Do You Have FMA?

In research and in the frontlines of healthcare we often avoid making comparisons between our organization and the black-white world of business. We may even be a bit snobby about how we don’t have customers, we have patients or participants. We don’t market, we engage. And we certainly don’t sell, we inform the users of our services. For the most part, keeping up this distinction is relatively harmless, except when it isn’t. When it prevents us from doing what we do best- offering life-changing services and programs to the people who need them.

In business, particularly in the start-up world, there is a distinct edge that some businesses have and others don’t. This elusive edge can open doors, bring notoriety, and even lead to cold hard cash. On the flip side, this savvy business bonus can cause a landslide of activity, put the most outstanding teams under duress, and put the entire company under the Hubble telescope.

In healthcare, we don’t often talk about this phenomenon. In fact, I have never heard of a synonym for it outside of the business world. Despite our poo-pooing that healthcare has formidable business elements when we talk about this “edge”, the similarities are disconcerting. If you are an organization or agency that has this edge, collaborative doors will open for you, you may experience your own version of fame and… yes, my friends, if you have this quality, cash may flood your program budget.

What is this glorious, double edge characteristic? It called “First to Market” aka “First Mover Advantage”. This aspect is so important in the business world it has its own acronym: FMA. According to experts, there are three strategies to leverage FMA.

  1. Technological leadership: You have a technical advantage – meaning you made the widget first- so you can often sell it first, improve on it first, and therefore your name becomes the “expert” associated with this widget.
  2. Preemption of scarce assets: Because you know what is required to make the widget, you can scope out and gobble up all the resources needed before anyone else has their shopping list made up. This includes hiring the best people, applying for grants, and getting buy-in from a board or decision maker.
  3. Switching costs: The third way to leverage being the first to market is betting that, once an organization signs up for your product or service, it will cost them way too much in terms of time, energy, money, lobbying and paperwork to switch to another solution. So they are far more likely to stay with you because they have always been with you.

So the approaches to FMA are being seen as a leader, securing the best resources, and becoming a best practice. The question that begs to be asked is, how can you apply these strategies to your organization? How can you leverage FMA in part or in whole within your organization? This may seem like a philosophical question, and maybe that’s where it starts.

You may be part of a well-established organization and feel that you couldn’t possibly be first to market in anything. But I beg to differ. By highlighting and promoting the work that you do with your unique clients, in your geographic area, you likely have FMA and just don’t brag about it. In this era of self-publishing, open access journals and Google, how and where you publish can influence your perceived FMA. Your information, methodologies, reports and all that other grey literature sitting on your shared drive is untapped FMA. To you, it may seem like old news but there is someone in some organization for whom that information is novel. By publishing and sharing your grey literature, you can reap the rewards of FMA – being a leader in your field, securing the best resources, and becoming a best practice for your peers and patients.