I opened my daily Groupon email the other week and was surprised to see a prescription medical device, contact lenses, being promoted as one of the daily deals. I thought to myself, Now that is clever! Even if not a single person purchased (although as of publication time, this offer has closed with more than 1,000 purchases), it is a clever way to market a medical device to consumers or patients. That got me thinking and talking to my colleagues about how medical device and diagnostic companies (or really any company!) can and should consider alternative means of promotion and pricing when trying to attract patients.
While most medical device companies concentrate their efforts on five common promotional channels (field sales, inside sales, journals, conferences or events, distributors), many are looking for alternative ways to get the word out, particularly to end users: patients. The example above is a great one and clearly had a positive impact for the contact manufacturer, at least from a marketing perspective—I’m guessing it gave up margin on this deal, though. Here are a few more examples of creative consumer marketing we have seen that created interest and generated greater sales:
- A durable diabetes pump company offered a very low-cost upgrade for the next version of its pump (a 95% discount!). As pumps also require consumables, this was a razor/razor blades type of play.
- An ostomy bag manufacturer took to social media, particularly Facebook, to promote its product. The condition patients are in when using an ostomy bag is pretty intensive and intrusive, so why not go directly to the patient to promote the product the company thinks is best for them?
- Invisalign also used Groupon as a way to attract more users. The campaign worked to raise market awareness, but had an impact on margin. One unexpected downside was that these new users ended up becoming dabblers—they used Invisalign during the promotion period, but later fell off when it became more expensive.
- In Switzerland, home pregnancy tests can be purchased in vending machines on train platforms right next to Snickers bars. This type of purchase may feel private to the potentially pregnant female or related male and she or he may not want a store clerk to ask any questions, make any comments or give “that look.” So if you can discreetly purchase it with a candy bar when nobody is paying attention, it creates a better experience.
The common thread with all the above examples is that the products are closer on the consumer axis than the usual hard-core medical device or diagnostic, but that doesn’t mean the heart valves, artificial knees, pacemakers and DNA cancer diagnostic tests of the world should not consider these types of alternative tactics. In this age of information, patients are becoming more and more savvy, leveraging many sources to learn more about the procedures they are undergoing. Who’s to say that direct marketing to potential cardiac patients about the newest, best and safest pacemaker wouldn’t generate at least some patient interest, if not specific requests to the cardiologist conducting the procedure. So could a pacemaker organization find a unique and interesting way to get to potential patients? At the very least, it is worth the time to think about and maybe even test some of these concepts in the market.
What are some other interesting tactics you have seen in marketing medical devices, diagnostics or other products that don’t fit the norm?