Preserve Your Device’s Value Proposition: Bridging the Marketing vs Development Gap

 In Medical Product Design, User Insights & Design Research

As a medical device marketer, you go to great pains to identify a unique value proposition for each new device your company creates. But — and here’s the rub — by the time a medical device goes to market, the end results don’t always match your original intentions.

Designing medical devices can be like a game of telephone. As a project gets passed from team to team, the marketing team’s original ideas often get lost in translation.

And that’s a big problem.

You know that if your device has any hope of performing well, the user needs and market gaps that originally inspired your medical product must remain intact through all the obstacles of transforming your organization’s idea into a real product.

So what can medical device companies do to keep their original product intent intact? A design brief is the answer.

The Disconnect Between Medical Device Marketing and Development Teams

Medical device development is incredibly complex. From FDA regulations and proprietary technologies to human factors, industrial design, usability testing and detailed engineering, each device takes a rigorous and arduous path on the road to launch. With so many different activities touching on so many different teams and disciplines, it’s no surprise that there is often a disconnect between marketing and the rest of the development team.

Marketers are usually the first to touch a new medical device project. They often identify the need for a new or updated product based on user insights and market research. In addition, they are responsible for making a sound business case for the product. That includes honing a well-defined value proposition. And it also includes identifying a set of requirements that the product must meet in order to actually be competitive. Those requirements could be fairly general (“the product must not cost more than $50”) or quite technical (“the device must supply X amount of oxygen at X interval in order to best the competition’s current offering”).

The pass-off point between marketers and the development team is critical. But without the right documentation and communication, it often becomes the first point of failure.

Medical device marketers often use something called a marketing requirements document to relay their vision for a new product to the development team. The marketing requirements document is a checklist of marketing must-haves. These flow directly from the marketing team’s research and vision. It usually includes an executive summary and a bit of market background for context. However, its primary purpose is to relay individual marketing requirements. Because of that, it usually falls short in communicating the marketing team’s overall vision.

Keep in mind that your development team must contend with a boatload of FDA requirements and documentation details. In the midst of all those pressing priorities, your marketing requirements document can quickly morph into yet another box-checking exercise. When that happens, you’re much more likely to wind up with a product that doesn’t reflect your original value proposition — and falls short in the eyes of your users.

What is a Design Brief (and How is it Different From a Marketing Requirements Document)?

At MindFlow Design, we use something called a design brief to bridge the gap between marketing and development.

A design brief is a high-level document that tells the development team who and what they are designing a product for. Unlike a marketing requirements document, it is highly visual in a way that illustrates the use case. Because of that, it gives the development team a more holistic understanding of the product’s big-picture value proposition.

Still struggling to understand the concept and value of a design brief? Consider this: A design brief is a lot like a brand style guide, a document well-known to marketers. Just as a style guide sets the ground rules for how a brand is expressed (including details like fonts, logos, and imagery), a design brief establishes rules for how a product should be designed. And just as a style guide disseminates the executive team’s vision for a brand’s aesthetic and voice, a design brief enforces the marketing team’s vision for a product’s final design.

We’ve found that a well-prepared, thoughtfully presented design brief aligns the marketing and development teams around a single vision from the get-go. It also serves as a reference point throughout the development process to ensure that unified vision remains intact.

The Elements of a Design Brief

Our design brief typically includes:

  • Project objectives, such as goals, strategies, and tactics

  • Market trends and cues

  • Manufacturing considerations, including production forecasts and target costing

  • Tech & IP development status, including patent concerns

  • Use cases and user needs, including definitions and characteristics of users

  • Visual brand language, including product form, color, texture, and materials

Design briefs should be created at the outset of the medical device development process. They should outline the entire project and its goals from the marketing team’s perspective. The marketing team typically owns the design brief. But ideally it’s a collaborative effort.

A design brief doesn’t replace a marketing requirements document. Rather, it complements it by providing important context and detail.

Remember, a marketing requirements document on its own can unintentionally reinforce the disconnect between the marketing and development teams. A design brief, on the other hand, forces everyone who touches the project to reckon with the who and why of a product during each phase of development.

With a design brief in place, medical device development teams can work in concert to preserve and advance the product’s original market intent.

Bridging the Marketing and Development Gap With a Design Brief

It’s not enough for your marketing team to compile a set of context and inspiration images and share them with your development team. In order to truly bridge the gap between marketing and development, you must use the design brief as a launchpad for deeper conversations. That can be a challenge, especially if your marketing and development teams speak fundamentally different languages.

The good news? The right medical device development partner can help.

At MindFlow Design, we are fluent in both your marketing and development teams’ native tongues. We know how to take your market research, user insights, and marketing requirements and translate them into a design brief that everyone can understand and rally behind. In addition to helping you hone your vision, we take the lead in presenting your concept and getting input and buy-in from every team that touches your device.

The result is a well-aligned team that is prepared to solve problems against your big-picture value proposition. Even when they are caught in the weeds of the development details.

Want to learn more about how MindFlow Design can help your organization align toward a common vision — and produce a medical device that finds market success?

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