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Know the user or die – A slow product death

Why you must know your user before you determine your digital strategy or really anything else

Okay, you now have a smart, connected product idea that can help change lives. Your idea is brilliant, of course. But defining your digital product strategy is the ultimate test as you aim to reach new users and sell them on the value of your idea. Beyond the traditional areas of segmentation, pricing, channels, product roadmap, operations, etc., you have to decide on a sales and revenue strategy that includes (1) initial product sale, (2) subscription services, and (3) sales of product use data to third parties. Is your device tracking, personalizing, automating or communicating? Lots to figure out in a digital strategy, right? Oh, and don’t forget that your medical device must overcome increasing regulatory constraints and that you now have to compete with likes of Google, Apple and a million other well-funded startups.

Having fun yet?

When determining your go-to-market strategy here are a few key things to remember.

The foundation of your digital product strategy – UNDERSTAND YOUR USER!

STOP WASTING YOUR TIME!!! If you skipped researching your market, users and stakeholders then you are absolutely wasting your time!

Remember, this is not about launching a product with new features! You have an opportunity to leverage digital to create deeper and more meaningful relationships. With the number of intangibles in digital products, such as data, information, behavior changes, new services, new deliver systems, etc. you must use research to understand the users’ perceived value.

This is impossible to do if you are targeting the wrong users OR if your target users do not see value in your product (OR better yet they don’t even understand it). New digital technologies often allow for a broader, less specialized user base – especially medtech. With the right research you can figure out who these users are and get to know them and then ask, “Do you understand this product?” “Would you buy this product?” “What would you pay for this product?” etc., etc.  If you are not asking your customers constructive questions to DRIVE meaningful change, then you are just wasting your time.

You then, and only then, can design a product that best fits their needs and builds value with them every day. Okay, we know this is product management 101 with the digital twist but so often we hear about a product idea and a go-to-market strategy that has left out the customer research. They are developing the product based on their gut and the technology available. So then it is our job to say, “Um, sorry but this product is likely to fail.  Let’s figure out what we need to do to make it a success”

One of our healthcare clients wanted to sell direct to consumers. We expanded the target user of their connected health device to include professionals as well as consumers. We tested that concept and found that consumers did not believe in the product; they did not have awareness of the technology or the benefit of that technology. They didn’t have a reason to believe in it, let alone spend their hard earned money on it. So research brought forward the EXTREMELY important knowledge: users need to be made aware of the value and they are not going to go do research on this product without a professional introducing it to them first. With awareness being key, they set out to convince the professional channel including personal trainers, health professionals and physical therapists and then leverage them to build credibility and awareness of the device with their customers during the initial stages of launch.

You understand your market, users and stakeholders?! Now you can move into strategy and product features.

Unpacking the kitchen sink.

shutterstock_174028136-768x576Ok, now back to product development 101: all the dishes in the kitchen sink do not belong in your product feature set. Many assume that the more things their product can do, the more value it has. But imagine developing a product that can do 10 different things when your users only have a need for two. Not only are you wasting time and money in development, but your product will be far too complicated for users and they will NOT buy it.

With the results from our research we help our clients focus and prioritize specific product features so that users and stakeholders get what they want and expect from this type of product. How about some valuable cost savings in development by eliminating unnecessary product features that your users indicated they did not need or want? Good idea, right?

A business model that makes sense?

Believe it or not, many business models simply don’t make sense (okay, you probably believe me ‘cause 9/10 products fail to deliver a positive return).  Any conversation about digital product strategy ultimately turns to a business model discussion. Why? Your business model is a key piece in your digital product strategy execution. It is how you are going to market and how you are going to build a relationship with the users you worked so hard to identify and figure out.

Imagine your user’s desired price point doesn’t match up to your intended pricing strategy. How do you bridge the gap? To compete in this digital world, you must assess new business models. Recently we worked with a client who had intended to sell their device directly to consumers at a high initial price – higher than customers said they’d be willing to pay. By understanding what customers would truly value in the device and how they planned to use it, we developed a model for a client that allowed them to sell their premium device at a lower initial cost and collect subscription revenue from the ongoing use of the product. Ultimately, this reduces the cost barrier to adoption but still allows the client to meet their business goals over time.

So let’s go over this one more time: understand your market, users and stakeholders. Test your users, know them, love them and give them the attention they deserve. Research is always important for any product but becomes even MORE important for digital products. The key to digital strategy is the value of the information in the eye of the stakeholder. Get this right and you are on your way to success.



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