July’s MedTech Trends article introduced buying center analysis as a tool for understanding how healthcare providers purchase and deploy innovative technologies. A buying center is a group of individuals (or stakeholders) that collaborate to make a decision on the purchase of a product. Marketers should use this analysis to segment and target potential customers, identify new buyers involved in the purchase process, and build strong value propositions that address both clinical and administrative outcomes.
Buying centers are not product-specific; rather they are responsible for all products and services for a given clinical service area (OR, cardiology) or support service (e.g., biomedical services).
Analysis of a buying center is best performed through a series of direct interviews with buyers in target organizations. As marketers conduct interviews across multiple organizations, they build a robust view of buyers’ purchase criteria and information access preferences. To better understand the output of a buying center analysis, let’s look at an example of marketing an RF ablation device for use in the operating room.
The first step in analyzing a buying center is to list all stakeholders involved in the purchase process. A capital equipment purchase for clinical use involves a variety of clinical and administrative buyers including the physician (surgeon or radiologist); Manager, Operating Room Nursing; Director, Surgical Services; and Vice President, Supply Chain. In addition, specialists from infection control, sterilization and biomedical engineering will participate in specific steps in the purchasing process.
Understanding the professional objectives, personal benefits and information sources for each buyer is the second step in the analysis. Following are example descriptions for the surgeon and VP, Supply Chain buyers. Figures 1 and 2 show stakeholders (also called “personas”) and are descriptive narratives that profile the underlying goals and motivations of the people filling particular buying center roles. They also contain attributes that describe the types of information these stakeholders use in the purchase process, and how they collect that information. They do not represent specific individuals, but are rather an amalgamation of similar roles across multiple organizations. Below are two examples of the types of buying center stakeholders profiles that reveal what each is looking for when considering a product purchase.
Figure 1. The Surgeon
PROFESSIONAL OBJECTIVE: Treat non-resectable liver cancer
PERSONAL BENEFIT: Gain influence in practice through specialization
- Product clinical performance
- Product usability
- Colleagues/key opinion leaders
- Peer-reviewed journals
Figure 2. Vice President, Supply Chain
STAKEHOLDER: Vice President, Supply Chain
- Reduce capital equipment expenditures
- Physician satisfaction
PERSONAL BENEFIT: Standardize purchasing processes across multi-hospital system
- Product description and pricing comparisons
- Vendor customer satisfaction analysis
- Association of Healthcare Supply Chain Managers
- Group purchasing organizations
- Industry magazines
The third step in analyzing a buying center is to understand the role of these stakeholders in a buying cycle. In my next column, I will address the six-step buying cycle. This is something all marketers in the industry need to understand in order to design better and more effective materials that will not only increase awareness among stakeholders of your company’s products, but may also create a preference for them as well.