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This article was prepared for the
January 9, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Start-Ups Need a Marketing Strategy
Build a better technology, and they will come. That
is how many scientists heading up their first biotech think, says
Sandra Holtzman, a Manhattan-based marketing consultant with
a number of start-up clients. To this mindset, Holtzman says "no,
The new product can be 10 times better than that offered by an
competitor, but it will not matter. "They’ll crush you,"
says. Or they will if you haven’t prepared a well thought-out
plan. New biotech companies, often headed by a super-bright Ph.D.,
rarely want to hear how important marketing is to their future.
unafraid to deliver the news, speaks on "Lies Start-Up Companies
Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing and Communications," on
January 16, at 11 a.m. at the Trenton Business and Technology
on 36 South Broad Street. Call 609-396-8801.
Holtzman is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, the elite
New York City public school, and Lehman College, where she studied
English and film. She holds a master’s in film from New York
After writing news for the New York Times and working on both feature
films and industrial films, she went into advertising, working at
first on consumer goods accounts.
Then, while doing work for pharmaceutical companies at a Philadelphia
ad agency in the early-’80s, "a biotech walked through the
Holtzman was hooked. She discovered a knack for "turning high
science into bottom line messages." Her agency does work for
500 companies, but has a specialty in working for biotechs and other
technology start-up companies. Typically, they don’t have a lot of
money to spend on marketing, but do have an urgent need to craft a
coherent marketing strategy, not only for potential customers, but
also for competitors, venture capitalists, the business press, and
Every day, though, Holtzman hears start-up CEOs, sure that their
are enough, argue against the need for marketing. Here are some of
the "lies" she says the start-ups tell themselves.
Wrong, says Holtzman. A business plan contains an executive summary,
a balanced scorecard, a competitive analysis, and management bios.
It rarely contains information on target clients, sales approach,
market definition, vision, and objectives. And it needs to. First
and foremost in marketing is a detailed strategy, and it rarely is
found in the business plan.
can write, that’s true," says Holtzman. But writing compelling
ad copy is different from penning a breezy E-mail to a friend. For
one thing, the writing needs a clear "call to action." It
also needs to get to the right place. Ad professionals know how to
place stories with the media, when to place them, and how to tout
their importance. "You can’t overpromise," she says.
no point in promoting a product until it’s ready."
knows of one CEO who put off the launch of his website until his
was on the market. It was too late. "He ran out of money,"
have to. Holtzman says there are agencies that will work with a
budget, and will help start-ups set priorities and understand the
importance of basic steps, including getting a logo, and sending out
a unified message.
Yes, probably the nephew can put up a website, but it may not further
a start-up’s goals. The website is more than pictures and links. It
has to quickly convey a start-up’s essence, its unique selling
And it has to be easy to find on search engines. This, says Holtzman,
is a job for professionals.
by their founders, Holtzman says. The founders, accomplished
need to become savvy about business in general, and marketing in
if they want to be around for their company’s growth and IPO. They
need to invest time and money in marketing strategy and positioning.
They need a unified message, an image, and a unique selling
Technology is not enough, says Holtzman. There is no point in building
a company without crafting a strategy to make investors and customers
want to come.
When Don Andersson began his consulting business in
the late 1980s, white collar employees were getting a first taste
of mass lay-offs. The advice then — so bitter to many — was
that employer loyalty was a thing of the past, that workers had to
forget the idea of coasting into retirement at the firm where they
took their management training.
"When I started," says Andersson, principal in Cranford-based
Andersson Group (www.anderssongroup.com), "we said there would
be three to five jobs in a career. Now it’s 10 to 12 jobs."
now know it is not a good idea not to get too comfortable with one
employer. But, says Andersson, they know only with their heads.
many still believe they will be the exception. "They’re still
living under the impression that there is job security," says
Andersson, "but there really isn’t."
Andersson consults to companies looking for executives that will be
a good fit with their organization and he consults to executives in
transition. A 1957 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, Andersson
has a good 10 to 12 jobs under his own belt. He has worked for an
insurance company, and for several non-profits, was on former Governor
Tom Kean’s staff, and served as the manager of Union County. On
January 16, at 11:30 a.m. he speaks on "Wanted: Career Survival
Skills" at the Meeting Professionals International at the Radisson
Hotel in Fairfield. Cost: $40. Call 732-536-5135.
The first job for all workers with career advancement on their minds,
Andersson says, is to realize no company is going to take care of
them: "You’ve got to take care of yourself." Here are some
of his suggestions for doing that.
professionally secure," says Andersson. Loyalty to a company will
not do it. Spending a lot of energy on digging in and hoping to fall
below the radar when lay-offs occur is not a ticket to the top.
that you are a company of one is "much more difficult" than
going along for a ride with one corporation, says Andersson, but also
is "much more invigorating." In making that shift, he says,
"you accept that if it is to be, it is up to me."
to offer in terms of results. What skills do you have that will boost
the bottom line for your customers? The customers can be external
clients or they can be internal. The important thing is to think about
what they need, and to present yourself as the person who can deliver
it. "You are a resource," says Andersson. "You will only
be as successful as the people you serve are successful."
eyes open, continually scanning the horizon for the next opportunity.
The mindset, says Andersson, is "I can be a resource for this
type of customer in that kind of arena."
of that succeed without R&D?" Andersson asks. What works for
also works for individuals. Identifying skills necessary for
and acquiring them is essential. Read management books, attend
and take part in workshops. "Don’t think of yourself as a person
who holds a job," he says. "You’re in the resource
Continually develop yourself as a resource. "How many people have
invested as much as $5,000 in themselves?" Andersson asks.
He often pre-screens candidates for executive positions, and always
asks: "What were your learning objectives over the past year?"
The answer often is silence, but, he says, "you have to invest
in continual development, or you won’t get to the top."
says top baseball players have a plethora of coaches. "They have
a coach for base stealing, running, conditioning, position specific
fielding, hitting, sacrificing. They use coaches for everything to
stay on top of the game." So should you, he insists. The tendency
in business, he finds, is to say "`I’m too busy. I’ll learn as
I go.’" It’s not enough, in his opinion.
Money invested in coaching, Andersson says, is money well spent. It
was for him. He found a coach when he was starting his business, and
it made all the difference. The coach told him that just being busy
was not enough to secure the success of his business. He urged him
to develop unique expertise that would separate him from the
"I got just wonderful insights," says Andersson. "I would
never be where I am today without him."
York — Andersson urges the same kind of autonomy on others.
you don’t take charge of your career," he says, "it’s folly
to think anyone else will."
How do you spell disaster? Fire, flood, or terrorism
may be the first thought of many, but companies are discovering that
some of the more prosaic forms of disaster — such as power outages
or the old oak tree in the yard that suddenly topples over and takes
the phone lines with it — also can wreak havoc on their
"Contingency planning is a hard sell," says Marvin
general manager of DocuSafe Records Management in Robbinsville.
a mentality that a disaster is something that happens to somebody
else." But it’s a dangerous gamble. A recent study at the
of Texas found that only six percent of companies experiencing
data loss survived.
Parker will be one of the presenters at a seminar entitled
For Anything, Contingency and Business Recovery Plans," sponsored
by the Princeton Chamber on Wednesday, January 16, at 7:30 a.m. at
the Nassau Club. Cost: $21. Call 609-520-1776.
While preparing for possible disaster makes sense to most people,
companies, like many people, tend to learn things the hard way. "I
know of a company in Texas that moved into a facility near a small
creek that hadn’t flooded in over 50 years," says Parker.
enough, it rained two days straight, the little creek flooded and
caused a fire in one of the upper floors of their building. The water
that the firefighters sprayed soaked all the desks, files, computers,
and fax machines. The building was closed for three days, and mold
and bacteria formed all over their file cabinets and computers. It
took them weeks to get everything restored."
But, according to Parker, a little pre-planning could have made this
company’s difficulties much less problematic. "They didn’t even
have something as basic as an off-site list of company employees.
Imagine that, they couldn’t even contact their own employees,"
he says. "The president wound up standing in the parking lot on
his cell phone, trying to scrounge up home phone numbers."
Common sense is sometimes in short supply, even in the corporate
Parker says that he has visited companies whose entire computer backup
systems are stored in the trunk of a car or, even worse, on an office
tabletop. "These companies don’t realize that their backup system
is useless, because it’s not off-site," says Parker. "If they
have a disaster, everything is going to get wiped out."
DocuSafe, at 3 Applegate Drive, Robbinsville, provides secure storage
and indexing of paper records, digital media, and other
information (www.docusafe.com). It is a division of Bohrens
Moving & Storage, a family-owned business founded in Princeton in
1924. Parker has been with DocuSafe Records Management for six years.
He earned a degree in English in 1975 from the University of
While contingency planning is not on the top of many companies’
lists, recent events have prompted some business people to begin
it a bit more seriously. "Y2K got people’s attention," says
Parker. "The prospect of walking into the office on January 1
and having none of their computers work raised the consciousness of
a lot of business people."
Likewise, the terrorist attacks of September 11 have forced some
to begin taking measures to ensure their continued operation in times
of emergency. "I’m still getting calls from companies in New York
that are looking to transfer records to us," says Parker.
Disasters, by their very nature, come in all shapes and sizes. But
a little careful pre-planning can help prevent a minor inconvenience
from becoming a major catastrophe. Parker offers these tips.
off-site lists of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all
employees and customers. "It’s essential to be able to keep
and clients informed of the company’s status if you’re forced out
of your building for awhile," says Parker. "Remember, if you
lose contact with your clients, you lose contact with your
make banks of rooms available for companies in need of temporary
"It is a good idea to have a place where employees can report
to in an emergency," says Parker. "Some hotels will guarantee
a certain number of rooms for companies during a disaster. There are
also firms that you can arrange in advance to supply computers. You
can also have your phone lines transferred to your new location."
companies can prevent far-reaching effects of a disaster is by having
an off-site storage of critical backup data and information, such
as documents, letters, and contracts. "It’s good to have an
work area available, with phones and computers " says Parker.
"But if you don’t have access to your important data, you’re in
gets in the way of true health. The prospect of facing an unknown
disaster is more than a bit daunting to most people. It is this
that often prevents individuals and companies from taking appropriate
steps that could minimize the impact of a disaster, big or small.
Of course, seeing the future would be ideal. But in lieu of a crystal
ball, it is important to have a well-conceived plan in place.
you see companies having to shut their doors forever after being hit
by disaster," says Parker. "There is an alternative."
— Jack Florek
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