Manufacturers need the proper messaging tools to keep their target audiences informed about their accomplishments.
For medical device manufacturers the last decade ended with shrinking budgets, less VC funding, stricter FDA regulations, and more product competition. Meanwhile, as the needs of the market increased, manufacturers continued to develop, test, and conduct trials for new medical devices.
At the dawn of the new decade manufacturers’ efforts are paying off. As the medical device market continues to surge, now is a good time to evaluate marketing goals and communication strategies for commercializing these devices. The evaluation should ensure that both marketing and communication strategies are aligned with current demands from managers, practitioners, and medical designers.
Marketing plays a key role in these new developments. Device manufacturers must ensure that their corporate and product messages are on target and reaching both potential customers and partners. Even if a company has a fantastic medical innovation or the first product to reach a new milestone, who will know unless the manufacturer can get the word out about it? Companies need the proper messaging tools to inform their target audiences about their accomplishments.
Reaching the Target Audience
As a communications platform, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse. It is arguably the most effective way to get the word out, but with so much information available online, it’s also easy for that message to get lost in the noise. How can a company stand out amidst the cacophony of announcements and developments? Here are three tips to keep the company message from getting drowned out:
Have one strong core message. This reduces confusion and makes it clear to potential customers and partners what the company and innovation(s) are about.
Hit them often. It’s very important to reach a target audience frequently. There should be some news to deliver at least once every few weeks. It can be in the form of a press release, a blog post, contributed content, a video or podcast, an upcoming event, or a speaking engagement. Sometimes merely having a piece of news or information to share can be more important than the actual information itself. Keeping the target audience informed and updated about new products or company activities will go a long way. Customers and partners want to know they are using a product that is well-known in the industry and up-to-date, not one whose announcement was followed by complete silence for six months. Silence can kill a product more easily than any competitor.
Keep it simple. Delivering direct and concise information to a target audience will reduce the risk of confusion or misinterpretation.
Keep Audience Well-Informed
Keep the target audience well-informed with timely news and engaging press releases. Press releases can announce new products, product updates, new customers, and company milestones. Technological advances, company developments, funding, personnel moves, new partnerships, and even stances on policy can also be announced.
Here are a few pointers on getting the most out of press releases:
Interact. Press releases are far more interactive and dynamic nowadays. Embedding visual elements such as videos and images in a release will complement the content nicely. This doesn’t have to look like a professional broadcast. A short product demonstration or executive introduction, lasting no more than two to three minutes, will provide further depth to the written press release.
Optimize. Press releases can also include search engine optimization (SEO), which will enhance search results online through the use of keywords. By connecting a brand and a Website to top industry terms, users will more likely find a company when searching for specific terms, especially medical terminology. Search engines quantify these links, and that helps to increase page ranking. For example, if a company focuses on neurostimulation, then it’s best to have the company on the first page of search results (and ideally in the top five listings) when someone searches for the term “neurostimulation” on Google. By incorporating SEO into press releases, search engines will recognize these key terms. This in turn will bring new visitors—and new potential sales leads--to a Web site.
Use “thought leadership.” What better way is there to show expertise and market position than by being a “thought leader”? A great way to achieve this is by contributing bylined articles to industry publications. Rather than serve as product sales pitches, these articles should educate readers about industry trends and provide informative content. Many online and print publications are understaffed and open to accepting worthwhile contributed content from industry thought leaders. Informative articles, with in-depth content about certain technologies, advanced therapies, or new treatments for common disorders are always useful for establishing leadership.
Blog. Blog posts are another informative means for company executives to show leadership in the industry. In these mini-articles executives can provide an opinion about any topic, from future trends and ailments to government regulation. Having an executive blog on the company’s Web site can serve as an unfiltered outlet to increase customer outreach and company awareness.
Release videos. Video has become a very effective online medium of communication, largely due to the success of sites like YouTube. Videos can clearly show how a medical device works. For example, if it is a surgical implant, a video can show how the device is implanted. Video interviews can also showcase company leadership, the achievements of development teams, or even doctors with opinions on a certain device, therapy, or cure.
Use testimonials. Any device vendor can claim to have the best product. Real credibility exists when a customer, partner, or practitioner offers a viewpoint on a medical innovation or device. Testimonials are priceless because they can provide a new dimension to a company-focused message. Testimonial interviews can be presented in multiple forms, including print Q&A’s, podcasts, and videos. Remember: Satisfied customers are the best salespeople.
Consider Social Media
Although the medical device and biotech industries have been slow to embrace social media, they are starting to come around, as companies are registering for new Twitter and Facebook accounts each day. Once the social media channels are active, a device manufacturer can deepen its presence by following individuals and building relationships.
Social media should be viewed as extensions of marketing campaign efforts. They may not produce immediate returns, but they will develop and evolve over time and yield a very loyal following. Social media are now one of the most effective ways to engage customers and cultivate positive word-of-mouth about a company or a product.
Dozens of useful Internet sites are available to get device manufacturers started with social media and networking. Some sites provide articles on what does and does not work for a business. Of course, there are thousands of opinions out there, so doing homework will be a requirement. But participation is the first hurdle. Baby steps are fine, but it’s important to get involved and not look at social media as an outlet for outlandish celebrities. For example, many editors and industry influencers are very active on social media channels. To start, just browse existing content and other Twitter and Facebook pages to learn the tone and content of postings and the types of discussions taking place.
Once it’s time to increase activity on social media channels, it’s best to designate a team to manage and lead discussions, rather than allowing just anyone in the company to participate. Again, message frequency is important. Don’t post a comment and then ignore these new channels for a few days; keep track of them and respond to comments as they come in. Starting out, spend a few minutes checking each channel at least twice each day. Then, depending on how the follower base increases and how much new information there is to discuss, step up the frequency. As the company’s social media skills advance and new channels develop, plan to use more organizational features, such as feeds, lists, and event scheduling.
Potential customers like to see quotes or comments from within the industry that highlight company awards for anything from new products to “Best Places to Work” honors. This type of recognition will provide instant positive value for any company, since it doesn’t cost much nor require a lot of time to execute. Customers and partners will always want to work with companies that are well-regarded within their industry.
Industry praise is just as rewarding to a company and its employees as it is to customers and partners because it fosters tremendous pride in the company. Winning awards is the pinnacle of recognition. Applying for awards is relatively simple, and most companies are quick to jump on these opportunities. Although most companies have a given number of industry awards always on their radar, such as those that celebrate a product, there are others like “CEO of the Year” or “Best Places to Work” honors that carry excellent positive recognition. Customers and investors want to see that the entire company is healthy and happy, and industry awards are one of the better ways to highlight this.
When companies or large customers are looking for a device in a new field or category, they can find plenty of in-depth industry analyst research on the topic. Many of these reports are the results of extensive research, sometimes lasting three to six months, so they provide a thorough representation of the whole industry. It’s important to make sure the company name, product name, and—if applicable—technology (proprietary or not) are included in analyst research. These reports have long shelf lives and are read and referenced frequently by industry leaders, especially when they’re seeking information about specific medical developments or solutions.
Credibility, Content, and Consistency
As noted, several tools can be used to create an effective marketing campaign. It is important that manufacturers understand how to maximize those tools with a clear vision toward credibility, content, and consistency. Keeping these three basic concepts as part of a company’s marketing activities and initiatives will provide a clear path to success:
Credibility. Credibility is the cornerstone of a marketing campaign. It’s much better to present minimal information that is truthful and can be validated rather than lots of information that is questionable and presents a business risk. It’s not worth the long-term damage to provide unverified, sketchy, or outright false information in the short term.
Content. We live in an information-hungry society where enormous amounts of digital content are delivered every second. If a company has a groundbreaking medical innovation or a new cure, then quality content must accompany these breakthroughs. Explanation and education, through white papers, clinical trial studies, surgical procedure information, and other outlets all provide relevant and useful content to consumers and experts alike. Some companies may have a limited amount of content to share, so consider refreshing and repurposing already developed content when possible. This approach will enable a manufacturer to still provide content without depleting limited resources.
Consistency. The target audience will want to be “touched” frequently. It doesn’t have to be an expensive and massive event, but directing consistent touchpoints to this audience will keep audience members engaged and interested in company developments and progress. With so much news and information available every day, it’s very easy to forget about a company or a product. It’s even possible to assume the company went under or failed to get its device to market. If an organization is actively developing, testing, and obtaining new results—even if those results are intermediate—the audience will care and will appreciate being consistently informed. If members are updated by only one competitive company, then guess who the target audience is most likely to consider?
Get a Good Jump
If there is one good lesson to take away from all we’ve covered, it’s this: Don’t head into the new decade with limited marketing resources. It is critical to market a company professionally and effectively. Marketing affects every area of a company’s presence, including sales, reliability, customer relationships, partner development, growth, corporate leadership, education, and public image. It is certainly worth the time and effort to examine marketing efforts and see how to jump-start them. The results may dictate adding new internal resources or perhaps outsourcing certain areas, like social media, Web management, article generation, or public relations. Ultimately, more effective marketing will enable a device manufacturer to expand its following and capture a much more engaged and loyal customer base as the device industry continues to grow.
Ilene Adler is CEO of Vantage Communications (San Francisco.) She may be reached at email@example.com.