Digital Health Differentiation

5 Steps for Creating a Narrative that Sets Digital Health Startups Apart from the Competition

By Kristin Villiotte, Vice President, Healthcare 

The digital health market is hotter than ever. It seems that every day brings a new merger, acquisition, partnership or announcement from a non-health company getting into the digital health space. According to CB Insights, digital health startups raised $31.6 billion in the first three months of 2021 – a new quarterly record. With more companies than ever vying for attention and investment, what can a digital health startup do to stand apart from its competition?  

The answer is to develop a clear, differentiated and compelling narrative. But with so many companies offering similar solutions, creating a distinctive narrative is harder than it may seem. 

A look at the websites and social content for three startups in the mental health space reveals strikingly similar messaging. They all tout “on-demand,” “clinically validated” mental health support focused on “improving outcomes and access” and “reducing costs.” With every company describing itself with similar terminology, customers will find it hard to decide which offering would be best for them.    

How to create a narrative for your digital health startup 

Here are a few steps for brands to create a unique and ownable narrative that sets them apart from competitors: 

  1. Look: Determining the single most powerful way to communicate about your organization stems from clarity of purpose. Take a critical look at what you are doing and why. Then evaluate your current messaging. How are you talking about yourself on your website, marketing materials, press releases and social channels? How does your senior team talk about the company to investors? What does your sales team say about your offering to customers and prospects? Does your language clearly express your purpose? 
  1. Listen: Audit your competitors to understand their narratives. Assess how your narrative stacks up against your competitors and identify opportunities to own the white space. Interview key industry stakeholders connected to your company – board members, investors, analysts, partners – to understand what compels them about your brand. What makes your brand unique in their (influential) eyes? 
  1. Create: Develop your brand narrative. Start with a short statement that expresses why you do what you do and why your stakeholders and customers should care. Support it with a messaging framework – proof points and key messages that build out the brand positioning. Once the core narrative and framework are finalized, carry the messages through all PR and marketing materials: i.e., website copy, social media profiles, executive profiles, boilerplate, key product descriptions, etc. 
  1. Train: To ensure your organization strategically communicates its narrative, host training sessions for company spokespeople. This will help them become familiar with the narrative and comfortable expressing it in external forums.   
  1. Evolve: A narrative, like a brand, should never be static. Revisit your narrative and messaging at least once per year to ensure it’s timely, relevant and clearly communicates your reason for being. 

Your narrative is one of the most fundamental – and most critical – parts of your business. It warrants particular care and attention. For digital health companies looking to set themselves apart from the ever-growing field of competitors. It has never been more important than now to get your narrative right.  

If you are working in this area and want to discuss how we can help your health tech brand shape and communicate a compelling and credible narrative, please check out our work and get in touch. 

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