Published by Bill White, CEO , March 15th, 2011
As entrepreneurs and product managers we know that valuable products and services, those that require an educated customer committed to evaluating benefits in context with alternatives, often die somewhere between R&D and the sales report simply because they are not properly explained. The sales staff can’t communicate the benefit, the customer can’t appreciate the solution, the value proposition is ambiguous and, in the end, the sale is not made. In the life science laboratory equipment and instrumentation business, we call this stranded technology. Large companies no longer have legions of product managers to build the precepts for a consultative sale. Small and emerging growth companies never have. Venture capital investors who commit money and expertise to promising ideas are often at a loss to explain them to those who matter most – the customers – at a time when such efforts are needed most.
Investors are not marketers. Even if a company has a better idea, the “so what” factor hangs it in the balance. Absent internal resources to “explain things,” finding an effective and sustainable outsource relationship becomes a priority. Regardless of the stage of the company, our job as marketers is to provide an internal service to the enterprise, to build the offer and supply the tools necessary to manage brands and educate. Unless we understand the sacred ground between the point of sale and the customer, even the most expensive marketing investments will always underperform. And if we don’t empower the last person hired, our sales efforts will always be restricted by hostage-bound information that is of no consequence if not accessible. Perhaps it is best that we can no longer buy our way into market share or customer loyalty; today we must think our way into such success, and this requires an integrated marketing effort.
When we discover stranded technology beneath our own feet, we must accept it as a litmus test as to our ability to articulate the value of what we are selling. That’s why the burden of education, context, competitive positioning and landed value always rests with us, not the customer. This bridge between R&D and sales is the daily diet of a marketing team capable of serving up technology to an indifferent public. This information is best carved into bite-sized pieces and spoon-fed in context. If it can’t be done in-house, and it rarely can, outsourcing is the only solution. It is important that your outside marketing partner understand the technology of your product and the context in which it is applied alongside the crafts of strategic and tactical marketing.
There is no place to hide when selling to the life science industry because a consultative sale is first and foremost an authoritative sale. To encourage this requires a marketing acumen designed to exploit stranded technology, bring it to the forefront of a unique selling proposition, and earn a return on investment. When information is packaged and delivered to the customer through the distribution channel, stranded or not, it is information that sells.
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