The back and forth between sales and marketing in companies have been around from the start of corporate business enterprises.
Our shop has done a great deal of medical device advertising and promotion. We’ve helped internal marketing departments with messaging clarity and brand consistency. The two are symbiotic but far from being alike. Advertising and promotion for medical devices is newer than for pharmaceutical products.
Most medical device companies that I’ve encountered have been and remain focused on what they term as ‘marketing’. This includes creating the value proposition (super-critical), as well as the various conduits to sell/market the device (i.e. hospitals, medical device distributors, surgeons and practices directly). These are no small tasks and are made more complicated in considering clear demonstration of the patient benefits, patient privacy, and yes, reimbursement. What they are not is advertising and promotion for the brand, to patients or even to providers and practitioners.
Does advertising for pharmaceuticals actually work? In 2019 the total spend on pharmaceutical marketing and advertising will be more than $30 billion.
Were it not effective that number would be decreasing not increasing. I’m not here to defend the incessant stream of Direct to Patient advertising on traditional TV, digitally and otherwise. It’s often amazing to me to see so much pharmaceutical advertising while watching television. Televised live sports are a hotbed for pharmaceutical advertising, since it is viewed by older (more than younger) men.
We were early to the idea of direct-to-patient advertising and promotion for medical device products and brands. We felt confident that since the results were very positive, (more inquiries, more procedures), more of those device companies would be interested in not only building a great internal and external sales team, but they’d want to support that team with consistent brand messages to patients and professionals. Important Note: Those messages are never the same.
Advertising to patients and professionals is fuel to support your sales team’s efforts. But it’s even more than that. Consistent advertising creates a stronger brand and builds confidence both for patients and practitioners as well as the sales team. In the medical device industry things have been done the same way for a long time.
It’s not natural to think about promotion of a medical device to patients since the actual sales are not made to patients but rather to professionals (see hospitals, distributors, and practices above). This explains a general reticence to make advertising and promotion one of the legs of a device’s marketing and sales effort. Because pharma has been so successful using advertising to drive patient and professional inquiries, I felt it to be only a matter of time until medical device companies followed suit. Over the five plus years we’ve been working for medical devices it’s surprising that it still is not happening with any regularity.
The trap is that in the past, advertising and promotion of medical devices direct to the patient has not been employed so there’s little track record of success (or failure). Therefore device companies may be reticent to move forward. However, today with patients and professionals having the ability to exhaustively search the web for information, all are able to become more informed about various conditions, treatments, and options. Consequently device companies are missing the boat by not trying to build their brand’s awareness with the patient.
Medical device sales are by nature, difficult. They can be aided by advertising and promotion. All that is needed is a budget commitment over time. One other note, it does not require pharmaceutical-like mega-budgets to create, deploy, measure and manage. Just a willingness to test and refine over a defined period.