3 marketing paradigms every healthcare entrepreneur needs to know



Before beginning the MSTC program, I regularly stipulated to my colleagues that I didn’t know anything about marketing. If I’m honest, I didn’t want to know anything about marketing. For me, marketing was mostly a pejorative word reserved for the magical hand-waving and special kind of half-truth whispered into the ears of people reluctant to buy something. Three classes into the MSTC program, though, and it was apparent that I had missed some rich opportunities due to this limited view. More importantly, I had committed the grave mistake of tacitly accepting the status quo paradigm of my customer. Worst of all, perhaps, I myself have been (kind of, maybe) a marketer without even knowing it.

For the last two and half years I have been a part of an Austin-based startup aiming to stymie the deleterious effects of preventable chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and COPD. As is generally the case in startups, my compatriots and I have worn many hats. One of my hats involves conducting in-depth interviews with users so that we can learn about their needs and experiences. Following the revelation that user interviews are not just an aspect of but a central part of marketing, I retreated (appropriately chastened) to my recordings of the interviews I conducted to reevaluate my conclusions. Following are three observations that I consider blunders I made by not applying basic marketing paradigms that I hope other entrepreneurs in healthcare (and beyond) can avoid.

1. People that share an attribute don’t necessarily share a need.

Treating a person based on a disease or diagnosis is a logical and necessary approach for medical professionals in acute situations. However, when engaging with people as consumers rather than patients, segmenting by disease is often the wrong approach. Why? The mere fact that people share a disease does little to inform us of what people need. For example, consumer interviews revealed a broad range of needs for people with Type 2 Diabetes, from accountability to encouragement, healthy meal recipes to reminders to take medication. Some people simply need a trigger to remind them to make good choices, while others need hands-on training in how to healthily navigate a restaurant menu. Some just want to know that someone cares. Recognizing this range fundamentally changes the nature of the solutions we can and should employ.

2. Don’t assume people will pay for a problem to be solved at any cost.

Navigating healthcare payments is notoriously complex and, despite the sheer size of annual healthcare expenditures, health system margins are often slim. Consumers daily feel the impact of the real growth rate of per capita expenditures, especially at lower income ranges. But, as pernicious as some diseases can be, we should neither assume that people can or will pay for solutions nor that, in the grand scheme of their lifestyle, people can adapt to radical change. Rather, we should consider how we can meet them on their own terms.

3. Seek out the experience people want to have, not just the one that you can provide them

In most cases, a visit to a doctor or a hospital is a matter of necessity. Optimizing that experience is an important undertaking, but the reality is that in those circumstances people generally wish they were somewhere else. It isn’t an experience they want to have. The task in front of healthcare entrepreneurs is to envision experiences beyond this environment where consumers can willingly and positively engage.

A hallmark of worthwhile education programs is their ability to expose new paradigms and frameworks that can be immediately applied to areas of weakness, especially when you do not initially recognize the area as a weakness. The MSTC program has done that for me. While all the appropriate humble caveats apply (I am neither a healthcare professional nor a true marketer), recognizing the breadth and depth of the marketing paradigm has fundamentally altered my ability to assess the business landscape. Now, when I say I don’t know anything about marketing I don’t mean it as a willful choice but as a desire to learn about and understand the people who matter most: those we aim to help.


Elijah D Kelley is a graduate of the MSTC Class of 2018. He is currently a Solutions Director with Wellsmith Inc., a startup which gives people the tools to make simple, memorable and actionable choices to manage their health.

The Most Successful Companies Today Are Data-Driven

Enterprise Data Science

As a data nerd and product marketer, I never cease to be amazed by what data science can reveal about people’s preferences, moods, and behavior. These applications can range from the amusing to potentially life-saving. From its analysis of online interactions between couples, Facebook Data Science can predict with astounding accuracy the likelihood of budding relationships and break ups. Using Twitter data, researchers at Northeastern University developed a model to accurately predict flu outbreaks up to six weeks in advance.

Data analytics is being used by more and more companies to allow them to make better decisions, develop new products and services, and verify or refute existing theories or models. According to McKinsey research, “organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and more than 25 percent in gross margin.” Perhaps then it is no surprise that some of the most innovative products, services, processes, and solutions were developed by companies that successfully leveraged and applied the customer insights that came from big data. The names of companies who have outperformed their peers through data are now household names.

With its unrivaled database containing the shopping and purchasing behavior of 244 million customers, Amazon used predictive analytics to build personalized recommender systems, book recommendations, one-click ordering, and anticipatory shipping models to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Guided by its mission statement to become “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company,” Amazon is currently one of today’s most admired companies (in addition to enjoying an impressive $7.4 billion free cash flow as of December 2017).

Most people go about their day using Google’s search engine, email, and its Android operating system on their smartphones without a second thought. But as the saying goes, “if the service is free, you are the product.” All information that goes into those free services are eventually integrated into Google AdWords, Google’s online advertising service that has an ingenious business model using keywords, targeted advertising, a unique bidding model, and paid-per-click. Google AdWords is ultimately responsible for over 90% of Google’s staggering $89.5 billion revenue.

Netflix became the biggest streaming service in the United States using data analytics that combed through subscribers’ viewing habits, gathered valuable insights, and produced heavily personalized content. One successful hit that emerged was the political thriller House of Cards. To this day, 75% of Netflix’s viewer activity is still driven by its recommendation algorithm, which is estimated to save the company over $1 billion every year.

Amazon, Google, and Netflix may all have different business models but all three of these tech titans built their vast empires with a core focus on customer behavior data and analytics. Clayton Christensen, author of the best-selling classic The Innovator’s Dilemma, has taken pains to point out that customers aren’t really interested in products or services themselves but in what they do, specifically “jobs to be done.” Christensen further elaborates:

Identifying and understanding the job to be done are only the first steps in creating products that customers want—especially ones they will pay premium prices for. It’s also essential to create the right set of experiences for the purchase and use of the product and then integrate those experiences into a company’s processes.

For example, when someone buys Netflix subscription, he or she is not just buying TV shows and movies. That person is “hiring” Netflix to provide affordable and convenient entertainment. Examined in this context, Netflix is not competing not only with other streaming services like Hulu or Amazon Prime Instant Video, it is competing with “everything you do to relax” from listening to music or reading a book.

Successful companies such as Netflix know that they have go beyond knowing “who” their customers are. Specifically, they rely on data analytics as revealed through their customers’ behaviors to obtain a more accurate picture of what they really want and need, and how and when to best deliver it to them. The key takeaway for marketers is that they should not be segmenting their customers by demographics or personas, but instead be focusing on motivations, context, and triggers.

Data-driven companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix are laying the groundwork for the future and various industries are feeling their disruptive effects. Industries unable or too slow to apply customer-centric, behavioral data-driven strategies in their business models will be at greater risk of obsolescence.

In today’s economy, companies are constantly reinventing themselves through customer-centricity, personalization, and customer experience. Data-driven analytics and quantitative insights are the must-have tools.

Another version of this article was originally published on the Abraxas Technology company blog. Read the original article here.


Aaron Tao is a graduate of the MSTC Class of 2017. He is currently a Product Manager with Abraxas Technology, a data analytics startup devoted to serving the out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry.

Follow him on Twitter here.