Tag Archives: Marketing

Minimum Viable Products in the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

I was speaking with a prospective client recently. He wanted to know if I could help him define his MVP. MVP stood for Minimum Viable Product. A term he had picked-up at a lean start-up seminar. I told him that I could do that, if that was what he really thought he needed. I left him with a couple of questions and we agreed to meet again to discuss what it would take to define the MVP for him.

I asked him, “What was his objective of using the MVP style product devlopment process?”  His answer was, “I can’t afford to solve the whole problem, this way I can get something out generate sales so I can afford to solve the rest of it.”

The second meeting took over an hour and as hard as I tried I couldn’t get him to stop calling it the MVP. It set me to thinking about the term and the product that would result. Initially, I thought that I was just getting hung up in the words, (as a personal note I am trying to eliminate my need to be right).  So we laid out a plan to define the first of a multigenerational product development plan for his platform technology. He was delighted.

What is Meant by MVP?

When Eric Ries used the term for the first time he described it as: “A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

My client had gotten the impression that the goal of an MVP was about generating early revenue. Early revenue is a by-product. Nowhere, does Mr. Ries bring money into the picture. Validated learning is the goal of the concept. In the MVP concept, validated learning implies a real life use experience.

The Caution

We have to be careful when extending management (marketing) concepts a cross markets and industries. While there is a huge opportunity to learn from concepts formulated in other markets, sectors, industries and disciplines we can’t assume that they can be directly applied. We have to be good Marketers and review all the assumptions and environmental consideration and then apply them in our context.

We have seen where the application of Software or App development thinking has failed in the medical device space. How one manages the risk of failure is very different when the result is death or serious injury vs. being disappointed. MineCraft, the now very popular video game was launched commercially after only six-weeks of development and was barely functional. It was however a great application of MVP. It served as a proof of concept.

The risk of failure in MineCraft did not include death or serious injury to a real human.

The Concept

In Medical Device Commercialization, launch MVP is not an appropriate approach, unless you redefine viable to have a really big meaning. For med device dev. we should think of “complete clinical utility” (CCU). We can use a modified  concept of MVP to get us there. But if you do not deliver “completedoughnuts example clinical utility” at the time of launch you have delivered no real value to the clinician. By all means leave the sprinkles and glaze off, but give them a whole doughnut.

A Different Way to Think about MVP

Fully integrated multi-generational product planning. A documented, dataSlide1 driven, customer focused pathway to delivering 100% customer satisfaction in steps. This type of plan can span decades as with the Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVAD). Or, it can take just a few years as with the SMART Stent.

Back to the Story

Call it what you will, MVP, CCU, multi-generational planning it doesn’t matter. The basics of product marketing need to be satisfied. Product requirements need to be written.  Target the Complete Clinical Utility of the product first.  Use the MVP concept during the concept phase.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com. Contact The Experia Group for a free 30-minute consultation to determine if 30-years of experience can contribute to your success.

© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC

Writing a Great New Product Launch Objective for the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

If you are a reader of this blog, then you have heard it before all Marketing Strategy development must start with a clearly stated objective. Preferably one that links directly to the Corporate strategic plan.  The richer the objective then the more right on target the strategy will be.


Poorly Thought Out Marketing Objective(s)?

  •  Dominate the xyz segment.
  • Destroy the competition.
  • Go to number one in unit share for the xyz product class
  • Reach $100,000,000 in sales by January 20xx.
  • Enter the XYZ product segment in North America, while achieving a 76% GM on all sales.
  • Must be successful in 200 accounts by Christmas (Which Christmas? and What is successful?)

You may have received marching orders like these before. Why are they not actionable?  They don’t provide any insight into why, how, or how not to accomplish the goal or objective. They are all two general.   It is a delicate balance between being perscriptive and too general.

At the very least make your objective(s) or goal(s) SMART ones.

S – Specificsmart-goals-221x300

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-bound

Your SMART goal(s) should include some of the following characteristics of a launch:

  • Quality
  • Timing
  • Cost
  • Adherence to plan
  • Share (dollars or units)
  • Penetration rate
  • Repeat orders
  • Customer satisfaction levels

Make all definitions as specific as possible.

Great Marketing Objective(s)

The objective for the launch of our newest widget is to be the first to enter the growing North America segment of xxxx therapy, to grow revenue in the over all xyz business and provide a full product line. Hence, blocking any in roads ZZZ competitor might make with their widget expected to launch 6 months after our widget.

  • Penetrate 22 targeted Pioneering and Early Adopter accounts within 3-months post launch.aim
  • Establish an overall successful close rate of 85%.
  • Achieve a 95% re-order rate for every account closed within the first 9-months post launch.
  • Average cost to close a targeted account should not exceed $1,000.
  • Realize $25 million in new sales within the first 12-months post launch.
  • Cannibalize no more 10% of the existing Xwidet and Zwidet sales.
  • Every representative or agent engaged must close 2 accounts within 6-months post launch.
  • Clinical/technical success will match the clinical/technical success rate of the pivotal trial results as reported at XXX conference.
  • On time delivery of product 98% orders in by 3PM EST shipped by 5PM EST sameday.
  • 100% of product complaints are filed within 12 hours of first notification and are investigated within the second 12 hours.
  • Product return rate will not exceed 2% of units shipped within the first 6-months post launch.

Internal Validation of Integrated Goals is Critical

If you develop a weekly dashboard you can monitor the progress toward each of these goals and act accordingly. But please internally validate the legitamcyPass-Fail-Internal-2xydjwp43kgnp9vngqcrgg of the goals. As an example, could 22 accounts produce $25 M in revenue? Did your soft launch suggest that you could achieve an 85% close rate? Is there enough accounts that you can win in 22 of them and not cannibalize more than 10% of the other product sales?

If you spend a week developing the right goals to match with your objectives it is more than worth it.

Once you have the objective the way you want it and it is approved by Sr. Management, then you can design your strategy to meet the critical aspects of the objective and your tactical plan will have met all the criteria that you need.

“The way to achieve our goals is to hold them tightly and our strategies [tactics] loosely.”                         MEGAN HYATT MILLER

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success.

Contact us to schedule an initial call to see how we can apply our 30+ years of experience to your issues that are preventing you from being successful. www.theexperiagroup.com.

© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC


Channel Selection Considerations for Getting your Medical Device to Market

The Set Up

If you are in a large organization, usually you don’t get an opportunity to be to creative about your go-to-market strategy. You probably have a process built into your quality system that defines the launch process. You have a well developed direct sales organization that is already in the field selling your other products.

If you are in a start-up, a recent acquisition, or on a “skunks work” project, then you may have more freedom to change the default channel.

If you have been in the industry for a while, it is only natural that you have engrained or default thoughts about your approach to building a channel; yet, there is nothing inherently wrong with using your default position.

Take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. Is the new product that you are readying for launch significantly similar to the previous products that drove the channel and process creation?
  2. Is the enviornment exactly the same as it was during the last successful launch? Competition? Reimbursement? Regulations? Customer?
  3. Are the objective(s) for the launch of the new product the same as all the previous launches? Timing? Growth? Revenue? Impact? Value? Price?
  4. Is top management pleased with the results from the most recent product launch?
  5. Has your company effectively launched a product that faces the same channel challenges as this one? Practice development? Market development? IDN contracting? Complex referral patterns? Capital sales? The need for service? A new type of value proposition?

If you answered YES to every question , then there is a good chance using the default position will be successful. If you answered NO to any ONE of the five questions, then it may be time to look at your default thinking or internal bias If you answered NO to more than ONE of the five questions, then you should think through your default position.

“What worked yesterday doesn’t always work today” [or tomorrow] Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Story

I recently attended the Society of Interventional Radiology meeting in Vancouver, B.C. (SIR2016) and I saw many old friends there. One particular colleague and I had a rather deep and fun discussion about a decision that he made relating to the channel for a new product that he recently launched. Prior to the launch, we did not discuss his preference to launch a new product using a stocking distrubtor network within the US.  After experiencing quick initial sales growth in a very short period of time (1 year post launch), the growth crashed. His investors were very pleased as they saw quick, positive results; however, were now dissapointed. He wanted a second opinion on what went wrong.

What Went Wrong?

To diagnosis what went wrong with this launch, we need a significant amount of information. Read, “Conducting an Autopsy for Medical Device Launches that are Heading South” a previous blog posting.   Skipping a head to save time, the issues fall into one of six broad headings: product, price, promotion, place, customer, or competitor.

The issue with this launch was the channel decision, and contributing to that, an un-realizable objective. We will explore what a good Launch Objective looks like in a future post.

This post identifies some of the key elements that need to be reviewed when working through the critical questiosn of: which channel is used, and what is the right channel for your new product. I have created a worksheet table that I use to think through channel selection. The components that comprise the table are listed below with brief descriptions.

Control – The more discipline that is required in message adherence, process and/or targeting of the selling organization the greater the need for direct control

Coverage required – This is a tricky one. Coverage requirements are driven by many variables: speed, geographical dispersion of the target customers, growth requirements, etc.  This variable is very tied to the revenue objective.

Educational challenge – The more foreign the concepts are to the channel, the more education is required.

Specificity of customer targeting – The fewer customers that fit the target profile, the more lazer-like your focus must be. More like firing a rifle as opposed to a shotgun.

Device complexity – Complex devices require a mastery by the channel such that the customer doesn’t perceive them as complex.

Clinical success – It goes without saying that repeat sales are a requirement, early clinical success is critical to ongoing sales.

Validated messaging – The more sure you are of the messaging, the more structured and perscriptive you can be in the sales training.

Sales-cycle dynamics – Long, complex, sales processes that involve multiple influencers and are required to go to value analysis committees require a significant investment by the TM.

Price point – The higher the price, the more trust is involved in the relationship.

Type of selling style – Concept selling, missionary selling, F&B selling, commodity selling all require different skill sets.


Tap on chart to enlarge

Each of the above characteristics of the product or market aligns better with one of the seven channels.

What are the possible channels for US marketing of a Medical Device?

  • Direct sales
  • e-commerce
  • Independent representative (agent)Decision-Time
  • Stocking distributors
  • Non-stocking distributors
  • Strategic partner(s)
  • Hybrid/combination

For our case study, the description of the market and product are as follows:

  • Very simple product
  • Very simple procedure
  • Utility is realized by three stakeholders
  • Product ordered by only one stakeholder and they receive the least utility
  • An emerging therapy
  • Not too difficult to achieve clinical or technical success for one of the influencer variable(learning curve is three supervised uses)
  • Proven to be difficult to get repeatable results for those who receive the most direct utility
  • Multiple influencers with above 20% influence
  • Device cost in excess of $800.00 USD
  • Reimbursement is available but does not cover the use of two devices
  • Maximum single user experience in a 12 month period is current 10 patients
  • Concept sale required
  • Messaging is evolving
  • Long sales cycle (up to 120 days)


Back to the Story

So, what happened in my friends launch scenerio? He focused on sales and not usage of the product. He filled the stocking distributors channel and showed quick success. The stocking distributors were scoring a bunch of initial usages.   He labeled them the “one and dones”. The problem was that the initial users were not experiencing clinical success with the product.

So backing up in time, if we ask what was the nature of the challenge in selecting the “Best Fit” channel it was that the Marketing Objective had a revenue target that was, in the mind of my friend, unattainable without 20 direct sales persons. He had been given a budget for channel development. The budget and the needed coverage were at odds. Instead of challenging the objective he went for the largest coverage area he could within the budget he had been given. A stocking distributor model. He rationalized away that this product was a concept sale with a long and complex sales process. The messaging wasn’t validated. The targeting was not specific and it was difficult to achieve clinical success all the time.

Given this scenario, the obvious design was a Direct Selling organization. The time to have your investors embrace this is before you execute an alternative approach.  Minimally, they have to hear your reasons for one channel over another. If they still direct you to use a lower cost channel model, then lower the forecast. Often, it is best to set up the alternatives before hand. For example: “ If we go Direct with this number of TMs, our revenue curve is predicted to look like this”. Or, “If we go with a Stocking Distributor network then the revenue curve will look like this”.

Had we used the decision template, we would have understood that even though this was a simple product the other variables combined to require a Direct Sales model.

Hint: it cost $250,000 to bring on and train a Direct sales person. It takes even good TM’s 3-6 months to be effective in a territory with a new product.

My friend went back to the Board of Directors and gave them a complete assessment of the state of the sales process using factual data. They authorized him to create a direct sales organization. Time will tell if they have enough money to make the change over. Strange how we can always afford to do things over but never seem to have enough resource to do it right the first time.


  1. There is always time to think things through.
  2. Use a structured thought process to avoid bias and default thinking.
  3. Choose the right metrics to monitor your early success.
  4. The tough discussions need to happen early.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com. Contact The Experia Group for a free 30-minute consultation to determine if 30-years of experience can contribute to your success.

© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC

Social Media and Medical Device Marketing

Magnified illustration with the word Social Media on white background.

The Story

A good friend of mine called me and started asking a lot of questions about the use of social media in medical device marketing. It seems that his VP read an article on social media and wanted an assessment of how i it would benefit their big product launch that is scheduled for 6-months from now.

We spoke for an hour and I truly felt bad for him. He interpreted his bosses question as an order to utilize social media.

Keeping Things in Perspective

whySocial media is a very power tool. In and of itself it is not a goal. When some one tells me that they need social media I often ask why? Not that I don’t believe in the power of social media, I do, but if you can’t tell me why you need social media there is a step missing. All marketing actions need to begin with a goal or objective, a strategy to achieve the goal and then followed-up by a series of tactics to realize the goal aligned with the strategy.

The Goal is Customer Engagement

Customer engagement is one of those objectives that should be obvious to everyone, but it is not. It is well worth adding a section to your launch pltemperature gage customer engagementan titled Customer Engagement, outline the detail about how, who, when and why the engagement will occur. Please remember to calculate the cost!

Methods of Customer Engagement in Medical Device Marketing

Customer engagement has been happening since the first medical device was invented. It is nothing new. It is ever increasing in importance and sophistication, as there are new messaging channels and quote-if-all-you-have-is-a-hammer-everything-looks-like-a-nail-abraham-maslow-12950technologies for conducting the engagement. No one set of tools is optimal for any one market, segment, customer or product. You need to customize your plan. Don’t fall into the trap of being a hammer, and everything looks like a nail. Choose the right tool for the job.

The following list identifies a number of engagement approaches:

  • Key Opinion Leader involvement
  • Speaker’s bureaus
  • Hand-on workshopsCustomer engagement
  • Tradeshow events (training, contests, quizzes)
  • Blogs that encourage feedback and discussion
  • Chat rooms
  • Panels
  • Webinars
  • Social media pages that are interactive
  • Plant tours
  • Direct consultive selling

You note that advertising, selling, telling, You-Tube videos, e-mail blasts, Internet messaging are not on the engagement list. There is a fundamental reason for that.

Customer Engagement Defined

Customer ENGAGEMENT is a real time, active, two-way exchange of information, feelings and thoughts that afford participants to deepen their understanding of each others needs, wants and desires. To further invest in each other!

“Consumer Engagement may be a broad topic, but it’s the lifeblood of any sophisticated marketing organization’s strategy. We define consumer engagement as the interactions between a brand and it’s customer. These interactions can – and should – happen simultaneously across multiple online and offline marketing channels. Skilled marketers can guide this engagement to serve their business needs, while also providing consumers with an authentically enjoyable experience.”1

If the right vehicle for that engagement includes social media or digital marketing then go for it!

How Does The Story End

My friend took a breath and revaluated the launch plan. He added a section (3-slides) on customer engagement. He correctly identified that the broad-based social media effort was not the right approach for engaging Pioneers and Early Adopters. He did identify a strategic intent to capture the engagement with Pioneers and Early Adopter and create an opportunity to “report” out that progression to the Early Majority users.

He added a tactic to his plan a tactic to create a private chat room (password protected, non-public access) for the “soft launch” users to exchange experiences with early use experience. Part of the plan to promote distance engagement called for a discussion forum every two weeks via a virtual meeting room, where engineers, marketers and clinicians could relate user successes and issues.   I did recommend that a Quality representative attend to assess in real-time if a complaint needed to be filed and to record any and all clinical suggestions that might be proposed by an engineer.

An incredibly smart move on his part was to hire a digital marketing (DM)/social media (SM), consulting firm to review the engagement strategy and educate him and his team in where DM/SM might add value. The mission is to optimize an integrated launch media strategy in time to convince the Early Majority users to leap the “innovator chasm”.

Selling the expense for the consultant was easy. He presented it as way to increase the competency of his marketing organization, making sure that the tools available in the 21st century were appropriately applied, exactly what his VP was after.

[1] https://www.offerpop.com/definitions/what-is-consumer-engagement/

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success.  Contact Tim for a free 30-minute consultation to see how he can contribute to your success at www.theexperiagroup.com.

© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC

State the Opportunity Size with Integrity, Medical Device Marketing

The Story:

I just completed teaching a Marketing Management course at the MBA level. In the same time frame I was working with a start-up medical device company advising on their investor deck. I reached a common realization. There is a natural tendency to inflate market projections by capturing every conceivable dollar potential worldwide. There is nothing unethical or morally wrong in putting your absolute best foot forward, but there is no value in inflating the opportunity.

My professional opinion is that the revenue or potential opportunity you quote must be congruent (Walker’s Law of Congruency illustration below) with your overall story and plan.   Angels, VCs and VPs of Marketing are too savvy to be drawn into an overstated market potential.

Message Congruence
Message Congruence

It is better to progress the story through the fair market potential to the realizable potential, quickly and then tell your story (plan) and state the five-year revenue forecast, then dwelling on a fantasy.

If your story doesn’t sound like it is worth it, or, if it doesn’t deliver on the expectations of Senior Management don’t fudge the model, change the story.

Slide1Over the Top Market Assessment

By over-the-top I am referring to the fact that every marketing plan I see states that the product represents a billion dollar opportunity.   Not every marketing plan does have a chance at reaching a billion dollars and that is ok. If is does, it might be well beyond the timeline for a needed return.

Realizable Market Opportunity

In general, there are exclusions from the Grand market that are driven by the nature of your product. If the product has a narrow indication or is a line extension it probably will not be worth a billion dollars ever. It may be the first of five applications needed to reach full potential.   It is not productive to spend a disproportional amount of time explaining the grand potential, mention it and move on to your story. As much as you would like to think that the most important thing to the reader is the huge market opportunity, it is not.

Most humans are risk adverse. They would rather see a tight story as to how you will realize the revenue forecast than create a dreamscape for the future.

 Targeted Market Opportunity

I read with delight as a student defined the nature of the customer segment that they believed they would be successful with or in. By having a customer target, which you should have, you exclude a section of the Realizable Market Potential. If your segment represents only a quarter of the realizable potential then reduce that number by 25%.

Revenue Forecast

Once you know the Target Market Potential you continue to discount your potential for factors such as:

  • Competition
  • Capacity
  • Market attractiveness (Did the product end up with the features and benefits you had hoped for?)
  • Channel leverage
    • The number of outlets
    • The number of direct sales representatives
    • Access to the targeted customers
  • Launch timing
  • Environmental barriers

Last but not least you need to have a beta factor (ß) a final reduction in your target market that represents the unknown and the unknowable. How do you calculate this last discount factor? You look to history either internal or external to your company. How accurate have your prediction been in the past. Do you have positive or negative reasons to believe that you will be as accurate this time?

Typically, the revenue forecasts are seldom realized. Of the 100+ products I have launched more of them under perform, in the first year, than over perform. After 30 years of product forecasting you would think that I could get the first year launch numbers correct. But there is always the unknowable and the X factor. The X factor is the political (not always bad) aspects of revenue forecasts. Typically, there is what you believe and then what everyone else is willing to bet on. Plot your actual performance against both numbers and learn.

Remember that your marketing plan will move through the project with you. At each step you need to add credibility by validating any and all assumption you have baked into the story. (E.g. the first version assumed that R&D would delivery on the utility that you wanted to commercialize. Some subsequent revision will account for whether they did or did not).

Note: The challenge to increasing accuracy with time is keeping the caveats and assumptions clearly in the mind of top management as decisions are made.   I have been in many discussions just before launch where a Sr. Manager reminded me that my original forecast numbers where much larger than they are now at launch. You need to be prepared to answer that challenge without throwing the manager or the team under the bus.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com.

© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC

Assessing Opportunities in the Medical Device Market

The Story:  I attended a recent Med Device investor conference and was approached by a colleague who had been following my blog for a year or so. I’ve known this gentleman for over 20-years, but had not spoken with him in quite a while. He asked when I was going to post something about doing Opportunity Assessments.

It is funny how people pigeonhole you into different skill sets. He remembered a Market Assessment I had done in the 90’s that apparently impressed him. I have done so many assessments, both Product and Market that I had to look it up. I was humbled by the fact he remembered it.

A second gentleman that was at this same conference remembered me for the way I developed a Product Portfolio, he asked when I was going to blog about that topic. Again I was humbled. This guy is as sharp as they come.

Both topics are huge in scope. This post will set up some thoughts and definitions; I will follow-up with a more detail set of posts over the next month or so.

Opportunity Assessment defined:  An opportunity assessment is the systematic, fact based, analysis of the market and/or product variables and assumptions that are used to determine the future financial viability of a given “Opportunity”.

 Portfolio Plan defined:  The Portfolio Plan is the resultant of a systematic decision-making process that combines a series of investment options (opportunities) into a strategic investment across time. When the opportunities are combined they will optimize that investment against a strategic objective set forth by senior management, hopefully that came out of a formal strategic planning process.

Connecting Opportunity Assessments and Portfolio Planning:  You can create an Opportunity Assessment completely independently of portfolio considerations. But to do a serious Portfolio Plan you can’t do it without a series of valid Opportunity Assessments. To facilitate a defendable Portfolio Plan you have to make sure that the methodology used to develop the Opportunity Assessments is consistent and not based on opinion.

Putting the pieces together

Side note 1: Even if your organization uses M&A activity to build the Portfolio you still need that Opportunity Assessment. You might just call it Due Diligence. Take care to ensure that all departments use the same Opportunity assessment rules and validation requirements.

Side note 2: Depending on how your organization is structured, you will more than likely need to build the assessment in tiers of certainty. Some of the work takes resources and if you don’t have the resources you need then you will need to convince someone that the opportunity is worth looking into. Think about the following flow:

  • Vision
  • Hypothesis
  • Preliminary
  • Verification
  • Validation


What does a good Opportunity Assessment look like?  It all starts with defining a problem in a specific therapeutic area or market. Opportunity identification is a whole different topic. For this post I will assume that the problem has been identified.


So the key questions that must be answered are:

  • Is the opportunity real?
  • Is it worth going after?
  • Can your company win, if they go after it?

A NO to any of these basic three questions suggests that it is not viable, for you. Of course everything has many shades of gray and all assessments are nuanced by political, economic and time frame realities. So I will write from a simplified dogmatic position. Take it for what it is worth to you.

Is the opportunity real?  There are two parts to this question. Is the problem real? Is the solution real? To answer these questions you must have a clear understanding of the un-met need. You must also have a reasonable belief that full utility can be delivered via the final product design at a cost that is affordable.

Side note 3: A mistake that often occurs is that someone sees a problem and assumes that everyone must see, have, or suffer from the problem.  This is seldom the case. A measured assessment of the size of the opportunity is step one.

Side note 4: In almost all cases the problems are already being solved or mitigated today, somehow to some extent. Don’t discount the value of understanding how this happens. In a latent need these substitution solutions maybe your largest competitive hurdle.

Is it worth it?  This a unique question that each organization will answer differently. Depending on your grand objectives that have come down from the Strategic Plan there maybe hurdle rates that must be met even to be considered as a viable opportunity to be considered.

In general this is a financial/strategic question that requires a number of models and market/segment/solution assumptions to be made.   The more informed these assumptions are, the better the decisions will be.

Typical you will need:

  • A disease model
  • A market model
  • A set of explicit solution assumptions (validated to your comfort level)
  • A set of explicit market assumptions (validated to your comfort level)
  • A set of assumptions about the success of your product solution (validated to your comfort level)
  • Cost of developing the product
  • Cost of launching the product
  • Sensitivity analysis of the revenue and profit models
  • A discount factor is developed (probability of success on all fronts)(project ßeta)
  • A pricing model
  • A business model to deliver long-term success
  • NPV
  • IRR
  • Payback period
  • Strategic value (risk reduction, critical growth objective, etc.)

Side note 5: If, you are going to use this as one of the opportunity assessments in your portfolio planning process, then the there needs to be a pre-set standard quality level for validation of assumptions.

Can you win?  This question is primarily an assessment of your internal capabilities and resources. Some of these questions feedback to the “worth it” question. For example, if you need to acquire or invent a new technology to provide an effective solution then you need to make sure the cost of invention or acquisition are in the financial models and it could well impact your discount factor (project ßeta).

Do you have, a cross all functions:

  • The right people?
  • Enough capital?
  • Enough cash?
  • The right sales force?
  • The right knowledge?
  • The right management control system?
  • The right distribution model?
  • Access to the right KOL’s?
  • The right vendor base?
  • Enough mfg. capacity?
  • The proper internal systems? Etc.

For any sub-point no, you may plan to acquire the missing aspect that lead to a no; just make sure you discount the probability of success and account for it’s cost.

When you bring it all together the high level scoring is simple, if you don’t have yes, yes, yes, than move on. If you have some narrowly classified no’s, you may want to move to a higher level of accuracy (refer to note 3 above). Just remember that the goal is to eliminate the losers and select the winners. Make a decision and move on.


“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com.


© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC

Creating Customer Profiles for the Medical Device Market

The Story

The project I am currently working on for a client will go much quicker if I follow my own advice and take care of the basics before creating final field facing messaging. I consider writing customer profiles or personas as one of the most important aspects of marketing fundamentals.

Maze mind and key
Maze mind and key

Once you have identified all the influencers in your buying decision the next step should be writing the personas. Without the personas you can’t develop a segmentation or targeting strategy. Without segmentation and targeting you can’t really develop positioning statements or value propositions. This is why the customer profile is a basic building block. Combined with your environmental scan you will have the fundamental inputs to developing the rest of the S-T-P marketing fundamentals.

Customer Profile Defined

A customer profile is a one-page document that describes the psychosocial aspects of your targeted customer group. Specifically, it will include the following elements: demographics, psychographics, behaviors, media preferences, influencers, preferences and environmental/organizational constraints.


Are they anything like demographics? Sort of! Demographics explain “who” your buyer is, while psychographics explain “why” they buy. Demographic information includes gender, age, income, and marital status – the dry facts. Psychographic information might be their habits, hobbies, spending habits and values.

You can only effectively reach your target audience when you understand both their demographics and psychographics. The combination of both sets of data starts to form your buyer persona – a detailed picture of the people you work with now, and would like to work with in the future.[1]

Why are these profiles so important?

In a crowded field you must constantly look for leverage, something that will give you a leg up on the competition.   Understanding your customers at a deeper level than competition will give you that leverage. It might lead you to align your product with a select group of customers. It might cause you to use colors and language that are more appealing. It might mean that you hirer different types of salespeople.   Even if you can’t spend the market research money to do this exercise in a systematic method, it is worth doing! Treat the first draft as a hypothesis! Come back to that draft after every significant customer interaction to see if you have confirmed or rejected an aspect of your profile.

Here are a few simple steps in creating a good profile 

  1. Describe your customer
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Behavior
  • Language preferences
  1. Locate your customers
  • Where do they hang out?
  • What do they read?
  • What do they watch?
  • How do they learn?
  • How do they communicate?
  • Who do they admire?
  1. Understand their buying practices
  • Where do they begin their research?
  • How do they receive the information they use in device selection?
  • What is their problem?
  • What benefits will you provide if you solve their problem?
  1. Understand your current customers
  • Why did they original buy from you?
  • Why do they continue to buy?
  • Why didn’t they buy from you?
  1. Write your first draft of the persona/profile
  • Write one per influencer.
  • Use names to give them life.
  • Look at the intersections for common elements.

Test, Test, Test your beliefs

You must find a way to validate your personas. Market research is the obvious choice, unless you don’t have the cash to pay for it. Then you have to use time and touches.


There is no such thing as an average customer! It is ok if you have to breakdown the persona into subgroups. I call these Archetypes. Your leverage will be greater if you find multi-modal conditions. Use of the mean/average is something that will lead you to being an average marketer.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com.

© 2015 The Experia Group, LLC

[1] http://blog.hubspot.com/insiders/marketing-psychographics

Running a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) Meeting within the Medical Device Market

The Story

I will be running a KOL meeting this week and I thought writing this blog would be a good way of capture advice that I might give myself.  KOL panels can be incredibly valuable, if done well.  They can also be a bit embarrassing if done poorly.  Here are some helpful tips.

Doc team

#1 tip: Know what your objective is first. Otherwise you will end with, at best a fragmented process, at worst an expensive party.


The top ten list

  1. Bring value to the clinician beyond the honorarium that you will be paying them.  i.e. one suggestion is using a keynote address speaker on a relevant topic that is slightly off-axis.
  2. Know what you want to learn before you plan the event or invite a physician.
  3. Don’t settle for narrative as the only input mechanism; get qualitative and quantitative data.
  4. Recruit a physician to co-host the event. This will bring credibility to the event as well as providing you a test bed for your structure.
  5. Don’t solicit advice on issues that you are unwilling to act on.
  6. Work them hard; it communicates how valuable you believe their views are.
  7. Comfort and convenience wins out over fancy and exotic every time.
  8. Leave time in the schedule to let the physicians talk to one another without you present.
  9. If you and they have the time for entertainment, make it memorable not expensive.
  10. Themes are great for spring dances; don’t go overboard with tying everything together.

More tips for success

  1. Logistics, logistics, logistics
  2. A good rule of thumb is to spend 4 hours of planning for every one hour of meeting time.
  3. Structure is important to good data capture, however physicians will rebel against any structure that you might design. Accept that and make sure that within your structured discussions that you plan for unstructured time.
  4. Conducting a pre-meeting survey is a great way to learn of dramatic differences of opinion. Actually using the slides from the survey is a great way to introduce controversial topics without it seeming as though you are trying to stir the pot.

When to utilize professional and independent moderator/facilitator

I have developed the view that whether a professional moderator is used or a skilled facilitator from your own company is employed is dependent on a couple of issues:

1.  What is the critical nature of the decisions I am collecting information to support?

For high-risk critical decisions I prefer a non-company based facilitator. It eliminates bias.

For politically charged decisions I prefer an independent facilitator. It takes the pressure off the product marketer.

2.  How many physicians will be attending?

I don’t recommend more than 10 physicians, however if you must go above 10 then a professional facilitator is preferred.

3.  If there are a number of different physician specialties or a mix of clinician types than a professional facilitator can be helpful managing any accidental friction that occurs.

4.  If you are going to spend the time and money to gather a group of physicians to help you resolve your critical issues, an additional $10,000 to have a coach or moderator involved make the chances for success go up dramatically.

5.  Take the time to prepare a final report document that captures all that you learn and reveals the data organized by the data or findings that are associated with the critical questions you were trying to resolve.


Tips in selecting the attendees for your KOL panel

  1. Select your attendees based on your objectives.
  2. Make sure the invitees are representative of your target customer base.
  3. Ensure that the physicians are still practicing physicians.
  4. Don’t send the invitations until you have vetted the potential personal conflicts or subservient relationships that may exist.
  5. If you “over-invite” to cover potential no’s or last minute cancellation make sure you can handle the overflow, if it happens. My approach is to nominate 30 physicians who all meet the acceptance criteria. Rank them. Invite 12 to get 10. If you don’t get 10 out of the 12, then extend to the next three people on your list. Keep rolling until you get your 10. This way you minimize your exposure.

Final thought

If you have never organized a KOL panel before, don’t be stubborn, ask for help. If there is no one in your organization that has done one well, hire someone to help.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker


Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com.


© 2015 The Experia Group, LLC


Market Development; “is it really different than Product Marketing?”

At the heart of the Marketing continuum are three aspects of strategic marketing: 1) New Product Portfolio Development, 2) Market Development, and 3) New Business Development.


Are they really different? Yes and No is the answer. To be successful in any of the three areas you need a strong understanding of the core principles of marketing, a great understanding of your organizations capabilities and of course, a strong understanding of the nature of the customer and the environment in which they work.

The analytic tools you use will be very similar.   The basics of great messaging will apply. Where they differ is in the nature of the problem you are trying to solve.

Market Development Defined

Market Development is simply the creation or expansion of a market. To expand a market or create a market you have to first “sell” the idea that a problem exists. You need to educate the potential buyers that they have an un-met need that they were unaware of.

Product Marketing Defined

With Product Marketing you are “selling” the solution to an already established problem or un-met need.

The Question is, “do you ever have to do both at the same time?”

The answer is yes, to varying degrees.


Typically, it is very expensive and a slow process to develop a market from scratch. There are many benefits in being the leader who creates a market. Typically the first mover advantage will provide leverage in the market place right up until someone develops a better solution.

On a relative scale product marketing is quicker and less expensive than creating markets.


The Story

A client of mine has a great product. There is a real clinical problem that this product solves. There are three or four “use cases” for this product. Some of the use cases are obvious to the key stakeholders, some aren’t. The strategic marketing challenge is where to place the available funds? Which will drive the right kind of success?

It is not always obvious what to do. What will bring the most success for the least investment? It is times like these, when you are facing complex strategic questions when I fall back on the core principles and tools of marketing.

  1. When in doubt ask a customer (s):
  • Who is/are the buyer(s)?
  • Who are the key none buying influencers?
  • Are the problem(s) that you are solving the same or different?
  • Is the product the right product for all use cases?
  • What are the barriers to success?
  • Is there a genuine value proposition for all stakeholders?
  • Is the value proposition strong enough to make it worth the users time to be educated?
  • What resonates with the customers?
  • What evidence or proof will the buyer need to accept your proposition?
  1. Scan the environment:
  • How large is each use case opportunity?
  • Is there competition or are you substituting an alternative solution?
  • Is there new technology on the horizon?
  • New laws or regulations that are coming or that are needed to provide leverage?
  • Are there any parrallel examples of successful strategies
  1. Craft a hypothesis strategy:
  • Test your hypothesis
  • Model the potential results of your strategy
  • Select a strategy
  • Fire a bullet not a cannon ball[1]

There are no formulae for crafting great market development strategies. You have to eliminate the non-starters and then design tests to explore the ones you have hope for.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com.

© 2015 The Experia Group, LLC

[1] Great by Choice, Jim Collins, Harper Business Press, Chapter 4, p. 60-98.

The Marketing Continuum: a progression of activities

The Marketing continuum provides a tremendous variation of opportunity for you to ply your special talents. From corporate strategy to advertising, from portfolio planning to merchandizing, from market development to product requirement planning, there is an opportunity for growth for you.

The Story

I met with a recent MBA grad that I found to be brilliant.   This person questioned whether they could sustain the excitement that they felt in their first marketing position over a life long marketing career. My first question was, “why worry about it now?” Just enjoy the position. As we spoke it became apparent that no one had ever laid out the opportunities that the marketing continuum could offer him.


What this blog will do is define the continuum, explain some stages of the continuum and provide a tip or two about working within the continuum.


Before I dive in, it is important to explain that the continuum is drawn left to right. There is not a hierarchy. Every role in marketing is equally important. There are a number of other continuums in the Medical Device Company as well. None are superior to the other. It takes a team to commercialize a medical device.

Marketing Continuum Defined

The marketing continuum is the progression of marketing activities that move from high-level strategy to tactical implementation of the business model. Marketing is the framework in which companies get intentional about their pathway to success.


As shown in the figure above there are, about, seven areas of marketing contained within the continuum.

  • Corporate Strategy
  • Corporate ID/PR
  • Strategic marketing
  • Market development, Product portfolio development, Business development
  • Commercial marketing
  • Marketing communications
  • Field activities

Corporate Strategy is included in the marketing continuum because to develop strong corporate wide strategies many of the areas of expertise that marketers must processes are required. Without a marketing mind-set you cannot develop corporate strategies.

Corporate ID/PR is critically important and must provide an over reaching consistency with the product messaging. I include it to differentiate from the Market Communication role. Corporate Identification, i.e. corporate branding is a very different set of skills than standard marketing communications. There are so many more customers for that type of message, employees, future employees, government, investors, users and buyers, C-suites at your customers, etc. The messaging becomes broader and less specific.

Strategic Marketing represents the general overall positioning that an entire portfolio of products or services will be built around. It will define the opportunities for Market, Products and Services, and Business Development. Strategic marketing is often performed as a staff function, committee or senior management. Many times, too often, an outside consulting firm performs this function.

Market Development creates a larger opportunity, for the products and services by facilitating a new understanding or behavior in your current targeted group of customers.

Portfolio Development creates more products and services that act synergistically to penetrate market segments within the define market.

Business Development or M&A activities create new markets or provide access to technologies that power product and service development.

Commercial Marketing is critical to the success of the continuum. It is where the activities turn toward selling, training and building broader relationship. It is where the needs of the many are converted to the needs of the few or the one.

Marketing Communications is the process by which, all the core messages are posed into a language, an image, a smell, and a feel all to trigger the desired emotional response from the customer. Once created these messages are then packed into different outlets or media types to reach out to the customers in an effective and efficient manner.

Field Activities, such as, sales, clinical support, referral development, national accounts, customer service, service, etc. has the task of taking the general messaging about the corporation, products and services and making it relevant to one customer at a time. Each customer interaction has to be nuanced.

Having a marketing mind-set will serve you well up and down the continuum. The tools vary a bit, but the basics of marketing are the same in each stage of the continuum. I encourage you to work the continuum until you find your best fit.


“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”


Make it a great day,


Tim Walker


Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. www.theexperiagroup.com.


© 2015 The Experia Group, LLC