I was leading a workshop recently for a client bringing a new critical care device to market. As one step in the process, we were doing wide-open brainstorming to generate a large quantity of ideas on what the value proposition might be that we would later synthesize and vet with customers. We were specifically looking for meaningful differentiation.
One savvy marketing person bravely expressed that as a former clinician, she knew that little things, as silly as it might sound, can make the difference between winning the hearts of critical care nurses and getting the sale – or not. The example she gave was butterflies. As in enabling butterflies to appear on the monitor display (out of the way of patient data of course). Then she suggested other simple ways of allowing personalization.
These “humanizing” gestures cost almost nothing to med device manufacturers, and can mean a great deal to the customer. They convey that you understand the realities of the emotional toll it takes to provide critical care day after day. And they make you in a simple and profound way a valued partner – not just a vendor of commodities – which is where you want to be.
Obviously, butterflies and other personalization aesthetics are not going to be the core value proposition for any med device. But these kinds of things can enrich your value proposition, differentiate on an emotional level, and enable a deeper more meaningful connection with your customers.
So… what’s your butterfly?
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?
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?