A Veteran Medical Device Sales Rep Explains How He Uses Social Media to Help Him Succeed

In the second episode of season 2 of the Make Marketing Easy podcast, host Joel Gaslin talks to Andy Wright, Sr. Regional Business Manager with Glaukos. To open, Andy explains how he realized that LinkedIn is a great avenue to get information out about his company. He began by asking surgeons he worked with to pose for pictures with their staff after their first surgery on LinkedIn. These posts would celebrate the surgery, congratulate the surgeon, and let Glaukos’ followers know that the surgeon had completed the surgery. This was initially met with several questions from colleagues and competitors, who wondered why Andy would post this information, but he emphasizes that there was a method to the madness.

Picture of Andy Wright

After posting, he would then share the post with the surgeons letting them know how many people viewed the post. From there, he would follow up a few more times with updates, which would almost always result in more clients coming to the practice for these surgeries. This became an incredibly easy marketing tool that would generate a lot of interest in the practice and the surgery. Andy heavily recommends this form of social media marketing as long as it meets all of the company guidelines. In the midst of all of the unknowns of Covid-19, the two recommend leveraging technology, social marketing and existing relationships with clients and vendors to help companies last through the chaos. 

To close, Andy recommends doing everything to make technology and remote-based correspondences as fun and interactive as possible.

For more information on the podcast, visit https://makemarketingeasy.com/.


Learn more about Glaukos.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.

Podcast Transcript

Joel Gaslin:  Welcome to the second episode of the second season of the “Make Marketing Easy Podcast.” I’m your host, Joel Gaslin. In this episode, you’ll hear from Andy Wright. Andy is a senior regional business manager with Glaukos. Glaukos is a medical device company that created the microinvasive glaucoma surgery category in ophthalmology.

What you’ll learn in this episode is how a veteran medical device sales professional uses social media to help grow his business and add value for his customers at the same time. I hope you enjoy this show. I’m very grateful for Andy’s willingness to share his insights in the Make Marketing Easy Podcast.

If you wish to stay connected with me, please visit makemarketingeasy.com. Put your email on the box in the upper right corner of the site, and you’ll be notified when the next episode is available. Also, you’ll get a free five‑week checklist containing ideas to help you reduce anxiety by staying connected with your customers and prospects when you can’t visit them.

My guest today on Make Marketing Easy Podcast is Andy Wright from Glaukos. Andy, what insight caused you to start using social media as a medical device salesperson?

Andy Wright:  Thanks for putting me on the call, Joel. Just quick feedback, we go into a surgery on what we call first starts with our surgeons when they’re beginning their initial training and evaluation stage with the iStent inject. What I did, which I thought was unique…One or two other people followed along, and then it kind of became epidemic.

Joel:  [laughs] Apropos term today, yeah.

Andy:  [laughs] I just started using particularly LinkedIn. I viewed it as a way to get a little closer to celebrate with my doctors. Just about everybody is on LinkedIn now, most of our doctors, our competitors, our referring surgeons, the optometric networks. I just felt like it was a neat avenue to get information quickly out, celebrating the onset of trying this new technology.

What I would do, which some people didn’t want any part of it but the vast majority were fine with it, I’d wait until the end of their first case. Then I’d ask them to post for a picture with me and with their staff members. Then we would have that come out.

I would crop it down, make sure people weren’t embarrassed and weren’t having a bitter‑beer face or something. Sometimes we’d take extra pictures. Then what I would do at the end of the day is I would put that up on LinkedIn.

I was very careful never to say, “Congratulations to Dr. Smith on your first implant,” just in case that patient or any of the next patients were looking at this and would then be judging him on the fact that it was his first time ever using it.

Joel:  Yeah, that’s good advice. It makes sense.

Andy:  I would word things on there also very carefully because we’d see some direction from our company of dos and don’ts in social media, not making any product claims, etc., just being somewhat vague.

The way I worded most of them was a hearty shout‑out. “Congratulations to Dr. Smith today from Cedar Surgery Center in Homedale, Ohio. This is an exciting message going out to everybody, letting them know that Dr. Smith is using the iStent inject, and “I really appreciate the support and help from their fantastic staff as well. Congratulations.” Short and sweet.

Joel:  What was the outcome that you initially noticed when you started?

Andy:  It was exciting. I got a lot of messages immediately on LinkedIn from competitors, coworkers saying, “What are you doing? This is crazy. How can you put that on there?”

I was challenged by one of my colleagues who would go unnamed and said, apparently, I didn’t know what I was doing in how I was using this. My response back to him was, “Look, just to prove to you that there’s a method to my madness, there’s a couple of things considered here, the power of the social media, especially in this venue of LinkedIn.”

It’s a professional version of watered‑down Facebook, for lack of a better term. I don’t put things on Facebook. I don’t put things on Instagram, just on LinkedIn. I said to him, “When I put this out there, I always follow up with my doctors.” Most of them like to be followed up via text versus a live call, etc. No one reads email anymore.

What I would do is take a screenshot of the picture that we took after the first case. I would send it to the doctor and say, “24 hours post‑op, day one, look how many views you have. You have close to 400 views in 24 hours. Who are those 400 people?”

Joel:  That’s a good question.

Andy:  Then I’d say, “Doc, do me a favor. Let me know how your patient looked. One‑day post‑op is never really the final resting spot, but give me a good idea of your experience yesterday. I appreciate you taking the time to work with me. I’d just like to get some feedback from you about your patient’s outcome.”

Then at one week, I would call them. I’d take another screenshot. By then, they’d be up to 2,500 views. There’s a magic to it where some of these guys, I had about 100 percent rate of them responding back to me. They would get excited like, “2,500 people actually viewed this?” I’d once again say, “There are 2,500 people now wondering why you haven’t scheduled the second eye.”

Joel:  [laughs] All right. How did that go over?

Andy:  A little tongue in cheek, a little fun, a little poke. Almost every client responded back, “Yeah, I found three more patients today in my clinic. I’m going to schedule them soon, too.” It lent itself. It was a soft sell. It was a celebration that I was sharing with them and congratulating them on adding a new, vibrant technology to their practice and, hopefully, having continued success.

Then I would go back to them live. Sometimes they’d call me and say, “Hey, I’ve got this patient with pigmentary glaucoma. Can we do this?” They’d start asking me all the questions. Often, in those questions, we talked about the strength of the message that we put out on LinkedIn.

Joel:  That’s great. What effect do you think it had on how they viewed Andy Wright as a consultant to the practice? How do you think it affected that?

Andy:  I think it affected it pretty positively. There was never really a negative. I had several doctors say, “Oh, your competitor was in here, laughing about how nice it is that you share all that information.” Not to be overly cocky but a lot of my responses back were, “If they’re good at their job, they should know where I am. It shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

Joel:  That’s a good response. What’s amazing to me is the industry that you and I both spend our careers in, ophthalmology, we’re pretty lucky that the physicians that we work with generally are willing to share how they do what they do with their colleagues/competitors because they believe that it is best for the patient.

It’s great when salespeople say, “Hey, I’m perfectly happy to share with you how I do what I do because I just think I can do it well, and it’s going to work for me.” When someone makes statements like that, I chuckle at that.

Andy:  Joel, this thing got a little bit bigger. There was a couple of times in the last…Probably I’ve been doing this for two years now. I’d say I have close to maybe 70, 80 people up on that.

What was neat is I had a couple of doctors that I was doing my first day in surgery with. At the end or halfway through this, they were, “Aren’t we going to take a picture? I’ve seen all of those pictures of my competitor.”

Joel:  [laughs] That’s great. That’s when you know you’ve made it, when people are asking for it. That’s cool.

Andy:  Yeah, this is interesting. One of the questions I would ask these guys live when I go on work with them again, I’d say, “Hey, look at all these views.” I’d keep on bringing that up and showing them the picture. I would say thanks to them.

There was one guy. He had over close to 4,000, like 3,700 views, and something like 65 comments were made on it. I said, “A lot of the comments that are being made aren’t towards me saying, ‘Way to go, Andy.'” People would occasionally do that.

I said, “A lot of these comments are from your referring ODs and from guys that you were in residency with or gals that you went to med school with. People are celebrating now along with you. It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?”

Joel:  Yeah, that’s cool.

Andy:  At that same time, then we started seeing other ophthalma companies with reps holding up boxes and doing the same thing. It caught on. It was fun, but there’s still some naysayers who discount it.

I said, “Hey, it worked for me. I’d never felt there was a negative to doing it. As long as you made sure you follow what your company’s guidelines were on, using social media didn’t make any claims,” and in respect to the doctors not call it their first time using it. That could lead them to having to answer questions of patients that maybe they wouldn’t be comfortable with.

Joel:  Right. It’s interesting, that whole first thing because a lot of people like to be first. I was amazed when a certain new technology was put out there, how many different people said they were the first in a state to do that. I’d say, “Who’s the validating body of all that? Why does it matter?” It’s funny.

Andy:  I won’t go and name that, but you and I know exactly who that was. It was interesting because I called a couple of reps from that company. One rep…I won’t give you her name. You know her. We’ve been friends for a long time.

She said, “I’m just doing what you did.” I said, “Yeah, but you’re congratulating the doctor for being the first person in a specific geographic location.” They were making claims about what the product is doing. They had HIPPA issues where they took pictures with the patient.

I was like, “Man, you better run that by internally with your company.” None of those things make that much sense. If I’m one of those doctors’ competitors and you’ll come and see me, and I’d been supporting your product portfolio for decades, I’m going to be a little upset and ask, “What made you decide to make my competitor the first one in this town?”

Joel:  That’s all good advice. It’s all true. Just to back up for the listeners, a little bit of Andy is in my history. Andy, back in July of 1992, was my first sales trainer as I got into the surgical part of ophthalmology at the Storz Instrument Company.

I remember flying to Cincinnati and spending a week with Andy and just being amazed that the relationships you had with your customers and the way you could go in and out of offices and surgery centers. I’m grateful for what I learned there. Luckily, it worked out well for me. You’ve done really well.

With what’s happening in the world right now, it’s going to be different. How do you think it will impact you and how you do your everyday work now with what’s happening in the world with COVID and all that SARS stuff?

Andy:  A lot of unknowns there. You and I have a long history. We’ve been blessed and had great careers. There’s a lot of unknowns at the current situation. Are we going to be able to have the same level of freedom in and out of operating rooms?

All the pressures that sales reps have faced in the last several years with vendor credentialing ‑‑ Vendormate, Reptrax, symplr, etc. ‑‑ I can only imagine that’s going to become even more of a stumbling block for the vast majority of us going into places.

Free‑standing surgery centers may be a little bit more flexible with that. If you’re covering a territory that’s predominantly HOPD, main hospital settings, you may have a lot of challenges going forward. Hopefully sooner than later, we’re all going to get a peek at what our future looks like, but it’s certain to have changed.

Joel:  I agree. That’s why it’s important what you were up, a leader in doing for med device folks of finding different ways to bring value to the doctor and the practice so that you can be a trusted advisor rather than just another person pedaling a product or a service. I congratulate you on that. It’s cool. What’s next for you?

Andy:  Sitting around…

Joel:  [laughs]

Andy:  …waiting for another two Zoom calls today. I had one at 10:00, got one coming up at 2:00 and another at the end of the day. That seems to be the new communication. I’ve been having fun with that too.

Joel:  Where do you think that’ll fit into being able to communicate and have meetings with surgeons going forward?

Andy:  We were talking a lot about that. On our calls, we’re all…It’s new to everybody, too. We’re exploring how that’s going to benefit us. It’s great. You’ve seen some of them are ready, I’m sure, where you have 10 physicians getting on there. They’re inviting other people to jump in, and listen in, and be part of that. It’s interesting where that goes.

I’m thinking that it’s going to be harder to gain access to surgical suites of my doctors at hospitals versus surgery centers. My territory is probably more heavily weighted towards ambulatory surgery centers.

I’m hoping I have easier reentry into the OR, but I can also imagine that there are going to be some people from a credentialing perspective where they’re going to want to take the temperature of every rep walking in. There’s going to be new requirements, new protocols.

Once you get in, there may even be…I mean almost every place that you and I go into surgery has some sort of monitor system where you can watch the case up on a TV on the wall.

We’ve been talking about how do we access that medium and have some doctors who are a little less likely to let you in the room say, “Can we pipe that out into an empty room down the hallway and maybe FaceTime or have an earbud?

I can coach you on things that I’m witnessing during each procedure that maybe gives me the same ability to coach you with a new product without standing right next to you, looking through the observer’s scope.”

Joel:  That’s interesting. I spend more time, Andy, now in marketing than I do out in the field selling for quite some time. When I think about this, I’d be grateful for your advice as a marketing person who puts together content and things to help reps get in front of people, and tell the story, and help a prospect go from being curious to enlightened to making a commitment.

How do you think we should view content creation? What tools do you think salespeople will need as you think about having to do Zoom calls and something like that? How should we be thinking about trying to make it better for salespeople?

Andy:  It’s a great question, Joel. I don’t know if I have all the answers for that. The changes in the lanes, I’ve noticed we call them lunch‑and‑learns over the years. Opportunities get in front of staff and coach them a little bit about ways they can help their doctors internally mind their practices for patients or help better educate optometrists and referral networks.

Those things are only going to just get more expanded. The Zoom tool, any of those type of new, fad technologies, for lack of a better description, if you can make it fun, if you can make it less of a parental‑type teaching situation and more interactive, we’ve got the tools now to do that.

I would imagine more of my time is probably going to be spent doing dry labs and doing lunch staff trainings.

Joel:  And doing them remotely?

Andy:  You can do them remotely.

Joel:  That’s interesting.

Andy:  A lot of big changes. We’re going, like we all do, go out there and see how many places we get told we’re not allowed into and then try to come up with strategies that would get us on that.

Joel:  You’ve been doing that really well for a long time, so I imagine you’re going to keep doing that. That’s good.

Andy:  Sign language from the parking lot.

Joel:  [laughs] It’s hard to know. Well, I’m grateful for your time. Anything that I haven’t asked you about that perhaps you’d like to talk about on the program before we sign off?

Andy:  No, I’m all set. Joel, thanks for having me. I appreciate you taking the time, too.

Joel:  I appreciate it.

Thanks a lot for listening to the Make Marketing Easy Podcast. My goal was to help you think of learning about marketing as a way for you to achieve the results you imagine in your territory and also use those skills to add value to your customers’ businesses.

If you want to learn more ways to make marketing easy, go to makemarketingeasy.com and download my free five‑week checklist containing ideas to help you reduce anxiety by staying connected with your customers and prospects when you can’t visit them. Until next time. Thanks again. I’m grateful that you took the time to listen.

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