How much is this new model changing the landscape for sales and marketing teams who sell into hospitals, physicians groups, laboratories, and research facilities? In a word: completely. The reason for this total transformation is that there is an entirely new (and better) level of involvement that is facilitated by these touch-screen devices, and it allows for better decision-making by the buyers, and more successful communications for the sellers. This revolution is not powered entirely by the electronic devices, however; it is truly driven by the sales and marketing applications that are enabled because of these devices.
A series of research studies has shown that when physicians were presented with marketing and sales materials on an iPad, their level of interest and satisfaction with the sales encounter did not increase materially over a more traditional “pitch.” When the physicians interacted with the iPad themselves, however, their degree of interest and satisfaction increased by as much as 75 percent. What made this difference in success possible? In this case, the physicians (customers) were actually using the device and the application — they were active participants in the process, rather than being simply listeners to a sales presentation.
All participants in the process of evaluating and selecting medical devices, whether they are physicians, technicians, nurses, lab technicians, or even purchasing or IT department staff, have a heightened expectation of their role in the buying process. Because they have become so used to actively controlling their own experiences as consumers, they have now brought that level of expectation to their professional domains. This is a crystal-clear opportunity for the suppliers to raise the effectiveness of their sales and marketing. However, it requires a new perspective that involved customer engagement.
In order to successfully exploit these new digital solutions, the sales and marketing content on these touch-devices can’t be the same slide presentations, videos, and PDF files used before. What is required is the dissemination of interactive applications (apps) that allow for each user to explore the vendor’s solution in whatever sequence they prefer, to whatever degree of detail is relevant to them, and at whatever pace is appropriate for them. This means that each customer encounter is a highly personalized experience, delivering a consistent message but in a very specific and meaningful manner. This is truly an opportunity for companies to create an effective user engagement with each constituent in the purchasing process. For the physician, their focus could be on quality of the results and improved patient outcomes, for the technician the emphasis may be on workflow and ease-of-use of the equipment, and for the CFO it may be how the overall cost of ownership is reduced. For every user, because they are driving the interaction themselves, they are able to explore their areas of interest, making the interactive selling experience efficient and effective.
The availability of interactive digital applications on mobile platforms is also an opportunity for marketers and sales people to deliver a much more compelling articulation of their value proposition and competitive differentiation. This is possible because of the visual interactive nature of new applications technologies for these platforms. Fully interactive, photo-realistic real-time 3-D products can be explored by each of the customers, replacing the need to see every physical product (particularly for large product portfolios or when numerous versions of products cannot all be made available). Interactive, immersive storytelling applications can also be included, to explain how the company’s products are used to deliver improved outcomes for each constituent (e.g. improved image quality, reduced patient wait times, lower energy costs, etc.).
To make an application truly interactive, it needs to be able to engage the user on three levels:
1. Multi-sensory: By engaging more than one of the senses at a time (e.g. tactile and visual), brain activity is increased, and this improves memory and knowledge retention;
2. Emotional: By developing some emotional connection to the user (e.g. fun, excitement, etc.), a greater degree of interest, brand connection, and recall is established;
3. Intellectual: When an application includes the sharing/transfer of useful and relevant information, a conversation results, one that is characterized as a dialogue with knowledge transfer.
Another transformational aspect of the digital interactive experience is that these kinds of customer engagements can occur anywhere, and are not limited to sales meetings. Customers can engage with these applications online (browsing the vendor’s website in their office or home) or at a trade show or professional meeting (on large interactive touch screen devices). This allows for a continuing dialogue and interaction, even after the face-to-face meeting, further increasing the effectiveness of the process. Because these engagements transcend the single sales meeting, marketers now have the opportunity to update and expand the interactive applications over time, keeping them up to date with new product information and relevant to the users.
This new engagement capability could not come at a more opportune time. With regulatory constraints, increased workloads, and more competition, face time with prospects has been virtually eliminated. Capturing and focusing the prospects’ attention, and using the precious few moments granted for a meeting in the most effective way, are now imperatives that drive the success of all sales encounters. With mobile interactive applications, the customer participates actively in the process to clearly understand the value of the solution and how it meets their specific needs. Through this active participation, knowledge acquisition and retention is increased. Consequently, everyone in the purchasing ecosystem has the most accurate and useful information available in order to make informed buying decisions.
The days of showing ineffective slide presentations, videos and data sheets are over. Welcome to the new life line of mobile engagement for medical marketing.
Editor's note: Gavin A. Finn, Ph.D., is president and chief executive officer of Kaon Interactive, a provider of interactive 3-D product marketing and sales applications that help B2B marketers and salespeople consistently demonstrate and differentiate products anywhere, anytime, on any device. For more information, visit www.kaon.com.