WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
That is the question everyone is asking in MedTech circles. Within the past week we have witnessed the majority of healthcare facilities restrict the access of non-essential personnel in an effort to limit staff and visitor exposure to the COVID-19 virus. It is an absolutely necessary measure to ensure the general safety of the public’s health. Unfortunately for most MedTech companies, it is a complete and utter disruption of standard business practices and customer interactions.
MedTech is a contact sport – it remains one of the few industries that still heavily rely upon live person-to-person interactions to transact the majority of business. Efforts to migrate away from this practice were soundly repudiated - remember the “rep-less model” from a few years back? The demand for such a movement came from healthcare administrators looking to diminish the influence of sales reps on clinicians. This resulted in a paradigm shift within the MedTech industry. “Consultative selling” became king and MedTech sales leaders evolved from individuals to teams involving sales reps, corporate account executives and clinical specialists.
In an industry where customer contact is the lifeblood of multibillion dollar empires, there is no more contact! Not to mention the fact that nearly all providers’ attention and resources have shifted to COVID-19 management (and rightfully so), causing most other actions/procedures to be postponed/cancelled… and if the circumstances in China are any sort of a leading indicator, as of February, they continue to see an 85-90% decline in YOY elective procedure rates, four months after the first outbreak.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW? Adapt - that's all there is to do.
The majority of “new age” industries operate in almost exclusively virtual settings and have done so with great success. Clearly, their products lack the critical importance of many medical devices, which is why they require less direct personal interaction to complete a sale.However, does every aspect of the MedTech sales process truly require personal contact? I would confidently venture that the answer is no.
Although other industries have recognized that consumers are better educated and have greater access to information, the MedTech industry continues to deny this fact. We still believe that our consumers (aka clinicians) lack specific knowledge regarding the products we represent, and, therefore, the only way to transfer that information is via personal communication. It’s 2020… who are we kidding!!! Rather than attempting to “withhold” information, other industries are more transparent . By providing content to consumers seeking education, the seller is ultimately creating a more consistent narrative that they can control.
In order to successfully assimilate to the “new normal”, we must accept the concept of non-personal methods of consumer education. However, we must keep in mind that consumers today have increasingly shorter attention spans. Simply distributing a 30 minute tutorial on a topic via email is no longer the optimal method of sharing information. Today’s consumers learn most effectively through micro-learning. Micro-learning breaks down information into smaller, more digestible portions, that the learner can navigate through at their own pace.
Further, consumers desire some level of interactivity with their educational content – solely providing lecture-type material when you are competing with instant Instagram or Facebook alerts is not going to yield a high level of knowledge retention. And, please, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that our provider customers are more sophisticated than “Joe Consumer”, preferring 45-minute lecture videos in their inboxes – they don’t. Therefore, both the content and the delivery mechanism need to be in sync – short, succinct, and interactive, allowing someone the control to engage on their time. What we are describing is a virtual learning system, more popularly referred to as e-Learning.
More progressive organizations have adapted e-learning platforms to aid in the training and resource management of remote field teams, which has been a success. However, few companies, particularly in our industry, have utilized these platforms to their full potential. Why can’t e-learning platforms be the ideal mechanism to educate prospective customers? Why can’t we use these platforms to serve as a reference tool for existing customers? When utilized efficiently, e-learning can be used for all of the above.
In an age where the leading cause of organizational success is providing consumers easy access to education, e-learning platforms should be the cornerstone of all MedTech sales and marketing activities. Once a prospect has been engaged, we should be sending them access to our e-learning content. If a platform is built to provide customer engagement feedback (such as the platform offered by The Clinician Exchange), then a clear ability to gauge a customer’s interest can be established. If someone had the inclination to engage in five, three-minute modules, then they should be serious enough to set up a meeting to learn more. Therefore, not only is a robust e-learning system a good educational tool, it is also a terrific lead generation tool. While this platform exists today, few companies are maximizing its potential. Unlocking the full capabilities of this resource is the first step in transitioning to a virtual world.
The second step is recognizing the impact that trade show cancellations have had on the provider community. Tradeshows and conferences have always been the primary source for providers to discover new technologies and best practices in their space. With the current cancellations, providers no longer have this opportunity. Even if tradeshows occur as scheduled in the latter half of the year, will they draw attendees that are willing/able to participate? Regardless of circumstances, providers still need this information, potentially now more than ever. If your organization has enhanced procedural efficacy through the use of certain technologies or protocols, then it is beneficial for all of healthcare to learn about this. However, how can we effectively share this information under the current circumstances?
Host a telecast for a Subject Matter Expert to share more objective (meaning non-marketing focused) details with the clinical community. Host a web-conference and offer CEs/CMEs for clinical participants (as the cancelled conferences have also limited their abilities to earn their much needed credits). Product demos and standard marketing videos aren’t going to garner enough interest today, as overworked clinicians are going to hunger for education and real data. Why don’t we give them what THEY want… not what you want. Seek out an organization that has a network of targeted clinicians that can assist with the development and logistics of organizing such an event in order to reduce inefficiencies and overcome ineffectiveness.
Cancelled trade shows have also impacted many companies’ market research efforts. An overwhelming number of MedTech companies plan market research activities (focus group, survey, etc.) at conferences and tradeshows. They spend months planning for a one or two day event, in hopes that it will yield the feedback they are seeking. In more advanced industries, they don’t wait for a physical event to occur in order to gain customer feedback and input. Rather they do so throughout the year in more informal settings. “Market Research On-Demand” (MROD) is a method other industries are gravitating towards. This is due to the fact that engaging customer input at a critical decision point is crucial. Have your marketing teams work with MROD-focused companies to engage in more frequent focus groups and interviews. Utilizing MROD will allow for greater efficiency in R&D and marketing strategy as you’ll receive the insights to make decisions at the point decisions actually need to be made.
So, the answer to the question, “What Do We Do Now?” is simple: evolve and catch up with the rest of the world’s industries. Utilize all of the tools and resources we take for granted to make life “easier” in our personal lives and adapt them to our professional lives. Become an education provider rather than a marketer/solicitor. Use this time to reorient your offerings from “just” products/services into true solutions. Make the time to listen to your clinician customers and be flexible in your ability to deliver them what they really want. None of this is particularly difficult… it’s just different. Different can be scary… or it can be really exciting. Your attitude towards change will determine the outcome of your new reality.