LeQ Medical

Communicating the ideas that are changing medicine


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.


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.