The Medical Device MarketBy Tom Dougherty
Medical Device Company Marketing
Medical device company marketing must learn their lessons or repeat mistakes
It is obvious that medical device company marketing is limp. Look at the global economy today. One of the few segments that seem to best weather the economic storm is medical devices and medical products.
One would think that this might be a category from which we could all learn.
But, we should learn some important lessons in brand differentiation. Yet medical device company marketing looks much the same. (Download a PDF of an article about problems in the Medical Device category).
You would be wrong
While it is true that the medical device company marketing category has grown. And, it has grown a bit in the past few years. Therefore, most medical device brands have earned profits. This has been more due to a rising category tide than because of brand value and differentiation.
What I am arguing is that all of the market leaders are in danger. As a result, they are in danger of losing their preferred position. If any of the challengers wake up and look into the motivations that drive their customers to choose.
This is a category ripe with opportunity. Because no category we have ever looked at or worked in was more selfish and self-consumed.
The medical device company marketing must be global
For the most part, these medical device company marketing groups are all global. Consider Medtronic (see the work we did for Medtronic here), Johnson & Johnson, Edwards Lifesciences. Look at St Jude Medical, Boston Scientific, Stryker, Sorin, Biotronic, Smith & Nephew, Zimmer, and B Braun.
All of them sell their medical devices and products (note I did not refer to them as brands) globally.
But, aside from regulatory issues this medical branding should reflect the needs and wants of a very diverse market.
Certainly, those medical device company marketing departments have quality people.
And, those that enjoy market leadership are finding their legacy products under increasing price contractions. This is counter-intuitive. Counterintuitive because legacy brands in consumer goods are generally most immune to pricing pressures.
Apple never discounts its Macintosh. Even if you buy it online and regardless of the dropping price of netbooks.
They just don’t have to.
Why then are medical device manufacturers forced to react? React to the price pressures brought about by generic products and smaller players?
Medical device company marketing. Preference is not strong
For the most part, customers prefer the product they were trained on. However, they absolutely believe that everyone’s products are great. And, they believe reliable. Even if they are not currently choosing them.
So, the depth of loyalty only goes as far as a habit.
Therefore price becomes increasingly important. Important whenever a surgeon or medical professional is asked to fall on a sword. To insist on a product that they prefer.
There is rarely a great reason to keep paying more for the old habitual purchase. So, few surgeons and medical specialists are willing to fall on that sword.
They have other battles that are quite simply more meaningful for them.
The rise of the rep and the fall of medical device company marketing.
As a result, medical device companies have relied on a highly skilled and highly trained sales force. Salespeople reps their products to hospitals. (And, to medical professionals all over the globe).
The advantage of this model is that it excuses medical device manufacturers from developing brands. Brands that have meaningful global appeal. it leaves the selling argument in the hands of the rep.
One-on-one, the rep carries the selling message. And, as anyone in sales knows, the selling argument is always about the salesperson. The product is secondary.
What this means is that the rep carries most of the value. Because it is the rep that the customer is truly buying. In this high-stakes game of marketing globally, the tail wags the dog.
Wake up to the truth
Interestingly, the equity markets have not woken up to this truth yet.
Analysts talk about the new products or devices that are in R&D. And the regulatory approval that is either anticipated or denied.
Especially when they assess the company’s value. What they should be assessing is the brand value (next to nil). And the strength of the rep network. That’s the real test of medical device company marketing.
Ask any manager or CEO in the industry exactly what happens when a sales rep leaves. Taking with them their contact lists. And, sets up camp with a competitor. The customers switch too.
Increasingly, as the global market matures, real brand messages that carry a promise beyond the minimum requirement. The title of a medical manufacturer. Effectiveness and reliability begin to define the category.
The sales model is simply inefficient. And places the companies’ fortunes in the hands of talented but Machiavellian salespeople. Folks who are willing to pull up stakes when the wind of more money blows through their sales.
The solution to this quagmire is simple. Start acting like a medical device brand. Get out of the rut medical device company marketing sleep in. Understand what really drives your target market once you take the table stakes out of the equation.
Understand the highest emotional intensities in the market that are unclaimed by the category’s players and make them REAL in your organization.
You must be ready to embrace a new model for your business that prepares your organization for the challenges ahead.
This is not simply a drive for a new global marketing message, although one is certainly needed. It is a quest for a new brand.
If what you uncover, does not force broad change in your entire organization, then I guarantee you have not found the right answer.