Marketing and PR is core to a start-up business strategy, so much so that more and more venture capital firms are beginning to offer these services to their portfolio companies with in-house staff. In working with a myriad of start-up healthcare companies over the years, I’ve always said that it’s never too early to begin branding. According to Christina Lee, head of marketing and PR at Kleiner Perkins who was quoted in a recent article in TechCrunch: “…communications has risen to a strategic level…. PR is expected to play a big part in building brands and more and more startups are thinking about PR and branding at an earlier stage.”
Even if it’s too early to market your company or your products to your end customers, you still have business goals to achieve. Be crystal clear in your communications to all your stakeholders – the investor community, the FDA, future investigators or key opinion leaders, to name a few — about your company, your products and the potential impact in the marketplace. Being crystal clear will help you achieve them.
Here’s a short checklist of things to consider as you frame your brand strategy, positioning and messaging:
- First impressions matter. From a business perspective, it’s all about building credibility about why your company and your team have what it takes to bring your product successfully to market.
- Your science or technology is interesting but no longer enough. Think of your product as more than a technology – it’s a solution to a problem that nothing else is adequately addressing.
- Communicate your value proposition – both clinical and economic – and frame your economic value proposition as early as you frame your clinical value proposition.
- It’s never too early to think about launch! What are you calling your product in its development? How are you positioning it?
- FOCUS on the right things first, especially with tight budgets. Sure, you can tweet, blog and go social, if you think it will support your business goals. But first you need to have the go-to traditional vehicles that convey your story in a crystal clear way. Even though social media is the big trend, don’t overlook the tried and true traditional story-telling vehicles first.
Most importantly, begin with a deep understanding of your stakeholders as you build your corporate reputation or product brand, and develop positioning and messaging. Such strategic fundamentals haven’t changed, despite the proliferation of new ways to reach your audiences. It’s still all about determining who to influence and how best to influence them. And, of course, being crystal clear.