Turnstone Communications, the driving force behind BioVox news, is a consultancy agency catering to life sciences companies. Lending a hand with communications, marketing and business development, we’ve seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. Getting a startup off the ground is a challenging endeavor; there are so many things to be mindful of and so many possibilities for mistakes. Here are three pieces of advice to bear in mind when starting out in the life sciences industry. These bits of business strategy will help your company blossom into its full potential!
#1: Don’t do it all yourself
A common mistake that we see time and time again with new companies is a tendency to try to do absolutely everything in-house. This particularly seems to happen when it comes to communications, like websites, logo and house style, marketing materials, written content, social media and more.
One of the reasons people often fall into this trap, it the attitude that “I can do this, so why should I pay someone external to do it for me?”. Unfortunately, this line of thought doesn’t take into account the amount of time and energy that goes into creating quality communications. When we are well versed in a particular skill, it will invariable go quicker and far smoother than it would for a person who’s learning on the go. We’ve seen relatively simple jobs, like creating a flyer, take much longer than needed and yield subpar results, because the company decided to do everything in-house.
Deciding to run your own company’s communications is also often a decision made without realizing how hard it can be to communicate science clearly. Communicating science is an art that requires skill and experience. Taking a complex subject matter, like science and technology, and distilling that information into accessible and effective messages is no mean feat. It can take years to learn how to communicate concisely without sacrificing the accuracy and integrity of the underlying scientific concepts.
So, leave this one to the experts. Your time and energy are valuable; put your talents to optimal use. There are experts out there, consultants like us, who can help you deliver tailored and optimized communications that really give your business a boost.
#2: Take advice with a grain of salt
When you start up a new company, there will inevitably be a lot of people with advice and opinions on how best to run your business. All of these stakeholders possess valuable expertise and insights, but it is important to remember that they all also have a vested interest of some description. For example:
- Professors/academics – These experts are naturally focused on the science behind your business and can provide you with vital advice on breakthroughs in your field as well as new avenues for exploration. This focus on R&D often comes at the exclusion of other important factors though, like your business model, communications strategy and market analysis.
How this might affect communications: academics have an unfortunate tendency to go on about technical details. Most non-scientists, including investors, are driven by both knowledge and other factors, so you will need to adapt your message depending on the audience and go beyond the scientific jargon and detail of academic language.
- Investors – This group will obviously want for your company to succeed commercially and will be able to provide you with great financial advice on how to do so. They’ll like to make sure there is a theoretical market for your product, but they’re sometimes too detached from the real markets, meaning there is a distance between them and the actual market and scientific community.
How this might affect communications: Investors might want to play it safe and limit expenditures; the marketing and communications budget is often the first to get cut in this scenario. However, to grow your company successfully, you need to build brand recognition and get on the radar of the people who matter.
- Industry partners – This group of stakeholders includes both present and potential future partners, like big pharmaceutical companies who are important for funding, collaborations and deals.
How this might affect communications: It may be in the interest of current partners to downsize your communications and visibility, as this limits the attention drawn by other potential partners who may otherwise swoop in and make competitive propositions. Industry groups may also want to keep their activities on the down-low, to keep competitors in the dark about their current R&D focus.
Most of these stakeholders will be present on your company’s board of directors. Again: these people can provide you with insightful advice specific to their area of expertise, but they may also have interests that don’t align with what’s best for your business. Our advice is not to rely exclusively on people with independent agendas. Have confidence in your own opinion and consider hiring external advisors, such as a consultant, who has no ulterior motives for the recommendations they give.
#3: Be innovative in both your R&D and communications
Speaking of innovation, our final piece of advice is to be daring and up to date with your communication methods. Too many startups have innovative science, but conservative communications. They often use poor channels which don’t reach the right target audience or fail to think about which platforms would work best for their purposes. Try to engage new technology when communicating about your breakthroughs, including blogs, webinars, videos and animations, social media (etc.). It is best to reach a modern audience by modern means.
So, outsource tricky tasks, don’t rely too heavily on biased advice and make sure to let your startup shine!