MRI Maker Creates Demand By Targeting Consumers First

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Fonar Corp., maker of a new stand-up version of the MRI medical imaging device, began a national direct mail campaign to radiologists last week after targeting consumers in the New York area with radio and DRTV spots.

The company decided it needed separate business-to-business and business-to-consumer efforts to meet its dual marketing goals. First, the company wanted to spark interest in the Fonar Stand-Up MRI among consumers so they would tell their doctors about the device. Next, it wanted to target radiologists, who would be most likely to influence equipment-buying decisions at clinics that would buy the $2 million machines.

Melville, NY-based Fonar is sending postcards to a few thousand radiologists nationwide from its database. Print ads in monthly professional journals for radiologists, including Diagnostic Imaging, will follow in April.

The mailers and print ads use edgier visuals than the consumer spots, said Hank Stromberg, managing partner at Leapfrog Advertising, the New York agency handling the campaign. They feature pictures of people bending over, with their derrieres bent up, with the slogan, "Now, see your patients' problems the way they experience them."

The company used direct response radio spots as a low-cost way to test its message in the New York area before moving into more complex endeavors, such as DRTV and direct mail. Fonar plans to test its BTC advertising in other regions along the East Coast before going national, Stromberg said.

The 60-second radio spots began running on AM stations in the New York market six weeks ago. The spots instructed listeners to call a toll-free number to get more information about the stand-up MRI or about getting an MRI done at Fonar's imaging center in Islandia, NY. The waiting list for MRIs at the center is now weeks rather than days, which Stromberg said showed that the message worked.

The radio spots are "inexpensive, relatively speaking," he said. "You can change it on a dime."

Two weeks ago, DRTV spots began on national cable and local broadcast stations in New York, and the first of four postcard mailers drop this week. The DRTV spots add a needed visual element to the overall marketing strategy, Stromberg said, since television is the best medium to show how the complicated device works. In the spot, a woman demonstrates how the stand-up MRI allows patients to stand, sit and lean forward in the apparatus, as opposed to traditional MRIs, which require patients to lie down. The spot also features a toll-free number.

Results of the DRTV, print and mail portions of the campaign aren't yet available, said Stromberg, who also declined to release the campaign's overall cost.

Targeting both consumers and doctors has had a side benefit that will help Fonar in future marketing efforts, Stromberg said.

The success at Fonar's Islandia facility shows that the stand-up MRI has market appeal.

"When you can show traffic has increased at a particular site, that's what the radiologists really want," he said. "This [device] can give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace."

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