Most medical device contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) would rather have a few large OEM customers than dozens of startups. Why? Because CMOs want to be in the manufacturing business, not the research and development business. Defining a product, getting approval, and ramping up to the full production is painstaking, time-consuming, and not always profitable. Volume production is what most CMOs do well. Landing large customers, of course, is often easier said than done. However, there are a few marketing strategies that consistently work. Here are a few of them.
Get online, now
If your company hasn’t invested much in a web presence, it’s time to do it. Nearly 92 percent of people search online for solutions to problems before they contact a company. Businesses, including big businesses, are no different. You have a great service. People are looking for it, and they are looking online. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “our customers don’t shop online.” True. Customers don’t “click to buy” medical device manufacturing. However, everyone (OK, only 92 percent of everyone) researches online, and what they find will influence their buying behavior.
Stop selling and start educating
In your marketing materials, which include your website, direct emails, trade show properties, and other materials; stop telling people how great you are and just show them instead. What I mean by this is that if you create a lot of material that educates people about the intricacies of the area medical device manufacturing you specialize in, and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, you’ll build credibility and trust far faster than if you simply try to shout more loudly than your competitors. If people searching for solutions to their manufacturing challenges find helpful information, and it comes from your company, you’ve just built some trust. One company I worked with offered a white paper on “Packaging and Sterilization of Medical Devices.” It was downloaded hundreds of times, republished in an engineering journal, and used in a college course on medical device manufacturing. It didn’t promote the company at all, but it made the phone ring, and some of the calls were from the largest OEMs.
Aim for your ideal customer
It is important in the era of the search engine to create materials that are aimed squarely at your ideal customer. The reality is that if you specialize, say, in packaging and sterilization of Class III implantable medical devices, you don’t necessarily want to generate a bunch of leads from people that are looking for help manufacturing Class I consumer devices. By creating materials that focus on what you do best, you will attract people searching for information on that topic, and if they like what they find they will opt-in to be given more information. The lesson here is to resist trying to be all things to all people. You’ll be far more successful if you are very specific about what you do best, and what kind of customer you can really help.
Make it good
One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is using schlocky content to try and sell themselves. Think about it. You’re in the medical device industry. Your customers are highly educated and very smart—especially at the large companies you’re trying to contact. Speak to them like a peer. You’re not going to trick them into buying something they don’t want or need, and trying to do so with exaggerated claims of superiority doesn’t help. This kind of marketing actually erodes your credibility. You absolutely have to be respectful of your audience. Publish genuinely helpful information, speaking just as you would if a potential customer were sitting across the desk from you. High quality, educational material will help you get found and become trusted.
Use what you have
Even though I just told you to get online (now!), that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a new website. Start using the website you have more strategically, with high quality, educational pages and content designed to attract your ideal customer. Start reaching out to your existing contact database with emails and news. These are the people you’ve touched in the past and the ones most likely to be interested in what’s new. I’ve found that most companies ignore their existing contacts in favor of trying to generate new leads. The reality is that your existing customers, who already trust you, are your most likely sources of new business. Refreshing your website content and reaching out to your existing contacts will give you a lot of information about what people are looking for and what they respond to. Gathering that data with tools like Google Analytics will give you a great deal of insight that, if you eventually decide to revamp your website, will help ensure that you are building something that people want.
Social networking can work very well in the medical device world. Posting new articles and information on Twitter can help you grow a following and reach other influencers. LinkedIn groups can also be a great source of social promotion. Remember, with social networking you’re not trying to sell, you’re trying to get other people to “amplify” your message. As I said earlier, if what you publish is good, people will read it and share it. I’ve see Tweets get shared a thousand or so times–not a lot by celebrity standards but quite a lot by medical device industry standards. Also, at one company I worked for, LinkedIn became our second biggest source of web traffic after Google.
It’s easier than you think
I’ve found that the more obscure and exotic your product or technology is, the easier it is go get found online. Why? Because there is less competition. Think about it. If you have loads of content on your website focused on a topic like packaging and sterilization for Class III implantable medical devices, there probably aren’t all that many people searching for it. However, the people who are searching for it are probably in your target audience. The other piece of good news is that the web has evolved from being an online beauty contest. You don’t have to have the slickest graphics and animation available. Of course it has to be well organized and visually compelling. But it doesn’t have to have a lot of special effects. In the end, what you really need is high quality, informational, educational content that people want to read. If you are a quality medical device organization, you already have that content within your walls in the minds of many of your scientists, engineers and salespeople. What they do and how they do it, what they know and how they know it—these are the foundations of great articles people want to read and share.
I’ve found that CMOs that simply refresh web content and start emailing their existing contacts will double their web traffic within a few months, and when they offer premium content (white papers, case studies etc.), most get about a 20 percent response rate. Those are great numbers, by the way. The reality is that if you are offering quality information, people want it and will ask for more. If it is tailored to just the type of customer you want, in this case large OEM medical device manufacturers, all the better. You might get fewer leads than you would if you aimed more broadly, but you’ll be much more likely to get the kind of leads you want.