Big Data Is Coming To Medical Device Marketing and Sales

big-data-infographWhile you might be sick of Amazon telling you that customers who bought product X also often bought product Y, Amazon knows what sells more products. I’ve used the same technique in medical device markets. Last year I wrote about medical device market segmentation using procedure data – finding prospects for your procedure X based on customers who perform procedure Y. Why target interventional cardiology as a whole, or so-called “early adopter interventional cardiologists,” or community hospitals versus academic medical centers, when you can specifically target sub-segments based on actual device use, e.g. IVUS users, chronic total occlusion specialists, or high volume stenters?

In 2014, big data powers marketing in consumer and tech, and it’s coming to medical device marketing and sales. Applied well, big data can focus sales efforts on the likeliest adopters, identify prospects that you never knew existed, and uncover market segments with unique product needs. If you don’t already know the power of big-data-driven marketing in the consumer world, read the recent (chilling) US Federal Trade Commission report on data brokers.

Medical device customers are consumers too. Here’s how I used big data at Candela in 2009 to re-imagine our marketing and sales approach.

With help from Hard Data Factory (HDF), I created the world’s first (and I believe only) database of all ~10,000 aesthetic laser providers in the US. HDF wrote programs to scrape publicly available information from the web, and then merge/scrub that data into a single database. For most providers we were able to identify services offered, equipment used, medical specialty, contact information, geocode, and other useful data. We combined our web-sourced data with Candela’s customer sales history to create a rich picture of every Candela customer and prospect across the US.

Even our very best sales rep was surprised to see names in his territory that he had not known. Imagine the value of this list for new sales reps, or those with revised territories.

When we were about to launch a new tattoo-removal-laser, I created a list of prior-generation tattoo-removal-laser users to give to the sales team. Obvious, right?

Stretching my spreadsheet skills to their limits, I searched our database for clusters of customers with similar buying patterns. I identified 5 large, distinct market segments that make up more than 90% of all aesthetic device sales. I was now able to classify each provider by segment. Knowing a provider’s segment allowed me to predict the products that s/he was likely to prefer.

What about market strategy? Candela was the market share leader in only one segment, and lagged in the four others. Other companies had done a better job at developing and marketing products for these four segments. We could now see previously unidentified opportunities for new product development or for strategic partnerships.

We soon merged with Syneron, and I left the newly merged company.

My unfinished plans included a quarterly re-scrape of the web to update our provider database over time. Adding a time-dimension to our database would enable us to identify:

  • early adopters of new products and technologies,
  • frequent buyers (i.e. those whose business is going well), and
  • growing or shrinking market segments (a critical criterion for assessing new opportunities).

My plans also included expansion of our database into other large geographies. Why not?

Finally, my plans would have included empowering our sales force by integrating our database with our CRM system. Why shouldn’t every rep have a rich, data-driven picture of customers and prospects? I believe that better-informed sales reps lead to better conversations with customers, and ultimately to better outcomes. If you aren’t already dreaming of this database on google glass, you haven’t been paying attention.

Medical device customer data is all over the web (and available to purchase from companies like IMS Health and Symphony Health Solutions), and every year, software to access and analyze that data becomes better and cheaper. Medical device marketing has been stuck in Mad Men era for decades. It’s time to harness the power of big data, and rethink the way we market and sell our products.

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