Early stage med tech companies often have little time, money or resources to commit to marketing activities, especially when their exciting new technologies may be months or years away from commercialization. The whole concept of marketing can be downright daunting when you barely have a product.
The absolute marketing fundamental, and where most companies start (or should) back in series A, is the compelling market story, e.g. why your product is a “must-have” solution to a major unmet need. The entire company down to the lab techs should be able to recite some version of this story if woken up in the middle of the night; you never know when you might run into an investor at a bar or a potential hire at Comic-Con.
Beyond the good story, companies need just a few marketing essentials to carry them to, and even through, commercial launch:
1. Animate Your Technology
A 30-second animation showcasing your technology is one of the best investments you can make to explain how your gizmo works well before it’s actually working. For the many med tech products that are difficult to visualize in action, there is really no substitute; most people need this kind of handholding to “get it” when seeing a new medical device for the first time (remember that many folks simply don’t have the stomach for gory videos that we do). Animations make it easy to educate anyone, from future investors to potential customers and even your kids, and you will use it over and over on your laptop, tablet and phone. It shouldn’t cost a fortune; professional looking animations can be had for as little as $10-12K.
2. Take a Few Photos
If you have a reasonable prototype of your device, even if it’s held together by duct tape, snap some quality, high resolution, photographs of it (just make sure the tape isn’t too prominent). Product images on neutral backgrounds will come in handy for investor presentations, scientific presentations, your website and sell sheet (see #4). Unfortunately, that great photographer you used for your wedding just won’t cut it for medical device shots. Definitely seek out a photographer with medical technology experience or at least something similar. This person can probably grab a few headshots of the management team, the spectacular lab space and a few hard-at-work employees while they are at it.
3. Enhance Your Brand
Assuming you’ve named your company (a good place to start), you don’t want to take too long before also naming your product, even if it feels barely product-y. Like hurricanes, it’s not a product unless it has a name. An accompanying logo helps create a professional corporate identity and style things up a bit. Working with cost-conscious emerging med tech companies, we have discovered some quick and inexpensive web-based resources for logo designs, such as 99 Designs. These services set up a competition among designers from across the globe (our last winner was from the Philippines) to create a custom logo based on your description of the company or technology. You can give feedback about what you like and don’t like, enabling the designers to refine their logos to match your preferences.
4. Create a “Sell Sheet”
A one-page product overview, known as the “Sell Sheet,” is a classic piece of marketing collateral that still works today. Just the process of creating this one-pager helps get the team clear on how to describe and position the technology. When building the content, begin with value proposition; catchy tag lines can be helpful here (e.g. “fixing broken backs one vertebrae at a time”). At all costs, resist the urge to cram in more highly informative copy by going to 8-point font. Even on a short Sell Sheet, images are a great way to fill space and generate visual interest. And in the age when printed materials are lining birdcages, remember to make sure your one-pager looks good as a PDF version.
5. Pull it All Together in Your Website
Now that you have a logo, animation, high quality product photos and a 1 page Sell Sheet, creating your website should be a breeze. You don’t need a big expensive firm to build your website for you; independent website designers can put together a high quality website in a couple of weeks at a fraction of the cost. Be careful in your website content not to make claims about your technology that you can’t back up with data; assume the FDA will be among your early web visitors. If your product is not approved for human use yet, a disclaimer to that effect at the bottom of your home and/or product page is a good idea. In any case, it’s worth having your regulatory counsel take a quick peek at your new site and give it the thumbs up. FYI: Website hosting should cost you no more than $20 a month (see www.squarespace.com and other sites like it).
These few marketing essentials will help make your technology look and feel like the real deal. If only product development, clinicals and regulatory were that easy!