When you’re bringing a healthcare innovation to market, there’s a key list of mission-critical considerations that should begin well before you’re ready for launch. Innovators who fail to address these considerations strategically and proactively will find themselves struggling to assimilate into the market — and ultimately left in the dust.
Distribution is one of those considerations.
When you have a more thorough understanding of marketing facets, like your key audience targeting and innovation positioning, it’s time to zoom in on the best way to reach your market segment(s). After all, what good is a perfectly strategized marketing plan if it never reaches the people you’re targeting? It might feel early in the innovation process, but this is when and where distribution comes in.
Your distribution plan should touch on all key players in the success of your innovation, from early adopters to mainstream consumers.
Here are 4 steps to get there.
Step 1: Weave into the Adoption Network
You’ve already dissected the market to determine who your early adopters and general consumers are. Now it’s time to figure out how to get your innovation in front of them. In order to do this, think Discovery Channel. Innovators need to penetrate the network of goods, ideas, and media that lies in the “natural habitat” of the innovation’s key adopters.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Which marketing and advertising channels do they frequent?
- What types of marketing messages and purchase opportunities are they most receptive to?
- Do they already shop for these types of products or services? If so, where?
- Can I connect with these various channels and distribution points?
- Do I have access to any partnerships and alliances that can boost my innovation’s visibility and help to widen my distribution channels?
Examine how these critical stakeholders absorb new information, what kind of information they’re choosing to absorb, and where they go to seek this information. Learn about who they do business with and the underlying systems and processes that are likely to succeed.
Integrate your innovation into the adoption network and you’ll streamline its distribution to key players.
Step 2: Choose Your Distribution Channels
As healthcare is an intricate, diverse — not to mention enormous — industry, your top distribution channels will vary widely depending on a number of factors. For example, prime points of distribution for wearable tech items may be more generalist channels like trade shows and specialty retailers, or even local retailers like CVS and Best Buy.
However, more specialized innovations will require more specialized channels. A 3D cartilage and bone printer would be hard-pressed for shelf space at Best Buy.
To add to this, the nature of healthcare innovations lend themselves to a much more complex supply chain than new products in other industries. These supply chains may involve:
- Manufacturers and distributors of medical devices
- Physicians and nurses who might provide these products to end users
- Patients themselves, who typically don’t have input on pricing and product considerations
If your organization is a fresh startup or otherwise lacking strong relationships, reputation, and industry knowledge and familiarity, securing a successful distribution chain can be a serious obstacle. That’s why it’s critical to put these pieces in place earlier in the launch process.
Step 3: Educate Your Audience
Especially in the case of a disruptive healthcare innovation, it’s critical to make sure that your distribution is specially tailored toward educating your consumers. If no one takes the needed time to illustrate what it does and how it’s useful to them, what reason will they have to adopt it?
This ties into positioning, in the sense that you might benefit from drawing a comparison to existing products or services on the market. Using examples and drawing off of familiarity can help to “paint a picture” for your audience, helping to put together the pieces for how it might fit into (and potentially disrupt) their status quo.
The responsibility lies in your hands when it comes to ensuring that your innovation is understood. This strategy should begin as soon as possible. For many innovators, this starts in the pilot customer or beta testing phase and continues through to the broader launch phase.
Many business leaders benefit from setting up a network of specially-trained sales or marketing representatives to provide one-on-one communications with key early adopters.
Step 4: Hire a Commercialization Expert
You’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into developing your innovation. To maximize your chances of making it to mass adoption, you’ll need a solid commercialization of innovation (CoI) strategy — not just a go-to-market (GTM) strategy or a strategic marketing plan that’s developed when you’re ready to launch.
The best way to ensure that you’re on the right path is to work with a CoI expert: a team that knows the ins and outs of the healthcare industry, as well as all the right moves to circumvent failure and maximize your ROI.
Contact us today to learn how our team can help bring your innovation to life. To learn more about the other critical steps of the CoI process, download our free whitepaper, “10 Steps to Healthcare Technology Innovation Success: Commercialization Strategies to Reach Adoption, Diffusion, and Market Acceptance.”