Customer-centric marketing has been a key pillar of marketing strategies across industries in recent years. But in medtech, the marketing ecosystem is a little more complicated.
Rachel Mele, Vennli
Customer-centricity has been a key pillar of marketing strategies across industries in recent years. In 2016, nine in 10 CMOs said their organizations were trying to become more customer-focused. Several trends have converged to put a lot of power into the hands of customers, and companies have been forced to adapt. The medical device market is no exception.
When it comes to market share, medical device manufacturers have two sources of competitive advantage: learning about their customers before their competitors do and then turning that knowledge into action faster than anyone else. While product updates occasionally drive marketers to focus on innovation or operational advantages, customer-centricity is generally the primary focus of marketing efforts.
The fastest growing brands in the healthcare industry today are differentiating themselves on excellent customer experiences: ease of use for physicians and positive patient outcomes. But customer-centricity alone will only get you so far. You don’t win by serving customers well; you win by serving healthcare systems, physicians and patients better than your competition.
Al Ries, co-founder and chairman of the consulting firm Ries & Ries, has pointed out that the vast majority of companies are trying fervently to develop better products and market them better to customers. When this doesn’t work, they settle for being the cheaper option.According to Ries, too many businesses treat marketing like warfare: a battle for territory. That approach leads marketers to predictable thinking and even less surprising results. Instead, Ries recommends focusing on the path of “least expectation.” In other words: build a strong brand by being different.
Too many medical device manufacturers have a two-circle approach: one for the value of their company, and the other for the value customers want, as Figure 1 shows
This thinking is customer-centric. It’s the foundation for creating devices that customers want and love, but it’s not enough. Customers make choices in a competitive context—they have options. Therefore, businesses must provide unique value in order to win their choice. They must consider a third circle: the value a competitor offers customers (see Figure 2).
This creates an intuitive three-circle Venn diagram that visualizes how customers make choices in a competitive context (Figure 3):
And each area has significance for both understanding customer choice and taking actions to build competitive advantage (Figure 4):
Every customer—whether they’re a hospital system, a physician, or a patient—has a variety of needs of varying importance. You may meet a number of those needs effectively, but your closest competitor might also meet many of those same needs and provide some unique value that you don’t.
Nearly every market has unmet customer needs, and the medical device industry is no different. The ability to identify those needs and craft messaging to address them creates a powerful value proposition as a manufacturer.
These insights are often a big help in understanding why product sales have stalled or are declining. If you want to win the customer’s choice more often, you’ve got to move the factors that drive customer choice into your Green Zone (i.e. your competitive advantage).
Success comes when your business is different from competitors in ways important to customers. Your customers have a choice; you want to make sure your business is the leader in the factors that matter. Data is the key: knowing why customers choose your product (or the competitors) gives you the ability to develop a plan for addressing customers’ needs and build a lasting competitive advantage.
Rachel Mele is general manager of Vennli’s healthcare practice. Mele uses her 15 years’ of experience in sales and marketing to help her clients increase sales and drive the success of their companies. Prior to Vennli, Mele led the sales and business development teams of an online marketing healthcare company leading to its acquisition by KKR.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of MedicalDesignandOutsourcing.com or its employees.