Saturday, September 20, 2008

Buying a Stethescope

One piece of equipment every doctor medical student needs is a stethoscope. Fortunately, our school organizes a medical equipment night every year. This is a mutually beneficial relationship between the students and the medical equipment manufacturers because they can present to all 300 of us at once and we can cash in on high purchase volume discounts. Unfortunately, this equipment night is held before any of us have a clue how to even use the equipment, so we are just a flock of blind geese and the salespeople are basically hawks out to get us. At our medical equipment night, we had Company A, Company B, and Company C. Most students who attended the night were only looking for stethoscopes; however, diagnostic sets and blood pressure cuffs were also being offered.

Company A was a German, family run business. Their marketing strategy was to have a 30-something year old, very attractive, blond woman tell us about their products. This same marketing tactic has done wonders for Budweiser, Bacardi, Axe, etc. However, considering most of our class is comprised of women and not the male, 18-24 demographic that the aforementioned companies have been successful in targeting, Company A really needs to rethink their sales pitch. Another fatal mistake by Company A was that they spent most of their allotted time pushing their diagnostic sets, which range in the $700 region, and they barely talked about their stethoscopes (the only product most of us were planning on buying that night). How the brilliant minds at Company A don't realize that new medical students, who are paying medical tuition and buying medical text books for the first time, probably can't part with $700, is beyond me.

Company B was next, they were the Canadian branch of a worldwide, originally American, conglomerate. Their marketing strategy was to have a man, dressed as a used car salesman, pitch their only products, stethoscopes, in the most monotonous tone ever. Either he is completely dispassionate about his job and wants to quit 2 years ago, or he has some kind of illness which leads to extreme fatigue. I realized that I'd be unable to help him in either case because I'm not a career counsellor and neither of the two diseases I can diagnose at this point present with fatigue (I probably can't even diagnose THOSE diseases correctly, but that's not the point), so I decided to take a nap through his presentation.

Company C, an American owned family company (I don't know why A and C kept stating they were family owned, it really doesn't make me any more or less likely to buy their product) was next. Their marketing strategy was the paradigm of American capitalism. Their salespeople were all dressed in Company C golf shirts. Their presenter was loud, concise, and kept pushing their products. They had sales pitches left, right, and center. For example, they offered an opthalmoscope for $25 if we bought a diagnostic set (not a big deal considering a diagnostic set is $700). They also offered a free penlight if we bought a diagnostic set and a blood pressure cuff (even less of a big deal since we were already given free penlights...and let's be honest, a free penlight is hardly a good motivator to part with $700). They also had a random prize giveaway where they gave 20 lucky students a free stethoscope with a $50 coupon for another stethoscope, which they could give to a friend.

After these three presentations, I was ready to buy a Company C stethoscope. Their tight sales pitch made me feel like they had their act together; I also thought that a company like Company C really cared about their reputation, so they would be sure to help me if I ever had any problems with their product in the future.

Next came the product demonstrations. The three companies took up space in our atrium and we were allowed to try out their equipment. Company A didn't even have any demo stethoscopes, so I didn't bother going to their booth (if you can figure out who Company A is, and you work for them, seriously...get a new sales staff). Company B had their stethoscopes on display and they even had a CD of heart sounds with a device we could use to try to listen for wheezing, heart murmurs, etc. (a brilliant idea in general, wasted on us since we know next to nothing about listening for heart sounds). Company C had the sales army on overdrive. They were talking us into trying out their diagnostic equipment, which again was useless since we didn't know what to look for even after they showed us how to use an opthalmoscope. Another pro for Company C's stethoscopes was that they had adjustable ear pieces, so we could change the size of the stethoscope to fit our heads without worrying about doing any damage to the equipment.

The problem with the Company C sucked. The sound quality it provided was terrible. They had me sold with their marketing campaign, but their product was sub optimal. I'm sorry, but what is the point in dropping all those dollars into sales if the customer is disappointed the second he tries your product?

I guess the lesson in all this is to skip the sales pitches and try the product. I ended up getting a Littman Cardiology III. I really didn't want to get one initially because this is what EVERY med student gets, but clearly the reason for that is the sound quality it provides.

Note, HalfMD disagrees with me.

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