Medtech companies, health insurers, and healthcare systems talk a lot about data. My belief is no healthcare executives, providers, or consumers really care about “data.” What they do care about is making good decisions that will measurably improve healthcare and health outcomes, and make or save money. And they see data as a means to those ends, a tool for making those things happen.
So how do you meaningfully connect data with decisions and decisions with outcomes? How do you work in the interim outcomes like improved workflow and increased productivity? How do you know which features and benefits to emphasize and which not to emphasize or even mention? How do you determine what elements to consider including in your value proposition?
One powerful technique we use to identify and prioritize benefits is laddering. We use it in deep dives with clients, and in testing or validating hypotheses during customer research.
Here’s how it works:
At the bottom of the ladder is the essential feature. At the top is the highest level benefit or result.
But first, let’s clarify the difference between features and benefits: Features=description. Benefits=satisfaction. Data is a feature. Good decisions, better workflow, improved quality of care – those are benefits. Those are results that provide satisfaction.
And there are different kinds of benefits (some overlapping): There are core benefits, functional benefits, aesthetic benefits, self-expressive benefits, emotional benefits, and more.
Benefits are what customers care about. But sometimes inside the company, executives, product managers, and marketing managers care more about features. That’s a problem that laddering can help ameliorate.
Here’s what a simple benefits ladder might look like for streaming analytics within health IT, to appeal to healthcare providers.
- Improved Outcomes
- Safer Patients
- Enhanced Reputation
- Better Care
- Faster Decisions
Note that the core fundamental feature – data – is on the bottom. Just above that is the next level feature – analytics. Next we move up into benefits, starting with the functional benefit of prediction, which then leads to faster decisions. This set of four captures very concretely what the product is and does. And if we were to unpack these four further, we would get into workflow, efficiency, and productivity.
However as a set, the bottom four rungs on the ladder do not convey aspirations or emotions. And they do not express higher order benefits or results. For that, we need to go higher up the ladder.
A result of faster and therefore better decisions is better care. Which leads to multiple higher order benefits – like enhanced reputation, healthier patients, and better outcomes. And again, unpack these further and you’ll find patient satisfaction, HEDIS scores, etc. Some of these benefits may be produced concurrently, but for simplicity the ladder shows them in linear fashion.
When we go through this process in internal deep dives, we’ll invite clients to attach a heart to the one benefit they believe is the most compelling emotional hook for the product. For providers and streaming analytics… is it faster decisions, enhanced reputation, better outcomes? Is it improved workflow or its outgrowth, saving time?
The ladder they create and the emotional hook they select are well-educated hypotheses. We rely on the voice of the customer for validation or correction.
Bottom line, laddering is a great way to think through what your product or service delivers that matters to customers so you can improve your marketing. Do one for each of your main target audiences. When you do, you’ll notice the bottom rungs of the ladder are the same, it’s typically the higher order benefits that change.
Whether you’re bringing a new product or service to market or need to get better uptake with what you’re already selling, try laddering. It will enable you to transform your thinking, empathize with your customer point of view, inform your value proposition, and set yourself up for marketing success.
What’s your ladder??