When device and med-tech companies realize that they need to formalize their value proposition into specific messages for specific audiences, they often don’t know where to start. Good news! This is typically an iterative process so it’s not critical to get it “right” on the first try. Through multiple stages and repeated testing it’s possible to arrive at a credible and compelling value message.

To begin, I should qualify this by clarifying the types of organizations I am referring to and where they are in their business development. The checklist below is a high-level look at the common stages that device or med-tech start-ups go through (starting at the bottom [“Conceptual”] and progressing upwards) and some of the milestones they typically accomplish along the way. You’ll notice that in addition to some basic business criteria (e.g., confirmed demand, determined how to monetize, etc.) there is a progression in their value messages.

For the most part, the organizations I’m referring to in this article are in either the “Prototype” stage hoping to launch soon, or in the “Early Sales” stage and looking to grow their revenue base and reach. Having developed “1+ value messages” is a milestone I’ve placed in the “Growth” stage: in my experience it is critical for reaching that stage.

So, for organizations starting in those earlier stages, I have found that a series of iterative steps can be an effective way to develop value messages.

Step 1. Internal Facing

The first step is almost entirely internal facing and builds upon what the organization knows or has developed previously, no matter how rudimentary. Commonly, founders and others have an initial value strategy that has evolved through personal experience and anecdotal information provided by early users. Often, this initial strategy is closely aligned with the original opportunity that motivated them to develop their solution and launch a start-up.

For example, a practicing clinician may have identified common issues or problems with an aspect of care experienced by her patients. It could be a treatment that is not as effective as hoped or that carries with it a risk of adverse events or outcomes. Or perhaps it’s a shortcoming in the delivery of care that limits patients’ access or adherence to certain therapies. Whatever it is, this clinician knows that there’s value in improving patient outcomes, enhancing care experiences, reducing costs, or saving time. That may be all that’s needed as an initial value message strategy.

Once that initial strategy is identified, it is then necessary to identify or gather relevant information (either from clinical data, published literature, or economic information) to see whether it can be supported as a value message. Based on the identified information, a decision is made about that value strategy. Possible decisions include:

  • The strategy is fully confirmed and validated
  • The strategy is adjusted slightly to align with the supporting materials; if necessary, additional information is gathered and evaluated
  • An alternative strategy emerges as one to pursue instead of the original strategy

For example, perhaps the original strategy revolves around saving clinicians time during a patient visit. While there’s value there, it may be difficult to quantify those savings or translate them into monetary value for the practicing clinicians – or perhaps some of the time saving is offset by the added step(s) required to use the new device. During the process of trying to validate this strategy, perhaps evidence emerges that the new device avoids the need for a costly diagnostic test that is not always reimbursed – this could save costs for both the clinician and an insurance company, and represents a potential new value strategy to pursue.

The process then iterates until the organization has one or more strategies that are supported by credible evidence.

 

Step 2. External Facing

The next step is to develop the strategy(ies) into specific value messages for targeted audiences. It is possible that a single strategy could be developed into multiple value messages.

For example, a strategy involving the reduction of post-operative infections has value for multiple audiences: patients avoid lengthy hospital stays, payers see costs reduced, and providers improve patient care and potentially reimbursement from quality measure performance.

Determining how best to disseminate the value messages is done in tandem with the development of the messages themselves. That is, depending on the message and the intended audience, the best vehicle to deliver that message could be a white paper, an economic analysis, a bulleted brief, a slide deck, or something else.

During the creation of these materials (referred to in the diagram as CVP materials, which stands for Comprehensive Value Portfolio), adjustments to the value messages can occur, either as a result of an economic analysis, or for aesthetic reasons (e.g., to simplify the reason, to target it more specifically, etc.). Feedback from target audiences on the content as well as the underlying message are incorporated to adjust and update both the message(s) and material(s) for future versions.

The iterations in this step serve to solidify both the messaging and the materials used, so that the organization has a full suite of effective, compelling materials appropriate for a variety of audiences and situations. In some cases, this process may even spark new value strategies (i.e., an additional clinical indication, setting, or patient population is identified), which are then sent through the entire process from the beginning.

 

Step 3. Maintain and Revise

As new information is produced and as the organization continues to grow and eventually reach the stage for “Scaling” or “Acquisition,” these value messages may evolve, requiring updates or revisions to align with how the organization’s vision and direction have evolved. New value strategies can always be explored using the same process and eventually folded into existing materials.

 

Putting It All Together

This may seem like an extensive process, but by systematically vetting value strategies internally and then developing them for external consumption, the entire organization has a chance to contribute to the process, and many organizations find it helpful for consistency across departments (i.e., marketing, sales, etc.). Within each step, there are specific activities and systems that can help guide this process to be as efficient and productive as possible. Additionally, it can often be helpful to accumulate the gathered information and organize it into a resource that can be accessed throughout the organization. In this way, organizations can move from the “Prototype” and “Early Sales” stages into faster growth and more substantive scaling.

 

Next Steps

This process can help demonstrate the “why” for target audiences regarding the use of a new device. But, it’s often also necessary to help facilitate the “how.” That is, once a clinician or health system believes in the value of a new device, it needs to be incorporated into the current care pathway and implemented into the care delivery process. This may have practical as well as psychological barriers, which need to be addressed. I’ll cover that process in a future article.