If your budget gets cut back, what can you do to stay focused on the purpose behind your product? In medtech, companies aren’t creating pointless products. These devices and technologies are meant to improve patient care.
Purpose doesn’t make a medical device exempt from the laws of economics, though.
Here are some thoughts on how to keep the vision.
We had the opportunity to chat with Jose Bohorquez, President of Bold Type, to talk about the following:
- how companies are adjusting in the current economy
- what kinds of cuts teams can make (while still staying true to the goals of the product)
- how sales and marketing teams can transform their efforts in light of product changes
What’s happening in medtech?
The two companies represented in our conversation (Health Connective and Bold Type) serve two different audiences within the medtech space. As we look at how companies are adjusting, we can discuss two ends of the spectrum: startups and Fortune 100 companies.
In the venture-capital backed world of startups, Jose said, “I’m hearing that a lot of investors are focusing on their existing portfolio more than on new products. I’m definitely seeing some of that. You know, I think part of what it tells us is, as medical device companies, you need to be efficient at getting your products to market. You know, getting your FDA approval in place starting to generate revenue.”
Efficiency is certainly a familiar refrain in the tech world right now with Mark Zuckerberg describing Meta’s efforts to make 2023 the “Year of Efficiency.” Whatever your view of tech’s widespread layoffs, the concept is that it’s time to streamline.
While the past few years may have been more forgiving of startups needing more funding or an extension, times have certainly changed. “What we’re seeing now is more pressure, I think, for entrepreneurs to take the capital that they’ve got in place and get a product to market.”
Getting to market, Jose points out, is potentially compromising on some wish list features to instead focus on effectiveness, regulatory compliance, and customer fit.
While the source of funding differs for more established companies, the overall approach is similar. Justin Bantuelle, COO & CTO here at Health Connective said that big companies are definitely “trying to be a lot more efficient. They’re putting less money into long-term plans.”
Instead of trying to develop all the various features that could release in a five-year roadmap, companies are shifting to a single track that demonstrates the most immediate return. Justin described it as, “Maybe not spending as much money on future phases in parallel with current phases. So just being a little more cautious with what they’re trying to achieve. Proving things out, trying to make profit more immediately, because I think everyone’s feeling a financial pinch right now.”
A Lean Approach
The paradox of medtech technology development is that companies need to be lean, but they certainly can’t corners. This is a healthcare solution. People are depending on this technology to work.
Jose still saw opportunity for a lean mentality for medical devices where products have an element of consumer product design, such as instances where they incorporate mobile applications into the product. “[The solution] needs to be a viable product. But there’s oftentimes a lot of uses and applications and even further indications that teams can envision for a product that aren’t all necessary at launch. But that can make great follow-ons down the line.”
Companies can update and improve products in the field. They can launch a new version of an app or do an over-the-air software update, as long the updates are safe and meet the needs of the medical device. These kinds of features can include ways to help ensure a patient stays compliant with a regimen. As a company learns more about patient and user behavior, these updates can be a highly valuable addition.
While software updates could be straightforward, Justin considered the implications of how companies could update hardware. He recalled a company that built a device “with this idea of like modularity so that you can like swap out arms for new ones that haven’t even been built yet.” The plan would be to then “push the software out to support these new arms once they’re developed.”
He continued, “I think the hardware piece is a little harder to plan a minimum viable product because then if you need to replace it with a new piece of hardware to augment the capabilities, that’s a little bit rougher and you need a little bit of forward thinking on that part of it.”
The Caveat in Slowing Down
While everyone sees the need for financial caution, Justin pointed out a potential issue with following the trend. “I think a risk for the companies is competition, right? If you slow down and you were going to be first to market and you pause like this next track that you had going and a competitor doesn’t, then you lose potential market share. It could really undercut like what you’re trying to achieve.”
A Harvard Business Review article written by contributors from the BCG Henderson Institute in 2019 revealed analysis of how top performing companies behaved during downturns.
Top companies took three actions:
- They acted early by recognizing the threat of a change in the economy and making changes.
- They kept a long-term view while making short-term changes.
- “They focused on growth, not just cost-cutting.”
How Are Sales & Marketing Adapting?
What does this all mean for the departments trying to get customers excited about upcoming product releases?
One of the core concepts of marketing a product is showing off how it’s differentiated from what’s currently available on the market. The initial plan for product development might have included a slew of differentiation points. The current reality might be a much smaller list.
Jose recommended marketing to be on the lookout for creating multiple launch events (product launch + feature launches). There may not be one Steve-Jobs-type reveal that will dazzle the industry. Still, companies can create opportunities for multiple touchpoints with physicians to continue demonstrating how a product is improving.
Launching New Products Vs. New Features
Obviously, these are two very different types of launches. As ProductPlan.com points out, new products are going to gain you the opportunity to get in front of new customers more easily. New features, on the other hand, are going to benefit current users most. You even have the chance to try and win back previous users.
This does go to show how important it is for the core function of a company’s device to be impactful enough at launch. Salespeople can get back out there to try and drum up engagement for product improvement, but it’s hard to get a customer’s interest if the initial product was a “meh” experience.
Feature updates still have value, of course. ProductPlan.com reminds us that new features can improve customers’ average lifetime value. Consider how much you could boost your relationship with a customer by coming back to someone who gave you feedback to demonstrate that you incorporated their feedback into the product design. (It would be even better if you’ve been working with them on proposed updates before rolling it out.)
If you have a select group whose feedback inspired a current update, you could further incorporate social proof into your feature release by citing the various physicians who were involved. Invite others to be a part of a group that regularly shares thoughts on how products are working for them. (This is a great way to incorporate some community aspects in your customer base.)
Lean Focus Isn’t All Bad
Having to slow down on the long-term roadmap of product and software development can be frustrating. Still, smart companies can demonstrate return more quickly on their ideas by focusing on the essentials of their product.
Proving out a return on the core concept creates real opportunities for achieving the remaining items on your company’s roadmap.
Michael spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need.
He began coding in 2008 and subsequently shifted his attention entirely to online marketing. Michael completed his MBA in 2018, focusing on the intersection of healthcare and marketing.
Justin Bantuelle balances the responsibilities of both the Chief Operating Officer and the Web Technology Director after having worked with Health Connective for more than a dozen years. Justin regularly leads the cross-disciplinary teams in building out and updating applications for Fortune 500 companies.
Justin keeps his technical abilities sharp by contributing to an eclectic mix of open-source and personal projects on Github.