Author: Cassie Billig
Transforming Your Business & Improving Your Competitive Advantage
Product portfolio management is fundamental to business success. In any economic environment, companies are challenged with optimizing their portfolio to ensure that their product development pipeline reflects business objectives and growth targets. Senior managers observe business case presentations by enthusiastic product and market managers that forecast optimistic market share gains and growth projections. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of these new products never achieve market success, as measured by sales and profits.1 Managers need to address the following questions
- Were the financial projections realistic?
- Did companies choose the right products to develop and/or projects to pursue?
- Did the new products hit the mark – as measured by the creation of real customer value?
Financial versus Value Based Metrics
Without quantifiable alternatives, most companies continue to depend on sales estimates, market share projections and net present value calculations. While these measures are important components of a business case, these figures typically comprise an uncomfortable amount of speculation and guesswork.
Market Edge believes there is a better and more reliable way to select the right products to include in a business, division and company portfolio. Business leaders who want to improve chances of developing sustainable sales growth and profitability must include customer value based measures into portfolio development and management. Furthermore, companies should approach portfolio management holistically, considering how resource allocations and priorities align to create products that create value for the target customers.
Value Based Portfolio Management
With a Value Based Portfolio Management (VBPM) approach, portfolio management never stands alone. Strategic planning, capability assessment and gathering actionable customer insights are ‘hard-wired’ to the development and management of a value-based portfolio. Market Edge utilizes this ‘VBPM’ approach to help clients build and sustain a leading position in the marketplace.
Value Based: The fundamental driver for pursuing an opportunity (new products and/or services) should be based on the value created for the customer. This is the foundation that will enable the creation of new product and service offers that have a competition advantage – because they start with the identification of problems and underserved needs rather than product features and attributes.
Portfolio: The entire collection of products, services and support that is required to create the value realized by the target customer(s).
Management: It is essential that senior management is active in the process of creating and supporting the organizational framework and process that enables the creation of a value-based portfolio.
Far more encompassing than the traditional portfolio management, VBPM leads to a product portfolio that:
- Satisfies customers at a greater level by delivering products and services that address their most important problems and leads to innovation opportunities
- Aligns new products and service offers with the overall business strategy
- Optimizes portfolio decisions to ensure the appropriate amount of investment and resources are in the right places to enable success
The key building block to portfolio management is a deep understanding of your target customers and deep understanding of their requirements. Furthermore, you must have insight that enables you to uncover customer needs, their future direction and future requirements so you can provide significant customer value and not just peer-competitive offers or simply fill a gap in a product line. Perhaps an equally significant problem is that portfolio management often is treated only as a tactical activity related to allocating engineering resources and accelerating individual development projects.
A Change is Needed
Portfolio management is not a new discipline. There are many books and papers that suggest methods for determining which projects and products will be the most successful. Unfortunately, many of these accepted tools (e.g. GE/McKinsey Matrix and BCG Matrix) are useful for classifying existing products and business opportunities but not as useful for determining the future composition of a product portfolio. Even tools that appear to take an external (i.e. customer / market) view by including customer meetings or expert focus groups often fail to capture the customer’s true, unspoken and latent needs beyond simple feedback regarding product features or attributes.
Many companies have become very comfortable with a phased review process or stage-gate model and the milestone meetings that address project plans and execution. These models are effective at managing individual projects but may not effectively address or challenge broader strategic decisions about the portfolio and the value generated for the target customers.
Value Based Portfolio Management provides your business with the actionable insights to evaluate a product or service solution – not just whether it meets a set of internal specifications, but whether it provides enough customer value such that it influences their behavior (i.e. start, stop or continue to use a specific product or service). Furthermore, it can lead to the discovery of customers’ latent requirements or delighters that can enable companies to introduce truly innovative products and services. Offers are not innovative because they include a technology or capability that is unique to your company; an offer is innovative when it addresses an underserved need or problem that is significant to your customers.
A World-Class Portfolio Requires World-Class Customer Insights
When times get tough, customer focus typically becomes a casualty of financial constraints. There is no longer money spent on customer visits dedicated solely to gathering customer insights. As a result, the next new products may not generate significant value and will likely be an upgrade of existing features or a reaction to a competitor’s product launch. When financial constraints increase, companies need to sharpen their focus and align resources to the opportunities that will enable a competitive advantage.
The only way to ensure you have the best portfolio is to ensure that you continue gathering world-class insight through continuous engagement with your target customers. While slashing expenses across the board may result in short term savings, the long term consequence may be a significant devaluing of the business as your business loses ‘touch’ with customers and misses the mark with the next generation of products and services.
When customer value considerations are integrated into every stage of your business planning process, your company or business can begin to create an optimal portfolio that delivers value to the customer while also supporting the business strategy. Properly aligning the portfolio with the vision and strategy is not easy or simple. However, Value Based Portfolio Management will enable your company to stay ahead of peers and develop a sustainable competitive advantage that results in above-average industry sales growth and profits.
Market Edge collaborates with client teams to lead the application of the VBPM process that will lead to the following:
- A project portfolio that is aligned with company and/or business strategy
- Products in your portfolio that offer a high degree of customer value
- A Portfolio that has the appropriate balance of risk and value
- Aligned resources that match the portfolio priorities
- Clear performance metrics
Effective Campaigns Include Four Elements:
- Set campaign objectives (e.g. qualify >100 leads and begin semi-tech trials with >20 opportunities by end of June) based on priorities from the business unit strategy and associated strategic marketing plan. Complete a ‘deep dive’ to understand the target segment. Use CRM / Salesforce to ‘data mine’ and ensure segment analyses are current. Summarize actionable insights that will drive the campaign (e.g. the target segment is 2x more likely to require a second source, rarely attends industry trade shows and is more likely to be influenced by joint trials).
- Design segment specific messaging, via channels and touchpoints that are differentiated in a meaningful way to the target. Don’t use the ‘usual suspects’! Include meta data tags to track where and how customers are receiving digital campaign messages.
- Execute campaigns internally to gain support from colleagues and deliver a consistent message to the market. A poorly executed internal launch will doom an external launch.
- Assess campaign delivery and adjust execution using campaign dashboards to drive performance. Campaign metrics should include both efficiency (were we able to reach / acquire the target efficiently?) and effectiveness (did the target do what we wanted?).
Market Edge has worked with category leading B2B companies to develop effective product launches and campaigns for the past 25 years. To learn more about our programs related to Campaign Planning and Execution or to attend a Market Edge Academy program on this subject or other related Marketing and Sales topics, go to https://mkt-edge.com/market-edge-academy/.
- Online skills and knowledge assessments are great for understanding individual, functional and team-based capability before and after development investments.
- Unbiased work product reviews against industry benchmarks provide a multiperspective approach that identifies target performance and gaps for your business teams.
- To support the creation of a multi-year improvement plan that enables your business to achieve your strategy, make sure to map your organization’s current cultural state. Wide gaps by role, seniority, and business units can be an anchor to the past and prevent strategy progress.
2018 Marketing Benchmarks
Market Edge’s proprietary Marketing Benchmarks and Capability databases are based on >20 years’ experience with category-leading clients in a range of B2B and B2C industries.
Strategic, tactical and product management marketing roles are analyzed as a function of operating profit, R&D investment and anticipated growth. Extracts from the database compare similar business units (industries, size, profitability, and growth).
Benchmarks provide guidance to determine if the quantity of marketing investment is appropriate.
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Identifying Value-Creation Opportunities in Healthcare with the Treatment Activity Cycle Framework
When it comes to succeeding in the healthcare industry, what you don’t know will hurt you
Turning the Unknown into Competitive Advantage
In modern healthcare, commercial success depends on designing offerings that provide value to multiple stakeholders simultaneously. Although clinical benefit is always a key factor when a patient, physician, payor, or provider evaluates a new product, it is insufficient to prompt adoption by many healthcare institutions. New medical devices and treatment options must provide significant clinical and economic value relative to the current standard of care (or next best alternative/competitor).
What is the current standard of care for your product? What demographic, regulatory, and technological trends are shaping the standard? What value can you offer to various stakeholders relative to the current standard? How will the processes and resources developed around the current standard affect the clinical and economic performance of your product? Will existing processes create barriers or incentives for adoption? How can your product streamline these processes to create more value? The complexity of the modern healthcare system provides numerous opportunities to create value; a business that is willing to invest the resources to understand it thoroughly will have a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Process Mapping Reveals the Path to Customer Value
Determining the true clinical and economic value of a new product requires a comprehensive, data-driven understanding of when, where, why, and how similar products are currently used within the healthcare system. To succeed, businesses must develop this understanding early in the product development process, iteratively refine it during commercialization, and stay up-to-date on evolving standards throughout the product’s lifecycle. Research, whether primary or secondary, is necessary but insufficient to inform strategic decision-making. It is essential to articulate the treatment process through a framework like the Market Edge’s “Treatment Activity Cycle.”
The Treatment Activity Cycle is a process mapping tool used to understand how patients move through a healthcare system and interact with healthcare professionals. A Treatment Activity Cycle focuses on patients with a particular disease or set of symptoms, tracing their path from initial interaction with a healthcare professional, through diagnosis and referral pathway, various stages or iterations of treatment, and post-treatment follow-up. A treatment activity cycle captures where, when, and how decision-making incorporates economic, organizational, and regulatory considerations.
Other related business and regulatory processes can be mapped using similar frameworks, such as the Customer Activity Cycle. By utilizing consistent frameworks for different but related processes, one can clearly represent the interactions between these diverse processes and the divergent priorities of various individuals involved.
Cholecystitis: Details with Context Yield Actionable Insight
For example, consider a company with an innovative offering that could revolutionize the treatment of cholecystitis. Cholecystectomy, the surgical removal of a diseased gallbladder, is the most common form of treatment for cholecystitis, and is the commonly performed abdominal procedure in the US. In order to develop value propositions and a strategy for market entrance, it is key to understand the existing clinical pathways, including patient segmentation, referral patterns, treatment options, and reimbursement. Customer R&DSM market research techniques, such as interviews with stakeholders and direct observation of healthcare professionals, provide the data needed to understand and map this process.
Within this framework we can highlight specific strategically-relevant insights, such as the most important pain points for healthcare professionals, variations in behavior that may drive segmentation and offer positioning, and opportunities for value creation. Treatment Activity Cycles also provide a qualitative framework for contextualizing and interpreting quantitative data such as market volume, competitive share, and revenue potential.
Although it is essential to understand the treatment activity cycle as a whole, some portions may be of more interest based on a company’s offerings and expertise. The Treatment Activity Cycle framework can be applied to any component processes, at the level of detail required to answer relevant strategic questions. For instance, if the new product would be used within a cholecystectomy procedure, it would be important to understand the procedure flow, healthcare professionals involved, and surgical setting in more detail. Mapping this process would help identify opportunities for improving efficiency or providing value-added services, define key user needs, and anticipate barriers to adoption.
Regardless of the particular medical process, detailed mapping of the Treatment Activity Cycle highlights important information gaps, suggests new strategic questions to pursue, and reveals the actionable insights necessary for commercial success. It acts as your business’s working hypothesis regarding the clinical pathways and institutional mechanisms that you seek to improve, influence, or disrupt.
Every year, Market Edge teaches hundreds of business professionals how to employ the Treatment Activity Cycle framework to achieve their goals. Market Edge utilizes the framework in combination with its proprietary Customer R&DSM market research approach to provide healthcare businesses with their intelligence they need to succeed.
For more information on how Market Edge helps healthcare businesses innovate tomorrow’s life-saving treatments Click Here!
Characterizing the Market Landscape
How do you define the size and shape of your market?
Market Landscape Maps clarify the market landscape and help businesses make critical strategy and marketing decisions. They are especially helpful to explore new markets or to compare multiple geographies.
A traditional market map shows the relative size of various sectors or market segments, applications, technologies or customers in two dimensions.
A range of criteria (dimensions) can be used to develop market maps. Creating multiple maps with different combinations of criteria generates new perspectives of the market leading to targeting and growth opportunity insights. Additional layers of information (growth rates, profitability, current areas of focus) can be added to the map to generate further insights.
Following is an example of a Market Landscape Map we developed for a client looking for opportunities to increase their sales in the Latin American fertilizer market.
First, consider the dimensions that could be used for each axis on the map.
For an initial high-level map, the X-axis should be defined by the dimension that is driving overall market growth. Usually, this will be the applications or geographic segments that comprise the market. For the Y-axis, select the technologies or product categories that are competing to serve the market.
In our example, we developed the following map combining countries and nutrient as the initial dimensions.
Then, focusing on each nutrient, we developed multiple maps for the two largest countries that incorporated the product dimension.
Developing the Market Landscape Maps above enabled our client to identify existing gaps, improve their segmentation, develop more accurate targeting and – eventually – serve sub-segments they had not previously considered, leading to double digit top line and bottom line growth.
Market Landscape Maps are extremely useful for analyzing and communicating an overview of the target market. They help explore market adjacencies and challenge the organization to think with a market focused orientation.
Use of Net Promoter Score – Is NPS the Right Tool for your Business?
Independent research on the NPS scores by industry sectors and major brands is most available for B2C companies, where word of mouth (or social media) can quickly lead to increases and decreases in sales. However, there seems to be less available independent study on B2B businesses, but that does not mean that NPS is not important to those companies as well.
In B2C environments, personal interactions more readily lend themselves to favorable/unfavorable references to other contacts (“That restaurant was wonderful – here’s a picture of my meal!”). However, in B2B environments other factors beyond just the personal interactions may come into play such as corporate procurement policies, requirements for multiple suppliers and technical performance standards that weigh equally in the buying decision process. NPS alone may not be enough to gauge potential for growth in B2B environments, so you should look deeper at other Critical Purchasing Criteria.
Utilize your knowledge of customer’s purchasing process to supplement your assessment of NPS in B2B environments. In addition to the relationships with promoters within the customer company, what are the key value drivers that will differentiate your offer from other suppliers? The combination of NPS knowledge and Critical Purchasing Criteria will help drive greater success with targeted customer accounts in the B2B environment.
Market Edge has developed simplified, online NPS assessment and Critical Purchasing Criteria (CPC) tools which can be quickly deployed to solicit customer feedback on how well you are performing and likely to be recommended to others as well as their key buying criteria. Contact us at email@example.com (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about these tools and their application in your business.
Do you struggle with the linkage between sales and marketing?
As businesses grow it critical maintain alignment between the sales and marketing functions. Without this alignment, impacts can be seen in:
- Account targeting – we spend our time with the wrong customers
- Value proposition delivery – we focus on attributes that are either non-differentiated from competition or our customers don’t really care about
- Value capture thru pricing – our pricing does not seem to match how value customers perceive our value
- Call planning – our sales call are ineffective or in some cases unorganized
The combination of business processes and marketing skills help organizations address the issues above and target, price and position appropriately.
Our experience with a range of global, category leading B2B companies has shown the following specific capabilities are critical to effective sales/marketing effectiveness.
- Customer Segment Targeting – we call on the “right” customers and our offer is the best fit for their needs
- Value Proposition Development and Delivery – we understand how our offer is different (and better) than competition and we deliver that message in a clear, concise and compelling fashion
- Value Capture – we price and communicate our value in a convincing fashion and capture the value that we provide
- Professional Call Planning – we plan customer calls to use time effectively (ours and our customer’s) and ensure we are continually delivering and gaining information throughout the sales process
Effective Channel Management
Are you managing the channel or is the channel managing you?
In many industries the path to the market involves other companies who provide services as an extension of your company’s sales offering. In some cases these companies are true partners who reflect the same values and services that you expect from yourself. In other cases they may be actual customers who view you as only a supplier of products or services to fill out their shelves or portfolio. How is your relationship with the channel defined? Are you the influencer in the relationship or does the channel drive the ultimate sales relationship with the downstream market? Effective channel management requires a fundamental understanding of these relationships by both parties, and appropriate actions must be taken to drive the performance of channel sales.
Determining the relationship with the channel starts with an objective analysis of how products and services flow to the market and where the influence lies. Slide 3 illustrates the Market Edge approach to analyzing channels by considering how channels are selected, how they perform and the policies required to track performance.
Through a combination of market research and our proprietary analysis tools we can graphically illustrate the size and influence of potential channel partners. Once channel relationships are agreed, leading and lagging indicators should be tracked to measure the performance and corresponding actions (e.g. offers, incentives, etc.) to be taken to drive desired performance. Having a clear understanding and agreement of the influence, values and performance expectations of each partner in the relationship can lead to improved sales and performance of the channel.
Are customers taking the Pricing Lever from your control?
The day you understand the value you create is the day you stop giving discounts.
Does your organization have the required commercial capabilities to raise prices?
The strengthening global economy is driving the pace of price increases in the specialty chemicals and materials sector (see attached timeline of selected announcements).
However, not all businesses have the required commercial capabilities to raise and hold prices effectively.
Our experience with a range of global, category leading B2B companies has shown the following specific capabilities are critical to raising prices at the right time and retaining increased margins.
- Timing – knowing when to raise prices and leading increases from a position of strength
- Modeling – using dynamic value maps and scenario planning to model competitive response and associated impact on volume and margins
- Commercial discipline – implementing price increases clearly while minimizing exceptions and backsliding
- Price performance management – rigorous post increase analysis to ensure margin, volume and working capital effects are delivering the targeted increase in cash flow