Written by Kevin Hampton, VP of Marketing, Kineticos
Heading up Marketing for a start-up professional services company presents a variety of challenges (or should I say opportunities). Below are a few questions that I’m charged with answering.
- How can we build awareness so that the firm’s overall brand makes a lasting impression on the market?
- Are we considered thought leaders in our focus areas?
- Is the proper infrastructure in place to support growth?
- Are the ‘rain makers’ set up for success?
The answers to these questions are critical to the firm’s long-term success but even as we approach our 5-year mark as an established consultancy, my primary focus remains making an immediate and direct impact on the bottom line. To that end, my team spends most of their time on finding creative ways to bring in business TODAY.
As it turns out, many leaders in the life science industry find themselves in a very similar position and are more focused on achieving short-term objectives than ironing out a long-term strategy. They’re cash on hand is deteriorating and if they are unable secure a development partner or raise funds quickly, there is no need for that long-term strategy.
At its simplest form, both scenarios come down to the need to increase demand and while there are a variety of demand generation techniques to consider, I’d like to share a methodology that has been effective for my team.
It starts with understanding the target market and being intimately familiar with potential buyers. Depending on the level of familiarity, some primary research in the form of a voice of customer survey or KOL interviews might be worth putting resources towards. Having a grasp on this allows for optimal positioning when ‘pitching’.
Once familiar with the buyers and the value that can be provided to them, it’s important to have an overall partnering strategy. The ‘shotgun’ approach doesn’t work in our complex selling environment. It’s critical to determine (up front) what an ideal partner profile looks like. Making a list of criteria with both wants and needs in a partner will help tremendously.
Based on the established criteria, it’s time to start to identify and prioritize a target list. There are a number of sources, albeit some require hefty subscription fees, to help develop a targeted list but the key is to ensure that the targets meet the predetermined criteria. Regardless of how an attractive partner may look, the criteria we’re set for a reason so if a target doesn’t meet all of them, it’s likely not worth pursuing.
Similar market research techniques can be leveraged to identify the appropriate decision makers. Finding someone in the relevant functional area and at the right level is critical and often depends on the size of the organization. While the CCO of a 50-person company may be the right target, the chances of getting Pfizer’s CCO to reply to a cold email, much less take a meeting, are extremely low. A thoughtful segmentation strategy for both companies and individuals is key.
Launching the email campaign is the final step. But first, it’s important to set objectives of an email campaign before it is launched. Since this is more than likely a complex sell, a reasonable objective would be to craft an email that peaks just enough interest for the target to want to take a meeting to learn more. In most scenarios, buyers are not sold via email so sending lengthy emails that go into too much detail will warrant a low response rate. Keep it short and direct as most buyers do not want (and most often will not bother) to read 7 paragraphs about exactly how a particular asset is differentiated from the dozens of similar assets in development.
And remember, the mindset must be that the target has a need and is looking for a solution. A note that is tailored to a buyer’s specific need(s) will immediately be miles ahead of all of the generic emails that clutter up their inbox.
A couple final suggestions:
- Be disciplined in following up. Once per week is an appropriate schedule and keep them as brief and direct as the initial emails. While it’s important to convince buyers that there is urgency, following up every 24 hours for several consecutive days could easily be perceived as desperate.
- Track metrics! In the above example, it should be relatively easy to track how many people responded (positively or negatively) and how many meetings were secured. Based on past experience, following this methodology will result in response rates well over the average ‘cold email’ rate of .5-2%. Monitoring various metrics will help identify the strengths and gaps in the process.
- There are a number of variables that can be tweaked to optimize results; targets, messaging, follow up frequency, etc. Executing on #2 will help guide any necessary changes.
Demand generation is a critical component of any organization’s commercial strategy. For start-ups in particular, I cannot think of a commercial activity that is more important than the one I’ve outlined above. Good luck!
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Kevin Hampton, VP of Marketing, leads Kineticos’ marketing efforts and is focused on building a brand that reflects Kineticos’ deep life science expertise and passion for improving patient outcomes. Mr. Hampton is responsible for the strategy and execution of Kienticos’ thought leadership and lead generation programs and also supports the sales function within Kineticos to ensure objectives remain aligned.