By bundling professional marketing services into device purchases, device manufacturers are hoping to take the edge off surgeons’ concerns that the technology might gather dust, or could take years to pay off.
BTL launched its partnership with eRelevance in late 2015 to help cosmetic and other practices adding BTL’s Vanquish ME, Exilis Ultra 360, Ultra Femme 360 or Cellutone technologies market the devices. According to eRelevance, 130 practices have participated in the partnership.
The way it works is cosmetic surgeons who buy BTL devices get six months of marketing with eRelevance for free, then have to pay in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $20,000 annually to continue using eRelevance’s customer marketing automation service. The proprietary service, which automates and leverages a practice’s current customers, has helped BTL practices generate just over $16,000 in additional revenue, with an average of 19 more patient consultation requests per month.
That’s 20 times the return on a practice’s investment to use the platform, according to eRelevance Chief Marketing Officer Adam Weinroth.
“…a lot of practices are not already equipped with state-of-the-art marketing. So when you have an opportunity to take on a new device that enables you to do a new procedure, if you don’t have the ability to market it very well, that takes away from some of the attractiveness and purpose of taking on that additional device,” Mr. Weinroth says. “It’s a huge benefit to a manufacturer like BTL, where they can provide a clearer path to the device really contributing to a practice’s revenue.”
eRelevance offers a turnkey, cross-channel marketing solution that enables practices to run integrated promotions, not just on email but also across Facebook, Instagram, mobile apps, text, website landing pages, etc., according to Mr. Weinroth.
“Typically, for a lot of these devices, you might get a pay-off period that spans a couple of years. In our case, with BTL, we’re helping customers pay off the devices in less than six months,” he says.
One of those customers, Scott Hernberg, D.O., anesthesiologist, founder of Tomorrow’s Wellness Center in Northfield, NJ, says the BTL- eRelevance bundle has worked so well that he decided to start paying for the service after the free period.
Dr. Hernberg, who has BTL’s Vanquish and Cellutone devices, says he was skeptical of the marketing solution’s value at first because professional marketing campaigns have failed to deliver promised results in the past.
“I have to say the response I get is phenomenal,” Dr. Hernberg says.
To Bundle or To Unbundle?
Bundling marketing services with devices appears to be a trend, according to Metairie, La., dermatologist W. Patrick Coleman, IV, M.D.
“Every company that I have purchased from offers some level of marketing support,” Dr. Coleman says.
But rather than opt in, Dr. Coleman says he opts out of the marketing offers.
“I'd rather pay less and market myself, but I am in an established practice,” Dr. Coleman says. “I'm more interested in capital cost reduction and longer warranties. Many of these marketing perks are free or may be silently built into the purchased price. Ulthera for instance has a website that patients can connect with practices that have their devices. Many device sales representatives also offer an open house format or a dinner to help promote their device.”
Nina Grant, vice president, of the healthcare practice marketing firm Practice Builders, says bundling marketing services in device sales makes sense from the manufacturers’ perspective.
“They have struggled for years with trying to sell technology to healthcare practices who are very often skeptical that purchasing that technology will not end up gathering dust in a corner. Because doctors are not born marketers and they’ve made a lot of silly purchases over the years, there’s a lot of lament out there,” Ms. Grant says.
Some manufacturers have created in-house ad agencies for the task; others strike deals with companies like Practice Builders or eRelevance to provide marketing support. In some cases, the cost of marketing is added into the cost of the equipment, or it may be charged separately. Practice Builders, according to Ms. Grant, takes a different approach with its manufacturer alliances.
“The way that I structure the alliances is I provide free services. That way, the cost of the technology does not increase. The doctor has an opportunity to kick the tires on the solution with the complementary evaluations and consultations. And the device company has a potential solution without having to ratchet up the price,” she says.
For practices thinking about using a manufacturer’s marketing service, however, it’s important to make sure that the service involves marketing their practices, not the device’s brand.
Although convenient, Ms. Grant says opting in for the marketing alliance isn’t always in the practice’s best interest.
“To an astute healthcare practitioner who is thinking about buying the technology, the smartest thing that they can do is to ask the manufacturer to unbundle the offer,” Ms. Grant says. “Then they can go and see if the solution makes sense and shop it on their own.”