Judging from the popular TV shows of today, most Americans enjoy a little mystery and intrigue. What is Daenerys’ plan and how will that impact her relationship with Jon Snow? Audiences love being kept in the dark, and viewer anticipation grew as the next Game of Thrones episode approached. Not knowing actually encouraged viewers to “consume” the next episode.
Unfortunately, some medical companies apply this approach to their new technology launch. These companies keep customers (and sales teams) completely in the dark – until THE LAUNCH. But does mystery and intrigue actually generate medical product customer anticipation? Definitely not. Medical product purchasers need information before they’ll purchase. That being the case, why delay informing them?
Obviously, regulatory bodies control what a company can say about a new product and when. But the buying decision is controlled by more than just product specs, features and benefits. Generating awareness of the impact of the clinical pathology addressed by a company’s product, as well as identifying and resolving product use barriers are keys to commercial success. Taking steps to create awareness about the clinical impact and designing campaigns to overcome barriers prior to launch can accelerate sales traction, while still following regulatory regulations.
Innovation Adoption model
To understand why a pre-launch information campaign would work, consider this medical innovation adoption model. The “x” axis represents time and the “y” axis is revenue. Usually a company initiates selling once regulatory approval is obtained. The first step is to drive awareness of the problem addressed by the product, followed by introducing the product’s benefits to customers to generate interest. Typically, customers express objections and create barriers which delay product acquisition. Only after these are addressed, will the customer trial the product. A successful trial results in product adoption and sales begin. But all these steps take.
Innovation Adoption model with awareness campaign
This graph shows how implementing a clinically oriented awareness campaign prior to product regulatory approval can accelerate sales. The adoption model is actually the same. The only difference is that an awareness campaign starts before product approval. This campaign generates awareness about the clinical issues. Steps are taken to identify and resolves clinically-oriented (not product-oriented) barriers. This early exposure accelerates the sales cycle and drives revenue faster as seen by an earlier start to revenue and a faster growth, shown here labelled the “awareness bump.”
Let’s examine a real-life case that shows how a clinically oriented awareness campaign can accelerate growth.
I was asked to help a company commercialize a new peritoneal dialysis therapeutic advancement. The company had spent years and millions of research dollars to develop a product that delivered protein to malnourished peritoneal dialysis patients.
Peritoneal dialysis treats patients whose kidneys have failed. The company’s base product, a sterile solution called dialysate, was infused through a catheter into the patient’s abdomen. The same substances in urine pass from the bloodstream into the dialysate-filled abdomen across the lining of the abdominal cavity. After a fixed time period, this solution, full of toxins, is drained out and a new bag of dialysate is infused into the body for another treatment. These patients are treated by nephrologists, specialists in renal medicine.
The first principle, generating awareness of the clinical problem, should be considered whenever a new technology enters the market. Companies often think that clinicians understand everything about the disease condition under treatment. But often they are unaware of certain nuances that can have a dramatic impact on patient outcome. If this nuance is critical to the sale of the product, the sale will be delayed until the clinician understands. A clinically oriented awareness campaign presents clinical information that helps the clinician understand the nuances. Since these marketing materials are devoid of product information, they can be distributed to customers before regulatory approval.
In this case, surveys of nephrologists indicated that malnutrition was of low concern, despite the existence of numerous research papers indicating that a large percentage of their dialysis patients were protein-malnourished, and that protein malnutrition was highly correlated with poor treatment outcomes. My client needed to generate awareness of the existence and consequences of protein malnutrition.
So, I combined the best peer-reviewed protein malnutrition articles into an educational brochure. This collateral contained the full reprints of the article, as well as direct quotes. And since this brochure contained only peer-reviewed research, physicians readily accepted the brochure.
Identifying and overcoming sales barriers
There are always barriers that need to be overcome when selling a new technology and often these barriers are founded on challenges unrelated to the product. Identifying these barriers and developing marketing programs to address them is critical to a successful product launch.
We knew that creating awareness of the existence and consequences of protein malnutrition would not be enough to stimulate demand. Nephrologists needed the ability to identify protein-malnourished patients, and unfortunately the commonly used nutrition assessment approaches were not reliable indicators.
I discovered a new nutritional assessment technique, called Subjective Global Assessment or SGA, which had been validated on dialysis patients. This technique was simple to perform, easily fit into staff workflow and required no capital outlay.
However, journal articles did not describe the procedure in enough detail for clinicians to implement the nutritional assessment technique. I received permission from the author to develop an SGA procedure video, which would teach the dialysis clinicians this technique step-by-step. An instruction manual was designed to support the video and a nutrition assessment score sheet was developed that helped clinicians document the patient’s nutritional status for the chart.
Since the SGA video and support materials contained no product information, we were able to distribute them before launch. This meant the community had the chance to develop nutritional assessment proficiency before the company’s product launch.
These activities led to a successful launch that drove accelerated sale growth.
Taking these two steps: 1) evaluating the clinical challenges faced by your customer and using an awareness campaign to help educate them and 2) identifying and developing programs to overcome clinical barriers can help you accelerate sales of your medical technology.