Category Archives: marketing

What The Smash Broadway Hit Hamilton Teaches Healthcare About Marketing

Describing the Broadway play Hamilton as a smash hit is a huge understatement. Nonstop media coverage, standing room only, tickets being scalped for thousands of dollars — demand vastly outstrips supply.

Hamilton

If you happened to see the Tony Awards the other night, you saw Hamilton front and center, sweeping the night with 11 awards. Even the President and First Lady did a pitch about Hamilton during the awards show, with Obama touting, “a civics lesson kids can’t get enough of!”

Hamilton is a great example of how popular entertainment can get people engaged and excited about what otherwise may seem uninteresting. How popular entertainment call sell powerful ideas.

Hamilton is selling a great history lesson about the founding of America. As Obama put it, “in this telling, rap is the language of revolution.  Hip-hop is the backbeat.” Who would have thought it??

Well, why not?! And why not apply that same open-minded thinking to selling healthcare, insurance, medical devices, and health IT?

Bottom line, your products and services exist to restore and promote health – that’s really important. Some promise small improvements, others revolutionary changes. Challenge your marketing minds to think outside-the-box (even if Legal makes you reign things in later!) and create a Hamilton level of buzz and demand about the improvements your offerings make.

Whether your campaign is powered by rap or rock, whether it uses humor or tragedy, whether it looks backwards or far into the future, you can stand out. You can get people excited about a technology or product that may otherwise seem uninteresting. Harness your creativity and imagination to deeply engage your customers and patients. Use research to make sure it works.

As Barbra Streisand put it when introducing the final Tony Award for the best musical: “Celebrate the beauty that artistry can bring into the world.”

Help your customers and the world see the beauty and artistry in  the value your company provides.

Siemens Healthineers: New Name, New Promise

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When I was a teenager back in 1986, Disney brilliantly dubbed its design and development arm “Imagineering.” With the unique blend of imagination and engineering denoted by the name, the group developed Disney’s theme parks, resorts, and other entertainment venues. Perhaps more than any other entertainment company, Disney has consistently provided imaginative engineering that creates one-of-a-kind experiences for guests. They have delivered on the promise of Imagineering.

Fast forward 30 years, Siemens just this month rolled out its new brand name “Siemens Healthineers” for their healthcare business. They explained it this way: “The new brand underlines Siemens Healthcare’s pioneering spirit and its engineering expertise in the healthcare industry.”

Of course, the greatest power of a brand name is in the promise it makes. Here’s the promise that CEO Bernd Montag made in relation to the new name: “Going forward as Siemens Healthineers, we will leverage this expertise to provide a wider range of customized clinical solutions that support our customers business holistically. We are confident in our capability to become their inspiring partner on our customers’ journey to success.”

Other industry leaders have made similar moves. In 2014, Philips pivoted their focus to become a HealthTech company. The strategy combined their professional healthcare business and consumer business (and still trying to spin off the lighting business) so that “health professionals and consumers will engage on their health journey in a more continuous manner, instead of waiting for acute episodes where disease may hit the patient.” Several years prior, GE launched Healthymagination as their “commitment to invest in innovations that bring better health to more people.”

I think the challenge for Siemens Healthineers will be to focus not on engineering health products but on actually engineering better health, and in a way that is meaningfully different than their competitors.

It’s a subtle but significant difference. Engineering health products is about what they make. Engineering better health is about why. And it is the “why” that can fulfill Montag’s promise to become an “inspiring partner on our customers’ journey to success.”

So it is for all companies: The inspiration is always in your “why.” Which in medtech, ultimately comes down to reducing suffering, improving wellbeing, and saving lives.

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!

Getting Clearer on Patient Engagement: What You Said

In a recent post on patient engagement, I made the point that as a field, we really need to clearly define what patient engagement is and isn’t. After all, how can we improve it, if we’re not clear what “it” is?

Accordingly, I proposed a definition for patient engagement along with a rationale, and invited you to comment and add your definition. Many of you did, providing interesting ideas and much food for thought. Thank you all.

We aggregated what you said (only slightly edited for grammar) and are sharing it here to further the conversation. Let me know what stands out for you, and any new ideas or definitions that come to you.

Joeri GredigWe see patient engagement as the most valuable driver at maximal low costs to achieve faster recovery. Technology developed with focus on patient perceived value will boost caregivers effectiveness.

Leslie Rees: Hard to define with different attitudes of both patient and clinician and often determined by circumstance funding and time.

Marian BondPatient engagement is very different from listening to a patient worry about their health or takes action to improve their condition. Patient engagement is about giving your time to actually hear what is being said and acting as a conduit for that patient to grow in knowledge and spirit. Engagement is the illusion of time for that patient – making them feel like they are the only one in the universe and making them feel fully heard. Care and comfort is a lost art in medicine. It is something that a lot of facilities are trying to teach, but best taught by example.

William Hannon: You can never replace Empathy. Doctors, Nurses, Device Designers, Architects all need to embrace a sense of EMPATHY with the patient. It is a sad state of affairs when a whole new profession UX ‘User Experience appears out of nowhere.

Rafael Goeting: Engagement happens when we give our patients a greater sense of control over treatment, care, and outcome. This type of engagement is not limited to just the patient but also includes their loved ones.

Mahendra Bhandari MD,MBA: Patient engagement is a perpetual support to a patient, outside the period of ‘in person’ contact with the healthcare provider. Wireless medicine and technology is poised to play a major role. This engagement has to continue beyond the treatment of illness to wellness.

Dawn Stewart: In my opinion patient engagement comes in different forms and at different levels. This can consist of a patient taking interest in their condition, seeking out information around treatment and management, understanding their medications…rather than just letting the healthcare professionals treat them. It’s about taking some kind of active role in the disease, condition and therapy.

Sk Ray: I think patient engagement is the tool to share the information which are beneficial for any individual who is suffering due to illness or who is health conscious.

Thomas Calloway MBA: Great topic, Mr. Engelberg. I have always considered “patient engagement” the attitudinal decision that stimulates a commitment to modify deleterious health behavior. If you like, when patient and doctor decide to work together.

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Note that to some of you, patient engagement is about patient attitudes toward their health. For others, it’s about tools, or interaction between providers and patients. A couple of you highlight empathy as the critical ingredient. And several focus on behaviors or actions patients take to improve their health or healthcare.

I’ll keep working on refining the definition of patient engagement so we can move to an industry standard. I welcome your ongoing feedback and input.

Once defined, the next question becomes… how do we measure patient engagement? The fun continues!

What Is A Customer?

customerWhat is a Customer?

The simplest definition is: Someone who buys things from a business.

A better definition comes from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. He says the customer is “… the boss. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Another good definition makes us think in human terms:  “Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.”

And finally a definition of customer that speaks to choice:  A party that receives or consumes products (goods or services) and has the ability to choose between different products and suppliers.

Pulling it all together, here’s my definition of customers for your consideration, which adds the dimension of why we make products to begin with.

Customers are people that products and services are designed to please. They choose what they buy and who they buy from,  which determines the success of companies that make and sell the products and services.

How do you define customers?

Let’s Stop Confusing Strategy and Tactics in Healthcare

strategyI can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen very smart healthcare companies – med tech companies, payers, provider organizations, etc., confuse strategy and tactics. And it reduces their effectiveness every time.

Why do strategy and tactics get confused? First, sometimes there is not clarity about what the real objective is and why. This subjects companies to the paradox Lewis Carroll described this way: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  Without a clear end point in mind, develop meaningful strategy to get there is very difficult.

Second, there is so much pressure to get new things to market, it makes it hard to carve out time and think strategically. There’s only time to “do” — even if what is being done doesn’t make good sense.

So what’s the difference? Strategy determines how you will achieve your goal. It represents which map you will use to get where you are going. Tactics are the map details and are all about the doing.

Let’s start with a couple military examples: 1) Divide and conquer is a strategy. Sending half the troops in a frontal assault and half on flanking maneuvers are the tactics that executes on the strategy. 2) Go big, go long, or go home, were the three strategies being considered in the Iraq war. How many troops would be where and when were the tactics, and that’s what got all the media coverage.

Marketing examples: 1) Be first to market is a strategy. Be a fast follower is an alternative strategy. The specific products or services you take to market, the resources you allocate, and the timing are all tactics. 2) First get prospects in the door with a low barrier to entry, then engage them to be customers is a strategy. How you will go about getting them in the door and converting them into customers are the tactics.

 

Don’t be one of the many companies that spend millions of dollars and years of effort on something only because their competitors are doing it. Have a good compelling reason. That way you know where you’re going and why.

Next be clear about what your strategy is, and why. Make sure your strategy is really strategy — and not tactics with the word  strategy attached. Then get into the tactics that execute on the strategy.

Lastly, make sure your team knows the difference between strategy and tactics and why it matters.

Bottom(s) Up! How a Benefits Ladder Can Help You Get Your Marketing Right

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.

TOP

  • Improved Outcomes
  • Safer Patients
  • Enhanced Reputation
  • Better Care
  • Faster Decisions
  • Prediction
  • Analytics
  • Data

BOTTOM

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??

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!

Brains, Brawn, or Beauty: What’s Your Value Prop?

brain-brawn-beautyIn today’s hyper-competitive healthcare marketplace, getting your value prop right is critical to position your product to win. To open your thinking about the myriad of value prop possibilities, consider the triad popularized in popular entertainment: Brains, brawn, and beauty.

Yup, brains, brawn, and beauty. Like it or not, there’s lots that we in healthcare marketing can learn from what sells in popular entertainment.

For example, the long-running competitive reality TV show Survivor groups its castaways into tribes, like this:

The members of the “Brains” tribe use their intellect to get by in life; while the members of the “Beauty” tribe use their looks and social skills, and the members of the “Brawn” tribe use their brute strength. When put all three traits together, they actually make up the Survivor motto: Outwit (“Brains”), Outplay (“Beauty”), Outlast (“Brawn”).

Now apply the “brains, brawn, beauty” trope to see if it usefully expands your thinking about value proposition possibilities. Of course, do the customer and competitive research to both generate ideas to explore and verify what works.

As a starting point, recognize that most med tech value props emphasize “brains” in terms of smarter technology of some sort. Instead, consider winning at “brawn.” That would center your value prop on the idea of being the workhorse device or the most powerful technology, not necessarily the one that deals with the most complex situations.

Alternatively, you might win at “beauty” by having the most aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly product. This requires being able to score “cool” points and might mean you don’t provide advanced functionalities.

That said, in both cases, you still need to demonstrate parity in “brains” – or at least sufficient table stakes, to be considered a serious contender. However, it may lead to a value prop that stands out based on a meaningful and distinctive strength, and that doesn’t get lost with a “me too” claim with no emotional resonance.

Bottom line, think outside the box about what makes your offering unique and valuable. Will you win with brains, brawn, or beauty??

Earning Trust from Hospital Customers: 5 Tips

If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.       – Zig Ziglar

We regularly talk with a lot of doctors, healthcare executives, and key opinion leaders in our work, as we help med tech clients identify meaningful unmet needs, determine the desirability of new products, and create persuasive messaging.

One thing that comes out again and again is the importance of trust. As famed salesman Zig Ziglar pointed out, trust leads to sales. We’ve heard many clinicians say they don’t buy from a company, they buy from a rep.  Sometimes they don’t even know what brand of device they use. But they do know they bought it from Tracy, the sales rep they know and trust. And they know that next time they need devices they’ll contact Tracy, wherever she is.

Do your customers trust you and your company? Have you given them reason to?  What would you need to know to win and maintain their trust?

Here are five tips for earning the trust of prospects and customers:

  1. Grow a relationship, not just a transaction. Show up when you’re NOT asking them to buy.  We constantly hear that companies disappear and seem to no longer care, once the sale is made.
  2. Take it further and tell prospective customers they shouldn’t buy from you yet.  Tell them only when you have earned their trust, will you talk with them about purchasing.
  3. Provide them with value – white papers, referrals, relevant tips – without asking for anything back. Customize what you provide to their needs, desires, and situation.
  4. Be honest about what they should and should not buy from your company. You’ll earn credibility points when you suggest they buy certain things from competitors.
  5. Ask what specific things you can do to win their trust. Then tell them which you will do, and do those things. Remind them along the way that your aim is to earn their total trust.

Once you have earned their trust, you can grow the relationship further and your customer can be your ambassador within their hospital system and a great referral source. Then you’re not just a vendor, you’re a valued partner. And that’s the place you want to live in the hearts and minds of those you serve.

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Resources:

Earning Real Customer Loyalty: The Challenge for Med Tech Companies

The Promise & Challenge of Customer Intimacy for Med Tech Companies

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