This is how we made digital marketing a key driver for the growth in our sleep device business
The global sleep apnea device market is booming as more people globally wake up to the physical, mental and economic costs caused by a lack of sleep. In the wake of rapid market growth, patients searching for sleep solutions online are being bombarded with messages from brands. For device businesses, cutting through this noise is a growing challenge, particularly if their digital marketing is less than best. With so many ways to reach consumers, the task is also becoming increasingly complex.
Consumers were already actively searching for solutions to cure sleep apnea a decade ago, when we launched Somnowell, the sleep device side of our business. Back then, dental clinicians were often overwhelmed by the number of medical devices they had to choose from to treat the condition – and that hasn’t changed.
Add to this the fact that many clinicians are still time-poor and inherently sceptical about being sold to, and it can make adoption a considerable hurdle for sleep device businesses.
These 3 strategies made the difference to our bottom line
We faced these challenges when we launched in the United Kingdom and then in the United States. We knew from the outset that to overcome them, the business model we developed would need to be based around three key strategies:
- We would need to use digital marketing to reach and educate as many clinicians and consumers as possible about who we were and what we had to offer.
- We would have to build a network of appropriately skilled dentists across the UK, so we could scale quickly and cost effectively.
- We would need to develop a software solution that could process the high volumes of customer enquiries we predicted we would attract as we grew. (As it turns out this solution has been hugely beneficial in helping a number of our clients scale as well.)
This is how those strategies played out as the business grew:
1. How digital marketing got us started
Digital marketing presents a lot of opportunities to educate people about your solution
We used digital marketing tactics to create the initial awareness and interest in Somnowell. Even though there wasn’t much awareness of brand, once we had the attention of a prospective patient, we were able to educate them about the positive outcomes of getting treated and the benefits of our solution over the alternatives.
We couldn’t educate everyone who was suffering with sleep apnea, but we could get the attention of people who are actively searching for a solution. They’re the people that we knew we could help immediately and who were most likely to proceed with treatments.
Even though we were new to the market, we treated people and asked them to provide us with testimonials as quickly as we could, and we used that, and the research we had to draw on, to market our product.
In the segment of the market where people are suffering but not actively seeking out solutions, they’re often suffering quite badly. Once they’re presented with the solution, they’re eager to learn more.
There was an understanding within the dental community at the time that dental sleep medicine was a growing area and another way that dentists could help their patients. Professor Simon Ash, who invented the Somnowell device and is behind the company, was already a well-known and highly respected consultant orthodontist in the UK, so we were able to capitalise on the attention we received from dentists because of his involvement.
2. How we built a nationwide network of dentists and took control of sales and marketing
Use your distribution channels to attract partners
We used combinations of email marketing and advertising campaigns to build our network of dentists around the UK, making sure we had sufficient coverage across the whole country. The goal of that really was to get appointments with dentists who we could then train face-to-face or online.
While any dentist could theoretically provide the Somnowell device, it’s in our interest to make sure the patient is seen by the best possible dentist in their area who understands dental sleep medicine and how to provide our device, so the patient gets the best outcome.
In the US, we did it slightly differently, using email marketing and relying mostly on events for dentists working in dental sleep medicine, of which there are just a few small events in the UK. But in the US, there are a lot of more of these events and they’re considerably larger.
Through our dental network we can now help people anywhere in the UK to access a dentist within reasonable travelling distance. This means we can run national campaigns and receive referrals from the British Snoring & Sleep Apnea Association for example, and from our other partners, to help their patients.
We’ve continued to develop the network, adding gold, silver, bronze and platinum levels to each practitioner’s listing, so consumers have more information when choosing a dentist to see for their Somnowell device. The network has been a critical step in us growing to become a national provider, otherwise we would be stuck with a handful of dentists and confined to just a few areas of the country.
To connect prospective patients with dentists and educate them to the point of being ready to proceed with a particular solution we use digital marketing to create the maximum number of touch points between the dentist, the patient and us. This is so we can create as many opportunities as possible for the prospective patient to receive the information they need to make contact with the dentist or for the dentist to make contact with the patients.
We use digital marketing to create as many opportunities as possible for prospective patients to receive the information they need to make contact with the dentist. Or for the dentist to make contact with the patients.
When we first launched Somnowell, having to go through clinicians to reach prospective patients was a major challenge for us. If you’re a device company that’s relying on clinicians to promote and sell your product, then it can be difficult if it’s in a competitive space where the clinician has a range of options to choose from or it’s the type of product that will require a lot of education for patients to understand the value of opting for a more expensive option.
We overcame that by taking control of the digital marketing and the sales ourselves, and we relied on the network to effectively promote the product for us. Then we invariably started receiving orders from dentists in the network that they generated through their own marketing within their practices or in their local area.
Now, we also generate business through direct-to-patient marketing, aimed at people who are actively searching for a solution on Google, for example. In the UK, they’ll see an advert from us that promotes our particular solution. We then respond to that patient, educate them about the benefits of our products and connect them with the nearest dental provider who provides the Somnowell device.
Developing a software solution that scales with the business
Free up your teams’ time by automating processes
One of the biggest challenges we had as we scaled was dealing with the new patient enquiries that we received. We were routinely running hundreds of campaigns, and we still do, for our networks of dentists. We found ourselves processing up to 300 enquiries manually per day. It became two people’s full-time jobs just dealing with these.
What we really needed was a solution that could run a lot of campaigns simultaneously with ease and to split test as well. Split testing normally requires a fair amount of volume to get statistically significant results. By developing our own lead distribution and response system (the LDRS), we were able to have separate creative assets for each practitioner but combine everything in such a way that we could do split tests in volume. This was incredibly helpful, because it meant that we could automate hundreds of campaigns in terms of the lead distribution and the follow-up marketing.
It became two people’s full-time jobs to process up to 300 enquiries manually per day. We just weren’t making the best use of their time, so we created a solution.
The LDRS processes the leads, calculates how each lead should be distributed and then distributes it, plus it does the follow-up marketing through SMS and email. It has saved us an awful lot of time. The detailed reports it produces shows us how those leads are converting into treatments, so we can constantly optimize our marketing efforts to produce better outcomes.
Now, we also use the software to process the leads that we generate for our clients at Somnowell Marketing, which is the digital marketing side of our business. We also do custom installations of it for other dental or sleep industry companies that are running a large number of campaigns to their networks of providers and need a tool that processes leads, sometimes with different rules based on where that particular lead has come from.
In a recent instance, one of our US-based clients used the LDRS to free up a team focused entirely on processing new patient enquiries. Now the process is automated, the team can explore how they can further help people to access the company’s life-changing treatments.
Over to you
Digital marketing offers incredible opportunities to generate awareness, connect people with sleep device treatments and products, and educate those who are not currently in the market for a product. The LDRS offers a way for medical device businesses to help hundreds of new patients every day and receive detailed insights that enable them to continually optimise their processes.
In our free Digital Marketing For Growth you can find out how to use digital marketing for every stage of business growth. It includes information of where to start and how to scale your tactics. And it also includes handy checklists to help you benchmark growth.