Setting a price for your product is one of the most important decisions a medical device startup will ever make. A recent A16Z podcast reminds us that “There’s no other single number that ties to the valuation” of your company.
Once set, prices are hard to raise. If you price too low, you can leave millions of dollars of revenue and profits on the table, starving your company of the funds it needs to re-invest in growth. If you price too high, product adoption will suffer.
As hospital systems consolidate, and as more physicians become hospital employees, the business side of the hospital has taken control over the acquisition of new procedures and technologies. For medical device companies, the days of driving sales via physician champions is over.
For providers, acquiring an innovative new medical device means offering a new service to patients. For a provider, the decision to acquire a new medical device is a business decision to grow the hospital’s service share. The more novel the service, the more business risk faced by the hospital, and the more complicated the purchasing decision. Philip Kotler’s book “Strategic Marketing For Health Care Organizations” gives an example of the new reality:
A hospital is considering adding a sports medicine program to its portfolio of services. Before deciding whether to launch such a program, it plans to do market research to gauge the size of the community need, discover which competitors already offer such a program, consider how it will organize and deliver the program, understand how to price its various services, and determine how profitable the program is likely to be.
Medical device sales and marketing needs to adapt. Intuitive Surgical shows us how.
While you might be sick of Amazon telling you that customers who bought product X also often bought product Y, Amazon knows what sells more products. I’ve used the same technique in medical device markets. Last year I wrote about medical device market segmentation using procedure data – finding prospects for your procedure X based on customers who perform procedure Y. Why target interventional cardiology as a whole, or so-called “early adopter interventional cardiologists,” or community hospitals versus academic medical centers, when you can specifically target sub-segments based on actual device use, e.g. IVUS users, chronic total occlusion specialists, or high volume stenters?
In 2014, big data powers marketing in consumer and tech, and it’s coming to medical device marketing and sales. Applied well, big data can focus sales efforts on the likeliest adopters, identify prospects that you never knew existed, and uncover market segments with unique product needs. If you don’t already know the power of big-data-driven marketing in the consumer world, read the recent (chilling) US Federal Trade Commission report on data brokers.
Medical device customers are consumers too. Here’s how I used big data at Candela in 2009 to re-imagine our marketing and sales approach.
About two years ago I noted “The Looming Impact of Healthcare Service Consolidation.” That consolidation ramped up this week, as the second-largest U.S. hospital chain, Community Health Systems, announced it would buy Health Management Associates (which operates 71 hospitals) in the largest hospital acquisition since 2006.
Consolidated systems standardize practices across hospitals and centralize purchasing of new technologies. Yesterday’s physician-champion-decision-maker is being replaced by tomorrow’s hospital-exec/technocrat-decision-maker. Medical device companies can learn a lot from enterprise IT sales. Will your medical device sales methodology adapt?
Ask most medical device marketers about market segmentation, and you’ll get an earful about physician specialty (and subspecialty), hospital/facility size or type (academic, ASC, for profit, large system, etc), or adopter type (early adopters, followers, and skeptics). Unfortunately, these approaches rarely help companies identify customer groups that are differentially addressable – i.e. best served by different products or services, different price points, and/or different marketing channels and sales techniques.
Medical device firms can do much, much more to understand and better serve their markets. Even back in the 1980’s much more could be done. Let me explain how I approached market segmentation twenty-something years ago.
US healthcare system consolidation, and the increasing percentage of US employment of physicians directly by healthcare systems, are dramatically changing the US medical device market, as I’ve previously discussed here, here, and here.