Remember that physicians are people, too.

By Rob Kinslow, Senior Strategist, Brand Communication

We medical device marketers often ask ourselves, “If we could only do one thing to improve our presence/generate leads/build sales/increase customer loyalty, and so on … what would it be?”

There are many answers to that question and they depend on myriad factors: who your company is, what its market and financial positions are, who your customers are, what their purchasing patterns are, how good your device is, how strong your data is and how effective your marketing and sales efforts already are.

But if you pinned me to the floor like my kids used to do when they wanted to use my body for a trampoline, and forced me to pick one move that could apply to any company and any device, I’d say it’s this:

Make sure your customers know how you make their lives easier.

The white life, as the medical profession is sometimes called, is complicated. Surgeons’ lives are especially complicated. Perhaps more so than some other medical specialties, they are under tremendous pressure to balance performance, outcomes and cost – and many are performance-driven and exhibit perfectionist tendencies, according to psychological research. This pressure takes its toll: rates of depression and thoughts of suicide among surgeons are higher than for the population as a whole, particularly among surgeons who believe they have committed a medical error.

Scheduling cases and days off can be a nightmare. Getting to decide whose products and which products you use is, in this era of doc-as-employee, no longer a given. Third-party payers and other financially minded folks who did not endure 7-plus years of grueling specialty medical training second-guess the decisions you do make. A growing portion of the day is spent on paperwork.

Against this backdrop, in strolls the medical device sales representative. What can he or she do or say that convinces the surgeon your company is part of the solution and not the problem? I can think of at least three things that would give the surgeon reason to smile:

Offer stellar pre- and post-operative patient education. Does it strike anyone else as a recipe for disaster that today’s patients arrive at office visits more informed – and thus with more questions than ever – while those visits are forcibly becoming shorter and shorter? Provide the means for the surgeon to be able to point the patient to excellent educational resources and still feel like a caring caregiver. I had a hip replacement 3 months ago but only recently discovered, on my own, that the hip manufacturer offers a pedometer-type app for my iPhone, which I promptly downloaded. While not educational, it will motivate me to take my new hip out for a walk more often. And had my surgeon pointed me to it, I know I would be even more motivated than I already am to recommend him to other hip patients.

Help solve little problems. They’re really big problems. Example: Sometimes the device works smoothly but the packaging doesn’t. OR nurses and techs get annoyed. The same surgeon sees this occur with different crews again and again, and suddenly he’s annoyed. As our firm has done for several device companies, a simple laminated card listing clear instructions on opening the device packaging goes a long way.

Simplify, simplify. Are your products easy to order and inventory? Are your customer and technical support super-easy to get hold of? Are your forms simple and intuitive? (For one diagnostic laboratory client, whenever we launch a new test, we offer medical practices a guide detailing how to fill out the new test order form.) What can you simplify?

Last: What are you already doing to help surgeons navigate their busy professional lives? How are you reminding them that you do this? What makes you easy to work with? Talk about that.