How can medtech companies create value beyond the core features and benefits of their devices?
Mark Schaefer, in his book Belonging to the Brand, suggests that companies should investigate building communities that function for a reason other than customer support. Communities can be a convergence of customer experience and marketing.
The bond of community is an obvious and elegant opportunity to create a differentiated customer experience. Community adds an emotional layer to switching costs. To leave your product would mean leaving their people, their relationships and sacrificing the social capital they’ve earned within your community.Mark Schaefer
Two Potential Audiences
If a medtech company were to create a community for their customers, they would likely be communicating with two distinct groups:
- healthcare providers who use the products daily for procedures such as implants, or
- patients who have undergone some sort of procedure.
These two groups would likely cause the communities to play out in drastically different ways.
Healthcare providers can cover a fairly wide group, from surgeons to techs specially trained in a particular tool. You can see how the conversation topics would vary depending on the participants involved.
The patient group would also have a wide degree of variability, depending on your company’s product(s). Some consumer experiences could look the examples I’ve already given. For others, there would likely some sort of condition that had drastically affected the patients’ day-to-day before. Following the procedure, they would be trying to adapt to a different level of mobility or freedom.
In part 1 of this 2-part series, we’ll focus on healthcare provider communities.
You can either read the article or see the content in video format above.
Healthcare Providers and Conferences
Healthcare providers already have some ways of forming a community, such as attending big conferences in the medtech sector. Companies often have booths (from the massive to the tiny) at these events and may host cocktail hours or special offsite events. They may even sponsor different parts of the meeting. This allows healthcare professionals to communicate with brands, of course. Healthcare providers also get the opportunity for natural conversation amongst themselves if they happen to be at the booth at the same time or if they’re walking the floor together.
As a side note, community in this context is a wily creature. Just because folks attend a cocktail hour, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to discuss a product with one another. After-hour events are sometimes a wonderful chance to decompress from a day full of lectures and not the best opportunity to say why the XYZ system is the greatest.
That said, attending conferences in the medtech sector offers plenty of value, with opportunities for networking and learning.
The difference here in what Schaefer is proposing with a brand community is that event organizers bear the responsibility of fostering a regular cadence and interaction between different groups. Brands take part by sponsoring various components, essentially renting attention to gain interaction.
In comparison to larger brands such as Harley Davidson and LEGO, medical device and medtech groups have a more limited conversation that is usually conducted through sales reps or customer success reps chosen by the company. To go beyond the big conferences, they must think of ways to expand the conversation further.
Going Beyond the Meetings
A few years back, we began a podcast named The Paradigm Shift of Healthcare. We discussed how the consumerization of healthcare was altering things. Then the pandemic started. This meant we were seeing an even more profound alteration to healthcare, from hospitals to medical device companies. During this crisis, we interviewed Jennifer Armstrong from Stratus who shared her insight on EEGU; a tool for offering continuing education units to technicians and healthcare providers that utilize their products.
Stratus offered training from any location via Zoom and a dedicated website. EEGU allowed the brand to develop an ongoing relationship with healthcare providers beyond the traditional conference model. This created a touchpoint that allowed for meaningful interaction, rather than just selling products.
Stratus found a way to bridge the gap. They extended further than what trade shows and existing communities offered. Still, medtech companies can take the concept of community even further, perhaps by enabling providers to consult with one another on tactics around devices. Providers likely have a host of questions they would want to ask one another given the opportunity.
Taking a risk may earn real rewards: by making key opinion leaders, customer service reps, and product design people available in these new communities, interesting conversations can spur relevant innovations within the company. There’s potential here that companies should seriously consider.
Instead of reverting to conventions as the only option, we should look for new ways to build community. There’s financial incentive. There’s incentive in potentially having more of the physician’s time.
In part 2, we’ll look at consumer / patient communities. We’ll also talk about some of the ways community can play out in tangible ways.
Community Needs to Happen Where Your HCPs Already Are
One important idea from Belonging to the Brand is that communities can easily fail if you try to build them in a place where your customers aren’t already going. Meaning, you have to find a way to integrate the process of community into your customers’ lives.
In the following video, I spoke with Justin Bantuelle, our company’s CTO, about the ways that medtech companies could better integrate the concept of community.
Resource referenced in the video: How to Put Together a Business Requirements Document for Application Development
By merging the tools you offer customers along with an opportunity for community, you’re making community a part of the tool. It becomes a way to better understand your offering and a way to create a connection outside of your hardware.
This takes community from a simple nice-to-have to becoming a part of someone’s workflow.
Community shouldn’t feel tacked on. It’s a part of the way you can better serve your customers.
Notes on this article
As an experiment, I used Jasper (an AI service) to help with writing this article. I recorded the accompanying video first, generated a transcript, and then passed it through the AI service to help with making it more digestible in article format. The article you see above has been expanded and revised to better match my voice and to put some of the necessary detail back.
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Michael spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need.
He began coding in 2008 and subsequently shifted his attention entirely to online marketing. Michael completed his MBA in 2018, focusing on the intersection of healthcare and marketing.