Spot the Opportunities Others Miss

To change the habit of the present, you need to trigger new ways of thinking that convey the attraction of the new solution.



When we work with clients to build their brand, we start by exploring what the opportunity spaces are. We do this by looking for answers to the question, “What are the ways that the world could be better because of how this product could be used?” For us, opportunity spaces is a broad category and this is a conscious choice, an opportunity space is any commercial opportunity that someone could realize. This is a key step; it broadens your perspective of what the opportunities could be. Often we work with teams who are so deep into the science of what the product does that it is challenging for them to see all the ways that the value of the product could be realized in the world.  Teams get anchored in what the current treatment pathway is and what the product features are. We look at it from the perspective of the patient and the physician and what they are trying to achieve.

The danger in thinking narrow is that it limits the opportunities you could consider as a business. Also, the chances are that other companies are thinking narrow, so you are much more likely to end up competing for the same opportunity as someone else. Competing for a space uses up a lot more resources compared to identifying a clear space and winning.

How do you uncover the opportunities others miss?

We base our approach on thinking originally developed by Clayton Christensen around exploring the jobs to be done. When a customer hires a product to do a job, they make a purchasing decision. They do this based on an internal set of “hiring” criteria. This set of hiring criteria is their shorthand for making decisions. Understanding the details of the context that led to that decision is key to understanding the relative importance of the hiring criteria.

In order to build your brand, you have to explore the jobs that doctors are trying to get done and the mental shorthand, their hiring criteria, which they have developed to make those decisions. How those decisions are made involve the functional factors of the challenge they face (the job) but also involves the emotional and social factors. How they feel or want to feel about their decision (the emotional) and also how they think others will interpret their decision and what they would think of them (the social). These are the elements that make up what they believe about the actions they decide to take. This interpretation all comes from the internal narrative that each of us has. It is the voice inside your head that commentates on what you have done and are doing.

Allied to this, you also need to understand the more fundamental level of mental processes for how human beings make decisions. In a previous article , we described Daniel Kahneman’s work on decision-making, for which he won a Nobel Prize, which identifies two human systems of thinking which are System 1 (fast) and System 2 (slow and methodical). A doctor could not get through their daily workload using System 2 thinking, it is just too slow, so they have to use System 1 thinking.

In short, human beings make the majority of decisions subconsciously (System 1) which is not rationally (but rather emotionally or socially) based. Once we recognize this, it fundamentally changes our view of how we should build our brands and how we should explore with customers to build the insight to drive our brands.

Key to understanding the importance of jobs to be done to this process is appreciating that when someone hires your product to do a job, at the point of making that decision they are not hiring your product for what it does, they are hiring it for the promise of what they believe it will do. That belief in the promise of an outcome is what brand is. Having a brand that resonates with the jobs to be done of your customers is the foundation of success.

Once you understand this, you also need to take into account the cognitive biases that are implicit in human decisions. Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways and they can lead to deviations from the rational or good judgment. One of the most well known is confirmation bias. This is where someone looks for information that supports a decision or judgment they have already made. When a customer hires your brand (because we now understand that a customer hires the brand and not the product because they hire based on their belief of the promise of what it will do) they will look for information that supports the hiring decision they have made. Key to the ongoing success of your brand is making sure that this supportive information is available and easily accessible for your customers. The easy availability of information is also, in itself, a bias. We place more emphasis on information that is easily found or easy to recall and so that information has more impact on our behavior.

When we think about changing human behavior, we need to recognize that there are two forces that promote behavior change. These are the push of the situation and the attraction of the new solution. There are also two forces that block change of behavior. These are anxiety of the new solution and habit of the present. Habit of the present is very much System 1 thinking, it is our learned response. In a healthcare setting, there are many structures in place that support “habit of the present”. This can be things like nurse support, specific clinics, funding, targets and measurement criteria and treatment protocols.

To change the habit of the present, you need to trigger new ways of thinking that support the push of the situation and convey the attraction of the new solution. Effectively supporting behavior change is the role of brand and marketing activities… and fundamental to understanding this is having real clarity on the job your customer is trying to do and making your brand relevant to their jobs to be done.


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eyeforpharma Philadelphia

May 2, 2016 - May 3, 2016, Philadelphia

A new pharma: Customer partnerships that prioritize patient value

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