What’s the Difference Between Launching and Commercializing a Healthcare Innovation?

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We get countless inquiries from entrepreneurs who are looking for a marketing partner to help launch their healthcare innovation into the market. Sometimes these requests are to design a new product logo or a website, and other times it’s to develop a go-to-market strategy and plan.

While we’re happy to support clients with these strategies and tactics, there’s a lot more that goes into ensuring innovators reach their business goals. What many innovators don’t realize is that commercialization — generating a profit from the innovation — begins before the product is even fully developed, and continues long after it’s launched.

Healthcare marketing agencies with commercialization expertise can bring so much more value than branding and launch strategies. And, the right marketing partner can make the difference between market success and failure.

Some people use the terms “launch” and “commercialize” interchangeably, but they’re quite different functions of the innovation process. Unfortunately, many innovations are launched into the market, but few reach market success and generate a profit.

Let’s discuss the main differences between launching and commercializing, as well as what it really takes to make sure you maximize customer adoption and ROI from the innovation.

Defining Launching and Commercializing

There are two distinguishing factors between launching and commercializing an innovation: the timing and goal of the initiative.

To put it simply:

  • Launching is a much smaller-scale process: it occurs when the innovation is developed and ready for its first release into the market. In this process, health innovators are harnessing strategies to maximize consumer exposure of the innovation through various promotional strategies and distribution channels.
  • Commercializing is the holistic process of converting ideas, research, and concepts into viable products that obtain consumer acceptance, cross into mainstream adoption, and ultimately generate a financial return on the innovation. Commercialization takes place long before the product is ready to launch, and continues long after its initial release.

You can think of a launch as a small subset of the broader commercialization process.

LDNA blog-Difference Between Launching & Commercializing 1200x628-Spot 01Let’s discuss both of these processes and some of their key differences and considerations.

Launching an Innovation

There are tons of innovation process models out there, both linear and flexible. For the sake of our discussion about launching a new product, we’re going to use the traditional innovation process model below with five linear phases: ideation, research, planning, prototyping, and launch.

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Launch goal: Make the most of business and product exposure opportunities

When a business leader wants to “launch” their innovation, they typically have already gone through the ideation, research, planning, and prototyping phases. That’s why launching a new product is most often described as the final step.

The business leader’s goal is to maximize exposure of their business and product. To do this, they’re making decisions about when, how, and where to make their product available to consumers.

This includes considerations like:

  • Finalizing product identity, including logos, visuals, and other branding elements
  • Developing advertising, marketing, and other consumer-facing messaging and materials
  • Conducting market research to identify optimal marketing and distribution channels
  • Securing these marketing and distribution channels, which may include partnerships with other entities

Commercializing an Innovation

Business leaders might assume that developing a new product innovation that customers want or need will automatically result in market success. Unfortunately, this is far from what research indicates.

Instead, the business leaders who reach market success are the ones who have avoided the common pitfalls of commercializing an innovation in healthcare by developing and implementing a calculated commercialization plan.

Here’s the tricky part. Remember the traditional innovation process model we discussed above, with the linear path of five phases that ends with the launch?

The commercialization process doesn’t quite color in the lines. It’s much more complex and, in many cases, non-linear.

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Commercialization timing: Begins during ideation and conceptualization — before the product is ready — and continues after the product is launched

Commercialization goal: Maximize ROI by ensuring market success

Innovators will need to develop their commercialization blueprint much earlier than the launch phase. This means that if they’re planning to hire a commercialization partner, this should be done before the product is even fully developed.

In fact, by the time an innovation is ready for launch, many of the key commercialization decisions have already been made. So, when a business leader seeks a partner solely to launch an innovation, they’ve already missed opportunities for guidance on those critical choices that often make the difference between market success and failure.

The Commercialization of Innovation (CoI) model includes three interrelated sub-strategies through which new products move and decisions are made to maximize ROI. Each sub-strategy is a coherent set of commercialization decisions that are aimed at:

  • Early adoption: Stimulating the diffusion of the innovation in the early market, in a way that encourages consumers to build a positive attitude toward it
  • Adoption network: Obtaining support from critical players in the adoption network, necessary for enabling the diffusion of the innovation in the mainstream market
  • Mainstream adoption: Stimulating the diffusion of the innovation in the mainstream market

And, each of these sub-strategies include a deliberate mix of strategic and tactical concepts systematically designed to achieve a specific result.

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This includes considerations like:

  • Should you choose a first-mover or fast-follower timing strategy?
  • How do you target the small group of customers who will first purchase your innovation?
  • What key strategic partnerships and alliances are needed to create legitimacy and credibility for your company?
  • What features and functionality should be part of your minimal viable product?

Each of the eight concepts above affect customer acceptance and financial performance achieved by the innovation.

What Do You Really Need?

When it comes to seeking the help of a commercialization partner or healthcare marketing agency, many innovators will start their search in the final steps, as they’re approaching the launch. However, to truly ensure your best chances of success, consider all the commercialization decisions you need to make and haven’t addressed internally.

As you think about who should help bring your innovation to market, ask yourself:

Do I want to make the most of my business and product exposure opportunities? Or, do I want to maximize my ROI from the innovation?

This will determine if you should invest your time and resources into just the launch plan or broader commercialization plan. It also helps determine which strategies and tactics you’ll need to plan and execute, and which types of professionals and experts your team should include.

If you’re ready to look for a commercialization partner — or if you’re simply unsure of what steps to take next, contact us to schedule your free 30-minute commercialization assessment.