Marketing: Medical Devices vs. Pharma

Jun 01, 2012
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Amy Smith
If you've spent any time working in the device industry, you've probably heard pharma marketers make premature assumptions about what it takes to market a medical device. It's true that drugs and devices have things in common—both are regulated by the FDA and many devices are prescribed for patients—but that's where the similarities end. Pharma marketers will need more than a tried-and-true approach to drug promotion in order to succeed in the device space.

If you're willing to understand the nuances of device marketing, however, you can have a lot of fun and create a killer brand. But beware. The secret is in the sauce. Great creative for a device can be the foundation of a brilliant campaign strategy, but if you get the creative wrong, you can bet it will do more harm than good.

In this article, we will examine the variances between device and drug marketing, and how specific differences translate into opportunities, strategies, and approaches.

Four key differences

By understanding the key differences between device and drug promotion, marketers can maximize their effectiveness with customers.

Practice makes perfect. Training is a must with devices. Since healthcare professionals need to be well-trained to operate with confidence, marketers can emphasize this in their sales efforts. Training can be a positive selling tool, allowing a field rep to build invaluable relationships with healthcare professionals through recurring visits. Despite media reports about drug reps getting bounced from practices more frequently these days, the time they spend with docs is holding steady, demonstrating the value of what they bring to physicians.

There are a number of ways that marketers can leverage educational opportunities around devices. Here are a few:

» Create training programs for both the field and healthcare practitioners (and even patients).

» Weave marketing messages into training programs to maximize marketing goals.

» Consider additional education, or "advanced certification," for various levels of device capabilities training.

One decision-maker, multiple targets. Unlike drugs, in which one doctor writes a single prescription and more or less controls the sale, devices require a juggling of many different decision-makers and influencers, from nurses to dieticians to purchasing agents. This means your messages must reach and target the complete spectrum of touchpoints throughout the sale.

As an example, take negative pressure wound therapy devices. To get this device to—and on—a patient, a physician must first write a prescription for it. A nurse then places the device on the patient. If the nurse, a major influencer, feels this device isn't as easy or effective as another treatment, she may convince the physician to change the prescription.

Cost, of course, also plays a huge part in the selection process, so a different set of messages must be tailored to those people who negotiate costs and determine brands. At the treatment center, a hospital materials manager negotiates price contracts for preferred brands, determining which are stocked and available. But once a patient is ready to leave the hospital, a case manager can influence whether that brand will be switched at discharge.

Compare this with a pharmaceutical product, where the equation is simple and touchpoints are few: doctor writes script, patient fills script. With devices, if you overlook a single touchpoint, you could risk losing the sale.

For this reason, device marketers have to develop a locked-and-loaded targeting matrix with comprehensive objectives, message points, and tactics depending on the audience. With multiple audiences, program-based selling can be very effective—going beyond the fundamentals of simple launch branding.

lorem ipsum