Surgeons, you are the ultimate inventors. Why? Because you are driven to by an unstoppable fire with the desire to help people; you are creative decision makers; you are not afraid of calculated risks and most importantly, every single day, you are given a complex set of clinical circumstances and imperfect technological options.
It is therefore not surprising that with such a complicated environment, many of you start imagining the future, visualizing new ways to help your patients, inventing new technologies.
Traditionally an invention starts with a rough sketch, often the result of a discussion with an engineer. Expectations run high, as you fully comprehend the clinical benefits and potential of your invention. Suddenly, you face two challenges.
The first challenge: Finding a way to “realize and protect your idea.”
• Option 1 is the “minimalist” path. You limit your personal involvement and investments to (1) conceptualization, (2) design and blueprints, (3) patent protection. Your goal is to lay the groundwork and pitch the invention to your industry connections. Your hope is that someone invests in the concept, takes it to market and distributes it on a large scale. If you do sign an agreement, you have limited control. However, in an ideal scenario, upon signing an agreement, your invention will be developed, you will be able to help your patients with it and you will collect royalty payments on the usage by other surgeons in the U.S. and around the world. Your personal risk is minimized but at the same time, your chances of success are not maximized.
• Option 2 is the “maximalist” path. Your goal is to take full control of the product development process by making the necessary investments to take your invention from conceptualization all the way to FDA approval, or even commercialization, thereby creating value in the process. In that case, the recommended approach is for you to partner with a reputable engineering firm that will drive the process, acting as your turnkey R&D department. They will take your idea through product development: (1) conceptualization, (2) feasibility studies, (3) design and blueprints, (4) patent protection, (5) prototyping, (6) testing, (7) regulatory work, (8) FDA clearance. You will own two highly valuable assets: intellectual property rights and a 510(k) clearance letter. You will also be in a position of strength in the marketplace to negotiate with one or multiple medtech organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
Your second challenge: Making sure that your invention is “marketed and commercialized” efficiently.
Keep this in mind: 80 percent of success in business is marketing, while 20 percent is product. Nevertheless, most inventors are so passionate about the science behind their inventions that the subject of marketing is barely discussed, or simply skipped, during the R&D process. This is a sure way to limit value.
Marketing your idea professionally outside of your network ought to be part of your success plan starting from conceptualization. Whether you choose option 1 or option 2, you must have a marketing roadmap from the get-go to guarantee that immediately upon filing your patent, you are in motion, marketing your invention and connecting and exchanging with the scientific community, as well as potential partners. You must initiate a conversation about your invention, not just in the U.S., but globally. With the power of online marketing, your market is the world.
How will you get it all done, considering that you already work 12 hours a day? As you should consider the services of an R&D firm to realize your idea, you should consider the services of a professional marketing firm to market your idea.
They will act as your turnkey marketing department with the mission to (1) craft and execute your sales and marketing strategy, (2) create awareness, (3) establish credibility, (4) generate interest and leads automatically and (5) attract potential business and scientific partners to you. They will build an independent sales and marketing engine that will be running at all times.
To design a winning marketing formula, consider these elements:
1. Craft a marketing plan: Fail to plan…plan to fail.
2. Create a website dedicated to your invention that will act as your communication hub.
3. Create a blog on your website (e.g. weekly postings, either original or curated). Original, insightful topical
articles can be posted on multiple web platforms to start a conversation and dialog, not to lecture.
4. Participate in industry blogs linked to the ecosystem of your invention.
5. Create analytical tools (e.g. Google Analytics, Crazy Egg) to track website traffic, understand what works and what does not, and adjust to stay relevant and ensure return visitors. A site is a living organism that must evolve to connect with the audience on professional and emotional levels.
6. Create a Twitter account to connect to your community of interest. Link it to your blog.
7. Create a group dedicated to your invention on LinkedIn. Join groups relevant to your invention.
8. Create a Facebook page for your invention. Integrate your blog postings and Tweets, promote the page and create events.
9. Publish a 3-D animation of your invention on YouTube, LinkedIn and your website.
10. Create a professional interview of yourself talking about the rationale behind your invention. Publish the interview in audio, video and writing on your website and social media platforms.
11. Obtain testimonials from colleagues who agree with the rationale behind your invention and get approval to include their testimonials on your website and social media platforms.
12. Create 3-D images of your invention and images of yourself working on your invention to be published on Flickr.
13. Publish quarterly press releases (for instance, announcing every milestone) and post them on your website. Share them with ORTHOWORLD via firstname.lastname@example.org.
14. Create and maintain a database of your contacts.
15. Use your database to engage your ecosystem at regular intervals with email campaigns. Do so using an email service provider (e.g., Constant Contact, MailChimp) to precisely measure results. Among others, topics can be news events, key milestones and scientific discoveries in your area of interest, as well as your presence at industry events.
16. Develop a powerful search engine optimization strategy to position the invention favorably on Google and other search engines.
Your external marketing department will craft and execute the 16 elements of your plan. They will keep the fire burning, mixing technology and personalization to create a powerful connection with your ecosystem. Your mission will be to provide insightful content at regular intervals that can be used on multiple platforms to continue the conversation.
Your strategy ought to be focused on online marketing for two reasons. First, with over three billion people connected to the Internet, your potential customers and strategic partners are working, sharing and searching online for information and technologies. You and your invention should be part of the conversation. Second, with the Internet, creativity is the key to success, not capital. It is therefore affordable.
In conclusion, what you need to know about marketing your invention is simple. You need to build from a powerful marketing engine that will use the power of the Internet in the new economy to promote your invention by (1) creating broad scale credibility, (2) creating brand awareness and (3) promoting business opportunities.