001: The Secrets of Medical Device Marketing with Joe Hage

In this episode, Joe Hage shares the most important marketing and communications tips for companies going through medical device development.  He gives the following actionable advice + more:

  • How to connect with influential people and actually get a response.
  • How to use LinkedIn when looking for investors in your product.
  • Why communication is the key to achieving you goal.

Join us at the upcoming 10x Medical Device Conference and use promo code IMUA at checkout for a $30 discount.

Take Action!

  1. Go to: http://medicaldeviceevents.com/
  2. Register for the 10x Medical Device Conference
  3. Use promo code: IMUA to save $30 off the ticket price.

Links to Things Mentioned in This Episode:

Joe Hage Online
Medical Devices Linkedin Group
MedicalDeviceEvents.com  Use promo code IMUA at checkout for $30 discount
MedicalMarcom.com Click to download free lead generators for medical device companies


Joe Hage (@joehage) is the leader of the world’s largest medical device community on LinkedIn, he’s a medical device marketing consultant, and he specializes in helping those in product development, at any stage, with their marketing communications strategy.


Medical Marcom (@MedicalMarcom) is a medical marketing consultancy specializing in marketing communications and strategy, lead generation, web development, and social media.

The Medical Devices Group is the world’s largest medical device community and the industry’s only spam-free, curated forum for intelligent conversations with medical device thought leaders.


-“When you are reaching out to people it’s always gotta be about them” – Joe Hage

-“You just need something that says you actually did a little bit of homework”

-“If you want the attention of an influencer, help them understand what you are doing that is unique and exciting”

-“Everything is story telling”

-“Frame your pitch in a way that we can understand what you are doing”

Social Connecting:

Guest: Joe Hage


Company: Medical Marcom


Host: Meghan Alonso


Company: Imua Services/Inspired by Imua


Podcast Transcription:

Recorder: Are you ready to master the waves of medical device product development? Well wax up your surfboard because you are listening to Inspired by Imua. Here is your medical device development expert, that Hawaiian hearted hostess who will help you hang ten, Meghan Alonso.


Meghan: E komo mai and aloha! Today’s guest is one of the most influential people on LinkedIn, and can also help those in medical product development at any stage with their marketing communication strategy. Please welcome, Joe Hage. Aloha Joe, so tell us what you have going on LinkedIn.


Joe: Wow, that was a very generous introduction, Meghan, and if I’m not mistaken, I am podcast number 1.


Meghan: You are.


Joe: I am honored by this.


Meghan: Very good.


Joe: What’s going on LinkedIn….well as you know I lead a group on LinkedIn called the Medical Devices Group. As of this recording in April, 2106, we have 311,000 members worldwide.


Meghan: Wow.


Joe: Yeah, it got to be wow. I attribute that to the community that has been very generous with their expertise, you included. We have subgroups, and we have folks who ask good questions, and give good answers. I take great care to make sure we keep spam out of there, so it can actually be a valuable resource.


Meghan: Why is it important to be plugged in to the groups, and why do you think networking is valuable in our industry?


Joe: I think it’s valuable everywhere, it’s a lot easier to call up a buddy and say, hey, I need you to be my first guest on my podcast then writing a stranger and saying, hey, I’m starting a podcast because friends of Meghan will do anything for Meghan.


Meghan: Ah.


Joe: Same for friends Joe, and friends of friends. I have a client right now who is in a very specific space in medical devices, and specifically in energy delivery, and he has a very narrow focus. We’re going company by company to see who we know if our combined networks because that’s far more valuable a way to start a conversation then, hey, I saw you’re on LinkedIn which is rather tiresome actually. A lot of us get emails from complete strangers, it’s always better to have a warm intro, you know that.


Meghan: Yeah, and here’s a tip. If you are cold emailing someone on LinkedIn, don’t just request them to be in your network, add that little personal touch to their request.


Joe: More than that, give them a reason to care, what’s in it for them?


Meghan: There you go.


Joe: I know that one of the reasons you asked me to be on, and thank you, is because I do marketing for a living, I specialize in marketing, communication and strategy. I do lead generation and website development for medical device and related companies. My very first piece of advice for your listeners, is it’s always got to be about them (their customers). You may in fact need something, but that’s not their problem. If you reach out to someone, make sure you put in the context of, why should they care. A mutual friend, or a shared group, or I saw a commentary on a discussion that really intrigued me. Something that says, I actually did a little bit of homework, you intrigued me, and I hope to have conversation with you, is better than, hi, I’m blank, and I’m doing this, please click here. It’s like, why did you contact me?


Meghan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that’s great advice that our guests can take away. You mentioned you helped people with medical and marketing communications, so how did you end up in the medical device industry?


Joe: I’ll keep this part short to keep the interview interesting because people don’t really need to know about my long background, but I’m 20+ years in marketing. Kraft, Campbell’s, advertising, and my last job was as Director of Marketing Communications for a publicly traded medical device company. When they were bought by an Indian company, I went out of my own 5 years, and surprisingly, we still have a home, so something’s working.


Meghan: Woo-hoo!


Joe: Yeah, something’s working, and I’m excited about your new enterprise.


Meghan: Thank you. Speaking of making it all about them, Joe has a free gift for you, so we’ll get into that later, but I want to pick Joe’s brain a little bit here. Marketing communications is applicable in medical product development at any stage, so let’s see. If a company is early stage, and they’re pitching for investments, I know a lot of mistakes are made, and things are done wrong. What are some things that they can do to avoid making these mistakes, or what are some tips that you have for that type of marketing communications?


Joe: Because I have the great big group, I get a lot of unsolicited email, most of its welcome, but when I get an email from someone saying, hey Joe, do you know anybody with money, we’re doing a raise? That’s just not the right question to ask. It’s not because it would require me to use my personal capital with someone to say, I trust what Bill is doing. I’ve read the plan, I understand the strategy, I think it’s good, and therefore I’m bringing it to you. As opposed to, hey, some guy asked me for money, I know you’re rich, so would you talk to him? It’s like, are you kidding? No one would do that.


One mistake that I see over and over and over again, is hey, you know me, I’m doing something, I need money, can you help? You’re influencers, like me, need more than that to feel good about using what capital we have with our network to introduce you. Perhaps a better question, or better way to frame things, is to, again, what’s in it for me? Help me understand what you’re doing that’s unique that would excite someone who might be interested in investing in you. That doesn’t mean load me down with features and benefits, it means … I’ll share this antidote.


I met a fellow at a networking event, and I was playing the role of interviewer. I interviewed him, and was talking about his innovation which I learned was something that only 3 players in the market were doing, anything related to it. I said, “Why should we care about yours?” He said, “Well, they haven’t touched this product in 60 years, and for them it’s an afterthought.” These are J&J major companies, this is a small division. He found one way to make that product better, and then he approached J&J and others and said, “Here’s something that I’ve worked on, and it can be the innovation that you haven’t invested in.” All 3 of the major players, each of them have a 1/3 of the market, are interested in potentially working with him, buying him out, distributing it, replacing their product.


He came up with a unique problem to solve that was not being met by current products, it already has CPT code, he already has strategic backing from major companies. That frankly is the first private investment I’ve ever made in a medical device. I’ve happily told a dozen of my quote/unquote rich friends, if you’re looking to invest in medical devices, I have one that I was willing to put my money behind. That says a lot more than, I know a guy who built a thing and needs some money, do you want to talk to him?


Meghan: Yeah, it does….well good. What about later on in development, or when they’re mapping out their sales launch? What marketing tips do you have then?


Joe: Everything is storytelling really. Once again I’ll say, what’s in for me, the reader of your website, the listener to your phone call, to your pitch. Frame things in a way that we understand what your primary benefit is, and why we should be able to believe that you can uniquely deliver on it. Help us understand what the competitive frame is. If you’re launching in the US, really anywhere, but especially the US, we’re going to need to know who’s going to pay, so be very familiar with reimbursement. In fact, having a conversation with someone like Beth Brooks over decision drivers about reimbursement before you get too far down your product development is critical, so you can see if there’s going to be a market of people who can actually afford the thing that you are building.


Meghan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Joe: If it’s a brand new concept, there may not be a reimbursement code for it. If it’s a thing to replace something that’s already in the market, why should someone switch from what they’re doing to what you have? Is the benefit so incremental that they’re willing to go through purchasing, and GPO’s, HMO’s, the whole gamut of organizations that go into these vary complex decisions about who is going to be a buyer for you. I’m sure there’s a follow-up to the question, I’ve kind of rambled myself into a little corner.


Meghan: I think you answered it pretty well. The next one I want to ask about, is someone that has their product on the market, and I know sometimes with medical devices communication needs to be pretty clear with the claims that the device is making. What advice do you have on that?


Joe: I’m a bit of a broken record really here. It shouldn’t surprise you that since I start with communication, that I advise my clients to do the same. I need to hear a really, crisp understanding of who the target is, and what problem they presently have, and how you’re going to solve it, and why I should believe you, before I’ll even take a client. That story has to be very easy to glean from a quick glance at a website, or we’ve all heard the term elevator pitch, they’re important.


When you meet someone over a cocktail, and they say, so what do you do? If you start with um, or well, or something that’s other than a crisp, if you are this kind of person, and you have this kind of need, we should talk. If you know someone who might have that need, you’re welcome to put me in touch with them, so that they know specifically what your value proposition is. I can’t stress it enough, without that, what’s the point of the rest of it? I’ll have people say, can you put me in touch with so and so, and so and so, and I’ll say, yes, but what’s the story? Unless I have a clear story to communicate about why they should care, why would I have them call you?


It’s also why I won’t basically do much with a client other than talk strategy before we start working on improving, most often, their website because it’s like, would you have people over your house before you cleaned up? That’s what it’s like doing the Lead Generation Campaign, and send people to your site, and they get there and they’re like, what is this? I don’t even know what I’m reading here, or you don’t put them in a clear place that identifies that they’re in the right place for their specific need set.


Meghan: Joe, your website is an excellent example of this, I like how you ask the user those questions. Depending on their answers they can quickly determine if they’re in the right place for them or not.


Joe: I have a luxury being a sole proprietor, I get to, well, most brands with a strong leadership team can get to here, but I embrace the fact that I am not the right answer for a host of prospects. Even if they are in medical devices, and they need someone who does medical device marketing, I may not be the right answer for them. I’m very clear in my communication, so that people who read my content and say, I get this guy, we’re going to be great friends, and we’re going to work together. If someone reads my stuff and is like, yeah, I don’t really like his tone, well guess what? We wouldn’t get through the 2nd week before you discovered the tone live, and we’ve wasted both of one another’s time.


I’m very comfortable having a very specific way that I approach the market, and for the half dozen or so who say yes during the course of a year, great, I can feed my family. For the hundreds or thousands of others who visit my properties, and say, yeah, but no, that’s okay, that works.


Meghan: Yeah, and I think that’s great. There’s lots of different personalities out there, and just got to click, and you got to do business with someone you like.


Joe: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Like Joe and Meghan.


Meghan: Exactly.


Joe: Exactly.


Meghan: Speaking of Joe and Meghan, we are going to be seeing each other soon at your conference.


Joe: 4 weeks, yep.


Meghan: Tell us a little bit about that.


Joe: You’re referring to the 10X Medical Device Conference, I host it the first week of May each year. I think Southern California will be its permanent home, this will be our 2nd year in San Diego, I already planned to be back there in 2017.


Meghan: Woo-hoo! So excited.


Joe: Yea. That’ll be our 5th year, we limit participation to 200 guests, and this particular conference is really about networking. Putting it this way, the industry didn’t need another medical device conference, but because I lead this great big group, I wanted to meet the people in it, and, so what started as Joe wants to meet people became an event that’s gotten some traction. There are 10 hours of speakers, but 10 hours of networking, ice cream, and breakfast and lunches, and drinks, and I have a section just called play time where we’re just going to hang out. There are some people who call and say, is this right for me? I explain completely what it is, and tell some people no, and other people yes.


I’m looking for people who share this kind of open heart of coming, and talking, and sharing ideas. Some of the ideas will work out really well for you, and some of them will be you giving to someone else, and building your network. Some people say, look, if I can’t get an ROI, if I can’t see that they’re going to be a dozen people that I can call on and convert into clients, I don’t want to come. I say, then please don’t because that’s not what this is. Anyone who wants to show up in spray business cards at my friends, I say, no thank you. I protect this community that I’ve built, and I’m glad you’re a part of it. When I have a chance to introduce you personally to someone, you know that I will, and so goes the expression for the other 199 in the room.


Meghan: Yeah. I went last year, I really enjoyed it. It is that more intimate setting, and it’s definitely not a place where you’re going to get a lot of leads, but you invest in those relationships that you make there, and the leads come from that. Just showing up, like Joe said, with an open heart, and expecting just to get to know people, that’s when things are going to happen later because of those investments.


Joe: I know people who become CEO’s, have joined boards, have gotten jobs, and that’s great. There are others who just made new best friends, and they refer business to one another, or I now I have someone who’s a friend in reimbursement, and I know I can call her whenever I need her.


Meghan: Exactly.


Joe: That’s what makes it all worthwhile for me. You brought last year.


Meghan: I did.


Joe: Some of your listeners might not know who Abby is.


Meghan: Abby is my dog, she’s a little over 3 years now, she’s a husky, so she came last year, and worked the registration table with me. Unfortunately she had a stomach bug, so we had to leave early.


Joe: Yes. Is she coming this year?


Meghan: She’s not, she’s going to stay home.


Joe: Okay.


Meghan: Yeah.


Joe: I made a coupon code for your friends.


Meghan: Yeah. Where can they register for this event first of all, or find out more information?


Joe: The website is medicaldeviceevents.com, that’s 1 device and 2 events, medicaldeviceevents.com, and at check out, why don’t you tell them what the code is.


Meghan: The promo code is Imua, that’s I-M-U-A.


Joe: That’ll save you $30.00 off our reception.


Meghan: So it’s May 2nd through the 4th in San Diego, don’t worry if you’re not in San Diego because it’s very close to the airport. Actually, the hotel has a free shuttle to and from the airport.


Joe: It’s a mile and a half away from the airport, and I’m pretty sure that most of your guests will be closer than my guests flying in from Nigeria …


Meghan: Wow.


Joe: … Australia, Finland, Norway, I’ve lost track. It’s wonderful that, frankly I always thought people who could drive to my thing would show up, and for people to come from all around the world makes it very satisfying.


Meghan: Yeah, that’s great, I’m even more excited now.


Joe: Yeah.


Meghan: In addition to that bonus, Joe has another bonus. You mentioned lead generation earlier, so talk to us about the lead generation giveaway you have.


Joe: This is beyond my lead generation giveaway, I would leave your listeners with 3 main thoughts about what’s important in medical device marketing. Number 1, is can you be found. That can be as simple as you have a website that I can find on Google, or I can type in, but there are some that are just starting, and they’re not ranked, and I just can’t find them. I want to find out more about them, and the only thing I can find, is they funding somewhere, and I can’t find any more information about them. It’s hard to attract a lot of interest unless there’s a place that we can read about you. Number 1 is can you be found, and that could be having your site optimized for search engines, or it could be a host of other things. We could talk about that, but number 1 is can you be found.


Number 2 is when you’re found, are you engaging? That’s goes back to my, is your house clean or dirty when I come over? If it’s a mess, I’m just going to leave, and I’m not going to read, and I’m not going to get the point, so make sure your house is in order before you invite someone over. Have crisp, clear communication on your site about what you offer, and why someone might get in touch with you.


And 3rd is when you engage them, and they decide they are in the right place, you want to give them a reason to leave their contact information with you. You can typically do that with a giveaway of some kind. In my case I have a 25 page PDF about the 10 strategies that you might consider to get someone to leave their contact information with you which is valuable in the field of medical device marketing, and it’s a free download. All I ask you to do, is share your email address. I’ve chosen to merely ask for that one data point, so that you can get the thing. Others have long forms, I tend to shy away from them. If people see themselves as a correct member of the audience, they’ll be back, and I have a way to send them future emails as I see fit.


In sum, number 1, can you be found, number 2, is our you engaging, and number 3, is there a way for me to let you know who I am. In my case Meghan’s referring to that eBook, you can find it at medicalmarcom.com, that’s medical, and then M-A-R-C-O-M.com, and it’s pretty available for you to download. You’ll see it there I’m sure.


Meghan: Great. Joe, thanks for being on the show with us today.


Joe: I was guest number 1.


Meghan: You were.


Joe: That was nice.


Meghan: Yeah, well I will see you in a few weeks at 10X.


Joe: Excellent.


Meghan: Guys we are all done, in other words, pau hana, and speaking of Hawaiian words, ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten. Those waves of medical device development can be rough, so we have our own ohana, and the Facebook group we’ve started. Go check out Inspired by Imua, just type that in the search bar in Facebook, and you guys can share resources, share insight, inspiration, just talk shop, and help each other master the waves of medical device development. See you in there, and until next time, Imua!


Recorder: Mahalo for joining us. If you’re new to riding the waves of medical device product development, or if you’ve been in development for a while already, Inspired by Imua is here to surf with you. Want to be a master of the waves? Text hangten, that’s H-A-N-G-T-E-N to 44222. We’ll send you the most common wipe-outs companies make in product development, so you can avoid them, and reach master wave status. Again, that’s hangten to 44222. We publish a new episode every Tuesday, so catch us at inspiredbyimua.com. Imua!



About the Author

Meghan M. Alonso
Meghan M. Alonso, referred to by Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington as a medical device development expert, is known for equipping medtech & IVD companies with the knowledge, resources, and connections they need to bring innovative products to market. She’s the IVD Product Marketing Manager for NAMSA and founder of Imua Services. She’s a contributing author for best selling book “Put a Shark in Your Tank” with Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington, and the prestigious “Molecular Profiling – Methods and Protocols”(a must read in molecular diagnostics). Her podcast, MedTech Inspired, in which she interviews the hottest startups, experts, and investors, won iTunes “New and Noteworthy”. According to the Huffington Post, she helps clients navigate the complicated process of bringing their ideas to the marketplace. She’s a patriotic military wife, pet parent, founder and co-founder of 4 successful companies who thrives on guiding medical device and IVD companies through development and manufacturing. When she isn’t helping others, Meghan is hard at work on her MBA she is pursuing from Auburn University, staying active with her adorable husky Abby, crossfitting, enjoying great restaurants and fine wine with her husband, soaking up the sun the nearest beach, and promoting the adoption of shelter dogs.

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