The following article is provided by Joe Hage, CEO and Founder of Medical Marcom.

Persuasion is a job requirement if you’re in medical device marketing, distribution, and sales, so you’re probably pretty good at it. But are you as persuasive as you can be?

Probably not. Best-selling author Robert Cialdini has “50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.” His book is easy-to-read and highly enjoyable. Read on for how it applies to medical device marketing and sales.

How can inconveniencing your audience increase your persuasiveness?
“Operators are waiting, please call now” makes it sound as though there is low demand and your expensive staff is just sitting around. “If operators are busy, please call again” is less convenient, but suggests social proof (lots of people like you are calling). If you get an operator on the phone, take advantage of it with an order!

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: The folks at Tektronix rank well for the search engine result “oscilloscope.” They might consider a written or video testimonial of a satisfied customer on the landing page. Perhaps an in-use photograph showing a positive physician/patient interaction.

What shifts the bandwagon effect into another gear?
Hotel guests who learn the “majority of guests” reuse towels are more likely to reuse. Guests who learn the rate of reuse among those in that room are even more likely to reuse.

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: The web improvements described above will help convey social proof, a powerful motivator. Even more effective for a one-on-one sales call would be a story about one of the dozen local doctors happy with their Tektronix oscilloscopes today.

What common mistake causes messages to self-destruct?
A campaign using negative social proof to discourage a behavior is a mistake. For example, “This year Americans will produce more litter and pollution than ever before” may focus the audience on the prevalence, rather than the undesirability, of the behavior.

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: A few years back, Braun ran an ad saying, “This won’t hurt a bit.” It featured a man smirking in disbelief and holding a huge needle. The subhead read, “And neither will the commissions on our Peripheral Nerve Block products.”

At a glance, I saw a picture of a rep NOT believing the claim. Perhaps a better approach would have been, “Braun made it easy for me to double my commissions on anesthesia products” with associated imagery and supporting claims. The ad also lacked a web destination for more information (where more positive messaging would reinforce the proposition).

When does offering people more make them want less?
Offer too many 401K investment choices to employees and they’ll procrastinate making any choice. And consumer products manufacturer Proctor & Gamble experienced a 10 percent jump in sales when it reduced Head & Shoulders SKUs from 26 to 15.

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: Give your product portfolio a careful look and weed out under-performing SKUs. For most medical device categories, three or so choices are all a typical medical device distributor can reasonably represent – and two of the choices will be your competitors’. Focus on your best SKUs. Distributors will appreciate it and you may realize an increase in sales.

When does a bonus become an onus?
Social scientists showed a free pearl bracelet with purchase of duty-free liquor. They asked consumers, “What is the value of the necklace?” Consumers valued the necklace for 35 percent less than those who were shown the necklace by itself.

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: If you are giving away a free electrode applicator with purchase of a new stress system, be sure to indicate the dollar value of the applicator alone.

How can a new superior product mean more sales of an inferior one?
Williams-Sonoma introduced a far superior bread-making machine. Sales of the inferior device doubled. Why?

Because Williams-Sonoma’s implicit question to shoppers changed from “Do you need a bread-making machine?” to “Which bread-making machine do you want?” The superior one was an extravagant choice. No, the inferior product would suffice.

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: Don’t be discouraged if your top-of-the-line product under-performs the more modest version. If you discontinue it, physicians may consider the next-best model the “extravagant one” and work their way down to a lesser model.

Does fear persuade or does it paralyze?
When a fear-producing message describes danger but not a clear, effective means of reducing the danger, audiences “block out” or deny the message.

Implication for medical device marketing and sales: Reminding health care providers, payers, software vendors, and clearinghouses/third-party billers Version 4010 claims are no longer accepted come January 1, 2012 induces fear. Giving them a precise, easy-to-follow timetable (using your services) will be much more effective.

Joe Hage is the CEO and Founder of Medical Marcom, a medical marketing consultancy providing effective lead generation strategies for life science companies.

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