LeQ Medical

Communicating the ideas that are changing medicine


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?







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.


Everything You Know About Marketing Your Business is Wrong

What you don't know about business can kill your business

Business is changing--and it's a pain

There are lots of things you know about your business, and that’s great. You’re the expert. But when it comes to marketing your business, unless you were literally born yesterday, you are probably suffering from a condition I call “conventional wisdom.” Conventional wisdom sounds good, but it is usually not true.

Here are some examples.

  1. Advertise your medical business, clinic, or practice in the yellow pages. That’s how people find medical help.
  2. Take out an occasional ad in the newspaper to get new patients.
  3. Expect that patients will tell their friends about your practice and increase your referrals.
  4. Assume that if a person has a bad experience at your practice or business, there is no place for him to vent.
  5. Don’t worry about websites or other gimmicks.
  6. If you’re in private practice or run a small medical business, don’t even worry about marketing.

None of those are true, and thinking they are can hurt your business.


1. The yellow pages has gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage. People who want to find phone numbers or businesses go online, most of the time from a mobile device. While it might be worthwhile to be listed in the yellow pages, your advertising dollar is not working hard for you there.

2. Newspapers are going the way of the yellow pages.

3. People, particularly the younger hipper variety, are not really into being fonts of information for their peers. The old tell-a-friend network is breaking down. People are more likely to consult Angie’s List to find some kind of specialists or technical help than they are to ask a friend or neighbor. That doesn’t mean referrals are dead–they have just changed. People are OK with anonymous referrals now.

4. There are entire websites that allow people to write reviews of your practice or business. Most people are not inclined to bother with this if they like you. This means that a disproportionate number of online reviews are going to be nasty. Now get this–these reviews are aggregated (that means collected) by various sources and posted together. People who look up your practice in something like Google Places are going to see any negative reviews you have–even if you never saw them yourself.

5. You need a website. About half of doctors in private practice do not have them. Now don’t expect your website to wow people. They’re a given now. Sort of like people expect you to have a door. They expect you to have a website.

6. Marketing may not be your favorite thing, but we live in a hyper-marketed environment. With commercials, ads, online sites, mobile media, and other things poking up at every turn, you have to market to survive. Fortunately, you can outsource this to us without breaking the bank.