NO CHANGE FEES and BAGS FLY FREE: How clear is your value proposition?

By Brad Dodge on March 29th, 2012

Southwest Airlines works hard to differentiate itself from other airlines, using campaigns that establish a we're-on-your-side approach to consumers that often seems absent with other carriers. From sporting analogies to faux courtroom scenes to the simple billboard message I see on my way to the airport, it's a smart message that conjures up many positive images in three short words. We don't represent airlines. We work with B2B healthcare companies of all sizes that are developing exciting products and services to enable seismic changes in the way the healthcare system operates. And these companies face tough challenges in communicating their message to their audience. Why?

No billboards. B2B healthcare companies do a limited amount of advertising, so the chance of a potential buyer seeing a key message on the way to the airport is about zero. Advertising is expensive, and unless you can be assured you're reaching your target market at an acceptable cost, it often doesn't make sense. A better use of ad dollars is on websites, industry sponsorships, and targeted outreach.

No pain points. Innovators often need to educate the market that their product category actually exists and will solve a problem they have--even though they don't know it. To pick a simple message as powerful as "no change fees," healthcare companies would have to use messages like "healthy is better" or "don't make patients wait" or "reduce IT costs" but you can see that it's just not the same.  Pain points in B2B healthcare are complex, nuanced, and evolving.

No key outlets. Karl Rove gets his op-ed picked up by the Wall Street Journal every day because the general consumer is impacted by the subjects he's discussing. But a B2B healthcare company isn't so fortunate. Unless the outlet's readership would be interested in the story, it's not going to get picked up. And tools that health systems or payers use to improve operational efficiency aren't making it onto the Today Show. The solution is to establish a wide variety of outlets that are read by the target audience, and execute a comprehensive plan to get covered in them. Then develop messaging that reaches the widest audience.

No awareness. Companies often tell us "everyone knows us." Research always shows otherwise. Brand awareness for B2B healthcare companies is lower than you'd think. And if you're audience IS aware of you, are you sure your latest product and service innovations fall under that awareness umbrella? Consumers know about cars because they already drive one, and are bombarded with ads to encourage them to buy a different one. Consumers know Mitt Romney because he blankets the airwaves with ads and his communication strategy is to be on national news every day. B2B healthcare companies don't have that opportunity. Awareness comes from PR, social media, thought leadership, direct sales, trade shows, speaking engagements, and word of mouth resulting from exemplary execution.

No audience. The real target audience for B2B healthcare is small. If you sell to payers, you can do a 1,000 piece direct mail and you're all done. In order to get your target market to see your message over and over again until it's second nature, you have to be very diligent, creative, and careful. You don't want to take the AOL approach from the 90s and send them a new CD every 20 minutes. A comprehensive, integrated PR and marketing strategy will enable your company to reach even the micro-est of audiences effectively and profitably. We don't know airlines. We know B2B healthcare.  And I'm pleased to say we will NOT charge you change fees when you switch to our agency from the one you may be currently using.