Joe Hage is a medical device marketing consultant and leader of the world’s largest medical device community: the Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn (topping more than 205,000 members). After receiving his MBA from the Wharton School of Business, he learned how to be a marketer at Kraft, and after becoming a medical device marketer at Cardiac Science, he launched his own medical marketing consultancy: Medical Marcom. If you are looking into medical device marketing strategy, lead generation, web development, and social media utilization for your medical device company, you may want to hear what he has to say.
Tom Fowler, Medgadget: You have a wide array of marketing experience, working for companies that sell macaroni, flowers, and defibrillators. What is unique about selling medical devices compared to selling other products?
Joe Hage: All these have something in common. Each requires a compelling value proposition. In my view, the most gifted medical device marketers use strategies similar to those found in consumer and business-to-business categories well outside the healthcare field. Having said that, of course there are challenges unique to the category: Product approvals through FDA and regulatory bodies outside the United States, reimbursement issues (that’s a big one), and marketing communication that’s faithful to product indications. Getting the physician’s attention and understanding who you need to convince in the hospital and group purchasing organization’s labyrinth can be daunting. And medical device marketing language has no tolerance for puffery. There is no “best scalpel” and there probably isn’t a “most effective” procedure. It’s too difficult and costly to prove.
Medgadget: What are the challenges in managing a community of 200,000+ members? (There are about 40 countries in the world that have smaller sized populations)
Joe Hage: If you do it properly, all the hard work is up front, when you decide your reason for being. I decided the world didn’t need another medical device editorial column or blog. No, the Medical Devices Group would be the industry’s only spam-free, curated forum for intelligent conversations with medical device thought leaders. I only publish content that encourages discussion among busy medical device executives. When I see members answer questions for members on the other side of the world, it makes my heart sing. It’s ambitious, but I think of the group as a family. The group is for those who “get it” and want to help fellow medical device executives on our shared journey.
Medgadget: Say I have a medical device I created in my garage, and got it approved by the FDA. What are three things I must do before attempting to market it?
Joe Hage: In 2013, we developed the Medical Devices Group Advisory Board, full of experts in each core medical device discipline and each is attending the 10x Medical Device Conference in May. They can answer this question more completely than I. In fact, they are offering a workshop on this very topic. From my view, and at the risk of being terribly redundant, first is completely understanding your unique selling proposition. Your audience needs to know: Will your device have a better patient outcome than what’s currently available? Is yours less expensive? If not, you’re gonna have a hard time convincing your target to switch. Next is an attractive reimbursement scenario for your payors and your financial situation. Launching a medical device is not for the faint of heart. It costs millions.
Medgadget: Is social media necessary to succeed today, or is it a fleeting trend with more hype than it deserves?
Joe Hage: Social media, a term I detest, is just another way of saying “spreading the word.” Much more important is having something relevant to say.
Medgadget: Considering you have a unique pulse on the market, what can you tell us about the direction of the medical device industry in America?
Joe Hage: I’d invite your readers to visit the Medical Devices Group. In essence, medical device executives all over the world are asking and answering that question. The recurring themes I see are the exponential potential of information-based technologies (biosensors, telemedicine), the weight of regulations (the medical device tax, the time and cost associated with FDA approvals and guidelines), and cost-cutting measures (off-shoring, layoffs). It’s a very interesting time to be in medical devices!
Link: Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn…