Tag Archives: Life Sciences

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, https://plus.google.com/+projectglass/posts )  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:

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Developing Opportunities in the Life Sciences: A Birds-Eye Review

Bald Eagle Soaring

Keeping a Birds-Eye view of the opportunities shaping the life sciences will allow you to develop effective strategies while keeping your head out of the clouds.

By:  Michael Kaiser

A brief preface: although the developing opportunities listed below refer to the life sciences, they can be adapted to the specific needs of other industrial sectors as well.

1. New Frontier: Stem Cells, Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Proteomics

a)  Stem Cells
bBioinformatics
c)  Genomics
d)  Proteomics

(See descriptions of a), b), c) and d) under “General References and Additional Reading”)

The high R&D cost of these “New Frontier” opportunities demands exposure and experience in dealing with academia, scientific personnel and the highest levels of corporate savvy and investment sources; their ultimate value more than merits the effort.

2. Biomaterials
Biomaterials include implant prosthesis, biochips, nanotechnology, fiber optics for minimally invasive implant or corrective surgery and biochemical suturing. They represent a valuable business opportunity for improving human health and a significant contribution in reducing healthcare costs.

3. Intellectual Property
This is a critical solution in protecting nascent opportunities in high-technology sectors. When the topic of intellectual property is discussed, one cannot but bring to mind the title that Kevin Rivette and David Kline came up for their book on the subject: “The Rembrandts in the Attic. Unlocking the Hidden Value of Patents”.

The potential legal implications of violating a patent requires the assistance of expert counsel in areas such as innovation, field of use, royalties, head-of-agreement terms, etc. Although being an expensive process that can negatively impact the financial resources of a biotechnology start-up, legal IP expertise also serves the purpose of prosecuting copy-cats.

4. Competitive Advantage
Competitive advantage: the key challenge and opportunity in commercial transactions and outcomes; its success lies in the axiom “Understand your competition as well, if not better than thyself”.

No company, be that a startup or established corporation, can afford the absence of competitive strategies. Skills in knowledge management and data mining are useful in the planning of corporate strategies in addition to the regular update of marketing e-commerce and social media tools used in the competitive analysis that precedes a successful commercialization. A clear understanding of information transfer technologies, e-commerce and sales and marketing tools is now an essential requirement in competitive analysis.

5. Entrepreneurship and Structure
Ideally, the entrepreneur enjoys and thrives while working in an innovative, fast-paced environment. However, the reality of the economic marketplace suggests that equal attention should be given to the role of ‘intrapreneurs‘, those executives who implement a formal corporate-like structure to reflect the vision of the entrepreneur’s initiative in a manner that conveys a more established and organized company image to investment sources.

6. Globalization
This one is the quintessential opportunity for any business sector and not just for a selected few because it implies an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the socioeconomic and political factors affecting the conduct of business in different regions. Just like we refer to startup companies, we can also refer to growing national economies, e.g., the BRIC countries.

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. Furthermore, the fact that the Internet became an effective communications facilitator in no way replaces the unique value of face-to-face personal contact in all endeavors of business, sciences and humanities.

7. Mergers and Acquisition; Strategy and Technology Evaluation
The impact of IT 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 capital companies have much higher expectations, with a short time horizon, for a return of their investments.

Therefore, the cost of M & A’s requires a thorough 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 technologies across corporate and international boundaries.

GENERAL REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL READING (Links)

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Never Giving Up After Failure Will Lead to Success

By: Kelsey McCormick, M.S.

Sky with sun and clouds

The passion of your team with the guidance of a regulatory expert will be critical factors in getting the approvals you need for commercial success.

You have to work through the “wrong” ones to get to the “right” one. What does that make you think of? It makes me think of 2 things: 1) Relationships, and 2) Drug Development. I know, you’re thinking, “huh?”

Think about it though . . . dating . . . how many people did you date before you found your “Mr.” or “Mrs. Right?” (Those who are still looking don’t give up!) Think of all the time, emotions and money spent on the “wrong” ones! In my case . . . there was a lot of “sifting” until I found my loving hubby (Brownie points if my husband actually reads this! Better yet, if he doesn’t mention this, he’s sleeping in the shed tonight because it means he didn’t read my newsletter!). It was from those “Mr. Wrongs” that I learned what I ultimately wanted (or didn’t want!) in a life partner! I am now happily married (10 years already!) with two wonderful kids (cue cheesy love song).

The regulatory challenge of drug development
Drug development . . . as you all probably know (and experience!), there is much failure in this amazing, but challenging industry we live in! It can be frustrating and draining to spend so much time, money and even emotion on a product, to then have it fail in Clinical Trials and never make it to market (cue depressing break-up song).

“In general, it costs an average of $800 million and takes 12 to 15 years before a drug makes it from the lab bench to your medicine cabinet!”(1)

The regulatory roadmap
It’s tough to summarize activities over 11-14 years, but in short (as most of you know), the process goes like this:

Drug discovery begins with an idea for a new disease target, often licensed from a university laboratory.

–Industry researchers start sifting through hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of compounds, looking for one that will hit the biological target.

–The lead candidate is tested in animals to look for toxic side effects and potential efficacy.

–IND Phase: clinical trials in humans. These trials eat up much of the development costs.

  • Phase 1: small number (about 20-80) of healthy volunteers to assess safety
  • Phase 2: medium number (about 100-300) of patients (affected by the disease the drug is indicated for) to assess efficacy, safety and pinpointing acceptable dose range
  • Phase 3: large number (about 1000-3000) of patients to assess efficacy, safety and identify side effects.

And even more depressing . . . only about 1 in every 5,000 drugs in development actually make it to market.

What you need to successfully navigate the regulatory roadmap
Talk about a high failure rate (kinda like youngins dating)! YUK! There’s a ton of detail that goes into the above lengthy process. It takes a lot of brains (like yours), a lot of hard work (like mine), and a lot of hope (optimists) to get to market.

In trying to find the bright side of each of these depressing realities, which in turn will help motivate us: as you see, the cost to develop a drug is ridiculously high . . . this helps me feel a little better when I go to buy an OTC or prescription drug and my wallet is quickly emptied! And with the high failure rate, I’m very comforted in knowing how detail-oriented, diligent and CAREFUL drug companies and the FDA are when developing these products and reviewing the data. Makes me feel a little safer knowing the process isn’t rushed just to get a drug on the market.

So how do we continue on with our daily jobs knowing the painfully low success rate in our industry? In my mind, it’s all about perspective, persistence and positive thinking.

Quick Tips:

  • As in dating, we have to weed through the bad ones to get to the good one! DON’T RUSH IT. There’s no turning back (well, not easily and pain-free anyway)!
  • Each failed drug or failed relationship is NOT a waste of time or money. TONS of useful information is gained from these processes. Stay positive no matter the results, and be proud of the work accomplished.
  • Take advantage of all the years of knowledge that’s out there (literature, colleagues), and consider similar products that have failed and/or been approved. You’ll have a head-start!
  • Know your competition . . . risk of failure is that much higher when someone else is developing a similar product with the same disease indication.
  • Have passion for the product you are developing . . . that helps maintain the positive attitude and “I won’t give up” mentality!

I won’t give up, every day that passes; every lesson learned . . . we are that much closer to ‘the one’.”

Notes:

  1. Cost and time line estimates based on over 15 years of industry experience of McCormick LifeScience Consultants, LLC.

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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

Beta Testing Checklist Your Competition Doesn’t Want You to Have

Laboratory glassware, symbolic graphic for beta testing

Beta testing insights will smooth product launches

By Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Beta testing done right can significantly improve the chances that your product launch will be a success.  When done wrong, this can be a terrible waste of time.  With this in mind the following checklist should keep your team on track for a successful launch.

        1. Select a technically savvy Product Manager or BD guy to lead the Beta Testing, not someone from the R&D team.
           The purpose of the beta is to confirm that you have created the best product to meet the needs of the customers you plan to target.  The intent here is not to modify the product, but to adjust the type of customer that you will target at the product launch. Technical feedback will be shared with the R&D team but this should be viewed as a commercialization effort.
        2. Identify a number of prospective Beta Evaluators that closely match the demographics of the customers you hope to win.
          You want to select those evaluators you believe will typify the customers that will purchase your product.  Keep the number as small as possible but large enough so that you get at least one or two evaluators who do not like your product (it is just a vital to know who your customer isn’t as who they are).
        3. Prepare Launch focused survey instrument.
          It is important to find out what each tester likes about your product as well as what they don’t.  This should not be a complicated or long survey but it should probe deep enough to give you insight on how to modify your positioning, marketing, technical support and their view of the competition.  This can be completed informally in a discussion or by asking to have the evaluator fill this out directly.
        4. Contact prospective beta evaluators and get commitments from them on what you expect them to do for you including timelines.
          Select the fewest number of beta testers that will give you the information that you need to insure a strong launch.  Managing this effort can be very labor intensive and can include travel and other expenses.  Keeping the number smaller will allow for a more manageable effort.
        5. Collect feedback testimonials to support your launch.
          Online surveys are OK.  However, the best way to do this is by meeting with the beta tester face to face.  You will get much more information and it is easier to get a testimonial or two from happy testers when you are meeting with them.
        6. Convert as many beta testers to paying customers as possible.
          One of the best measures of a successful beta evaluation is when the tester wants to continue using your product and is willing to pay for it.  It is easy to tell someone that they have a great product but there is no better validation than someone that is willing to back that up by purchasing your product.  Offer to sell them a unit at cost (if an instrument or piece of software) or at a deep discount on their first order if this is a consumable.

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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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Second to None Customer Experience: Beating the Goliaths

smile face on colored ping-pong balls

Great customer relationships = Powerful competitive advantages

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

The quality of the interaction your customers (both current and future) have with you in the early days of your company can be a powerful differentiator in the long term.  In fact, establishing a high level of customer care is something that startup companies with small customer bases have a decided advantage over larger competitors.  When you have only a few customers, you are able to actually speak with them on the phone to ease purchasing or handle technical issues.  Doing this in the early days can help to create a group of evangelists for your product(s) that will generate the kind of positive publicity that will help you win new customers and successfully compete.

Hold onto this advantage by growing with your customers
All of this may seem pretty self-evident.  However the key here is to make sure that your customer care efforts are scalable.  In the beginning, you may be able to plan visits, schedule direct meetings with your lead R&D team members and other activities that will delight your first customers.  However, these types of interactions are costly (with regard to time, effort and money) and are likely not sustainable as your customer base grows.

Maximizing your customer relations efforts
Use your early effort-intensive efforts to learn what particular customer relations efforts are most valued by your customers and begin to plan scalable, sustainable and cost effective alternative that can grow along with your increasing customer base.  Doing this early, will allow you to plan for the budgets, human resources and other efforts that will be required to maintain this.

The following list of Customer Relations Tactics is intended to kick-off the thinking that will lead to a winning strategy.

  • Smooth purchasing process
    • Small Customer Base: Every order handled in-person or by phone
    • Larger Customer Base: E-commerce, ‘Click here for quote’ button on online store, hire inside sales dedicated personnel
  • Caring technical support
    • Small Customer Base: Every issue handled in-person or by phone
    • Larger Customer Base: FAQ’s on website, ‘How-to’ videos, hire dedicated tech support personnel
  • Easily contactable
    • Small Customer Base: Encourage customers to call you with any issue anytime
    • Larger Customer Base: Encourage customers to contact via email, hire dedicated tech support and/or inside sales personnel to handle calls
  • Insuring customer satisfaction
    • Small Customer Base: Check in with all customers by phone or in-person
    • Larger Customer Base: Check in with a customers by e-mail (automatically set up at the time of sale), periodically send out satisfaction surveys, randomly select a subset of customers for calls by dedicated inside sales personnel.

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