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    Marketing a new device

     

    To Bundle or To Unbundle?

    Dr. ColemanBundling marketing services with devices appears to be a trend, according to Metairie, La., dermatologist W. Patrick Coleman, IV, M.D.

    “Every company that I have purchased from offers some level of marketing support,” Dr. Coleman says.

    But rather than opt in, Dr. Coleman says he opts out of the marketing offers.

    “I'd rather pay less and market myself, but I am in an established practice,” Dr. Coleman says. “I'm more interested in capital cost reduction and longer warranties. Many of these marketing perks are free or may be silently built into the purchased price. Ulthera for instance has a website that patients can connect with practices that have their devices. Many device sales representatives also offer an open house format or a dinner to help promote their device.”

    Ms. GrantNina Grant, vice president, of the healthcare practice marketing firm Practice Builders, says bundling marketing services in device sales makes sense from the manufacturers’ perspective.

    “They have struggled for years with trying to sell technology to healthcare practices who are very often skeptical that purchasing that technology will not end up gathering dust in a corner. Because doctors are not born marketers and they’ve made a lot of silly purchases over the years, there’s a lot of lament out there,” Ms. Grant says.

    Some manufacturers have created in-house ad agencies for the task; others strike deals with companies like Practice Builders or eRelevance to provide marketing support. In some cases, the cost of marketing is added into the cost of the equipment, or it may be charged separately. Practice Builders, according to Ms. Grant, takes a different approach with its manufacturer alliances.

    “The way that I structure the alliances is I provide free services. That way, the cost of the technology does not increase. The doctor has an opportunity to kick the tires on the solution with the complementary evaluations and consultations. And the device company has a potential solution without having to ratchet up the price,” she says.

    For practices thinking about using a manufacturer’s marketing service, however, it’s important to make sure that the service involves marketing their practices, not the device’s brand.

    Although convenient, Ms. Grant says opting in for the marketing alliance isn’t always in the practice’s best interest.

    “To an astute healthcare practitioner who is thinking about buying the technology, the smartest thing that they can do is to ask the manufacturer to unbundle the offer,” Ms. Grant says. “Then they can go and see if the solution makes sense and shop it on their own.”

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has written about health care, the science and business of medicine, fitness and wellness ...

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