Article originally published at MedCityNews (link to article)
Sleep apnea device company’s big lesson on marketing to patients: Make them feel cool
by Lindsey Alexander
With the drive to value from volume, medical device companies need to start focusing on how to effectively market to patients, their newest customers. Human Design Medical, the company that just launched the smallest, lightest CPAP machine on the market, has done extremely smart marketing for its smart product.
When reading about it, I could envision a perfect customer immediately, several people in particular sprang to mind. I actually called them to tell them to look into the device to see if it fit their needs. I look at dozens of innovative devices a week. I hardly ever encourage friends and family to look into them. While some might scoff–She’s a writer, not a doctor–and I’d tend to agree, this is how sales are made and a great reputation is born. Even in 2013, you can’t beat word-of-mouth.
Here are three lessons medical device manufacturers who will be selling directly to patients should take from HDM’s smart Z1 launch:
1) Unlike what many headlines would have you believe, not all obese patients are the same. You’re going to need to narrow your audience.
While many sleep apnea patients may benefit from the company’s Z1 CPAP, HDM focuses on the jetset patient: business people, flying from airport to airport. This audience wants to make it quickly through airport security. They want to be able to sleep soundly on an international flight
2) No one wants to think of themselves as obese.
This isn’t all about weight. Everyone’s definition of beauty is different. It’s about medicalization. When a medical device is as integrated into a patient’s life as a CPAP, used at least a third of the day, it needs to fit well into the patient’s lifestyle. It also doesn’t need to scream disease or condition at it every time they look at it.
Browse HDM’s website. Obesity isn’t mentioned once as far as I can tell. (Sleep apnea is not just a condition obese patients may suffer from, but many sleep apnea patients are obese.)
Rather they focus on its cool design features and portability. Rather than stereotypical marketing art of patients (?) sitting awkwardly in rocking chairs or playing baseball, the images are of the device in front of settings a CPAP normally wouldn’t cut it. This allows it to appeal to both the great outdoorsman, the city slicker businessman and those who just aspire to be. (Plus, of course, those who keep telling themselves they’d take a trip only if a device fit their needs.)
Medical device manufacturers need to focus on helping to create the dream life–rather than minimal quality of life–and do it in every part of branding.
3) At their best, devices shouldn’t be indicators of illness, but cool conversation pieces.
Aside from convenience, the device is designed to fit into a patient’s life. At the airport, he’s not going to get harassed in the security check, reminded of his condition. In fact, it looks sort of. . . cool.
Check out this blog post from user and SVP of Sales and Marketing Steve Moore, who talks about what people think the device is. (Hint, they don’t think it’s a medical device.)
Bottom line: Of course, the first step is to have an excellent, necessary device. From that point on, the marketing begins. And good marketing begins with good product design.
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