Category Archives: Social Media

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.


Picture Credit:  fensterbme via photopin cc

Google Glass: A Primer for the Life Sciences Market

By:  Chris Cullmann

Google Glass

Google Glass

Your rep is in the lab because your customer is tweeting his 2000+ followers that the $300K sequencing system your company just installed is “a piece of garbage.”

“Poor resolution. Unreliable reproducibility. Low reads. I might as well do this manually” says your customer, the director of a regional sequencing center.

The rep picks up the vial of polymerase from the ice bucket long enough to tell her Google Glass (AKA “Glass”) to scan the lot-number bar code and check the corporate database for manufacturing date and for other complaints. Moments later, her Glass display indicates that 4 labs in the US, 3 in London, and 6 facilities in Italy reported similar issues. The rep verbally tells Glass to add her complaint to the database and to e-mail her manager and the director of quality control about the issue.

Your rep replaces the suspect lot with the one she brought to the lab and tells Glass to add to her calendar a follow-up visit to the same lab in 2 days to check on the performance of the new enzyme prep, and then moves on to her next account, but not before she tells Glass to e-mail her manager that she’s on the way.

Google Glass can accomplish some of these functions today. Now is the time to prepare for what Glass will accomplish tomorrow.

Google Glass: how it works
Google Glass is the most recognizable example of a new generation of connected devices—wearable computing. When paired with an Internet-connected smartphone, Glass provides users with information delivered via the Internet and stored in the paired phone. Glass also records images, video, and audio from the user’s perspective.

The concept of Glass is brilliantly simple—provide information to users in a discrete heads-up display in the wearer’s peripheral vision. The computing elements and display populate an eyeglass-like unit that the user wears like standard eyeglasses. Via audio prompts, users access information from search engines, personal files, calendar events, text messages, and beyond.

Much of this functionality is available on our smartphones right now. Why is this so exciting and such a noteworthy change?

Glass delivers on the promise of science fiction writers and IT department heads—a near-neural implant putting all your company’s (and the world’s) information available on command.

Today: a capabilities showcase
Out of the box, Glass provides seamless integration with Google’s own services. Text messages, search, calendar events, video-chat service “Hangouts,” and social sharing via Google+ all are integrated into Glass. It’s a demonstration of capabilities and integration above all else. But keep in mind that the product is still in beta testing and not commercially available.

If you’re searching for a broader context, the message from Google is clear: “Glass is coming.”

Tomorrow: a new interface for information management
At face value, the most powerful feature of Glass is the ability to share, on command, photos and video from the point-of-view camera. Imagery captured via Glass documents and details an activity or event, and does so in real time. Sharing experiences and creating a new genre of digital first-person media are key components of the Glass value proposition.

Sharing information in real time
From a commercial standpoint, the ability to simulcast makes it a tremendous utility for the scientific, healthcare, and education communities. What makes Glass so powerful? Unlike smartphones, wearable technology records, transmits, and receives audio and visual feedback non-disruptively.

Scientists can gain the insights of peers or groups of peers and spawn symposia of in-the-moment discourse. Clinical researchers can leverage expertise from the other side of the globe to diagnose and treat patients. Sales teams can get in-field feedback and tips from sales veterans or support teams to provide the expertise of an entire company—on the spot.

As described at the beginning of this article, the love would flow in both directions. Field information from the user’s point of view—images, video, and audio—could be captured, stored, and made available for distribution throughout the entire business enterprise.

Making Glass work in the business world
Glass has been a toe in the water for wearable computing, and it’s not difficult to envision how something so integrated can change how we apply information and technology to our daily business lives. Does Glass become a new interface for the infrastructure we already use?

Yes. Good or bad, enterprise will quickly adopt Glass or it’s next iteration as a way to provide workers with access to the spectrum of corporate information and wisdom, including but not limited to:

  • Inventory
  • Up-to-the-minute pricing information
  • Product identification
  • Customer information

Let’s take a closer look at customer information, but with a focus on context.

Glass can provide a discrete vehicle for information about our contacts. Who are they? Who are they connected to? Do they have decision-making ability? Are they eligible for discounts? What is the financial status of their account?

It doesn’t take long to see how tools like Glass can evolve business practices, but there are real-world issues that need to be addressed.

Etiquette and legality
Our social construct is changing quickly. Consider the issues raised by existing mobile technologies. Is it acceptable to take a phone call during a conversation or to rely on a tablet for note taking during meetings? The agreed-upon norms are changing daily and without much perspective on generational differences.

So what will be the social implications of Google Glass and subsequent wearable computers? How will the ability of Glass to capture information at any time be received? At meetings will Glass be as acceptable as open laptops and tablets, or will its use be restricted?

Confidential information and privacy. These are critical issues for academic and commercial research in the life sciences and for the public at large, so much so that Google is unsure what functionality to include in Glass and how much data should be made accessible to Google or other parties. For example, Google has developed facial recognition technology, but doesn’t include it with Glass (or its Android operating system). The technology would enable a Glass user to capture an image of any person at any time, identify them, and deliver as much information that is publicly available to the Glass user without the observed person’s knowledge.

Your customers might consider the above an invasion of their privacy.

But similar recognition technology applied to bar codes or other labels could also benefit life science researchers:

  • By identifying hazardous materials and providing safe-handling instructions
  • By recognizing equipment and providing instructions in the heads-up display

Many commercial life science businesses bar their employees and vendors from bringing image-capturing devices into their facilities. Despite the many benefits of data capture and recognition technologies, rules have to be developed that will impact Glass deployment and use.

Can Google Glass become a crystal ball?
Currently, most everything that Google Glass does is reactive. You command, Glass acts.

The vision for Glass is to predict your needs and provide the information—before it’s needed—which might be its greatest challenge and most significant accomplishment.

In this capacity, Glass would analyse your digital activity (e-mail, product ordering, journal-article downloads, visits to help forums such as Scientist Solutions and Biocompare) to search for patterns. Over time, such trends would comprise a large information fabric that would be mined for insights that inform accurate predictions.

Google Glass is a bellwether
Relevant information that is ubiquitous, accessible on demand, and rapidly shared is central to business success. Glass advances this cause by speeding the evolution of information management from desktop experience to the Internet.

Glass isn’t in final form, but a first glimpse. Like viewing the first television, it provides a view of something very important to your business world. Glass isn’t commercially available and registration for beta trials closed, but you can sign up for Glass updates.

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:

Picture Credit:  filip.farag via photopin cc

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