Insights and Recommendations for Collaboratives: Focused Business Strategy

Focused Business Strategy: The understanding of what must happen to achieve social goals and choices about how to accomplish those goals.

The development of a comprehensive and focused business strategy sets the critical foundation for every facet of an organization’s work. Turning good intentions into great outcomes requires continual alignment and a shared understanding of resources, priorities, audiences, strategies, and messages. The Alliances that were best positioned for sustainability and most able to adapt to change were those that had developed a focused business strategy early and used it as a “north star” from which to make decisions.

Conduct market research. Market research provides invaluable information that should be used to inform the design of products and services that benefit stakeholders. For example, the Washington Alliance did an excellent job of gathering information to understand the needs of its diverse stakeholder groups and then used this knowledge to develop a robust membership model designed to meet the unique needs of health plans, employers, providers, unions, pharmaceutical groups, and nonprofits. This sophisticated membership model brought in approximately $2 million (approximately 66 percent of total revenue). However, few of the other Alliances had a comprehensive understanding of—or data on—their stakeholders’ motivations and barriers. As a result, many of the Alliances faced challenges around how to communicate the benefits of actively engaging with and paying for their products and services.

Consider a new perspective. Seeing beyond the desired end impact of a program or service can be challenging. Many of the Alliances developed programs and services and then explained to their stakeholders why these were important, rather than seeking to first understand their stakeholders’ needs and interests. To communicate value and build connections with stakeholders, it is critical to look at products and services from their perspective. One Alliance accomplished this by considering the perspective of the health systems with whom it works. After addressing questions from the health systems’ perspective, the Alliance was positioned then to think more effectively about how it could support the health systems’ needs. 

Clearly articulate your unique value. A value proposition concretely states the specific benefit a stakeholder receives from using programs, services, or products. It is important to note that different stakeholder groups may derive different value across your offerings. For example, an employer may value payment reform efforts because they help to contain the employer’s health care costs. Conversely, a physician may value the same efforts because it creates a more cohesive set of performance measures and rewards providing high-quality care. Creating a clear and compelling value proposition will enable collaboratives to strategically focus and engage stakeholders in meaningful partnerships—where funds, services, and support are all exchanged based on the benefits shared with stakeholders.

Focused Business Strategy: Recommended Actions for Collaboratives

Conduct market research.

  • Conduct research across three main categories:
    • Environment: What is the context you are operating in? What trends might affect your work?
    • Consumers/Clients: Who are you serving, and what are their most pressing needs? What characteristics do they have that might impact how you reach them?
    • Competitors/Collaborators: Who else is operating in the same space? How does your work overlap, or how is it distinguished?

Consider a new perspective.

  • List your target stakeholder groups, and address the following questions:
    • What is this group trying to achieve?
    • What do they need to do to achieve this?
    • What could we do to help these needs?
    • Why are we uniquely positioned to do this?

Clearly articulate your unique value.

  • Building on the perspective above, create a concise value proposition addressing the following:
    • Who is the specific stakeholder group you are targeting?
    • What are you offering to that group?
    • How does your offering deliver value to them?
    • How is that value unique? How will it draw the audience to you compared to an alternative?