Toshiba America’s prescription: A new marcom program

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Challenge: Toshiba America Medical Systems manufactures medical diagnostic equipment, competing with industry giants such as GE Healthcare, Siemens Medical Solutions and Philips Medical Systems but with a fraction of their marketing budgets. "We are by far the smallest competitor," said Cathy Wolfe, director of marketing services at the Tustin, Calif.-based operation. "Our competitors are four to five times our size in terms of sales force and budget."

Wolfe said Toshiba wanted to grow its business. "It had been relatively flat for a number of years, and we were losing customers as quickly as we were gaining them," she said. With an eye on costs, Toshiba set out to launch a comprehensive marketing communications program.

Solution: Using mostly in-house resources, the company launched several components to its marketing program. It continued to advertise in trade magazines, which offer a much more targeted audience than general business magazines, Wolfe said. It also hired a cost-effective telemarketing company and used in-house staff to conduct customer research.

One of its key marketing strategies was to partner with well-established brands—including customers Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—on industry events and seminars. It also used these customers for testimonials to help build awareness.

Toshiba launched a heavy public relations program, taking advantage of every opportunity to tell its story. "We promote every win we have," Wolfe said. For example, Toshiba America Medical Systems has held the No. 1 spot in customer satisfaction for its CAT scan equipment since October 2002, according to customer satisfaction research company MD Byline. Toshiba also created a speakers bureau, which provides physician customers an opportunity to speak at industry events and receive medical education credits in return. Another program was the launch of its Image Maker Kit, a marketing kit with turnkey marketing materials to help Toshiba’s hospital customers promote their new systems to local communities. Finally, Toshiba used direct mail aimed at its target audience.

Results: Last year, Toshiba America Medical Systems grew its revenue by 25.4% from the previous year, while the medical imaging equipment industry overall grew by only 2.2%, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The company has also set records in sales, Wolfe said, and its public relations coverage grew by 80%.

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