Ever noticed how health IT suppliers say the same thing? Highland Marketing’s Becky Mellor says that suppliers need to craft more specific messages if they want to avoid blending in and shares some handy hints and tips.

Exhibitors at health IT events are keen to stand out from the crowd; I know as I have seen it from both sides of the fence.

Last year, I stopped being the marketing manager for a healthcare IT supplier, and moved over to the agency side.

Attending health IT exhibitions in this new role has put me in the same shoes as a delegate, which turned out to be an eye-opening experience.

The majority of company messages, stands, handouts and even case studies leave you clueless as to what the supplier actually does.

All are leaders (surely this isn’t possible?), and all are innovative. All are driving efficiency and productivity, giving access to patient information, and acting as enablers for accountable…I mean integrated care.

How are our audiences supposed to identify a supplier that will help them?

How did we get here?

Speaking as a former exhibitor, I think we arrived at this point because the ambition to differentiate and appear bigger sees our messaging become more complex and all-encompassing.

For example, a company has developed a much-needed solution for a segment of users in healthcare. It does a very specific job for those users, and so marketing messages can be precise.

However, market sounding exercises have shown that the technology could solve multiple problems. Business owners then want to explain in the broadest terms about their solution, which can mean their messages become very generic, and similar to others in the market. The resultant messaging speaks less to the individual needs of particular customer segments, and more about the capability of the product.

We have stopped telling people what we do specifically and we have stopped writing copy which talks to our audience.

Where do we go from here?

To successfully market and promote your products and services to the NHS today, we need to tell people what we do and talk to them in ways they understand. If we are going to capture their awareness and interest, and so draw them into the sales funnel, we need to show clearly how we understand and can solve their problems.

If you haven’t spent the time to create this, with your audience in mind, you are likely to struggle to see the results of your marketing and sales efforts in your pipeline.

Here’s what you can do:

Understand and profile your target audience

  • For each of your customer segments, identify your target user groups. These can include clinical, IT, financial and even patient stakeholders.
  • Create specific messages for each target user group, rather than bundling them together. These messages should show that you understand their pain points, the ‘jobs they have to get done’, and what gains they would like to see. Using this value proposition canvas template for each target user group can help.
  • Do not try to resolve every pain or include every gain creation desire – just those that are most relevant to your area.
  • Relate your products and services to show how you deliver gains and resolve pains, and so create value.
  • Review the outputs at a messaging workshop, so you can craft the most important messages into a highly relevant product or service offer.

Be specific

  • Don’t worry about being pigeon-holed. In fact, celebrate your niche and specialty. In the current sea of marketing, this will be your ticket to achieving differentiation.
  • Use active, not passive language. Use common words, not bland, or descriptive language.
  • Always remember that you are communicating with people. How would you talk in a meeting? To that colleague in the pub? On WhatsApp or a social network? These are short conversations, so adopt the same kind of thinking.

Know which messaging to use and when

  • Think of the decision-making process that people go through when choosing your type of product. People first need to know what you do to decide if you’re relevant to them. Then they will want to know more about how you help them, and finally when they come to having to choose a supplier to partner with, they will want to establish that your values, mission and ethics align with theirs.
  • Many marketing channels, such as exhibitions, don’t give you the luxury of being able to explain your vision for tech-enabled healthcare. So, for exhibitions, at the very least you must use messages which tell delegates what you will do for them. Help them to decide at first glance that you’re relevant to them.

Test and iterate

  • As a standard, test and refine your new message with relevant customers but also see how it would stand out on an exhibition. Try viewing the health IT exhibition world through the eyes of a delegate. Will a delegate be able to identify you, amongst all other suppliers, as a business that is relevant to their needs?
  • Be prepared to revise your messaging at regular intervals, and adapt for specific events.

Having now experienced the world of health IT marketing as an exhibitor and now as a delegate, here are my key takeaways to avoid blending in: be specific; avoid generic descriptive jargon; and tell your target audience what you can do for them.

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Becky Mellor

Becky Mellor

Senior Account Manager
Becky joined Highland Marketing with more than 10 years’ experience working in the healthcare technology landscape, raising awareness in the UK for ground-breaking medical IT developments and research. Being a creative strategic marketing manager, her experience ranges from working with start-up and long established healthcare technology companies. With a detailed understanding of how to position the benefits of technology to the NHS, Becky is able to make sense of complex ideas, see the big picture and create innovative strategies to help build awareness and engagement. This has been proven through her demonstrable track record of developing communication initiatives to differentiate and position company brands and solutions to improve both internal and external awareness in order to strengthen stakeholder following and loyalty. A big believer in the role and benefits that marketing and PR can play in educating, changing perspectives and behaviour, she focuses on building compelling, authentic stories, which place the human aspect at the core to make messaging and content relatable and impactful.
“Working with game changing technology is certainly inspirational, especially when seeing the impact that it can have on patient care as well as aiding NHS staff in the delivery of their role. Technology is now evolving more rapidly than ever to respond to real frontline demands and help improve care across populations. Being part of the Highland Marketing team provides me with the opportunity to promote a strong variety of game changing technologies now needed by the NHS. I love to help people tell their story and ultimately propel technology to the stage it deserves in order to help make a difference.”
A little about Becky
  • It’s no surprise that health is a key passion of Becky’s. She plays hockey and to ensure she has the stamina to last a full game she hits the gym for circuit, strengthening and HIIT workouts. All this exercise means Yoga is now part of her routine in order to prevent injury. (This makes it sounds like she’s a serious hockey player when actually it is just a hobby, any childhood ambitions of the Olympics are long gone but one can still dream).
  • Becky recently discovered a passion for being on the sea having spent eight weeks on a catamaran sailing the Mediterranean.
  • You will often find her sharing information on mental and physical health, education, new technology, ocean causes, the future of work and anything that makes her laugh (which is most things).
  • Possibilities and bold ideas excite her and so she often supports inspiring individuals whose ideas can change the world and lives of others.
  • She believes in discovery based learning so seeks new experiences, the most recent of which was trying out curling (needs more practice).
  • Other interests include reading, photography, films and comedy.

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