Sales to Marketing
Sales to Marketing. Which Are You?
Medical Device Manufacturers are slowly 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. Pharma is expected to spend $9.53 billion dollars this year. Second only to consumer electronics.
Their advertising grew 14.2% while domestic automotive advertising was declining by 11.7%. In 2005 alone, pharmaceutical companies spent $4.6 billion on advertising in the US alone. Contrast that to the $9.53 billion this year.
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. The medical device category spent over $45 billion dollars last year alone. That is up a half a billion dollars from the year before
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.
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 a sales force of these manufacturers today, they will insist that further market penetration and brand success requires that the manufacturers 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 also throw around the term “disruptive technology.” In some instances, the new technology does disrupt the medical device category. But, Stealing Share has rebranded many medical devices and manufacturers over the years and they make the disruptive claim all the time.
They invest in this idea. But they rarely invest in the brand itself in terms of persuasion. They are a textbook example of a house of brands.
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 being innovative and first to market or having the best price or best products in category is 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 a 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 are 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. Opportunity to challenge your market leader, especially if your products and services are equal to the task.
The Journey of Success
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.”
The biggest change in medical devices comes from Boston Scientific. With WATCHMAN they jumped the quay and are now advertising directly to end-users. In this case patients. This is a sea change in the medical device category as they have always seen their customer as a physician or medical center administrator.
But they are not alone in this movement to marketing from sales. Abbott has been addressing the same patient end-user with their continuous glucose monitor.
In many ways, this is the natural progression from sales to marketing. It makes economic sense as insurance coverage takes on a greater role in the physician’s choices and preferences.
At the end of the day, the medical device manufactures should learn a bit from BMW in how to create a branded house. It is more efficient in the long run. But pharma has not yet learned this same lesson. When competitive products with similar claims also go the advertising route — you need your parent brand to be more influential in choice.