Compared with selling training shoes, burgers or watches, the medtech industry is a bit of a shrinking violet when it comes to shouting about itself. It’s not immediately obvious why we’re all so coy about telling the world of our achievements, when the reality is that product development and innovation gets plenty of limelight as we all rush to come up with new solutions to address the ever present healthcare challenges. Then we forget to tell the world (our audience) about it.
So let’s postulate a few theories, supported by a few myths.
Firstly the people who work in medtech, while they may seem pretty commercial types, are often not. At least not in the sense that they could easily transfer to an “equivalent” job in Fast Moving Consumer Goods.
It’s all a bit dirty and “salesy”: People in medtech industry are often wannabe (or even ex) medical professionals, for whom the idea that they might be seen as used car sales types is anathema. They’re far more comfortable talking to clinicians about patients than they are chasing sales targets….really!
“It’s a relationship business”… the most over-used excuse for not bothering with “marketing”, because if the sales person doesn’t have the relationship the product won’t sell. Simple!
Customers don’t like the commercial side either, so let’s protect them from overt selling and marketing materials with a veneer of professionalism which is intended to cover up the fact that we are actually trying to sell them something in the final analysis.
So do we buy any of these arguments?
Well, a little perhaps. Except that when companies disguise their motives and hide behind “we put the patient first” type straplines, all that’s really happening is that the marketing language is being tailored to the audience. The message is still the same. Buy our gear.
It’s certainly the case that medtech industry, at least in Europe (probably far less so in U.S.A) is a bit sniffy about overtly commercial activity. We organise workshops and wetlabs and attend all the shows where we can hobnob with the medical profession’s rockstars, but we’re hopeless practitioners of basic marketing communications, preferring to rely on sales team relationships and even more distanced distributor relationships to peddle our wares. This is one reason why it takes so darned long for new technologies to gain adoption. The diffusion rate for information about new products is almost entirely governed by the number of relationships our customer facing frontline has and how fast they can get around them. That’s obviously a grand simplification and there is of course an overlay on it, which is that sexier new products with clearly defined advantages tend to diffuse more quickly than “another me-too pedicle screw”. But most products aren’t feature packed and highly differentiated and the me-too pedicle screw still needs selling, so is coyness the best way forward? Indeed is there an alternative?
Well, in a word, yes. Any new product launch needs to have, at its core, a marketing communications plan which is a key component of the marketing plan itself. Sounds like pages of tedious copy? Not at all. I’ve always lived by the simple principle that any marcomms plan is better than none, backed up by the belief that medical professionals should be presented with your new information through a minimum of three communications channels. The additive effect of using different media is powerful… clinicians don’t often adopt a significant change of practice based on a rep calling. That may look like marcomms 101, but remember I’m talking to SME medtechs here who’s expertise is in developing products, not marketing them.
What might those three channels be? Well, if it was a trainer you’d be expecting to see it on Ryan Giggs’ foot, on posters and on TV ads for instance, so why not in medtech? Getting your product on the medical professional equivalent of Ryan Giggs’ foot should be easy enough. Rocking up at a show too. So what else?
Well here’s the thing. At medlatest we can spot a mile off the companies that “get it”, because they send us copy all the time. The world is full of “news-hungry” sites like ours, and we’re not likely to turn many interesting items away.
The problem of course is working out what’s newsworthy in the first place, and that’s actually easier than it sounds when faced with the blank sheet of paper. Much of what you do on a daily basis can be turned into a newsworthy online asset. If you send us a list of ideas we can help. If you send us a fully completed press release we can use that. If you send us half a story we can develop it. It’s the cheapest and therefore cost-effective starting point for your campaign.
And if you really don’t think you have any news, get in touch and we can help.
Remember, sales start with awareness, and creating awareness means more than having a good sales team. And it’s so much easier to convey your meaning through your words than it is through the interpretation of your sale team.
Happy to help.