Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Vanilla doesn’t sell unless it’s Ice Cream October 28, 2010

Vanilla ice cream has a rich taste and appealing aroma, making it the best selling ice cream flavor around. The Wikipedia page devoted to vanilla notes that it is the second most expensive spice after saffron, because of the labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods.Vanilla is used in foods, perfumes, aromatherapy, and apparently even as a bug repellant and a home remedy for minor burns. Clearly, it is very versatile.

Getting it right

However, when promoting a product, a ‘vanilla’ description is anything but appealing or versatile. Product descriptions are critical in product positioning.  Descriptions provide the basis for establishing a brand identity, a communication platform, a competitive edge, the value proposition and so much more. In the medical device space product descriptions are considered labeling. Significant effort and expense goes into securing medical device labeling.  Because medical device labeling is absolute and creative license is forbidden, getting it right is critical.

Connect the dots

To have the best possible chance at successful product adoption customers should readily recognize the value of the product through the labeling. Product descriptions should resonate intrinsically with the customer. Understanding customer needs is the core responsibility of marketing. Therefore, involvement by marketing in the product description is essential. It is senseless to disconnect the customer and patient advocate – marketing, from the customer and patient guardian – regulatory/clinical. 

Engagement at a higher level

Proactive interaction by marketing with the regulatory/clinical department early on in the clinical plan development provides the best possible outcome for labeling that will resonate with the physician customer.This is not about making it easy for marketing to promote a productNor is it about securing labeling that is loose, boastful or inaccurate in any way

Rather, this assertion that marketing participate in the discussion about the clinical plan and the desired outcome is because marketing should be leading the efforts to ensure that the product or service truly meets and exceeds customer expectations and is reflected clearly in product descriptions. The regulatory/ clinical expertise is most impactful by establishing strong and undisputed product labeling, that doesn’t need interpretation or lyrical descriptions for the product to be appreciated.

Untangle the tangle

Many marketers complain that they are hamstrung by the regulatory department when product promotion and communication plans and tactics are proposed. Many regulatory departments cringe at the creative approach marketers present to convey a product purpose, benefits and applications. 

It seems that the simplest and cleanest approach is to use the product labeling granted by the FDA,

based on evidence provided by the regulatory and clinical experts

that distinguishes the product precisely as it is intended to be used by customers,

through the distillation of customer needs by marketing. 

And while that seems a mouthful and a tall order, early collaboration between marketing and regulatory/clinical is the most likely path to labeling that is descriptive and telling. The kind of labeling where ‘creative marketing’ is about the many ways to communicate product availability and not about the many words required for product description. Product labeling typically happens only once. Getting it right so the right customer connects their needs with the value of the product will make the best use of all efforts to promote and protect.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting; all rights reserved.


Mixing Metaphors–Needles, Haystacks and Cheese October 25, 2010

Filed under: Debbie,marketing,Social media,strategy — Debbie Donovan @ 11:17 pm
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Marketing using traditional methods feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are a variety of strategies that rely on the data collected on the target audience. IMHO this just decreases the size of the haystack and you are still looking for a needle.

In the past few weeks, I can’t get this analogy out of my mind. The power of e-marketing is that it not only reduces the size of the haystack it also collects the needles together. Social media channels enable the needles in the stack to become promoters and advocates for great brand experiences. Why would anyone resist this result?

I’ve been discussing this concept with a variety of marketing and sales professionals I’ve worked with over the years. In the past, I was guilty of the shared the illusion that we had control–over brand perception and ability to influence behavior.

Today I am willing to face the facts, the way we interact has changed profoundly due to the advent of computers, the internet and of course social media–interactions are much faster and wider spread. I am surprised by the on-going resistance and it reminds me of the book about change “Who Moved My Cheese.”

The Practice of Medicine use to change slowly and now thanks to technology it moves at the speed and breath of people’s daily interactions. If you want to understand what patients want and change your thinking about your product, read Lee Aase‘s 35 Social Media Theses or view his many presentations on the subject. He’s passionate about social media and how it intersects with health care creating haystacks of needles (patients).

The truth is we’ve never had control and change is constant–in business and in life. For those of you that know me, you won’t be surprised to hear me say I’m not afraid to hunt for some new and interesting cheese.

(c) 2010 eGold Solutions


Reflections from a Facebook Tour October 21, 2010

Filed under: Debbie,Innovation,Social media — Debbie Donovan @ 12:21 am
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Signature Art Piece in Lobby

Lego Sign at Front Desk

At the close of the IABC Pacific Plains Regional Exchange conference, I was able to join a group of professional communicators on a tour of one of the most fascinating companies of the 21st Century–Facebook. The global headquarters are located at the end of a small quiet street in Palo Alto with homes across the street in a building long abandoned by another legendary PA start-up, Hewlett Packard. The unassuming lobby entrance masks a group of less then 2000 employees (1000 in PA) who are on a big mission to connect people around the globe (no matter the platform).

The Face Ball--a collection of name badges

After passing “the tank” and observing Mark Z in a meeting with about half a dozen executives, one of young women that lead our tour asked us to provide our impressions and observations. The “open” and “fun” environment were obvious. What struck me was the lack of paper recycling bins and filing cabinets which lead me to look for the printers/copiers. Ironic because the building was once used by a major printer manufacturer.
The next thought I had was of a tour I took about 15 years ago of a paper factory in Ripon, CA. Another piece of irony–here I was noticing the lack of paper use at Facebook and remembering how paper is manufactured. On that tour, the paper line broke and as they cleaned the break to start up the rollers again, we could see how the paper went from a wet pulp into finished product. At that time, the plant was considered environmentally conscious (e.g. the steam from the drying process was converted into electricity and used to power the entire town).

My nametag on the ball

At Facebook, they are so green that the product they manufacture is generated out of the raw material of human creativity coded by brilliant engineers on a singular mission fueled by large quantities of sugar and caffeine. It is amazing that they don’t need printers or paper to capture the profound value of their manufacturing. Members and connections are the primary measurement of their value to all of us. May the company continue to make meaningful contributions in our time. Ole

(C) 2010 eGold Solutions

D2 writing on on the FB Wall

My initials on the wall

The Facebook Wall


Practice Marketing is not Rocket Surgery October 17, 2010

Filed under: Debbie,DTC,Physician Preparation — Debbie Donovan @ 2:05 pm
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[Oct 17, 2011: I just had to re-post after viewing the Hubspot capabilities video–they talk about marketing not being rocket surgery! I’ve consumed many of their helpful inbound marketing resources so check them out.]

There is a fascinating process that converts a consumer with a health problem into a patient whose symptoms have been successfully resolved. Reaching the consumer with the health problem your products can solve is a fun challenge for medical device companies. It’s not rocket surgery–which is to say it is not expensive or complicated.

Many a time the marketing department is told, “just put ads on TV and sales will take off like a rocket.” When considering Lisa’s 6 Criteria for DTC campaign readiness, points 1, 2, and 6 rely heavily on the health care professional trained to perform a branded medical procedure. The burning question is “Are your customers really ready to receive patients?” Here are ways to evaluate customer readiness:

  1. Does the staff understand which patient population will call and what questions they will ask to get more information about the health problem and product?
  2. Do the patients already in the practice know their doctor performs the branded procedure to resolve a health problem they may not have mentioned?
  3. Does the referral community know that their local specialist is trained to treat the health problem with the latest technology?

If all three questions can’t be answered with a solid yes, then there is work to be done at the local trained specialist point of care.  Preparations can and should be simple, inexpensive and easy to implement so there are no excuses for not completing the tasks.

Next up: Simple, inexpensive “must do’s” to prepare a practice for DTC/DTP.

(C) 2011 eGold Solutions; all rights reserved.

Related Information:

Hubspot’s capability video–they talk about rocket surgery


Marketing Tool Kits: Easy To Complete Tactics October 1, 2010


Great news. You’ve organized your content and are able to deliver the latest and greatest electronically. So why are your customers STILL not using your tool kit?

Going above and beyond

Providing the template is just part of the effort needed to have customers utilize your marketing tool kit. Most health care providers are busy doing their job–delivering specialized health care services.

Where to begin?

The health care provider is not familiar with marketing strategy or how to implement successful tactics that drive revenue. They have no idea where to start or what vendors to use.  Most have a printer for their business cards and stationery. A few might have mailed a postcard when they changed locations. Some have run print advertisements by enlisting the help of the publication’s art department to create the graphics needed.

“Help me, help you,” Jerry Maguire

From prior experience, your customers may or may not have been satisfied with the creative work by the vendors they used or the ROI from their efforts. Here’s where your company and its great tool kit can really help:

develop a turn key package of tactics for your customer
at a pre-negotiated price!

This allows the tool kit materials you’ve created to ACTUALLY be used by your customers to build their professional reputation and business.

What does turn key look like?

  • Patient brochures personalized with your customer’s logo, photo, bio and contact information $xxx for 1000
  • Direct mail postcards to promote a new procedure to a targeted demographic that is geo-located around the practice $x,xxx for 2,500
  • Practice website or specialized micro-site with pre-written, patient-facing content for a set-up fee of $x,xxx  + $xx/month for hosting

How do you build turn key tactics?

  1. Research and vet vendors that understand practice marketing and how to scale their pricing and customer service for individual health care providers.
  2. After supplying your tool kit, negotiate a preferred price for exclusive offerings and create a sales sheet detailing the turn key package.
  3. Launch the program and introduce the vendor to your sales personnel so they feel comfortable handing off customers that are interested in the turn key package.

It’s a good thing

Just imagine how effective the sales organization will be in getting customers to use the tool kit? They can walk into their accounts with activities that are truly turn key. It should be obvious that the less time your sales team spends on tactical logistics, the more time they have to meet their objectives (admit it, you’ve seen sales personnel get sucked into logistical details only to dump them on the marketing department for completion).

(c) 2010 eGold Solutions

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