The digital world is transforming how medical devices firms need to interact with buyers of their products. In this article we explain how digital marketing can help to solve the common challenges medical devices firms share in driving growth. We also describe the steps you should take now to position your company for sustainable revenue growth in the future.

“Goodbye, old world!”

Irish medical device firms have to step up their capabilities in marketing in order to reach an international customer base and compete with their peers in the US and elsewhere. If you are still marketing and selling your products in the same way you did five years ago, then you are doing something wrong.

Today, by the time you meet a prospect at a tradeshow it is almost certain they will have done preparatory research over the internet. Before reaching you, they will have seen competing vendor sites, analyst ratings, press reviews and, possibly, customer comments on social networks. They may already have drawn up a shortlist of suppliers without any direct interaction with you or other competing vendors.

US research firm MarketingSherpa has reported that over 80% of recent business-to-business, high-tech buyers in the US stated that they had found the vendor in their purchase rather than the vendor finding them. For top business-to-business technology firms, more than 70% of sales now start as leads from the internet.

Why is digital marketing central to success?

In an “always on” market, firms must constantly make sure they can be found online. Your marketing methods, therefore, must focus on how physicians, hospitals, medical supply firms, and end-consumers use the internet to research care solutions. You must identify buying participants and make sure you are known to them early in the buying process to influence their needs and gain ‘mindshare’ at the right stage.

Casting a wide net with the hopes that a relatively small percentage will respond to uninvited marketing approaches is no longer enough. If your customers are to include you on shortlists and choose you before your competitors, you must “be found and be compeling” on the internet.

Digital technologies are refocusing marketing efforts, enabling you to develop and quickly apply real customer insight so you can successfully influence the correct buyers at the correct stage in their purchasing process. This is granular, adaptive, targeted marketing.

There are four key drivers for the adoption of digital marketing:

(1) Changing buyer behaviour

Customers, whether they are members of the general public or medical professionals, now research options for treatment on the internet. They are making more informed decisions and engaging with each other regarding choice. Even where they may not be the buyer, they can be an influencer in the buying process.

Medical devices firms should understand who the buyers and influencers are in their own markets and determine how best to show how you can solve their needs. Each audience in your market must be told why your product is valuable to them in particular. This means adopting “in-bound” marketing tactics to make appropriate information available to buyers and influencers at each point in the buying process, so you can influence their decision at an early stage. Doing so provides an opportunity for your company to build brand awareness and trust.

(2) Ease of Measurement

Digital marketing costs can be much lower than those for traditional marketing and success can be measured by real customer activity.

Online tools let you measure the outputs achieved for every input. You can measure site visits, targeted activities (clicks on “most wanted” action buttons), online lead generation, registration, pay-per-click advertising response rates and email open-rates, all in real time. This measures effectiveness with a great level of detail and accuracy, allowing you to optimise your marketing budget. This also means that the return on investment (ROI) for your marketing activity can be measured in granular detail, and in real time.

In contrast, outbound marketing is sometimes like putting your advertising on the side of a bus; you have no real way of knowing who will be exposed to your communications and it’s difficult to measure its impact. This is reflected in the famous quote by US department store owner John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

(3) Sophisticated interaction capabilities

Many companies perform well in face-to-face meetings with customers where they can explain in person their product’s features and advantages, but you can’t do this with every prospect worldwide. However, you can recreate something of the quality of face-to-face interaction using tools like web conferencing, online webinars, online product demos, company blogs and social media networks. Time and location no longer have to be limiting factors, and you can reach 1,000 people as easily as 10.

(4) Scale

The greatest advantage of digital marketing is scale. It enables you to communicate with vast numbers of prospects using low-cost and easy-to-replicate techniques. Digital marketing tools can be linked in end-to-end processes that drive sales. By combining search marketing, email marketing and other tools, you can build a lead-generation engine that provides a steady stream of sales-ready opportunities, resulting in a more predictable sales pipeline. Today, success relies more on automation combined with creativity than on big budgets.

Getting started: know thy customer

Your first step in digital marketing should be to identify who your customer really is and understand their decision influences and needs.

Medical devices companies often lapse into talking excitedly about their technology. This is sometimes known as ‘Bad first date syndrome’- the compulsive urge to talk about yourself when you should be focused on the consumer. The consumers of medical devices are interested in issues such as how the device affects patient lifestyle, how it helps the GP’s practice to perform, or how efficient and convenient the device is.

In fact there are all sorts of decision influences and needs associated with any given medical device. It is necessary to develop a really deep understanding of each buyer or influencer’s requirements, their current priorities and the criteria they will use to judge you and competing vendors. Only when you have this understanding can you begin to describe your products and services, not in terms of features and functionality, but in terms of solving real business or treatment needs. So it is important to get a true sense of the language you should use and the benefits you should emphasise when communicating with them.

Get good at marketing

Our core advice is to “get good at marketing”. Take it as seriously as you take product design or financial control. If you are trying to be excellent in all other areas of your business then aim for the same level of excellence in how you promote your company and your products too. You should build high-quality, measurable, repeatable processes that drive your pipeline. And, of course, as we’ve seen, that means becoming good at digital marketing. A variety of online tools are available but, whatever combination you employ, they should be used as part of an integrated plan. You will need to understand the role of each and be aware of best practice to make sure they’re effective. Start small, test, adjust and then expand. Your goal should be to measure output, not activity.

With digital marketing, you are being handed a huge opportunity: the ability to scale your company cost effectively.

Key workshop

Bayberry Consulting is working in conjunction with the Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA) to deliver an intensive workshop that will help medical devices firms learn how to boost their revenue using digital marketing. Hosted by the IMDA, the seminar will be delivered by Bayberry Consulting on Thursday March 11th, in Galway. IMDA’s senior executive Sinead Keogh said “There has been significant interest from our members in digital marketing, particularly in the B2B space.” She said that “a significant number of Med Tech companies in Ireland are currently operating in the B2B space. These companies have recognised the potential to optimise engagement with their customers through digital marketing. We are delighted to be working with the Bayberry team to deliver this important workshop.”

The seminar marks the introduction of Bayberry Consulting’s demand generation offering for the medical devices sector. The company provides thought leadership on the subjects of digital marketing, sales enablement and product management. The new offering will help suppliers of medical devices to sell more effectively into complex B2B markets through integrated marketing.

The original article appears in Business & Finance Magazine.