LeQ Medical

Communicating the ideas that are changing medicine


Case Study: This is Spinal Tap and Five Reasons Why This Works

Lumbar puncture art by LeQ Medical

This project came to us from another agency who was putting together a very large, very comprehensive website. One of the services to be described on the website involved lumbar puncture or a “spinal tap” procedure. We wrote the text, which is what the client ordered, but we also provided this illustration. The key thing to understand with lumbar puncture is that it is a procedure aimed at drawing out cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which the body protects heavily by storing it within the spinal cord itself. This drawing demonstrates how a needle (puncture) can navigate its way between the bony protrusions of the vertebral column and puncture the spinal cord to get the CSF.

This art work is relatively simple to understand, particularly if you read the descriptive text. But we have some secrets, so let’s pull back the curtain to show you why this works as well as it does. After all, there are lots of ways to illustrate a spinal tap. Why did we do it this way and not some other way?

1. This drawing is not what the patient will see or experience during the procedure–it might be tempting to show the patient just the needle or explain that he or she will be asked to curl up on a table to expose the spine. It might be tempting to explain that patients are given a local anesthetic first. But we focused on the actual nuts and bolts of a spinal tap. This is a needle that finds its way inside your spinal cord. It works because we picked the right thing to illustrate. When explaining medical concepts to patients, it is important to give them the big picture first (“this is what we’re doing”) rather than emphasizing the details. Our article did explain all the other parts about a spinal tap, but the art work emphasized the main concept. Takeaway: picture the big concept first.

2. One important aspect to a spinal tap is that a patient gets a shot into his backbone. That’s why we did the person with the vertebral column to the left and it’s why we used the big red box to highlight the area that the doctor would target. This helps orient the patient and physician. There is nothing really in this image that is important so much as we are identifying the approximate region where the lumbar puncture occurs. Takeaway: give your viewer a reference point.

3. The needle is stylized, that is, we do not show the big massive thing that they jab into your spine during a lumbar puncture. The purpose of this picture is not to terrify the patient but to show that a needle will be inserted into the spine. We chose to emphasize the important aspect of the needle (the needle part) and avoid going into the details about the puncture part. Takeaway: Know what details to omit.

4. The spinal column is perhaps the most vulnerable area of the human body, so rather than draw it as a complex structure or try to indicate how the vertebrae stack themselves up around it like a fortress, we made it a simple yellow column. This is stylization at its best. By focusing on what is important and limiting medical detail, the art gives a clearer picture. Takeaway: It’s better to be clear than to be thorough.

5. You might think it unnecessary in such an abbreviated drawing to include a drop of CSF going into a vial, but this is the point of the procedure. We wanted to remind the patient that the goal is to get some drops of fluid stored in the body within the spine into a test vial for examination. Takeaway: Never lose sight of the point you’re trying to make.

This drawing was done for a hospital website.




Case Study: Six Reasons Why Your Neurons Like Illustrations (and Hate Photography)

Neuron or nerve cell illustration from LeQ MedicalIllustrations are probably the single biggest secret to writing effective how-to and informational pieces, whether it’s a clinical article or a manual. We’ve seen a major trend these days toward photography in manuals, technical literature, and even clinical pieces, for which we blame Bill Gates. Microsoft put software in the hands of the masses who now believe that they can single-handedly write great technical literature and product literature, but since the masses generally cannot draw, they use digital photography to provide illustrations for their homemade manuals.

But illustrations, whether highly refined as the neuron art here or simple line drawings, offer six major advantages to your informational, technical, clinical, and how-to materials.

  1. An illustration is artificial, which means we can take the object or even concept and illustrate it showing only what is important. Has a giant neuron ever appeared as we have illustrated it? No, of course not. But the purpose of our illustration is to show the reader (or web visitor) the key elements included in a neuron. Photographs and other “real-life” image techniques include a lot of noise or extraneous material. It’s hard for your brain to sort out what is important from what is just “there.”
  2. The illustration allows us to exaggerate certain aspects of the image–whether it’s a workflow diagram or a picture of a brain cell–so that the reader can get a very clear concept. Dendrites are not really as clean-cut as they appear here, but it is important for a person learning about neurons to understand that they have fiber-like projections.
  3. Illustrations allow you to control what you show you reader. This includes being able to blow up or magnify certain areas.
  4. Illustrations minimize the need for translation and can facilitate the translation of the text you do have to put into another language. Translators charge by the word. Translating this drawing involves translating 14 words (cost, less than one of those fancy coffee drinks), but it communicates a great deal. Furthermore, translators working on your narrative text can use the art as reference.
  5. People understand illustrations. Photography, fluoroscopy, radiography, ECG or EEG tracings, and all of the rest can be a bit of a foreign language, particularly for laypeople or clinicians who are just not used to those images. Even photographs can be tough to interpret if not properly staged. Illustrations are something that everyone understands: people of all ages from all over the world know how to “interpret” a drawing.
  6. Illustrations give you some style. When you rely on photography or images from real-world medicine, you run the very real risk that they will all look different. I’ve seen manuals that use photography to explain how to assemble items … and the photographs are each a unique style. Some are dark, some are light. The hands in one are quite clearly different than the hands in the next photo, and the hands in the third photo are wearing gloves. With illustrations your manual or training book has a coherence to it.

LeQ Medical can provide a wealth of illustrations for your medical project. We do original, custom art, which means you can submit it as “original” to journals or publish it through your company. Although you can use the art, you must buy the copyright separately if you want to be the copyright owner. If you want original art work, talk to us and we can explain costs, timelines, and whether or not it makes sense for you to hold the copyright.


Case Study: How to Write a Training Manual

LeQ Medical writes training materialsThis was one of the first training manuals I ever wrote–before LeQ Medical was even started. The designer I worked with still works with us and we’ve gone on to do bigger and better training manuals. But this is an important milestone. Consider it part of our portfolio, but there are lots of thing you can learn from it.

  • This manual matched a course. In other words, the content was already prepared. The training department knew the messages they wanted to communicate, had many of the images ready or at least in mind, and understood the pitfalls in the course. Takeaway: Have the content ready.
  • The training department had a very specific message, which was easy to capture in the title and run through the whole program. They wanted to approach pacemaker follow-up systematically, that is, they were teaching a system. It was a simple system: do this, then do this, and finish it off with that. But it was a system and their message was that you cannot approach pacemaker follow-up randomly. Takeaway: Have a theme.
  • The training department wanted to deploy this workbook in its classes for doctors, fellows, and other clinicians. They had regular classes, and participants frequently complained that they wanted notes or copies of slides. This book was intended to be a companion to a course, to help participants learn the material or at least follow the instruction, and to limit the number of complaints for copies of the PowerPoint presentation. Takeway: Have a goal.

This workbook was done ages ago, but some of the people in the industry still remember it or comment on it. The biggest obstacle we faced when the project was undertaken was that it wasn’t cheap to do.It required a writer and an artist plus we printed hard copies to distribute to class participants. Today, most training programs utilize electronic materials and it is more likely that a company would invest in a snazzy animation than an old-fashioned workbook. However, if you’re one of those companies or individuals that likes to do what everybody else is not doing, maybe now is the time to resurrect the old-fashioned workbook.



Don’t Make These Medical Translation Mistakes!

Translating medical materials is importantIt’s a global world, baby. Most medical companies today sell their products and services around the world. Even hometown hospitals frequently treat patients who do not speak English. All of this has created a new career path, that of medical translator.

I’m not talking about the volunteer types who visit hospitals and clinics and offer assistance to foreign-language-speakers. I’m talking about medical companies and hospitals preparing patient materials, forms, websites, and other information in other languages. Translation is a challenging profession and since most people have no experience in this arena, it can be difficult to get the work done. There are some very common pitfalls for the average marketing person tasked with going global:


1. Don’t assume all translation services are the same. Prices vary widely. You can easily pay too much.

2. Don’t assume that high-priced translations are better quality. They may be, but they may not be.

3. Don’t assume that your translation company or translators know what they’re doing. Many translation companies work in all fields, from tire manufacturing to genetics to banking. These groups may not have the expertise you want. By the way, translators do not have to be licensed in the U.S. If you want to be a translator in this country, all you have to do is say you’re a translator.

4. Don’t assume that knowing two languages make you a translator. Being brought up bilingual is actually considered a drawback to translators (you are supposed to grow up monolingual and acquire the second language to be an ideal translator).

5. Don’t assume that anybody who can speak another language is a qualified translator. There are probably people at your company to whom you would not entrust writing your next product manual. Why would you just assume that if they knew a second language they’d be better at communications?

6. Machine translation (or computer-aided translation) is fine for very light work, like “how are you?” or “what does this cost?” But if you are communicating serious information, they just don’t work well.

So how do you find a good translation company? You can call us, for one thing, but here are some basic tips to get you started.

1. Translation is mostly done by freelancers. This profession seems to attract the freelance practitioner and rarely will you find on-staff translators except at big outfits. Most of these translators work out of home offices. They charge a per-word rate which varies somewhat depending on the language combination (source language into target language), the difficulty of the work (medical costs more than, say, a restaurant menu or a birth certificate), and the translator. Very highly qualified or much-desired translators charge a premium. The per-word rate can range from a few cents to up to a dollar, depending on these factors.

2. If you hire a translation company, the translation company jobs out your work to these freelancers (or if there are on-staff translators, hands it to them). You will rarely have contact with the translators. That may be a good thing, since if you have a project that goes into 8 different languages, that is quite a crew you’re assembling. You don’t need all those emails going to you.

3. The translation company marks up the work. You can get a cheaper deal if you work with freelancers directly but then you have to know where to find them, how to evaluate them, and handle each one individually. By the way, freelancers as a rule (not just translators) embrace a freelance career because they like flexibility. If you are planning on working with translators, be prepared for the sabbatical year, the three-month vacation, or the spur-of-the-moment canoe trip. The translation company deserves a markup, but some of them charge high rates.

4. Many translations go through a three-level process. They are first translated (let’s say from English into Spanish), then they are edited, and then they are proofed. High-level translation work often requests that these three steps be performed by three different individuals. This allows for great-quality translations but it adds significantly to the cost.  You may or may not need this level of service.

5. If you work with translators, editors, and proofreaders, it is best to work with teams with some history working together. Sometimes you can pair editors and translators together who get along like Martin Sheen and Denise Richards.

6. You need to be good at trafficking, that is, moving the project from point A to point B efficiently. That’s another thing an agency provides.

7. You also need to know what kind of translations you want. For instance, if you want patient materials translated into Spanish, you should specify American Spanish, which differs from European Spanish and also South American Spanish. Same with Portuguese (Brazilian and European) and even French, where there are European, Canadian, and African choices.

The best way to handle translations is to work with an agency that can help you:

  • Define your project
  • Set a realistic budget
  • Handle the coordination, legwork, and care-and-feeding of the translators

Once you’re done with that, you may face getting the material produced. Most translators deliver their projects as Word documents and few have layout or design skills. However, many translation agencies work with designers who are adept in foreign language work. This is a special skill because the designer must be confident not only about text placement but must also know about wordbreaks and other nuances of the language. Most foreign languages use at least some unusual diacritical marks and some use entirely different fonts. This type of designer is usually more expensive and more in-demand than the average entry-level designer but can help you create effective translated materials.

By the way, many translation agencies will turn-key projects from translation to layout to production and printing. However, some may charge a premium price and not do the work well. This is because some agencies simply hand off the work and then turn it back to you without getting involved in checking it, evaluating the translations, and monitoring the progress of the printed piece.

Got translation work? You can get an estimate from us and have us walk you through the process.




Before You Green Light Your Next Project …

Green lighting a project means to approve it to proceed either to the next level or to completion. You can green light a company to give you a bid or green light an agency to produce your next print campaign. But before you get heady with the sense of impending completion, closure, and other dreams of the medical marketer, you need to make a few key decisions.

One of those best-selling “how-to-do-it” authors said that you should begin with the end in mind. That’s just another way of saying you need to have an objective, a goal, or a destination. Before you green light your project:

  • What is your best-case scenario for this project?
  • How will you know if you achieve it?
  • How will you measure it?
  • How can you make course corrections if you see that you might undershoot your goal?

Many medical marketing projects are carried out because somebody wants them done or there is money in the budget or it was written down somewhere that the marketing group was supposed to do X or Y or Z by the end of the year, and now it’s July. Before you green light a project, you must have an objective. Even if you inherited the project, you must correct any flaw of omission at the outset. What is the purpose of this project? Purposes can be grandiose or modest, of course. Your purpose can be to increase sales, raise awareness, promote a message, drive traffic to a website, get people to make a phone call, or just annoy the competition. You can have multiple goals, if you’d like, but it helps to prioritize them and it helps if there is only one big main goal.

Then you have to figure out metrics. Marketers know that all marketing metrics are imperfect, something that annoys engineers and clinical types. However, you will not find a perfect metric for your marketing project. That does not mean you will not find useful metrics. You can measure things like:

  • Circulation of journal, hits on a website
  • If you ask people to do something in the ad that would not normally be done (such as to call a unique phone number or to visit a specific web page), you can track that
  • You can also measure general call or website volumes and see if there were blips during the time the campaign was active
  • Sales is a great measure, in fact it may be the only real measure, but it is very tricky to associate sales with a specific campaign

Sales should be tracked all along. If sales spike upward for some reason, you will discover that success has a thousand fathers. Everybody will claim victory–the sales rep, the marketer, the clinical guy, and the educator. If sales are flat or fall, then the marketing guy stands alone. This sometimes scares marketers away from the whole concept of metrics, but it should not. We need, as marketers, to recognize that success and failure in sales figures are diffuse entities. Many things contribute to sales success including the quality of the product or service relative to other offerings, price, sales representation, sales support, reputation, history of the brand among customers, and general market conditions.

You also need to decide what you are going to do if you get partway down the path and find out it is not working. For small projects, this step is not necessary, but what if you are redoing a major website or launching a year-long direct-to-consumer TV campaign? You need to measure as you go along and figure out what you can do.

  • Pick the interim metrics you are going to use (you can even use softer metrics like a focus group)
  • Measure and report, measure and report, measure and report
  • Organize your creative efforts so that you can go back to the drawing board partway through, if you need to, for instance, to create a new TV spot
  • Don’t be afraid to re-tool; Magellan didn’t circumnavigate the globe because he mapped out a route and stuck to it diligently–he circumnavigated the globe because he mapped out a plan and adjusted it as he went along

Last but not least, before you push that green light button, it pays big dividends to review what you’ve learned over the years. These can be company-specific lessons or career lessons.

  • Do you see anything in this project that raises a red flag? Anything look fishy? Overpriced? Not well thought through?
  • What kinds of things have worked best in the past (remember, what things brought in the best results for what you are measuring here)?
  • Where have you done similar things that crashed and burned? Why?
  • Can you learn anything here from your competitors about what works and what does not?







What Do Doctors Want?

The doctor as customerIf you are involved with a business or service in the medical world, you are dealing with physician-decision-makers. These are not quite the same as physician-customers, since in many cases the doctor is selecting a product that he will never use and never pay for. All he does is make the selection. In some organizations, there are committees who help make these decisions and they may also include hospital administrators. If you are in any way trying to sell products to them, either through marketing tactics or direct salesmanship, you have got to wonder. What on earth do doctors want?

Many people approach medical advertising as if it were similar to advertising car insurance or a bar of soap. Those products have very nice sales models. The manufacturer advertises to the person who will select, pay for, and use the product. But when it comes to medical sales, there are three entities involved and some of them involve multiple individuals: there is the person who picks out the product, the entity (often insurance companies) who pay for the products, and the patients who actually use the products. In many cases, these groups have never met or meet only tangentially.

What this does is complicate medical marketing, yet many people approach medical marketing as if it were like selling a car. Medical marketing is different because the person who selects the product is more important to your sales effort than those who pay for it and those who use it. So you have a fractured approach. And for this you need to know why doctors think the way they do.

First of all, I am quite sure that if you wanted to sell a doctor a cruise vacation or a sportscar or a new smartphone, the traditional advertising approaches would work. But when a doctor is being a doctor and doing doctorly things like deciding what prescription to write or what pacemaker to implant, he thinks in a different way. Here are some crucial observations:

  • Doctors are readers. I know most advertising folks will assure you that nobody reads ads and nobody reads anything, but doctors read a lot. They like to read, particularly about medicine. You might think that the pharmacokinetics of your new drug is boring, but if you have a doctor who has patients who needs that drug, he or she loves reading about that stuff. Do not be afraid to provide information in the form of words.
  • Doctors are analytical. When making professional decisions about medical products and services, doctors want to see evidence. Data from clinical studies, cost data, statistics about adverse events are all important to his or her decision. They like their evidence to be neutral in tone and construction. Sure, you can design some nice-looking charts or add a medical illustration to your marketing efforts, but keep the tone neutral, serious, analytical.
  • A spreadsheet is better than a beauty shot of your product. Doctors want data, facts, and at least a reasonable attempt at making a scientific case for your product or service. When you show them beauty shots of the product or happy patients or other “fluff,” it not only turns them off, it makes them think you don’t have a case.
  • Doctors are busy. Sales reps play an important role in the medical sales process because they can often reach the doctor with information and support (particularly important for device sales) when other avenues of communication fail. This means you have to train your sales reps. I’m not so sure that company-driven “here’s how to sell” programs are worth much, but I know what is important. It is important that your sales reps know how your products or services work, how the competition stacks up, and the current state-of-the-art in the field. Train your reps in those areas.
  • Doctors do not spend a whole lot of study time online and even if they ever did navigate to your website, they would probably not go there seeking information about your products. They might go to your site to look up information they need because they already had your product, but they wouldn’t be there seeking sales-type messages. So don’t build a website for the sake of advertising. (Besides, competitors mine your website for those sales messages–why help them out?)
  • Give a doctor compelling reasons to buy your product, such as, new time-saving features, greater accuracy, improved performance, less repair or downtime, lower acquisition costs, cheaper prices, fewer adverse events, faster results, less pain, better outcomes, higher levels of patient satisfaction. Give them lots of reasons, as many as you can, and back all of them up with facts.
  • Marketing is about introducing a crisis, worsening the crisis and creating discomfort and then providing the solution. For instance, if you have developed an abuse-resistant narcotic analgesic, lead with statistics about prescription painkiller addiction (it’s a huge problem, prove it), then add that doctors are in a very awkward position because sometimes patient need these products but other times patients are trying to get these products to abuse them (and mention lawsuits, while you’re at it). Then when the doctor is very concerned about the problem of chronic pain and how narcotic pain relievers are both necessary and potentially abuse-able, introduce an abuse-deterrent product and provide a diagram or description of how it works and some statistics. That would sell. You don’t need a beauty shot of the product or a glossy brochure with happy patients. You need to make a case, and that involves introducing a crisis. I once heard it described like this: “Chase your customer up a tree. Now throw stones at him. And, then, bring him a ladder and help him out of the tree.”

Medical marketing and medical advertising have gotten a tarnished reputation of late because so many medical marketers are trying to approach doctors as if they were selling toothpaste or vacations instead of providing valuable medical products. Doctors want evidence, not fluff.



    10 Strategies for Keeping People Awake During Your Presentations

    Don't bore people with your presentation Presentations, for better or worse, are a mainstay of modern business and the medical industry seems to be particularly fond of the genre. From executive board rooms to doctor roundtables, everybody wants to present his or her ideas in a clever presentation. PowerPoint, Keynote, and other presentation software applications seem so versatile and inspiring, why is it that so many presentations are like a triple hit of sleeping pills?

    It’s because most people don’t really think about their presentations as a communication vehicle. Many presenters are more interested in sharing a bunch of facts or charts or diagrams than they are about actually transmitting a specific message.  We offer some tips to help make your next presentation less soporific.

    1. Decide what your objective is. Believe it or not, you get to have an objective. Are you trying to share specific information? Motivate a launch team? Deliver a product message to potential customers? This is important, so figure out your main objective and hold on to it. It’s going to come in handy as we work through the next steps. In general, objectives tend to be: sharing information, motivation, persuasion, and sometimes even obfuscation. (Yes, some presentations are designed to muddy the waters, but that’s another story.)
    2. Now figure out how to deliver your message and meet your objective without using the presentation software. This means you need to outline your talk and maybe even rehearse a few well-crafted phrases. If you have a lot of data or charts that are integral to your message, figure out how to get them to people without using the presentation. Ever wonder why people want handouts with info-dense presentations? (Hint: it’s because they want handouts.) So give them some paper if the crux of the content involves understanding certain figures or diagrams.
    3. Having an objective and a message, you are now free to use the presentation software in a truly creative way. It should underscore, support, emphasize, or add humor to your message. In other words, don’t rely on the presentation to give your talk, use it like a backdrop. If you’re talking about a big year in sales, show a beauty shot of some of your major products. If you’re trying to motivate a business team, show some vintage photos of the company way back in the olden days. If you want to teach your sales reps about the mechanism of action of a drug, give them some proof sources or clinical papers and show them an image of a rep talking to a doctor … while you explain things to them.
    4. Don’t use a lot of words in your presentation. If you are supposed to read something, put it on paper. Nobody likes reading from a screen.
    5. Never, never, never read your slides. If you do put words on your slide, be bold and resist the urge to read them. In fact, state the same thing in other words. It will reinforce your message. For instance, if your slide shows a bunch of army men holding down the fort and the text says “Opposing Forces” then don’t say “Opposing Forces.” That image is pretty powerful and people will read it. Instead, talk in a more business-like tone about barriers to entry, factors that may hold the company back, or obstacles to be overcome. This creates a dual-track: one is visual and one is audio. They are totally different but work harmoniously together to drive home a single message.
    6. Get interesting images. Presentations rise and fall on images. You can purchase the rights to photos relatively inexpensively from sites like iStock. You probably do not need to buy the expensive large-size high-res images; most of the time, the small or extra-small formats is more than sufficient. You can also shoot your own images–most smartphones take excellent-quality images.
    7. Get media, if that is appropriate. There is no reason you can’t have a video clip of an atom bomb falling or two boxers duking it out or a basket full of puppies. These are also available from places like iStock or you can shoot your own. Remember that if you use a video or audio clip, it will interrupt your presentation. That’s dangerous because it will divert attention from you to the presentation and you need to get it back. But for certain presentations, the risk of losing audience attention due to a transition is outweighed by the power of a short clip. (And keep them super-short! A minute is too long in most cases.) A really good place to use a video clip is at the end of the presentation, since you won’t be interrupting yourself, you’ll just be transitioning from you to the screen to the end.
    8. Develop a healthy contempt for your presentation, that is, realize that it diverts attention from you. And if it bores people, it diverts attention from you and then fails to deliver your message. Get to the point that you can make your presentation without the software. Then let the software punctuate and enhance.
    9. Avoid using animation unless it serves a purpose and if you do think there is a purpose for an animated slide, don’t use more than one or two. Animation seems cool while you do it, but it is jarring to watch words swish on and off the screen. If you like special effects, go for video clips since they add meaning and visual interest. Most animations are just gimmicks.
    10. Recognize that this is hard. It is very easy to write your talk on software and then just stand up and deliver it. It’s much harder to write your talk in your head and then figure out how to enhance it with images. But this is what makes a great talk great.

    Some presenters hand out copies of their slides on paper to the audience. We don’t recommend that because those are two different media. It’s kind of like deep-frying a pizza. You can deep-fry certain things and we all agree pizza is marvelous, but the two don’t mix well. A presentation is meant to be experienced. It’s ethereal. It should vanish when you’re done. On the other hand, if you have information you want your audience to take with them or charts or ECGs they should study as you speak, then provide them on paper. If you need to give a talk on ECG analysis, there is no problem with handing out pictures of the tracings and then showing the same tracing in your presentation so you can speak to it. But it would be even more powerful if you handed out the tracing marked with whatever you wanted to say and then discussed the tracing, while showing on the screen a related image, say, a patient during an ECG.

    So how to you use a presentation to underscore what you want to say?

    • Find fun, funny, odd, powerful, or unique (shot by you) images that show the emotions or messages you’re trying to convey: fear, accomplishment, obstacles, complications, worries, motivations, success.
    • If you can find charts, graphs, or illustrations of things you want to express that are exceedingly simple, use those. Complex charts don’t work well in presentations but simple ones do. Avoid labeling them–explain what they are. For instance, you might have a graph trending upward with no text. This forces your audience to hang on your every word until you tell them what it is they’re looking at. Then you can tell them–this is our competitor’s sales for the last three quarters. This will instill in them a desire to know your company’s sales in comparison. You can talk about some other things for a while and then come back and superimpose the next line on your chart in answer to their question. This kind of delivery builds anticipation and keeps people from drifting off.
    • If you can use humor, do it. Don’t lift cartoons from the papers, but if you want to use a cartoon, write to the author or publisher (such as the newspaper where it appeared) and ask permission. Many cartoonists are also accessible online. In most cases, you can get permission to use a cartoon for little or no money if you use it in a presentation like this. You can also get an in-house artist or staffer to draw a cartoon for you (or outsource it to us).
    • Don’t worry if you only have four or five “slides” for your talk. That’s really enough, because your presentation is about you. You don’t need to spend your presentation clicking through a bunch of forgettable word slides.
    • Add some unusual stuff to your presentation. Go to a website and look up memorable quotes. Sometimes they can be appropriate to business talks or be motivational. If you quote Mark Twain or Abe Lincoln, put their picture on screen and say the quote. That’s better than just writing the quote.






    Too Many Passwords

    too many passwordsI am old enough to remember a world where people did not need passwords to access their own information. Then came the era when passwords could be simple phrases, like a child’s name or a birthday.

    Then I got hacked. Now I am not sure why a hacker would want to hack a website that contained absolutely no personal data or credit card or other information. What is visible to you online at this website is pretty much all there is to it. We don’t have a shopping cart or other elaborate repositories of personal information. But we got hacked in what I later learned was a “dictionary hack.” My password was a word. It was not a common word, but it was a word, and there are apparently software gremlins that just attempt every password in the dictionary until your website opens up. The hackers then used my good domain name to spam people. I know they did this because I had thousands of bounced emails the next morning.

    This happened years ago. My tech savvy buddies suggested that I mix letters and numbers since that made the password much harder to hack.

    Now I hear this: if you mix upper-case and lower-case letters plus numbers plus a symbol in a password that is more than 12 characters long, it takes even advanced automated systems 17,000 years to hack it. I cannot claim that this information is correct (the 17,000 years part) but that’s what I heard.

    So now my passwords have all gone from buccolic phrases and joyful memories of pets and friends and places to convoluted codes.

    That is not the affront. The affront is that people think we know these cruel passwords. Take these recent experiences:

    • I got a call from my credit card company. I missed the call and all that showed up on my phone was a number with no indication as to who it was from. I called back. I get a voice recording and the first thing it said was to type in my 16-digit credit card number. Remember, at this moment, I did not even know who the call was from. I just get a demand–cold–to type in my credit card number. This may come as a surprise to you, people at MasterCard, but I do not have my credit card number memorized.
    • I was recently asked for a PIN number on a web page account for which I have a username and a password. I had no idea I even had a PIN number, much less what it was.
    • An otherwise very nice person asked me if I wanted to join a certain group. When I found out I needed a password, I declined. I told him I couldn’t stand the emotional burden of another password. I think he thought I was being dramatic.

    As medical marketers, you might think this does not apply to you. But as medical marketing migrates more and more to online sites and features, the password rears its ugly head. If you maintain web pages or other accounts for which your customers must maintain usernames and passwords, here is some good customer-facing advice:

    1. If you are going to demand that the customer provide a password or other secret code, give them some warning. For instance, you may want to say, “This is MasterCard calling about your account. Please call us back and have your account number handy.”
    2. While you can make your customers jump through hoops to access web pages or other content, remember that each password represents a burden to them.
    3. If somebody ever wants to access something and that person has a legitimate username and password but cannot find it, this annoys them. Every time you make a customer deal with a username and password you are running the risk, maybe even the probability, that you will at some point get them mad at you.
    4. If you offer special services and want to attach a username/password to them, think twice. Sometimes this is the right thing to do. But if you can find a way around it, so much the better. Nobody wants another password.

    The main goal in any type of marketing, especially medical marketing, is to keep value, content, education, information high and annoyance low.


    Cheezburger Marketing

    cheezuburger marketing costs too much

    You want fries with your brochure?

    Cheezburgers–which is the new fun way to spell cheeseburgers–are hard to resist, even though they are caloric time bombs, waist extenders, sodium jolts, cholesterol infusions, and the potential cause of afternoon dyspepsia. So why do we as American consume so many cheeseburgers? Because we like them. We know they’re bad for us, but we like them. Even the most dour-faced health-conscious individual has somewhere deep in his amygdala Proustian recollections of the last cheeseburger he or she enjoyed.

    Some people approach marketing the way they approach cheeseburgers, that is, they go for what seems fun and exuberant and enjoyable, even if it is not good for their marketing objectives.

    For example, I have seen medical companies spend tens of thousand dollars on SEO of individual website pages, all for trying to introduce a new product which is not purchased online and which is not purchased by people who ever go to the company website at all. Why? Because SEO sounds cool and the people who do SEO sound ueber-hip.

    Here is a news flash. SEO can improve the visibility of your web page(s). But if your customers are not there or do not use the website to in any way inform their purchasing decisions, you are spending a lot on marketing that isn’t going to help you.

    Many companies have divorced the whole concept of marketing from sales. That is, marketing is practiced as an art form, like haiku or origami, while the sales guys slog it out in the trenches. I’ve worked in marketing departments that do not even know the top sales guys, much less work with them. When you make marketing a pure art form rather than a meaningful series of tactics, you end up with cheeseburgers.

    Here is another medical marketing cheeseburger: social media. Does a medical manufacturer or pharma company need a social media presence? There is a lot of debate going on right now about that, mainly driven by people who sell social media services to medical manufacturers and pharma companies. The point is that most medical companies cannot even issue a meeting agenda or an email without having it reviewed by a cadre of grim-faced attorneys. How on earth can a medical company participate safely in the high-speed world of social media? And here’s the other thing: are the individuals who purchase medical services, drugs, and medical devices really hopped up on Twitter? Does Facebook help hospital administrators know which heart valves to buy? But medical companies have heard about social media managers and they all want one the same way, deep down, we all want cheeseburgers for lunch instead of salad.

    Other examples of cheeseburger marketing include:

    • Exorbitant ad campaigns for customers who ignore ads
    • Knockout convention presence with product managers who throw out the leads about five minutes after getting back to their office
    • Huge, complicated websites for products that are not purchased by people who go online to look for them

    Cheeseburger marketing often results in real tactics getting overlooked. There may be genuine marketing value in companies that:

    • Produce multilingual patient-facing materials
    • Develop high-end training materials for the field force (and not just elearning modules or photocopies of presentations)
    • Craft clinical or scientific white papers

    Those are just a few examples, but they are all Brussel sprouts. Rarely have I encountered clients excited about doing Brussel sprouts marketing, but let’s face it: Brussel sprouts are good for you. They’re healthy. They keep you strong.







    Stupid Patients

    Patients are not stupid

    This is how the FDA views your patient

    The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) oversees product labeling, which more and more includes patient-facing materials like patient manuals or handbooks or guides for patients to use.

    The FDA requires that patient materials be “readable.” To them, this means more than just ink-on-paper or pixels-on-screen. It means that the content must be assessed to determine if the average patient could understand it. To this end, the FDA uses readability tests known as the FOG or SMOG scales or the Fry scale. These are all algorithms or methods which allow a person to take sections from the proposed patient material and calculate whether or not it is “readable.”

    Now let me tell you the secret of readability. You can score through the roof on readability if you do these two things (the main things that get you dinged):

    • Never use a three-syllable word
    • Keep all sentences short

    It does not matter how illogical, obscure, or weasely your document is, it just can’t have big words or long sentences.

    My first encounter with readability occurred many years ago when I was working on a patient manual for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. You can see my dilemma. The product was called a defibrillator. At five syllables, this word was banned from the manual by the in-house regulatory group. It was implantable which was four syllables and likewise unmentionable. We could say the doctor implants, but not implantable.  As for cardioverter, forget about i.

    Back then regulatory people did not have a well developed sense of irony. When I explained to the regulatory powers who wanted the patient manual that it would be impossible to write a defibrillator manual if I was not allowed to say the word defibrillator they sort of looked at me with what I call the “regulatory will-bending mind-control stare.” In this look, which kind of resembles how a person looks in the split second before a sneeze, the regulatory official acts as if your comment is ludicrous beyond all measure and that a person with any degree of resourcefulness at all could clearly work around this minor inconvenience.

    Writing a defibrillator manual that cannot use the word defibrillator is not challenging. It’s impossible. But the regulatory team and I reached a begrudging compromise. I got to use the word once–and only once–and thereafter we called it an ICD. Apparently, ICD is not a three-syllable word. We said something that the device they had was a defibrillator or ICD. We used the term ICD (which is not used very much by patients) alternately with device (a somewhat unpleasant-sounding term, only slightly less off-putting than apparatus). This created a manual for patients that did not call their therapy by the commonly used term. A doctor, nurse, friend, or family might ask them about their defibrillator, but unless they caught that one fleeting mention in the manual upfront, they only knew from the manual that they had a device called an ICD.

    It gets worse. You get an ICD because you have or are at risk for ventricular fibrillation or other forms of ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Those words are out. We said you got the device if you had a heart in which the lower chambers beat too fast.

    The end result was a manual that was not readable at all. True, it had lots of very short words and short sentences. But by avoiding discussing the product by name, the manual was useless.

    Which brings me to my main point. Just who does the FDA think reads patient manuals? Obviously, they believe that the average American cannot handle a three-syllable word or a long sentence. This outrages me not because some people really cannot read well, but because I am a member of the American public and like all public citizens, a potential candidate for medical therapies of all types. If I get a three-syllable disease or need to take a four-syllable drug or undergo a five-syllable procedure, I would like to think my government thinks that they can mention it by name to me.

    Of course, we are nothing at LeQ Medical if we are not practical and helpful. So here are our suggestions:

    • Let’s write a patient manual that is clear, describes things in plain terms, is logical, but uses the real medical words (at least some of the time) because this will empower patients to better understand and look up their condition. Let’s assume patients are smart and not dumb.
    • But let’s recognize that many Americans do not have good reading skills. So why not create a second alternate manual written at a very low level for such individuals. Don’t make this the main booklet, make it an alternate. We at LeQ Medical know and work in our community with some adults with poor reading skills and we know that these folks do not often seek out or even want printed materials. So devoting all the company’s printed efforts at this demographic is not helpful. Have something, even a photocopied handout, written at a lower reading level if it is needed. If it is more efficient to print only one patient manual put the simplified version in the front (and call it the “Quick Start” or something like that) and put the full version in the back.
    • Let’s further recognize that there are illiterate adults in America. What about them? For those people and for those with vision impairment, companies should also produce an audio version of patient materials. It need not be elaborate or expensive.  If the company has recording equipment, an employee can read the patient materials onto a computer and generate an MP3 file. Alternately, a recording studio and voice studio could be employed. But this is a super-quick, low-budget way to reach two important (but small) constituencies of the public who are not recipients of good patient education materials.
    • Now let’s recognize that many Americans do not speak English as their first language. Sometimes, such individuals may have a family member who can read and translate materials, but this is not always the case (and not all family members are competent translators, even if they are bilingual). It pays to get patient materials translated. Before companies cry poverty, this need not be overwhelmingly expensive. True, expert translations cost money but the final materials can be posted online eliminating printing costs.

    Patients are not stupid and writing stupid-facing materials serves no one. Let’s all wise up and write the best possible patient-facing materials and also recognize the needs of patients with poor reading skills, illiteracy, vision impairment, and poor English skills.


    Did You Hear That?

    medical marketing opportunities are exploding

    Medical marketing, as you knew it, is dead

    Medical marketing, as you knew it, is dead. Unless you were literally were born yesterday, all of the rules have changed. It’s not just the media that are new, it’s the whole approach. In case you haven’t noticed it, people do things differently than they did even five years ago and vastly differently from the way they did things 10 years ago.

    Here are some of the ways that marketing your medical business, medical products or services, hospital, or practice has changed.

    • In the olden days, most medical marketers relied on print (often in journals or daily newspapers) and the phone book. We still recommend a phone book ad but not for the same reasons. Nobody will find you in a phone book any more because nobody can find their phone book. Daily papers and even print medical journals are going the way of the horse and buggy.
    • Medical marketing is under intensive scrutiny which makes the executives who run large pharma and medical device companies more attention-deficit and reactionary than usual. This means if you’re a marketing team member of such a company, you have an inside game to play to even get your execs comfortable with the concept of marketing.
    • Print materials, a mainstay of medical marketing, are on the way out. Everybody has embraced the electronic. Only here’s the part nobody seems to understand. Electronic materials are fundamentally different than their printed counterparts. People read differently on the web. People in 2011 want to consume information in different ways than they did in, say, 1947, which was a grand time to be in the brochure printing business. You have to write, design, and present information much differently online. If you’re just putting your old-fashioned brochures online, you’re missing out.
    • Most medical organizations do not know what to do with social media. But it’s an essential part of the marketing mix nowadays.
    • Review sites and boards like CafePharma mean that everyone in the medical business is now living a very public life. Reputation management is now an important service that most high-ranking individuals in the medical world need. But do you even know what that is?
    • Right now, half of all search engine queries are made from a mobile device. That number will increase. Yet many medical organizations do not have an optimized mobile website or mobile presence. This means that about half of the people looking for you online will have a bad-quality mobile device experience, and this number will increase next year.
    • About half of physicians do not have a website. It’s time. Even if you think you do not need a website, you need one for the sake of your credibility. If you are in any kind of serious business endeavor, you need a site the same way your business office needs a front door. It’s a way for customers and patients to get to you.
    • You need to deliver your messages by text. Most people with a cell phone text more than they call. And you can reach people by text if you know how (we know how, by the way). But here’s the kicker. Right now, if you email market, you’ll be lucky to get an “open rate” (that’s how many people actually look at your email message) of 8% to 10%. That’s considered good, even on a very carefully groomed, double opt-in type of list. But text people, and your open rate soars to 90%. Wow, wouldn’t that be a good thing to know how to do?
    • Marketing takes time. There was a day and age when your company could hire a few weirdos and let them do marketing. Marketing is more integrated into the total business today. And it takes more time. The tools are better and the potential is exponentially greater than in the old days of Yellow Pages and printed brochures, but it takes time. And you need to be consistent at it.

    Give us a call at LeQ Medical and we can help you out.


    10 Ways to Use QR to Market (Even Medical Businesses and Practices)

    Marketing with QR codes

    QR codes are turning up all over

    QR codes are starting to show up all over. Also called two-dimensional codes, these bar-code-analogs allow users with a smart phone app to zip over to a web page or to get special information right on the phone. For instance, this banana has a QR code that reports that the product is organic. This is really just an artsy thing–it’s more practical to put a sticker that says “organic” on a banana than a QR code.

    The trick in thinking about QR codes is that you are always going from the physical world (print, paper, displays, signs) to the online world. Think of QR codes as a zipline into cyberspace.

    While some marketing experts shy away from QR codes as gimmicky, they are absolutely here to stay. What most of us do not entirely grasp yet is how useful they will be. Here are 10 great ways to use QR codes for marketing your medical business or practice.

    1. Many companies provide physicians with printed patient literature for their waiting room. This is great. But add a QR code to it and you can drive a patient directly to the package insert (OK if you want to bore the patient to death) or to a web page with FAQs or a video testimonial about the product.
    2. Sales literature can now morph down to business card size. Print a business card and put a QR code that takes the reader directly to a website with tons of product information. Put a second QR code on the card with a contact page for the rep (including a click-to-call number). By the way, when using a QR code to link to a web page, connect your viewer with their final destination. Most medical organizations have gargantuan sites that can be tough to navigate. Don’t ask your attention-deprived physician-customer to click around for the information. With a QR code, you can take him right to the door step.
    3. Put QR codes in your ads. A hospital can use a QR code in an ad about its services to provide more extensive details. A business can use a QR code in its ad to show potential customers relevant product literature, clinical articles, peer-reviewed literature, or a contact form.
    4. Use QR codes for surveys. Instead of doing fancy focus groups, periodically distribute business cards requesting input from your target group. The QR code takes them right to an online survey form.
    5. If you run a brick-and-mortar business, put signage near the check-out area with a QR code offering some kind of coupon. (You can do online coupons so that the customer just goes to the coupon and then shows his or her phone to the cashier for scanning or approval.)  Now don’t necessarily just offer a coupon. Try to capture the user’s email information (the “squeeze” as marketing folks call it) in return for a coupon. The result will be an email list of tech-savvy cell denizens who are also your customers. Future mobile campaigns can focus on them.
    6. Put QR codes throughout a brochure as a sort of souped-up bibliography. For instance, if you reference a particular study, don’t just stop with the traditional endnote. Instead, add a QR code and take the reader right to the PubMed page offering the abstract.
    7. If you run a medical practice, put QR codes on business cards or other promotional pieces that link your potential customers with a map to your practice. It’s very handy to have a map delivered straight to the cell phone.
    8. To launch QR codes–which are not all that widely known yet–you can put QR codes on premium items like clipboards, caps, shirts, notepads, padfolios or other items.  The novelty item then becomes the ice-breaker to explain what the strange-looking code is. The legal folks may not like giving anything to an MD, but this promo idea would be a really unique promotion for job fairs when medical device and pharma companies go out looking for the best and brightest graduates. Hand them a mug or water bottle with a QR code that drives them to the page on your website talking about corporate benefits.
    9. Physicians are in the unhappy position of being subject (or victim) to frequent online reviews. One way to get good reviews ethically is simply to encourage patients to write a review. Hand them a flyer or business card with a QR code that takes them to a place where they can write a review. The idea is to get them to write a review immediately after using your services.
    10. If you are a medical business that typically is contacted by customers using cell phones, hand out refrigerator magnets with your company name and logo along with the QR code of a “click-to-call” button. Now when the customer wants to reach you, he or she can just use the QR decoder on the magnet (it takes about 2 seconds) and then click, you’re on the line!




    SEO Revealed

    Hidden secrets of SEO

    Many agencies want you in the dark about SEO

    SEO or search engine optimization is now a line item on plenty of marketing budgets. I have seen companies plunk down more money on SEO than for the rest of an entire launch, and not even have a clue what they are buying. LeQ Medical will now reveal to you the incredible secrets of SEO.

    We have to get very basic because SEO (contrary to popular belief) is not rocket science. When you go to the internet and attempt to find something, you typically type in a keyword or phrase into a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. The keyword may be literally a word (like “rehab”) or it may be a phrase or even a question (“alcohol rehab in LA” or “who has cheapest rehab program for painkiller addiction?”) For our purposes, we’ll call that the “keyword.”

    The search engine then scours the web and produces for you, typically in under a second, thousands if not millions of results. You would be hard-pressed to find a keyword that did not yield any results. And some monster keywords will produce millions of sites that the search engine believes has something to do with your keyword.

    Type in “oxycodone” and see what happens. You have to realize that the search engine, however creepy-smart they get, really does not know exactly what you want. It doesn’t know if you want to buy some blackmarket oxycodone or if you are researching its use in controlling postsurgical pain. It doesn’t know if you want to see a picture of what oxycodone looks like or maybe you just want to be sure you’re spelling it properly. The search engine does its best, based on what you give it, to deliver to you the results you’ll be happiest with.

    But how can it deliver a million websites? Even in two-point type, a list of a million websites is more than you can deal with. So the search engine prioritizes the list for you, based on what it thinks you want, and ranks the sites it found so that the best ones show up first.

    This is called “organic results” and it appears on the left side of the screen. At the very top of the screen and running down a column to the right are the paid results. These guys paid to show up when people entered a certain keyword.  The organic results cannot be purchased, well, at least not directly.

    SEO is a way of making sure that your websites appears as high up in the search engine rankings (ideally in the first 10) as possible. You do this by making sure that your site does things that the search engine recognizes as important. In other words, the search engine uses algorithms to rank sites. If you can figure out that algorithm, you can push your site up to the top of the page.

    One tricky thing about SEO is that search engines are very quiet about their search engine algorithms. Furthermore, the algorithms change often. So even if you try to game them, you’re facing an uphill battle.

    The point is: you don’t want to game the search engines. The best way to get monster SEO results is the old-fashioned way:

    • Build a great page. SEO is not for a site, it’s for a page. (Ever notice that sometimes in a search, you won’t be directed to the main page of a website but to a page deep inside the site? That’s because SEO is done for each page.)
    • Be coherent. The site’s URL and content and media should all be related.
    • Be natural. The search engines are wise to things like “keyword stuffing” or other tricks aimed at getting your site ranked higher. You are often penalized for these things.

    That is the first step. You won’t get good SEO from those, but you won’t get dinged for them when you use the tricks.

    SEO is all based on links. Think of the old-fashioned high school or college term paper where you had to have footnotes or endnotes with references. The idea is that you needed to cite or reference authoritative sources for your information. You needed to show you knew who was writing on that topic. References demonstrate you were familiar with the body of work on your subject. Well, that’s what links are. The search engines figure that if you have a site on heart disease, you ought to know about all of the other “authority sites” on heart disease. Authority sites is a subject unto itself, but here is the short course. An authority site is often run by a specialty society or non-profit or government group and is very large and well recognized as being an authority in the offline world. But other links count as well.

    • The more links you have, the better.
    • Authority links are the best.
    • Links count both ways–that is a link to a site counts, but a link from a site to you counts even more.

    Besides links, your site should look active with regular installments of fresh content, occasional facelifts and media, and comments and activity.

    Getting SEO is a matter of keeping the site spruced up, adding new content, and getting and maintaining links. The link thing is a bit tricky and maybe you do need an SEO agency for that. But at least now you know what they’re doing.

    By the way, SEO is not fast. Once you get rolling, it can get fast and every now and then there is something flukey fast, but as a general rule it takes months to get a new site or new page to a high SEO position.


    Branding Scams

    Branding medical organizations

    Can you agency keep a straight face as they try to sell you some million-dollar branding plan?

    Branding is important. There, I said it. You need a brand if you own a business or a medical practice. But here’s a little secret.

    You already have a brand.

    You don’t need a million-dollar branding plan from some agency to have a brand. You have a brand right now. And even if you handed over your moolah to that branding agency for them to “create” your brand, your brand is not what they said it is.

    Your brand is your reputation.

    Your business, enterprise, organization, practice, or hospital has a reputation. This reputation exists at all different levels. You have a reputation among suppliers, vendors, and employees. You have a reputation in the community. You have a reputation among those who buy your products or services. Your products and services–all by themselves–have a reputation among those who use them or repair them. If your company is a large publicly traded outfit, you have a reputation among analysts, traders, stockbrokers, and stockholders. That is your brand.

    Your brand has to sync up with outward manifestations. These manifestations include your building, your company name, your logo, the color scheme, and packages. But it also extends to your waiting rooms, your invoices, and how the phone is answered. If you make widgets, the widget boxes are part of your overall brand in that they represent you to the person who has purchased your widgets.

    Most branding agencies get very fixated on the outward appearances. They tell you that if you can just pick the right colors and get a zippy logo and a tag line, you are all set. They even sell you on the idea that you can make up a tag line and it magically is your brand. I once worked at a company that used the tagline “global leader in medical technology.” However, when you called the main number and asked the operator to connect you with one of the company’s more than five thousand employees, you heard the unmistakable rustle of paper as she flipped through the big photocopied binder she kept at her desk. Leaders in technology? Back in 2003, these guys were using paper phone books to keep track of employee extensions.

    So what is the brand? The branding agency would say the brand is technology leadership because, after all, it was printed on every business card. But I am here to tell you that the brand was the lady rustling paper trying to track down the employee’s extension. When most other companies of that era, even small ones, had operators who could click and type to access the phone extensions of the people in the building, this company used paper phone books. I happen to know they used them because they were cheaper and easier and the powers that controlled the phone system did not think it mattered how we answered the phone.

    This is the first cruel truth about branding. You can hire all the million-dollar Madison Avenue mavens you want, but your brand is already in the hands of some people who are hell-bent on destroying it. This is not because these people are evil, but rather because they are short-sighted. They do not think of your brand, ever. They want their world to be as simple and easy as possible, which generally means no changes. They are often rewarded for saving the company money, so they never push hard for new systems that could cost money and might not work.

    Your brand is already resting on the scrawny shoulders of people who answer the phone, handle your packages, clean your meeting rooms, and maintain your parking lot. Your brand rests in how well your products work, how efficient your services are, and how quickly you resolve billing disputes.

    Your brand is your reputation.

    Now after you get that squared away–you can then make a concentrated effort to synchronize your colors and logos and nomenclature. Branding in that way is very productive. But what you are doing is investing symbols into a brand you already have. And the branding agency people are right, you have to be strict with that stuff.

    Another thing–branding does not mean that everything has to look alike. I have seen branding agencies go in and apply templates to the point that large companies produce multiple brochures and manuals that look identical to each other. This is not helpful.

    Let’s look at FedEx for a great branding example. If you deal with FedEx, you know they have a very bright (orange and purple) color scheme and a distinctive logo. You probably even know the company slogan: when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. If you fill out a FedEx form, use the company website, ship a package in their boxes, or see the truck driving down the street, you see the same logo and colors. That’s reassuring. It’s good branding.

    But have you ever seen a FedEx commercial? They usually do big FedEx splashy commercials at the Super Bowl. None of them uses the same template as the website. They get creative. They go a bit “out there” to promote the company. Some branding agencies tell you that everything you do must look like everything else you ever do. If that’s true, then FedEx is bad at branding. In fact, the opposite is true.

    Not only that, look at Geico. They make some of the best TV commercials ever. They have a talking gecko, but they also had cavemen for a while, and now they sometimes have (my all-time favorite) a carpooling pig who shouts out the window, “Wheeee!” Do those commercials look alike? You probably have not even realized they were all from the same company. Three totally different approaches. It’s a strong brand.

    So don’t let those branding agencies tell you that they can “create” your brand and that once you have a brand, you can never ever deviate from the official look and logo.


    Alternative Medicine

    Complementary and alternative medicine

    Is this your patient?

    OK, this picture was taken at a spa. But alternative medicine or as physicians like to call it, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), has already blurred the boundaries between conventional medicine and treatments you can get, say, at a nail salon.

    This is not to show disrespect to CAM. CAM-related articles are increasingly showing up in medical literature and stodgy physicians and institutions are taking a fresh new look at traditional treatments and unorthodox practices. Some respected CAM treatments today include:

    • Acupuncture and acupressure
    • Reflexology
    • Massage therapy, particularly when it is aimed at relaxation rather than physical therapy
    • Music therapy
    • Aromatherapy

    There are a number of confounding aspects to CAM, in that CAM is far less regulated than traditional medicine. The Food & Drug Administration, for example, regulates medicines like cholesterol-lowering drugs or digoxin, but does not cast the same scrutiny on nutritional supplements like gingko biloba or niacin. While massage therapists often need a state license, a person can easily set up shop offering aromatherapy treatments with little or no oversight at all.

    These practitioners are supposed to be careful to avoid making claims that cannot be substantiated. For instance, you are really not supposed to hear claims that niacin lowers cholesterol or gingko biloba improves memory and concentration or peppermint and frankincense essential oils can cure migraines. However, most of us have heard them. Furthermore, by limiting advertising of these claims, the claims become a sort of hush-hush referral system. People who experiment with these treatments and get good results are quick to share them with others.

    What does all of this mean to medical marketing? First of all, we are not knocking CAM treatments. We think some are bogus, but many offer real relief. But we do see this as a bit of a conundrum for the practicing conventional healthcare professional. We now have two teams and they get to play by different rules. Doctors, of course, are subject to closer scrutiny and have higher standards to meet and maintain to stay in practice. They also generally can make more money and bill insurance for their services. CAM practitioners are less regulated and expect to be paid cash for services with no guarantees. Patients who move between these worlds–and there are way more of them than you think–are forced to draw contrasts between the professions. Who they regard as credible, supportive, kind, caring, compassionate, affordable, and effective is not immediately clear.

    How should these groups market themselves? CAM providers can definitely market themselves more effectively–and it is tricky business because they have legal limitations of which few are really aware. Most CAM providers work on a referral basis (like physicians) but could do more to raise awareness about what they offer.

    Physicians can partner with reputable CAM providers to help bridge the them-versus-us mentality that some communities seem to foster. For example, physicians may want to recommend CAM to selected patients and may be able to provide a card or brochure to help the patient decide to see a CAM provider.

    CAM practitioners should return the favor. Some CAM providers act like modern medicine is the enemy. That may make for nifty blog posts, but it does not help your practice or your patients. CAM providers should find and link efforts with reputable physicians and healthcare providers in the community so that they can refer selected patients to conventional treatments.