evidence.

How does this play out? Let’s say you’re pitching your product and go overboard with TMI. You know customers and investors are tuning out. You’ll come up with all kinds of reasons why that happened. But they won’t include TMI. You’ll manage to “protect” your belief that others need to know all about the technology.

It’s not logical. Somewhere inside you, you know better. But it’s a tough to surrender that yearning to tell the world all about the technology you care so deeply about and know so well.

The good news is you can redirect that passion into more productive marketing that meets your customers where they are at. And you don’t have to let go of your tech patter forever. There is a time and place for the technical details, the facts and figures, the product specs, and the empirical evidence. But it’s not first. And it’s not all at once.

First is enabling customers to make an emotional connection – not with your technology, but with the problem you’re solving. To do that, tell people what inspired you or your company to build the new technology. Talk about what problem you saw and why it was not acceptable. Only after people connect with the unacceptability of the problem, will they appreciate the need for a solution, and then eventually for your solution.

In short, to avoid TMI and embrace JEI, start by being human.

Understanding How Customers “Anchor” on Prices: An Opportunity to Increase Sales

Imagine your boss just surprised you with a $10,000 bonus. Would you be happy? Probably so. What if you now found out your boss gave your co-workers a $20,000 bonus. Still happy? Probably not.

Next, imagine you’re at an electronics store ready to buy a new high-end computer for $1,995. You use your phone to do a quick price check online and find the same computer at a competing store down the street for a bit less, $1,985. Would you go to the other store for the lower price? Probably not.

Now instead, imagine you’re at the same electronics store ready to buy a new calculator for $19.95. You check online and find the same calculator at the competing store down the street for less, $9.95. Would you go to the other store for the lower price? Probably so.

What’s going on??

What’s going on is that your frame of reference or “anchor” is changing. In the first bonus example, you compare $10,000 to $0 so of course you’ll be happy. You just gained $10,000. In the second bonus example, you compare your $10,000 to the $20,000 your co-workers got. Now you feel like you’re down $10,000 and you’re unhappy. However, from a rational perspective, it shouldn’t matter because in both scenarios you have $10,000 more than you did before.

In the electronics examples, the decision is about saving $10. However when you can save $10 on an almost $2,000 purchase, you feel it’s not worth the trouble of going to a different store. It’s only half of 1%. But when you can save $10 on a $20 purchase, you feel compelled to go to the other store. After all it’s saving 50%! But logically, it’s still $10 in both scenarios. And $10 is $10.

Anchoring is just one example from the rich field of behavioral economics that demonstrates how our mental accounting is not always logical or rational. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s simply how most people operate. Knowing and understanding the powerful principles of behavioral economics and how to apply them in med tech marketing can help you appeal to customers in ways that better fit how they process information and make decisions.

Please share your examples of taking the anchoring principle into consideration (or not!) and tell us what resulted.

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Read about the status quo bias and how to overcome it: Why Selling New Technology into Hospitals is Hard: Overcoming the Status Quo Bias

Better ROI from Your Marketing Research Investments: The Deep-Wide-Long Approach

Med device and health IT companies are constantly investing in new ideas, hoping to discover and bring to market the next game-changing product or service. That requires lots of market intelligence and customer research to get it right and avoid relying on risky guesswork and hunches.

A problem we see, especially with the larger companies that sell hundreds of products into numerous care areas in hospitals, is fragmentation. Even within a care unit, many research projects involving the same target audience and addressing similar needs are not coordinated and not taking advantage of cross-investigation.

For example, a company offering a range of cardiology products may have one business unit doing discovery research for new product ideas for stents and catheters, another BU validating value propositions for their special ECG monitor, and yet another BU getting reactions to messaging for a groundbreaking ultrasound device. Or all three BUs may be simultaneously doing research to answer the same business question, e.g. how to position their particular line of new cardiology products for launch. In either case, it’s likely – unfortunately – that none of the BUs are talking to one another.

The good news is that there are good strategic opportunities for collaboration that would benefit all the BUs, the company, and the customers they serve. Here is a framework we developed to help med tech companies leverage their investment in any and every customer research project for a better ROI. We call it Deep-Wide-Long.

Typically, a customer research project will go deep on the main topic, whether it’s understanding a specific set of problems customers are facing, getting reactions to new product concepts, or shaping marketing messages. With careful planning, the project can also go wide by investigating adjacent areas. And it can go long, by strategically reinforcing within the company the benefit of taking a customer-centric approach to product innovation and marketing. The incremental cost of doing so is small compared to the knowledge gain and its value.

For example, if we’re interviewing cardiologists to mainly gain insights into what they want ultrasound devices to do for them (deep), we can secondarily allow time to also investigate their use of ECG monitors as well as their reactions to new ideas for device integration (wide). Plus we can engage the other relevant BUs to understand their information needs as we shape the project, and then facilitate integration of the results across BUs (long).

The bottom line of Deep-Wide-Long is improving the bottom line by getting as much mileage as possible from every marketing research project, in a way that strengthens the company’s commitment to put the customer first.