Orthopedics Marketing at AAOS
If you sell products to the orthopedic market, there is no better opportunity than exhibiting at AAOS. Over 14,000 domestic and international orthopedic surgeons attend the conference every year. AAOS is where little startups with great products turn into giants and where existing orthopedic giants present their technologies to the masses.
Ghost Productions has been producing medical animation, booth graphics, and interactive displays for our orthopedic clients for nearly two decades. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about how to help our clients achieve their goals over the 4-5 days at the annual American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons meeting.
Establish your goals first – What do you intend to accomplish by exhibiting at AAOS? How can you use AAOS to accomplish your strategic plan for your products and your company? Write down your goals and be specific, honest, and if necessary, brutal. Only after you’ve set established goals can you begin planning and executing your strategy to achieve those goals. Every decision you make and every dollar your spend should have your primary goals in mind.Example Goals “Get 5000 new surgeons/practices to use our device/tools/technology.” “Showcase our products to attract investors or acquisition from larger companies.” “Influence 30% of competitor A’s customers to migrate to our technology.” Your exhibit must achieve fascination in 15 seconds or less – Regardless of your goals, you need to attract visitors and interest to your exhibit and products. AAOS is a very busy and competitive arena and the exhibit hall is loaded with 600 companies fighting to grab every visitor’s attention. To achieve your goals you have to create a space that simply cannot be ignored. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your exhibit.
- The average company budgetary allotment to events and exhibits is 31.6%. This means that if you intend to be a contender, you’ve got to be willing to make an investment. Don’t expect to see much return on your investment by showing up to AAOS with an off-the-shelf booth and a few products on a table. You need to spend at least 20% of your total conference budget on designing and building your exhibit. Skimping on the exhibit is not how companies dominate at a conference such as AAOS. Source: Tradeshow Week Research
- Carefully consider the layout of your booth and find a way, if possible, to make an empty space inside for visitors. Avoid putting any counters or tables across the front of the booth or between your staff and the visitors. If you can get visitors in your booth, you control the environment and can better eliminate your audience from becoming distracted by other exhibits.
- Graphics and design are the most important elements of your booth and must communicate your message quickly, purely visually, and effectively. Exhibit halls are noisy places and you cannot rely on audio being heard or understood. Make sure your graphics can be seen and are doing their job of gaining visitor interest. Using fewer words means your message is more easily seen from further away and much more easily understood.
- Create an interactive experience for your audience by stimulating their tactile curiosity. Surgeons, especially orthopedic surgeons, are a hands on bunch of doctors. Most of them prefer to touch and interact with technologies for themselves. Consider the possibility of including product demos, interactive games and lots of opportunities for visitors to touch and try stuff for themselves.
Find more ideas from Competitive Edge’s guide to Designing an Effective Exhibit.
The best ways that Ghost Productions can help you dominate the competition at AAOS is by helping you deliver an exhibit that effectively delivers your message with captivating medical illustrations and booth graphics, 3D medical animation, and interactive presentations.
Medical Illustrations and Booth Graphics
An effective exhibit attracts visitors on purely visual aesthetics. It is absolutely imperative that the graphics displayed in your exhibit tell visitors exactly what you do and why they may be interested in you based on little more than a fleeting glance. Here is our best advice for getting the most out of your exhibit graphics.
Images convey more than words – Unless your tagline is so brilliant and short that simply reading it on a banner will completely redefine the world as we know it, you’ll likely get a lot more attention by displaying graphics of your products in use than you will by projecting even the most impressive paragraph ever written. So calculate every square inch of graphic space in your booth and dedicate at least 90% of it to images and branding.
Beauty is more subjective than ugly – Unless your niece is a professional product photographer or medical illustrator, don’t hire her to take pictures of your products for your booth graphics. Also, don’t rely on your engineers to render beauty shots of your products in ProE, Autocad, or Solidworks. Your engineers are highly trained professionals using equally matched software to make perfectly designed products for manufacturing purposes. Neither they, or their software, is optimized for producing striking images capable of driving wanderlust from those passing by your booth. Our artists and our software is designed to make photorealistic and hyper-stylized motion pictures and commercial quality renderings. The $500 you save making it in-house isn’t worth the loss you’ll incur when you present half-assed graphics, especially when you are surrounded by your competitors sporting some of the most beautiful medical graphics ever created for the orthopedic industry.
If your company sells an orthopedic device, surgical tool, or diagnostic technology, nothing will help explain your products better or faster than a well designed 3D animation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that your animation provides you with the most value for the lowest cost.
A shorter animation is better – 3D Animation delivers a lot of information quickly and at AAOS, time is limited. Your animation doesn’t need to explain every single detail of your surgical procedure, it just needs to inspire interest in those passing by your booth well enough to want to learn more about your technology. Your animation should quickly explain the most novel features of your products and help start a conversation with you and your staff inside your booth. There you can show them a more detailed version of the animation on iPads or other displays that answers all of their questions.
Start planning early to get the best animation at the best price – Excellence cannot be rushed, or if it can, it cannot be rushed at a reduced price. The longer you have to choose the studio and plan out your project, the better it will accomplish your goals. A great animation requires six weeks to produce, but having eight weeks allows for ample time to review drafts and polish the animation. To help incentivize our clients to start early, we are offering significant discounts on AAOS animations. For those willing to plan ahead, the savings can be quite significant, allowing our customers to get a lot more animation bang for their buck.
Funny Story: The Super-Rush
“It happens every year. About two to three weeks before a major medical conference we always get a call from a frantic client who suddenly realized they need an animation for the show. Sometimes they’ve already hired another company to make the animation and that company dropped the ball and sometimes they just suddenly decided they needed an animation at the last second. ~512 exhibitors attend AAOS every year and we’ve produced animation for over 200 of them. It is likely that we’re still finishing several projects for many of the clients attending the show and therefore it is likely that we don’t have time to produce a miracle, as much as we’d like, in time for the show. Even if we could take on the work we would be incurring significant risk with such a short deadline and we’d be forced to work nights and weekends to ensure maximum quality. This means rush fees that will increase the cost of a project anywhere from 25%-800%. Yes, we’ve produced projects with rush fees as high as 800% when a client needed an epic project with less than 3 days to deliver. Our team is willing to work 72 hours straight, but it will cost you.”
Multiple products need multiple solutions – If you have multiple products, make multiple animations and display them on multiple displays. If you cannot afford multiple displays or the booth real-estate, have your animation designed so that it brands each product differently by color-coding or other means of visual differentiation so that your customers don’t get confused between the different product lines asp the animation loops.
Pick a studio that has proven success in animating products similar to yours and work directly with the studio – If you need an animation that explains your surgical procedure involving pedicle screws, you want a provider that can show you several examples of work they’ve produced involving pedicle screws. You also want to be able to say, “Move the cannula 1.5 millimeters laterally and move the camera posterior to the iliac crest,” and know that they know what you are saying. If you have hired an advertising or branding agency, include them in the process well enough so that they can incorporate the finished animation into your marketing strategies, but have those in your company that have the most intimate knowledge of your products work with the animation studio. A successful medical animation studio should be fully capable of implementing your corporate branding and established style into animation just by reading your style-guide. You’ll save money and get faster results by allowing your engineers, project managers, sales people, and internal marketing team to work directly with the studio to guarantee medical accuracy in regards to your particular products.
Soup it up – Instead of just producing a 3D animation, you could have us produce 3D animation that jumps right off the screen using extremely affordable consumer stereoscopic 3D televisions. You can even offer 3D glasses branded with your logo to visitors which technically fits into the PhRMA Code Revisions approved items because they are well under the $100 limit of spending allowed explicitly in the creation of informative and educational products. Just make sure your stereoscopic animation informs and educates so as to avoid any possible debate. Please read my previous blog post about using stereoscopic 3D projection technology for more information.
Budget enough to achieve your goals – We’ve produced animations for $5,000, $104,000, and everything in-between, and all of them effectively achieved our client’s goals. The first question we ask our clients in a discovery meeting is to define the goals for the animation and we then propose a solution that will best achieve those goals. The price is computed based on how many human and computer processing hours the project will take based on the prior 5 years of recorded data from previous projects. If you tell us your budget up front, we can custom tailor a solution that maximizes the potential of every single dollar you spend and we can help you find corners that can be cut to hit your target budget while minimizing impact on the quality of the final product.
A well made AAOS animation will quickly deliver a return on your investment, but keep these other tips in mind to ensure success.
Avoid standard per-minute pricing and opt for a price matched specifically to your needs: The costs to produce a quality medical animation cannot be simplified down to a simple and standard equation. For instance, it costs a lot less to produce a two-minute surgical procedure of a proximal femur nail with locking and stabilization screws than it would to animate a two-minute hip replacement with significant manipulation of tendons, muscles, and other soft-tissues. Animating soft-tissues, complex devices like mesh implants, surgeon hands, micro-cellular and fluid dynamics take more time to produce than manipulating hardware and bones. Therefore, we carefully plan out the animation and calculate how many seconds that surgeon hands will need to be animated to keep costs as low as possible. We also help our clients decide whether or not surgeon hands or animating the entire surgical approach is actually necessary to accomplish the goal. Most surgeons know the steps involved with an anterior approach and only need to see animation containing the most novel features of your particular technology to understand its full potential. Skipping over steps like basic incisions costs less and helps the audience focus on more important details. A 3 minute surgical technique that requires extensive animation of soft tissues costs roughly the same amount as a 4 minute animation that doesn’t require soft tissues.
Make sure you own the rights to the finished product: A high definition animation is made up of thousands of high definition frames. If you own the rights to the finished product you can freely cut those images right out of your animation and use the shots as images on your website, surgical manual, brochures, emails, press releases, and anywhere else you need beautiful images of your products. Every animation we produce comes standard with unlimited reproduction rights. This means you now have access to a significant amount of product imagery without spending another single penny. Have at them. They belong to you.
Bundle and go episodic for efficiency and effectiveness: The largest expense associated with the production of an animation is, unfortunately, the initial setup, rigging, texturing, and lighting of the engineering files, models and scene files. This expense can be substantial depending on the scope of the project but the costs go down considerably each time our clients return to add additional technologies using the same environment and setup. Some of our largest budget projects reveal the largest savings as our clients move forward. The first releases of DePuy’s Heal, K2M Climbers, and Bausch & Lomb’s Technology & Innovation Showcase may have required budgets near or over $100,000 to script, ideate, and develop, but now our clients can use these powerful and established marketing tools to release new products for substantially less. 12 releases of Heal have been produced to showcase new trauma repair products and each new release cost less than $12,000. K2M was able to add Mesa® Mini product line to their existing Climbers movie for less than $22,000.
Distribute the animation as much as possible: Once you have the animation, post it everywhere you possibly can. The more people who see it, the better. As long as your animation doesn’t make claims that would attract the FDA’s scornful condemnation, there is little reason not to present it everywhere it could possibly be seen. Make sure all of your sales reps have it on their mobile devices. Put it on your website, submit it to Vimeo and YouTube. Release it to news agencies, WebMD, Spine Health, and send copies to all of your surgeons to play in their waiting rooms and on their websites. Many of the animations we’ve made have gone viral. Heal got 1 million views in its first month directly from our servers. Every view increases your SEO and Google-Juice meaning more people coming to your website. More people means more patients, doctors, and investors are interested in your technology.
Few other doctors express more excitement over interactive technology than do the orthopedic and neurosurgeons. Few exhibits attract more attention than the ones that offer well designed interactive opportunities. Every month we learn of new and exciting technologies being developed and released and we’re as excited about developing content for this emerging technology as are the doctors we’re creating it for. Below is some helpful advice to help you understand what is available as well as the costs and risks involved.
Interactive is only beneficial if the content delivers your message – There are ample strategies that could be considered when making the leap to an interactive exhibit. Remember your goals you made when you began planning for this exhibit and make sure that whatever you make makes those goals happen. It is easy to get seduced by the newest Xbox Kinect driven techno-wiz-thing, but if visitors aren’t using that to connect directly to your products and get a better understanding of your products specifically because of the interactive presentation, you might as well put pinball machines in front of your booth because they’ll do as much good and probably cost a lot less. Side note: Idea – Consider developing a custom pinball machine that features a client’s projects in place of standard pinball machine hardware. Doctors might just line up to play that.
Choosing the cutting edge has a likelihood to cause lacerations – There are many benefits to using the newest and most innovative technologies in your exhibit, but you must be aware that the newest technology has a tendency to be the least reliable and the most expensive option. Off-the-shelf solutions are more cost effective and more reliable. For example, you can load up an exhibit with tons of iPads or other tablets that allow visitors to click on images, play movies, and learn about your products in an interactive 3D environment for a lot less than even one surgical simulator with haptic feedback technology. Both offer different advantages in visitor excitement, cost, ease of use, reliability, and development time. It is important to consider what happens when the haptic simulator breaks or the final product misses the desires of both the client and the developers. The payback of taking the risk on developing something nobody has tried yet is that you may just have a hit that all the doctors are talking about and piling up around your booth to try. The risk is that it might be an extremely expensive flop. We’d love nothing more than for a client to challenge us to develop a 3D virtual reality virtual surgery that is as fun for the doctors to play as a video game. We are connected to all the manufacturers that make both the hardware and software and we’re confident that we could make the most realistic and engrossing experience the orthopedic industry has ever seen. We just can’t promise that one of the several million pixels embedded in the virtual reality glasses won’t start flickering for no apparent reason halfway through your first day.
Funny Story: Failed to Kinect
“At the 2013 AUA (American Urology Association) meeting, there was an exhibitor with a giant and beautifully designed booth running several different interactive presentations powered by Xbox Kinect. I rushed in to try it out and posed myself so that the Kinect technology could calibrate to my body. Soon a game resembling Tetris appeared on the screen. I made several attempts to affect the pieces using different hand gestures but nothing seemed to connect with the system. Soon an exhibitor working at the booth began coaching me and telling me what to do with my hands to interact with the machine. Still nothing connected. Eventually she just stood behind me, grabbing my wrists and moving my arms around to make the device comply with my commands. After the game ended. She quickly rushed over to offer her puppetry services to another attendee who was also struggling to use the technology. Not only was their interactive technology completely unintuitive, but Tetris did nothing to help me connect with their products or their brand. As a result, I cannot even remember who the exhibitor was or what they sold, though I’ll never forget their poor implementation of what I’m sure was a very expensive interactive installation.
Multi-touch displays are finally ready for primetime – The same technology that drives the iPad and other multi-touch tablets is now being delivered on a much larger scale. This allows exhibits to feature massive, fully interactive experiences for their visitors. The hardware is available in a wide range of sizes, capabilities, and prices and can be integrated as easily into your exhibit as any flatscreen display.
When you are ready to get started AAOS exhibit contact me. I’ll help you find the perfect solution that helps you achieve success at the 2014 AAOS and beyond. I welcome your questions and freely offer my experience to help you make the most of your marketing and surgeon training budget. Send me a proposal from one of our competitors and I’m confident I can find ways to provide a better solutions for less money.Stephan Kuslich CEO & Founder of Ghost Productions Main: 651-633-1163 Toll Free: 1 (888)-414-6770