Editor's note: Joe Kalinowski is a principal at Trilogy Associates, a Pittsboro, N.C., business development firm. He can be reached at 919-533-6285 or at jk@trilogyassociates.com. This article appeared in the January 28, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.


So maybe you're the second coming of Steve Jobs. You know what consumers will need, even though they don't know they'll need it. However, that approach to new-product definition is very rarely successful. In fact, Jobs is now known to have done extensive market research with consumers before going to market. Likewise, you need to somehow discover what consumers want (i.e., what will sell).


Let's talk about new medical products, especially those personally used by clinicians - physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants - to treat patients. How does a supplier of such products, generally characterized as medical devices, determine what to develop and bring to market?


The simplest answer to the question is: "Ask the clinicians what they need." Unfortunately, it ain't that easy! Here are 10 proven guidelines to follow to reach a more satisfying answer to the question.


Put the patient first. This goes without saying, right? Perhaps, but you do need to establish with certainty that the wellbeing of some patient class will be improved and/or their medical risks mitigated when the product is applied by a clinician.


Just ask. A good place to start. Determine who the likely users are and ask them what they want. But who is the predominant user and who is the predominant purchase influencer? They may or may not be the same person. And you cannot simply ask, "What do you need?" They may not know what they need and they almost certainly do not know what can be delivered. But they do know precisely what job they have to do. Find that out and endeavor to make that job easier, in...