When What You Know Can Kill Your HealthTech Marketing

Article by | April 20, 2021 Positioning and Messaging

The Bias: The Curse of Knowledge

The Curse Of Knowledge is a powerful force that lures us in with the smooth cocktail of comfort and familiarity. It then mixes in a potentially fatal dose of ego that drenches our brains in the idea that the whole healthcare market understands the world the same way we do. All we have to do is tell them about our great idea and they will naturally line up eager to buy.

Elizabeth Newton, a Stanford University graduate student in psychology, set out to illustrate the curse of knowledge back in 1990 using a simple game. She sat one participant, a Tapper, across the table from another, a Listener. The Tapper chose a ubiquitous song, like “Happy Birthday,” then tapped out the rhythm on the table between them. The Listener’s job was to guess the name of the song.

Simple right? The experiment participants thought so. Not so fast.

Before Listeners guessed, Newton asked the Tappers to predict how many Listeners would guess correctly. The Tappers predicted 50% of the Listeners would be right. The actual results fell far short. Only one out of 40 guessed correctly!

You gotta love a good bias.

The Truth to Confront: When the Tappers tapped out their tunes they couldn’t help but hear the music playing in their minds.

Listeners didn’t benefit from that rich context. All they got were clicks on a table. No music.

In her experiment, Newton’s Tappers were beside themselves at how hard it was for the Listeners to name the tune. That same exasperation is what makes the games Charades or Pictionary so animated and fun. Each is a micro example of confronting The Curse Of Knowledge.

The Curse is funny in the context of a game. It can be detrimental in the context of a go to market strategy.

The Truth to Absorb: Once we know something (the melody of a song) it is nearly impossible to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge casts a spell over us. Our situation becomes doubly dubious because we like being under it. Ah, the ego. That age-old foil. We tend to like knowing. We can get drunk by it. We like how it feels, we like holding an advanced understanding, and we like building our complex worlds on its foundations.

We each come at the world with a knowledge bias. It’s a curse.

In this article, I outline one of the most dangerous biases known to marketing. HealthTech companies fall victim to this bias over and over and over again. Together, we will also explore four ways to successfully overcome it.

Four Steps to Overcoming the Curse of Knowledge in HealthTech Marketing

Now let’s explore the steps to overcoming it in our marketing (and hopefully in the rest of our lives, too).

Step 1: Admit and Confront Your Knowledge Bias

Yep, you have to start by admitting you have a problem. Take an honest inventory. This will likely require you to get some outside input. Many books* have been written about how effectively overcome bias. But it is up to you to do the work. Confront how you have become drunk on the wine of your value proposition and sober up.

Step 2: Know What Your Role Really Is

Chances are if you are bringing a HealthTech solution to market, you are introducing a new order of things. Your solution changes how things are done. Often, the people you want to interest in your solution have yet to consider (or at least have not yet fully considered) what you can make possible.

If you are bringing a HealthTech solution to market, you are introducing a new order of things.

Your first role as a HealthTech marketer is to be an Educator, to carefully and empathetically guide your buyers into an understanding of just how good things could be when they use your product. If what you are selling is a simple widget that everyone gets and wants, your job would be different. You could jump right to being an Informer or an Amplifier.

That is not where you are. Embrace your role as an educator.

Step 3: Understand Your Students (Your Buyers)

At this point in my career, I have worked with over 100 B2B technology companies. There is no end to my surprise at how few organizations actually take the time to do it right. I have yet to work with an entity that has been able to hand me a comprehensive understanding of their buyers.

Your buyer profile is essential to your success.

To be clear, we are not talking about what has typically become known as a “ buyer persona.” (I HAVE been handed plenty of those) Your goal is not a neatly designed two-page overview, complete with fake pictures and names, weekend activities, the cars they drive, and the sports their kids play. Please! Some things that have migrated over from consumer marketing just need to go away. We are talking about an in-depth, gritty exploration into the people in the industry you serve—those who fight problems in their work that are in some way related to the problem(s) you solve.

And its not necessarily the person who ends up buying, though they certainly could be a target. We are talking about cultivating a real understanding of the empowered person who needs your solution the most or is in the most pain as a result of not having your solution and is open to hearing alternatives. Often, the best target are the people on the trail that leads to the final sales conversation. Not the ones whose names are on the signature lines of the contract.

Companies often make the mistake of reverse-engineering the design of their marketing efforts based on the conversations that happen around the final stages of the sales conversation. Those are the situations where sales professionals are confronting the issues the economic buyer will face writing a check and the technical buyer will face during implementation. You can get bogged down in jargon-drenched technicalities while your real target languishes.

We want you to know who is searching online for answers and actively trying to solve a problem. We want your marketing efforts to target those who are living in a reality that is less than ideal so that you can communicate how you make their lives better.

Golden Spiral has created a methodology that gets at the heart of this issue called the Buyer Matrix Process. At its core, the Buyer Matrix is simple.

    1. Make a list of your buyers.
    2. Prioritize the list with those at the top who are in authority and who are trying to solve a problem. These are those most acquainted with the “pain.”
    3. List each of the real-world problems they face that are in any way associated with your solution.
    4. Write them in a first-person narrative form.

Getting to the simple part, though, takes some elbow grease. You can’t make up this list of people and problems. It needs to be forged from as many conversations with objective or semi-objective sources as possible. Talk to clients, prospective clients, analysts, your sales team, those in customer success, and anyone else who has direct contact with your buyer. Talk with your SEO team to find out what buyers are searching for online.

Again, it is easy for this process to get slanted by the conversations that occur around the closing table. Avoid it. Those issues can make their way into your Buyer Matrix, but you need to be careful to prioritize them in a way that won’t contaminate your core marketing messages and conversations.

Here is an example of a narrative problem we pulled from a recent Buyer Matrix exercise:

“Over the last several years there has been a quantum increase on the demands of our hospital’s IT infrastructure and the pressure keeps on building. It’s put all of us under tremendous pressure, combined with the fact that I’m being asked to do more with less budget and fewer resources. COVID has only exacerbated this problem. I can’t get critical projects done on time or at all. Then there is EHR testing—what a nightmare. It requires immense amounts of man-hours and many of those are from clinical pros who don’t want to be bothered with any of this.I need to find a way to leverage manual resources, and validation from all departments.

The problems ARE NOT one-sentence quips. They are detailed narratives that allow you to glimpse the pressures, contingencies, and complexities your buyers face. Seeing their challenges will equip you to empathetically engage with them.

    1. Once you have done the narrative work, collaborate with your sources to prioritize those problems from most pressing to least pressing.
    2. Work with your sales, product, and customer success teams to carefully and completely articulate how you solve for each of those problems.

At the end of your process, you may have a document that looks like this:

Golden Spiral Buyer Matrix Example

Now, do you see why I maintain that few companies ever possess a comprehensive understanding of their buyer?

If you strive to achieve and maintain this level of clarity, you will be far ahead of your competition in your ability to initiate meaningful conversations with your market.

Step 4: Build Your “From/To” Lesson Plans

Armed with your Buyer Matrix, you can now create well-targeted messages and content designed specifically to meet your buyers amid their actual problems. The goal of your content is to lead them carefully on a journey of discovery and understanding that equips them to confidently cross from where they are to where you want them to go.

Your prospects are on a journey to get to know you, to learn to trust you, and to investigate you as a potential partner in curing what ails them. Marketers often call this “The Buyer’s Journey.” Take a look at this version from the marketing automation platform, Act-On.

Act-On Buyer Journey Graphic

Act-On breaks up the journey into five stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Retention

Each stage is listed along with the types of content most effective for communicating your buyer-focused message.

Your Buyer Matrix can inform every social post, blog article, podcast topic, video focus, as well as every bit of copy for virtual events and landing pages.

Direct your content team to ask questions like:

When I think about our “buyer 1” and I consider their “problem 1,” how should I write an email that addresses their world?

They don’t need to stare at a blank screen with a blinking cursor. They will know what to say.

Are You Ready to Confront the Curse of Knowledge?

When you do, you will achieve a greater level of understanding and eliminate your bias. You will transform your conversations with the market and create real velocity in your lead generation efforts. You have the diligence and courage to admit and address your bias. I can’t wait to hear your stories of the results you achieve.

The First Thing to Do After this Article

Schedule some time within the next week to walk around the office or hold video conferences. Meet with one or two representatives from each department listed under step #3. Take good notes or record the conversations. Then compile what you hear. This research will give you a baseline of how well or how poorly your entire marketing team sees your buyer. And it will give you the impetus for creating a Buyer Matrix of your own.


*Books to Help You Overcome Knowledge Bias

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our DecisionsPredictably Irrational Dan Ariely Bookcover
Dan Ariely

After sustaining life-threatening injuries in an explosion, Israeli researcher and author Dan Ariely explored why we make the decisions we do. In the last 10 years, he has popularized the theories of behavioral economics through his books, videos, interviews, and participation in TED and TEDx events. He serves as the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. [Our article quoting Dan]


Thinking In Bets Annie Duke BookcoverThinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts
Annie Duke

Annie Duke studied cognitive psychology before becoming—for two decades—one of the world’s top poker players. She’s made decisions with millions on the line.



Thinking Fast And Slow Daniel Kahneman BookcoverThinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman is a psychologist, author, economist, and the recipient of a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. In this book, he explores the system of emotional and irrational thought and the system of logical and deliberate thought.

Related Content

Want More HealthTech Insights?

We deliver marketing articles, resources, and more for your HealthTech company every week through our newsletter. Sign up today.