TR Design’s eNewsletter covering the topics related to the branding and marketing
of technology products and medical devices.

The New World of Medical Device Marketing

By Carroll Ray for Designochology®

How quickly things changed. It seems like yesterday the economy was booming, venture capital was flowing and doctors were device manufacturers’ best friends. Now, with the economy in shambles, investors keeping a firm grip on their money and the relationship between device companies and doctors heavily regulated, the world of selling innovative medical devices has changed.

The new world of marketing medical devices will rely on the development of sound brand strategies and a return to the fundamental principals of marketing — that is, developing a clear understanding of your target audience, effectively communicating the unique value that your product offers, and creating a distinctive brand that separates your product from that of the competitors.

What hasn’t changed is how the procurement process works for new medical devices. It’s a multi-step process that involves many stakeholders. Doctors are the gate-keepers. Unless you can convince them that your offering is a significant improvement over their current solution, your product isn’t going anywhere. But how can you get their attention? They have very little time to give you and now, with little to personally gain by advocating for your product, it’s more important than ever to communicate quickly and clearly the benefits that your product offers.

Are doctors persuaded by traditional branding and marketing techniques?

Much has been written about marketing to doctors, debating whether they are responsive to marketing techniques that work for the rest of us. The assumption is that doctors are smarter than the average consumer, so they’re immune to the influences of branding and marketing.

I disagree on multiple levels. First, the question presumes that branding and marketing are manipulative in nature, and therefore, doctors are too smart to be manipulated. Branding is the process of establishing a clear and accurate impression of your product, and marketing is the process of clearly communicating the benefits that your product offers. That’s not manipulation. That’s communication.

I also disagree with the premise of the question — that doctors can be lumped together in a single homogeneous group. The truth is that doctors’ motivations differ depending upon their specialty. A surgeon’s motivations can be very different than those of a general practitioner. A cardiologist in a hospital setting is not likely to be motivated in exactly the same way as a pediatrician in private practice. When you’re marketing medical devices to doctors, you need to look closely at the doctor’s specialty and understand his or her concerns.

Even in these challenging times, it is possible to successfully market medical devices to doctors, if you remember the following:

1. Hurry up. Doctors have very little free time so you must communicate the value of your product quickly and succinctly.
2. Focus your message. Give them the big picture quickly. Focus on their needs and follow that with high-quality data that backs up your claims.
3. Talk about things they care about. Will your product allow doctors to see more patients, or improve the quality of care? Will it increase their stature or simplify a complicated procedure? Budgetary and operational factors matter too, but start with what matters most to the doctor.
4. Forget about FUD — Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are classic advertising techniques used to convince the audience that they need your product. Doctors understand the fears, what they need are solutions.
5. Educate, don’t manipulate. You’re speaking with an intelligent, highly skeptical audience. They know when they’re being sold a bill of goods. Use the opportunity to educate the doctor on the benefits and the science,  and let them make the determination whether it’s better than what they have.
6. Be different. Fight the natural desire to make your product look like it “belongs” in the category. You developed a product that’s better than the alternative. Your brand should reflect that.
7. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Consider a mix of traditional and online mediums to get your message in front of doctors. Then, be sure to measure the effectiveness of each effort and adjust your strategy accordingly.

You still can market innovative medical devices effectively. Just remember the ABCs of communicating with doctors. ARM yourself with data. BRIEFLY make your point, and provide a COMPELLING reason to change what they’re doing.

About the Author

Carroll RayCreative Strategist

Subscribe to Designochology