Clark Wiederhold

What’s Missing from Your Medical Device Go-To Market Strategy?

Discover the potent ingredient missing in your go-to market strategy and scale your business.

doctors reviewing an ipad

When it comes to developing groundbreaking products that solve patient problems, you won’t find many industries more innovative than MedTech.

However, just because a solution is innovative doesn’t mean that it will be easy to commercialize. After all, getting a product to market and building traction quickly is still one of the greatest challenges for established companies as well as healthtech startups.  

We’ve worked with dozens of commercial MedTech leaders over the years, and we’ve discovered a powerful component missing from many go-to market plans for medical devices. Before we dive in, though, let’s first review how we’ve all been taught to think about launching and marketing a medical device through what we’ll call the “traditional method”.

Commercialization Driven by Sales Reps

The traditional MedTech sales model takes a significant amount of capital to continually increase your “headcount”. It’s driven by knocking on doors, building relationships, and challenging status que.  The only lever to scale is by accelerating the number of qualified, driven sales representatives to create awareness and interest in the marketplace.

Building a sales team is a time-consuming investment and for good reason.  These roles are very challenging in many aspects and you want the best.  As soon as you get new representatives trained, on their feet, and productive in their geography, the next play in the traditional playbook is simply to add more.

This also carries with it a lot of challenges, including:

  • Sales reps can be expensive, leading to a high overhead before any sales are generated
  • It can be at least a month or two before reps are fully up to speed, being able to positively contribute and drive sales for the company

Being at the Mercy of the Providers

One of the biggest obstacles of traditional commercialization for new medical devices is the belief that simply informing and teaching the providers will lead to a predictable sales flow.

Thinking like this unfortunately leaves companies at the mercy of the randomness of patient flow.. They’re hoping that the right patients connect with the right providers who want to treat patients that fit your indications.

With the shift in consumer behavior over the last several decades, and especially with the growth of patient-led healthcare, we’ve discovered a better way to amplify growth that moves you back in the driver’s seat rather than the caboose.

The Market Agitation Approach

Instead of taking a hard drive into the market and hoping that more boots on the ground translates to sales growth, what if the market was actually aware of the solution and asking for it directly?

While this sounds closer to what one might call an “advertising campaign”, the companies experiencing tremendous growth are using this market agitation approach, built on the cornerstone of patient education.

While it may look like a marketing “campaign”, it’s not at all like what we’ve come to expect.

In fact, most advertising campaigns fail miserably to drive significant results for the launch and growth of early-stage medical technology. But…’s not because advertising doesn’t work. It’s usually linked to HOW the campaign is created, how it’s rolled out to the marketplace, and the way in which its delivered.

Traditional advertising vs. market agitation

Traditional advertising agencies will claim it takes a mountain of research (usually 6-12 months) and a significant amount of money before a medical marketing campaign can even get off the ground.

Further, research by these traditional agencies often results in two fatal messaging flaws:

  1. Vague messaging about benefits – for example, slogans like “Fewer bad days, better life now.” Slogans and messaging like this fail to connect patients and providers to the actual pain that your product solves and what life is like on the other side.
  2. Informational ads – which don’t invoke an emotional response or are not tied specifically to a certain disease state. See example below.

According to scientists, we make a mountain of decisions each day with our emotional brain – almost on a subconscious level. Now think about how this empowers patients to make decisions to help them put an end to their ailment – right down to the specific words one might use to describe the pain (as outlined in the example above)!

The key to market agitation starts with patient education

If the challenges of medical sales during COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s that a more strategic approach driven by patient demand programs is here to stay.

As an industry, we’ve been talking about this for over two decades. In fact, an article in the American Academy of Family Practice from 1998 summarized it this way:

A growing number of patients are educating themselves about screening recommendations, treatment options and self-care, and that phenomenon is another important reason for physicians to be proactive in their patient education efforts.

– AAFP, 1998

That was over 20 years ago – before we had consumer websites like WebMD, Facebook support groups for chronic diseases, and more. The behavior has only continued to increase and patients are now a key player in the selection and identification of treatment options for their health ailments, along with their provider.

What the last 2 decades, and especially the global pandemic has led to is the reinvestment of MedTech resources into their current markets. More commercial teams are doubling-down on patient education, which is quickly becoming a go-to strategy to gain momentum, scale exponentially, and drive sales faster.

We’ve deployed this approach and have been able to increase cases by over 75% for some geographic regions.

Adding Patient Education Into Your MedTech Go-to Market Strategy

  • Step 1: Take a marketplace where you have some initial utilization, and a handful of providers who believe in the solution that you have to offer.
  • Step 2: Devise a patient education program designed to speak to the specific disease states and pains of the target patient population. Use this to generate interest for the new technology.
  • Step 3: Coordinate systems that make it possible for patients to find providers who specialize in solving that disease state with that specific technology.

As we tell commercial MedTech clients on a daily basis, an educated patient is a motivated patient.

From a commercial team perspective, you get more though your existing channel, and you have patients asking their provider about it – which leads to the providers calling the reps to come see THEM.

What’s Missing From Your Strategy? A Final Thought

At the end of the day, neither the traditional approach nor the market agitation approach are guaranteed, but we’ve proven time and time again that a blend of the two is what leads to the highest acceleration for your go-to market strategy.

If you look at the formula below – what’s missing from your plan?

Just like the law of motion see a similar effect when you entertain market agitation with your commercial team. And it simply takes looking at the growth plan through a new lens!  


To learn more about how we work with commercial teams, visit our MedTech Solutions page.