3 Reasons HealthTech
is the Most Difficult
Marketing Space

HealthTech marketing is devilishly complex. It’s actually an overarching category containing three subcategories, each radically different from the others:

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Disposables

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Capital equipment

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IT/Software/Informatics

I’ve sold and marketed each of these sub-categories during my 25-year career, and to say that they’re radically different is putting it mildly. Marketers always struggle to master the complexities of each subcategory, and this leads to inwardly focused, product-centric marketing that falls far short of driving favorable buying decisions. To make matters worse, external market factors conspire to make the marketing of each subcategory even harder.

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Subcategory #1
Disposables

Provider burnout is real, and it’s changing how products are evaluated. The bar for providers to consider your product is higher than ever before:

  • Providers have less and less time to evaluate and implement disposable products.
  • Reps have less and less access to providers.
  • Selection committees are bigger, making the sales process longer and more complicated.
  • Value propositions must demonstrate how products reduce the cost of care.

Getting your disposable product marketed and sold is only half the battle. The effort to keep your product in use once it’s sold (i.e., “playing defense”) is equally challenging, as cheaper alternatives lie just around the corner. The solution is to keep on marketing your product post-sale by continuing to invest in clinical and economic evidence, as well as transformation case studies.

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Subcategory #2
Capital equipment

The beauty with selling capital equipment is that you can easily gain access to providers and message them directly. Unfortunately, the easy aspects of capital selling end there:

  • The sales process is much longer, costlier, and more complex – typically taking 18-24 months or longer.
  • When health systems buy as a single entity, it’s winner-take-all:
    • Even if you win, you can still lose by over-discounting and crushing your margins.
    • If you lose, you can be locked out of a health system for 5-10 years, or longer.

Our win/loss surveys show that the lowest price wins roughly 70% of the time. If you lose out to a lower-priced competitor, or if you’re forced to cut your price to secure a deal, chances are your value proposition isn’t creating enough perceived value to command a premium.

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Subcategory #3
IT​/​Software​/​Informatics

This is easily the hardest of all the HealthTech subcategories to market, and the quality of today’s marketing reflects the difficulty (have you ever been to HIMSS?):

  • Unlike disposables and capital, with IT you don’t really have anything tangible or physical to show, or for providers to trial.
  • The sales process can last 24 months or more. You must establish your value and sustain it over the course of that entire time.
  • The sheer number of competitors is daunting. The radiology PACS space, for example, includes close to 15 companies.
  • Marketing IT is 100% messaging. If it is undifferentiated from your competition (I ask again: Have you ever been to HIMSS?), your goose is cooked.

It’s no wonder this subcategory is getting its margins crushed more than the others. We’ve seen discounting so precipitous that the software is given away for free (the customer pays only for service).

Do this to advance your game

Map the buyer journey and the sales process. Know the pain and aspirations of each target and how you uniquely satisfy them. Stop reacting to target audience behaviors and do the research to anticipate them. Recognize that yesterday’s successful marketing approach probably won’t work tomorrow. It’s time to adapt. Here are some ideas:

Disposables: Stop leading by marketing the solution. Start leading by marketing the problem. To get your product even considered by today’s overworked providers, it must solve a very big pain point. If one doesn’t exist, do the market research, create one, and dimensionalize it.

Capital equipment: Stop “kitchen sink messaging” in hopes that something will resonate. You diminish your value by reducing the time you should be spending on the message that really matters.

IT/Software/Informatics: Stop marketing features. Start marketing workflows. Message to what the target’s future state will 
look like when its current workarounds are erased (i.e., vision marketing). Get them to visualize this future state so they can’t live without it.

The hardest category to market just got harder!

The only thing harder than mastering the marketing of individual subcategories is to master them when they are integrated together.

Guess what. That time has come! Stay tuned for a future article where we’ll lay out best-practice marketing of integrated solutions.

Tom Dudnyk
Written by: Tom Dudnyk
August 12, 2019
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