Tag Archives: Product Marketing

COVID-19 a new dawn for Medical Device Marketing?

 

 

From time to time, great events shape, speed, or cause change to our World. You know the list as well as anyone, war, famine, pandemics, climate shifts, geological shifting of the tectonic plates each of these significant upheavals has set in motion many dimensions of change. Biology, technology, and society evolve in an adjustment to the new parameters of the new age that results from the energies released during these global events.

Whether COVID-19 is one of these upheavals or not is yet to be seen. But reflecting on how it might impact the world of medical device marketing, it begs the question, are we ready?

The energy that will most likely drive this resulting change to our time will be fear. While fear is a primal motivator for action and is key to survival, it often lends itself to noise and overreaction. It creates the opportunity for those less honorable to take advantage of those not prepared.

Let’s all keep our priorities straight, facts matter, safety first, regulatory processes can be useful, oversight is proper, in a pure capitalist system the safety of each member of society is equal.

Tactics will change, strategies not so much

The strategies won’t change, the tactics will shift away from 80% face-to-face selling toward the digital, or virtual worlds.

One Potential Impact

For a decade, the desire to use the Internet more as a means of influencing behaviors of clinician purchasing, or product selection, has been stunted by the overwhelming majority of clinicians who are resistant to change. Their resistance to change is not only relating to the adoption of new best practice therapy but extends to the way they get information about new products.

Based on the last survey The Experia Group conducted, clinicians identified the top three ways of receiving new product information as 1) colleague recommendations, 2) congress trade show symposium and booths, and 3) from trusted manufacture representatives.

Additionally, the way clinicians prefer to evaluate new products is by having a trained clinically oriented representative of the company present in the hospital or procedure room so that they are present to answer any questions that might come up.

There have been several environmental pressures to move toward digital or remote training on new products. Among these pressures are The Sunshine Act, HIPPA, the restrictions on access to hospitals, the number of administrative processes that are now required to get approval to trial new products, including the expanded use of IRB’s, to name just a few.

Now that face-to-face contact between industry and clinicians has been reduced dramatically, and rightfully so, the COVID-19 pandemic may be the last push needed to total re-orient the selling, evaluation, and training processes for new product awareness and adoption of medical technology.

Are you ready?

What new skills will we all need to develop if this new World comes into existence?

Just off the top of my head:

      • Community building
      • Hosting webinars
      • Digital copywriting
      • Educational content creation
      • Remote customer engagement and interaction
      • Video content editing
      • Technical skills in managing and utilizing apps and facilitate communication
      • Empowering your field organization to use the new skills
      • Label copy review processes may need to modified for speed w/o giving up the proper level of controls.

One challenge that I don’t see an emerging answer for is, how to teach clinicians to optimize their ability to learn remotely.

Perhaps the more significant challenge is how to teach, feel, and touch that so many products require, remotely.

For me, the above list of skills to learn are all tactics and abilities. The strategies for success don’t change. The choice of tactics may be more digitally biased.

Breathe

Not all of the historical sales, education, training, and support techniques will go away. New hybrid approaches will evolve. Regardless of your current skill level, you need to develop a higher level of awareness and execution capability as a person and as an organization. Even if everything settles down after the pandemic passes, what have you lost by learning a new skill set?

Typically, I would offer a solution to the issue.  Sorry, but I don’t have one just yet. For me, I have some learning to do.

Go to www.theexperiagroup.com, where I will be building a resource list (over time) as I develop or refine new skills.

 Lessons:

1) Never stop learning

2) Always keep your environmental scans up and running

3) It is ok to go slow, to go fast, but you need to start

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

Make it a great day!

Tim Walker, MBA

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

One-on-one and team coaching are 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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

© 2020, The Experia® Group, LLC

Available from Amazon.

 

 

Trade shows Importance in the Go-to-Market Strategy for New Product Launches

Set up

Trade show attendance is a tactic, a tool, not a strategy or objective. They have a habit of developing a life of their own due to the expense and time investment they require. Additionally, it is easy to fall into a pattern of planning for and attending the same congresses year after year without even considering if they are achieving their objective.

What if?

As trade shows are significant events, it is also easy to use as a launch mechanism for new products. I would propose that the new product launch plan become an 18-month campaign, of which, one, two, or three congresses might be a part of the campaign.

The tradeshow can be considered the centerpiece or the anchor, but attending a show is not a goal or objective onto itself.

To truly optimize and make a step function change in your thinking, consider congresses or tradeshow as the highlight of the process by which you are building a community of customers. The tradeshow serves as a celebration, an acknowledgment, a recruiting tool, and a prospecting tool for future community members, and of course, a lead generation tool for the sales organization.

The launch plan/campaign can be a story. With all good stories, there is a prologue, introductions, body, conclusions, and epilogue. With all the proper caveats and warnings that follow along with regulatory listings, clearance, and approvals regarding the promotion of Medical Devices, great care should be taken.

Another thought construct to consider is that every new product launch is an opportunity for customer engagement; you could even think about it as a recruiting tool for your clinician community.

Story Timing New Product Launch Campaign Objective
Prologue 6 months prior to launch Targeting Create a target persona

Identify KOLs

Introduction 6-1 month before launch Pre-approval channel preparation

(Trade show activities)

  • Recruit targeted KOLs at a national, regional and local level.
  • Collect feedback on the problem statement from the community that you created in the KOL world.
  • Collect proof that there is a problem.
  •  Frame the problem’s impact on patient outcomes.
  •  Frame the economic impact on the institution of the problem.
  • Recruit for pre and/or post-market clinical trials
Main body Once FDA approval/clearance is received
  •   Awareness (Trade show activities)
  • Customer Contact(Trade show activities)
  • Engagement (Trade show activities)
  • Sales process (Trade show activities)
  • Evaluation
  • Social media (SM) campaign
  • Leads from SM or Digital awareness
  • Tradeshows leads
  • Document and communicate the buzz
  •  Sell
Ending Market and Sales execution

 

VAC, New Product committee approval
  • Document and communicate success stories
  • Package the testimonials
  • Collect product improvement
  • Conduct post-market studies
Epilogue Customer service monitoring Successful integration into the standard workflow
  • Post-market surveillance
  •  Constantly provide evidence that the buyers made the right choice (Tradeshow activities)

A Quick Review of Customer Engagements 

Customer engagement is a two-way equal value exchange of information, experiences, desires, hopes, and dreams that leads to a more in-depth professional relationship between the two parties.

The engagement events can be:

      • Digital
      • Social media
      • Panels
      • Animal labs
      • Training validation
      • IFU validation
      • Installation validation
      • Clinical trial recruitment for pre or post-market studies
      • Plant tours
      • Design input processes
      • Human factors validation
      • One-on-one interviews
      • Product improvement reviews

Challenge

      • Can you see the potential in having all these touchpoints identified?
      • Can you see the power in having collateral to support each step specifically?
      • Can you see how a tradeshow is a component of a grander process?
      • Can you see how thinking of a trade show as a media channel gives you a new perspective?
      • Can you see how tying the trade show into an entire campaign makes funding it easier?
      • Can you see how laying out an 18-month plan builds flexibility into the calendar, making you proactively prepared for regulatory delays?

Lesson(s)

  1. It is ok to think differently about trade show attendance
  2. Build metrics and mini-goals into every step
  3. Follow-through is critical, discipline

“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 small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success.

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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

© 2020, The Experia Group, LLC

 

 

 

Know Before You Go: Trade show optimization for Market and Product managers

Set up

I was reviewing my travel calendar and saw that the Spring season of Medical Congresses was coming up when it occurred to me that I had not dealt with tradeshows planning nor attendance conduct for product and marketing managers. Reviewing this topic in my mind, I have decided to break up the lessons learned into multiple posts.

 

If you have been following this blog for a while, you will recognize a common theme. 

 

Background

For a national level tradeshow, the direct budget will range from $80,000 to $2 million. Even the lower end of that range could be a considerable percentage of a marketing department budget, add in the indirect costs of travel at $600 per day per attendee, and for any company, a floor presence is a significant investment.  Without taking into account the opportunity cost of non-selling days for salesforce attendees, it is evident that tradeshow attendance is a significant commitment of time and resources. The key is to think of the expense as an investment. All investments are measured on their projected and actual return (ROI); tradeshows are no different.

 

For a company to “just attend” a congress will make for an expensive social gathering, which can have value but is a low return on the cost of attending. To realize a significant return on your tradeshow investment will require crystal clear goals with metrics. I typically look at the number and quality of customer engagements, the daily and total cumulative number of sales leads, the duration of time to follow-up all leads, the total dollars in new business that results from those leads, and finally look at the overall ROI, as a start. 

 

This introduction and explanation are enough for now on the macro aspects of tradeshows. The point of this post is optimizing the micro (personal) level of tradeshow attendance.

 

Personal responsibility

There is also a micro side of optimizing tradeshows, the individual attendees; this is particularly true for market and product managers. Know your objectives before you go. Write them out and tape them to your hotel room’s bathroom mirror, seeing them every morning and evening will reinforce and guide your daily activity. I encourage the mirror thing even in this digital age, of course, put them in your daily calendar as well.

 

Here is an example of my personal goals for an SIR meeting in the mid-’90s.

 

    • Gather input for the R&D team, regarding catheter tip shape, length, and stiffness, conduct at least ten private conversations with qualified IR’s.  
    • Contribute to the booth set up by having my product station set up and sparkling clean 30 minutes before the deadline. Write 15 high-quality sales leads per day.
    • Brief the salesforce on my product goals and show messaging 
    • Attend and take notes on three live case presentations relating to SFA stenting, write up and present to the marketing team at the post-show briefing.
    • Identify and sound out a regional level expert KOL in SFA treatments from an influential hospital for potential recruitment to our corporate advisor board.
    • Visit every booth where there was a new competitive product to get a feel for how they merchandise their products and observe and report customer reactions to their new product.
    • Twice daily, check-in with the MRI research team (covertly) to determine how they are progressing with the blinded attribute survey goal of 150 completed the three-day show.

I reviewed this list with my supervisor well in advance of the show, she approved.

 

Did I achieve all the goals? Sadly no. But even missing two, guaranteed that I had optimized my time and reap

ed value from the investment the company had made by sending me to the show.

 

I believe that I was allowed to attend domestic and international congress even during cost-cutting cycles due to my development of personal show goals, routinely meeting those goals, and reporting out my findings in an organized fashion to the organization as a whole.

 

Lesson(s)

 

1. Ensure you get a high rate of return on your investment of time and resource at every trade show you attend no matter what your management level by setting your goals. Know before you go!

 

2. Make sure you complete your personal goals first, then contribute to others achieving theirs’.

 

3. Ensure that the macro goals get incorporated into your objectives.

 

“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 small consulting firm that specializes in providing experienced and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. 

 

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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

 

 

 

Are You Ready to Launch?

Set up

Recently I have had two potential clients ask during their free 30-minute consultation if they were ready to launch their new medical devices. Thirty minutes is no-where near enough time to answer that question. As I thought through both scenarios, it occurred to me that I usually ask myself a series of questions when I am trying to make that determination. I am going to share those questions with you in this post.

 

The Process

The questions I usually ask have multiple layers to them and fit into at least six categories. Now, if you think I am over complicating this fundamental question, let me remind you that when I am preparing a launch, I consider over eighty elements in the design. If you are not confident in the answers, a more in-depth review is warranted.

 

The categories won’t be new to you if you have been reading this blog for a while. If you are new, then you will recognize them from Marketing 101.

 

Before you even dive into the next level, ask yourself if there is a launch goal? If you don’t have a clear expectation from the launch of the product, then stop. Work as a group to set a goal that has more than just revenue as the target.

 

Categories (the 4 p’s of marketing[1] + business Process):

    • Product
    • Price
    • Promotion
    • Place
    • Process

 

Considerations for Product

    • Have I demonstrated that the product is safe for the patient, the user, and the environment?
    • Am I sure that I can reliably predict the performance in any situation the device is used?
    • Do I have an evaluation process in place that lets the user see the product in its best light?

Considerations for Price

    •  Do you understand how the price will impact the uptake of the product?
    • Do you have a complete understanding of the reimbursement that the buyer will be eligible for?

Considerations for Promotion

    • Have you validated your value proposition?
    • Have you validated all your clinical claims?
    • Are your promotion claims within the boundaries of your regulatory clearance or approval?
    • Do you have a plan to collect additional clinical evidence in support of your current and future claims?

Considerations for Place (Distribution)

    • Does your distribution channel selection fit with your product?
    • Have you tested your sales process? 
    • Have you adequately designed product and sales training for those who will be representing your product?
    •  Have you tested your in-service procedure?

Consideration for Process

    • Have you developed all the business processes that will allow you to provide high-quality professional service to your customers?

Do you have in place:

        • Complaint handling procedures
        • An escalation process for technical and clinical questions from the field
        • A returned goods process that has the right level of Biohazard safety
        • Environmental considerations

These are just a sampling of the questions you should ask yourself and your team before you authorize the launch. There are many, many, more. The answers are not, yes or no. The implied question is, is there evidence that you have answered these questions correctly. Now is the time to hold each other accountable, no surprises to the best of your resources and abilities.

 

In launching or directing the launch of nearly 100 new medical devices, I have made mistakes. 

Many of those mistakes would have been prevented if I had been honest and thorough in answering the question, “are we ready?”

 

Lesson(s)

 

1. No one wants to fumble the ball in the red zone after driving down the field for months or years.

 

2. Small issues will come up. However, you need to do everything in your power to prevent the big ones.

 

3. The sooner in the launch prep process, you all agree on the “readiness checklist” and the required pre-launch performance and knowledge, the better.

 

“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 small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. 

 

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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

 

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC

 

  [1] McCarthy, 1960

The role of Marketing in Validation testing for Medical Devices

Set up

I had the opportunity to reflect on an experience that I had a few years back. Here is the story. First and most importantly, this post is not an R&D bashing.  As you read the story, you will see that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement by many functional team members as well as culturally throughout the commercialization process.

The Story

I had recently joined a team late in the R&D process as the marketing representative. I was not involved in collecting nor documenting the user needs or technical requirements of the product that was being developed. Not a perfect situation.

The team had completed verification testing and was moving full force into the Validation test phase of development. I asked to review the validation test protocols and was ignored for several weeks, not a good sign. Unfortunately, I had to take my request to the Vice President of Marketing and Vice President of R&D before I could get a copy of the protocol. I had to read the protocol several times before it became clear it was just enhanced verification testing, not real Validation.

I sat down with the team to share my concerns that the test protocol did not link back to user needs. After two hours of going point by point through the protocol, it became clear to all that the protocol did not Validate the user needs. I was told that Marketing did not have to approve validation test protocols, and they were going forward with the test as is.

Completely ignoring the fact that over half of the critical needs were not being challenged. Perhaps more telling was that only team members were conducting the protocols.

What do I do now?

It was clear that there was a cultural issue that would take some time to change. The first line of my marketing ethos requires that patient safety come first, always. I had no choice but to be their advocate on the team. But how? I felt that I needed to make the Validation testing more real for the R&D team.

I took two parallel paths to solve this dilemma. First, I worked with Quality engineering and Regulatory compliance team members to better understand their role in Validation protocol development. They were eventually asked if they would like to see their roles better defined? They agreed and set up a task force to review the roles and responsibility chart in the QS for Validation testing.

Second, I arranged for five physicians and five, field-based clinical specialists to visit with the team. These five physicians had been involved in the needs identification process (almost 3-years earlier). As near as I could tell, they provided the first and only input during the design and development process. This meeting was very structured, and the team explained why they reached the design they had.

In the back of the room restricted to observation only were the functional department heads. Truthfully, I felt terrible for everyone in the room as it became apparent that the team had missed on several fronts.

After three additional months of re-design to eliminate any safety issues, verification, and validation phases were re-started. A total delay in the project launch of six months at the cost of many millions of dollars was the result of this story. Who won in the upheaval, the patients and the clinicians won, which should have meant everyone won, that is not how the company perceived it. The finger-pointing started soon afterward.

In the end, everyone had done their best to do what they individually thought was best for the company and the project. The entire team was made up of competent professionals. No one should have lost their job over this; it was, in essence, a complete failure to understand what the real goal of the project was, a safe, compliant, product that offered solutions to unmet needs of the physician customer.

Marketing’s role in Validation testing

Specifically, marketing represents the customers’ voice on the team. They should be actively involved in every aspect of creating a new product. They need to facilitate access for the R&D team to the customer in the right way at the right time. Should they be required to sign-off on the Validation protocols? I think there is room for discussion about that, however the voice of the customer needs to be heard!

 

I strive to be so valuable to the team that they ask me to be involved with developing the Validation protocols.

Lesson(s)

  1. The clinician customers must have input throughout the development of the new product development process. This input is the only way to prevent costly surprises at the end.
  2. First-time marketers must have a marketing coach to take them through the process. Whether it be, the supervisor or a more experienced marketer, it is essential to know that an inexperienced marketer will not know what to look for.
  3. Marketing serves as the keeper of the new product vision, every chance you get, speak to the vision.

“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 small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success.

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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

Available on Amazon.

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC

Persuasive Power derived from the Benefit Pyramid+™, in Medical Device Marketing

Set up

I saw a half dozen posts this past week that announced New Medical Devices. So this INSIGHT goes out to those product managers that produced those notices.

Was there something inherently wrong in those announcements? No. Could they have been better? Yes. Given that they were merely announcements, they weren’t necessarily intended to convey the entire message. So please take this post as an opportunity to think deeper.

So how could they have been improved?

By applying the lessons of the Benefit Pyramid. Most of the content of the announcements referred to Attributes or Features of the devices. Seen in the image below, Attributes and Features have a low impact when persuading someone to act differently. I would offer that if a message that focuses on features is successful, it is because the clinician is projecting the benefit they might derive from those features. As a product manager, being intentional about messaging you will realize that counting on a very busy clinician to project a benefit is not as strong a position as you telling them how the device will be beneficial to them.

For most of us mortal marketers, we target benefits, for those among us who truly understand the psychographics of their targeted clinician customer we suggest or present an emotional benefit that they derive from using our devices.

In this post, I add one more element, hence the + sign. So this new benefit pyramid represents a change in the way I think about persuading clinicians to change their behaviors. It takes into account the ultimate persuader, a moral or social imperative. The closest I have ever gotten to explain the impact of a product as a moral imperative is when I market a safety device.

One only need look to the writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates to discover aspects of the medical ethos and why they might consider safety and having clinical data as a moral imperative.

Hippocratic Oath:

“I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.”

Of the Epidemics:

“The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future — must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm.”

Lesson(s)

  1. The higher up the Pyramid you can go the more power your persuasion will be
  2. Take the time to dig deep to discover the benefit your product will provide
  3. To tap the p persuasive power of the Benefit + Pyramid, you must authentically believe in what you are saying in your messaging

“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 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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

 

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC

On Amazon.

 

Social Cause Marketing with Medical Devices

Set up

Recently, I had a great discussion with a group of new medical device marketers. It was a great exchange of ideas. One of the topics that struck me was a question from a younger, recent graduate who was starting a career as a product manager.

Which comes first the Social cause or the Product?

The question was something like this, “I have been given the responsibility to launch a new line extension, and I would like to know how I choose the social cause that I use to market the new product?” I thought this was a great question. So I fired back, “What did your manager or director advise you to do?”

The response was, “That they told me if I wanted a great launch, I should leverage a social cause.” Having a social cause affiliated with a product launch can be a strong linkage to the product message and could, for a short time, aid in launching a new product.

An aside

There are several debatable points of view in Marketing, such as, which comes first the Brand or the Product? The Social cause or the Product? Strategy or tactics? To some in our profession, these topics are the same as the “chicken or egg” question.

 

If you have been a loyal reader of this blog, you will recall that I have positions on all three questions. The purpose is never to convince the reader that I am right, but rather to trigger a thought that might lead you to your informed view.

Back to the topic

In my view, we need to recognize that if we align with a social cause, as a company, a division, or a product line that we must make sure our messaging is congruent and authentic.   Without authenticity to the Social cause, it will be a trick. That is why the “Social cause” comes first! If a cause is core to your Brand or that of your company’s then, by all means, your commitment will come across as authentic. It will help explain why. Searching for a cause to attach to a product so that you can gain market leverage is not going to serve anyone over the long-term.

Remember that your Brand comes from who you are, what you believe, your entire life history.

A plea

Please do your homework and look deeper behind all techniques and fads. MVP, Social media, Social cause marketing are all great concepts if they are applied correctly. However, honestly they are just creative ways of using the basics; at the base is and always will be the 4 Ps. I now think of the basics as the 5 Ps and 2 Cs.

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • Process
  • Customer
  • Competition

Ask yourself, what is my Brand? Who am I at my core? Be true to that core.

There are two more blog posts under development right now.   Watch for, “A return to the basics of messaging,” and “The Marketing Ethos for Medical Device Marketers, “both post coming soon.

Lessons

  1. Social cause marketing is power if it is real and is congruent with your product message.
  2. Tricks to promote a product are disingenuous and may work for a while, but won’t produce a positive long-term result.

“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 and relieve unhealthy tension. 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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

If you would like to own a collection of 33 lessons learned, Search Amazon for INSIGHTS: 33 lessons learned in medical device marketing.

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC

Beware of bad data in Medical Device marketing decision-making

Set up
I was listening to an MLB game the other evening and the announcers we spouting statistics right and left. They were reporting data. I then waited for the analysis, for the insight, for the reasoning that explained an action taken by a manager or player. We never got there.

I turned off the TV and realized that the announcers for that game were doing what I see prevalent today in inexperienced marketers.

Collecting data without knowing why they are gathering it and then spouting that data as if there was some type of magic in numbers.  The magic comes from deriving (analysis) from the data insight, converting that insight into wisdom by contextualizing it and then applying that new wisdom to form a solution or make a great decision.

Is there a time and place for making observations, collecting subjective data? Absolutely. It is the source for developing the questions or problem statements that you will then apply the “scientific method” against.

An Example

An example of the power of observation: I was in an open-heart case, and the perfusionist and I were talking about how cold they keep the OR rooms. She had three layers of jackets on (observation 1). The conversation continued, and she made the point that they are trying to cool the heart to protect it. One way they do that is by recirculating cold water around the heart and pumping a cardioplegia solution into the heart itself. By having the OR rooms too warm, they are defeating that goal. That made sense to me. Then I noticed that the source of the cold fluid was being pumped through 6 feet of tubing (observation 2). The question that resulted was, is there a way to get the cooling source closer to the heart, so the ambient temperature does not have time to impact the fluid adversely and is there a new product opportunity to be realized?

These observations resulted in two streams of exploration, 1) a technical stream, and 2) a marketing stream.

This blog is not about how to analyze data. However, instead, to caution that unless you are willing to collect the data correctly, then don’t start, garbage in, garbage out.

When do you need to collect data?

Recently, I have been mentoring several individuals who are new to marketing as a role. They struggle with determining when and how to collect voice-of-the-customer (VOC) data, as did I for the first 5-years of my career in marketing. The answers are painfully simple. How to do it well is difficult and takes years of experience.

The answer is to collect VOC data whenever you have an unanswered question.

Does that mean that you need to collect data for every marketing question? Yes, you do. However, how much data, what kind of data, how you gather that data, from how many, of what types of customers, is where you can apply judgment. Save the significant data collection efforts for the huge questions, ones where a wrong answer or misinterpretation could cause severe negative consequences if it leads to a poor critical decision.

Commit to writing could questions

So once you decide that you have a critical unanswered question, you have to frame the question (s). The better the question (s), the more informed the decision.

I typically will rewrite the questions up to a dozen times. With each revision, I work hard to remove any real or implied bias.

Data’s value comes from using it to inform a decision-making process. If you’re lucky, you will convert data to information, information to insight, insight to wisdom, and then apply that wisdom to excellent decision-making.

Lessons

  1.  Most of the time, biased data is worse than no data.
  2. Spend all the time that you require to frame great, unbiased questions.
  3.  Risk adjust your VOC efforts to optimize the value of the undertaking.

“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. tim@theexperiagroup.com.

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC

MVP a potentially dangerous concept for the Medical Device Sector

Forward

I don’t typically repeat topics in this blog. However, I am making an exception this time. This is the third post related to the use of the Minimally Viable Product (MVP) concept with Medical Devices.

Set up

Recently, I had an email exchange with a potential client where they informed me that they were pursuing an MVP and they didn’t need any marketing support at this time. I may write a post about how that may be misguided thinking if there isn’t a Marketing Mindset in the company.   Marketing Mindset will be the subject of a future post as well. That e-mail exchange triggered an emotional response within me.

I offer this post because I feel compelled to. The Universe woke me up at 3:00 am last night to inform me that my mission in life demands that I caution inventors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors and product marketers that are involved with product commercialization where human safety or health is at risk, that the MVP concept can be misinterpreted.

MVP is a useful concept as defined by Eric Ries; “A minimally 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.” I am sure that there are many industries where this definition can be applied directly. It seems particularly applicable to entertainment sectors, like video games. I strongly recommend that everyone who is using that term, reflect on if it is a thought construct that is appropriate for his or her market sector.

In the example above, the first set of drawings do not provide full utility. The second example does. This concept applied to medical devices gets at the need for complete clinical utility (CCU).

Cautionary Note

For me, what I have come to believe is the concept of safe, complete clinical utility (CCU) is the way to think about the first product to be launched by a company or a technology platform in the medical device space. In the medical device space or any space where human lives are at risk, we should never strive for a minimum of anything.   I have found that the long-term success of any product results from maximums, maximum utility, maximum compliance, maximum clinical evidence, and maximum safety.

If you want to use a hot buzzword like MVP in a high-risk space, then I think it will be worth your time to define the scope of “Viable” for your product. It will show the clinicians, investors, and patients that you understand where their health is concerned that Viable is a big word and includes, regulatory compliance, safety, and complete utility.   If you must put the acronym on a slide, then do it this way – mVp.

For those of you who are involved in the acquisition of technologies or products that can present a risk to humans make sure you do more than financial due diligence. Be intentional about your technical and clinical due diligence as well. If you are new to M&A activity, hire a coach who has been there and done that. I have seen first hand the results of poor clinical and technical due diligence. Large follow on investment in the millions of dollars, months of delays, failed launches, investors losing confidence in management teams, negative impact to the brand, and of course worst of all, a patient injury that may result from truncated due diligence!

Marketing Mindset

What I believe is that if you have and apply a Marketing Mindset to product commercialization you will think in terms of multi-generation product releases that move you toward 100% customer satisfaction.

Lesson

Words matter, using a popular buzzword implies knowledge of the thoughts behind the term. Don’t be caught unprepared or leave an opening for misinterpretation.

“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.

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC

 

Product Line Rationalization for Medical Devices

The Set Up

It has been some time since I actually performed a Legacy Product Line Rationalization. Two calls this week have prompted me to create this post. This is how I think about it.

As a Product Manager, one of the most necessary and potentially difficult tasks is to rationalize your portfolio product lines for an exit, maintain or invest strategy. If you review your product line performance on an annual basis, see AARP post, you will find that you have most of the data and insights you need.

The Goal of the Review

The goal is to rationalize your current portfolio based on the previous performance changes year over year. You pretty much have 3 options although they can be thought of as on a scale.

  • Maintain
  • Invest
  • Divest

This review will point you toward actions that are needed in support of each product line. Your annual action plan can be driven by your findings.

“The Key is to be intentional about your product line.”

How do you do the review?

Step 1 – Collect and Organize Your Data

Determine a method for objectively determining how well your product lines are performing. Elements that you should consider including in your assessment or scoring tools are:

  • The volume of revenue, ranking
  • Change in revenue
  • Gross profit dollars
  • Profitability
  • How ubiquitous the product is geographically
  • How stable is the supply chain
  • Quality yields
  • Number of customers won and lost this past year
  • What is the status of the treatment it is used on
  • Of those customers who are buying, where do they stack up on your best customer rankings list
  • Does it fit in the future strategic plan or will it become an orphan

The examples used here are designed to demonstrate a complex and murky review. Sometimes the answers pop off the page once you have organized all of the relevant data for your portfolio.

Step 2- Build Your Model

There are two aspects to this step. First, collect the data and rank each product line by element. Secondly, rank them all as a portfolio.   The first step is fairly mechanical. The second is where the lines are compared by rankings.

So if you have 10 product lines your spreadsheet would look like the one shown below.

Step 3- Analyze the Rankings for Obvious Ins and Outs

  • Product line 1 is new, so it is IN
  • Product line 2 this needs a deeper dive, a better understanding of the market conditions are required.
  • Product line 3 solid performer so IN
  • Product line 4 solid performer so IN
  • Product line 5 solid performer with few key accounts so IN
  • Product line 6 solid performer so IN
  • Product line 7 this one needs a deeper dive. It is an average performer and seems like it will stay there for a while. If it still fits with your future vision for the portfolio it appears to be IN
  • Product line 8 too big to cut, needs some mfg. improvements
  • Product line 9 too big to cut, but needs a deeper dive so IN
  • Product line 10 this needs a deeper dive but may be too big to cut without a plan

So there are six product lines that should not be cut, 4 that need a bit deeper dive. Another element that we did not take into account was synergy between product lines. Sometimes you keep an underperforming product line to support a high performing one.

So if we plot our choices on to a Boston Consulting Group grid it can really give you a clear picture of your strategic position for each product line.

Combining this review with a go-forward plan you can use a matrix like this:

Follow this simple three-step process to rationalize your product line and defend your position.  Keep the grid/worksheet with you in every meeting and you will be able to see at a glance where you are going next.

It is ok to keep all of the product lines. It is unacceptable to not know why you want to keep them.

 “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.

© 2019, The Experia Group, LLC