Marketing medical devices has been an uphill battle for many years. Although rep access to surgeons and physicians has been slowly declining, the COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked MedTech and pharma companies' need to reinvent how they engage with their busy customers.
Let's face it; the ROI generated by in-person device rep visits and traditional marketing channels has drastically plummeted, forcing medical device marketers to explore new, innovative marketing strategies that are more likely to yield the desired results.
Challenges Of Engaging Busy Surgeons In 2022 And Beyond
In the pre-COVID era, allowing medical device sales reps in the operating room (OR) during surgeries was common practice. Assisting surgeons in the OR provided unique opportunities for sales reps to maintain strong relationships with their customers, educate them on company devices, and promote their products. But the pandemic changed everything, as concerns over virus spread prompted hospitals to put more restrictions in place, cancel elective surgeries, forcing device reps out of operating rooms.
According to a recent survey by ExplORer Surgical, fewer than 20% of device reps were able to cover cases in person during COVID due to hospital restrictions, company reservations regarding risk, or concern about exposure to COVID-19. As a result, over 70% of life sciences reps supported their customers remotely via video or phone.
In addition, the presence of sales reps during surgery is coming under new scrutiny for another reason as well. Besides the apparent safety concerns, shrinking reimbursement rates are causing hospital administrators to pay closer attention to the cost of devices used in device-dependent procedures like total joint replacements. As a result, hospital CFOs are starting to see device reps less favorably because of their potential influence on surgical costs.
Due to the drastic decline in in-person customer interactions, medical device marketers must realize that traditional sales and marketing tactics no longer work on their own. So what is the best way to engage with surgeons and other healthcare professionals (HCPs) to market medical devices?
Leverage Digital Marketing Channels To Complement Your Sales Force
Although sales forces will continue to play a role, they can no longer be at the heart and soul of a MedTech sales and marketing strategy. Many companies recognized that early on and began shifting a portion of their marketing budget to digital marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, and online communities. According to a recent survey by McKinsey, by 2020, 84 percent of the surveyed U.S.-based medical device companies had shifted more of their budget to digital marketing.
Develop Buyer Personas
Before you launch into action and develop a digital marketing plan, create buyer personas based on your typical customers. Personalizing your marketing campaigns is critical, especially when going after surgeons. Building these fictional representations of your ideal customers will help you internalize the type of customers you try to attract. The most successful medical device marketers have multiple buyer personas for various specialties, such as surgeons, private practice doctors, hospital administrators, and more.
The primary objective of building personas is to gain insight into your ideal customers' concerns, pain points, frustrations, motivations, and goals. Buyer personas help you understand what their key purchase drivers are and what type of content and channels convert the most leads. Once you identify how these customers differ, you will be able to tailor your approach and messaging.
Here are some of the questions you should seek answers to when creating your buyer personas:
- What are the main challenges of this customer?
- What serves as a roadblock for this customer's purchasing decisions?
- Are they interested in trying new things? Or do they prefer consistency and brands they trust?
- What are their most common objections?
- How can you describe your solution to have the most significant impact on your persona?
- What are your evidence-based claims that best illustrate your device's benefits?
Email Is Still King: Build An Email Marketing Strategy
Now that you have built your buyer personas, you can take the next step in your digital marketing strategy. Those that claim email is dead could not be further from the truth. Email continues to be a critical tool for medical device marketers.
According to the 2021 MM+M/HealthLink Dimensions Healthcare Marketers Survey, almost 57 percent of the respondents said they reallocated funds between sales-rep support and non-personal promotion. Geofencing and email marketing received a significant portion of the reallocated funds. 2020 survey data shows that 68 percent of doctors prefer email over any other marketing channel. With 21 percent of emails opened within the first hour, emails are also one of the fastest ways to send information to busy surgeons.
But don't fall into the trap of sending generic sales messages to an entire database of customers. Instead, make segmentation and personalization the guiding principles of your email marketing strategy. For example, segment your target audience by specialty, hospital or practice, geography, sex, or title. Then, tailor your message based on the information uncovered when building your buyer personas.
Use Social Media To Meet Your Customers Where They Are
The Annual Healthcare Professional Communication Report 2016 found that surgeons and other physicians learn about medical devices through digital channels. Despite what many may think, doctors regularly use social media platforms. Almost 90 percent of doctors use at least one social media site for personal use, and over 65 percent use them for professional reasons. Create a presence on platforms such as LinkedIn, Doximity, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to meet your customers where they are.
Remember that physicians - including surgeons - often join social media platforms to create communities with their colleagues. They use these channels as a place to exchange ideas. Start relevant conversations on Twitter and Facebook and engage your target audience. Another reason doctors spend time on social media is to educate their patients. Therefore, providing them with content they can share is a good idea.
You can include organic content, paid social media ads, or both when creating your social media strategy. Paid social media ads allow you to target surgeons by specialty, interest, professional associations, and more. Organic content can be a short, digestible version of other content you host elsewhere, like on your website. Short content, such as infographics or charts, is popular among physicians because they are concise, credible, and educational.
Educational content published online can easily be repurposed as social media posts. Share links to blog posts, e-books, webinars, white papers, podcasts, or relevant case studies. You can also post videos or infographics.
Complementing your sales force with digital marketing channels will allow you to engage surgeons more effectively, increasing ROI on your marketing campaigns. Digital marketing offers you a targeted, scalable, and cost-effective way to market your devices while allowing you to track campaign performance.
Are you looking to revolutionize your MedTech digital marketing strategy in 2022? Schedule a Free Discovery Call with one of our marketing strategists!