Strategic Planning for Robotic-Assisted Surgery Solutions: A Framework for Success 

Given the competitive marketplace for Robotic-Assisted Surgery (RAS), early-stage companies need a framework for turning concepts and technologies into a successful business strategy and execution.

We asked Piergiulio Lauriano, Alira Health CSO, and Giulia Valsecchi, Principal in the Alira Health Management Consulting Division, to share the keys to a successful business and go-to-market strategy for RAS.

Publications
Published on:
December 13, 2022
Written by:
Giulia Valsecchi, Piergiulio Lauriano
The robotic market can be segmented around many axes – types of procedures, the setting (academic center, clinic, etc.), geographies, and more – and each has different degrees of readiness in the market. Finding the right positioning requires continuous scanning of the market to optimize the chances of commercial success. 

Start with a Winning Aspiration 

Companies hoping to enter the RAS market should begin with a vision for the future, including strategic objectives for the company as a whole. Then, when it comes to the inception of the product strategy, unmet needs mapping is the first and most crucial step. Among other key guiding questions to be asked are the following: 

  • What are the unmet needs I want to address? 
  • What are the unmet needs that my product can overcome? 
  • Who are the stakeholders affected by such unmet needs? What value am I delivering to them? 
  • How is my prototype perceived by users and other stakeholders? If needed, how can I re-think my product to address the unmet needs? 
  • What is my value proposition for this product? 

Key activities during this phase include clinical, technical, and commercial unmet needs mapping, value proposition design, product features testing, and technical feasibility analysis of key stakeholders’ feedback/suggested integrations. 

The stakeholders, both clinical and non-clinical, must be considered, and the product must answer not only an existing market need, but also one that is relevant. An example of what can happen when this is not addressed is TransEnterix’s (now Asensus Surgical) marketing campaign focused on the haptic feedback capability of their platform, which was not a major unmet need for surgeons and therefore not a sufficient competitive differentiator  

Decide Where to Play 

The product value proposition should guide both the market segmentation and the research to find a vacant market segment. Appraisal and assessment of the market’s willingness to adopt and pay are key to inform the value of the commercial opportunity. Among other key guiding questions to be asked are the following: 

  • How is the market segmented, and which segment can be targeted by my product’s value proposition? 
  • Who is playing in each of those segments, and what does the competitive space look like?  
  • What are the free niches among the identified segments? How can my product fit there? 
  • How does my differentiation and unique selling proposition compare to current market players? 
  • What is the market willingness to adopt and pay? 
  • What are the key trends in each segment and how they could impact my opportunity?  
  • What is the market opportunity related to the different segments and/or niches identified? 
  • What is my entry strategy? 

Key activities during this phase include market landscape analysis (including clinical, commercial and access), “Voice of Customers” testing and product appraisal, and product potential and commercial opportunity assessment. 

The robotic market can be segmented around many axes – types of procedures, the setting (academic center, clinic, etc.), geographies, and more – and each has different degrees of readiness in the market. Finding the right positioning requires continuous scanning of the market to optimize the chances of commercial success. 

For example, to avoid going head-to-head with the market leader, CMR looked for more open geographies outside the U.S. CMR strategically used their financial resources to support a U.K. launch, optimize the system, and generate interest among key stakeholders in ex-U.S. countries. They’re now focusing their commercial effort on Western Europe, South America, and Asia Pacific.  

Build or Leverage the Right Capabilities to Win

Finally, strategy needs to be executed, leveraging the right capabilities. Key questions to ask now are: 

  • What are the needed capabilities to target the identified opportunity? 
  • What are my current capabilities? How should they evolve to target the selected segment? 
  • What capabilities should I grow internally? What do I need to acquire? 
  • What is the timing required to guarantee success in the segment? What is the most effective go-to-market strategy? 
  • What is the optimal business model to penetrate the market?  

Some companies skip this step, but it’s vital to know whether it’s possible to execute the strategy, and if not, what changes need to be made in order to make it possible. For example, Procept had few internal resources but succeeded by targeting a very small niche, narrowing to few procedures, producing a robust amount of clinical evidence, and obtaining reimbursement for their target niche.  

The Power of the Framework 

The steps in this framework build on each other and each is crucial. The key questions – is there a true unmet need? Are we segmenting the market landscape correctly? What are the capabilities we have in-house and how can we fill the gaps? – must be answered in order to find success.

We can help early-stage RAS companies to answer these questions, using the framework as a guide to develop a winning strategy.

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