Tag Archives: Positioning statements for medical devices

Pre or Post Covid-19 creating the right message for new medical devices is critical


Since the early 1900’s it has been well understood that we, as marketers, sell holes, not drills. Translating that adage into the 2000s and relating it to medical devices, the saying goes something like this; we sell improved clinical outcomes, not the tool that provides it. We sell greater safety, not the equipment that enables it. Yet, I still see advertisements that describe in great detail the physicality of the device. I hear sales representatives take about how their device is made of optically clear plastic.  

 We complain that it takes a decade for physicians to adopt our technology, and yet, we take decades to deploy the latest realizations in medical device marketing.

 Virtual or not, digital or not, regardless of the channel, we must deliver a clear and relevant message. We must promote the outcomes of our products, not what the product is. The clinical benefits and health economic benefits motivate the healthcare institution to purchase, not the device’s features and attributes. They never get to what clear empowers or enables. They let the clinician connect the dots.


Recently, I was working with a client on developing the messaging for a new medical device. He went on for 15 minutes on what the product was, how it worked, its cost, how it was better, lighter, and faster than the competition. He was articulate and passionate. It was truly amazing to hear.

 When he finished, I asked a couple of simple questions. Why would I need your device? What will your device allow me to accomplish? This sparked another 15-minute download about the therapy that the device supported. He was equally articulate about the therapy description as he had been about the device description.

 He started to realize that the connection between the two revealed the benefit that the device brought; that is what we were selling.

 The features and attributes exemplify how our drill makes the hole better than our competition’s. 

 I pulled this quote out and had him read it; then, I watched as the wheels turned. 

  Leo McGivena: “Last year one million quarter-inch drills were sold, not because people wanted quarter-inch drills, but because they wanted quarter-inch holes. . .”

 How do you get to the right message?

    •  We started with a one-paragraph description of the clinical problem from the perspective of the clinician. 
      • (Why we needed a hole)
    • We then wrote a two-paragraph product positioning (benefit) statement.
      • (How we provided the hole.)
    • We then wrote a one-page value proposition.
      • (Why our hole was more valuable than the hole our competitors made.)
    • We then crafted a pricing strategy.
      • (What was the realizable value of the hole.)

 Note: These documents are defined in previous posts and in INSIGHTS: 33 lessons learned in medical device marketing available on Amazon.


 Over the course of 3-weeks, we had created four of the five foundational documents (messages) that are needed to drive all the down-stream marketing activities and collateral material.


 1. Crafting a message is critical, no matter how long it takes.

2. Creating great foundational work is crucial to successful communication with the clinician customer.

 3. Who delivers the message, how the message is delivered, where the message is delivered, are all important, but are secondary to what the message is.

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

 Make it a great day!

 Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal Consultant for The Experia Group, a consulting firm, which provides experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. Author of INSIGHTS: 33 lessons learned in medical device marketing, available on Amazon.

One-on-one or team coaching is available.

 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. [email protected].

© 2020, The Experia Group, LLC

Positioning Statement Development for Medical Devices

The Story

Once during a staff meeting, the marketing team was discussing the portfolio of products that were under development. Of the Product Managers gathered at that time, five of them were preparing to launch new products and two were post-opportunity recognition and pre-requirements planning.

The discussion worked its way around to the realization that only one of the seven managers had formally written the “positioning statement” for their respective products. We bantered about the question of when should you write the positioning statement for the new product. There were positions voiced around the table that ranged from, after verification testing, to after limited market evaluations.

Coming out of that meeting all seven managers were given the assignment of writing position statements for their new products.   Not surprisingly, over the next three days I was asked, “What makes a good positioning statement?” I was also asked, “Why one needed to be written them at all?”

Why write product-positioning statements?

I have always believed, that the most enjoyable part of being a Product Manager was the early phases of defining a potential new product. No boundaries, no conditions, a clean canvas upon which you painted a dreamscape for your product. This is when you reach for the stars. This creative writing exercise, for me, often resulted in two-to-five pages of text and included a description of the clinical environment, the nature of the clinician character, the problem statement, the perfect utility that the product could deliver, a forecast, a theme and never, never was restricted by the technology that was known to my company at that time. Very few of these stories have ever been read or even been seen by my colleagues. I used to think that it was a silly indulgence. What I now believe is that it is a critical aspect, which differentiates good new product definitions, from great ones.

What are marketers, if not the inventor of the story and the keepers of the vision?

Book with light

Why write them?

Simply, we need to write the Product Positioning Statements to be able to concisely describe a vision to others, so that they can join us in making that story come to life. It is our elevator pitch to the organization and parallels the sales persons elevator pitch to the clinician customer. It is the executive summary of the multi-page story.

One real benefit to me has been that writing and telling the story imprints a vision of success in my mind and spirit. These visions of success often infected those around me, and instill a sense of confidence within them.

When should we write them? 

So I think it is obvious that the value proposition should be written before the requirements planning process. The expense associated with research and other VOC activities is significant. You owe the organization a complete vision before you incur those expenses. If you can’t generate some excitement with your vision then you shouldn’t move forward, yet. Requirements planning reduces the grand story to something particle, that is tied to internal limits of resource and capability. The initial positioning statement never survives to the launch. Keep it current and revise it as needed.  Always ask the question, “Is it still worth going after?”

What makes a good one?*

For the first ten-years of my marketing career I didn’t know what made a good positioning statement.  I wrote good ones instinctively and mine were never consistent from product to product. At some point I took a class and some really smart instructors from Stanford laid out a template. I use this template as a starting point for every positioning statement I have written since then.

There are seven distinct elements required for a complete positioning statement:

  1. Customer identification
  2. Description of those customers problem
  3. The name of the product (preliminary)
  4. A basic description of the product utility
  5. A description of the components that offer the most relevant value (functional or emotional benefits)
  6. How it is different from competition
  7. Reasons to believe

 Format of a positioning statement

The statement is typically written as a single paragraph, I use two.  However, your style can vary as long as you include the seven elements, can recite it in 15 seconds, and it test as a strong statement. The paragraph typically follows the following structure:

 For… . Who… . The… . Is a… . That… . Unlike… . It… .

 Example (completely fictitious):

For the cardiovascular surgeon, who believes in the clinical benefits of beating heat surgery. The Squid is a combination rib spreader, holder, and electrical isolation device. The (that) Squid offers maximum visibility and access to the heart, hands-free stabilization and counter traction, with the added ability to electrically isolate small areas of the muscle, all to provide a still and placid surface on which to sew. Unlike many devices on the market today that perform only one of these functions and do not offer an integrated solution to the problem of high quality stitching on a beating heart, such as the: [list competition here].

The Squid (it) is offered by the leading manufacture of surgeon-focused equipment in the World today. It was designed for the unique requirements of the CV surgeon as directed by Dr. Spock, head of surgery at the Never-Never Land Heart Institute.

How strong a statement is it?

Test your statement against the following four questions:

  1. Is it compelling?
  2. Is it distinct?
  3. Is it achievable?
  4. Is it sustainable?

Have a group or independent marketers score the strength of your statement against the above four questions. Have them provide the reasons for their scores and then try to incorporate their feedback until an independent group scores you strong on all four counts. Strong, average, poor makes a good scale.

*I have committed this template to memory and I don’t have any of the original course material. There is no way I can attribute this to its source. Suffice it to say that I did not create it and take no credit for it. I have used it more than 20 times and every time the exercise has proven invaluable to me.

“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.