This is the second post in a two-part series on insights from ZS’s panel discussion at AdvaMed.


As marketing starts to take center stage in medtech, companies need more than just a change in mindset. To build an empowered marketing team—one that helps increase customer relevance and drive competitive differentiation—companies need to make the right shifts in process and structure to support it.


During a panel discussion at the recent AdvaMed conference, ZS principal Matt Singer sat down with four industry leaders to discuss how medtech companies can evolve to support marketing’s new role: George Parr, chief marketing officer at BD; Rob Clark, chief communications officer for Medtronic; Randy Pritchard, senior vice president of marketing for U.S. diagnostics at Roche; and Rajit Kamal, global franchise leader for Johnson & Johnson’s knee replacement business.

Rajit Kamal: The emerging customer, our patients, is one segment that we never engaged. The knee replacement business is one of the most elective orthopedic procedures. Patients have all the time in the world to research. Patients are engaged and informed, and it’s important for us to engage with them, so we need to understand digital marketing, social media and search optimization. Those are new to us. Those capabilities are going to become more important. Patients are going to play a more active role in their healthcare because they’re also paying more out of pocket.


George Parr: To build on that, if you look at our company and our operating segments, we have very different business models across the company. We have the capital businesses, we have the physician preference items, and then we have the more traditional med devices. I can tell you that this evolving role for marketing is business-model-agnostic. If marketing is going to be thought of as a strategic growth driver, the question becomes how you take ownership of that growth agenda. Increasing complexity in the buyer’s journey is in every single business. Just a month ago, I was out at an IDN and within that customer visit, you had pharmacy, nursing, procurement, IT, and people from the hospital and the IDN, and then different levels within each of those groups. You have to be able to navigate a much more complex buying process than ever before.


Randy Pritchard: In the lab business, you’re talking multimillions in capital investment by the customer before you start having a dialogue around anything else. And our landscape has been changing for a while. It used to be that the lab director had his budget, could make the decision and it was done. Now, a lot of times, we’re serving several stakeholder groups, which can be so different from each other The work you do to understand your customer landscape is dramatically different than when you had single decision makers. The channels you use, the language you use and the buying criteria differs. You don’t have just one sales funnel for any one sale.

GP: We can all appreciate that there’s no optimal structure, that every structure has inherent limitations. At BD, having the CMO on the executive leadership team report to the CEO was about signaling that the company saw a role for marketing in its future and was expecting a certain performance standard of the marketing practice. More importantly, that’s how the company [prioritized] the customer and customer outcomes and made sure that was at the forefront of the company’s growth strategy.


RC: There’s an infrastructure and capability component of modern marketing that is agnostic to the customer experience you’re trying to create. Digital ad buying is still digital ad buying, but I don't need to have that across every business unit. I can centralize that or I can do it regionally. There are some companies that organize the marketing back office accordingly and put those types of elements under a CMO. What are those common platforms that we all need as marketers, and how do we make sure those get funded and developed within the company? That is more the model at Medtronic—[we] centralize or standardize some common marketing infrastructure needs but let the core marketing happen in the businesses, with their unique needs. There may be a day when we want to bring that governance more directly in line with a CMO model, but we’re not there yet.


RP: We went through an exercise a year ago to look at how we do business, and we saw we were very traditional. We’ve gone to a model we call “One Roche.” You have product expertise within the franchises, but you also build cross-functional skill sets. Roche is a very matrixed organization. We get core messaging from global, but at the local level, we have the freedom to do what we need to deliver the results we’ve committed to.


RK: There are pros and cons of every structure. The critical point is governance. It’s important in a big company to have clarity and discipline on who makes decisions, who has input. Irrespective of the structure, you have to make sure you have the right processes in place to drive global consistency.

GP: The simple answer is no, the organization is not ready. At BD today, there is a shared view of how we think about marketing as a company. We have a common curriculum that we use to train and develop marketers across the world. A standard has been established to [share] the capabilities, processes, systems and tools that we need to deliver a certain level of marketing, performance and marketing impact for the company. We are putting the capabilities we do have towards more significant challenges or opportunities we have as a company while attempting to bring the rest of the organization up to where the vision is.


RC: There’s no one solution for us by virtue of the size, scale and complexity of what we do across our companies. The focus has to be on the human and technological capabilities, the data sources and insights from inside and outside of the company. We want to make sure that marketers have the right system, tools and platform to orchestrate multichannel and omnichannel approaches in their markets.


RK: The capabilities required to be a successful marketing professional have changed because the job that you do has changed. You can train people internally, which we are doing, but we’re also bringing in new talent. We have been able to bring in some talent from our consumer division to come to orthopedics, and they bring to the team a different perspective and the consumer marketing capability that we need. Today we are trying to bring in the right talent from outside or within J&J to be able to fill those capability gaps. As leaders, it’s our job to make sure we create an environment that attracts and retains that talent. I don’t think we are fully there yet. 


GP: The industry is going to have to import these capabilities from other industries, where they are more readily available. I think it’s also going to help accelerate and foster the development that we’re attempting to do organically. The challenge will be twofold: To what extent can the companies provide an environment for those people to be successful, and do they have the leadership and management profile to enter a new industry successfully?

GP: In other industries, most people pursue a career in marketing because it’s a track to a general manager or P&L role. Medtech’s ability to provide that type of career path is going to be critical to attracting the skill sets that we’ve been describing. Some are going to want a purely functional career path, but most high performers want a pathway to running something. I don’t think the industry looks at marketing as a feeder source, but I don't blame the organizations because of the role that marketing has played historically. That’s a paradigm shift.


RC: What we’re trying to do is flip the paradigm that marketing is solely a part-time stop for an engineer or for a salesperson on their way to becoming a general manager. We are working to have more clearly defined professional marketing tracks. What are the roles that make sense for that person? What is the professional track that takes a marketer as far as they want to go? At the same time, we’re also trying to have consistency. Today, when a marketer leaves one side of the business and goes over to another side, it’s like they joined another company. We’re trying to look at all of that collectively so that we have a track for a marketer to build their career and to do it consistently throughout the organization.


Be sure to read the first part of this panel discussion.