I had the pleasure of facilitating a panel this week at The Medtech Conference, put on by Advamed. We discussed how more empowered marketing teams can drive success for medtech companies. Many thanks to our esteemed medtech marketing panelists: George Parr (CMO of Becton Dickinson), Rob Clark (chief communications officer of Medtronic), Randy Pritchard (senior vice president of marketing at Roche Diagnostics) and Rajit Kamal (vice president, global franchise leader of knees at Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices).


In the panel, we explored three main trends and what they mean for the role of marketing in medtech organizations:


1. The customer has evolved, but we haven’t necessarily caught up. In the past, product preference was driven entirely by the clinician. In most categories, this is no longer the case, with the administrator having a growing influence or being the overall decision-maker. While in many cases medtech commercial organizations have evolved their go-to-market models to go beyond the clinician and address the administrator, this isn’t the case everywhere, especially in companies that are used to differentiating on product innovation. However, the consensus is that the product development engine has been slow to catch up with this market reality. Most innovation is focused on making products more feature-rich and more impactful, which usually brings along a higher price tag. However, success in the future will be driven by bringing value to the customer overall, not just the clinician. Now, more than ever, a crisp definition of and insight into the customer (beyond the clinician) needs to work its way throughout the fabric of the company, from upstream in product development all the way through commercial execution.

2. New innovations are requiring different capabilities. As companies expand into different areas, such as having software in the portfolio, this leads to the need for new capabilities in the organization: How do you monetize a software business in a legacy medical device business? How do you bring a software product to market? How do you price it? Sell it? Addressing these questions well will likely lead to new business processes, tools and skills being needed. Marketing can lead the definition and implementation of the broader value proposition and how to bring it to life (product plus services).


3. New channels to reach customers are available, especially when engaging with patients. In the past, the sales rep was the only channel to deliver your message to the customer. Now the “share of voice” represented by sales reps is much less than the 100% it used to be, and customers get information from many sources (such as company-sponsored emails, websites, advertising and non-company-sponsored sources online). If you aren’t out there controlling the message about your products or the customer needs you’re trying to address, then who is? More broadly, the influence of the patient is increasing across many categories, even in areas like orthopedics, and engaging in a direct-to-consumer mindset is a brand-new area for many medtech companies. Marketing can lead the evolution from the sales rep being the only channel to reach the customer to the sales rep being one of many channels to reach the customer.


All of the panelists agreed that these changes won’t happen overnight. Empowering marketing to lead the organization in these ways will be a paradigm shift in most medtech companies that have a heritage built around sales and R&D. Focusing on key priorities and demonstrating business impact there will be key.


And the paradigm shift isn’t only at the company level. It’s also within the marketing organization. Marketers need to aspire to be excellent at marketing vs. excellent at the product. Having a marketing skill set and toolbox with approaches and benchmarks to pull from will not only enable the role of marketing to evolve but also allow marketers to drive a broader career path both inside the function and more broadly in the organization.