Massive change is running through all of Orthopedics right now.
One area ripe for change is Marketing.
Today, orthopedic marketing is out of date and broken.
In 2018, most of the marketing efforts are focused on features. This is so 1990. Half of the marketing professionals in orthopedics are “converted” engineers who were trained to think about design. The majority of spending in the orthopedic marketing is for physical things – marketing collateral, packaging, trade show booths, sales samples, cadaveric surgical training, and bad company websites. Walk around any orthopedic trade show and you will see materials claiming, “My feature is better than your feature”. Marketing with physical items is dead.
Orthopedics marketing just has not kept up with other fields. My guess is that there are two reasons.
- The orthopedic sales process is still largely a relationship sell. Orthopedic companies spend their budgets on sales first and the marketing second.
- Margins are still very high so you don’t have to be that competitive with your marketing techniques (by contrast, margins are tiny in the restaurant business and they need great marketing to survive).
The future of marketing in orthopedics is digital.
Real people live in social media. Orthopedic surgeons and patients learn, collaborate and share on social media. When an orthopedic surgeon steps into a hospital, it’s like stepping back in time. When a patient has an interaction with an orthopedic specialist, it’s like stepping back in time.
Orthopedic companies that learn to leverage digital marketing will have a great temporary advantage, because most “don’t get it” right now.
Let me get specific now.
Who will you Market to in the Future?
Medicine is becoming patient-driven and patient-centric. Internet-savvy patients are super-informed. The old days are gone when a patient blindly follows the instructions of the surgeon in the white coat. Today’s patients and their supporting families can perform state-of-the-art research on surgical techniques, hospital performance, and even implant results. They can also evaluate non-surgical options for comparison. Surgeons hate patients who come in with a procedure preference unless they were sent indirectly there by your company. In this case, you have extended the surgeon’s marketing reach.
So, for those orthopedic technologies that have an easily understood patient benefit, companies should forget about the surgeon and focus on the patient. Successful companies will market directly to patients (DTC) and gently lead the patients to their surgeons. You MUST learn to engage patients directly because EVERYONE uses the internet to search for medical treatments.
What content will you Market in the Future?
When you market to either targeted surgeons or patients, you must provide valuable content, not a sales pitch. If the surgeon or patient reading your information cares, it’s content. If they don’t care, it’s an ad.
Share great stories about how your products solve problems every day. Have the patients tell that story themselves. Have surgeons tell the story about how your products save time, cost or complexity. Make it convenient for targeted patients to find your honest product information through multiple social media channels, and in return, you will receive honest interest.
Which social media? I suggest that you start by using all the channels available and then adjust your spend as you measure the results. Be careful with one-size-fits-all content. Each channel will require slightly different content to be effective in connecting with surgeons and patients and driving sales.
Focus your marketing efforts on these channels (ranked most important at the top):
- Your Facebook fan page – (use ads to share engaging and collaborative content directed towards patients)
- LinkedIn – (use ads to share long-form content directed towards surgeons)
- Instagram – (use ads to share great pictures with minimal content directed towards younger patients and surgeons)
- Youtube – (publish honest 1-3 minute videos of your products in action from the perspective of the patient or surgeon with a call to action)
- Twitter – (share valuable advice to patients and surgeons that prompt discussion)
- Your patient-centric website – (share a ton of useful content with a call-to-action to “Find a Surgeon Near Me” that advocates your products)
- Pinterest – (share great pictures directed towards patients and surgeons)
- Your company website – (focus should be informational only, nobody cares about your website)
How will your Marketing result in financial success in the Future?
Today, the metrics of traditional marketing of orthopedic devices are lacking. There is no good data. You really don’t know why a surgeon chose to use your device, or not. Its funny how everyone takes credit for the sale – R&D “great design”, Marketing “great branding & positioning”, Sales “great relationship building and hustle”. Then its funny how everyone points fingers when sales are low – “bad design”, “poor marketing”, “bad selling job”, “pricing”.
The metrics in digital marketing today world are mind-blowing. You will create specific ads, content and landing pages directed towards certain patient groups. When a 55-year-old woman in Dallas searches social media for lumbar fusion treatments, she will see your targeted ad with honest content (targeted for her specific age, diagnosis, and city). Your ad will lead her directly to your surgeon in Dallas. You can follow the lead through the entire patient journey, and track whether or not the resulting surgeon appointment ultimately led to a procedure using your device.
Unlike traditional marketing, you can change the digital campaign every week, play with AB testing, and improve your metrics each week. This kind of transparency allows your marketing campaigns to be instantly analyzed, changed, and successful. And here is the dirty little secret, “Social media marketing is cheaper than what you are doing today”.
What are the new areas to Market?
Clinical Studies. Digital marketing is a powerful tool for building clinical studies. Today only 11% of clinical studies are using a social media component. Soon 100% of recruitment for studies will be driven through social media. Why? Because social media recruitment offers great advantages:
- the ability to directly target potential patients who meet specific inclusion/exclusion criteria
- the ability to have direct communication with targeted patients
- cheaper than the old way
- easily scalable as your study expands
Clinical data. In the near future, clinical data will become a currency that can also be marketed. All orthopedic studies will have a wearable data component. Whoever “owns” the data will have great leverage. Clinical data will be marketed by both patients and manufacturers. Let’s look at both.
Patients will take full ownership of their own medical data and share it with “medical information exchange systems”. These systems allow patients to save, manage, and share their own records. Patients who find a way to “own” their clinical data will learn to shop it around for lower insurance premiums or cash. This is similar to the young automobile drivers in the UK who share real-time driving behavior to lower their insurance premiums. Its a no-brainer for the young UK driver who is facing high premiums through traditional insurance. Online startups will curate the clinical data from thousands of patients (with permission of course). These new middlemen will find buyers for the curated clinical data around key criteria that are valuable to the buyers – age brackets, patient locations, hospital point of care, specific implant or procedure. The algorithms will repackage the data and sell it over and over. What about privacy? Much like you are giving away your privacy to Google and Facebook for access to these great tools, patients will give away medical information for the financial benefits.
Orthopedic manufacturers will collect and analyze clinical data around specific procedures and implant systems using wearables and other new data collection tools. These forward-thinking manufacturers will be able to use this data to negotiate better hospital contracts, government contracts, and negotiate with regulatory bodies for better claims. Think of it as owning a national joint replacement registry, but more granular around your devices.
How is your Orthopedic company using digital marketing to drive sales?