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Archive for the ‘How to pItch medtech’ Category

We Landed a Medtech Account—Now What? 3 Understandings

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Bollixed and castrated and then we begin

Advertising agencies and marketing firms are eager to land medical device accounts. These prestigious accounts are much desired and would seem to enlarge the status of an agency because of the exacting, rigorous work that helps the human condition. It doesn’t hurt that they seem to pay on time. But having worked with a number of ad agencies once they land such an account, there are a few common threads that surprise principals and employees:


  • You’ll need experts: people who know how to work within a regulatory framework (“Claim this.” “Never claim that.”). People who know the words that soothe lawyers while still making sense to humans. And especially people who know their sinus node rhythm from their rhythm method. You will stay on message and every claim must be neatly tied to an article from a respected (first or second-tier) journal.
  • Your creatives are (already) wringing their hands. That’s because creative solutions lie on the other side of a legal/regulatory/corporate culture grinder.
    • Yes: the company has come to you for creative solutions.
    • No: they cannot/will not back-off their own internal legal/regulatory controls. Their own internal machinery will bind and castrate many of those solutions you have used in the past. What a great beginning point!
  • There will be rounds of changes. Many rounds. Way more than you are used to. Far more than you can reasonably put in your bid. They will seem…unmanageable. Taming revisions will take your best customer service manners and may take you deep into the internal relationship structure of the firm. But that is exactly the kind of partnering that is needed

If your agency can come to grips with these three understandings without imploding or driving sane people mad, you’ll begin to build a reservoir of expertise.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Are You In—Or Are You a Loser?

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Is club membership really that critical to you?

Sometimes we observe similarities between work and church. Here’s a way work and church similarly lose momentum with every conversation: making club membership their most important feature.


At work VPs and managers and employees speak in Dilbertesque code. Acronyms are just the beginning. In the medical device world, there are shorthand words for landmark studies, shorthand words for device features and benefits, shorthand words for certain technological functions. Shorthand words for the management focus of the quarter. Unless you’ve been around the team for a time, you wouldn’t understand 60% of the conversation. That’s why advertising agencies routinely hire translators when they get projects with medical device firms—they just don’t get the gibberish these smart people are talking.

At church we put on holy language and use words that make us seem like we are in the know. We deliver these words calmly as if they were on our minds all the time. The language of doubt is mostly unwelcome in this setting—this is where the faithful come for their weekly booster shot. And so language becomes subterfuge.

The problem with insider language at work or church is that it sets up participants for failure again and again. In both settings, many of the folks in the conversation don’t understand the very words they are saying—and don’t even realize they don’t understand. Or maybe they realize it but the insider current is so strong they are afraid to admit their lack.

Plain speech is a subversive force. Not only does plain speech out those not in the know, it actually forces those who think they know to explain or realize they know less than they thought. Plain speech is a force for progress because it breaks down hidden barriers and destroys a primary rhetorical tool for those who want to sit on their knowledge and keep it for themselves and to protect their kingdom.

This is why…again…no question is a dumb question. The simplest questions often carry great power.

As organizations (like work and church) realize they need to evangelize and draw outsiders in as a matter of survival, insider language must die.

Insider language is dead!

Long live language!


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

How to Pitch a Medical Device Company #5: Be Amazed

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We had just hired a new advertising agency to help rejuvenate the brand of our chronic back pain therapy. I had been sitting in a meeting with several team members of the agency. After a couple hours where I and a few others described how the therapy worked and talked about the outcomes, the science behind it, the competition and the main messages and positioning, we broke for questions.

“Wow,” said the creative director. “That is cool. You guys are doing amazing stuff!” And between the lines that team communicated to me a kind of respect for the work our corporation had been doing.

Was this enthusiasm real or feigned? Yes. The agency had already been hired, so there was no need to pretend. And since advertising agencies typically run on enthusiasm, the comment was not unexpected.

But neither was it expected. Whether real or fake, their enthusiasm hit home. It was a refreshing meeting in a sea of corporate meetings ranging from dull to throat-slitting painful. Life in a medical device company—like most any company—can seem like slow-motion meetings followed by mad rushing to fulfill promises before the next slow-motion meeting. During that rush you forget your company does something exceptional.

I’ve sat on the other side too, where the product manager is telling details and showing outcomes. Even if they start subdued with facts and charts, their excitement grows as they talk through the story. A good creative team picks up on this excitement because it is contagious. New and possibly extraordinary things happen when every member of the team gets the contagion. But it cannot be an act: because feigned excitement is hard translate to the customer.

An amazed creative team can become a set of cheerleaders. This makes the internal champions of the product feel surrounded by allies—especially when the cheers are in the language their customers speak. But the amazement has to be real. The key is to find the amazing thing.


Image Credit: itsraininghens via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 2, 2012 at 5:00 am

How To Pitch a Medical Device Company #4: Deliver Different (Not as Easy as It Sounds)

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Dumb idea. Wait. That might work.

“Of course,” you might say. “Naturally that’s the point of asking an agency to pitch.” But wait—this is not so easily accomplished. Words and ideas in MedTech become entrenched over time. There are reasons for this, not the least of which is the organization’s internal gating system, organized entirely around the claims they’ve decided they can legally make and can support with the scientific literature and clinical trial conclusions. The gating system also includes those words that fall within the risk tolerance introduced by the legal department. That risk tolerance gets tighter and tighter over time. The internal politics of retaining control over messaging is another reason for entrenchment.

What to do? On the one hand you’ve got seasoned creative minds ready to work out the benefits in a fresh way. On the other hand, it looks like you have a limited set of pathways to follow.

Being an outsider is a huge plus. Your track record outside of MedTech is a huge advantage in the pitch. It creates a platform for you to speak from. A reason for your audience to listen. They’ll be listening for something new, but their antennae will also be up for familiar words that indicate basic levels of understanding of their problems (of which I advocate not pretending).

Brief your team on how to work within and around the framework presented. To stay entirely inside the framework is the curse of living within an organization and heeding the internal rules. But that is not your arena. Knowing all you can about the target audience may help you turn a perceptual problem into an opportunity. One assignment I gave an agency was to turn a therapy largely perceived by spine surgeons as a joke and unproven into a viable option. We had the science behind us and knew how far we could go with the claims. The agency’s resulting concept was a hard sell internally but eventually made it through. The concept shocked the journals so much they initially refused to run it. Know the framework, but as a springboard not a straightjacket.

Don’t forget to play dumb. Being an outsider helps because you can do stuff an insider would know not to do. In fact, this is exactly where you do your best work. And isn’t that how the creative process works—eventually you stumble onto the right thing.

Courage! In the end, doesn’t it always come down to belief in the thing you are presenting? Help them see why it is such a great idea—but you know that. That is where you excel.


Image Credit: Bertrall O. via OBI Scrapbook Blog

Written by kirkistan

June 18, 2012 at 5:00 am

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