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Reshaping what's possible. The need to bleed. See Cells, Change Lives. Smooth Operator. Graphic: each phrase is in its own colorful section.

Key Elements to a Successful Qualitative Discovery Process


Reshaping what’s possible
The need to bleed
See cells, change lives
Smooth operator


These short phrases may mean nothing to you. But for their intended audiences, they are powerful. They instantly attract, engage and create competitive advantage by changing conversations to drive revenue.

This is always the aim with messaging. But it’s seldom clear how you get there when you’re starting with what can be a daunting quantity of information, opinions and preconceptions. How do you dig out the gold nugget of differentiation from all that raw data? The key is in discovery.

The Introworks discovery process is qualitative research — one-on-one interviews with stakeholders conducted to build a body of knowledge that guides us in shaping a differentiating narrative. While there are other approaches for gaining understanding, and while quantitative research always has an important role to play, we believe this method provides the best way to get to the story that wins.

Let’s dive into what it takes to do this well.


Begin with a Framework and a Frame of Mind

Successful discovery requires both the right framework and the right frame of mind.

A discussion guide serves as the discovery framework. It consists of a question set designed to shed light on specific areas of interest — from high-level market context all the way down to nuanced details around the offering.

The framework is the starting point. However equally, if not more important, is the frame of mind the interviewer brings to the conversation — open, genuinely curious and agile in working through communication challenges.


Two people high-fiving. A white woman smiles wearing glasses, she holds her hand up to high five a person sitting across a table from her. The person has their back tot he camera and is blurred out but has short brown hair, white skin and a longsleeve shirt.

How to make the national sales meeting a freakin success

You can almost hear those NSM high fives

It’s fall when the sweating starts, while you’re juggling a zillion things, and smoothly moving the needle forward. Bam! Here it is again, nagging at you — the thing that keeps you up at night. N.S.M., A.G.A.I.N.

Despite the many marketing efforts you support, much of the role of the medtech marketer is still defined by and dedicated to supporting your direct channel: the sales organization. If you’re not garnering their ongoing confidence and conviction, you can lose traction.

An annual sales or training meeting is a time to shine. It presents the perfect opportunity for organizational alignment. You’re launching the year, after all. So, you certainly can’t wing it, wrap a theme in a bow or treat it like a pep rally. The sizzle needs steak. And you need some high-fives. We got you.


Will it be a high five or a handshake?

Imagine: It’s February. You’re in a Tucson hotel. The final event of the sales meeting has concluded, everybody files out and heads to the bar.

Drinks are being drink-ed. Appetizers are appetizing. Music is humming above the chatter. Your sales team bellies up to the bar next to you. What happens next? Is the chattering flattering? (more…)

The Uh-Oh Trifecta

These three launch truths converge and permeate the business landscape: launch is critical to business success, they are rarely successful and they’re getting more difficult. Like a perfect storm, they’re inextricably linked to create what we call the Launch Gap — or simply The Uh-Oh Trifecta, as in “Uh-oh, we’d better get better at launch.


#1 Launch is Critical to Success

Whether you’re in a B2C or B2B space, bringing new or improved products to market is increasingly central to the success of your business. More than 25% of total revenue and profits across industries comes from the launch of new products, according to a McKinsey survey.¹ Cooper & Edgett, product development gurus, say it’s even higher, with new products representing 50% of companies’ revenues and 40% of their profits across industries.² Clearly, excelling at launching is a crucial competitive advantage.


#2 Launches are Rarely Successful

Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School says that each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched into the world.³ Even more remarkable is that 95% of them fail. Across varying industries, you’ll find failure rates between 70–90%. It’s hard to imagine another endeavor that’s so vital to business success, where there is so much struggle.


Woman stands with her back to the reader in a dark space as if she's in front of a crowd on stage. A light shines on her.

Launch the Business Year at the Sales Meeting

Annual meetings are for team alignment and building momentum for the year — consider it a launch of the business year.

Annual national sales (or training) meetings are a highlight of the year for many companies, which require extensive planning, stakeholder weigh-ins, diplomacy, creativity, etc … aka herding cats like a boss. As the marketer responsible for making it all happen, what results do you anticipate from these events?

Maybe some inspirational moments, a bit of team bonding, photos for social and possibly a hangover. Above all, relief that the whole thing is over and you have a few weeks before it lands on your to-do list again. But with all that effort, as you look at the outcome of your annual sales meeting, could there be more impact with just a shift in perspective?


Shifting Perspective

A national training (or sales) meeting is a launch of the business year, so let’s plan it as if it’s a launch. Launching is the discipline to achieve stakeholder alignment that drives market momentum. Alignment and momentum — precisely what national meetings are meant to achieve.

Reframing your sales meeting as a launch, opens a unique opportunity to build robust team alignment around a galvanizing pathway for your business. You leverage a two- or three-day event into year-long momentum that drives success.


Priming the Market

We are huge proponents of starting the launch process early.

That’s bedrock best practice because it allows you to lay the most advantageous foundation for your launch:

  • Cultivating evangelists to mobilize and harmonize the organization around the launch—before opinions and attitudes have solidified to the point that they’re difficult to change
  • Getting the right strategy, positioning and messaging in place before it takes on an internal life of its own
  • Launching internally first, and avoiding missteps due to lack of alignment


But for many of our clients, the most compelling reason to start early is the opportunity to get ahead of the game with pre-launch marketing.

That may not seem like an option if you are in med-tech, or another regulated industry. You certainly can’t promote a medical device before approval, or make claims that aren’t supported by evidence. (more…)

Fractional Launch Navigator: How to Launch Without Burnout

Let’s say your company is launching a new medical product. It’s a big deal, as launches always are. A lot of time, money, brainpower and effort have been invested—not to mention hopes, expectations, ambition and a liberal sprinkling of angst. The stakes are high. And guess who’s right at the center of it all, accountable for success?

Yep, you’re on the hot seat.


Photo of arm chair in flames. A white upholstered arm chair, which is on fire, sits against a wall covered in classic floral-like wall paper.


You may have the ideal mix of marketing and engineering knowledge it takes to make this launch a success, but do you have the bandwidth?

You’re dealing with leadership, regulatory, multiple teams, customers, big decisions and endless minutia. You’re in meetings, trainings, traveling, planning, working long hours and you’re watching bottlenecks pile up. You’re losing sleep…and burning out.

Don’t let it come to that. Don’t wait ‘til it’s a 911 to get help.

“Help from whom?” you may be wondering. “Staff is already overextended, and we can’t afford a full-time hire, even if we could find the right person fast enough.”

The answer could be a fractional launch navigator.


What Can a Fractional Launch Navigator Do For You

A fractional launch navigator (FLN) brings extensive experience in launching medical products to your project — extending your reach without stretching you thin. They, too, have the ideal mix of marketing, engineering, upstream and downstream experience and familiarity with medical technology commercialization. They can work by your side as a partner to move projects forward, deliver on your objectives and get the launch over the finish line. Then, when the job is done, so is the engagement.


A FLN is a: Planner, Manager, QC, Expeditor, Team Supporter, Sounding Board, Communicator, Agency LiaIson. Graphic overlays text with a woman in a blazer picture waist up, arms across her front, smiling.


And if you find yourself in the hot seat but you don’t have the breadth of experience you’d ideally have to lead a launch — a FLN can help fill those gaps, serving a strategic as well as executional role, freeing you to focus where you bring the most value to the launch and the business.

Learn more about how FLNs can help in our Orange Paper, Fractional Launch Navigator: Launch without Burnout (pdf).

We’re always happy to chat about how Introworks can help you. Connect with us anytime or call Bob Freytag 612.805.9286


A Good Start is Half the Battle

Patience is a virtue. Think before you speak. The best way out is always through. And, perhaps most important of all: Don’t eat the yellow snow.

The world is flooded with words of wisdom, time-tested universal sentiments that can be beneficial in life and at work…Of particular relevance to us and our clients is an Irish Proverb:

“Tús maith, leath na hoibre‍.”

“Tús maith, leath na hoibre.” Proverb on a green background mocked up as an Irish crest with a rocket in the center.

While we won’t attempt to pronounce this Gaelic beauty, here’s what it means: A good start is half the battle. Your initial steps will dictate how well a project is going to go.‍ If your first steps go well, the rest of the work should flow nicely from there.

Our decades of launching have aligned us with this Irish wisdom. You might even say we’ve built a business predicated on the sentiment. While we won’t be altering our branding to reflect it, it is central to our clients’ success and value we aim to deliver.

Internal alignment, clarifying goals together, a strong plan, making sure we’ve got the positioning and messaging right…it matters. By taking those initial steps very carefully and planfully, everyone saves time, dollars and energy — essential resources — down the road. Or you might simply say, “Tús maith, leath na hoibre‍.”

Launch is Long-Term Thinking

Congratulations for creating the world’s largest ball of twine, to be introduced to the world at TwineFest in August. Your twine-gineers worked tirelessly for years to complete the colossal landmark (it’ll be seen from outer space, of course). Stakeholders will be beaming as you pass the ball (sorry) to the marketing team in JULY. On a roll for success (again, sorry)! Welllll…not so fast.


Giant ball of brown twine sits in a clean room, which is all white and very sterile looking. Three scientists in lab coats look on.


There’s a giant red flag, a sure sign that the initiative is headed for trouble: Short-term launch thinking.

It’s the last-first stage.

That short-term perspective is fueled by the conventional way launch is viewed. In a traditional stage-gate development process for medical devices and other B2B products, launch is the last stage — the last stage in development and the first stage in the product lifecycle. And it’s almost always seen as a marketing communications function alone.

While you’re dealing with complexity greater than a twine ball, this short-term launch mindset can lead to problems:

  • A hand-off to marketing with a too-short readiness window to position, plan, brand, and align. A rocky start at the outset.
  • Event-based thinking yielding lost momentum later in market.
  • A launch-it-all mentality arising from the view that launching is solely a marketing communications effort.
  • Launch projections that promise quick uptake without a longer view of adoption.


The a diagram illustrating the steps from product development through to product adoption, highlighting the "traditional" launch period which is after product development is done and right before product adoption.

Traditional product development stage-gate process allows for only a short window for planning a product’s entry to the market, which can lead to lost opportunity.


But what is the ideal product launch timeframe?

Ideal launch timeframe: Start earlier. End later.

Launching medical devices and other B2B products should involve a cross-functional Launch Leadership Team, led by a “Launch Navigator” who manages a go-to-market process that dovetails with the development process early on. How early does the ideal product launch timeframe start? We say, as early as possible. In highly regulated industries that might be when the project moves from upstream to downstream — 9-12 months is a good estimate. An early start allows proper time to achieve alignment on strategy, narrative, branding, and planning. It gives you time to launch internally, validate with customers, build momentum and make adjustments, so you can hit the market with the right velocity.

Similarly, your launching endpoint should be later than you may think. Again, when? Certainly not just a couple months from your go-to-market date. You don’t want to lose valuable momentum when you’re just entering orbit. 12 months is a good milestone to plant your Point B, with a roadmap that aligns hard and soft KPIs to that date, and into the adoption curve.


The same diagram as above, illustrating the steps from product development through to product adoption, highlighting the launch period that starts during product dev and ends after the product adoption curve begins.

Starting launch earlier—involving a cross-functional launch team—improves alignment on strategy, narrative, branding, planning, and can increase momentum into the adoption phase


You might be thinking, “If we did all our launches this way, then we wouldn’t be launching as much.” Or maybe, “We should be launching more.” Exactly. We say that you’ll launch or release depending upon how important the launch is to your core business and how complex it is to communicate.


Read more about launching and releasing:


Let's Go to Jupiter

Why are we so single-minded about the discipline of launching at Introworks?

Why work so hard to get off to the right start when the analytics and automation tools available to any marketing team today make it so easy to iterate and adjust as you go?

Maybe, thanks to technology, you can get away with kinda winging it?

But no.

Think about launching an actual rocket into space.

NASA (or pick your space agency or billionaire) doesn’t go into a mission saying, “Let’s go to Jupiter. We’ll blast the rocket into orbit in the general direction and tweak from there.”

You won’t hear them muse, “Let’s go to Jupiter…or maybe Mars. Heck, it’s probably on the way. In fact, let’s go to a bunch of planets.”

They won’t say, “We’re going to Jupiter but not sure if we have enough fuel or momentum to slingshot around that bad boy out there.”

Definitely not, “We’re heading to Jupiter, and I sure hope we’ve accounted for gravity and other physics stuff that could cause logistical issues.”

Okay, silly analogy. But seriously, you can’t approach these complex, high-stakes business challenges the same way as you do the other 80 percent of marketing activities.

The adage, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” is generally true. Heck, I just watched a basketball team start a game down 16 points and go on to win the national championship.



But in these off-to-the-right-start business challenges, it’s a different ballgame. There’s too much at stake, it’s too late to correct misperceptions once they’re out in the world, and it’s too hard to recover revenue or share you never gained.

As with a rocket launch, alignment, aim, and articulation in a product or service launch are critical.


Alignment is what gives you the momentum to overcome gravity and arrive at your destination. It’s about the process you follow, and the teams you form. It’s crucial that your organization is aligned on goals, strategies, branding, all of it. (Imagine a NASA launch where everyone is not on the same page.)


Aim encompasses many things—how you segment, prioritize, plan and measure success. Mostly, though, and too-often underappreciated is that the focus is towards the customer’s brain—the emotional part of the brain.


Articulation is pivotal. You can have everything else—aim and alignment—in perfect order, but storytelling, messaging, and branding errors can blow up the whole effort. Words matter. Visuals matter. Experience matters.

Stick to the discipline. Align, aim, and articulate right, and you’ll be in the space you want to be. Quicker to revenue, stealing market share, ready to acquire a complimentary product or service.

That’s when you bring in all the measuring, managing, and adjusting you, your team, and modern technology can muster.

You want the win. That means doing everything in your power to achieve it.

Let’s go to Jupiter. We’d love to help.