Shifting Away from the 4 P’s of Marketing

The 4 P’s of Product, Place, Price, and Promotion have been the mainstays of classical marketing taught to a generation of business school graduates—not to mention the traditional approach used to market medical devices. But, in the rapidly evolving world of medical devices, we can no longer rely on this traditional approach. Instead, I would like to suggest a recent re-make of the concept: SAVE—Solution, Access, Value, and Education as described by Richard Ettenson and colleagues in Rethinking the 4 P’s (Harvard Business Review, January-February 2013). The SAVE framework, pioneered by Motorola Solutions, shifts the emphasis away from company and product and towards the specific needs of the customer. In other words, that extends from product to solution, from place to access, from price to value, and from promotion to education. Let’s see how each of these four “new P’s” align with the marketing of medical devices.

1. Solution

Solution selling has been a hot topic for more than a decade, but medical device companies tend to fall back on features and benefits when promoting their products. As medical device marketers and salespeople, we need to shift to a more customer-centric mindset. We need to understand the real needs physicians have and then focus on offering them the products that best meet those needs. While we can still highlight certain features and benefits of the product, our success comes from starting—not with the feature and benefit—but with demonstrating how our products provide real solutions for our customers.

2. Access

The traditional “place” in marketing of medical devices has focused on the surgeon and the hospital operating room. With the shift in healthcare toward an emphasis on the continuum of care and consideration for the entire patient-care journey, we need to look beyond these traditional places of promotion. Today, we need to engage stakeholders throughout the care continuum from initial diagnosis, through the surgical episode, and finally during the post-op phase. We need to not only understand this process, but also show how our products will benefit the patient through the entire journey.

3. Value

Most recognize that selling on price is an antiquated concept. Price transparency is readily available to hospitals, and physicians are themselves becoming ever more sensitive to the price of medical devices. Value is the name of the game today. Hospitals, physicians, patients, and payers want to see value in terms of both the short- and long-term benefits of the device. For example, articulating how your device decreases operative time or has a demonstrably lower re-operation rate translates to a real economic impact to the hospital and payer.

4. Education

As marketers, we get excited by our glossy ads, catchy slogans, and other promotional pieces. The reality today is that physicians are inundated with promotional materials. From traditional print materials, to email, blogs and tweets, your message can be lost in the mix, or worse, discounted as marketing spin. Instead, medical device marketers should focus on what is important to the physician’s education. We should shift to a customized approach to educating physicians as well as patients and other stakeholders on how our products provide value and solve true clinical challenges. By providing outcomes evidence and data on our products, we are no longer promoting in the traditional sense but educating physicians on why our solution is best for their patients.

While the SAVE framework is a spin-off of the 4 P’s framework, the difference in emphasis fits well in the marketing of medical devices. A concerted effort to focus on the needs of and benefits to the physician and patient should be at the heart of everything we do in the medical device industry. The SAVE framework can help you achieve that goal.


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