Moving from sales to marketing
By Tom Dougherty
Medical Device Manufacturers are moving from sales to marketing
Pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers share the same challenges and marketing hurdles as the manufacturers of package goods and consumer products. They will argue with you – and tell you the medical industry is too unique- but take a step outside of the
category for just a moment and I think you will agree. The first “difference” according to medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers is that they are sales driven rather than marketing driven. In some cases, that isn’t too far off the mark but the “difference” is quickly evaporating. In data published in 2005, pharmaceuticals were listed as the 10th largest advertisers in the US, only slightly behind US Automakers.
Their advertising grew 13.8% while domestic automotive advertising was declining by 11.7%. In 2005 alone, pharmaceutical companies spent $4.6 billion on advertising in the US alone. That data alone demonstrate that pharmaceuticals are seeing that marketing is what’s driving their sales machine. They are trying to create preference, which happens on the marketing level rather than the sales level.
No doubt, the medical device manufacturing industry will quickly be sustaining the same sea change as the pharma industry. As soon as one of the manufacturers in the category makes the investment, they will challenge all the other players to follow suit or be swept under.
We at Stealing Share see this as an inevitable shift taking place in the medical industry as a whole as companies begin to see themselves more as marketers and less as a sales force. This movement from sales to marketing isn’t the only similarity between the futures of the pharmaceutical industry and medical device one. The winners will be the ones who brew a more potent mix of emotional charge with rational support than the competition, which will still be relying on a fact-based selling argument.
Is Innovation Still an Advantage?
When you talk to sales force of these manufacturers today, they will insist that further market penetration and brand success requires that the manufacturer’s themselves “innovate” – that is, create new products and seek even more powerful proof of efficacy. They will demand that “we need to be first to market” and will seek the answers to success to be found in the products themselves. They will also pressure the marketing department to create materials that highlight product attributes and pressure the corporation itself to lower prices so that they are more competitive.
Now, we are not saying being innovative and first to market or having the best price or best products in category is not important. It is, and every manufacturer of pharmaceuticals and medical devices needs to harness all of its energy to pay these off. But even your own experience tells you that it is not nearly enough and companies run great risks by not thinking of themselves as a marketing company first. Look at your own market. Is the market leader currently the lowest priced provider? Does the market leader have the most efficacious product offering? Is the market leader leaning towards a transition from sales to marketing?
Is the market leader, the first to bring every product to market? Does the patient (or the doctor, depending on your primary customer) always choose the BEST product? The answer to these questions, most of the time is a resounding “NO.” The reason for this phenomenon is that choice and preference are rarely if ever a result of well defined cognitive reasoning. There is always an emotional element in a preference decision. More often than not, it trumps the cognitive ones. Salespersons understand this themselves. Often, after making an impassioned sales argument loaded with facts, they hear prospects searching for an emotional difference, saying, “Yes, but I still believe…” Even in those instances, the logical presentation of facts did little to nothing in affecting preference. Marketing can help with this problem and is the first step in moving to the more efficient model from sales to marketing
Emotional Triggers That Create Preference
How do you get a handle on the emotional triggers that create preference? By understanding the target market like an anthropologist understands a population – by living with them and sharing their values. Great and successful brands understand that preference and choice is dictated by the dynamic of self-identification. People, and even doctors and hospitals, prefer to purchase products that reinforce what they believe to be true about themselves. They still look for product attributes and effectiveness, but most products available to them in the market meet those criteria.
That is how the “considered set” is formulated. Successful brands, however, are preferred, not just considered. When moving from sales to marketing there is opportunity to challenge your market leader, especially if your products and services are equal to the task. Success in this quest is dependent on your own willingness to talk less about yourself and more about the values that drive your prospect. It requires understanding and fresh thinking – and sometimes that means thinking about your company as a marketing-driven one instead of a sales-driven one. The move from sales to marketing is inevitable because it is a smart economic decision. That may take something of a leap of faith. As Napoleon once said, “If winning was easy, it would be the providence of mediocre minds.”