London, 17-18 March 2010
The growing importance of medical devices and diagnostics for healthcare across Europe is shown both by the industry's higher profile with governments and by the increasing integration of the European medtech sector. Both were reflected in the first MDDexec (Medical Devices and Diagnostics Executive) Europe Sales and Marketing Excellence event, held at Regent's Park Marriott in central London. Formerly held in Boston, USA, this conference was being held in Europe for the first time.
The two-day event brought together senior executives from a number of leading medtech companies, as well as consultancies specialising in commercial strategy, to discuss how the industry can meet the challenges of rapidly-changing health systems through innovative sales and marketing. Presentations with Q&A sessions, workshops and networking breaks made for a busy and interactive conference, reflecting the vitality of an industry that is fully engaged in realising its potential to change the world.
Themes focused on by the speakers covered a wide range of issues, from providing "total healthcare solutions" to maximising the impact of a product launch. Some recurrent themes were evident: making customer service the driver of commercial activity; meeting the commercial and organisational, as well as clinical, needs of customers; and integrating the activities of all teams within a company.
The conference had five sponsors, all of which exhibited in the open meeting area: Global Sponsor ZS Associates (a global management consultancy firm specialising in sales and marketing); Gold Sponsors ConsultComplete (the strategy consulting group within strategic healthcare agency CMG), Interactive Media (a supplier of SaaS applications to the life sciences industry) and Model N (a global provider of revenue management solutions for the industry); and Workshop Sponsor Doctors.net.uk (the largest online network of medical professionals in the UK).
Seeing the bigger picture
The first day of Sales & Marketing Excellence focused on giving a strategic overview of the commercial issues facing medtech in Europe.
Margrit Lelieveld, VP Sales and Marketing, Philips Healthcare, spoke on moving from 'box selling' to being a true clinical solution provider. She described how, with the growing tendency of hospitals to outsource non-core functions, Philips Healthcare has increasingly moved towards managing the technology of hospitals through long-term contracts - thus providing a "total healthcare solution".
Baba Awopetu, Director Marketing Excellence, Stryker, discussed how medtech can respond to the changing healthcare landscape by embracing partnership and well-informed segmentation. "We need to focus on the problem we're solving," he argued, "not the product we're creating." He quoted recent evidence that 90% of healthcare customers will pass over the cheapest option in favour of one that adds value.
Rohan Fernando, Managing Principal, ZS Associates Europe, talked about redesigning commercial models to address the rise of the 'economic buyer'. He noted that "chaotic sales models are common" across Europe in the medtech industry - and that while sales strategy often fails to see the bigger picture, marketing often lacks regional insight and experience. His presentation led into a workshop on the challenges of updating medtech sales models.
Nadav Tomer, VP of Marketing, Cordis, offered a different emphasis: he argued for a "hunter" approach to medical device sales, with reps moving fast to target opportunities and be "in the right place at the right time". Trying to build complex, long-term relationships across a territory was not possible, he argued, in a market driven by immediate cost priorities. His presentation was a reminder that many customers are less receptive to long-term solution building than the industry would prefer.
Niels Skov, Managing Director, Europe, Model N, explained how revenue management solutions have enabled global healthcare companies to resolve difficulties with their pricing and contract management - and to approach the 'enlightened buyer' as an 'enlightened seller'. A case study examined how Boston Scientific has benefited from using the Rainmaker solution from Model N for pricing analysis.
Joseph Hartzell, Sales Force Excellence, Strategy and Systems Director, Medtronic International, discussed how SFE can be used to empower rather than control the sales team. He described the effectiveness of a "balanced" approach in which reps are asked to provide only key data, incentives are focused on results rather than process, and reps are given their own cumulative data. This both maximises the strategic value of SFE data and contributes to effective teamwork.
Simon Grime, Head of Healthcare Communications, Doctors.net, led a final workshop discussion on how medtech can engage with the "revolution" of online clinician networks. He gave an example: B.Braun generated 965 enquiries about a new product from a website with 14,000 members in a short space of time. There are clear opportunities, he argued, for companies to deliver educational and promotional material to this highly-motivated expert audience.
What value is worth
The second day's presentations focused on specific aspects of sales and marketing strategy, building on the perspectives shared on the first day.
Birgit Bergdoll, European HR Program Manager, BD, looked at the challenges of territory management in a "shrinking Europe" of protectionism and reduced public spending. She pointed to the growing importance of key account management and sophisticated customer segmentation in building organisational capacity, shifting "from an internal to an external focus".
Anton Cush, Global Manager, Sales Enablement, Covidien, discussed how sales teams can implement a company's value proposition. He emphasised the need for effective integration of the sales and marketing functions to define commercial relationships, enabling representatives to function as "partners" whose value proposition evolves continually in response to customer needs.
Marta Antonucci, VP CRM Marketing, EMEA, Boston Scientific, followed with a presentation on how 'added value' can give a company's products the edge. Innovation, she argued, is the key to blending quality and cost-efficiency in a way that drives brand referrals. As an example, she described how the service features of the Latitude system for remote patient management gave the 'added value' of an improved care network with active patient involvement.
Suzie Denton, Head of ConsultComplete, argued for an imaginative approach to product branding. In an increasingly difficult commercial environment, she argued, product differentiation needs to blend "rational" and "emotional" factors - so while marketing materials must be evidence-based, focusing on the human benefits of a product can help to strengthen its perceived advantage to the customer.
Keith Rowland, Marketing Director, Cook Medical, discussed the importance of segmentation and targeting. He suggested that medtech is a decade behind pharma in its awareness of "market-led" segmentation. Marketing and sales teams need to work together, he argued, to determine viable customer segments that enable representatives to access the whole of the market.
Mark Harvie, Marketing Director Medical Devices EMEA, Hospira, gave a final presentation on the focal point of marketing: the product launch. He commented that a common reason for medical device product failure is that the launch has no structured process and generates no "buzz". A company needs to work as a whole towards a launch, he argued, using all its channels of customer interaction to ensure the new product has maximum impact.
The MDDexec Europe Sales & Marketing Excellence event was a dual first for the Medtech Business team: the first UK event we had attended that brought together the medical device and diagnostics sectors, and the first to address the issues facing the industry across Europe. Since the majority of medtech companies active in the UK are either based in Europe or selling into European markets, conferences like this play a crucial role in developing the UK medtech industry.