Stop thinking USP- think Value Proposition.

Starting or growing your business with the NHS is a difficult and demanding journey.  So, how can you best respond to the challenge? Helping your customer solve their problem is the way to go.

The idea of a unique selling proposition (USP) has been around for a long time. Aimed at the consumer market, it aims to differentiate one product (or service) from its competitors and so influence the buying decision. One definition is

The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.

I think Clayton Christensen’s concept of the value proposition is a more powerful one for innovative products. He describes the value proposition in terms of the ‘job to be done’- something your customer wants to get done better, quicker, or cheaper or something that they can’t get done at all. Simple example-  if someone wants a hole in their wall (or wherever), the ‘job’ they want done is the hole. A drill is one way but there are many other ways to get the job done.

People have misinterpreted the value proposition for something to do with economics and financial return- probably mistaking value for cost or price. It isn’t. It’s about solving a real problem, it’s about getting a job done. Here’s an example from Christensen’s book, The Innovators Prescription (a great read  by the way about innovation in healthcare and the challenges facing the US healthcare system):

Before digital cameras, we took our roll of film to be developed. Often we got double prints because there was an offer, the prints were good quality and we thought it would be great to share them with family and friends. We took them home, looked at them once and then put them in a drawer, seldom, if ever, to be looked at again.  Few of us ever organised them into an album or actually did send them on. We knew we should and we wanted to but we didn’t. Here’s the key thing: what we do and what we say we (will) do or what we should do are very often different.

The first digital cameras arrived. Initially, companies offered several value propositions; you can click ‘attach’ and instantly e-mail photos to family and friends when something important or interesting or funny happened, you can digitally remove red-eye from those photos you only ever looked at once, (provided you bought and learned how to use the software), you can keep your photos in an online scrapbook, that makes it easy to sort, search and print from the gallery of thousands of photos…..

In reality, very few digital camera users did any of these. The feature most users of the first digital cameras actually made use of was to e-mail images to family and friends at some later date. Why? Because that’s the same job we were trying to do (but seldom did) when we ordered multiple prints. So, the first digital cameras that made this possible was giving the user an easier way to get their important job done and stole a market advantage. Now, there a new jobs need to be done, new value propositions need to be built. Now, digital cameras are in mobile phones.

Key learning: Observe what you target customers actually do. Dig deep to find the real job they want done then build your value proposition around it. By determining what ‘job’ healthcare professionals (clinical or management) want to do that they can’t do effectively, efficiently or at all, focuses your mind and energy on whether your product can has a solid and real value proposition.

So where does that leave the USP? For an innovative, new-to-market Med-Tech product (or service), your first goal is to convince the customer that it can help get their job done. It is not to show how your product is better than others (that may or may not be used). You are not aiming to secure a buying decision (yet) so pushing your product’s USP is not the best way to go about securing ‘buy-in’ and interest. It will become relevant later, in procurement, where buyers are comparing all products that could (or claim to) do the same job as yours and are interested in differentiation and price.

Another consideration: The value of a device is no longer solely in the product itself. While clinical efficacy is a must, in today’s climate additional value will come from your ability to help your customers to also solve non-clinical problems such as using resources (including staff) more efficiently, reducing length of hospital stays, delivering care closer to home, and reducing future hospitalisation. There may be more than one ‘job to be done’- clinical and operational. Look for them all and talk about the right one with the right person.

Starting or growing your business with the NHS is a difficult and demanding journey requiring in-depth knowledge, insight and committed resources to address this vital element of your market access strategy. So, how can you best respond to the challenge? A vital first step is spend time understanding what job your customer has to get done and building your value proposition around it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *