In the early 2000s, most early or mid-stage medical device startups would not have bothered with a website. The prevailing logic was that having already secured financing, and being on that long path towards engaging KOLs and growing sales revenue, there was no need for a web presence. At least not until you were closer to FDA approval and truly ready to launch.
Back then, strategic partnerships were forged through real-life introductions and dinner meetings. There were no smart phones, no social media, and no mainstream appetite for sharing content. Google was still pre-IPO, and building websites required a professional developer. So, most companies saved the website for that to-do list just before product rollout. Most marketing managers (myself included) said, “not worth the expense.”
Fast forward to our current landscape and everything has changed.
Perhaps the largest shift has been in web technology. Basic website design has become mainstream, and the average corporate marketing person can build and maintain a site. There are many free website templates – Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy and WordPress to name a few – and they are easy enough to use with no formal experience.
It’s also much easier for anyone to find your company online, not only physicians and hospitals but patients as well. Mobile is king, with consumers and physicians; up to 90% of physicians are using smartphones and tablets in daily professional use.*
Much like a business card is considered essential, so is a company website. Unless you are in the very early stages of concept/development or have a strategic need to be in stealth mode (although I would argue it’s rare to be truly stealth anymore), you need a place to start the dialogue.
You need a forum where you can control and define your story.
A website also demonstrates that your company is part of the modern digital and social landscape, that you are interested in having a conversation with physicians, not just selling them a widget. With more than 35% of American consumers searching for medical information online, it’s also essential to provide general educational information on your company and its offering. This is particularly important if you are undergoing a clinical trial as patients and caregivers are actively seeking answers on their medical conditions.
Another important aspect of any website is to inform potential strategic partners and investors about your management team. A website allows you to showcase your team’s leadership and philosophy, all in a consistent manner.
It’s all about the story.
Even when you think you don’t have much to say, it’s important to outline your vision. Take a look at a website I created recently for an emerging startup in the wound care space, Cell Constructs. The company mission, messaging and branding, created by my team, are now part of a cohesive story for investors and physicians.
Yes, it is possible to create a simple, inexpensive website that you can maintain yourself. Stay tuned and I will show you how easy it really is, with a little guidance!
*HealthCare Data Solutions, 2013. Top 5 Healthcare Marketing Trends.
If you’ve ever worked at a medtech startup, you’ve experienced this dilemma firsthand. You need reputable market data to substantiate your pitch to investors and to adopters and influencers of your technology, but you have a limited budget. Analyst reports are expensive so ideally, you are looking for quality data that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
To tackle this problem, let’s go back to basics and consider the Five Ws to help you find your solutions.
Are you preparing a pitch to investors? Do you need data for discussions with hospitals or physicians? Are you preparing for a market launch? Why you need the data you’re seeking can help you weigh the costs/benefits for potentially paying for it, and it should drive your decisions on what you need. If you are talking to investors, they expect to see data from high-quality sources, such as analyst reports, DRG (formerly Millenium Research Group), etc. And you should include a few sources to show that your market information is consistent across reports, that you are not cherry-picking data from a single source.
I’ve had a great career in medical device marketing. When people ask me what drew me to this type of work, I respond with, “I enjoy being a part of saving lives.”
Yet I feel like those words sound so hollow, even cliché. Millions of people working in medicine and healthcare are on the front lines of saving lives – physicians, nurses, technicians, researchers, educators – and here I am behind the scenes doing marketing.
But the reality is that it takes a village. Truly, each innovation is the result of millions of people, including marketing, and many others who work in supporting roles.
A core aspect of medtech that keeps me around is that the solutions provided are often curative. And frequently these technologies can obviate the need for medications and their associated side effects. We can change lives and restore hope.
So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving and the upcoming December holidays, I am so grateful to have been a part of this journey. Here’s to continued innovations in 2018 and beyond!
I know what you’re thinking … “I don’t need to bother with Twitter, that’s for big companies with big departments to run it.” But you’re wrong.
Social media is now on the list of things most companies should have as part of their business model. Similar to a website and business cards, it’s a standard way to engage with your audiences.
Twitter has more than 300 million active monthly users worldwide. According to 2016 Pew Research, 21% of American adults are using Twitter. Although Facebook remains the most popular social media site, 42% of Twitter users log in at least once a day, with 23% logging in more than once daily.
PwC research found that 33% of consumers use social media for health-related activities, and 45% say information gathered in social media searches would affect their health decisions.
The one advantage Twitter has for health news and information, for both physicians and consumers, is its brevity. The information presented in a tweet must grab your attention and be easily digestible. This allows for easy review of pertinent topics. With the expansion from 140 to 280 characters per tweet, there is more opportunity to communicate with clarity on healthcare topics, for all audiences.
As medical device marketers, we believe we know what patients want in their healthcare journeys. The majority of content we create focuses on education and awareness, striving to provide patients with the information they need to make informed decisions with their physicians.
But is this enough?
In a survey study of more than 9,000 Americans adults, scores for shared decision making between patient and physician increased significantly from 2002 to 2014. Clearly, patients are feeling better about their interactions with physicians on some key attributes.
But that same survey reported that 30% of Americans feel their physician does not listen to them adequately, and 40% felt that their physician did not spend enough time with them.
Our goal in marketing is to help patients learn more about their health, to help them in an environment where their physician is not available to do so. But we are not physicians. And patients are feeling like they are not being heard.
According to Medscape’s 2016 Physician Compensation Report, most physicians spend an average of 13 to 15 minutes with each patient. For primary care doctors on the front lines of patient care, 80% of physicians spend less than 24 minutes with each patients; and 20% are spending just 9 to 11 minutes.
Of course, there are multiple levers that drive this behavior – a lack of time, financial pressure from both hospital employers and from insurers, and the decrease in physician-owned practices where the partners have control over their own time management.
As patients ourselves, we have come to expect this rush when we see our physicians. But wouldn’t it be nice if physicians and insurers recognize that “customer service” has to play a role in driving better outcomes? Happier patients are more likely to follow care regimens, heal faster and refer other patients.
Patients want to be heard. We need to find a way to make this a priority – how do we help patients feel like valued customers?
We all know content is king but how do we begin to create enough fresh content to fill so many channels and reach so many diverse audiences? It can feel overwhelming, particularly for emerging startup companies with limited budgets.
The key is to build a strategy that focuses on quality content, with a plan to repurpose and redistribute it into different forms, each of which are valued by your audiences.
Content creation has a focus on video. This is because most consumers and physicians are viewing videos on mobile devices. And our brains are attracted to imagery, which helps build rapport and engagement. Physicians report spending an average of 180 minutes per week viewing video content for professional purposes; and 81% of physicians use a mobile phone for their work, with more than 50% also using tablets.
There are several staples for content when marketing to physicians:
- White papers, blog posts, by-lined articles
- Infographics, advertisements, direct mail
- Video testimonials, on-demand webinars, peer-to-peer interviews
- Press releases, professional society features/interviews
So how do you get the most mileage from a single piece of content?
Let’s consider a white paper published on single-center data from a KOL institution. This single white paper itself will be a compelling way to reach physicians through an email campaign. But you can gain even more mileage out of that white paper by:
Most medical device marketers know the power of patient video testimonials. But creating this content can feel incredibly daunting for many reasons – finding the right patients, asking the right questions, and delivering a professional video on a limited budget. When you view patient testimonials from multibillion dollar medical device companies, you start seeing costs that are out of your reach, and then you bail.
But do you really need an expensive, studio video to tell a meaningful story?
With the rise of social media and smartphones, “real world” video content is highly consumed and valued. The number one YouTube personality, with more than 57 million subscribers, is a young man whose videos center around him playing video games. The top YouTube personalities are everyday people, telling their stories to their own cameras. In addition to YouTube, we also have video content being delivered via Facebook Live, Instagram, SnapChat –all of which are being created with current-model camera phones and video editing apps and computer software.
Real, unfiltered videos, by real people … this is what consumers are watching. And patients are no exception; if patients feel a connection to the material, they will view it.
So how do you start? First, the story is paramount. To get the right story, start with some core techniques used for any patient video:
Patients need to hear from other patients in their medical journey.
As our healthcare landscape evolves, there has been a lot of emphasis on consumer choice in medical care. Everyone working in the industry has come to recognize that patients are more empowered through information, and we need to help them navigate very complex medical topics. As marketers, we keep telling ourselves how important this is, and yet I continue to see patient educational posters and pamphlets dominate the available materials, both in print and merely transferred to a digital form.
A pamphlet, in any form, is not enough. It does not tell the full story.