Martab Builds Brand Identity

Edition: June 2004 - Vol 12 Number 06
Article#: 1863
Author: Repertoire

Many medical specialty distributors have a problem: Their customers don’t know who they are.

That’s because specialty distributors and reps often have exclusives with their manufacturers, and they offer full service on behalf of those manufacturers (e.g., sales, marketing, in-servicing). In many ways, their reps are the face of the manufacturers they represent to the clinical customer. So it’s not surprising that customers often identify those reps with the manufacturers whose products they carry, rather than with the distributor they work for.

But Tony Marmo, owner of Martab Medical in Lincoln Park, N.J., is getting a little tired of the fact that his reps are known by their customers only as “the guys who sell [fill in manufacturer’s name].”

Marmo’s father founded Martab as a hospital supplier 38 years ago. Tony and his brother bought the business in 1995 and converted it into a specialty supplier.

Marmo is making an all-out effort to build Martab’s brand identity for a couple of reasons. First, manufacturers come and go, he says. Some drop their distributors and go direct, others get bought up, and still others sell off product lines. In short, anything can happen.

Second, “You’re only as good as the manufacturers you carry,” says Marmo. He wants to differentiate Martab from other suppliers on the basis of the services it provides, not just on the manufacturers it represents.

Building the Brand

Part of building a brand is getting your name out there, day after day, in as many ways as possible, says Marmo. That’s what he has been working on, starting with the company’s Web site (

As a member of The Alternative Board TAB (, Marmo meets with executives of non-competing companies on a monthly basis to share news, information and tips about running their businesses. (TAB sponsors local and regional boards throughout the country. They meet regularly under the direction of a TAB-certified facilitator.)

A member of Marmo’s TAB board makes software to help companies build their brand identity. The software makes it easy to create a striking Web site, and to create marketing materials relatively simply and inexpensively. Marmo tapped him for help.

The revised Martab Web site with updated logo, featuring two mountains, symbolizing a prestigious and growing company) features the company’s core areas of competency – respiratory, pain management, blood products, cardiac and rentals. Soon the company will feature another specialty area – neonatal.

The Web site and collateral materials proudly feature Martab’s tagline: “Innovative Medical Technology.” It is the springboard upon which Martab is building its identity.

Martab drives traffic to the Web site through a variety of media. Working with a marketing firm, the company has designed a brochure that emphasizes many of the same points as its Web site. And it is commencing an intensive e-mail campaign, with messages tailored to a number of distinct audiences, including members of the trade and consumer press (including media outlets in the manufacturer’s headquarters city);

Hospital administrators; and the clinicians to whom Martab sells equipment and products, such as respiratory therapists, cardiothoracic surgeons and others.

To further reinforce Martab’s identity as the go-to company for innovative medical technology, Marmo is developing on-hold messages for telephone callers, which will direct them to the company’s Web site.

To top it off, Martab has developed its own clothing line for its drivers, service people, reps and managers. There are Martab jackets, shirts, scrub suits, even gym shorts. Everybody gets a $300 allowance to buy merchandise.

More than Skin Deep

But building a brand involves a lot more than creating good-looking logos, Web sites and clothing. It’s about delivering on the promise. In Martab’s case, that means bringing innovative medical technology to customers.

A little over a year ago, the company put in the field a clinical specialist for respiratory therapy and surgery. (In the future, Marmo hopes to have one clinical specialist for each of his company’s major specialty areas.) The specialist makes presentations to cardiac surgeons and administration, talking about cost-savings and new technology.

When new equipment is introduced, the clinical specialist spends as much as a week in an OR while the customer is evaluating it. Not only does the customer get the benefit of his expertise, but Martab gains too. At the end of that week, the surgeons and OR nurses no longer look at Marmo’s employee as a salesperson, but as a colleague. “By Friday, the doctors are saying, ‘Come on in to our lounge,’” says Marmo.

Building a brand identity for clinicians and administrators is worth the effort, says Marmo. Armed with brochures, the Web address and even a company jacket, Marmo and staff can go to administration and say, “This is who we are, this is what we do,” he says.

“Customers tell our reps that they’re shocked at the innovation they bring to them,” he adds. “They say, ‘We like to see your reps. You’re not just selling another band-aid.’”