Category Archives: positioning

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.

Happiness as Competitive Advantage? A Challenge for Health Companies

company_happinessYou may be familiar with the Kingdom of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. This small Himalayan nation is the only country in the world that measures and aims for national happiness as its most important objective. The intent is to build an economy and culture based on spiritual values more than on material wealth. It prioritizes GNH over GDP. Bhutan’s commitment inspired the United Nations to pass a resolution that placed “happiness” on the global development agenda.

What does this have to do with you and the success of your company that’s in the business of health?? Potentially, a lot. As you read what follows, consider the notion of balancing both profitability and happiness as guiding values and major indicators of success.

Bhutan’s young King Khesar put it this way in his coronation address: Yet we must always remember that as our country, in these changing times finds immense new challenges and opportunities, whatever work we do, whatever goals we have – and no matter how these may change in this changing world – ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Our most important goal is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Most companies in the health industry base major business decisions on financial metrics like ROI to shareholders, quarterly numbers, and EBIDTA. Which makes sense. You need to be successfully financially and deliver a return to investors to be a going concern.

Money matters, no matter how dedicated your company is to improving health and saving lives. “No margin, no mission,” as the late Sister Irene Kraus, former CEO of the $3 billion Daughters of Charity National Health System, is credited as saying.

And, and… maybe happiness can matter just as much as money, and measurably contribute to your company’s financial success.  Especially since you’re in the business of health. Many start with employee happiness and well-being. Kaiser, Genentech, Mayo Clinic are a few of the health companies that have a reputation for really investing in the well-being –  and thereby the happiness – of their employees.  And there’s much further to go.

Let’s do a thought experiment: What would if happiness of your employees was a measure of your organization’s well-being? What about delivering  happiness to your customers?  Can you imagine happiness as part of your brand promise? Part of your unchanging core values? A key differentiator in highly competitive market? A metric you proudly talk about to shareholders and investors?

Be happy??

Med Tech Product Managers: Persuading Your Management To Support Your Innovation

innovationJames is an experienced product manager at a large device company. He has a winning new population health idea supported by a strong business case.

James knows his new initiative will pivot the company well for the future of value-based reimbursement. He also knows that maintaining the status quo will be a death knell as the fee-for-service paradigm gradually disappears.

James has solid ROI projections and trend analytics to back it all up. He also knows his idea fits and delivers on the CEO’s stated vision for the company’s future.  He has pitched the idea up the management chain internally on several occasions.

The problem is James is not getting the support he needs from upper management. He gets heads nodding but no action. No commitment. Overall lukewarm reception.

Why? Because even though what James is proposing is sensible, timely, backed by facts, and aligned with the corporate vision,  it requires going in a direction that is unfamiliar to the company. It is perceived as an unknown. It is therefore seen as risky business.

What should James do? It doesn’t make sense to simply repeat the same arguments and expect a different result. He already made the best case he could. But he knows the window for competitive advantage is slipping away.

James needs other voices to give his bosses enough confidence to say yes and invest in what they know is a good idea and necessary for the company’s long-term viability, despite their concerns. These other voices need to be strong enough to overcome fear of change, fear of moving into an unfamiliar space.

James doesn’t need a large quantity of voices. Survey numbers won’t make his case more persuasive. The status quo thinking he needs to overcome is not rational. He needs to strategically manage relationships with his internal customers. Persuasion at an emotional level if required.

Specifically, James needs smart, influential people that genuinely share his thinking and who his bosses will listen to with open minds. That means select key opinion leaders and perhaps several important customers who will voice their agreement with three things: 1) The underlying premise about healthcare’s inevitable shift toward population health management and value-based reimbursement. 2) The recommendation to take proactive action now in order to be positioned to serve healthcare customers in the impending new business reality without losing viability in the current fee-for-service environment. 3) The reality that not taking action is the riskier choice.

The insights and recommendations need to be delivered carefully and strategically to be heard and take hold. Even if these influential voices are only echoing what James already said, when management hears it from them, it has a different impact.   It shifts the perception of risk away from stepping into new territory, and toward missing the boat by not moving forward with Jame’s idea.

There’s a lot of science and research behind how and why this works from studies of persuasion and decision-making. But bottom line, and like-it-or-not, James needs to marshall additional resources to persuade his upper management to move forward and with sufficient investment. The end result is management’s initial fears of change are allayed, they feel reasonably confident that they are moving forward in the right direction, and most likely, they say yes!

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??

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.

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

How to Unseat the Market Leader: Hit the Right Emotional Chord with Customers

Here’s a tough situation med tech and health IT companies face in healthcare: The maker of a particular technology has more than 75% market share; they are the undisputed market leader.  unseat_pull_the_rug_from_underWhen their device or software was introduced 5 years ago, it was groundbreaking. Now, it’s the standard. But you have something better.

How do you effectively disrupt the market leader’s longstanding domination and win significant market share? The answer lies in the hearts and minds of the clinicians using the technology. You need to carefully and precisely determine which emotional chord will open customers’ minds in order for them to consider moving from the market leader’s technology (the “status quo”) to your new and presumably better innovation.

To reveal the right emotional chord, you must ask the right questions: Are they happy with the status quo? Do they perceive any problems? Can they envision a better state?  These kinds of questions will reveal the “set point,” i.e. where customers are before they know about your better device, service, or software.

In simple terms, there are four main set points based on the idea that customers are either satisfied or dissatisfied with the status quo technology, and they are or are not aware of a possible solution (or better state) a new technology might deliver. Once you know the set point, you need to identify the corresponding emotional chord, so that your messages will connect with customers and resonate at an emotional level. That resonance leads customers to feel understood, which will then open their minds to consider alternatives to the longstanding status quo.

Example: Let’s say customers are satisfied with the market leader’s status quo technology. They aren’t aware of any problems, so they certainly wouldn’t expect new solutions. Your job then is to identify the meaningful problem that: a) your customers will care about once they know about it, and b) your improved technology will solve. (And if no meaningful problem exists, then there’s really no need for your improvement, right? But that’s a different story!).

Once you determine the meaningful problem, be sure to verify customers do care about it enough to take action. Now you need to find the corresponding emotional chord. It could be frustration, as in “why didn’t I know about this problem for all these years!” Or it might be concern, as in “I hope this problem didn’t hurt our patient satisfaction scores!” Or embarrassment at not knowing about the problem. Or relief at knowing about it now. Or hope for a solution to the problem.

There are numerous possible emotional chords, and sometimes the difference between them is very nuanced, like frustration vs. concern in the example above. It’s really important to know with confidence precisely which emotional chord to tap into. Your message to tap into frustration will be quite different than messaging for concern or embarrassment or relief.

If you miss the mark on the emotional chord, then your customers will feel you just don’t get them. You will have missed your chance to open their minds to letting to of the market leader’s technology and to consider your innovation as a viable alternative. On the other hand, when you tap the right emotional chord, you may hear as we have, “Finally, someone understands what I deal with everyday!”  That deep connection is the magic that can unseat the dominant market leader and win you significant market share.

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More resources:

Why Selling New Technology into Hospitals is Hard: Overcoming the Status Quo Bias

The Emotional Hook: How to Win Your Customers’ Hearts

Med Device Companies: Never Say “We Sell Boxes”

We know several medium and large med device companies that still claim, “we sell boxes.” They may not say exactly that to customers, but inside the company they use those words, and usually with a mixture of pride, arrogance, and I think fear. Unfortunately, that thinking insidiously infiltrates everything the company does, from new product innovation to downstream marketing.

But that’s how some med device execs, engineers, and product managers think about the business they’re in: Making and selling “boxes” with good medical technology inside. It’s an easy trap to slip into – especially if the company has had success. The reality is med device companies do make boxes. However, that’s not the business they’re in.

Every med device company is in the business of improving healthcare and saving lives. Solutions to meaningful problems is what they sell.

In 1960, Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt wrote a game-changing article called Marketing Myopia. He posited that businesses do better when they focus on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.

His quintessential example of an industry that got it wrong was railroads. While the need for freight and passenger transportation grew, railroads shrank. They wrongly thought they were in the railroad business. They didn’t see they were really in the transportation business. Why? Because they were product-oriented, not customer-oriented. As a result, railroad companies let others take their customers away.

Though it was over 50 years ago that Levitt wrote about marketing myopia, I believe that product-centric thinking still dominates in healthcare. What do you think?

Why Should Hospitals Buy Your Device (10 Words Or Less)??

Med device and other life science companies often engage us to help them improve their marketing and make more money. One simple and revealing “litmus test” question we ask at the get-go is this:

Why should customers choose your product? (10 words or less!)

Often company execs, product managers, and marcom folks struggle to provide a clear, compelling, and jargon-free answer. Why? They naturally get caught up in their products and in doing what needs to get done. As a result, they lose sight of the “why” from a customer point of view.

The antidote is putting the customer first in all you do, and building that into how you operate day-in and day-out. It’s not easy, and takes long-term commitment, even when money is tight.

One step in a customer-first direction is challenging your team to create a set of answers to why customer should choose you. Keep them short, 10 words or less. Then test them with customers. Compare them to what competitors say and could say. Keep iterating until the answer is both persuasive logically and emotionally with customers.

Do this for every product and service you offer. Build it into your R&D process at the earliest stages. You’re on your way to a set of cohesive, distinctive and effective value propositions that can make all the difference in your marketing success.

Start now with your top of mind answer: Why should customers choose your product?

 

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.