The ABC’s of Marketing: Ask, Build, Connect


Let’s not forget this is a two-way street. The best communication is built on a continuing process of feedback and refinement

By Asher Cameron, VP of Account Services for Infuse Medical


In all the conversation out there about new media, let’s not get confused about the difference between digital marketing and marketing digital. It’s very easy to be so enthralled by technology that we fall into the trap of not doing digital marketing but marketing digital. By which I mean marketing a digital solution, pushing a tool or application out because it’s cool and it’s neat and high-tech versus that which meets our marketing and sales objectives, focusing on the marketing plans and training objectives and matching those objectives with the best option digitally.

There are three basic steps to creating successful marketing tools:

• Ask the right questions of the right people,

• Build something based on their input, and

• Connect with them continually to find out what refinements are needed


One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career was assuming I knew what the sales force needed. And sometimes it was offensive to me when I’d go to a national sales meeting and I’d show them, “Here’s my launch packet, or a tool I’ve developed, and I put in my blood, sweat and tears to create this,” and the sales reps would say, “Hey, Asher, this is great, but there are just a few other things we need,” or “This is not exactly what we wanted.”

The determination of whether a tool is effective is not the toolmaker but the tool user. So even though you’ve got a very large budget and you’ve got a lot of tools out there, it’s very important for you to understand the tool user, and that’s the sales rep. Traveling with the sales reps and understanding those sales calls, working with sales advisory board. Don’t just work with the top reps. Work with some reps who are struggling as well. Get their feedback.

I think when that happens the training becomes a lot easier because it becomes intuitive and the sales reps can see, “Hey, this is a much effective way of doing what I’m already doing,” versus, “You gave me a tool that’s forcing me to do something completely different.”

The determination of whether a tool is effective is not the toolmaker but the tool user.

We come across a lot of companies that say, “Listen, I don’t have that marketing budget, and where do I even begin with this whole thing?” Or “I’m getting pressure here from the sales force or from my boss: what are we doing in this whole digital marketing space and should we be getting iPad to the sales force? What should we be doing here?’”

First of all, don’t be intimidated by what anybody else is doing out there because this is all about your marketing plan and what you need to do to meet your objectives. What may make sense for one company may not make sense for another.

Don’t feel pressure that just because other people have spent a lot of money in building out these tools that you need to do all that. It’s very easy to start small by going back to this notion of, “Okay, what are my key marketing objectives? What do I need to do?”

One of the questions to ask is, “How are you currently distributing information to your sales force?” Again, that’s not a digital marketing question. That’s a marketing question. And typically that question spawns a good conversation. “Well, I’m getting PDFs and brochures and I’m emailing that,” or maybe “I have an internal portal that I’m updating…and actually, to be honest with you, I’m really not updating it and marketing never updates it, and the sales force is supposed to log into it and they never log into it. So nobody ever updates. So really, we just email out stuff or we have binders of information or whatever we do, we get it out there, but it’s not the most effective way.”

Start right there with that marketing objective: let’s evaluate how we’re delivering our message to the field, how we’re utilizing our sales channel. Is there a more effective way for us to get information to them in the field? Let’s figure out the best way to do that. What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing? Is it sales productivity? Is it getting your information out to the field? Is it clinician training? What is that objective? Let’s start with that. And that really is going to be the best first step in terms of evaluating the best digital marketing option to go with.


Whatever technology may come out ten years from now is not going to change marketing. We still have the same core marketing objectives, it’s just we have a lot more effective tools now digitally to achieve those objectives, and so I feel it’s important to continually focus on the marketing plan rather than on the digital.

There are six major categories of digital marketing options out there.

Interactive sales tools are any type of sales tool that you’re producing for a mobile base or mobile sales force that would enable them to better display features and benefits and differentiate their product against the competition. Previously these were print brochures, or a PC module on a laptop. Now with the introduction of the iPad there are highly interactive sales tools that support and enable the sales reps in a very compelling way when they’ve got 90 seconds at the scrubs sink outside of the OR to grab the surgeon and get out the key value proposition.

Mobile management, everything from using AirWatch and MobileIron from a device management standpoint, to app stores, enterprise brand app stores for app distribution as well as content management on mobile devices.

Immersive interactive is the development of surgical simulations, virtual procedures and product simulations for the Nintendo, Wii and Microsoft Kinect. These are technologies that enable a much more immersive training and learning environment for clinicians, for sales reps.

These six areas really should be viewed as an integrated whole from a marketing standpoint, not only from just a practical standpoint but also from a cost standpoint, to make sure that we’re leveraging the content that we’re creating across the different platforms.

Medical education is training reps and clinicians. Everything from learning management systems to other web-based tools, mobile tools. There is an entirely new platform for learning management systems now, called Tin Can, which is going to provide a much more interactive way to deliver learning management as well as get metrics out of that interaction with that content. Technology visualization is traditionally 3D animation, but there are other ways as well now through video, through motion graphics, anything visual, technology that enables somebody to watch and visualize anatomy. There are virtual reality glasses. Many times, in particular when you have a procedure that’s happening internally, you need to be able to zoom in very closely to something that’s happening, being able to control what the viewer is seeing, the entire experience, down into its microscopic or even molecular level.

Web and email. Twitter and email and website didn’t create communication. We’ve been communicating for a long time now, but these technologies enable us to form communities and to deliver messages and manage conversations with communities of not only sales reps and not only internally now but with physicians and even with patients.

These six areas really should be viewed as an integrated whole from a marketing standpoint, not only from just a practical standpoint but also from a cost standpoint, to make sure that we’re leveraging the content that we’re creating across the different platforms.


Looking at just the iPad applications, we found four common categories of elements that we’ve seen to be very effective.

Dynamic content management, which is really the foundation. What that means is an ability for an administrator, such as someone in marketing, to be able to push or deploy content dynamically that syncs with the sales of iPad apps. We have what’s called our Ether Dynamic Configuration Platform or Ether DCP. It’s a mobile platform that enables an administrator to log into a web-based system, upload content into the system, and that content then dynamically and wirelessly syncs over the air with all the sales reps’ iPad apps. That’s been critical because the sales reps need the information now. They don’t want to have to call marketing or track down the email that was sent out three weeks ago. They want the latest information and they want it at their fingertips.

Sales presentation tools. What we heard from sales reps is, “Hey, it’s great. I absolutely need to be able to have my PDF and my videos and my documents and other dynamic content sync with the iPad, but I also need the presentation tools. I need this to really be a tool to help me sell. If I’ve got that 90 seconds at the scrub sink outside the OR with the surgeon, I need to be able to quickly get out my key message, my key value proposition.” So our sales presentation tools can visually show features and benefits, visually show a competitive comparison, engage the physician, surgeon or clinician and be able to display that information.Not only does it help the sales reps to deliver their message but it also helps to ensure from a marketing standpoint that we as marketers are delivering a much more consistent message in the field. We’re not as reliant upon the top sales reps and their ability to retain information, their skill set versus the bottom reps who don’t really get it or are really struggling with training them. The tool enables the sales force to be much more consistent in how they’re presenting message to our clinician customers.

Sales productivity. This gets back to making sure that we really understand the sales call of our field-based sales reps, understand the channels that we’re using to sell and really understand what are some of the administrative tasks that they’re doing that are taking a lot of time. If our reps are trying to configure a product for a customer, they bring up a massive, clunky spreadsheet with Vlookups and multiple drop-down menus that was built by some wiz in marketing. It doesn’t provide the best user experience in terms of presentation. Is there a way for us to streamline some of these processes and develop tools that really enable the sales reps to sell much more effectively? There are many tools that we’ve been involved with, things like dynamic database with references, being able to reference product codes, reimbursement codes, configure products, do product configurations and send those quotes in a PDF to customer service. All of those types of productivity tools make the sales rep much more effective.

Training. Sales reps are busy. Many times training is done through a learning management system that’s web-based, and so a sales rep needs to go home at night and at six o’clock with kids running around and the dogs barking they’re trying to take a learning management module versus being able to deploy training on the iPad. So in the 15 minutes available between cases a sales rep could get into the iPad and get into that learning management module, but not need an Internet connection. They should be able to take it offline, complete the course, and then when the iPad gets an Internet connection the course then syncs with the learning management system and you still have visibility of all those metrics.


Finally, you want to stay in touch with all the relevant players – reps, docs, patients – so you get the feedback to continually refine both your messaging and your platform strategy.

Recently we developed an entire physician interviewer algorithm with a client that a sales rep could use in a very consultative sell to say, “Okay, I’m going to walk through this interview with you now, doctor. Tell me what you’re currently using.” And “Based on what you’re currently using, have you seen this technology?” And it really was an algorithm that mimicked exactly what they wanted to do. To me it was a great example of marketing, not just digital marketing but a great example of marketing, providing a tool matched up exactly with how they want their sales reps to sell.

When that is done, then training becomes very easy, so when you go to the national sales meeting or have the webinar and deploy the tool to the sales reps, the 45 minutes or an hour you’re spending with the sales reps walking through the tool, they get it right away because it mimics their existing sales call and sales process.

Physicians are saying, “Listen, I’m almost an extension of your company here as your prescriber, so I want much more information. I want other ways for me to educate myself on your device, and then be able to educate my patients.”

Something that really jumped out at me was what I saw Manhattan Research present last year at the digital marketing conference. The number one request from physicians of medical device companies is to have more information on the medical devices that they are prescribing for their patients, more tools, more ways for them to present to a patient, resources that the patient can access regarding why the physician is using this device and why this probably is going to be of benefit to the patient. We’re starting to form a community now, becoming this one big connected network where patients are asking for much more information, “Hey, what is this thing implanted in my body? And I want to share my experience with other patients and I want kind of a forum or I want a community here where I could talk about it.” And physicians are saying, “Listen, I’m almost an extension of your company here as your prescriber, so I need the tools to better help convey the benefits of this product to patients. I want much more information. I want to be able to go to your website. I want mobile tools. I want other ways for me to educate myself on your device, and then be able to educate my patients.”


Asking, building and connecting will get you to the right place: digital marketing (along with all your traditional marketing), not just marketing digital. •

Asher Cameron is VP of Sales and Marketing for Infuse Medical, a comprehensive digital agency. Prior to joining Infuse he spent nearly 10 years in senior marketing roles at Hill-Rom, Medtronic, and C.R. Bard. Asher has led the development and launch of over $200 million in new medical devices and has managed over $600 million in medical device product lines. While at C.R. Bard, Asher launched several digital marketing initiatives involving mobile applications, interactive training modules, and web-based tools.


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