Having partnered with MedTech and healthcare clients for over 30 years, we know how important new product launches are in this space. The stakes are high, and there’s enormous pressure to succeed
At the same time, success isn’t easy to achieve: For instance you may be:
- Launching into a crowded, commoditized category
- Up against an overwhelmingly dominant player
- Offering a new and better solution, but users are reluctant to change their behavior
For these and any number of other external reasons, launches tend to face strong headwinds—or as we call it, market gravity. These factors are beyond your control.
But more often than not, launches fail not because—or just because—of external forces. They fail because of internal process problems. And these are things you can control. When you’ve got your internal act together, you’re in a much better position to go out and conquer the obstacles out there, because you know what you’re aiming for, you’re aligned on how to get there, and you’re communicating about it in a focused, consistent way.
What should that internal process look like? After countless MedTech and healthcare launches, we’ve learned there are six essential steps for winning in the market and controlling the controllable variables. They are:
1. Establish Your Launch Leadership Team
The first thing to do as a launch sponsor is set up a cross-functional team with members from several departments. Marketing, sales and engineering are obvious choices, but don’t forget clinical, regulatory and reimbursement team leads. The variety is important, because you want the benefit of different perspectives and experiences. Most important, though, is that team members are open and honest, and ready to serve as your biggest launch evangelists throughout the company.
2. Define your success metrics
After your team is set, the next task is to align on what success looks like. How will you and others know if you’ve succeeded? Basic question, that’s all-too-rarely asked or answered in a timely fashion. There is no standard, set definition for this, but typically a combination of hard and soft metrics is going to be most relevant and actionable for your team. Engagement metrics on social media, web visits, requests for demos, sales, internal team engagement and awareness—the range of possibilities is broad, and deserves careful consideration. Because these KPIs are the compass that guides you as you plan and build momentum going forward.
3. Set up a gated launch process
Just as a gated process is essential in product development, successful launching depends on following an orderly step-by-step process to guide your aim, align your team, and focus your communications. This is true whether you’re dealing with the complex commercialization scenarios of a startup, or the market intricacies of an established product relaunch. By moving through a set of fundamental best practices step by step, you build in the market aim, team alignment and focused communication needed to break through market barriers and drive success.
4. Begin early
It’s important to get your launching ducks in a row as early as possible in the process. That’s because during the development phase—in the absence of other direction—products take on a life and momentum of their own. Internal perceptions are formed. Language becomes ingrained. And that can be hard to reverse–especially in highly-regulated industries with long product development processes. Getting positioning straight and brand messaging focused early on not only creates alignment, it gives your team the runway to build excitement and investment in the project’s success.
5. Get customer insight
Understand internal perceptions, but avoid internal bias. It’s easy to assume you know your customers and what they want. But do you really? Have you done your VOC research? The perception that really matters is that of your audience. So make sure you get their insights, and implement them in everything from business goals to creative concepts and external messaging. This ensures you’re delivering what the people who count the most really want.
6. Launch internally first
You want everybody in your company to know their role and be on board all through the launch process. Everybody should be saying the same thing, and delivering the same messages. Complete, rock-solid alignment is key—which is why it’s so important to launch internally first. That gives everyone the chance to understand the new initiative and become effective, enthusiastic champions once it’s out in the world.