How to Market a Mundane Product or Service
[By Aaron Broverman]
Sometimes a mundane product or service sells itself. Sometimes the publicist hired to promote it can practically go on autopilot.
That’s when you get lucky.
More often than not, it’s a lot more difficult than that. On their face, some industries seem obscure and boring. One that comes to mind is the medical field and the difficulty some doctors have marketing themselves, their procedures and devices. That’s particularly true when it comes to the more mundane elective procedures like dental implants, hair restoration or laser eye surgery.
A lot of these industries need image doctors, so we went out and found one.
Scott Lorenz, president of Westwind Communications in Plymouth, Michigan, is an expert at marketing medical technology and procedures. His claim to fame is organizing the first laser eye surgery seen in America.
“When laser eye surgery wasn’t yet legal in the U.S., patients used to cross the border into Windsor, Ontario, which is just across the river from Detroit, to get the procedure. The Detroit television media could be seen in Windsor, so any coverage in Detroit would benefit this Canadian doctor immensely,” says Lorenz.
“We did one of the first laser eye surgeries ever seen on TV in the country. After that, this doctor’s phone and fax machine were going berserk and this is when he charged five, six, seven grand for the procedure.”
Show, Don’t Tell
If the first laser eye surgery on television confirmed anything to Lorenz, it was that in order to get any publicity for a medical procedure you have to be able to show it to an audience.
“People want to see products and medical devices demonstrated. They don’t necessarily want to be the first to have something done, but they want to see how it’s done,” he says.
That means you’ve got to have patients – you can’t just have the journalist sit there and let the doctor describe the procedure – and they need to be patients who are good on TV.
“These are patients who can articulate their problem and describe how this problem was resolved by the surgery,” continues Lorenz.
Often, in the press releases he sends to journalists, Lorenz will include a link to a password-protected video demonstrating the procedure he’s marketing. This came in very handy when he was promoting the VeinViewer Flex, which uses infrared light to see veins inside a person’s body in real time without opening them up.
“Honestly, you have to see it to believe it. You can see the vein clearly, so when a doctor has to draw blood he’s not stabbing you 25 times trying to find one. The potential of that nightmare situation is what scares many people away from needles, and now it doesn’t have to be scary.”
Build a Story
The VeinViewer Flex is a marvel of technology, but Lorenz insists you can’t just rely on that. You also have to build a story around what you’re publicizing. He did this when his client needed to generate patients for a dental implant procedure.
“There’s a guy who played guitar in a band and drove The Salvation Army Truck to help the poor on the weekend, but his smile had disappeared because he had no teeth, so my client Dr. Kosinski offered to do these dental implants for him,” he says.
“We called the local news station and it ended up being the ‘Pay It Forward’ story of the week.”
The stories don’t have to all be human interest stories, but there should at least be a patient at the centre of them.
“You’ve got to have a good story all the time,” says Lorenz. “Some people put spam out there – I’ve had clients who have done that – and they can’t get anywhere with it because they just send out millions of press releases about how great the doctor is as opposed to, ‘Here’s a patient who I’ve helped and solved their problem.’”
For most doctors, the problem is they don’t know how to sell themselves, let alone their technology or procedures.
“Doctors typically are not salesman. They are not salesman any more than I’m a doctor,” says Lorenz.
Though he wouldn’t reveal his technique for attracting attention from the journalists who receive hundreds of press releases a day because, as he said, “that’s the secret sauce,” he did say if you’re not getting a response by phone or by e-mail – you can always just show up.
“You do whatever you’ve got to do within reason,” says Lorenz. “Some of the best stuff we’ve ever pitched is right there on the street when we see the news crew on the street doing another story. I’m not kidding. It’s hard to throw someone out of your office, but you definitely can’t throw someone off the street.”