Co-branding between health tech companies and local providers isn’t always as easy as 1 + 1 = 2. Without considerate planning, it can turn into a double helping of content that isn’t useful for anyone. Success takes finding balance between what the patient is going to care about and what the company and provider want to say. In this episode, you’ll learn tips for co-branding success, when it makes sense as part of a marketing strategy, and how it can make the provider’s job easier.
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Michael: Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with my co-hosts, Scott Zeitzer and Jared Johnson. In today’s episode, we’re discussing how to crack the code on co-branding as it relates to local sales teams and distributors. So, guys, let’s start off with just talking about what co-branding is. What do we even mean by this topic? And I’ll kind of throw my definition out there and then we’ll further refine it, I’m sure. But when I’m thinking about co-branding, I’m thinking about companies, usually like medtech companies is where we’ve interacted with at the most, but they’ll have a messaging, that messaging will go out to patients and it will also feature the physician, the hospital, whomever is working with that technology to use it for the patients, and the goal of that is to inform patients about that offering and to let them know, “Hey, at the same time, this physician actually provides this service.” So, that’s kind of my quick definition, not necessarily fast, but that’s my definition of it. What do you, guys, think?
Scott: The good example is a lot of the medtech companies, Zimmer Biomet with their ROSA system, their robot, Stryker, Mako, their robot. It’s always a picture of the robot with the surgeon standing next to it or there’s a headshot, and it’s kind of like one of those win-wins, you know, where the doc gets to get their picture and their information up and the medtech company gets to show off their technology as well. I think it’s a pretty good way to define it.
Michael: When it comes to these kind of co-branding efforts, you know, there’s a lot of people that are actually needed in order to make a co-branding effort work well. Scott, a while back, we would talk quite a bit about how certain teams get very much on their own island. They could kind of get stranded because they don’t kind of play well with the other departments in terms of getting this kind of information out there. And a lot of times that I’m familiar with is that a lot of these efforts would necessarily start with the marketing department. They might kind of get the ball rolling there, but how well can they bridge the gap and you know, what else is needed in order to make a co-branding effort work?
Scott: You’re right about that, Michael, and it usually starts with the marketing department, but the marketing department needs to pitch it very quickly and effectively to the sales team. I mean, ultimately, it’s going to be the sales team that’s going to know how to apply whatever they come up with from a co-branding perspective. Ideally, you’re going to want to get the sales team involved to kind of target, you know, the surgeons out there that are using the product, using it often, using it well, getting that good feedback. And those salespeople are going to be the ones who know that terrain pretty well. And then moving it up the ladder, the other things that kind of come into play with that is just, you know, most surgeons professionally work very, very well with each other, but you know, they are competing and sometimes for the same patients. And so, that’s another thing that needs to figure into that equation as the medtech company tries to figure out with whom to co-brand, you know, how close from a regional perspective and how many egos are they bruising, shall we say, throughout the process? And that’s why it does take, I believe for successful co-branding to involve the sales team.
Michael: Yeah. And taking that a step further, you know, because right now, we’re kind of still in that model of medtech company A is big enough to have its own sales team. It’s going to be able to have its own marketing department. And these are all different people that are all hopefully working together and kind of bridging the gap there. But you know, we’ve also seen that play out in terms of marketing personnel working with the distributors that get the device out there as well. So, there’s a few different models that we’ve seen just depending on how big the company is and what kind of relationships it has with other companies.
Scott: Yeah. That’s a really valid point, Michael. You know, and the two examples that I gave were with very large companies, they all have everything internal. To your point, the smaller ones have to go out to distributors and first sell conceptually the idea, “Hey, you guys should sell my product. I’ve come up with a good product that will help a lot of people. And I think it’d be valuable for you to sell it.” When that happens, sometimes the way to hopefully get the distributor to pick up that particular implant is to have other things that you can offer with that product. There are a lot of devices out there that functionally are fairly similar. I always kind of say like, you know, implant A versus implant B, it could be like a BMW versus a Mercedes. I mean, sure, there are certain things that are a little bit different, but ultimately, it’s not that different. It’s a car with four wheels and it’s very nice. The same thing goes with a lot of different implants, whether they’re for trauma or for joint reconstruction. And sometimes I’ve seen the smaller companies have to offer this type of co-branding in order to get the distributors to essentially put it in their bags so to speak.
Jared: Interesting part about even just deciding like where the request comes from and who owns the whole effort of co-branding it, there’s always that risk of everyone else assuming that somebody else owns it and somebody else has created the piece, you know, the campaign itself. And so, you know, even though it almost seems like a no-brainer question, like who owns this, it’s not always the same from organization to organization, and it does depend a lot on the size of the organization, Scott, to what you were just saying, their available resources and their processes. So, it’s not safe to assume that one side or the other always owns this. And so, I think that’s a good point, well-taken, especially just having to do with the size of the organization itself.
Scott: Yeah. You know, Jared, that’s a good point. You know, you think about it, when you come up with the idea of like, “Hey, we’re going to come up with this co-branded experience.” And how you get that message to everybody, you know, we’re just talking about like maybe the sales person is going to be out there to try to help figure out who you’re going to do the co-branding with, but making sure that that message is on target, that’s a whole different thing. And then making sure, quite frankly, that that message is the same across the board no matter who’s saying it, that’s another complicated part of the whole equation, isn’t it?
Michael: For sure. For sure. Let’s shift gears here a little bit because we are talking about like sort of like who all is involved in the process and man, we have seen it play out a lot of different ways, depending on size of organization, politics within the organization, a lot of other factors. But let’s talk about, I guess like when it makes sense and when it doesn’t because we’re rattling off a lot of orthopedic examples, right? Like examples, for use in orthopedic surgery, but there are certainly other times when you’d use this kind of process and then very specific times when you wouldn’t use this kind of process. You know, Scott, we were talking to a potential client a little while ago and the service that his company, in particular, offered was very much focused on other device manufacturers. It wasn’t even something that maybe that like it would benefit a surgeon, but the patient himself or herself would never necessarily know that this component went into the entire process. So, there are some very obvious wins here in terms of maybe we need to get this messaging out, but then there are other times when it’s very, obviously, no, this is the wrong play.
Scott: Yeah. You know, you’re hitting it on the head there. There are some devices where, you know, unless you’re just really geeky about it, who cares. Like, “Wow, we put a screw in to fix the pressure.” It’s like, I don’t think there are a lot of people running around and going, “Really? Was it titanium? Was it stainless steel? What was the manufacturer?” That’s not a big part of the conversation going on between the patient and the surgeon. I know that, of course, when I fell down and broke my wrist, I apparently, because I kept forgetting when I woke up from the surgery, I kept asking, “How many screws and what plate did you use?” And finally, the doc said, “I’m going to talk you in and out.” But I think I would be an outlier. There are places where, you know, co-branding makes a lot of sense. And it usually makes sense when the conversation is also occurring with the patient and the patient actually wants to know. That I think is a big part of the equation.
Jared: Yeah, for sure. When conversations are happening from multiple people on different sides, but they’re really trying to say the same thing or for the same outcome, yeah, there’s an opportunity right there to make life easier for the patient.
Michael: So, you know, so one of the things that we see with co-branding is that sometimes, you know, we’re talking about what messages patients want to hear versus what they don’t need to hear. I don’t necessarily care what screw you used on this particular surgery, but sometimes like I think different companies get so fixated on, “I want to tell the patient about my product and why my product is the thing that they should care about most in this world.” And I think they kind of overemphasize patients’ interest in it. I’m not necessarily concerned how they fix the clavicle that I shattered in a biking accident many years ago but I want to know that the surgeon that I’m seeing has the right tools and is going to take care of me. And so, there’s definitely a balance between trying to find what it is that the patient’s going to care about and what it is that the medtech company or whichever kind of company is going to come in and try to say to try to resolve that messaging.
Scott: It’s an interesting point. And it does go back to when you market to a doctor, there’s a specific set of features and benefits that you really want to focus on about how it’s helpful to the surgeon to get a better outcome. And then when you market to the patient, it’s a different conversation, right? It’s not about like how easy it is to utilize the screwdriver or whatever device that they’re using, it’s more about the outcome and how they think they’ll be happier. And I think it’s critical. You know, you go back to that whole robot idea, it’s like, there’s a different conversation occurring in terms of the sale and the marketing to the surgeon and a much different conversation occurring to the patient. I think that’s critical to get the right conversation going for both parties, if that makes sense.
Jared: Yeah. Totally makes sense. I think when you’re really looking at what you’re talking about is the what’s the goal of it, the “what’s the point of it at all?” And that kind of leads to the thought of, you know, where do we see co-branding happening most often. There is always the educational component of it. Like you said, that this in marketing terms, it’s not top of funnel content. Right. So, it’s yeah, you’re already well along this path of having something implanted, you know, having a procedure done, and as long as it’s from a trusted source, so maybe that’s one component we haven’t talked about quite yet, how do you convey that it’s coming from a trusted source because these days everyone just another layer of mistrust, you know, when they look at almost any content or any information they see these days? So, what are some ways you guys have seen to convey that this is trustful information?
Scott: Yeah. You know, you go back to like if the drug company, medtech company, whatever makes a statement about a particular product, it’s only given so much weight by the patient. If the doctor has vetted it and said, “This is what I use and why,” and you’ve had trust with that doctor, you’re going to basically trust that conversation more. Your point’s really valid about that, Jared, and I think that’s where co-branding can come into play here. It’s like I heard robots are really good for medical devices, you know, for the implantation of a hip or a knee. So, I definitely want to get somebody who uses a robot, now who’s a doctor that I can trust that uses a robot. And I think that’s where that conversation when you talk about where you are in the funnel becomes so much more important. It’s like, “I need a medic. I need a total hip. I need a total knee, whatever it is, and I’d like to have a robot help the doctor. So, who’s out there doing that? Oh, this particular doctor, I like this doctor. They’ve got a good reputation online. I like their website. I like what they’re saying about how they take care of me, and they use the robot.” Good win for everybody.
Michael: You know, one of the other things that I’ve seen around this kind of content is that if you’re not going to directly tie this information to a doctor, like whom else can you tie it to? What other kinds of sources can you use? Because you know, how many sites have you gone to that are just it feels like they took a brochure from somewhere and just shoved it into the computer somehow and it’s like, “I’m getting absolutely nothing from this site. This is not helping me at all.” So, whether you’re referencing like the CDC or, you know, other very trustworthy organizations that you can kind of very easily call out, but that does lead to what are some other things? Like, we’ve called out the fact that we need to be focusing on the authoritative nature of the content, but what other things are a win for co-branding? What makes it actually work the way that we want it to and the way that we hope it will?
Scott: You know, to me, Michael, it’s interesting you said that, I’ve had this conversation so often where the surgeon will tell me that I’ve got a lot of really good patient education on my site and I’ll look at it and there’s no context to it. So, it’s almost like the surgeon is in competition with WebMD. I keep talking about robots, but it could be anything, right? And they basically stuck a video, an animation, or a piece of text from the company on their site and they go, “Okay, I’m done. You know, that’s great.” I always laugh and I say, “Well, they actually want to know what you do with the device or what you do with this particular procedure.” And I think the win in co-branding to me is like getting some good content about what the device does, what the implant does, what the drug does, whatever that is.
But then the next step, the real win is, “And as the provider of this particular service, I’m going to do this procedure. I’m very experienced at that. This is what you can expect. This is what our team does.” It’s like, yes, this is important to get this information out, but you’ve got to finish the story. It’s not enough to simply say, “Here’s some information about,” I keep sticking with the robot, “with the robot.” It’s like, “That’s great. It’s a robot. I’m glad you have one. Now, how often have you used it? Are you very experienced with it?” It goes back to the same things that we talk about all the time. Right, Michael?
Michael: Yeah. For sure. Everybody, I always appreciate that you tune in, that you’re listening to the show here. I wanted to let you know that we have set up a new newsletter that you can get to at paradigmshift.health, that’s paradigmshift.health. You can go there, and the reason that we’ve got this newsletter is that we’d like to send out a few extra pieces of information with the show. We also have a full transcript for every single episode that we do. And we can let you know that through email. We can let you know also if we have like a good quote card to be able to show for every episode. So, check that out if you’d like, paradigmshift.health. Thanks so much.
I don’t want to just see a video about how great the robot is, and I hope it is great.
Scott: Yes. Absolutely.
Michael: Because if you’re gonna use it on me, I hope you’ve got the right tools. But yeah, how does it incorporate into the overall process? You know, and how is your information any different than anybody else screwed up and stuff? You know, it’s funny because some of the conversations that we’ve had in the past, you know, somebody would say like, I want to be able to search for this, we’ll stick with the robot example, I want to search for this robot and have this person come up. And it’s like, you know, maybe that’s useful but if you see the exact same content over and over and over and over, and a way of writing content for your website, organic search, all that fun stuff. If Dr. Smith is the same as Dr. Jones, why would I pick either one of you? What makes the difference between the two of you? And so, being able to show some kind of individualization around that while still retaining the consistency of the message. Yes, the robot’s good. Again, I’m thrilled. Good for you. What does Dr. Smith or Dr. Jones going to do that’s going to help me and be different in any way?
Scott: That really is the win, right? It’s still or ultimately be the provider of the service. Glad you have a robot. I want one. I know that the people at Zimmer Biomet and Stryker are going to be wincing when I say this, but most patients could really care less whether it’s Rosa or Mako. Cool, it’s a robot. Now, very quickly, they move on to, “And how experienced are you with using the robot?” “What kind of reputation do you have online?” “Can you walk me through the process of just when I get a total joint done at your ambulatory surgical center, your hospital?” So, to your point, if everybody’s got the same video about X, that’s great. Love it. But how are you helping differentiate that particular surgeon will be the real key.
Jared: That’s a really good point, Scott. This is the part where it really does connect a lot with the last couple of episodes we’ve done. And particularly the episode with Dr. Greiwe, where he reiterated the thought that the last thing a practitioner wants is something that will distract them from taking care of their patients. Not news to any of us, but sometimes we act as if we forget that part. I remember that part of the conversation, it was really apropos to what we were talking about then, but also in this when the question is, why would a patient care about this material that you’re providing them? And then we kind of go down the same road. So, you know, if whatever the thing is, if we make something complicated for a practitioner, they’re going to shut down, and that was Dr. Griewe’s point. Now, co-branding in itself, has the opportunity to make the provider’s job easier or more difficult depending on how it’s done, how it’s executed.
So, when I’m thinking about what tips do we have for successfully making the provider’s job easier? I definitely think if it’s just one less thing that at the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be rocket science, but if we did make one thing easier for them and yeah, hey, these things are all set to go for them. You know, the provider doesn’t have to think individually all the components, all the steps to creating those materials and worry that it’s not going to be right. That’d be one way we can make the job easier. And I do, I think that axiom, I guess, kind of applies to everything. In what ways can we make the provider’s job easier and let’s do those things.
Scott: Yeah. It really is. If you’re listening to this podcast and you’re on the marketing team for that implant company, I know you get it. I know that you’re trying to make the job easier, but just really, they’re going to see 40 patients in an afternoon in a clinic. They’re just trying to take care of everybody quickly, efficiently, effectively. So, if you can get a way to make the explanation of whatever it is that you’re trying to describe for that doc, like, “Here’s this quick 30-second overview doc that you can provide to your patients so that it will make your job easier,” that is your win, right? That’s the win. If it’s like, “Hey, here’s a 40-page manual about why it’s really good for you.” It’s like, “Listen, man, you lost already. You know what I mean? Thank you very much for your time, but I got to go see some patients.” I’m shutting you down. I really do think it’s like, how do you get that information to the patient via the doctor quickly, effectively, whether that’s a handout, whether that’s a piece of video, animation, etc., that goes on the site or both? That to me is a real win.
Michael: You know, when we’re talking about that experience like once the patient gets in the office, what they’re going to hear from their doctor, but we’re hoping, and this can happen from a lot of different angles, that the device company, the medtech company, the whomever, plus the marketing team, plus whomever else, but if these different groups can help shape the patient that’s coming in, if the patient has some idea of what to expect before they get in to the practice, and there’s always going to be more conversations that need to be had there, but if we’re getting more of the right patient in the door, I think that that’s where that make things easier.
Mentality can really help because it’s not a matter of getting the patient that really doesn’t need to see that particular doctor. Again, we go back to ortho all the time, but it’s not just some kind of nerve pain. It’s something else that’s not actually what the ortho physician does. So, if we can help shape the funnel, shape that conversation that’s leading into that person getting into the first place, man, seeing the right people makes a big difference as to how hard or easy your day is because it’s a level of also of how successful your day was. You know, how much did you accomplish at the end of your day? And if a lot of your day is referring people to other practices, man, you didn’t get to accomplish what you hoped to, right?
Scott: You’re right about that. You know, if a patient comes in and it’s hip sciatica and not a need for a hip replacement, I mean, everybody’s unhappy. The surgeon feels bad that their time is wasted. More importantly, the patient’s time is wasted. The patient’s still in pain and needs to go see somebody else. I think all of those things are critical, and we’re getting off topic on co-branding. I mean, co-branding can help in some ways but it does bring up a point about how important it is. Like, if you’re going to spend all this time, money, and effort to get people to pick up the phone and call you, I hope the practice has trained the staff well enough so that they’re not just simply accepting appointments, but doing some vetting as well so that the right people are coming into clinic.
Michael: Yeah. I hope that, you know, everybody’s thinking of co-branding at least on the practices side as a part of what they’re doing. And if I’m also doing things like paying attention to my reputation, if I’m also doing things like having, you know, solid content on my website, all the different things that you need to be doing, co-branding can be a big boost to that, right? Like, there’s a way that you can help further amplify this messaging and then you bring the patient in and you’ve got the right experience for that patient to kind of go through the rest of it. If this is the only thing you’re doing, it’s hard.
Scott: It really is. Yes.
Michael: I think that’s a caveat we’re throwing out there that there are some people that go like, “Hey, I’m going to do this co-branding thing and that’s all the marketing I ever need to do. Cool. I’m done.” It’s like, “No.”
Scott: If you are the surgeon and the medical device company has come to you and said, “Hey, I think I want to work with you. And I think the win here is that I’ve got some materials that’ll help explain to your patients in a more effective manner. I’ve got some materials that I can provide to you, both in the clinic, on the website, at the newspaper level.” That’s all great, man. But your point, Michael is like if you’re taking that on and you haven’t talked to your staff, you know, the front office, the people answering the phone and going, hey, by the way, I’m about to embark on this large co-branding initiative with company X. If they haven’t taken the time, and Michael, we’ve seen it so many times where I’m talking to the office manager and they’re like, “I didn’t even know he was doing this.” They didn’t even know what it was.
Can you imagine being a patient saying, “Wow, you know, they’ve got this big campaign going on about robot X,” and then you call the practice, and the person answering the phone basically says, “No, we have surgeons that do our work. We don’t have robots.” Right? So, the surgeons have to go back to their staff and go, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing. And here’s why we’re doing this. And this is what you need to be able to tell people who answer the phone.” I think that you’re hitting it on the head, Michael, like too often, the people answering the phone, like their only job is “to schedule a time.” Well, if it’s something new and kind of cool, they better also be able to explain what it is and why it’s a good thing.
Michael: And that provides an opportunity for the company that’s trying to initiate that co-branding. I’ve had to become the process guy before. As a marketing thing, it was always like if you have good ideas, then it’ll always work, you know? And it’s just not enough, you know? So, having the ability to connect your ideas to actually making those things work. So, you know, if you’re planning a co-branding campaign for your company and you want to work with other doctors, other practices, think through these things. Think through how to help the doctor relay that message to the front desk, to any other marketing partners, to whomever else it needs to go.
Guys, there’s so much more that we could talk about this. This is something that we’ve definitely participated in and worked in this space for a long time. We definitely need to wrap up today’s episode. But I think that there’s a lot of opportunities here for both companies that are looking to roll up co-branding and for practices that are considering participating. There are some good opportunities where the patient really does win, and that’s really the big point out of all this. And that helps the company and the practice and all of those involved. So, I think this is probably something we’ll talk about more because I think we’ve got a lot to say here, obviously. But, guys, thanks for the time today, and as always, thank you for listening, everybody.
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