Big Tech Reality Check: 3 Strategies for Healthcare B2B Success

From JP Morgan to HIMSS to HLTH, it seems we can’t get enough of healthcare’s new entrants. What is the great disintermediation Amazon is planning with PillPack? What does Google have up its sleeve with AI in healthcare? How will Apple’s new Health Record and ECG-equipped Watch change health and wellness?

All of those are interesting, no doubt. Yet, they obscure an array of other industry leaders that have made meaningful progress in healthcare already. Consider the 3Ms and IBMs of the world; the Cotivitis and Oracles; the Wolters Kluwers and Conduents.

We first gave nod to these industry behemoths in our blog about four formidable types of health tech companies, and the nuances associated with each. As the industry swirls around the Big Four, these other technological powerhouses will continue their steady gains on healthcare.

Large organizations have been breaking into healthcare for decades, and many have already earned global recognition as trusted advisors and problem-solvers in the most complex of technological challenges. Despite the successes these behemoths have shown, some of healthcare’s most coveted buying audiences may consider them outsiders and approach their services with skepticism.

How can you quell that dubiety and rise to the top? While many factors contribute to market success, we do know one thing: the winners know healthcare and approach it differently, while the laggards tend to apply a generalist mindset that misses the nuance.

Time for a (Healthcare) Reality Check

Healthcare’s complexity has produced a highly varied set of audiences and decision-makers, forcing new entrants to grapple with warring factions and conflicting incentives around every turn. Each sub-industry within healthcare – from providers to health plans to employers and beyond – requires different language and tact, and sometimes even contradictory value propositions.

So yes, there is a challenge ahead for companies like IBM and Oracle, which are not fully immersed in healthcare across their entire business. But these companies also come with the sophistication, brand name, and highly developed products that can make a meaningful impact in our industry.

Strategies for Success in B2B Healthcare

We’ve worked with a number of these brands over the years, including Intel and 3M. Through that work, we’ve found that marketing and communications must address three strategic priorities:

Demonstrate credibility, leadership, and expertise in addressing healthcare challenges.

Consider your thought leadership approach and content strategy in achieving this aim. A coordinated thought leadership effort should incorporate pillar content pieces that can be spliced and customized across all of your channels to ensure consistent storytelling, drawing from the intersection of what you do best and what your target audience cares about most. Don’t fall prey to the temptation of buzzwords; the second you crown yourself a “value-based care company” or a “population health partner” without any supporting data or proof points, your credibility will plummet — not to mention those buzzphrases often still don’t clearly articulate a solution to a felt buyer need.

Articulate clear and targeted applicability of products to the healthcare market.

While this may seem obvious, it comes with its own host of challenges based on which healthcare vertical you’re selling into. As an example, consider the nuance required to position a population health solution to three different audiences: health plans, regional health systems, and employers.

  • Health plans will want to understand how you help them optimize provider networks; your capabilities for engaging the right members; and how you keep members out of high-cost settings. As if that’s not complicated enough, health plans often operate three seemingly different business units with different success metrics. Commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare units all need different solutions to drive their goals, and the Medicare unit is increasingly split in decision-making between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
  • Regional health systems will want to know how you’ll support their value-based arrangements with health plans; what it means for physician alignment and compensation; and the path to upside in risk-sharing.
  • Employers will be interested in your case and disease management capabilities; your model for wellness initiatives; and employee communications approaches.

In short, effectively demonstrating your offering’s applicability goes far beyond just situating it in the broad healthcare industry; it requires tactful positioning that comes to life in segmented campaigns, targeted social media, and relevant sales collateral.

Prove out experience in healthcare deployments, from small to large.

The only real way to shatter skepticism is to point to successes. Client advocacy must be a central strategy, involving everyone from marketing to account management to finance. Once the stories and data are aligned, this becomes the foundation for media relations, speaking opportunities, and content down the road.

For organizations who may not have a lot of implementations underway, or who have customers that are skittish about sharing their name or experience, you can sometimes accomplish this aim instead via data storytelling. Work with your data team to deidentify and anonymize data to begin pointing to trends and learnings from across your network of customers. Instead of pointing to individual customers, the sheer power of your insight implies scale and experience in the healthcare sector.

As you tackle these marketing priorities, don’t get overwhelmed. Embrace the challenge, but also seek help from your peers at other companies and agencies with healthcare expertise. This industry brings a richness of complexity and incredible learnings every single day. It’s a world made for the intellectually curious, for those who are dissatisfied with the status quo. If that’s you – then welcome. We’d love to chat.

February 3, 2019
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