Tag Archives: Product Marketing

New Years Action Item for Product Managers: Perform an Annual Product Performance Review.

The Set Up

Following my own advice, I perform a year-end Annual Product Performance Review (APPR) which revealed some startling results.   Even after 30 years of managing medical device product lines my APPR revealed that I was spending a disproportionate amount of time working on non-business imperatives. To optimize your contribution to the company imperatives you need to periodically ask yourself, “How am I doing?”

It is easy to take advantage of opportunities and correct issues once you discover them, but if you never look, oh well.

So as obvious as the need for APPRs are, a number of my fellow marketers aren’t doing them. Why? They would go ballistic is their supervisors failed to do an annual performance appraisal on their own performance.

If you are a serious Product Manager you will have already set up monthly metrics to keep track of your new products (those less than 1 year old). Have you looked at your entire portfolio? No? I am willing to wager that if you do you will discover some amazing things that if acted upon will increase your portfolio performance in 2017.

Annual Product Performance Reviews

I call this maintenance activity an APPR. As a product manager we have to care for our product lines, particularly when they have been on the market for a while and the excitement of the launch has worn off. Spending one day a year, on each of your product lines is a minimal amount of your time invested that could prevent you from being shaken from a good night sleep by an overlooked issue. What kind of an issue? Quality shifts, pricing slip, share slip, new competitive entry, shifting sales force focus, slipping gross margins, resurgence, increasing complaint levels all these potential issues are leading indicators of critical times for your product line.

The APPR can be done anytime of year. At its core, is a year-over-year comparison of key metrics. The more years you have data for, the more likely you are to see a trend. It is good to partner with finance or IT the first time you conduct this type of analysis to make sure your data sources are complete and comparable. For some product lines a monthly review may be more appropriate.

Each APPR took a day and included a review of the following metrics

  • Units, total
  • Unit, mix
  • Average selling price (ASP)
  • ASP by mix
  • Complaint rate by type or category
  • Manufacturing yields
  • Gross margins (GM)
  • Revenue
  • Revenue distribution my geography
  • Revenue distribution by sales territory
  • Number of active accounts
  • Number of accounts that went inactive over the past 12 months
  • NEW! As accurately as you can estimate the amount of time you are spending on the various products in you portfolio.

These metrics are all loaded into a simple excel file, which automatically did the year-over-year trend comparison and some simple charting. The output was the APPR dashboard. Often this dashboard pointed towards areas that needed my attention and a bit of investigative work.

Today, I have created custom dashboards in salesforce.com that provides real time comparisons for new product launches, after one-year the dashboard changes to a periodic based trend analysis that has taken the place of the APPR dashboard. The important thing is to monitor the product lines you are responsible for and take nothing for granted. This is a good application of the, “productive paranoia” concept that Jim Collins discusses in his book, Great by Choice.

Career Building Opportunity

Once you have performed the review, packaging a “winners and losers” list is a great way to communicate to Sr. Management about the performance of their products (keep it simple – see example to the right). Everyone who doesn’t pay as close attention to your portfolio as you do would view this as a valuable tool. Now the challenge is that you are then compelled to act on the findings. Plan out 1-3 communications prior to publishing the list.

  1. Information
  2. Reflection
  3. Recommended action

Make sure your supervisor knows what you are doing and why.

If any one in your organization thinks that publishing a well-done Annual Product Performance Review is a bad thing; take a look at that and ask are the reasons political, personal, or other. You can’t change what you don’t measure.

“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.

© 2017, The Experia Group, LLC

Goals and Objectives in Product Portfolio Planning for the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

This post is number three in a series of five or six posts related to Product Portfolio Planning (PPP). Once you have the market risks identified and scored [from the previous blog post] you must then set a revenue goal. This post will deal with revenue goal setting and R&D budget setting. These three elements make up the end game for your product portfolio plan. As a reminder the goal of the PPP is to hit target revenue, at target cost levels with risk that is harmonized with your risk tolerance profile.

PPP Goals

The source of these Product Portfolio Goals (PPG) should come from a strategic plan (SP) that matches the time frame of the Product Portfolio Plan. If there isn’t a SP, then the source of your goals needs to be the CEO, President or VP of Gobal Marketing.

For larger corporations there will most certainly be either a SP or a policy intention. Something to the effect that by 20XX, XX% of our revenue will be provided by products launched within the last 5 years.   Not too difficult to get to a number.


So lets say that your company launched their first product in 2000 and in it’s first year it produced $20 million in sales. You had a steady release of new products and achieved $500 million by 2005. You had nothing in the R&D pipeline and there were significant shifts occuring in the market with innovation, competition and consolidation. Your CEO announces at a staff meeting that you need a continous flow of new product introductions such that you achieve $750 million in profitable revenue by 2013.

You get back to your desk and do some quick calculations and prodSlide1uce this chart.

You realize that you need $250 million dollars of revenue output from this new PPP within the next 7 years. It takes between 2-5 years to commercialize a product.

In that same staff meeting the CEO indicated that he was willing to invest more than the industry average to achieve that goal. You know from a industry survey and quick review of the competitors Shareholder reports that, on average, companies invest 7-10% on R&D. Taking your CEO at his word it looks like you would have 12% of revenue to invest each year. As sales continue to grow the R&D budget would grow in real dollars as well.

You are feeling a little better now. You know the revenue goal, you know the typical turn time for product development (based on the performance of the nine products that you have launched so far).

But Which Investments?

Where do you place the $60M worth of R&D dollars to guarentee that you reach $750M in revenue? There are two approaches to determine this list of development projects. Top-down or Bottom-up. I suppose there is a third, which is a combination of the two.

For me, an evironmental scan of your market is in order. As a quick starting point a Monte Carlo approach to determine the risks and opportunities in the market (as described in the most recent post).   If there is a recent strategic plan (SP) document you could start there to discover the growing segments and review the SWOT anaylisis. If there isn’t a SP, start from scratch.

In parrallel, you take a look at what is being worked on in R&D currently. You discover that there are currently 18 projects under development. It appears that in the absence of an agreed to PPP every pet project has emerged and been funded. This is natural and is exactly why you need a portfolio plan.

So you ask yourself how many projects should you have?

You do a bit more analyis of the current performance of your products and project that same level of performance forward and you see from your chart that Slide2you need around five. You feel that you have a good start but realize that you are going to need a group effort to actual develop the plan. You report out your findings to the CEO and are asked to share your finding with the general staff next week. You do. The CEO then announces that you are now in charge of developing the PPP and that everyone is expected to provide their full cooperation.

The following week you get your team together, R&D, NBD, Finance, Marketing and Operations. The big realization that comes out of the organizing meeting are three very fundamental issues. First, that the market has been shifting for a long time, very slowly and now that you stop to look at the impact of those changes they look huge. Secondly, that R&D does not have a standardized method for comparing projects. If you are going to make a decision about which current and future projects to fund, it is critical that you have a very consistent way for comparing them. Third, that none of the 18 projects are fully funded or are driving toward a commercialization date.

So NBD and marketing head off to get a handle on the market and the market trends. R&D, finance and Ops head off to develop a method to compare projects (investments). You have all agreed to comeback in two-weeks with a status report. Meantime you have one of your Product Directors working on the market Risk assessment.

Two weeks later you gather again and there is good progress.   R&D, Finance and Ops have come up with a model that scores cost, time, head count, technical risk, and capability. What they have not yet factored in are revenue potential, profitability, market acceptance risk and commercialization costs.


R&D variables

Market variable

·      Utility delivered to end user

·      Development cost

·      Time to regualtory clearance

·      Head count requirements

·      Technical capabilities

·      Technical risk

·      Un-met market need

·      Revenue potential

·      Profitabilty (price target)

·      Market acceptance

·      Commercialization costs

·      Time to commercialize

Discount factor due to combined confidence of success

Marketing and NBD report back that they have priced out several market research projects that would provide all the information they need. The price and lead time seem reasonable for the need, however there is no allocated budget to cover the $2M dollars and the six-month time line seems too long for the sense of urgency the CEO has around this project.

You assign a second Product Director to work with R&D and Finance to round out the balance of the project assessment method. You and NDB develop a survey (discussion guide) and make appointments with ten key opinion leaders, luckly 8 are attending a conference over the week-end and you will be there. While at the conference you speak with a total of 20 physicians and have what you think is a pretty good handle on the market needs.

Your next meeting with the extended team is a half day working session. Everyone reports out their findings. You now have a method for comparing projects, you have a feel for the market trends, you have a risk map that was developed [which your CEO, and all geographic experts, internal experts and two external market expert have scored].

During the half-day session you develop a table that organizes all the relevant information.

Risk or Trend Source Importance / Size Project Outcome


This chart is critical. It will provide a narrative surrounding the “as is condition” of your portfolio. The format and style is less important that the content. For me I would use 11×17 paper in profile.

What should become obvious from this charting process is the list of projects that are ongoing in R&D that have no bearing on the market reality that you are dealing with. Also, where the large holes are that need to be filled.

The Next Steps

  1. Envision projects that would fill the holes
  2. Rescore the Market Risk Assessment based on these new projects
  3. Re-score the projects using the consistent methodology
  4. Rank the projects using 1) discounted revenue potential, 2) pay back period 3) positive impact to market risk reduction. You can also use NPV or IRR calculations.

Chart the Rankings by Project

Project number

Project name Expected revenue Payback period Risk reduction impact Combined rank scores Combined rankings




1 6



3 5 4 12



5 7 6 18



1 2 3 6



Prioritize the list of projects by combined rankings and then pour the R&Dpancakes-syrup budget over the top letting it drip down until it is gone.

Hint: Never partially fund a project. Dry pancakes are just not satisfying.

More about Product Portfolio Planning in future blog posts.

Make sure you are signed up to receive personal notifications for future post relating to this subject.

“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

Market Risk Identification in Product Portfolio Planning for the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

Recently I mentioned using a Monte Carlo approach to determining market risk that you should address with your Product Portfolio Plan (PPP). I thought I would take a minute to describe the approach. As a reminder this post deals with only one of three key dimensions of setting your goals for your Portfolio Plan. The PPP should maximize the impact that your new product investment has on your companies performance in the Market.

I developed a tool as a way of garnering agreement with senior management that we were trying to solve the right problem with our Portfolio Planning Process.   So that when we started the Portfolio Planning process we had a revenue target, a resource allocation budget and a risk profile projected forward over the 5-8 year period of the Portfolio Plan. The three dimensional aspect of budget, revenue goals and risk profile will help focus your Product Portfolio Plan on the right targets. With out clear targets you can’t optimize the plan. Don’t underestimate the challenge of garnering agreement on the targets.

Einstein indicated that if he were given Albert 55an hour to solve a problem he would spend the first 55 minutes making sure he understood the question.  Using this methodology will make sure that you understand the question.

The tool is the application of the FMEA methodology into a Monte Carlo method for determining the current assessment of risk in your market, or product segment.

What is a Monte Carlo Approach?

In general, a Monte Carlo approach is used when you have insufficient data to make a definitive decision. But, you need to get started, so you are better off polling the true experts in a field and after their consideration of the issue or problem you accept their consensus recommendation or finding as fact.   Validate and adjust your actions from that starting point. Long-term experience suggests that you will be 80% correct, at least this is how I think about it.

A Monte Carlo method is not taking a WAG with three of your buddies. The preferred approach would be to spend a bunch of money, do a ton of research and take several years to figure out your portfolio plan. For companies that are resource constrained or time restricted a Monte Carlo approach, as describe here, is a great first step.

When applying a Monte Carlo approach in determining market risk I have adopted the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) methodology that is used through out the industry in product design.   Using a specific and well understood method will help in documenting the process and the findings.

So when applying this method to determine the consensus beliefs about market risks you follow the steps below:

Conducting the Modified FMEA Process

Step 1: Identify industry experts (internal and external to your company)

Step 2: Have them write down the issues that give them pause, cause worry or keep them up late at night, etc.

Issues should be as specific as possible.  An example of an issue is:  Competitor X will launch their version of your new product Z; x number of months before you.

Step 3: Compile the issues lists and combine where duplicates appear. If you get over a dozen you might want to think about re-writing them to combine a few into a boader category.

Step 4: Create a table that have the Issues listed, any description for clarification purposes and two blank columns titled Impact and Probability of occurance.

Step 5: Assign a 1-5 scale for Impact and a 1-5 scale for Probability of occurance. These scale definitions are critical and a bit tricky to develop.

Step 6: Have the same panel of experts score the issues with the two scales. Each issue is scored 1-5 for impact and 1-5 for probability.

Step 7: Compile the results. Distributions and means. With the issues that have bi-modal distributions you need to go back and have a discussions to ensure that the issues was well defined.

Step 8: Once you have one pair of numbers, impact and probability it is time to plot them on a chart that has impact on the y-axis and the probability of the x axis. Let say that you had 11 major issues identified by your panel of experts. The 11 issues would be plotted as shown below. Note this is an illustration only.


Step 9: This chart will give you your market risk profile. Anything clearly in the red needs to be addressed by some aspect of the Strategic plan and if appropriate the Product Portfolio Plan.

So the three issues that are plotted in the red box, 5 x 5 must be addressed, failure to do so would be catastrophic.

Step 10: Reflect each issue that is in the red, back into the portfolio planning process. This will produce a mitigation plan.Slide2

Step 11: Have your expert panel re-score the issues taking into account the mitigations (how you changed the plan or added to it). Plot the new scores. You now have a before and after market risk profile.

Step 12: Once you are satisfied with the new profile, rank the impact that each product program produced. You may have 5-12 product programs that are required to mitigate the risks. Each program could impact multiple risk factors. These impacts should be additive in your prioritization scoring.

Example: Let’s say the issue is an emerging trend toward minimally invasive surgery (MIS) [issue number 2] and you had no products in the pipeline that addressed this emerging trend, currently rated a 4,4 risk score. You added a new product development project to the plan that moved [2] to a 4,1 risk score you have reduced the aggregate risk of this issue by 12 (16-4) a reduction in risk by 12 points. Let say that issue 9 was a lack of product innovation with respect to market leadership. The vision for the MIS project also helped reduce that risk issue as well moving [9] producing a risk reduction of 12 points. When ranking the product dev projects the MIS project would receive 24 risk reduction points.

This ranking will provide one of the three key elements for prioritizing the Portfolio for funding. In the end you will use three ranking scales to rank make your investment decision.

When the portfolio plan is completed you need to make sure you have updated the Market risk profile to reflect the final map based on what was ultimately funded.

Seem complicated? It is at first, once you have done it then you will see the simplicity and logic in it. That is why you must be disciplined in this approach.

Caution: The first time you use this approach do not try to do it alone. There are multiple tricky aspects that might lead you down the wrong road. Call me for one on one coaching or to sign me up to consult you through it.

Make sure you are signed up to receive personal notifications for future post relating to this subject. Download the excel workbook at www.theexperiagroup.com to make your learning a bit easier.

“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

What Potential Acquirers Want Today in the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

Over the past two-years I have had the good fortune to work directly with five medical device start-ups. Through my mentoring volunteer work I have also spent time with seven other start-ups, mostly medical devices.

A key observation for me is that being an entrepreneur is a spiritual journey. It is a calling that you can’t hide from. It is also a journey that you can’t take alone. No matter how broad your background is in all the disciplines of commercializing medical devices you still can’t know it all.

Why? Because time marches on! The experience you may have gain in sales or R&D or mfg. will grow stale with time. The advice you may be getting could be dated. I want you to succeed, so here is what I think you need to realize.

What Has Changed?

From a start-ups perspective, in most cases, the days of bootstrapping a finished product are gone. The need for high energy, high impact launches, and the rocket lift-offcapital to execute them, all but exclude slow rolling the post-launch of a new product. Why high-energy, high-impact launches? It takes tremendous energy to break through the noise of the big players. Similar to the launch of a space rocket, it takes tremendous energy to break free of Earths gravity.

Take a look at the following chart to see how acquirers have changed their expectations of potential device acquisitions over the last six decades.


A simple story is not enough, a product is not enough.  In the decade of the 2000’s potential acquirers want all the risk removed. They only want to have to apply money and their high-powered sales channel to scale success. This means that you have to be prepared to take the device all they way through to commercial success. Commercial success does not mean that a few pioneering physicians have made it work. It doesn’t mean that you completed your clinical trial. It simply means that you have a validated “equation” for successfully selling into the early majority, proof that you have leapt the chasm.


What are the components of the “equation”?

  • Strong messaging (connects on an emotional level)
  • Sales process that works (80% of the time)
  • Believable value proposition
  • Routine clinical success (utility is delivered w/o a lot of hoops or work-a-rounds)
  • Clinical and economic evidence packaged professionally
  • Satisfied customers who are re-ordering

What Hasn’t Changed?

Over the past six (6) decades almost every aspect of commercializing medical devices has changed. The aspects that have not changed are the core principals that I have referred to before.

  • Engage with you customerSlide2
  • Safety, safety, safety (no short-cuts)
  • Quality, quality, quality (no short-cuts)
  • Deliver complete utility with hard value
  • Make the regulatory bodies your friend
  • There is no single formulae for success, only guidelines

Take a-way

In today’s world of medical devices, entrepreneurs and inventors need to have a longer-term vision for their companies. The days where a patent, or regulatory clearance will trigger an exit are all but gone. Too often the big players have not realized their hopes for gains from an acquisition. Often because the “equation” wasn’t thoroughly validated in the real market.

The deeper you go into the commercialization process the more help you are going to need. You can’t do it alone. You need a team with skills that are current and relevant.

“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

Portfolio Planning in the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

Ok, Ok I give up! A number of my colleagues have asked for a post relating to building a Product or Technology portfolio. I have been reluctant to wr2000px-Rubik's_cube_scrambled.svgite this post for a number of reasons. 1) every portfolio planning process needs to be customized to the company and the type of products under development, 2) portfolio planning is very complex, and 3) they need to be preceded by a Corporate Strategic Planning process.

I think the best that we can hope for from this blog is to identify some common elements of every portfolio plan, define what one is and provide some cautions to take into account as you develop your plan.

What is a Portfolio plan?

Essentially a product portfolio plan is one that identifies the New Product contribution to the long-term revenue forecast of the company as made by individual product development projects or acquisitions. Typically, you start with either a collection of opportunities that have already been identified, or a set of market conditions that the strategic plan wants to leverage. Add in a set of current performing products and a competitive threat matrix. Stir all this together and then go crazy.

My preference is to ignore everything that has been done to datstrategye and start from the output of the strategic plan and identify the areas for investment. Identify the current products that contribute in those areas, identify un-met customer needs from those areas and identify potential products to resolve those un-met needs, then build the plan from scratch.

The goals of the portfolio plan will be driven off of the Corporate strategic Plan. Profit, revenue growth, competitive action, leadership, share dominance, access, and discovery are all legitimate goals that can be derived from the strategic plan. In economic speak the Portfolio Plan should maximize the combined output, Xp; for the minimum investment, Yp; at the lowest risk, ßp.

In finance we often refer to a balanced portfolio as a goal. I tend to believe that instead of balance one should strive for harmony.  Balance is a precise thing, harmony has some freedom around it. The ultimate Portfolio will hold many assumptions at multiple levels and we should strive to make it as accurate as possible, but it will never be precise.

No project or combination of products is/are without risk. All known risks can be managed. Managing risk takes time and money. Risk is a big concept in the medical device space. So lets be clear, the risk I am talking about is the chance that your total portfolio does not produce your desired outcome, does not meet the needs of the strategic plan and its inherent goals.  Lets refer to that as ßp  There are other ways that the concept of risk sneaks into the portfolio plan. Most notably as a discount factor for the revenue generation of each opportunity that ultimately will be combined to produce the Portfolio Plan.

The Steps in Building a Portfolio Plan

For me:

Step 1 – Read and understand the strategic plan. (Pull out the explicit and implicit measurable goals from the plan)

Step 2 – Interview all the senior managers that were involved with creating the strategic plan to make sure you have a feel for each of their visions for the portfolio

Step 3 – Create a heat map of market and competitive risk, basically a FMEA assessment of your SWOT analysis that should come from the Strategic plan

Step 4 – Create a matrix of segments that the strategic plan identifies that you want to be in, enter or exit.

Step 5 – Survey the clinicans that are the key users or drivers of/in those segments

Step 6 – Identify the opportunities that exsist.

Step 7 – Have teams create an opportunity assessment for each opportunity.

Step 8 – Score each opportunity in terms of it contribution to the objective for that segment that was identified in the strategic plan.

Step 9 – Score each opportunity in how well they reduce risk identified from the heat map.

Step 10 – Score each opportunity by the cost of realizing that opportunity.

Step 11 – Either use a discount factor to fold in the risk of success or failure of the project ( Innovation, core competency, speed, timing, competitive development)

Step 12 – Using the four scores force rank the opportunities separately, so that you have a list that is ranked by score 1, score 2, score 3, score 4 Typically, the high impact / low cost ones will be at the top. Those at the bottom of all four scores are usually out. It is the middle ones that require some discussion.

Step 13 – Allocate the New Product budget to each of the opportunities and see how far down the list the money will go. Ask two questions if we execute this plan will we achieve the strategic intent of the company? Is our portfolio plan in harmony with our willingness to absorb risk?

Last step – Vet the plan with the bosses, dispassionately.


  1. The development of a portfolio plan is not an engineering exercise, it is a social-science experiment. An experiment with significant political implication.
  1. Each opportunity must be assessed under a strict set of guidelines. Inconsistency in the approach and definitions will invalidate your portfolio plan.
  1. Marketing can not do this process alone. It must be a team effort between R&D, NBD, Up-stream marketing, finance and operations.
  1. Document in a very obvious manner all the assumptions that are used. Independently vet the assumptions to ensure that everyone is OK with the assumptions and confidence you have in your data. If they are not ok with the assumptions, stop and develop a plan to move the assumptions to facts.
  2. It will be difficult, but don’t take it personally, any of it.
  1. If your organization is not willing to allow the time and dollars to develop a great portfolio plan then you are better off getting the most informed opinions in a room and make the call without data, a modified Montecarlo process.
  1. A portfolio plan needs to be reviewed constantly and changed seldom.

Why do I need a Portfolio Plan?

The life blood of the medical device market has been a conMCBlog2015_12_880x340tinual stream of new products. In todays environment the commercialization process will require 2-5 years from start to finish. If you don’t have a well thought out plan you are already behind the time curve.

At many Med Dev companies the goal is launching a new product every year and a new platform every two-years. If you can accomplish this goal you are on your way to sustained growth, if they are the next right projects. A well thought out portfolio plan will drive your M&A activity as well as R&D. If you as a Marketing organization have effectively laid out where you need to go to accomplish your new product revenue goals, you put yourself in a leadership position and if done well you are moving your organization to be a market driven organization.

Final Thought

A well done product portfolio plan that is in harmony with the strategic plan gets the entire organization on the same page.   Having the assumptions well understood and monitored will provide an early warning system if changes are required.

The last thing any organization needs is a whip saw effect in new product development.

“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


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.