How can medtech target the Internet generation? Kevin Payne of De Facto Communications looks at the new marketing landscape opened up by the revolution in digital communications.
Every month, half the UK population use Google to look for information on the web. Some will be thinking about buying a medical device. But are web users getting the message about your brand and products? Smart companies are adopting increasingly skilful approaches to communicating with their customers online.
Online communication is now well-established. The most technophobic medical device company now has a website featuring downloadable items such as product brochures, and has thought about making their site easier to find on Google. 75% of healthcare and life science companies are increasing their online marketing spend.
So is everything rosy in the virtual garden? Not quite. Redesigning your website to be more customer- and Google-friendly is just the start for web-savvy medical device companies. Adopting an integrated online communications strategy is critical to winning market share via the Internet.
Don’t be hard to find
Of course, it’s essential to get the basics right. You need a clearly laid out and logically structured website that doesn’t cause potential customers to break their laptop with frustration – or, more likely, to leave with a single click.
What’s more, the world’s best website is useless if no one can find it. Redeveloping a website should always be accompanied by a search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) programme to improve the ranking of the website in Google’s ‘natural’ (non-paid-for) search results, and to make it a sponsored link for searches mentioning the company’s name and main product categories.
In particular, smaller firms can steal a march on their larger competitors by appearing prominently in search results for their product category. A simple search on Google shows that larger brands, such as SonoSite Instruments, also benefit from buying up keywords associated with their company name and their main product categories, such as portable ultrasound, since prospective buyers may look for both.
Although most medical device companies are harnessing the power of search, this is still not universal. For example, a search for ‘MRI scanner’ on Google.co.uk (made on 30 July 2008) had not one MRI scanner manufacturer appearing on the first page of results. Instead, the page was dominated by scanning services, scanner resellers and downloadable patient information leaflets. Note that the first non-sponsored (natural) link on the first Google results page receives 50% of all clicks, whereas sites on the second page receive fewer than 1%. Being invisible on Google equates to lost sales.
Selling yourself online
An integrated online communications strategy is about more than a website and SEO/PPC: online PR is another key element in the mix.
Industry magazines such as On Target, Touch Cardiology and Medical Device Technology are now available both on- and offline. A cursory glance at eHealth Insider shows that some device companies, including Fujitsu and Agfa HealthCare, are sending press releases to exclusively online publications as well as printed ones. Since online publications often feature prominently in Google search results, a tailored online media relations campaign can generate an explosion of high-ranking stories, and can help with SEO link-building programs by improving website PageRanks if links to the site are embedded in the text.
Many online journals offer advertising space surrounding articles, and can contact their readers with targeted e-mail adverts. eHealth Insider, for example, hosts adverts for healthcare software. BioMed Central, an open-access online publisher of 190 peer-reviewed biomedical journals with 25 million page views per month, offers online advertising.
Online adverts allow potential customers to visit your company website with a single click. Furthermore, their success is easy to track by monitoring the number of web users who open an e-mailshot or click on an online advert. Online advert sizes have increased, offering more space for marketing messages. Furthermore, as increasing numbers of readers flock to the web, online advertising is taking market share from print media, causing the number of print publications to decline.
Joining the conversation
Web 2.0 is all about interaction. Although listening to and engaging with customers via ‘blogs’, social media sites and forums is old news to online consumer PR professionals, it remains underused by medical device companies. That is a shame, because these media can save carrying out a survey or assembling a focus group. For example, a quick tour of the professional networking site LinkedIn reveals 472 healthcare-related groups, including one for “people working [with] Healthcare-IT, Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Hospital Info System[s] (HIS)”.
The most popular blogs (short for ‘weblogs’) can get as many visits as mainstream journals, so their influence should not be underestimated. Technorati or Google’s Blog Search is a quick way to find out whether anyone is linking to a blog that discusses a brand or product category. An example is Dalai’s ‘PACS Blog’, written by an American radiologist, which has a Technorati ‘authority’ (the number of links to the blog in a given period) of 14.
Companies can read blogs to understand the market better, start their own corporate blog and interact with influential bloggers, or encourage key opinion leaders to start a blog or to offer a contribution to an existing blog as a ‘guest blogger’. The medical device blogosphere is currently an underoccupied space, ripe for colonisation by innovative corporate bloggers.
Drawing in the customer
A good way to encourage bloggers to talk about your product is to make it easy and interesting for them to do so.
“Many medtech companies have not yet adopted an integrated online communications strategy. Those who do achieve an immediate competitive advantage. A small company, for example, can make itself the definitive source of information about its product category.”
Kevin Payne is a founder director of De Facto Communications. He has spent the last 26 years helping medical device manufacturers introduce new technologies, harness key opinion leader endorsement and build their market shares. In recent years, De Facto has broadened its PRled marketing communications services to include all aspects of e-marketing, from website design right through to search engine optimisation and Google AdWord management.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.defacto.com.
Likewise, if you bring potential customers to your website via Google, you want to keep them there for as long as possible and ensure that they return.
Some medical device companies have been offering multimedia educational resources on their websites for a while now. For example, the Ansell Europe website hosts videos, online lectures and leaflets about latex allergies, infection control and surgical glove use. This is a growth area for medical device companies, since links to high-quality educational materials can be shared by potential customers. The materials can be diverse, including interviews with key opinion leaders, video case studies and interactive ‘Ask an Expert’ sessions.
Furthermore, periodically adding new resources such as webinars keeps people coming back to the site. BioMed Central recently held an eMarketing seminar (‘Online and On-message: Going Digital eMarketing Webinar for Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Sectors’) and made the highlights available on its website as a high-quality webcast using software and production facilities offered by In Situ Productions.
Multimedia materials don’t have to be hosted on the company’s website. Videos that are easy to embed in other sites can be uploaded onto YouTube, used by bloggers or issued as part of a multimedia news release (MNR). This new type of press release has space, usually in the right-hand column, for links to graphs, videos, testimonials or other materials that can be viewed and used by a journalist, blogger or potential customer. MNRs can also be incorporated into a website’s RSS news feed, bookmarked on del.icio.us or flagged up on social news communities such as Digg.
All these things make it easier for bloggers, forum users or other people to use and pass on a company’s educational resources without the company needing to do any further work. They are already popular with consumer and technology PR companies – but many medical device companies still depend on traditional methods to get customers talking about their products.
Spinning the Web
The medtech industry has got the basics of e-marketing right: providing an effective website and thinking about SEO and PPC. However, many companies have not yet adopted an integrated online communications strategy. Those who do achieve an immediate competitive advantage. A small company, for example, can make itself the definitive source of information about its product category. With many companies now approaching agencies to help them develop a powerful web strategy, it is clear that medtech companies need to make online communications the cutting edge of their marketing plans.