There are three questions you need to answer before you spend any marketing money. I ask them whenever I start a new project. In fact, I personally find it impossible to build a solid medical device marketing plan without these answers.
Now, the examples below are purposely not medical in nature to have you think expansively. I consider these concepts seminal in our work. You may want to give these a read so we’re on the same page.
1. What is your key consumer insight? I consulted a relationship therapist looking to establish a client base. She asked me, “How can I attract new clients in a cost effective way?”
I asked her a series of questions about her prospects. Her answers forced her to identify her strengths as a therapist and what type of client she wants.
– How does your prospect feel about therapy? Has she ever said, “I don’t need a therapist; I can figure this out myself”?
– Has your prospect ever been to talk therapy? Is your prospect in talk therapy now? If you attract this prospect, would he see you instead of his present therapist?
– Has your prospect ever taken prescribed mood-enhancing medications? Does she still? If you attract this prospect, will she have to go to his present doctor for refills and see you?
– Do you take insurance? If not, will your ideal prospect be able to afford you?
You can see where this is going. There are lots of perceptions about therapy, ranging from “I’m not crazy, I’m not going to a therapist,” to “I’ve been in therapy all my life.” Understanding your target’s need state is the first question to answer.
Before we continue… As a businessperson, it’s tempting to say, “I would take any of those clients.” It’s important to make the distinction between customers you’d accept versus customers you target. If someone walks through your door that you weren’t targeting but that you can (and want to) help, great! You just got a new customer.
For your marketing strategy, however, I recommend you focus your acquisition efforts around a few market segments. The logic is obvious. If the therapist in our example is looking to counsel recent divorcees, she’d spend her time and money differently than if she were targeting teenagers with low self esteem.
2. What is your source of volume? There are two basic choices here. Increasing the category and stealing share. (There are others: increasing pack rate and accelerating the replacement cycle, for example. Email me if you’d like me to write about them.)
Increasing the category. Cardiac Science sells AEDs (automated external defibrillators), potentially life-saving devices for the approximately 365,000 sudden cardiac arrest victims in North America each year. According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety + Health Administration, 13 percent of all workplace fatalities are sudden cardiac arrests. Yet, the penetration of AEDs is frightfully low.
When Cardiac Science advertises AEDs, it is looking to “increase the category” and putting AEDs where there were none before. Cardiac Science is building the overall size of the AED market.
Stealing share. Safeco Insurance provides a classic example for stealing share. Car insurance is mandatory in America. If you drive a car, you have car insurance (or you could be in really big trouble!).
So when Safeco solicits you for business, they ask you to switch from your present insurer to them. They are looking to steal market share. This is usually a zero-sum game.
3. What is your positioning statement? The first two questions help prepare you for this third one. I suggest this is the most important of the three.
Fill in these five blanks.
(who/what) is the (what is your frame of reference?)
that (what is the benefit that the “whom” will realize?)
because (what are your supporting claims?)
This is an exciting (if not scary) formula because it forces you to squarely identify what you’re about. See the differences among three of my positioning statements.
To Zachary and Lucas, Joe Hage is the loving parent that gives you all the love and support you can handle because he listens to you, nurtures you, and, to the best of his ability, gives you what you’ll need to become successful members of society.
To Northwest Sound Men’s Chorus, Joe Hage is the high-energy front row performer that’s sure to delight your audiences because Joe has sung barbershop music for years and has emceed a number of your shows to rave reviews.
To medical device manufacturers and the vendors that serve them, Joe Hage is the medical device marketing consultant that will increase the quality and quantity of your medical leads because, before he started his practice in 2011, he helped a $200-million medical device manufacturer create an entirely new web presence and strategy, increase page views by 253 percent, introduce social media, and generate a lead pipeline in excess of $7 million.
Each of these positioning statements is so different, but it’s the same Joe Hage each time. For each, I’m positioning myself as the right person for the job – depending on the target’s need.
A Medical Device Illustration: BioLife Solutions
My first client of note was BioLife Solutions, a Bothell Washington-based maker of biopreservation media. Their products help cells live longer, which is critical for many life science companies.
What is their key consumer insight?
To be effective at their work, BioLife customers need cell cultures to stay alive until they are needed for laboratory work. This could be days, weeks, or months later. BioLife prospects have two choices: Make their own liquid solution in which the cells are stored or buy solutions from BioLife Solutions or its competitors.
BioLife further understands the make-your-own process is rarely, if ever, as consistent as the BioLife process, which studies have shown outperform commercially available alternatives and ‘make-your-own’ biopreservation media.
So the key consumer insight is needing a reliable way to consistently preserve cells.
The second question is “What is the source of volume?” Said another way, if customers buy BioLife Solutions products, what won’t they do?
Most of them will stop making their own biopreservation media. Some will switch from buying a competitive solution – but BioLife chose to focus primarily on those who ‘home-brew’ because they have the higher pain point, making solutions when that’s not the customer’s core competency.
Which brings us to their positioning statement: To the clinical trial and laboratory communities, BioLife Solutions is the provider of biopreservation media that will prolong cell life better than your ‘home brew’ solutions because studies you can download have consistently shown this to be true.
Remember, the positioning statement is not marketing copy. It is a guiding principle that steers the time and marketing resources on a quest for high quality leads and high value customers.
Spend some time on these three questions now. Without firmly understanding the answers to these questions, you’ll be tempted to chase marketing opportunities that sound good but aren’t completely aligned with your value proposition.
Your Next Step
Send me your three answers. I’ll be happy to give you feedback.
If you need help completing the exercise, maybe we should talk.
And click here to get Michael Porter’s foundational book on competitive strategy.
P.S. Special thanks to Marc Gibeley. He taught me this – and more – early in my career at consumer packaged goods company Kraft Foods.