Free! – Marketing Education for Medical Device Companies

Reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

What will you be doing to increase your marketing acumen and ROI in 2014?  Observing the marketing efforts of small and medium sized medical device companies; I continue to be amazed at how poor and misdirected the majority of these efforts are.  One problem for these companies is that they may not be able to afford true marketing and product management talent.  OK, if this is the problem, then why not task the person that has been put charge of marketing with looking for ways to gain some better marketing skills.

You can find great marketing skills information on the internet….for Free!!  For example, there are websites that allow you to download pretty good ebooks on various marketing topics.  At these same websites you may find webcasts that you can watch.  And, you may find some good videos and podcasts on marketing topics.

Continue reading “Free! – Marketing Education for Medical Device Companies”

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The From and Subject Line – the MOST Important Elements of an E-Blast

Reading time: 6 – 10 minutes

Before we define the elements of a good e-blast, I want you to think about the last 2 or 3 e-blasts you opened.  I mean e-blasts that were some type of consumer-oriented solicitation.  Most likely, they were from an on-line retailer that you prefer.   For example, I regularly get emails from LL Bean® (clothes and outdoor equipment), Lowes® (hardware and home improvement products), Scott E Vest® (hi tech clothing) and Bed Bath and Beyond® (household goods, cooking, small appliances) and others.  I open a fair number of these e-blasts because they make it very clear that they are offering something.  If I am not sure, then I don’t open them.

The reason I want you to think about e-blasts from on-line retailers is because they are usually very very good with their Internet marketing.

What do you do?  What do you open?  What motivates you to open an e-blast? Think about it.  Now, think about the e-blasts you see from your particular medical device industry.   The medical device emails that I see are primarily related to ophthalmology and optometry.  I regret to say, for the most part, they are not nearly as good as the consumer product companies with an on-line presence.  Some eye care e-blasts are very poorly executed.  The good news is that we can learn from good and bad examples of ophthalmic market e-blasts.

Now that I have you thinking about e-blasts, let’s look at what makes you, me and medical professionals open e-blasts.

From and Subject line – This is the most important part of the e-blast. If the subject line doesn’t catch the attention of the reader, the e-blast content doesn’t make a difference.   For a subject line to be effective it needs to:

  • Come from a trusted source – this can be communicated in the From or Subject sections
  • Offer a compelling product benefit or feature a high profile person – this is in the Subject section of the line

Before we go into more detail, take a look at a screen shot of my Apple® mail client where I have the folder for e-blasts open.  Skim down through these e-blasts.  Are there any that would catch your eye more than others?

Come from a trusted source – All of the emails in the above image come from a trusted source.  This makes it more likely that the email would avoid being sent to the junk or spam folder.  These trusted sources are the ophthalmic industry media magazines that also offer e-blast deployment as a service.  Some of the emails appear to come from the manufacturer.  This is a good trick and offers credibility.  However, if you look closely at the “from” email address it says  BMC is an industry publisher.  I like this particular technique that clearly indicates the manufacturer up front.  This saves the reader time and enhances the subject line message and credibility.  The e-blasts where the media publications are indicated in the From section are not bad and they are also from a trusted source.  However, they can weaken the message.  For example, the last e-blast you see on my screen is from Eyefind® (part of Jobson® – an eye care media company that everyone knows).  If you look from the “From” which says “Eyefind” over to the “Subject” line can you tell anything about the company that is sponsoring the e-blast?  No, you can’t.  In fact, the impression is that the advertiser is Eyefind.  If you opened the Eyefind email, you would see that the advertiser is Augen Lenses.  While Eyefind would qualify as a trusted source and probably gets through the spam guard, the subject line is vague.  It is very likely that someone receiving this email will not open it. When the “From” is Bausch + Lomb®, they can get away with a vague Subject line to some extent.  The corporate brand has been successfully communicated.  Even with vague Subject content, someone may be curious enough to open the e-blast to see what B+L has sent.

Now, all that being said, some medical device media companies don’t have the deployment technology to allow the company name to be in the From section.  You should ask about this.  If the media companies in your medical device community can’t have your company name in the From section, then you must have a compelling Subject content that indicates your company name or is so interesting that someone will want to open the e-blast.

Important note!  What is NOT a trusted source? These are the email listing companies that advertise that they have the email address of every doctor or nurse that you may want to communicate with via e-blast.  It is very questionable that these email address lists are opt-in lists.  When a doctor receives an e-blast from a listing company it is very possible that it will go to junk mail or the spam folder.  Even if the listing company uses your company name, the fact that the e-blast comes from their server address will get it labeled as junk or spam.  So, I am not a big fan of these services.  I never use them.

Offer a compelling product benefit or feature a high profile person. You must also make the subject line offer in just a few words.  Most email clients (Apple Mail®, Outlook®, etc.) have small areas where you view your incoming emails.  This is especially true for users of small portable computers.  Go back and look at the screen shot of my email client above.   Even though I have a wide subject line area, several of the e-blasts’ subject lines cannot be seen in their entirety.  In some cases, I have seen subject lines where the most important part of the message is at the end….where most people can’t see them.

Keep in mind, doctors and other medical personnel are getting lots of emails.  They start to delete those emails that are not interesting or meaningful.  Also, many doctors I know are constantly scanning their emails on their mobile phones during the day in between surgical cases or in between patient exams.  The subject areas on some of these portable devices are smaller than those on a laptop.  This can result in even more deletions.

The first several words in the subject line are VERY important.

A compelling product benefit message lets the reader know what the product will do for him/her.  It is NOT a message bragging about how a company feels it is the product leader in a market.  That is puffery or chest beating.  It is a big turnoff.  A benefit message is like the Revitalens Ocu Tech® message above.  It implies that using this product will result in 4 times fewer adverse events.  This is a great benefit for the patient and the doctor.  This message would have been stronger if they would have led with the “4x Fewer Adverse Events” and then mentioned the product name.  You could consider this a performance benefit message. Other compelling messages could be:

  1. Those that offer a discount or other potential financial reward.  The benefit is the reward of money.  It is basic….but it works.
  2. Offer education from a known person.  This may be a webinar or seminar.
  3. Offer a case study that demonstrates proven results related to your product.

Featuring a high profile person is always effective.  Most people will know this person and be curious about how he or she is associated with the e-blast.  Above you will see the subject line “Join Dr. McGreal and Dr. Gailmard in …..”.  These are two highly respected and popular optometrists.  Almost everyone in the optometric community has heard them speak.  Even though there is no product or company/organization indicated in the From section or the Subject line, the mention of their names will cause many optometrists to open the e-blast.

I hope you were able to stick with this post.  I know it was long.  However, there is a nuance to the art of e-marketing that I want you to understand.

The next several posts will be shorter.  I promise.  One will focus on the body of the e-blast.  The others will demonstrate specific e-blasts.  We will give some major companies grades on their e-blasts.  That will be fun.


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E-Blasts – a Powerful Marketing and E-Marketing Tool

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

E-blasts are a powerful and economical marketing tool for medical devices when used correctly.  The advantages of e-blasts are:

  1. Instant feedback on your message in terms of metrics.  You will quickly know how many people opened your e-blast and how many clicked through to your website or landing page.  It is much more difficult to get this kind of feedback economically from print advertising.
  2. Immediate actionable leads that you can distribute to your sales channel.  Again, this is almost non-existent with print advertising.  The only way to come close is to have a Business Reply Card (BRC) inserted in the magazine next to your ad.  This is expensive and logistically cumbersome.
  3. Quick to deploy.  From concept to deployment, you can have an e-blast in front of prospects in less than 2 weeks (sometimes one week).  A print ad could take 8 weeks from insertion order to delivery of the magazine.
  4. Easy and inexpensive to change the message if you are not satisfied with the initial response.
  5. Possibility of testing messages in small geographic markets or market segments before deploying nationwide or worldwide.
  6. Immediate placement before the target audience.  With print media you have to wait for the reader to open the magazine and eventually come across your ad.  This could take weeks.  Then they have to pick up a phone to call you or they have to go their computer and look up your website.  With an e-blast, they are already at their computer and only have to click an imbedded button “For more information click here” or click on your URL.
  7. Reasonable price for the benefits.  In the ophthalmic market, e-blasts are less expensive than a full-page advertisement in print media.

The only disadvantages I can think of are:

  1. Limited “shelf life” of the e-blast versus a print ad.  In other words, the e-blast is read, deleted or buried in a sea of other emails.  The print ad stays in the magazine and sits on the doctor’s desk.  He may see the ad a couple times if you have good placement.  Think about how you manage the magazines you subscribe to.  This isn’t really a huge disadvantage.
  2. Low number of opt-in email addresses offered by the deployment firm compared to print media.  For example, most ophthalmic print media companies offer e-blast deployment.  Typically, their opt-in email address lists are a third to half of their number of magazine subscribers.

Conclusion – I don’t believe the disadvantages come close to outweighing the advantages of e-blasts over print advertising.  If you have a limited budget, I would choose e-blasts over print ads.  If you have an adequate budget you can find a balance between the two where they can actually work together.

In the next post – The Elements of a Good E-Blast.  Then, we will evaluate some good and bad e-blasts to understand what was done correctly and what could have been done better.


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