From Start-Up to Nationwide Leader: How Brand Strategy and Disruptive Consumer Marketing Positioned Modern Vascular as the Leader in PAD Treatment
When Leslie Gibbs first started as Modern Vascular’s Chief Marketing Officer in January 2020, she was faced with a critical role. Gibbs needed to build awareness of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and develop consumer messaging on the alternative treatments Modern Vascular provides.
As a start-up, Modern Vascular lacked a brand strategy and brand development, meaning Gibbs had to communicate key messaging with consumers from scratch. To many, this situation doesn’t seem unique. However, PAD is a silent disease, whose symptoms are easily overlooked – making the marketing challenge complex.
Building a Sense of Urgency
PAD is a silent, life-threatening disease that affects over 12 million Americans. When left untreated, it can result in limb amputation and shortened life expectancy. Because of PAD’s overwhelming prevalence in the United States, especially among underserved communities, it was critical to weave a sense of urgency in Modern Vascular’s marketing materials.
“I knew my experience was going to be valued.”
For Gibbs, this was the marketing challenge she lived for. She started her career in Brand Management at Procter and Gamble, followed by key national marketing roles at LensCrafters and Bonne Bell Cosmetics, eventually becoming the VP of Marketing/CMO of Intoxalock. In 2018, Gibbs was hired as the CMO at Western Dental in Orange, CA before being contacted by Yury Gampel, Modern Vascular’s CEO.
“It reminded me of the position I had at Intoxalock, which was also a start-up company with an innovative value proposition that was ready to take off. I knew my experience was going to be valued. I am extremely passionate about projects that I can cultivate from beginning to end. I also enjoy contributing to the leadership of a company, beyond just the marketing. Yury offered me that opportunity.”
“A bit of a wild-west.”
As with most start-ups, Modern Vascular had hit the ground running, and developed marketing materials as they needed prior to Gibbs’s arrival on the team. Previously managed by one of the partners with a strong B2B/Sales background, most of the materials had been designed by a printer.
“There was no consistent brand strategy, positioning, messaging, or style guide. There was no approval process,” says Gibbs. “It was a bit of the wild-west.”
Despite this, the materials developed up to that point proved to be an effective way to get the word out to B2B audiences. However, there was no direct-to-consumer/patient brand messaging. When Gibbs was tasked with developing patient marketing collateral, she knew she had to strategically establish a brand identity quickly.
“A majority of the first 90 days were spent creating material and implementing an infrastructure,” says Gibbs, recalling the immediate challenges she had to address from the start. “There was a great deal of interest in sending a consistent message to consumers, so creating a marketing strategy and a strong digital presence became an early priority. Simultaneously, we began creating a brand identity, along with updating the previously developed collateral to have a more professional, cohesive look and key messaging. Hiring talented agency partners was a top priority out of the gates.”
Reflecting on a Year of Rapid Growth
A year ago, we wrote about Modern Vascular’s success as a market leader in the healthcare industry. At that time, Modern Vascular had just opened their 9th clinic. Despite a pandemic that impacted businesses across the world, Modern Vascular continued to evolve. Gibbs and her talented team played a critical role in their progressive growth, finding innovative ways to market Modern Vascular’s continued services and ensuring patient health was always at the forefront of messaging. As a result, Modern Vascular has since expanded to 14 total clinics, and is on track to open 4 more by the end of this year.
We sat down with Gibbs to look back at her past year at Modern Vascular.
Looking back on Modern Vascular’s evolution since starting, how much of that growth do you attribute to your marketing efforts?
About 1/3. We have opened more clinics yes, but each new clinic is doing better than the last, as we have structured the toolbox and playbook accordingly for the success of launching in new areas. In addition, 15% of our patients self-refer now, vs. 0% prior to our direct-to-consumer efforts.
What critical insights from your previous experience have you implemented in the marketing program to date?
Mostly where to start. If you have created a marketing program from the ground up, you know how to kick it off, what to prioritize, and how to move quickly; where to use agencies, when to hire internally. It is important to get early wins while planning for the future. I think the ability to balance big picture and details are critical in the early stages. My experience with building websites and digital acquisition were also key to building the foundation quickly.
How has Emotional Marketing played a role in your marketing program?
We are fortunate in that Modern Vascular has a differentiated business model that can literally change a person’s life in a positive way. The stories we tell are inherently emotional. Many times, we see patients who have been told they are out of options and are being pushed toward amputation. Knowing that we have the tools to give patients hope, save their limbs and extend their lives is a powerful story. We use videos, testimonials, and storytelling to share with others who also might need our help.
Why is marketing so important in establishing the Modern Vascular brand as a thought leader in the industry?
The number one challenge we face is to build awareness of the disease we treat (PAD) and the alternative treatments we provide. Once we have done that and educated a patient about the risks and treatment options, our procedures sell themselves. Our point of differentiation is that we specialize in a specific minimally invasive outpatient solution to a life and limb threatening problem. Very few can do the work we do – revascularize the pedal loop – and send patients home that very same day. Physicians and their patients often go on to be ambassadors for our brand. We want them to know they are getting the best treatment available. We use PR often to tell those thought-provoking stories.
It was very gratifying to be recognized in 2020 by Global Health and Pharma as the Best PAD Treatment Specialist in the US. That was certainly a validating moment for Modern Vascular.
How are you measuring or observing increased awareness of the Modern Vascular?
Good question. We have a mass of metrics that we follow regarding lead generation, consultation scheduling, patient follow up and patient satisfaction. But, because we are so specific in the patients that we target, many of which who don’t even know the disease we treat exists, we have not genuinely focused a lot of energy on tracking our brand awareness. I think it is more meaningful to drive awareness of Peripheral Artery Disease. Most messaging starts with awareness first and then offers Modern Vascular as the solution. Our best month of 2020 was September, which is PAD awareness month. We certainly focused a lot of effort on just talking about PAD and its symptoms, and the patients poured in.
How do you envision the Modern Vascular marketing program evolving as the brand grows?
I think brand awareness, thought leadership, and patient education will stay at the forefront of what we are doing. I also believe we will evolve our focus to include longer term treatment of patients and optimizing that patient journey, as well as adding synergistic services like wound care.
Looking back on your 1.5 years at Modern Vascular, what are you most proud of so far?
I am proud of a lot. I am extremely pleased with our brand image, our digital efforts, and our PR campaigns, but I guess one of the things I like the most is a Medical Management book we created to help patients manage their PAD at home. It embodies our commitment to help patients manage their PAD in a way that is right for them. For many patients this is a procedure in one of our clinics, but for others, more conservative treatments make sense. We created a program to support those patients and hopefully help them make more informed lifestyle changes that will keep their symptoms at bay for a long time.
What keeps you motivated each day to face the challenges of establishing and marketing a brand?
I love the people I work with and watching the talent they bring to the table. I like hiring great people and watching them add value. I also enjoy working on a team and contributing across the organization, not just in marketing. I prefer to be busy and I have all of this at Modern Vascular.
What new insights have you gained through your efforts of redefining Modern Vascular’s marketing program?
To move faster. I am conservative by nature, but there is no time for that here. Not everything we do is going to work, and that’s okay. Figure it out and move on. I know that we have a lot of limbs and lives to save and every day that I can get the message out in a new way, the greater the chance I will find another patient we can help.
The experts at Modern Vascular have helped thousands of patients save their limbs and save lives using minimally invasive outpatient procedures to treat PAD. Modern Vascular clinics are located nationwide, including in Arizona, Colorado, Indianapolis, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia, and new clinics are opening in Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.
Modern Vascular has developed an easy-to-use PAD Quiz to determine one’s risk. Take the quiz or learn more by visiting ModernVascular.com
In addition to treating PAD, Modern Vascular is committed to integrated, multi-disciplinary patient care. This June, Modern Vascular will open Modern Vascular Wound Care in Southaven, MS, combining industry-leading expertise in revascularization procedures with state-of-the-art treatments and pharmacology to address wound care quickly and holistically.
Learn more about Modern Vascular Wound Care at ModernVascular.com/Wound-Care
Los Angeles based Sagon-Phior is a full service marketing and branding agency. We utilize emotional branding to build better relationships between a brand and an audience. Emotional branding enables more effective ways to increase brand awareness, loyalty and sales. It also offers revealing insights to better understand important, often unseen, patterns of consumer behavior.
Sagon-Phior has successfully applied this unique practice to many national and global brands in technology, healthcare, banking and lifestyle industries. For more information, go to Sagon-Phior.com