Category Archives: Marketing

Avoid the Siren Song of ‘Going Viral’: The Most Powerful SEO is Great Content

Pencil, Pen and Ink Pen

Great writing is the best way to attract a great audience and great customers!

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

The promise of the ‘viral potential’ of electronic media is very attractive but ultimately is a lost cause if what you have to say is not compelling.  Whether you are setting up your company website, kicking off a blog, launching a Facebook page or using any of the other avenues for communication that are available today,  the most important question to answer is: “Who would want to read this and why?”

It can seem overwhelming and there are firms that will promise that with just the right Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that your message will soon be in front of millions of potential customers.  Even if this were true, remember that although it just took a mouse click to visit your site that it takes the same amount of effort to click away from it.  Your goal is to attract the attention of people that will actually find what you are saying to be valuable to them.  Whether this is a blog post, or a section of your website, an interested visitor is more likely to further explore more of your content and in time may even include a request for more information, ask for a quote or even make a purchase from your e-commerce site.

The secret to making this work is to provide only quality content. You will be much better received by the viewing public by offering an insight or a new perspective on the latest trends in your field than an ad for your product or service masquerading as an interesting article.

Writing great content is easier said than done.  In the end whether it is great or not is something your readers will determine.    Here are a few tips to help you get started:

For Blog Posts, Newsletters, White Papers and Application Notes

  • Write down a list of ten article titles that are interesting to you. (If you find it difficult to do this at one sitting, consider a different topic area.  If the area you plan to write about is truly aligned with your interests and passions this should be easy to do)
  • Over the next month, start writing the articles for each of these titles.  Don’t worry if the English isn’t right or if they seem a little bit rough at the beginning.   Remember, this is a first draft
  • Allow a day or two before revisiting your first drafts.  Those that are good but need work will be easily distinguished from those that should be discarded with the clearer perspective you will have by reviewing them after a day or so
  • Consider adding  pictures, tables and/or figures to increase the visual interest and clarity of your pieces
  • For blogs, consider keeping them to one topic per post.  If when writing your post you find that there are several topics in it, split it up afterwards.  (This allows you to increase the focus and relevance of each piece for the widest possible audience)
  • Once you have 10 to 15 of these articles prepared and edited to final form, you are ready to publish them.

For Websites and Facebook Pages

  • Be sure to check the site statistics from time to time to see which of your pages and/or content are most interesting to your visitors.  Use the site analytics data to help you to improve your content over time by providing more of the things that you audience has shown an interest
  • Edit your drafts with an emphasis on ways to make things more concise if possible. (Less is more here)
  • Consider using bullet points and short descriptions rather than full sentences and paragraphs where possible
  • Take advantage of illustrations, pictures and short videos to tell your story and/or explain your technology
  • Consider using bolded or otherwise highlighted lines to head each paragraph of a multi-paragraph piece.  This allows site visitors to quickly scan your material and focus on those areas that they find most interesting and relevant to them.  Not everyone will want to read your entire piece

Creating quality content is a big job and requires significant time, effort and commitment to keep delivering the fresh and original materials that will engage your audience and advance your commercial goals.  However, the extra effort you spend here will provide for far better outcomes than any SEO gimmicks and other tricks.

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

Where Does the Science Belong in the Life Science Startup?

Old microscope

Give your customers a chance to ask you about your science.

By: Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

One of the best things you can do for your new Life Science Company is to engage with potential customers through your innovative new technology.  However, there is a time and place for this.  The following simple Do’s and Don’ts will help you to get right what most companies (even some of the big ones) get wrong.

Although science is at the heart of your company, it is the products that you have created that are based on this science that are most meaningful to your customers.  Think of it this way, you likely selected your cell phone or car based on what these things can do for you and how they impact your life.  This is the same thing that happens when a Life Scientist is looking to purchase new products that will help their research program.

This means that it is vitally important to clearly communicate how your product (not your science) will impact a customer.  Once a potential customer is intrigued by your product, some of them (not all) will further be interested in your science and/or technology (often to validate the claims you made earlier).

Do:

Blog:
Start a blog (linked or part of your website) where you discuss your science.  Don’t make this an ad but share applications and ask happy customers to guest blog for you to connect with others in your field.  In time, this can help you and your company become considered subject matter experts which will ultimately drive new prospects to contact you.

Write White Papers
Pick key applications using your product and share them as white papers.  These should be accessible from your website.  Consider posting downloadable versions in a PDF format for convenience.

Produce YouTube video:
Creating quick 2 – 3 minute how-to videos and/or application notes in video format is a good way to take advantage of this medium.  When people are searching for solutions on the web, having some videos can help improve your rankings and your chances of showing up high on the first page of the search results.

Create Tradeshow Booth Graphics:
Have compelling graphics that catch the eye and perhaps some copy that emphasizes the impact of your product (e.g. allows you to measure something new for the first time, is higher throughput than the competition, produces data with tighter CV’s etc.)  You will have plenty of time to discuss science should visitors wish.

Don’t

Explain your science or technology on your Website homepage:
This is where you clearly indicate what you are offering.  This is what you offer not who you are.  (A quick survey by the author of over 500 Life Science company websites showed that nearly 80% of them got this wrong)

Load Brochures and other Sales Collateral with lots of content about the science:
Make sure that the number one message here is how your product will positively impact your customer.  On longer format pieces like tri-fold brochures, a brief very high level summary of the technology behind the product can be appropriate but his should clearly take second place to helping prospective customers see how your product or service will affect their research program.

In Summary:

  • Put the impact of your product on your customer’s research first in your marketing communications
  • Back up your claims with the science in a succinct  way
  • Create a separate page on your website where all of the detailed description and other resource material can be easily found

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Life Sciences in 2013: Startup Opportunities and Challenges

girl on beach at sunrise

Use these Life Sciences market insights from 2012 to maximize your opportunities in 2013

By:  Michael Kaiser

The New Frontier: Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics
The Human Genome Project opened the floodgates for three closely intertwined disciplines:

  • Bioinformatics provide new database methods to store genomic information, evaluation of experimental data and improvement of molecular techniques.
  • It incorporates data from multiple departments within pharma/biotech companies and it is a critical tool for the design and management of smart databases.
  • Genomics is an area that is the vehicle for a dramatic increase in therapeutic and diagnostic pipelines, with a worldwide market potential in the billions of dollars. Genomics is divided into structural and functional areas, the former involving the use of genetic and molecular methods to develop genome maps, the latter aims to discover the biological function of particular genes in health and disease, primarily through high-throughput screening techniques.
  • Proteomics has been described as the link between genetics and pharmaceuticals. The fulcrum of this discipline lies in the proteome, the complement of proteins that are key to the discovery and development of new drugs and this fact explains its scientific and commercial importance for the biopharma sector.

The foregoing demands exposure and experience in dealing with academia, scientific personnel and the highest levels of corporate decision marketing.

Healthcare
The analysis of epidemiological trends allows biotech and pharmaceutical companies to direct their drug discovery and/or marketing efforts. Significant business opportunities exist for development and licensing. For instance, biomaterials may include implant prosthesis, fiber optics for minimally invasive implant or corrective surgery, and biochemical suturing, a significant business opportunity in improving healthcare and a significant contribution in reducing healthcare costs.

Home work
An essential component of the life sciences, it covers areas such as intellectual property, field of use, royalties, head-of-agreement terms, etc. Complex negotiations require the expert advice of specialized legal counsel, experience in business and corporate development, inclusive of technology evaluation (licenses, patents, time-to-market) and last but definitely not least, investor relations.

Competition
Here the key is: “Understand your competition as well, if not better than thyself“.
To that end the development of net-centric skills in knowledge management and data mining proved to be very useful to start-up and established life sciences companies in the planning of their corporate strategies. A clear understanding of e-commerce and sales and marketing tools is now an essential requirement in competitive analysis.

Entrepreneurship
To be one is to understand one. A background in multinational corporations and start-up companies is a plus. Ideally, the entrepreneur will thrive by working in an innovative, fast-paced environment. However, the reality of the economic marketplace dictates that equal attention be given to the ‘intrapreneurs’, those individuals who, from within a formalized corporate structure, implement effectively the vision of the entrepreneur. This is a truly symbiotic relationship.

Globalization
The liberalization of world trade and the integration of regional markets such as the EU, NAFTA and ASEAN dovetail with organizations such as the WTO and GATT. Paradoxically, in the process of lowering trade barriers the pendulum has swung too far and we see an increase in protectionism by both industrial countries and newly industrialized ones. The fact that the Internet has become an effective business facilitator has not replaced the personal contact in science and humanities. In a global economy, dealing with diverse cultures is a clear and professional success marker.

Mergers and Acquisitions; Strategy; Technology Evaluation
The impact of IT on the life sciences has accelerated the process of consolidation and integration in the life sciences, particularly in those cases where a large pharmaceutical concern and a biotechnology company with a valuable technology platform are concerned. Shareholders, institutional investors and venture capitalists have much higher expectations, with a short time horizon, for a return on their investment.

To meet this challenge, due diligence and expert advice in investor relations, marketing and corporate development will allow start-ups to identify and execute the driving forces of this process. The cost of mergers and acquisitions requires careful analysis of corporate synergies, innovative financial instruments and fundamentals, experienced investment bankers and financial institutions, assessment of net present valuation and internal rate of revenue, evaluation of technology and future corporate strategy, top management succession, and ability to transfer technology across corporate and international boundaries.

Picture Credit:  © Radim.spitzer@gmail.com | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Customer Engagement: A Startup Secret Weapon

man with coffee, customer engagement

Never underestimate the power of sharing a cup of coffee!

By Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Why now
Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is vital to begin customer engagement activities long before you have a product to sell to them.  This is especially true when you have an innovative new concept and will potentially be first to market.  Failure to engage with your customers early will more often than not lead to, at best, wasting a lot of time and effort working on features that are unimportant to your customers and at worst, launching the wrong product.

The value of a good relationship with your future customers
Customer engagement is not marketing.  It is any activity that fosters two-way communication with your customers.  This is where you will find out exactly what features of your product will be most important and also who most values them (customer segmentation).   The reason that it is critical to begin doing this early is that the insights you gain from your future customers will allow you to more accurately determine the critical product specifications that will delight your customers when you launch.

Some Customer Engagement Tactics:

    • Face-to-face meetings
      This is the best way to confirm that your product and its feature set is right for your customer.  You get the most information this way and non-verbal reactions to your product or feature set proposals are worth the time and effort that this method requires
    • Phone feedback
      Follow-up phone conversations with customers that you have already met face-to-face.  This can be a good way to validate any changes to your product concept that you made based on the feedback you received from your prior prototype
  • Social media
    Start and maintain a blog to get additional and ongoing feedback.  (Be sure that you allow commenting and respond to those comments – remember this is a conversation).

    Share your concepts on a short YouTube video (2 – 3 minutes max.) and end with a question, your website and e-mail contact info.

    Consider setting up a Facebook page for the business and initially use it to drive traffic to your website and blog.

    Use Twitter to stay ‘in-the- know’ of late breaking changes in your industry by following Key Opinion Leaders.  Don’t just lurk, ask questions.

    Use LinkedIn to find new people to connect with that could become customers for you.  Once you think you know who your customer is, use LinkedIn to help you connect with them and then schedule a time for a face-to-face or phone conversation.

Get started now
Ideally, you will begin engaging with your customers prior to any alpha testing.  Start now because the earlier you start the better you will limit the costs and delays of rework.    The company leadership should be conducting these and ideally the Founder/President is part of this effort as well.

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

Alpha Evaluations: Going from Great Science to Great Products

OK sign made by hand

Give your customers what they want with great alpha testing.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Why do alpha testing?
Alpha evaluations, also known as alpha testing, can be a crucial way to reduce the risk of launching a product that will not be accepted by your customers.  When alpha testing is done well, this can provide crucial insights on how well your final product is going to be valued by customers and what is not.  A good early understanding of these product attributes will save you considerable effort and expense during your product development.   Essentially, this effort will tell you how to best transform your innovative science into products your customers will want (and purchase).

Alpha evaluations are:

        • Run by R&D not Product Management
          • These efforts should provide R&D with the insights they need to make changes to the product performance and/or feature set.  Further R&D may be necessary if the current prototype does not meet the performance expectations of your target customers.  Remember to keep product management in the loop during this effort though.
        • Tests of very early prototypes to gauge customer acceptance of proposed product
          • For software products, consider creating a mockup of what the software will be like using PowerPoint slides.   You walk the evaluator through what each tab and feature might be like very quickly with a minimum of up-front effort.
          •  For reagent products or kits, don’t worry about any fancy labels or packaging.  Prepare some samples and use them with your tester.  It is important not to just send them to the tester and ask for feedback but really to work side by side with them in your lab or theirs to maximize getting the most relevant feedback on your current concept.
          • For instrumentation or equipment, bring ‘bread-board’ version or other mock up prototype to tester’s lab or invite them into yours, for the evaluation.  This does not need to be ‘pretty’ and not all of the functionality needs to be in place.  You want to get feedback on the core function of your instrument or equipment to see how well they accept it.
        • A source of customer insights that will change your final product
          • Unlike beta testing, changes to the product will be made based on alpha evaluator feedback.  Be sure to get feedback on the desired (or expected) performance characteristics of your proposed product (e.g. acceptable linear dynamic range, sensitivity limits, through-put, ease of use etc.)

Important safety tip
Beware the danger of this effort becoming a research project (leading to time and cost overruns not to mention confounding your commercialization plans).  Alpha testing is not feasibility testing or discovery research.  The goal of this effort is to see if the current concept for your product will be valued by potential customers.  At this point, it is assumed that the underlying science works.  Set specific goals for what you hope to learn and stick to that.

When not to do alpha testing
Alpha evaluations may not always be appropriate.  If you are making a better version of an existing product (yours or a competitors) alpha testing is most likely not needed since you already have plenty of information on what customers like and don’t like about the current offering(s).  Use alpha testing when you can’t easily answer “yes” to this this statement.

“The design of my current product offering will meet or exceed the expectations of my customers.”

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Building Buzz while Avoiding the Buzz Saw: Public Relations and the Life Science Start Up

Honeybee on a flower

Get the PR buzz you want, avoid getting stung by bad press

By Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

You have a ton of things to do to get ready for your product launch at the upcoming trade show.  You have got your website in great shape, you have product on the shelf, trained your sales team and/or partners and have a great booth.  You have even spent some valuable marketing dollars to promote your product.  Public relations is often neglected and mainly because it is often confused with marketing.  In its starkest definition, marketing looks to build a positive image and its products to a target audience though advertising and other paid means.  Good public relations looks to do this in an unpaid and perhaps more organic matter.

Public Relations is…
A good PR strategy will include interviews with reporters (both in trade journals and potentially in the mass media as well), speaking engagements, arranging to be on influential panels at scientific meetings and, if appropriate, on state and local panels when your products could have an impact with the general public like a new diagnostic or therapeutic offering.

Why You Want a Professional for This
This is often an effort that is best delegated to a professional.  A good PR consultant will often have a ready contact list of key people that will get you the interviews, articles and speaking engagements that will not only help to increase your visibility to potential customers but will also generate the valuable but hard to grasp concept of ‘buzz’.  A PR firm or consultant can also help to resolve any bad press or negative reactions in the media and on the web should that occur (that’s the buzz saw, in case you were keeping track).

Quick Tips:

  • Do develop a PR strategy with a PR Firm or experienced consultant
    Unless someone on your team is an experienced PR person with all of the contacts you need, include this in your business plan budget as part of your commercialization plan.
  • Do Make sure your website is up and running and contains compelling content
    When your PR activities generate ‘buzz’, you want interested parties to have ready access to additional high quality content.
  • Do prepare a ‘Media Kit’ to better manage your brand and image.
    Put a tab on your website that contains high quality images, logos and other resources that journalists and other media folks can use when they write about your company.  This gives you better (not absolute) control of how your logo and products are conveyed and helps to generate the positive impressions you hope to foster.

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The Hand-Shake Co-marketing Agreement: What every Life Science Company Should Know

Hand shake

Keep agreements simple to start – build on those that work!

By Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Complicated co-marketing agreements use up a lot of time and often produce no results.  How many times have you met with another company at an industry event and talked about how great both of your products would sell to your respective customers, go home with high expectations only to have nothing really happen.

Here are two questions you should ask yourself before proceeding:

  • How much time and effort would I expend promoting/selling my new partners product instead of my own?
  • Will they do the same thing for me?

If the answers to these questions are  ‘not much time and effort’, politely move on and find a partner with a better fit.  If you really believe that your partner’s customers would appreciate learning about your product and vice versa, read on.

When your product and theirs together might be valuable for some of your respective customers, this can work.  You have an instrument – they have analysis software—you have a reagent kit –they have the instrument etc.

Handshake Agreements Start Very Simply:

  1. Determine value proposition of both of your products together
  2. Pick a few of your current customers that might be interested in your new partner’s product and contact them on behalf of your new partner
  3. Provide warm introductions for you partner to these customers.  They should be doing the same thing. (Suggest starting with 3 or 4 introductions)
  4. Assess how valuable the leads that you got were from your new partner.

Continue or dissolve the relationship based on how well this is helping you with your sales.

Keeping things simple will allow you to avoid wasting money and time on initially exciting but ultimately ill-fated relationships.  Once you have developed a successful relationship based on your handshake (i.e. informal agreement), transitioning to a more formal agreement will be much easier and productive.

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