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3 early-stage growth lessons I learned after a year in healthcare

3 early-stage growth lessons I learned after a year in healthcare
Photo by Nature Zen / Unsplash

A year ago, I joined as the Head of Growth at NOVI Health, a startup on a mission to prevent and reverse chronic disease.

When I joined, I had zero experience in this industry but have worked in growth in other sectors like travel, telecom, and fintech.

I thought some of my lessons doing growth would apply beautifully to the health space. However, I soon realised that it could not be further from the truth.

Here are the 3 things I learned doing early-stage growth in healthcare.

1) Paid is not the most significant growth driver

In trying to find product-market fit, (PMF) paid channels are perhaps one of the easiest to do.

As long as you have a decent budget and a clear segment to target, you'll be able to find your customer base to test and experiment with.

In healthcare, however, this isn't as straightforward.

For starters, because of regulations, there are challenges in targeting. For example, certain keyword groups such as prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs are not allowed.

Targeting is also mostly interest-based. However, people with a diagnosis aren't any different from someone without one.

Someone who loves playing games, shopping, cooking, or learning a language is no different from someone with a chronic disease.

2) Patient referrals are limited because of the stigma

Creating growth loops is one of those things we want to figure out early on to drive consistent growth.

Having a referral program is one way to do that.

In healthcare, this doesn't translate too well, especially in the chronic disease space. It's not something you would be able to recommend to any friend.

Stigma about certain conditions inhibits people from openly sharing about having them. Organic referrals do happen, but trying to gamify it is more problematic.

3) Content is where it's at

After trying out different growth lanes, content is where I see us focusing our efforts on.

Newly diagnosed individuals are always looking for and researching content, and this is where we want to be. For our existing customers, providing them with helpful content helps us support them in their health journey while also retaining them.

Going into my second year in NOVI, I'm looking to improve our growth rate by testing different types of content in different formats and in different platforms.