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Sometimes Innovators Lose and Followers Win: Why Timing Is (and Isn’t) Everything

For the first installment of our eight-part series on achieving commercial success for your high-tech healthcare innovation, we’ll examine the importance of timing. While timing is an important factor for any new product innovation, it’s especially important in today’s full-throttle tech market. High levels of risk for both suppliers and customers translate into brief opportunities for innovations to be introduced and established into the market.

When creating a strategy for the timing for your innovation’s launch, it’s important to consider several key aspects and how they’ll work together to contribute to commercial success. These factors include the nature of the product, the intensity of market competition, the perceptions and needs of early adopters, and the potential selling points for mainstream stakeholders.

Among the First, but Not Necessarily the First

A common misconception is that your product needs to be first of its kind on the market in order to succeed. While positioning your brand as an industry leader is important, it’s not necessarily a requirement to come in first place in terms of launch timing. In fact, RC Cola is a classic example where first-to-market did not translate into a winning strategy. You may not have realized that RC Cola was first to introduce cola in a can and first to introduce diet cola. However, Coca Cola and Pepsi followed almost immediately and deprived RC Cola of any advantage from its innovation. Many late entrants successfully dominate the market and generate more profits. Surprisingly, sometimes innovators lose and followers win.

Preannouncement Timing

The need to market a minimal viable product (MVP) isn’t just restricted to its physical launch. Marketing strategy should start from inception and take into account any moves you’ll make to present your innovation to the market. A key mistake innovators make is investing too much time, energy, and money in developing a product with concrete ideas of what represents consumer demand. This can lead to a “misfire” in communicating the most meaningful aspects of the innovation.

Don’t Miss the Mark

If a product is preannounced to the market before it’s fully vetted by early adopters, the preannouncement bears the risk of “missing the mark” when it comes to truly connecting with and appealing to key stakeholders. Likewise, early adopters may be disappointed in a product whose premature announcement generated high expectations that weren’t met. Empty promises can dig a grave in an industry that’s brimming with expectations and possibilities.

Stay tuned for installment two of our 8 Dimensions of Commercial Success series – targeting your stakeholders to position your innovation for success.

If your product is fully configured and all the features are working perfectly, great! But it’s a potentially fatal mistake to regard timing over quality by launching a product that isn’t fully functional. All the hype in the world can’t compensate for a product that simply doesn’t deliver for stakeholders.

Here's a link to the introductory post if you missed it: How to Effectively Market Your Healthcare Innovation.