Category Archives: Marketing

Building a Powerful Contact List: Key Tactics for Making the Random Walk a Little Less Random

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

red leader of blue group

Build a powerful contact list by focusing on key individuals first.

Building up a substantial contact list is crucial to any startup especially as they approach the commercial launch of their first product or service.  This list will be used by your commercial team to recruit alpha and beta evaluators, find strategic partners and of course uncover customers.  One of the key things to keep in mind as you create this list is that it is the quality of the people on this list rather than the ultimate number (although you need this list to grow very large eventually) that is most important.

Why quality is crucial
First, what do we mean by a quality contact.  This is an individual that has shown some interest in your product or service by asking you to:

  • Put them on your mailing list to keep them informed
  • Exchanged business cards with you at an event you both attended (they asked for yours first)
  • Has reached out to you via your website, phone or perhaps by visiting a poster or vendor booth you hosted at an industry event.

People that you connect with in one of the ways described above will have a higher chance of being valuable to you and your company in the future including becoming some of your first customers.  Simply scanning the badge of everyone that visits your booth at a tradeshow to grab some free swag might provide a big number of contacts that you can put on a spreadsheet but now you will have to sort through all of them to find the quality contacts just described.  You have better things to do with you time.

The Random Walk
The highest quality contacts that you could have are those that you have had a chance to sit down and connect with on a one-on-one basis.  If you establish a strong connection during these meetings, these folks can turn out to be your strongest advocates and will go out of their way to help you with referrals, advice and other valuable inputs.  However, the problem here is that you need a significantly larger number of contacts to insure that you have a broad enough reach that will ultimately return the kinds of contacts that will become satisfied customers.  It is not possible to reach all of these people individually.  Reid Hoffman (Cofounder and Chairman of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha provide an excellent discussion of how to successfully build your network of contacts with sufficient depth and breadth in their book ‘The Start-Up of You’.  All of the people that we would consider high quality contacts would be rated as first degree connections (depth) on LinkedIn.  The contact lists of your 1st degree connections represent your extended list (breadth) that will have the size you need to drive your commercial efforts.  In LinkedIn parlance, these are 2nd degree connections to you.  As an example of the reach of this extended network, a list of 300 – 400 direct connections (LinkedIn 1st degree connections) gives you access to over 6 million indirect connections (LinkedIn 2nd degree connections).  Whether you use LinkedIn or not, the compelling size of these indirect connections is real and worth the effort to cultivate.

This is Doable
It is likely that between the founding team members, your advisors and other strategic partners that you will be well on your way to developing a list of hundreds of quality (1st degree) contacts.  Be sure to seek out opportunities to meet with new people on a ‘one-to-one’ basis as much as possible.  You never know who these people are connected to and what valuable introductions they will provide.  Looking forward, that is can look like a very random process and it is.  You can increase the likelihood of making meaningful connections by attending events that you think will attract the people you would like to meet (industry events, tradeshows, lectures, CEO groups etc.).

Selected Tactics for Building your High Quality Contact List:

  • Reach out to friends and family.  Not all of these will be relevant but this is an easy first step.
  • Review the alumni contact list from your alma mater and professional school and reach out to prospects via e-mail, phone or ‘face-to-face’ (best).  Remember, don’t just stack you list with names; you need to know that they are at least a little bit interested.
  • Ask for referrals from those you meet.  Always ask the people you connect with who they would recommend that you meet and ask if they can introduce you.  Be sure to return the favor as much as possible as well. Give and take here can really pay off in the long run.
  • Be prepared to make connections anywhere and everywhere by being sure to keep a few of your business cards with you at all times.  You never know who you might meet at your spouse’s business party or at the grocery store.
  • An effective Marketing effort will bring in a number of high quality connections as well as leads for your sales force.  Don’t confuse a quality connection with a sales lead.  Sometimes a sales lead will also be a quality connection but that is not always the case.
  • Host or sponsor events in your industry.  Providing a technical talk, hosting a workshop or having an Open House event at your facility are excellent ways to quickly build your list of contacts.

Picture Credit:  © Suravid | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Some Fundamentals of a Successful Podcast Campaign

By:  Scott Graves


Radio Microphone

Add a new dimension to your storytelling with podcasts. This can be an excellent way to differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded social media environment.

At the end of the day the success of your podcast series centers on compelling storytelling.  For many, the challenge is in the delivery.  For others, the challenge is in developing the content.  “I’m a research scientist with no significant accomplishments yet in my career.  My day to day is mundane and not worth talking about”.  Perhaps this is how you feel.  But the path that led you to where you are has filled you with experience, knowledge of problem solving and perspective that will likely resonate with others.  On the delivery side, it is important to have knowledge of how to hold the attention of your audience with compelling content you’ve developed.  This is where spending real time listening to podcasts and other broadcast media for elements you like is valuable.  I highly recommend locating a mentor and working with them to improve your broadcast personality and audible approach.  Co-hosting and guesting on other podcasts is an excellent way to improve your skills while networking with other professionals and generating listeners.

Develop a Show Concept
As with all other forms of media it is well worth the time to focus in on several key strategic elements of your podcast series.  What goals are you trying to accomplish with your podcast?  On ‘No Boundaries Radio’, our focus is on spotlighting innovators from across a broad spectrum of growth sectors.  Each guest is unique in their product/service, industry or approach.  Format can also be a key element to your success. With our series, we decided on a format similar to radio programs like ‘Fresh Air with Terri Gross’ with elements of ‘On Point’, another NPR mainstay.  Whatever your approach, make an effort to stay on course with a show concept and format.  Perhaps you’re a fan of Science Friday?  Focus in on what makes that program a success.  How can you replicate that?  What would you do differently?  Listen to your audience carefully; feedback will tell you what stays and what goes.  Also understand who your target audience is. At ‘No Boundaries Radio’, we focus on garnering an audience split between successful business leaders and entrepreneurs who are just starting out.  Our marketing is targeted to both parties within a host of growth sectors.  I personally spend time building relationships with people as guests and as listeners.  Most important: Show development is a constant process and never ends if you’re doing your job.

Build Your Organization  
Before your official launch determine what your frequency of broadcasts will be.  Know who your audience is and understand what their desires are.  Match their needs to your capability of putting out a quality program.  Quality always before quantity.  In general, I feel a weekly podcast is best but this depends on a number of factors.  There is no hard rule.  The most important thing to remember is stay on schedule. Also understand completely how your shows will be produced, edited and distributed.  Understand both the people and technology that will work for you.  Some opt to work with a producer and internet broadcast service; some simply hit the streets with their laptop and microphone.  The only rule is shoot for quality in all aspects of your final podcast including the people you work with and the technology you use to produce and distribute your recording.

Use the Right Technology
Once you’ve clearly defined the premise, goals, and target audience of your program marry your plan to the right tech.  I highly suggest doing some real research starting with your mentor(s).  What software, microphones, recording equipment and distribution platforms do they find to be most advantageous.  Using the right technology includes knowing the best practices for SEO, keywords, considering what social media and blog platforms will work best for your show, etc.  More expensive is not always better but please consider your listener.  While the recording may not have to be studio quality; a recording poor enough to be distracting is a disaster.  Choosing the right places for folks to find your show (services like BlogTalkRadio℠, Stitcher™, your own blog, Liberated Syndication, etc.) offer a broad spectrum of capabilities and affordability.  Choose what will work best for your audience and for you.

Never lose sight of the idea of compelling storytelling.  Always produce and execute a quality program and you will grow an engaged and enlightened audience.

The Right Tools for a Successful Podcast Campaignfor more insights by the author in this podcast ‘Right Tools for Podcast’ produced by SM Graves Creative

Life Sciences Podcasting
Although podcasting has not been used as much by Life Science and Biotech companies as it has been adopted in the Technology sector, its use is growing.  The development and commercialization of affordable technology and services for this makes the production and distribution of a ‘radio show’ within the reach of nearly every one.  Any Life Science company that has made a commitment to making Social Media and Content Marketing work for them should consider trying this tactic.  Podcasting can be a great way to share compelling stories and content especially when time and resources are tight.  Some find the rigors of maintaining a good blog challenging.  A good podcast producer can help you to uncover the many hidden stories that your audience and future customers will value.  Often the process of preparing a great podcast will provide all of the inspiration needed to create a companion blog post.


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The Power Blog: Going beyond Words to Building a Following

Expedition Leader

Being an effective blogger is like being an expedition leader. You will be introducing your readers to new vistas in their world while building trust. These followers will always want more and often become your best customers.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Whether you are listening to the radio, catching up with the news of the day, reading your favorite blog or even conversations at work, the terms ‘Content Marketing’ and ‘Social media’ seem to pop-up ubiquitously .  We have written on both topics here as well. (Content Marketing: Are You Using This Key Tactic to Win the Startup Arms Race?, Avoid the Siren Song of ‘Going Viral’: The Most Powerful SEO is Great Content).  As topical as all this may be, it is important to understand the benefits and costs (Time, effort, patience) that embarking on a Content Media campaign are before committing to this.  As we have previously discussed, in our ‘Content Marketing’ piece, regardless of the tactics you select for your own campaign (e.g. blog posts, hosting topical forums, podcasting, videos & webinars, Facebook pages, websites etc.) the key element is to create and share quality content.  Writing and publishing effective blogs is the most content rich (and potentially time consuming) tactic you could choose.  However, when this is done well, the benefits (eventually) will far outweigh the time and effort that you put into this.

Why bother…
Hosting and maintaining a successful blog is not a trivial effort.  It also takes time and patience before the rewards of your efforts become apparent.  Here are a few reasons to give this important tactic a second look.

  • Become an authority:  New customers are more likely to buy from a trusted source.  If you share what you know on a regular basis with a blog, you will begin to become known as a trusted and knowledgeable resource for them.  Even in the early days, being able to refer new leads to ‘articles’ that you or your company have written can have a very positive impact on the sales cycle.
  • Rise from obscurity: Even before your first offering is ready to be sold, you can start to build your brand with a good blog.  It takes time to build a customer base.  Hosting a great blog allows you to start the process by building awareness and brand way before your launch so that you will not have to start from scratch on launch day.
  • Recycling:  The content in each blog post can be reused.  Take copy from some of your more successful posts to help you create better website content, brochures, trade journal articles, press releases and more.
  • Escape the glacial pace of academic journal publication:  For Life Science and Biotech companies, the greatest validation of their products can come when some of their customers publish using their offering.  This can take a long time.  Remembering that this is an ‘Ad-Free Zone’, asking your best customers to guest blog on their work (applications) can be a great way to get influential articles in the public realm faster. 
  • Build more powerful connections:  Everyone has a business card to hand out to new connections.  Sharing a link to a relevant post article or two can be a powerful way to distinguish yourself (either when you meet or in your follow-up).   Your new connection will have a chance to further evaluate how you communicate and how you think.  The combination of an in-person meeting with a ‘content rich’ follow-up using this tactic can lead to a stronger (and more valuable) relationship.

A few fundamentals
There are a huge number of resources and opinions about how to write a successful blog that will really light up the literary world and have current and future customers and readers clamoring for more.  (We share a few of these resources at the end of this post).  One thing you will discover early on is that there are as many opinions on the rules that must be followed to create blog content as there are blogs and posts.  The following guidelines (not rules) are based on what the author has found (and validated with clients) to be the most effective way to create content that works.

  • Keep it short (sometimes):  You can find various recommendations on how many words your post should be.  350 – 700 seems to be a rough rule of thumb.  However, this ‘rule’ should not be what defines the length of your writing.  (UpStart Life Sciences routinely violates this dictum.)  A good post should be just long enough to discuss (or cover) one topic.  If you find that you have written a piece that contains several concepts in it, you can divide it into separate posts during your editing.
  • Follow the WEE principle: Trying to write the world’s best blog post the first time out can lead you directly to ‘writers-block’ or worse (giving up).  I have found that once I have found a topic of interest that I will just go ahead and write it out as quickly as I can (spelling errors, awkward sentences, meaningless digressions and all).  After a day or so, you can read and edit the piece with fresh eyes.  You will likely find that it is ‘not as bad’ as you thought at first.  Be sure to give it one more round of editing before publishing it.  The Write (W), Edit (E) and Edit (E) again principle will free you to be your creative best and routinely produce interesting, informative and polished pieces.
  • Spice it up: Use pictures, diagrams, videos, podcasts and links to tell your story.  Each of these things offers a different way to communicate with your audience.  Just make sure that they really do contribute to your piece and are not just thrown in as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) gimmicks.  Sometimes the best way to punch up your writing is to use paragraph headings and bullet points (allows your readers to skim to what interests them in your longer writings).
  • 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 … Launch: When are you ready to go public?  When helping our clients with this, we recommend that they have at least 10 posts ready to go on the first day of ‘publishing’.  It takes time for your audience to discover you, so you would like to keep them coming once they do.  Having 10 pieces prepared will also test your own commitment to this effort.  If this seems a little too much, consider trying this out by offering to be a guest writer for another well-established blog first.  Having a body of work already available when each of your readers finds you will go a long way to retaining them and encouraging them to come back for more.
  • Delight your audience not the world:  This is especially important to keep in mind if you would like some of your audience members to eventually reach out to you to become your customers.  Constantly worrying about what length or words or clever titles you should use to enhance the SEO of your piece will lead to mediocre content.  If someone thinks your posts are too long, or boring, you can be sure that there is someone else out there that is glad that you took the time and effort to write a good piece.  In time, if you focus on delivering value, your readership will grow and it is these fans that are most likely to reach out to you to do a little business.  Remember, there was a day when nobody had ever heard of J. K. Rowling or Stephen King.  They produced great content that nobody read in the early days.  However it was this great content that ultimately got them recognized and has built them each a huge following (there are still many people that don’t care for their work but I am sure that this does not keep either of them up at night).
  • Save your company news for the Press Release:  It is important to remember that your content rich blog articles help you garner trust and support amongst your target audience.  They are not Press Releases.  Press Releases generally announce goings on at your firm.  They do nothing else, especially in the unsolicited online world.  At worst, when applied to your blog they actually make you look like a less than savvy communicator online.  Save those releases for other mediums or for a separate place on your webpage.
  • Focus on ‘Content’ not ‘Marketing’:  I have mentioned this before but it warrants repeating.  If your main focus is producing high quality content, everything else will take care of itself.  Write the blog posts that you would like to read.

Want to learn more about blogging and how it can impact your business?  Get additional insights and tips from this podcast on this topic with the author on the No Boundaries Radio Hour Podcast hosted and produced by Scott Graves (Blogging Fundamentals Podcast)

Selected Resources:

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Content Marketing: Are You Using This Key Tactic to Win the Startup Arms Race?

Classical Library

Effective content marketing is like building the world’s greatest library of resources in your field of expertise. Your audience (and customers) should find the materials there not only informative but entertaining and compelling.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

The sooner you connect with your customers the better.  Most consider this to be when you have your first sales with them.  However, content marketing gives you the opportunity to connect with them in a meaningful way long before your product launch. You start the connections that will build the awareness and trust that leads to strong product sales in the future with this tactic.  These early relationships will provide you with insights not only on how to communicate with them but also help you to establish what offerings will delight them.

Effective Content Marketing can help startups win against larger established competitors Content marketing is an especially important effort for any startup company.  When you introduce game-changing products into the marketplace, you will be introducing something that is, by its very nature of being innovative, unfamiliar. Your content marketing efforts will be one of the best ways to transform this ‘unfamiliarity’ into the trust and confidence that wins new customers.  Large established companies with powerful brand names like Apple, Thermo Fisher or Coke have the ability to launch new and unfamiliar products by using the trust that they have established with customers by virtue of having a strong brand.  However, even these large companies rely on content marketing to accelerate the successful launch of their innovations (e.g.  Google Glass, )  When effectively deployed content marketing, , will build the kind of trust with your future customers that will significantly shorten sales cycle times, reduce the cost of sales and augment the impact that your marketing  efforts have for generating new leads, closed sales and boosting revenue.

Why is Content Marketing missing from many startup companies’ business plans?
Content marketing is not often included in the tactics that many startups use because its true value and purpose are not well understood.  Part of the problem comes from the name itself. Content Marketing is not really marketing at all but telling a story or providing some valuable information without reference to the company’s offerings.  A content marketing piece is more like the article you read in a magazine or newspaper than the ads in the same paper.  As such, the ROI between the investment in time and effort of launching and maintaining an effective content marketing campaign are a significant challenge to quantify with traditional marketing metrics.  The full benefit of an effective content marketing campaign can take time to be realized so this can seem to be a luxury to be cut when cash flow is tight (especially in the early days).

Want to learn more about why you should give Content Marketing a second look?  Get additional insights and tips from this podcast on the topic with the author on the No Boundaries Radio Hour Podcast hosted and produced by Scott Graves Content Marketing Podcast

Building an effective Content Marketing effort that won’t break the bank
As mentioned earlier in this post, the full value of an effective content marketing campaign takes time to be fully realized.  As such the earlier you get started the better.  The following tips will help you to do this in an efficient way that that will build the trust that future customer’s value when they decide who to do business with.

  • Know your audience:  Your audience is your target market segment.  Be sure to read the articles, blog posts, news pieces and other content that your customers are reading on a regular basis.  This will not only provide you with a wealth of ideas for topics that you will cover but also allow you to further  your understanding of what  issues are critical to your customers and hence how you might position your traditional marketing efforts as well (an early ROI from this).
  • Create interesting content, not ads:  Remember that you want to connect with your customers as a subject matter expert.   Remember that you are creating content that is interesting and that your future customers want to consume.  (When creating new content, you should be asking yourself why would someone want to read (listen, watch) this?  Rarely do we choose to watch or read an ad.
  • Create what you know:  You need to tell compelling true stories.  Be authentic and write about what you know.  Create content that discusses the issue or problem that your product will fix (resist the temptation to promote your product here, that makes it an ad).  Each piece you create should be inherently valuable to your target audience by itself.
  • Regular delivery is important:  It takes some time for your audience to discover your content.  Once they have discovered and like it, they may share it with others.  It is important to have a regular delivery of the content that you create.  Whether this is once a month (e.g. newsletter or blog post) once a week or daily is up to you.  Consistent delivery is more important than quantity, especially at the beginning.  Pick a regularity that you can keep up with (perhaps start with a monthly, you can always increase the frequency later).
  • Content quality first, delivery media second:  Create something that will delight your audience first, and then select the way that you will deliver it to your audience. Boring and irrelevant content delivered by a flashy YouTube video, podcast, blog or newsletter is still boring content.  (Don’t forget traditional publications, many trade publications are hungry for interesting articles.  Some print publications may also promote and/or publish an online version as well which can provide an even greater level of exposure).
  • Don’t go it alone:  The effort required to do this effectively is not trivial.  There are many resources that you can turn to lighten your burden.
    • Ask Key Opinion Leaders, influential customers and other authorities to consider writing a guest blog post or newsletter piece for you.
    • Hire a firm to help you create the content.  There are many excellent content creation firms that will take your ideas and create publication-ready copy for your blog, newsletter, white paper etc.
    • Don’t’ like to write?  Consider doing a podcast.  You can do this yourself but consider using a professional that knows how to create compelling content for this medium.
    • Embedded video clips.  Convert one of your written pieces into a compelling 2 minute video.  Resist the temptation to show your product in action.  (Think TED Talks rather than Ad copy).
    • Produce slideshows and webinars.  You have worked hard to create talks that showcase your science to academic and technical audiences.  Why not capture these ‘talks’ using software like Camtasia and share them on your website?  Hosting a webinar can also increase the impact of your presentations by allowing you to reach larger audiences that are geographically distributed while also providing the opportunity to interact with them live.  The other advantage of this is that you can easily record the session and share it.

Additional Resources:

Picture Credit: Curious Expeditions via photopin cc

The Life Science Innovators Dilemma: Converting Skeptics to Evangelists

By: Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Model holding a light bulb

Investing in the tools and resources that will be required for an effective missionary selling campaign will help your customers see the light!

Having a truly innovative, disruptive technology or service is both a blessing and a burden.  A blessing in that you can ‘own the market’ for a period of time if you successfully launch and grow your business.   (This is the good side of being first to market).  The burden is that achieving a successful launch and growing sales effort will often face entrenched skeptical attitudes and outright hostility from the very people you hope to reach with your new offering (The downside of being first to market).

Why does customer resistance exist with innovative and disruptive offerings?
If you have a truly new offering, much of the resistance can come from a lack of understanding of the positive impact that your products and services will have for them. Some may even feel threatened by the new offering if it would seem to decrease their own power or influence particularly when it allows lower skilled workers to produce equivalent or better results once restricted to this individual by their having a ‘hard won’ skill or talent.  This means that your company will need to expend some time and resources to develop an education component to its Sales & Marketing efforts.  This will help transform skeptical leads into satisfied customers.  This is often referred to as missionary selling (and marketing).

“A missionary type of sales job involves convincing someone who has never used a product to buy it. Selling financial planning or life insurance and other financial products typifies the missionary sales job. The metaphor of a missionary involves educating someone about an idea or concept and convincing them to have faith in that concept.” (

What’s an innovator to do?
The rewards of being first to market with a disruptive technology can be significant in financial terms to say the least.  Being aware of some of the resistance that you might face even early in the game will allow you to craft a launch and Sales & Marketing strategy that will be able to handle the additional education burdens that this opportunity presents.  Eventually the burdens of missionary selling will decrease as your customer base grows and evangelizes your innovation.

Tips for Successful Commercialization of Disruptive Life Science Offerings:

  • Use beta evaluation to refine customer segmentation and value proposition. This is where you will learn who you will initially target and get a heads up on what will be the most compelling value proposition for them. (See ‘Beta Testing Checklist Your Competition Doesn’t Want You to Have’)
  • Prepare a Scientific Road Show to connect with scientists through their research.  You have some great science.  Why not leverage that to connect with other scientists through their research.  The questions and conversations that will come from this effort are invaluable for tweaking your ‘go to market’ strategy (See ‘Taking Your Show on the Road: Using Your Science to Boost Sales’)
  • Create demos that highlight impact rather than features.  Nothing is more powerful than a compelling demo to confront skepticism. (See ‘The Technical Demonstration: 3 Tips to Insure Success’)
  • Use a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) plan to help smooth your launch.  Key Opinion Leaders can be a strong force for reinforcing the value of your innovation to the field.  (See ‘The Key to Key Opinion Leaders’)
  • Invest time and resources to creating scientific content that will be compelling to your future customers.  Consider starting an application focused blog, write white papers and present at industry conferences in the scientific forums. (See ‘Where Does the Science Belong in the Life Science Startup?’)

Picture Credit:  © Grafvision | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

The Power of Story: 3 Key Steps to Connecting Your Vision with Commercial Success

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

open book with watch on it

Take the time to craft the ‘story’ of how your offering will impact your customers to provide a focus and direction to your commercialization efforts

There are a million things to do to get your new ideas and discoveries into a finished product that will delight your customers.  This can be a very overwhelming experience as you are not only trying to determine what your product will be like when you launch but also how to talk about it to your investors, your prospects, partners and your team.  One unifying principal that can help here is to use the power of story to guide you through this process.  Think of the story you would like people to tell about your company and its product(s) years after its success.  When you take the time to do this, the path to success will seem a bit less treacherous.

Easier said than done
The key here is to focus on the interests of your target audience and realize that the narrative will be different for each of your stakeholders.  This is kind of like trying to come up with a story that will appeal to both children and adults (perhaps using a comic book version for kids and a novel for adults).  However, as challenging as this might seem to be, the process that you will follow to create the story of your company will ultimately provide you with the insights and focus you will need to move your company forward.

Step 1:  Start with Your Future Customers
Your new product will provide some new outcomes for your future customers.  This could be a new diagnostic test to guide medical treatment, a new tool or kit that will allow researches access to new information or perhaps even a significantly improved version of an existing product or service.  In each case, you need to find out how badly your customers would wish to overcome a particular issue and ultimately if they can envision your solution to it to be compelling.  From this effort you will know what your product or service needs to do for your customers (not just what it can do but what it must do).  This is the most critical story to get right.  You will be basically retelling this story of how your product or service impacts customers to your other stakeholders in the following steps.

Step 2:  Delight your Board and Investors
Use the insights that you gained from the previous step to build enthusiasm on your Board of Directors.  Being able to share testimonials from future customers, and statistics like, “90 percent of the people we targeted in our initial outreach said that they would pay $$$ today for our offering to fulfill this critical unmet need.”  Testimonials like this go a lot further than statistics from market reports that have been shoehorned to fit your business case with these stakeholders.  Remember your ‘audience’ prefers non-fiction over fiction here.

Step 3: Putting It All Together with Your Team
The feedback from your future customers in Step 1 will become the minimal set of performance and pricing characteristics for your first product(s).    Your development team can use this to produce the first prototype for alpha evaluations.  Your commercial team will have key insight into what will be a compelling value proposition to use to reach and win new customers.  If your board and investors liked your ‘story’ so far, they will have validated it with their approval and perhaps even some additional funding.

In Summary:

  • As early as possible, find out who will buy your products and for how much and why (what impact will your offering have on your customers).  – The Customer Needs and Solution Story.
  • Use real prospective customer feedback to further convince your stakeholders (Board of Directors and investors) to support your team.  – The Rags to Riches Story –non-fiction version
  • Provide your team with real outside feedback to guide your development efforts towards making the right product for the right customer at the right price at the right time.  – The Life Science Idea to Successful Biotechnology Company Story

Picture Credit:  © Tomloel | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Three Tips to Insuring That Your First Sales Are Not Your Last

3d line chart

Upward sales momentum is rarely smooth, especially in the early days. Use insights from your first customers to win the larger number of pragmatic customers that dominate your market.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Growing sales from your initial product launch requires a special approach with disruptive technology in the Life Sciences.   In a typical Life Science or biotech startup, your very first sales will likely come from some (hopefully most) of your beta evaluators.  Often, you will have a slew of sales at the beginning followed by a very frustrating period of time where every new sale takes a huge amount of time and effort to win.  Some have called this the ‘Valley of Death’ since it looks like your sales momentum has fallen off while you are burning through your capital reserves.

What’s going on?
Geoffrey Moore discusses this situation perfectly in his book “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers” (This book has become a classic and is a valuable source of insight to any entrepreneur with new technologically advanced products).  The premise here is that most if not all of your first customers are ‘Early Adopters’ but the market that you really want to reach and where the success and failure of your company hang in the balance is with ‘Mainstream Customers”.  There are never enough Early Adopter customers to be an attractive market.  However, these customers are valuable since they will help you to figure out how to reach the bigger market later on of the pragmatic ‘Mainstream Customer’.

Know thy customer
Knowing the difference between the characteristics of an ‘Early Adopter ‘ from  a ‘Mainstream Customer’ holds the key for getting across Moore’s ‘Chasm’ or the ‘Valley of Death.’  Here is how he defines both customer types:

Early Adopters … buy into new product concepts very early in their life cycle … they are people who find it easy to imagine, understand and appreciate the benefits of a new technology, and can relate these potential benefits to their concerns … [They] do not rely on well-established references in making … buying decisions, preferring instead to rely on their own intuition and vision…”1

“[Mainstream Customers] … are driven by a strong sense of practicality.  They know that many of these newfangled inventions end up as passing fads, so they are content to wait and see how other people are making out before they buy in themselves.  They want to see well-established references before investing substantially.”1

Tips for winning ‘Mainstream Customers’
The following tips have been field tested and shown to work.  They are based in part on the insights gained from knowing the difference on what it takes to appeal to your first customers and what is compelling to all the rest.

      • Build early credibility using Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s). – Learn who these people are from your first customers (you might think that you know who they are already, just validate this with these customers first).  Engage with these Key Opinion Leaders through collaborations, sponsorships and other ways (see  blog post ‘The Key to Key Opinion Leaders’ ) and get their endorsements and testimonials.
    • Get published – There is no better way to validate the impact of your new product though publication.  Work with your beta-evaluators and early customers to help them to publish.  Academic journal publications are most desirable but look to get poster presentations, articles in trade publications (printed and electronic) as well.  As good as the papers that your own scientists are publishing, the ones by outside investigators will hold the most value for the ‘mainstream customer’.
    • Stay visible while building credibility – Start a blog where you r scientists can showcase their mastery of this field of study and how your products are impacting your customers. (Be sure to keep your blog posts free of anything that looks and feels like an advertisement, keep this about the science)Where possible, see if you can get early customers and Key Opinion Leaders to be guest bloggers for you by submitting a post or two.


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