At the heart of every marketing campaign is a product – but if your app isn’t up to snuff all the marketing in the world may not be able to save it. That’s why “product is the new marketing” has been one of the catchphrases of 2020. And it’s also why we sat down with Ruth Guthoff-Recknagel, head of product at Doctor Care Anywhere, for a recent episode of Retention Masterclass.


Doctor Care Anywhere (DCA) is a telemedicine company in the U.K. offering virtual GP-doctor consultations, as well as a diagnostic pathway — a service that became even more important as the pandemic made in-person visits more difficult. But DCA takes things a step further — as Ruth says, “to manage your and your loved one’s health effortlessly, quickly, and appropriately.” From making appointments to making a long-term care plan, users have everything at their fingertips. “Even if you go down the diagnostic pathway, there’s only one visit to the hospital needed,” says Ruth.

While 2020 has been a boon for business, it’s also presented some obstacles. “Everybody had their plans for 2020, including marketers and entrepreneurs, and everything changed,” says co-host John Koetsier. Learn how the product team at DCA overcame these challenges.

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The challenge of the fat funnel

Like many apps, DCA found itself with a sudden influx of interest at the beginning of the pandemic. “So, earlier this year what we had is…it was a funnel. We had channel partners, we had companies and people would come in and then the funnel was very thin,” Ruth says. “And suddenly, due to pandemic, we had a lot of channel partners who wanted to work with us. We had a lot of companies who wanted to work with us. And so we had a lot of people who would go through our funnel from activation to verification, up to the point of booking, and suddenly our funnel was really, really fat.”

While “the fat funnel” is a good problem to have, it also creates some logistical problems. With a 300% increase in the number of patients looking for a consultation, the DCA product team had to get to work implementing new systems for routing and amplitude.

Unclogging the funnel

The DCA team took a step back, reprioritizing its projects and aligning features to consider everyone’s needs — from partners to patients. Ruth says, “So anybody who knows Marty Cagan knows ‘valuable, viable, feasible, usable.’” Her team spend a lot of time thinking about this guidance, because, as she says, “if we understand what our patients want, that gives us the power to then also help sell to the channel partners.”

She adds, “And I think there’s this risk, the risky assumption tests that you do, but then you also need to find a minimal valuable product and a minimal lovable product. And I think that’s the one that is super important for us.” Trust is important for any product, but that’s especially true when you’re dealing in medical concerns during a pandemic.

One thing that hasn’t changed since before the funnel got fat are the metrics that DCA looks to in order to determine success. “So we still look at activation. We still look at verification,” says Ruth.

“And then we look at returning patients, but I think it’s more that we kind of now try to see how fat we can get, and how many we can get through the funnel rather than looking at new metrics,” she adds.

The retention challenge

Defining what a good retention rate looks like is different for every app, and it’s especially difficult for a telemedicine app. If your users are healthy — and of course you hope they are — they don’t need to come back to your app often. That being said, Ruth says DCA sees about 40% of customers come back within a month of install.

And part of the strategy to keep users coming back is to expand services. “So we want to offer you more abilities to talk to specialists. And I think even further down the line, it could be that while we’re in lockdown it’s all virtual, but when it’s then not a lockdown, the same GP can then talk to you face-to-face.”

Ultimately, Ruth and the DCA product team have come to understand what marketers are also starting to wake up to. She quotes Reforge’s Brian Balfour, saying, “’Growth is good, but retention is forever.’ And I think this always sticks in my head whenever we build something, I’m already thinking about loops.”

In order to implement that retention-first strategy, “We have the North Star Metric, we look into the product strategy and then we recreate our OKRs along that line. And that gives us the power to think across the entire business and aligned to focus, and hopefully that will be very successful and only the numbers will show.”

And just like with any good marketing strategy, personalization is the center of it all. Ruth says using cohort analysis is especially important in the healthcare sector. “And if we then think about fat funnel, we think about currywurst and [taking] just the right slices to figure out what our patients want, then we will also be able to sell that to the companies. And I think that that’s our way forward right now.”

To learn more about how DCA approaches the challenge of personalization and retention check out the entire interview above or read the transcript below.

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