The successful launch of a novel medical device technology requires a coordinated effort between several functional groups within the company. The coalescence of these group’s activities in line with a predetermined project timeline are essential to timely and successful product commercialization. Marketing team members play a vital role in this process beginning with providing market insight during the initial concept development phase through conducting a post-commercialization assessment of launch planning activities and marketing tactics.
A failed product launch can be disastrous from a financial perspective and to the reputation of the product’s brand in the marketplace. Since companies only have one chance to launch a product, it is vital that launch planning and preparedness activities cover the entire scope of known and potentially unknown roadblocks which could affect successful product introduction into the marketplace. As a result of its integral role as a part of the commercialization process, marketing has the primary responsibility for many of these activities.
While providing insight on the full range of marketing activities required for a successful product launch is beyond the scope of this article, the following are four key areas, based on the author’s experience, where good marketing planning and execution can help get the product successfully out the blocks without stumbling.
Obtaining Customer Feedback
From initial concept development through post-launch assessment, customer input into the design and positioning of new medical devices is essential. Attempting to bring a product to market without adequate customer feedback, or even worse, disregarding customer feedback, will ultimately limit product acceptance in the marketplace.
Examples of customer feedback parameters which are commonly obtained as a part of this process include validating market assumptions, assessment of the competitive environment, input on product specifications, determining the product’s value proposition, developing and testing product positioning, and obtaining feedback on the product’s ease of use. It is important to develop a decision making process which can be followed when heeding customer feedback would results in an increase in product development or manufacturing costs, or if implementing changes based on the customer input significantly changes the timeline for product launch.
Developing a Targeting Strategy
Identifying and targeting market segments which will result in a steeper adoption curve is vital to getting a strong start out of the blocks with a new medical device technology. Assessing differing market segments should not only be solely based upon the market potential, but also on the potential barriers to entry which may exist within these segments.
Market segments with the highest number of patients or procedural volumes may not always represent the best “first” markets to approach. These segments are often associated with greater competitive pressures due to the market opportunities they represent, or may be associated with higher visibility within a hospital setting from either a product approval or cost-cutting perspective. Segmenting customers by technology adoption characteristics is also important. Focusing initial launch activities towards early adopters who are quick to understand the potential benefits of the technology and limiting efforts directed at late adopters who require substantial clinical experience and more scientific evidence will maximize resources and drive initial sales growth.
Creating Economic Value
Most hospitals now have policies and procedures in place which require the review of new products prior to their use or purchase by the hospital. This has resulted in an expanded number of individuals who are involved in the decision making process and a greater focus on the cost impact of the technology to the hospital. Having evidence that a new medical technology provides a clinical benefit to patients is often not sufficient to gain entry into the hospital and many hospitals are now requesting cost justification analyses which demonstrate the economic impact of the adoption of the technology at their institution.
In order to demonstrate the economic value associated with a new technology, marketing must provide both the background training and the appropriate tools to empower the sales organization to communicate this type of information to customers. A typical tool is a pro-forma economic model where variables can be inputted based on clinical results associated with the products use and either standardized or customer specific cost data.
Developing a Publication Strategy
A successful product launch necessitates a meticulous plan for effectively communicating the value of a new medical technology along with developing a strategy for addressing anticipated objections from the marketplace. A key component of this strategy is the development and execution of a comprehensive publication plan. The timely execution of an effective publication strategy can accelerate the adoption of a new medical technology.
The sequential development and submission of manuscripts to key journals which target specific customer segments is needed to insure they receive continuous and pertinent information about the product. The overall objective for a publication strategy should be to disseminate clinical and economic information which supports the benefits and the positioning of the Company’s technology.
The development and timely execution of a comprehensive strategic launch plan is a requirement for the successful commercialization of a new medical technology. Proactive marketing leadership as a part of a product development and commercialization team can help to insure that potential hurdles in the marketplace are identified and addressed in advance of a product launch resulting in a greater potential for initial market success.