I was hiking up the hill at Torrey Pines with a friend the other day. We were talking about all the hurdles a company faces bringing a medical product to market. It really is like climbing a mountain. After years of R&D, clinical trials and regulatory reviews, you finally reach the summit—FDA approval for market release. The rest of the journey should be easy, right? Unfortunately, FDA approval is just one in a series of mountains you have to climb to succeed in today's marketplace.

My friend and I agreed that many of the hurdles companies face are self-induced problems—because they simply can't get out of their own way. This is especially true when you begin making important marketing decisions. What needs of the target market should be addressed? How do you communicate the product benefits? What are the competition's true strengths and weaknesses?

Everyone on the team knows these questions need to be resolved before launch. So why is it so difficult to identify a clearly defined strategic brand position and marketing plan that everybody in the company will understand and support? The answer is that when a group of people work long and hard on developing a product, it's natural to become passionately involved with every aspect of it. Often everyone's opinion differs on which is the best path to success.

I'll be posting a few of the common ways that a product team can "get in its own way" when developing marketing strategies. Here's a good one:

Analysis Paralysis. Unwilling to commit to a strategic direction because of the overpowering need for more information and market research. Engineers, scientists, and marketing managers with MBAs tend to crave more data. Information is empowering, but there comes a time when choices must be made or the window of opportunity will close.


  1. In today's competitive marketplace, companies want their brand(s) to be talked about in a positive light. One way to accomplish this is by having content in social media that engages your targeted community and inspires readers to comment on it and share it. Social media marketing vehicles such as FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube are quickly becoming key components of many company's advertising programs. Combined with mobile media devices like the Blackberry and iPhone, companies can have a very effective way to achieve promotional success. Not embracing these social changes and adopting them into one's business models will be a barrier to success in 2010 and beyond.

  2. Carolyn McClain says:

    Another derailer is when one person is particularly passionate and articulate about their own opinion. This person can sway the group, not by facts or good ideas, but by rhetoric alone. It can be frustrating to the team and detrimental to the outcome. There are a number of methods to prevent this issue.

  3. Mike Oliver says:

    While more data is always better than less, everyone must realize you'll never have all the data possible. Crucial in the introduction of any new product is timing. Having the product introduced to the market in time to capitalize on the identified need is much more critical than having every possible feature or even meeting the product launch budget.

    The argument I've used with individuals who want every possible feature for the initial release is that additonal features released in subsequent product enhancements provide a strong upgrade path that further enhances the brand. Depending upon the product you can provide the enhancements at some additional cost….or simply to keep improving the product to provide competitive advantages that leapfrog the competition.

    The product doesn't have to be perfect….it just has to be better than the alternatives. Iterative improvement is a viable marketing strategy for many medical technology products.

  4. Carolyn McClain says:

    Mike is right on. It's critical that management make effective decisions about tradeoffs – every additional feature adds schedule risk. A strong roadmap is what customers want to see. If all your features are in the first release, you've got an empty roadmap.

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