Category Archives: compassionate marketing

Hope for the Future of Health IT Marketing!

hopeI just got back from the Health IT Marketing Conference (HITMC). It gets better and stronger every year, building incredible community, thanks in large part to the vision of its founders John Lynn and Shahid Shah.

I was fortunate to present on how to win internal support for better customer-centric marketing, and to lead a workshop – one that both delighted and humbled me. Here’s why.

The half-day workshop, Using the Voice of the Customer to Develop Winning Health IT Marketing, showed how to develop game-changing customer knowledge and translate it into winning marketing strategy.

The workshop participants – mostly marketing directors and managers – were incredible. It was my experience with them that was equal parts delightful and humbling. What stood out was their openness and candor, their desire to improve, their appreciation of the customer voice, and their willingness to challenge their own thinking and mine. And most of all, their commitment to deeply understanding and serving their customers.
Continue reading Hope for the Future of Health IT Marketing!

Customer or Money: Which Comes First in Med Tech?

As a strategic-thinking med device marketing or sales professional, you know it’s all about putting the customer first. But how do you get your company executives behind you if they’re solely focused on hitting the quarterly numbers and only paying lip service to being customer-centric?

This was the focus of a session I presented yesterday with Mark Kesti at the first Medical Device Marketing Summit, put together by the inimitable Joe Hage.

The goal was to stir up fresh thinking and provide both practical and contrarian tools to win greater company support for practicing customer intimacy and putting the customer first in marketing and communications work. The participants were seasoned and smart. Lively discussion generated good, practical ideas.

Here are five key takeaways:

  1. First means first: Putting the customer first literally means just that- putting the customer first. How? Give the customer a voice when it matters. That translates into giving the customer a voice before you decide on what products to invest in, before you determine technical feasibility for your device or software, before you put your messaging together, and before your sales force hit the streets.
  2. Problems not solutions: When you do give your customers a voice, be sure you’re not asking them to design the solution. That’s your job. Ask them to talk about what is and isn’t working, what problems they want solved, and what a better end state would be like. Don’t ask them what the product should be or what your marketing should look like. NTJ (not their job)!
  3. Direct connection: Get your technical people – scientists and engineers – involved with customers early on. Let them hear problems, concerns, likes and dislikes directly from the customer, not mediated through a report you give them. Help your technical team to experience customer pain points as much as possible. This is where qualitative research methodologies shine.
  4. Money metrics: Not all dollars are equal. Some come at the expense of long-term customer relationships, like through hitting your numbers by heavy end of year discounts. In companies committed to customer intimacy, the lifetime value of a customer trumps hitting quarterly numbers every time. Caveat: Shareholders may not agree. You have to balance the sometimes conflicting needs of two masters in that case: shareholders and customers. Ideally you have shareholders who see the value of long-term gains.
  5. Behavior before beliefs: Let’s say your CEO, doesn’t believe in putting the customer first. He’s all about the money and that mindset pervades the culture. You can beat this too. But don’t try to change his beliefs at first. Get his behaviors to change. Pitch putting the customer first as all about making more money. Speak in ROI terms. Because it’s true. Putting the customer first does make more money.

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More here:

3 Powerful “B4’s” that Put First Things First in Winning Innovation

“But We’ve Always Done It That Way” – Zen, Zero-Based Thinking, and a Fresh Approach

How to Get to Breakthrough Innovation: Desirability First!

Does Your Company Win at Caring? Take the “Who Cares” Quiz

who_cares“People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”

You work in the healthcare space. Whether you’re a product manager, a marketing specialist, a software engineer, or an executive, you are in an industry that exists to provide care. It’s not just evident in the industry name (healthcare), it’s the core purpose of the industry.

If any industry should be able to live up to the axiom above*, it’s healthcare.  And by caring first, business improves.

How does your company rate at first showing you care, and reaping the rewards? Take this quick quiz to find out. Give your company, then yourself, an honest rating. (Scale: 0= Not at all, 1=A little, 2=Somewhat,  3=A great deal)

The Official “Who Cares” Quiz

COMPANY QUESTIONS

  1. My company genuinely cares about the well-being of our customers.
  2. My company demonstrates caring, before showing how much we know.
  3. My company is aware of customer perceptions about our caring.
  4. My company gets better results because of how we care.

“YOU” QUESTIONS

  1. I genuinely care about the well-being of our customers.
  2. I demonstrate caring, before showing how much I know.
  3. I am aware of customer perceptions about our caring.
  4. I get better results because of how I care.

Scores: Add up your scores on each set of four questions. This will give you a company score between 0 and 12, and a personal score between 0 and 12.

Making Sense of Your Score

The four questions represent a sequence – feeling, doing, knowing, and winning.

Question 1 is about what you feel toward customers; how much you care about their well-being (not just their money!). If you fall short here (a score of 1 or 2), the remedy is culture change so you become more customer-centric and less product-centric. That’s a big job.

Question 2 is about what you do; the extent to which you communicate that caring first. A low score here means your actions do not match your intent. Fixing this requires improved and more strategic communications and organizational behavior change to support right action.

Question 3 is about what you know (rather than assume) about how much customers perceive your caring. This requires customer research to meaningfully score. A low score means your actions are not being recognized. The solution is better understanding customers and what actions they perceive as caring.

Question 4 is about what you win as a result of your caring. This refers to achieving revenue and other business objectives. A low score here means you’re falling short on one or more of the three other metrics, or you’re not leveraging your caring into other business outcomes. The fix is developing specific strategies to translate your caring into better products, improved experiences, and more effective marketing.

Conclusion

If your company scored at least 3 on each question, you’re in decent shape. However, for many med tech companies, and health care payers and providers, that’s not the case. When companies lose sight of their core purpose and instead focus solely on hitting their numbers, caring about customers gets squeezed out of the picture. The same holds true about your personal scores.

If your scores were low, consider the fixes described above. Ideally, your relationship-building, the customer experiences you create, your marketing campaigns, and your on-the ground sales reps should consistently emphasize caring – before knowledge. That way, you get “on purpose” and generate lasting emotional connections with customers that can translate into long-term loyalty and increased sales.

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* This popular axiom from James Hind was cited in a post by Jim Guiffre, reminiscing how dear colleague and friend Gene Drabinski, who recently died in a tragic car accident, didn’t just frequently share this quote, but fully lived it. Gene was a nurse, Vietnam vet, and former president of Healthwise; and a good, good man that freely showed how much he cared. More reminisces about Gene  here.

Motivating Health Behavior Change: Three Dangerous Assumptions To Avoid

Behavior change is becoming more and more important to device manufacturers, health IT companies, pharma, and life science firms, as they expand their offerings into disease prevention. Whether aiming to get people to eat healthier, exercise more, participate in screenings, take meds as prescribed, monitor insulin levels, or conduct self-exams, successfully motivating behavior change isn’t easy.

The good news is that health behavior change has been a major focus in public health for decades, and there are a lot of lessons that health care businesses can apply.

One key lesson is recognizing and correcting the fundamental assumptions that derail most efforts to motivate health behavior change. Here are three of the most pervasive and insidious assumptions.

  1. Assuming people don’t know better: Many companies wrongly assume that the barrier to behavior change is lack of awareness. Therefore the thinking goes, if we just give people logical reasons for why people should change their behaviors, they will see the light and mend their ways. Typically these logical reasons center on reducing risks of morbidity and mortality (does that sound exciting or what!?). The reality is that more often than not, people are already well aware that certain behaviors are bad for them. Ask any smoker or obese person; they recognize their habits are harmful, and they know they should quit smoking or cut calories. Lack of awareness is usually not the problem. Therefore, behavior change campaigns aimed at increasing awareness will always fall short.
  1. Assuming people behave as they believe: Consider your own life. Do your actions consistently reflect your beliefs about what is and is not healthy? Or is there a disconnect? I gave a guest lecture today to a great group of grad students studying public health communication. To make the point that people’s behaviors don’t always match their beliefs – what psychologists call cognitive dissonance – I asked how many regularly sleep 8 hours a night, eat nutritiously, and exercise vigorously. Only a handful of the students raised their hands. While they all believe they should get good sleep, eat well, and work out, very few behave that way. (And these are young people making health promotion/disease prevention their profession. They really know this stuff!). Human nature is such that we don’t always do what we know we should do. We unfortunately have the ability to sustain high levels of belief-behavior inconsistency. Campaigns that are predicated on the idea that people’s health behaviors will align with their beliefs about health usually fail.
  1. Assuming big negatives trump little positives: It seems so obvious. If you sell CPAP devices, you may think: How can people possibly not use their CPAP machine?  They could stop breathing and die in the middle of the night! Similarly, if you work for an insurance company or hospital, you may think: How can people at high risk of heart disease possibly not choose low fat, low salt foods? They could die of a heart attack! Same with medication adherence. Same with breast self-exams. Clearly, stopping breathing or having a heart attack are big negatives. But they are only possibilities. The comfort of sleeping without a face mask and loud machine is a definite. A small positive but a definite one. Likewise, the definite pleasure of a rich dessert can eclipse the possibility of a heart attack. Never underestimate the allure of immediate pleasures.

All these mistaken assumptions are rooted in what I call “us” centered thinking. The solution is to adopt “them” centered thinking. Put your customers in the middle, not yourself. That’s the first step toward successfully motivating health behavior.

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More resources on health behavior change here:

Getting People to Do What You Want: Two Paths to Persuasion

Be Like Vegas!… and 6 Other Tips to Increase Wellness Program Participation

 

Med Device Companies To Hospitals: Do NOT Buy Everything From Us!

Over the years, many med device companies have pursued a “whole house” strategy in order to increase sales within their hospital install base. We’ve seen the approach fail more fail more often than not because it usually comes across as all about the manufacturer, not about what’s best for the customer.

What device companies essentially say: Buy everything for a care area (say the ICU) from us, and you’ll have maximum interconnectivity that will improve work flow and patient care. And you’ll reduce demand on the your IT department. And by dealing with only one vendor, Purchasing will save time and money.

What hospitals hear: You’re purposely designing your devices to not “talk” to competitor products in order to lock them out. How does that help us? It feels like you’re manipulating us into buying everything for our ICU from you. We’d rather buy “best of breed” and work with companies that enable connectivity with other brands.

And therein lies the golden opportunity: Flip it.

What if instead, you told hospital customers that you recognize they can’t buy everything for their ICU from you, and they probably shouldn’t. In fact, you purposely designed your devices to work well with competitor products.

Note how much more customer-centric this presentation is. And it  still lets you offer meaningful clinical and financial advantages from buying multiple devices from you, without triggering perceptions  that you’re being manipulative and greedy. Because you’re not.

Health Behavior Change? Try the “Wrong Reason” Approach

Health behavior change is a major challenge for hospitals, providers, med device companies, health insurers, etc. It’s been a topic of well-meaning and often paternalistic debate for centuries- how do you get people to do what’s good for them?

The prevailing – and not very effective approach, is to try to logically convince them. Make a rational argument as to the benefits of changing their behavior and the risks of not. Assume people will digest the information you provided. The light will go on! People will stop the bad behavior and start the good behavior. After all, it makes so much sense, how could they not agree and do what you say?!

We all feel that way when we are doing the persuading. It’s human nature. Whether it’s trying to get a kid to put on sunscreen, an overweight person to stop eating so much, or a patient to upload their blood pressure readings to their doctor, we often persuade with the logical “right reasons.” Which rarely works.

Why? It doesn’t meet people where they’re at. From their perspective, it pushes your agenda, not theirs. It presumes and may even require people to care about what you care about and believe what you believe.

The alternative is to figure out what already motivates them, what they  already care about, what they already believe -then find the common ground with what you want.

Example: Want to promote better nutrition? Maybe most people won’t be motivated by your logical argument about reducing their risk of morbidity and mortality (as exciting as it sounds!). But maybe what you may consider “wrong reasons” – like looking hotter or saving money or fitting in socially, will do the job.

“Wrong reasons” are really the right reasons when they motivate people to do good things. Then, once they’re doing the healthier behavior, they be open to your more rational point of view.

More here: http://www.researchworks.com/YMM_2012/ResearchWorks_YourMarketingMinute_HowToChangeYourEndUsersBehavior_TwoPathsToPersuasion.html

 

 

The Painful Cost of Disruptive Innovation: Uber & Cancer?

“It’s like a cancer,” he said. I was in a limo in DC asking the driver who owns a fleet of town cars and vans, what he thought of Uber. He told me his wife just had a recurrence of a serious cancer and he likened it to Uber’s relentless and heartless intrusion into his transportation business.

Bottom line, Uber has tremendously disrupted his business and he is pissed. What most people admire and call a brilliant business model (UberX), he considers unfair and unjust. And he’s not alone, as this Bloomberg article points out.

This is what disruptive innovation does. It stirs things up, hurts the status quo. It causes pain and suffering to people invested in the product or service that was disrupted.

Some pivot and take advantage of the disruption. Others get protective of their turf and fight back. Sometimes they have enough power to fend off or minimize the disruption.  Like with stethoscopes, which should by now be a relic, replaced by high-resolution hand-held ultrasound devices, as Eric Topol points out.

And sometimes it’s a long drawn-out war. Like between some med device companies and durable medical equipment suppliers (DMEs), many of whom may be replaced by other distribution outlets coupled with new patient monitoring systems.

Is disruptive innovation bad? No. By definition, it serves a higher good. But we need to acknowledge it does cause pain to some. We can disrupt with compassion for those who are supplanted. It keeps us all a little more human.

Introducing Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing: A New Paradigm for Healthcare

How do we hunt down our target customers?
What market niches can we seriously exploit with our solutions?
What’s our plan of attack to capture these business partners?

Several med device clients asked me these kinds of questions over the last couple weeks as we were strategizing their business development plans and marketing efforts.

Exploiting, attacking, hunting down… I’ve been feeling disturbed for awhile at the predatory nature of the metaphors commonly used in business development. Not just because our clients posing these questions are in the humanitarian business of serving the healthcare industry and improving care. It’s mostly because this language promotes an adversarial relationship dynamic in which the business aims to overpower, dominate, and subdue its customers. The business “wins” when the customer submits.

I don’t mean to discount the value or need for warlike thinking – it has its place.  I appreciate the wisdom in Sun Tzu’s classic treatise The Art of War and have applied it in our work. However, even in in war it is not all about aggression or attacking, as evidenced by this seminal Sun Tzu quote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

Bottom line for business development, a violence-based paradigm is self-defeating. It perpetuates a negative mindset and wears people down. And mostly, it doesn’t genuinely meet customer needs or sustain customer relationships. I believe it also greatly reduces profitability over the long haul.

The alternative is what I am hereby dubbing “Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing” – greatly inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication process (more below).  It starts with righting our language, because our words reflect our thoughts and shape our actions.

Let’s try it by reframing the business development questions above into the Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing paradigm.

This: How do we hunt down our target customers?
Becomes: How do we find and make welcome our target customers?

This: What market niches can we seriously exploit with our solutions?
Becomes: What market niches can we seriously benefit with our solutions?

This: What’s our plan of attack to capture these business partners?
Becomes: What’s our plan of action to meet the needs of these business partners?

Do you feel different when you read the new versions — more optimistic, connected, energized? I do. Might the new way you feel change the decisions you make, actions you take and the way you interact with customers? Might you get better results? I hope so!
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This is just the very beginning. Much work is needed to expand and apply this thinking. The good news we stand on tall shoulders – Marshall, MLK, Ghandi, to name a few – and we have a rich history of nonviolence to draw upon and apply to business, especially to marketing. We also can apply the work of leading business minds who promote infusing love (yes, love!) into business as the way to be more successful and profitable. I’m thinking of the practice of my friend and banking executive Neville Billimoria whose email signature is simply “Love Neville” as well as leadership guru Steve Farber’s Radical Leap books (FYI, the “L” in Leap is for Love). If you know of other work in this space, please let me know. This will be an ongoing collaborative effort.

May Nonviolent Marketing become an influential and positive paradigm shift in business. May it serve you, your company, and your customers well.

Note: Marshall Rosenberg created the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) process in the 1960s. It’s also referred to as Compassionate Communication because the core premise is about understanding, valuing, and meeting people’s basic human needs. NVC is far from a touchy-feely philosophy divorced from reality. Check out this video (showcased here on Upworthy) where Marshall is demonstrating how to apply NVC to very hostile situations including terrorism. I first learned about and applied NVC when dealing with communication and respect within my own family. I try to apply it at home and in my consulting work everyday.