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How do MedTech Startups better uncover customer needs

Good discovery for medtech products
Good discovery leads to product gems

One of the most critical things when designing and delivering a product - or even having that "big idea" is to fully understand the unmet need that you are trying to solve for.

Get out of the "lab" or from behind your desk

One of the biggest errors I see is that people have an idea and then think that theoretically pondering about it - using first scientific principals will get them to the right solution- NO!

You can't dig for real diamonds unless you go and dig in the diamond mine. Yes you can fabricate a diamond in the lab... but it's not a real diamond. Unless your engineers have spent significant time with the customers - users - payers - do not let them move ahead with more product design.

Rule number 1: get to the place where the problem is real

Founders, engineers, marketing - you must go to the customer, the user and deeply observe them and ask them open questions. Don' turn up with your idea "done" and then see how it fits into their problem. That is utterly backwards. Get into the surgery, the diagnostics lab, the hospital, a focus group of consumers for B2C apps, the operating room - or wherever the "Problem" happens. And remember that the problem for the user may be totally different - even sometimes unconnected to the problem for the patient or the payer.

Have your ideas - but shut your mouth until you have observed - questioned - deep dived.

And don't ask leading questions at first . Get in and ask massive open questions

"Why do you do that?" "How come you did that today but that yesterday?"

"You seem to be struggling here - what's the issue?"


Once you get a deeper understanding of the general situation - then you can start to hone in on your possible solutions. It's about you having a possible idea - but the customer sculpting the right solution.

Rule number 2: the customer is not always right

It's a myth that the customer is always right. Many clinicians do not know what they actually need - they often state what they think they want. They are two very different things. And until you understand that... you will potentially end up with the wrong solution to the right problem. Or even worse - the wrong solution for the wrong problem.

You will get the the need when you fully understand the problem; by letting the customer articulate pain points not product attributes. It's then up to you to translate that into possible solutions that engineers can work on.

Rule number 3: don't rely on an n=1

When you start to delve into the customer insights and pain points - be very careful about bias. We are all human and we all get bias and hear what we want to hear. We also say the narrative that's in our on head. You need to expand the number of customers / users that you ask and you also need different people to listen to the answers and come to independent conclusions about "what did they actually say". It often works best when you do customer discovery in teams - with people that have a few different backgrounds and functions. Hear from different people to different people - and then collate and debate.

Rule number 4: divide user, patient and customer (payer) pain points

Let me give an example which I know well. Surgery. Often the surgeon (or the nurse) is the user of the product - and they have a set of pain points they are trying to solve as they perform the surgery. Those pain points may be translating into suboptimal outcomes for patients - and ultimately it could result in some kind of issue for the Hopsital (bed occupancy , return to surgery, length of stay, requirements for blood) and that (when it all boils down for the payer, usually means more cost). But to get the discovery right you need to understand the matrix of pain points for all the stakeholders in the chain. And make sure that your solution really addresses the issues of all the stakeholders.

Rule number 5: When you raise money - add some for professional discovery

Initally you will need to get as much insight for as little spend as possible. And that will serve you really well. It will get you and your engineers going in the right direction. But you need to put your time and effort in, and be at the site of the problems for a fairly long time. Do as much of the deep questioning as you can to the best of your ability. You'll also have had your own "insight" that sparked your idea - so that needs to be at the heart of the solution. Warning: If this is a new material from a"lab" that is now looking for a clinical problem. I'm just gonna stare at you blankly and say - don't continue.

You will get so far alone (or as the founding team) - but at some point you either need an upstream marketing professional that knows how to do product development the right way. Or you need to contact an agency that specialises at getting to the heart of the customers needs. An insights discovery agency.

It's critical that you do this in Seed or Series A - to make sure that you are in fact pointed in the right direction. And to make sure that as a team you are developing the right product attributes at the right cost point that delivers benefit for all stakeholder - not just the user.

You will not believe how many failing startups are failing because they jumped the discovery step and developed the wrong product, at the wrong price that no one was willing to pay for - or worse it didn't actually solve the real problem.

In my course you'll find help and contacts on how to do this right. You'll also get insights into the Project and program management process that will ensure that this work continues the right way, with the right nuts at the right time o move your pouch through the stage gates.

If you're not yet on the course - then sign up now.

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