Tag Archives: KOL’s

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.


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

The Key to Key Opinion Leaders

cartton of group of grey people following red-colored leader

Motivated ‘Key Opinion Leaders’ can really help you to reach new customers before there is a compelling publication record.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

One of the best ways to validate your new technology with your customers is with publications (especially those of happy customers).  What do you do when you don’t have them yet?  Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs can be a great resource for getting things moving in the early days before there is a compelling publication record.

Who are they?
Although most scientist-founders will easily be able to name the key people in their field, it is important to find out who your future customers regard as the Key Opinion Leaders.  Set up meetings with your customers, face-to-face if possible, over coffee, in their labs, at trade shows and everywhere and anywhere that you can.  You want to generate a candidate list of about 10 – 15 Key Opinion Leaders.  During this discovery process, be sure to ask who the ‘up-and-coming’ leaders in the field are as well.  The top people can be fickle as they are courted by many whereas the leaders of tomorrow tend to show more loyalty (The up-coming leaders will likely value the relationship more since it can have a bigger impact on their own careers).

Who gets what out of this?
Your goal is to develop a relationship that you and the Key Opinion Leader highly value.  When you and your company are valued, the Key Opinion Leader will talk about you at industry conferences, provide valuable insights on what the key issues in the field are and many other tangible and intangible benefits that will help you with your product launch and even early sales.  Putting some thought into what you hope to get out of the relationship as well as the benefits for the Key Opinion Leader are essential to maximizing this effort.  The two lists below are some examples of the types of things to be considered.

What They Get from You

  • Free conference attendance and travel
  • Early access to instrument or product
  • Free instrument, supplies etc.
  • Completion of a small study by your  R&D team on their  behalf
  • Increased visibility among their peers as you promote them

What You Get from Them

  • Keynote speakerships at tradeshows
  • Completion of a small study on your behalf
  • Testimonials for your marketing team
  • Publications with your product (eventually)
  • Early insights in the field with regard to trends and opportunities

Ready, Set, Go!
Now that you know who the Key Opinion Leaders are that your customers most highly regard and what you will do for each other, it is time to reach out to them.  These early discussions can set the stage for how well this effort will turn out for both of you.  Share with them what you hope to gain and what they could expect to gain from the relationship.  By the end of this you should have agreement on outcomes, timelines for when  you and they expect to deliver on your commitments, how any issues that come up should be resolved and how frequently you will connect to discuss progress (aim for at least once a month if not more).  Having a plan like this in place at the outset will insure that everyone’s expectations are in line and will give you the best possible chance for a successful outcome.

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