October 17, 2019By Lance Baily

Expand Your Clinical Simulation Program By Building Healthcare Buyer Personas

Understanding Healthcare Buyer Personas is a crucial step in expanding the utilization of clinical simulation at your healthcare institution. Healthcare Buyer Personas, also referred to as Medical Marketing Personas, represent the core individuals who your simulation program will need to influence (i.e. sell) in-order to gain more administrative, financial, and operational support. In our case “buyer” refers to someone who might support additional investment of time, money, or resources into clinical simulation. They say luck is just “preparation meeting opportunity” and so today, we continue our series of articles for medical simulation coordinators, administrators, managers and champions who are looking to increase the utilization of their simulation labs with proven tactics shared by the international community!

A Buyer Persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal contact based on available or reviewed market research and real data about existing relationships. In essence, this outline breakdown of each of the key individuals who need to learn more about the opportunities simulation has to offer, covering their unique demographics, responsibilities, pain points, and possible avenues of approach. In some institutions, simulation administrators may already be working with a steering committee, or general leadership, that are overseeing the long-term vision of the program. Conversely, some simulation champions will be starting from ground zero with nothing more than the desire to start developing a program and may need to start their personas with general archetypes before diving deeper into specific people. In either case and at any time, having such “Marketing Personas” completed will enable current and future administrators to better understand, communicate, and influence decision-makers now and in the future.

Imagine you are the third director of a small simulation program in a regional hospital that has been chugging along at the same capacity since it started eight years ago, and randomly one day you get into an elevator with your institution’s CEO / President, and they ask “How’s things going?”. You have just 30 seconds to explain where your simulation program is at, but more importantly, where it could be with just a bit more institutional support! Instead of complaining to the challenges of securing funds to buy a new simulator (i.e your problem), you remember from your marketing personas that the CEO recently remarked at a function as to the importance of investing in patient safety results (i.e. their problem) and so instead suggest: “We were thrilled to reduce the medical errors in the Emergency Department by 3% percent last month. I just wish we could match with the demand to improve patient safety by other departments too!”. The next question out of the CEO’s mouth will almost certainly be “Wait, what is preventing us from doing that?” Well, a new simulator of course!

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In our article 7 Steps to Achieving Record Growth For Your Healthcare Simulation Program: Part 1,  we considered how to expand the operational hours of a simulation center to include external users. In order to expand to external clients outside our internal stakeholders, we knew we would need to gain the support of the executive stakeholder committee. In this example, understanding exactly who we needed to speak with was the easy part. However, much more difficult was understanding what would help these representatives to “see the light” of expanding the nursing simulation program. Building a “Buyer Persona”, helped us to consider each of these individuals pain points and ultimately explore ways of positioning simulation to help address those needs. Consider that the priorities of a dean of a nursing school will be much different from those of a hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer. While similar, they are indeed different enough to warrant a unique persona for each.

Individuals most simulation in healthcare programs should consider for building Marketing Personas include: CEOs, COOs, CMOs, CFOs, CNOs, Presidents, Provosts, Deans, Program Directors, Training Directors, Municipal, County, and State Legislatures, Philanthropists, Key Faculty Members, External Use Decision Makers, etc. Basically, anyone who may have influence over the expansion of the use of simulation services should be considered for developing a unique marketing personas. Usually within our institutions we know, or can easily find out, who these specific individuals are. This is helpful in that we don’t have to imagine what they might be interested in, but slightly harder in that finding out those interests could take some time.

Building a persona is quite formulaic, with each of the key areas briefly outlined and explained below for consideration. There is no need to go into such detail as to create a 40-page report per persona, rather a “cheat sheet” one-pager will do!

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  1. Name: This can be fictitious unless your institution already has this person hired.
  2. Age: Helps to provide perspective on technology adoption curve.
  3. Education: Gives a frame for the individual’s ability to understand various aspects of simulation.
  4. Title / Roles: Titles help but diving deeper to understand what roles that person has to cover provides better knowledge about where they may be, and what areas they are looking at.
  5. Goals: Knowing what goals this individual may have (or has actually stated), provides insight into the types of opportunities they are open to considering.
  6. Challenges: What keeps this individual up at night? What are the top 3 areas this person is responsible for fixing or improving? Solving these challenges is extremely relevant!
  7. Pain Points: Beyond general challenges, what particular pain points does this individual have with regards to frustrations or headaches? Knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what to solve!
  8. Interests: Being able to connect and build rapport with an individual is a crucial step in beginning a relationship that is mutually beneficially. Understand what someone is passionate about can help you to frame your opportunities.
  9. Location: Are these individuals near to your sim lab or far away? Have they even seen your space or met your team members? Thinking about where they are in relation to your specific space can be important to consider.
  10. Barriers: What particular barriers will there be to engaging with this individual? Even as simple as having an executive assistant can sometimes be a barrier for c-suite executives! Other barriers may include pet projects which they focus on solely, lack of interest, negative relationships, or ideas.
  11. Decision Criteria: What helps this individual, or the archetype they represent, make decisions? Are they careful and thoughtful, or do they make faster decisions based on emotional whims? By understanding their style, and the criteria they would need in order to make their decision, the better prepared you will be to bring that information along when a meeting is scheduled.
  12. Elevator Pitch: Referencing our quick example above, imagine you had just 30 seconds to convince a higher administrator to schedule a meeting to learn more about clinical simulation, how would you specifically phrase this conversation versus with a different persona. Remember, how you speak with a leading faculty member should be completely different from how you speak with the CEO. Each has unique needs and must be communicated with as such.

Make sure that once your personas are completed that each member of your simulation team has had a chance to review them. You never know who you might bump into, and having more of your team prepped and ready to best frame needs based on who they are speaking helps. Note for our purposes in B2B (business to business), we have removed standard marketing persona areas such as sex, income, or religious beliefs all of which should be totally irrelevant to our contexts. Age remains as different age groups tend to react differently to new technologies which should be considered!

Indeed, as most of us are clinicians, researchers, educators, and technology specialists we have mostly developed our expertise in areas outside of marketing and sales. However, to expand simulation, we must be willing and able to “sell” simulation! In that sense, we must communicate not only from our own perspective, but from the perspective of key administrators. (See our article “The Language of Sales – How to Increase Your Simulation Budget” for more on that topic). The question then becomes: What are their priorities, their needs, and most importantly their problems? As a starting point, usually the priorities in education are geared towards maximizing learner pass rates, while in professional healthcare the goals are for the increased quality of care while minimizing costs.

One additional consideration when building marketing personas is to also build a persona for the naysayers too! As each institution is bound to have individuals who proudly consider themselves to be “laggards” of technology adoption citing “we’ve always done it this way”, they should be carefully considered for review. Preparing ahead of time for engagements with such party-poopers is the best way to stay 10 steps ahead. In our article Simulation Discomfiters, The Anti-Champions Who Frustrate Our Programs, we explore who these individuals are and how best to communicate, or better yet, ignore them.

Those interested in additional reading should review our articles linked above as well as “7 Steps to Make the Business Case for Healthcare Simulation” and “Part 2 of 7 Steps to Achieving Record Growth For Your Healthcare Simulation Program“.

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