This month marked the launch of MedForce, a sales and marketing conference for the medical technology industry. The attendees represented a diverse mix of companies from various sectors, ranging from traditional high-tech implantable companies both large (Medtronic) and small (Endologix), to clinical diagnostics (Abbott) and imaging equipment providers (Siemens, Varian Medical), to supplies and equipment firms (3M, B. Braun, Halyard).
Despite the differences in sector, many presentations and discussions in the hallways and common areas converged around two key topics: the changing customer and what it means for the industry, and transforming medtech marketing to elevate its impact. Here are four key takeaways from the event:
- Medtech companies need to learn how to work with value analysis committees. There was a significant amount of dialogue about best practices for dealing with these committees and how to enable sales forces to sell to them. No longer can a medical product simply be brought into the hospital and approved by a physician. Value analysis committees are universally deployed to review any new technology, and according to the opinion of many in the audience, the process and criteria often make it seem as if the committees look for ways to prevent the new technology from being used in the hospital. Regardless, selling through these committees has become a necessity, and medtech sales forces will have greater success if they’re enabled to partner effectively with their hospital customers to present a compelling argument to committee members.
- As customers are changing, they seem to be increasingly looking for ways to shift their risk onto their suppliers. My colleague Brian Chapman facilitated several roundtable discussions on this topic, and the groups identified some common barriers to successful risk sharing, like finding appropriate metrics and contending with legal hurdles.
- Customer consolidation is on everyone’s mind, particularly those in sales. The importance of integrated delivery networks is increasing dramatically, and the need to rethink the selling model with an IDN-centric and geographic lens is becoming more important. As IDNs get larger and more influential, we believe that there will be a tipping point where commercial organizations need to pivot to become IDN-centric, aligning their marketing and sales organizations around key IDNs and their segments.
- The exploding trend of connected or digital health is changing the definition of the traditional customer. There has been tremendous growth in companies promoting patient-centric systems that collect data through sensor technology and leverage that data to improve patient outcomes. In fact, in 2015, venture capital investment in connected health therapies surpassed investment in traditional medtech.
In many organizations, medtech marketing has historically been little more than sales support and marcom. At the event, there were some great examples of marketing’s increasing impact. It’s clear that the industry is undergoing a marketing transformation driven by growth in digital, enabling more ways to connect with different customer types, physicians, patients and administrators.
One presenter explained how a team at Edwards Lifesciences put themselves in the surgeon’s shoes before a cardiovascular procedure in an effort to understand the customer’s emotional perspective, which helped them connect with their key customers and helped surgeons realize that Edwards understands them.
Another example that emerged at the conference is how some medtech firms now are thinking beyond the key opinion leaders (KOLs) to ensure that products cross the adoption “chasm” to become the new standard of care. Many products that were designed with input from KOLs run into a chasm after the early adopters get on board. For a product’s long-term success, it’s critical to think about this challenge as a marketing problem, understand the needs of those customers in the middle of the adoption curve, and ensure that you have a marketing strategy and the financial resources from the company to market through this chasm.
Other signs that medtech marketing is in the midst of a transformation included presenters’ stories about leveraging a customer needs- and pain-point-driven process to maximize the impact of a new imaging technology introduction; developing tighter integration between sales and marketing to eliminate tension and create a seamless commercial group plus better execution on key product launches; and leveraging digital and social channels to connect with patients as well as physicians, building communities that increase brand loyalty and create a greater connection with customers.
In my own presentation, I spoke about how providers are changing how they operate in response to new reimbursement approaches from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, like bundled payments and accountable care organization models. Attention to CMS metrics has escalated, and our research shows that performance against these metrics has become a top priority for hospitals and systems. As a result, providers are looking for new solutions, which creates an opportunity for the industry to go “beyond the device” and expand into adjacent services or solutions. One example of this dynamic are the large orthopedic implant manufacturers like Stryker who are developing or aligning with bundled payment solution providers to help their customers respond to new bundled payment reimbursement for hips and knees under the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model.Finding new ways to connect with changing customers leads to both opportunities and challenges for medtech marketing and sales leaders. In this environment, medtech leaders will need to be oriented toward change and innovation, and must be on the hunt for best practices to ensure their organizations’ continued success.