Success factors in value communication design – start with the key message

Gijs Hubben presents part one of ‘Success factors in value communication design’, a set of articles that examines the key success factors in creating customer engagement tools that effectively communicate the clinical and economic benefits of pharmaceuticals, devices and diagnostics.

(Continued from “Success factors in value communication design – introduction“)

Start with the key message – it’s a simple idea, but it’s often forgotten. We can’t know for certain how much face-to-face time a key account manager will have with a customer. In this time conscious environment it may only be five minutes. Regardless, it is important to make sure the key message is delivered. For example, a key message can be: “Our device can save your hospital over a million dollars per year and improve the well-being of more than 500 patients”. With the key message, you capture the attention of your audience. It is designed to overcome the initial “why am I listening to you?” scepticism. Once hooked, you can use the remaining time to walk the customer through your ‘story’ of supporting evidence and assumptions.


“…we need to have a clear key message first.”


Of course, we need to have a clear key message first. This can be quite hard, because it is tempting to have multiple ‘key messages’. Especially with novel technology, you might try to throw a handful of great benefits at the customer at once. However, this defeats the purpose of a key message: “one short, clear sentence”. If you could pick one thing that you would like customers to remember when they go back to their busy jobs, what would it be? The key message is the minimum communication objective. If you can get the customer to comprehend that first – the rest is a bonus. Of course, you can have other messages as support. For the key message mentioned above (“Our device can save your hospital over a mission dollars per year…”) a supporting message could be “Our device reduces the rate of re-operation by 20%, freeing up 180 bed days per year” or “Our device can prevent 250 unnecessary procedures per year in your hospital that would otherwise cost you more than one million dollars”.

In this noisy world, if your key message is not specific, it will simply be ignored. People are often too busy to connect the dots. In other words, you need to connect your message to their context. For this reason, it’s critical that you understand and segment your audience. The interests and needs are different depending on who you are speaking to – whether it be a surgeon or a hospital CFO. If you have limited resources you are better off targeting the most important segment. The alternative is to design a “multi-stakeholder presentation”, with optimized messages and story lines for each segment.

The worst you can do is to try to design one presentation that tries to be everything to everyone. Such presentations will be politely ignored by your commercial teams and collect digital dust in the “value communication graveyard”.

In summary, formulating the key message is an important process that should precede everything else. The key message is specific to a well defined customer segment. It needs to be the first thing people see in a presentation, so that you can be sure it gets delivered. You then spend the rest of your presentation backing up your key message with “the story” – which is the next topic in this series.

“In this noisy world, if your key message is not specific, it will simply be ignored.”

How do you communicate the value of medical technology?

Increasing pressures on healthcare budgets have given economic arguments a central role in the market adoption of innovative technology. Manufacturers have started using spreadsheets to demonstrate the economic and clinical value of their technology to a range of stakeholders. These spreadsheets combine different data sources and assumptions to quantify, for a particular budget holder or payer, what benefits the new technology will bring. Often the result is a mix of clinical outcomes translated into economic outcomes, based on ‘inputs’ that the customer provides.

Many companies have been disappointed with their initial attempts. When companies asked their key account managers to use such spreadsheets in customer interactions, adoption was very poor. Why? Because they didn’t see how it would help them. They were not comfortable presenting a complicated spreadsheet they didn’t fully understand. Can you blame them? No one wants to be confronted with a question they can’t answer and risk their credibility.

The next article in this series ‘Success factors in value communication design – telling the story’ can be viewed here.



About the author:

Gijs Hubben is a health economist and one of the founders of BaseCase. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals, including on the cost-effectiveness of infectious disease interventions, and screening strategies for hospital acquired infections. With a strong background in pharmacy, health economics and emerging technologies, Gijs’s understanding of the intersection of these disciplines lies behind the unique service offered by BaseCase.