One of the biggest myths some medical companies fall prey to was the theme for the movie, “Field of Dreams.” Namely, “if you build it, they will come.” That message worked great for Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ray Kinsella. But in the medical products commercialization world, just “building it” is not sufficient. In my experience, the right message is just as important as having the right product. So how can you develop more impactful messaging? Let’s look at some principles that can help you develop better messaging for your medical product.

Grounded in the customer

Probably the most important principle is to ensure that your message reflects customer beliefs. Now this may seem obvious, and most companies think they do this. But the process they take is wrong. Marketing personnel dream up messages, then run them past managers or sales reps, thinking this captures the voice of the customer. Unfortunately, terms marketing think are good can conjure negative customer perceptions. Or, benefits we’re sure will drive the sale are considered optional. If your product message is being developed without customer validation, you may not identify the compelling message for which you’re looking.

How can you be sure your message is effective for your customers? Ask them. In this digital age, many firms post different messages on Internet ads and use response rates to identify the best messages. However, given the adage you only have one chance to make a first impression, I worry that this approach could turn off potential customers. I prefer to run focus groups because customers recognize the forum is experimental, so there’s no lasting impact on the purchase decision. Plus, focus groups allow me to obtain direct feedback and delve more deeply to understand customer perspective. This is especially important when their response doesn’t make sense at first. Some of my best messages were based upon a customer response which didn’t make sense initially, but after investigation caused me to better understand their perspective; and develop a compelling message that fit.

Clinically validated

Ensuring that the message is based on clinically validated data is an approach all medical product marketeers know they need to take (who of us want the FDA warnings). But I find that many marketing folks do not understand the clinical impact of their product sufficiently to develop the most meaningful message. While they tailor the product benefits to match its primary clinical impact, they ignore the clinical nuances that their audience already understands. In striving for brevity, marketeers fail to provide enough convincing detail. Since our clinical customers understand the clinical implications of our new technology better than us, this messaging treatment creates clinical objections that the sales team is unable to overcome.

The best way to create better clinical messages is to take the time up front to study the pathology of the condition your product solves. The easiest way is to discuss this with the R&D team, the clinical team or the company’s scientific advisory group. The latter group, in particular, should be able to help you understand their initial clinical concerns and how the data convinced them to support the product, which gives you the insights for developing better clinical messaging.

Messaging needs to be different

One thing you can count on when marketing your medical product is that your customer receives A LOT of product messages. Most come from your competition; some from other clinicians; even some messages from Internet sites that have not been properly vetted. If marketing develops a message without regard to the messages overwhelming the customer, the company risks having its message lost under the volume of information to which its customer is exposed.

Because of this, I often start by examining competitive messaging, seeking to determine your product’s benefits that differentiate. In a recent engagement for a small distribution company that was going against the distribution behemoths, I discovered several attractive company services that none of the large companies promoted. Basing the campaign on these benefits we were able to create memorable terminology that differentiated us from the competition.

Applying these concepts to your product messaging will help improve its ability to drive customers to purchase your product or service.