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Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Bridge Too Far


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Bridge Too Far” is the title of a book and a movie filmed in 1977.  The film and book provide a 1944 account of the unsuccessful attempt of the Allied forces during WWII to out-flank the German troops during Operation Market Garden.   A difference of views on the success of the mission exists, but the leader of the Allied forces on the mission implied the mission was not a success.  The mission failure was partly due to the inability to hold the Arnhem road bridge.  As rumor has it, one of the generals suggested the effort was a bridge too far, meaning they went further than rear-supporting infrastructure would support them.

Developing a business is like fighting a battle. It requires development of appropriate infrastructure.  The timings and meshing of all activities must support the drive forward.  Failure to meet a critical milestone or initiate an important effort can dramatically affect progress.  This is part of the reason that project planning is so critical to your business. 

One excellent example of the critical role of project planning comes in the development of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.   In pharmaceutical development, project planning is ESSENTIAL.  Clinical development can take more than 5 years with costs ranging from $20 - $500M. The FDA regulates all drugs and their approvals. The FDA requires that submissions for approval include the manufacturing data for commercial supply.  This includes demonstration that the commercial supply works properly as demonstrated by data collected in the final phases of drug development. 

Manufacturing of a drug and scaling up the process can take significant time.  In some cases, the timings for the scale-up are a few years.  The matching of the manufacturing and clinical development timings are essential if the company wants to incorporate the drug made by the scaled-up process into the final phase of the clinical development: a necessity since the data is ESSENTIAL to an approval by the FDA.

The marketing of a drug must be consistent with the FDA approved claims for that drug.  For claims to match the marketing efforts, design of all clinical studies must support the demonstration of the drug ability to perform as claimed.  This means that all clinical study designs lead to the demonstration that the data proves the claims are valid.  Failure to match the data to the claims will result in an inability to market the product in an appropriate manner.  The whole business process in the pharmaceutical area requires a serious match up of timings and development of supporting infrastructure.  Failure to plan and properly support each activity can lead to delays, failed approvals, poor marketing data, failed product launches, and more. 

Similarly, technology companies must plan their efforts and ensure the proper infrastructure is available to support development and marketing.  There may be differences in regulatory structures, manufacturing, and marketing, but the matching of each phase of the business is essential to proper development.  It is essential that as the leader and founder of your company that you develop parallel efforts and overlay them to ensure a match of all phases leading to the final product.  Then develop proper infrastructure and support to ensure their success.  Otherwise, you risk going “A Bridge Too Far” and may fail to reach your goals!
Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte,NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Entrepreneurs must excel at selling

Entrepreneurs learn to sell and negotiate or they never get to YES!
A recent comment via friends (@RevenueDoctor & @Bill_Simmel ) on Twitter reminded me of the quote by Zig Ziglar:   Every sale has 5 basic obstacles: No Need, No Money, No Hurry, No Desire and No Trust.”   The need to overcome the obstacles and close a sale is critical if a company wants to survive.  Sales are essential to prepare for even before the product comes to market.    




Marketing and sales of medical products are even more complex than many other types of products.  The regulatory requirements of the FDA ensure that approvals are supported by validated and solid statistical studies.  Any marketing claims not properly documented supported by data result in severe responses by the FDA.  It is even possible to go to jail if the infractions are severe enough.   The need to match the marketing claims to data collected to support the claims is the reason many companies have a marketing person closely involved in any study designs leading to a product approval.  Thus, an additional obstacle to overcome is “insufficient data.”   This obstacle also flows to the medical site where the sale takes place.  The physicians review the data and may fail to adopt the product usage for lack of data, loss of patient to a different practice, or other means, i.e. “loss of revenue.  The control of the patient and revenue to the medical practice is critical to each practice.  As a sales person, you may overcome all of the 5 basic obstacles Ziglar lists, but the insufficient data and loss of revenue are two that will kill a medical sale even quicker.

Entrepreneurs need to understand the dynamics of the market place for medical sales and they need to convince investors to participate with their money.  This attraction of investors is no small task.  The last decade has contributed to a downturn in the VC funds and other investors willing to take on such risky investments.  There are numerous companies with fantastic product ideas in development all competing for the limited capital in the sector.  The risk tolerance of the investors is understandable since many of the VC firms fail to come close to the returns their partners thought were possible.  The larger number of companies in later stages of development results in a wider selection and greater competition for the money from the remaining viable funds.  In turn, this results in cherry picking of the more developed and therefore less risky investment opportunities.

The selling process to the investors by the entrepreneurs in the medical sector is requires two selling aspects:  1) they need to demonstrate that they understand and can competitively market and sale their developed product, and 2) they need to convince the investors to support the growth of the company.  The investors will actually review the first criteria as part of their diligence on the company.  The diligence never starts if the entrepreneur fails to sell the idea of the company to the investor. 

A different set of issues and criteria may occur in other fields.  The thought that starting a company requires a great idea is only part of the equation.  Entrepreneurs must understand their markets and sales criteria for the products.  They must also be able to sell the idea of the company to the investor community and negotiate the best deals possible.  Getting to YES is difficult and knowledge of selling and negotiating is essential.  Several criteria help take a company grow from the early startup to a huge success.  Nearly every criterion requires some ability to sell something to someone and negotiate the result.  In short, entrepreneurs must become master salespeople and negotiators and use these skills to grow the company.  

 

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Know the competition and key decision maker before your next pitch

My tactor is GREEN and the others RED.  That is just what you need to improve your business!

Planning a business and developing a sales pitch for customers, partners, or investors is part of the startup effort.  The advantages of the technology or products become part of the CEO’s pitch to show the listener how they will benefit from an engagement with the startup.  Everyone is aware that competition exists.  However, it is not always so easy to determine whether competitors known or unknown visited your audience previously. 
Sometimes a listener asks about your awareness of company X that has similar technology.    On other occasions, they may ask how you differ from other technologies in the same field.  Every entrepreneur believes his or her technology is unique and special.  They cite the advantages and special considerations of why they are the preferred business.  However, many times the CEO and team are not aware of all of their competitors or what the competitive pitches. It is surprising to hear that competitors are claiming to have all they key advantages of your products and team.  It is hard to counter this comment when nothing is known about the competitor.
A great technology has features that separate it from the others.  The benefits are important to define and describe to the listener.  It is critical the listener see how the technology will benefit the customer and how the company will drive use of the product.  Demonstrating these factors is what most CEOs do in their pitch.  The question and answer segment that takes place after the pitch is where surprises can occur.  The following is a summary of a session that stumped the team:
               Customer:  “We love what you have and immediately see the benefits.”
 
               Company:  “How can we partner to advance the technology?”
 
               Customer: “You should adjust your pitch to include info which we described as important.  Then plan to give your pitch to person Y. 
 
               Company:  “Great we will do just that.  Keep in mind the advantages of our technology and   how much it will benefit you.”
 
               Customer: “You should know there have been a number of companies making a nearly identical pitch and stating they have all the same advantages.  Just keep that in mind when you speak with person Y.”
  
What happened in this discussion were two very important things; 1) the people the team thought were the decision makers were NOT, and 2) the company was not aware of stealth companies pitching nearly identical technologies.  This happens more than one would like.  It is not enough to have a green tractor while everyone has a different color.  You must have and describe real advantages you bring to the relationship.  This includes a differentiation of your technology from that of the competition.  It is not possible to show how your technology is the best if you have not identified all the competition.  There are unknown competitors, so do not act surprised when someone tells you about them in a meeting.
The key is maintaining a constant vigilance for the competition.  Create a slide as part of your pitch and highlight how and why your technology is better for the listener than others they have seen.   Expect to find someone bring up a company you never heard of or a vague reference to undefined competition.  Make every effort to learn more about the competition and modify your presentation accordingly.  You may get the opportunity to send the listener a follow up email or phone call to describe what you have learned.  If you have the incorrect decision maker, establish whom the best person would be to make a follow up presentation.  Most often, the listeners will provide the info if you ask politely. 
Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Monday, October 1, 2012

First to market with CRAP detracts and loses business


Open for business should be with a great final product
Everyone must have heard of the iPhone map problem.  Apple wanted to move away from Google and decided to provide their mapping application.  Not sure where the breakdown occurred but the company failed to adequately test the final product and Apple launched an inferior map application.  The CEO apologized and suggested that people use the Google Map application until Apple resolved the problem.  Apple can weather these storms because of their size, dominance in the market, and wealth.  The demand for their products will continue and this minor glitch will eventually fade from memory.  Startups and early stage business companies may not find the same acceptance in the market place when presenting inferior products.

The drive to produce products as rapidly as possible is part of the makeup of startups.  It is easy to develop aggressive timelines and drive the team to meet them.  Sometimes teams take shortcuts to meet the timelines and this has the potential to accelerate development but it can also allow for creation of unexpected errors.  The effects of detected or undetected errors on the business can be rather significant when problems occur with your users.

The issues can be even more complex when the acceleration occurs in regulated areas like those with the FDA.  Pushing the product too fast without proper development of manufacturing can result in issues so complex the FDA withholds approval.  This means no product launch until resolution of manufacturing issues and final site and process approval by FDA approves.  Some companies have taken years to correct FDA identified problems!  When it is a patient safety problem, the complexity can become serious and life threating.  Companies have gone out of business over these types of issues.

Consumer products launched with flaws create unhappy consumers.  Some customers will be lost forever while others may take their time returning.  They may be more cautious of future purchases. The word of mouth relay of the issues can prevent new customers from considering a purchase and counter any advertising effort.  It is very hard to regain the trust of those you wish to buy your products.  If you had loyal customers, it is possible some will go elsewhere and never return.

Timely product development is extremely important.  Being first to market may make a large difference in the market capture over the short and long term.  Your customers will be loyal to quality and service. When they experience high satisfaction, they tend to keep coming back.  Managing for rapid development and launch is important, but not at the expense of losing the product acceptance by your customers.  It is better to do it right the first time than try to regain the market lost by improper testing or development.  When creating your timelines, try to add a solid testing and evaluation phase to ensure you do get it right the first time.  You will not be sorry!

 

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Investor meetings will not happen if they do not believe what you send

You only get one time to make a great first impression

I have reviewed countless technologies over the years from the company side and the investor side.  In addition, I have presented or attended many meetings with investors in efforts to get companies funded.  It is clear that the investors understand the technology and business or they do not.  What is sometimes not clear is whether their understanding relates to what you are presenting.  This means you can walk out of a presentation believing the investors understood and agreed with everything you said, and they depart the meeting in a fog!  Making the process worse, you may have lost them on the review of preliminary info sent to seek a meeting.

Understanding is critical to the investment process.  Investors will not give you money if they do not get it.  One factor that to consider is if they understand do they believe; i.e. did you pass the sniff test.  When investors do not believe what you are telling them, more often than not they do not even take a meeting.  This leaves you with the loss of a chance to make a positive impression because the info you sent leaves them thinking your technology is flawed.

This occurs more than you might think.  In a review of a technology recently, I sent the info to several people to gauge their responses.  The technology was simple but the underlying science was a more complex.  Convincing someone the product may work required his or her belief in the underlying science.  Even though there was a summary of the science, none of the people that received the info got the message.  Several phone calls later, it became obvious the company was not getting the reception they desired because they did not pass the sniff test. This was a true tragedy since the product seemed to be very exciting and of significant value. 

It is critical that investors understand your technology.  They may need to understand the background leading to the technology as well.  Failure to present the business opportunity in a manner that leaves the investor comfortable will result in a negative response.  It is hard enough to have people fully understand every aspect and have them give you money.  Complicating the process by presenting the business and having misunderstandings makes obtaining investments near impossible.

One trick you might try before you swamp the investment community with your marketing materials is to test drive the materials with several third parties that review the info FRESH!  It took this process for me to understand why the company had not received a great reception from a number of investment firms.  Changing the approach and materials may help, but it now requires a re-education of all those that passed the first time around.  I have stated this before, but you only get one time to make a great first impression.  After that, the work gets much harder.  Test-drive your marketing materials and be confident your message passes the sniff test before your show the materials to investors.  Make a good first impression and increase your odds of success.

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Selling and closing are essential to the success of business


Money:  You got it and we want it!
One of the best lines I ever heard came from a CFO during a meeting with potential investors.   The investors asked what we wanted.  The CFO responded, “Money, you got it and we want it!”  If this concept is foreign or uncomfortable to you, consider retiring rather than starting a company or small business.  Any entrepreneur focuses on this key goal even if they are altruistic by nature.  There is an absolute requirement for money to start, build, run or even close a business.  That said, there are differences in the type of selling that is required and many customers require extra effort to close the transaction.

Selling something requires showing the person that the product is what they really want and need; i.e. creating that desire for the person to have the product.  This may be a real tangible item sold wholesale or retail like software, drugs, diagnostics, or electronics.  The item must appeal to the individual enough that they are willing to hand over their hard-earned money to pay the full value of the product.

The desire to own something also applies to investments.  Investors seek to earn money by investing and holding their ownership in a business until they can exit making a profit.  Showing the investor how the investment will make money and how your plan will protect the down side is a critical part of the selling process. The investor needs to understand the retail product(s) and share in the vision that retail customers will want the item or service.  Showing the investor how they can earn a multiple on their investment in a limited time is critical to the selling process.

The products may be different but investors and retail customers are just buying a different output from the company.  They each require being shown the benefits of what they intend to purchase.  The investor buys part ownership in the company; the retail customer buys the output from the company.  Selling is so fundamental to the overall process of building a business that being successful requires development of the ability to convince people the product is what they must have. 

Showing people what to buy is part of the cycle.  Getting them to CLOSE is the other part.  Many people have a very hard time giving up their money.  This is the same for investors and for retail customers.  Getting them to realize the value of what they intend to purchase requires lots of handholding and demonstration.  Eventually there comes a time when it is important to press them to close the transaction and handover the money!  This can be a tense moment where all the time spent selling was wasted if the person fails to purchase.  However, some people need that extra push to close.  For example, after months of rounding up investors, informing them of the need to put their funds in escrow or that they will be left out may help bring the financing to a close (one way or another). Even then, it may require constant pressure on the process until the financing is complete.

Selling and closing the transactions are two skills that must be developed.  Applying to heavy of a hand on either selling or closing may result in loss of the sale.  Likewise, not enough may result in the same negative result.  Make sure you work on these skills and your company will benefit and grow.


Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I do not trust you is bad feedback


Watching the elections brings out many point that entrepreneurs can learn, but mostly from the negative aspects of the ads.  Look at the controversy of taking lines of text out of context and using the information to form a campaign ad against the candidate.  It is not just the presidential election, it nearly all candidates running.  The negative ads relay a message that candidates can only win by beating down their opponent not by showing their skills.  This is very SAD!

Showing one’s skill set and pointing to the how situations will be improved is a promotion demonstrating the benefits of the product or candidate.  How would your product or business grow if your advertisement read, “Their product sucks, so buy our product?”   Leaves one speechless and wondering why buy any of them. 

Marketing any product should address the strategic advantages and benefits.  People need to understand the value proposition of their purchase or investment.  Investors want to understand that their money is going toward a great new innovative idea that will change lives and make money.  Marketing the product must convey the how and why the product is the best, not that the other products are bad.  Bad is a relative judgment that each person must determine.  The delineation of the greater value of your product based on solid facts, leaves only the option of a focus on the facts and benefits.

It is hard to sit and watch TV these days with so much negative advertisement about the elections.  The elections are coming down to a vote on whom you dislike the least, not who is the best candidate.  It would seem that the candidates have business people advising them, but perhaps they are not listening.   Maybe the political advisors do not know how to market skills or the skills are just not there.  “Lying” or “stretching the truth” to paint the other person in a negative manner says one candidate does not “SUCK’ as much as the other person.

When preparing your marketing information to raise capital or promote your product, make every effort to use facts and be honest.  A bit of positive spin is expected, but not so much that it is a dishonest representation.  Demonstrate the value proposition of your company or product.  Show your investors or customers how great the product(s) are and gain their confidence in company and product(s).  You do not want to be labeled as a dishonest person, otherwise, investors or customers will develop a problem with the product or investment.  Remember, that “I Do Not Trust You” is something that is hard to change in the future.  Regaining confidence in your company or product is much more difficult than building it and maintaining it.  The negative will just make people run away!



Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are published in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Corporate Spy Shop


Leaning what your competition is up to has a value to your business.  OK, there is no real legal spy shop for corporate intelligence but there are things you can do. Your business plan should have a competition section where you provide some analysis of products and companies that may present a problem for your business.  You can gain info in a variety of ways even though it may not be as complete as you like.

The internet presents a great way to find some of those competitors.  You will likely get data indicating a little of what they are up to.  Timelines and capital on hand may even be part of the data you capture.  Public companies will have more info available than private, but data is available on most of the companies that have left their garage and seeking money.

Many ways legal ways exist to obtain info on competition. You need this info to show any investor you are in command of the space and your products can be competitive.   A few ideas on ways to identify and obtain information are below:

Literature search:  Companies may have obtained the idea for the technology from someone that was in a university.  The technology may even be via a license.  Literature searches on the founding scientist will provide intelligence about the research areas and possibly info on the technology.  Institutions often have a technology section that provides technology descriptions for their scientists or licensing candidates.

Intellectual Property Search: The US Patent Office has a searchable database and there is one for Europe as well.   Other searchable sites exist and your patent counsel can perform searches as well, but the attorney will charge you fees.  Searching for inventors, assignees, and other parameters may help identify patents that are part of the competitors stable.

Internet:  Searching the internet for specific products areas and companies in the space may bring a wide range of prospects for your review. Many will show their pipeline and estimates a date for product launch.  They often review their technology and team.  Reviewing the sites and possible news for the competition will provide further insight.  If the company is public, the SEC has a searchable database where these companies must file all documents for shareholders.  The annual and quarterly reports are a gold mine of info. In addition, private companies sometimes have an analyst or blogger following them.  These entities will put out reports that may be useful.  Many times documents will provide confirming info on market sizes and strategies for marketing the products.

Investors & Potential Partners:  If you are on the road raising capital, investors or potential partners may have reviewed companies that compete in your space.  Sometimes they will bring up the “I got you,” because you were not aware of company X. They may be willing to discuss “public info” about the competition.  The investor or partner is usually trying to rank your technology relative to the competition and obtain knowledge of your skills.  Regardless of their intent, the information may prove to be useful info.

Regulatory and Legal sites:  The Freedom of Information act makes data from government-sponsored projects available.  You may be able to obtain some info if government money used in the conduct of research for the program. The research may have taken place in a university or in the company.  For FDA relevant products, clinical trials are reported in their website.  One can also request a Summary Basis of Approval for approved products.  This document is extensive and describes much of what lead to the approval.

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. His company website ,  photo website, or like ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are published in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.