Friday, April 30, 2010

4-biomarker panel identified as screening tool for Ovarian Cancer

A panel of four biomarkers that may be useful as part of a screening strategy for ovarian cancer has been identified, according to research published this month online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Zoya Yurkovetsky, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and colleagues analyzed 96 serum biomarkers to identify and validate a combination that would help better detect early-stage ovarian cancer. They analyzed sera from 139 patients with early-stage ovarian cancer, 149 patients with late-stage ovarian cancer, and 1,102 healthy women.

The researchers identified a panel of four biomarkers -- CA-125, HE4, CEA and VCAM-1 -- that had the highest diagnostic power of 86 percent sensitivity for early-stage, 93 percent sensitivity for late-stage, and 98 percent specificity. They applied the model to an independent blinded validation set that consisted of sera from 44 patients with early-stage ovarian cancer, 124 patients with late-stage disease, and 929 healthy women. It provided an unbiased estimate of 86 percent sensitivity for stages I and II and 95 percent sensitivity for stages III and IV, with 98 percent specificity. The panel was selective for ovarian cancer, having low sensitivity for other cancers and for benign pelvic disease.

"The high sensitivity of 86 percent achieved with our four-marker panel for distinguishing women with early-stage ovarian cancer from healthy individuals at 98 percent specificity surpasses the sensitivites previously reported (70 to 73 percent). The fact that the multimarker assay offered high accuracy in a heterogeneous validation set that contained different histologies indicates the likely general utility of the assay for the most common histotypes of ovarian cancer," the authors write.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

1st independent, dedicated biosimilars manufacturing facility in the US at IIT in Chicago

Therapeutic Proteins Inc. this week announced the completion of the nation’s first independent, dedicated biosimilars manufacturing facility constructed to meet U.S. FDA requirements. The Chicago facility is located at University Technology Park at Illinois Institute of Technology.  Therapeutic Proteins will relocate from Deerfield, IL, to a new 13,000-square-foot facility at IIT in May.

The company makes raw ingredients for cheaper "biosimilar" or "biogeneric" versions of drugs derived from biotechnology, such as the anti-anemia brand Epogen. For now, biogenerics are available only outside the U.S.

Biotech brands such as Epogen are unavailable in the U.S. in biogeneric form because they were not part of the 1984 landmark Hatch-Waxman law that allowed for cheaper generics. That law largely covers products derived from chemicals, such as the cholesterol drug Zocor and the antidepressant Zoloft.

Under the health care reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law last month by President Barack Obama, lawmakers finally cleared a path for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve biogeneric drugs.

"We started the company in anticipation of this new niche of generic versions of biotech drugs opening," said Thomas Flynn III, Therapeutic Proteins' chief executive. Flynn expects Therapeutic Proteins to make its first biogenerics for the U.S. market in two to three years. "The newly enacted health care bill removed the main hurdle in the promulgation of a bill in Congress to allow biological drugs to be sold as generics," Flynn said.

The eventual introduction of cheaper biotech drugs in the U.S. could save $10 billion a year once biogenerics are on the market here, according to some estimates. Patients generally see a 20% to 30% savings in biogenerics over name-brand drugs.  Some countries are already reaping substantial savings. For example, Lake Forest-based generic biotech drug producer Hospira Inc. said it already is selling its drug Retacrit, a biosimilar version of Epogen, in Europe.

”We are thrilled to have TPI as an anchor tenant as their business and operations acumen will be very beneficial for the developing and emerging biotech companies not only at the UTP at IIT, but also for Chicago and the Midwest,” said David Baker, Executive Director, University Technology Park. “It shows the world that Chicago is a developing hub for life-improving therapeutic agents that will serve to lower health care costs and improve the lives of many in need."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DDI Research viewpoint: Medical practice groups inserting themselves into physicians’ patient care decisions

Will the newly signed health care legislation create a major shift in how pharmaceutical brand decisions are made?

The bill will increase access to health insurance, but many believe the practice of medicine is already in transition, and the bill signed by President Obama will simply accelerate changes already being implemented.

A recent New York Times article reported that even before the new Health Care Reform Bill was signed, a "quiet revolution is transforming how medical care is delivered in this country."

According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the majority of physicians, which as recently as three years ago predominantly worked in physician-owned, are now employed by hospitals.

Dr. Ross Weaver, president of DDI, notes, “Medical practices, as corporate entities, are inserting themselves currently into decisions physicians make when deciding what the best care to provide to their patients is. This includes prescribing practices. For pharmaceutical companies, medical practice entities are the new player in town.”

Medical practice entities influence individual physician prescribing by negotiating with payors to provide additional payments when an agreed upon percentage of patients in a practice meet specific clinical outcomes. For example, if more than 60% of patients with diabetes have their HbA1C less than 7 mg/dl, the practice receives additional payments. Similarly, if a practice reduces the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations among their patients with asthma, the practice receives additional payments.

According to Dr. Daniel Hoffman, president of Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates, "The days of payors just accepting or rejecting the various treatment patterns devised by doctors and institutions are ending. The new legislation will increase access to health care, but basing treatment on what's been shown to work will control costs and improve quality."

While this was the original goal of HMOs and managed care organizations when founded back in the 1970s, only recently do a sufficient percentage of practices and payors have the necessary electronic record keeping capabilities to determine which approaches truly lower the costs of care. While many large payors continue to focus on lowering drug costs, regional payors have created niches for their businesses by integrating claims, electronic health records (EHR) and lab feeds into a single database. They have data-metrics analysts on staff whose jobs it is to mine the data, looking for ways to lower the cost of care, not just the cost of drugs.

Drug Development Insights’ industry expertise begins with its president, Dr. Ross Weaver. Dr. Weaver has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field. DDI delivers more than market research and takes pharmaceutical companies inside the minds of group practice and IPA experts to help map out a viable plan for increasing sales and identifying new opportunities. They help clients get the inside scoop on what practice executives are thinking and planning, and embrace the opportunity to approach the market in new, innovative ways to help brands rise to the top.

To learn more about how DDI delivers insights that drive the success of pharmaceutical brands, contact Dr. Ross Weaver at 877-334-0100 or visit

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2 pain drugs launched by Covidien with new sales forces

Covidien announced today the launch of two branded pain drugs — Exalgo and Pennsaid — and hired around 250 reps to support the products. Professional ads for both products are in the works for May.

Both drugs contain active ingredients that have been on the market for years — hydromorphone and diclofenac — but Covidien licensed in novel delivery mechanisms in order to create two new products that address unmet needs, according to Herb Neuman, chief medical officer and VP of medical affairs at Covidien.  

To educate prescribers on these new offerings, Covidien enlarged nearly every function of its medical affairs department, including the addition of medical science liaisons, a first for the company, said Neuman.

JoAnna Schooler, communications director at Covidien, said "a couple hundred" reps would be deployed in support of each product. Direct mail went out to physicians this week, Schooler said.

Read more in the MM&M article at Covidien launches two pain drugs with fresh sales forces - Medical Marketing and Media

5 keys to success in Brazil: start with right partner, right product mix, and right pricing.

Soon, we will be providing brand workshop content and sales training materials for a Latin America regional managers conference.  So in preparation, I’ve been researching trends in key markets. Here’s a recent item written by Rajesh Chhabara for “eye for pharma.”

The pharmaceutical market in Brazil, the second largest among the seven pharmerging markets (which also include China, India, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and South Korea), is expected to grow by 7 to 10 per cent annually between 2008 and 2013, according to IMS Health, a leading provider of market intelligence to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

IMS estimates that total sales in Brazil could grow from $19 billion in 2008 to over $27 billion in 2013, making the country the eighth largest market in the world and the second largest among the seven pharmerging nations, after China.

1. Look for local partners
Forging strong partnerships with local companies is key to success in Brazil for multinational companies, according to Kleber Oliveira Miranda, managing director of Molkom Marketing, Consulting and Representation Ltd, a Sao Paulo-based pharma advisory firm. “Foreign companies can benefit from the local companies’ knowledge of local market issues and available opportunities and their strong relationships with distributors, pharmacy chains, government and hospitals,” says Miranda.  According to Miranda, local companies, too, are keen to establish partnerships with global companies: “The local players are interested to start to develop a business network worldwide with potential companies with strong R&D activities to supply differentiated products as well as low cost generic and branded generic products.”  Adds Mandy Chui, senior principal at IMS Health, “Opportunities for investment in Brazil include alliances with local laboratories for broader medical detailing and greater agility at the point of sales, as well as an increase in public awareness and diagnosis rates through public relations.”

2. Build the right product portfolio
Foreign firms should consider licensing and contract manufacturing arrangements with local companies as the starting point, Miranda says: “Once they have acquired the knowledge and understanding of the market, they can come to Brazil to set up their operations in collaboration or joint venture with the local partner.” Miranda adds that acquisition of local companies is another option for multinational companies wanting to quickly build operations in the country using existing platforms. But building the right product portfolio is crucial. According to IMS, the top five therapy classes in Brazil include Angioten II Antag, anti-ulcerants, oral anti-diabetics, lipid regulators, and muscle relaxants.

3. Niche opportunities
According to Miranda, opportunities also exist in niche products, such as drugs for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.  “Foreign companies will have to come with differentiated and innovative products,” he says. “Otherwise, they will face strong competition from local players and multinationals with similar products.”  For example, Indian-owned Torrent Pharmaceuticals entered the Brazilian market in 2002 with a focus on cardiovascular, central nervous system and oral anti-diabetic segments. With over $60 million in annual sales, Brazil now contributes 17 percent of Torrent’s worldwide sales of $351 million. The company’s sales in Brazil grew 45 percent in 2008-2009 compared to the preceding year.  Of course, the price has to be right. IMS estimates that 80 percent of Brazilian patients pay out of pocket for treatment. Affordability is therefore a key issue if a company wants to build sales volume.

4. The role of government
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called for more investment from big pharma in his country’s pharmaceutical industry. In the government sector, vaccines and generics present the main opportunities. According to Brazil’s Ministry of Health, government purchases account for 90 percent of vaccines and 25 percent of other drugs sold in the country.  As the state and federal governments continue to increase spending on healthcare, the public market is becoming increasingly attractive, with opportunities for generics and branded generics. But again, Miranada stresses, competitive pricing is crucial to get a foothold. The government is also improving the regulatory environment to support the expansion of the pharma industry.  Government support, through various regulations such as the generics law of 1999, has created a huge generics market in Brazil. A 2008 study by the research firm RNCOS estimated that the country could become one of the world’ largest generics markets by 2011, with generics accounting for 23 percent of the total Brazilian pharma market. Expiring patents for some of the blockbuster drugs is likely to provide a further boost.  However, tightening of other rules, such as the new advertising regulation that came into effect last June and the new dispensing practices rules announced in August, may have an impact on OTC sales.

5. Growth prospects
Healthy growth prospects are prompting a number of foreign drug companies to increase their presence in Brazil. For example, GlaxoSmithKline has partnered with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) to develop dengue fever vaccine.  Novartis plans to set up a vaccine plant and is expanding production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, including a chemical precursor of Diovan, the world's top-selling blood pressure medication.  Sanofi-aventis is set to increase its market share after it acquired Medley. Daiichi-Sankyo, a Japanese drugmaker, is expanding its manufacturing operations in the country. Europe’s wholesale giant Celesio has acquired a majority stake in the Panpharma group and Boehringer Ingelheim has signed a third-party manufacturing agreement with Zambon.  Local companies are also expanding. Cristália recently opened a new R&D center; Hipolabor is setting up its second plant for making antibiotics; and government-owned Fundação para o Remédio Popular (FURP) has established a new manufacturing plant for generics.  In fact, the government is actively seeking to expand public sector pharma manufacturing as a cost containment measure.  So foreign companies can expect stiff competition from the government-owned firms.  “The ability to influence legislation and increase government spending, along with the growth of private health insurance, are a plus but must be weighed against intensive competition among other entrants as well as government cost-containment initiatives and investment in public laboratories," cautions Chui of IMS Health.

For more on the “pharmerging” markets, see How To Get Ahead in 'Pharmerging' Markets.

And for other industry news, go to

Monday, April 26, 2010

20 sales reps a week still visiting physicians’ offices

According to a new report, 98% of physicians say their offices are visited by up to 20 reps each week from pharma or medical device companies.

Even so, nearly half of physicians say they require or prefer appointments to be made prior to one-on-one meetings.

These findings are available from a newly released SK&A study on Physician Access.

Are practice location, specialty, ownership and office size determinants in physician access? Discover the answers in this complimentary national report.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

25 hot brands listed by Portfolio: "The Brand Stand"

Southwest Airlines, Apple, UPS, and Intuit top the survey of the strongest brands for small- and midsize-business owners and decisionmakers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

5 years of guaranteed IVIg supply -- The Privigen Promise

We were pleased to work with CSL Behring in developing a strategic advantage in the competitive IVIg market.  In support of its liquid 10% brand Privigen, the company is now offering select hospitals access to Privigen for up to 5 years. Known as The Privigen Promise, this unique program will help minimize hospitals' supply risk in times of IVIg shortage, and ensure patients' needs are met.

Click here to learn more at the website we designed with the brand team.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Power Up…With Verbs

Here are some writing tips from Nancy Burgess, our director of CHEM at Stinson Brand Innovation.

Suppose you only have an hour to write your paper, report, or assignment. Where should you focus your energy? On a good hook or lead paragraph?

Certainly your introduction is important. It should pull your reader into the copy. But the fastest way to improve your writing is to concentrate on your verbs (the action words of the sentence).

Powerful verbs help to tighten writing, making it concise. Compelling verbs can paint vivid images in the reader’s mind.

Inexperienced writers sprinkle their paragraphs with excessive adjectives and adverbs (describing words)—rather than focusing their attention on the verbs. These writers overuse the verb “to be” and its many forms (am, is, are, was, were).

One tipoff to anemic writing is the word “there.” Often when a sentence starts with “there” the words that follow will sound passive and weak.

Consider the sentence:

There was a boy who went into the room.

It uses the verb “to be” and too many words to describe what is happening. It’s not “wrong,” but it’s not strong.

Instead, the sentence could simply read:

The boy went into the room.

The second sentence is more concise. But the verb went (a form of “to go”) is not very interesting. To make writing more appealing, many inexperienced writers would change the sentence to read:

The happy boy went into the room. (adjective added)
The boy went quickly into the room. (adverb added)


Now, let’s try the same basic sentence while “powering up” the verb.

The boy sauntered into the room.
The boy strolled into the room.
The boy strode into the room.
The boy skipped into the room.

What if the boy sidled, tiptoed, stole, or marched into the room? Each of these verbs shares a slightly different picture of the boy’s mood or personality. By switching out just one word—the verb—of the sentence, the writer can share valuable information with the reader and maintain interest.

So power up your computer, then power up your verbs — and pump a bit more energy into your writing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Capitalism in Medicine

Today’s blog is by Layne Shapiro, a brand engagement manager at Stinson Brand Innovation.

In the United States, health care is the number one cause for bankruptcy.   
Why are costs so high? 

One thought is that physicians are practicing defensive medicine.  To prevent malpractice charges, doctors have begun running excessive costly tests.  So long as insurance pays for it, there is no financial incentive to save the system money.

Since we live in a capitalistic country, medicine is practiced as a business.  While insurance pays for some unnecessary tests, they fail to cover other doctor recommended treatments.  Who should dictate care: the doctor or the insurance companies?

The newly enacted health care plan will try to address some of these issues.  But the web is so tightly spun, it’s hard to tell where the solution really lies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

HAE Hope website has information and tools to help more patients receive accurate diagnosis and better care

The website,, launched recently by Dyax Corp., offers resources to help patients and their families better understand and manage HAE, a rare, genetic disease characterized by episodes of severe and painful swelling.

A number of features of HAE Hope are designed to help patients with HAE. These include an "Ask the Expert" feature offering responses from an HAE treating physician, key questions to facilitate a discussion with a healthcare professional, and a personalized wallet card identifying a patient as someone with HAE and describing typical disease symptoms to use in case of an emergency. Another unique feature of HAE Hope is a 3-D animation that provides an overview of the physiological processes associated with HAE.

"HAE Hope provides valuable information that can better equip patients to gain more control over their disease and handle the challenging situations they confront regularly," says Greg Costa, who was diagnosed with HAE more than 20 years ago at the age of 19. "As a father of two, I also understand how important it is to have resources like HAE Hope available for patients' family members to teach them about this debilitating disease and how to manage potential emergencies with their loved one."

HAE is a rare, genetic disease caused by low or dysfunctional levels of C1 esterase inhibitor, a naturally occurring molecule that inhibits plasma kallikrein, a key mediator of inflammation. The condition is "hereditary" because it is caused by a genetic deficiency that is passed down in families. When a parent has HAE, there is a 50% chance that his or her child will inherit the disease, which can help with an earlier diagnosis. However, in as many as 25% of patients, the gene mutates on its own. Consequently, many patients are unaware they have HAE and may receive a delayed diagnosis.

"Even when HAE is inherited, it is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed because it is rare and its symptoms are similar to those of many other conditions. Historically, the interval between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis has been as long as 10 to 20 years," explained Dr. Andrew J. MacGinnitie, HAE treating physician and allergist/immunologist at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. "The information and tools provided on HAE Hope may help more patients receive an accurate diagnosis, and better understand their symptoms and how to manage them."

In addition to the tools described above, HAE Hope offers several other user-friendly features, including:
  • A "Do I Have HAE" questionnaire designed to help patients track their symptoms to facilitate a discussion with their healthcare provider if they are experiencing possible indicators of HAE
  • Helpful tips from HAE patients on topics ranging from managing attacks to parenting a child with HAE
  • Links to other online resources to learn more about HAE, including the U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association

Monday, April 19, 2010

Can I steal you for 1 minute?

The blog today was submitted by Melanie Stinson, director of Brand Engagements.

Let’s get real - social media can sometimes be like your super chatty colleague with a desk right next to yours. So, as a follow up to 1 Brain Runneth Over, I thought I’d paraphrase this article I just read in Ad Age: The Digital Issue.

In the article, David Berkowitz’s answers common questions in his social marketing column starting with “If I only have two minutes a day to devote to social marketing, what should I do?”

Q. If I only have two minutes a day to devote to social marketing, what should I do?
Check searches about your company, brands, executives, industry, or competitors

Q. What’s the next twitter?
A. Foursquare (Gowalla is the next Foursquare)
A web and mobile application that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded on weekends and non-business hours for "checking in" at venues.

Q. If I only have time to follow one person on Twitter, who should it be?
A. Shaquille O’Neal   @TheRealShaq
He coins more words than Seth Godin, responds to about as many people as Comcast, and has appeared in more bad movies than Alec Baldwin.

Q. What’s the first question I need to answer when developing a social marketing strategy?
A. What are your goals?
That sets the stage for everything else; what you’ll do, what vendors and partners you’ll work with, and how you’ll measure it.

Q. So wait, you’re saying social media is measurable?
A. Duh.
The problem is there are too many ways to measure it…

Q. What’s the best reason to set up a social-marketing program today, even if I’m not convinced I need one?
A. Any company or brand can benefit from having a direct connection with their target audiences, whether those are customers, prospects, business partners, local peers, analyst or others.
Marketers feel the need the most when they’re in crisis, but it’s like learning to swim – you’ll want to pick up the skill before you find yourself stranded in the Atlantic Ocean, or at your boss’s pool party.

Click here to read the full article.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fewer than 50% of medical practices are now physician-owned, says MGMA data

Traditionally, American medicine has been largely a cottage industry. Most doctors cared for patients in small, privately owned clinics — sometimes in rooms adjoining their homes.

But an increasing share of young physicians, burdened by medical school debts and seeking regular hours, are deciding against opening private practices. Instead, they are accepting salaries at hospitals and health systems.

And a growing number of older doctors — facing rising costs and fearing they will not be able to recruit junior partners — are selling their practices and moving into salaried jobs, too.

Read more in Tom Strattman’s article in The New York Times.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 biotech companies anticipating pivotal trial results this year

Thanks to Jairaj Mashru, brand engagement manager at Stinson Brand Innovation, for submitting today’s blog.

Clinical trials are extremely capital intensive in terms of time, money and resources (scientists, researchers, laboratory space and equipment), especially when they are conducted in-house.

Some companies are shifting to an outsourced model, leveraging contract research organizations (CROs) in developing countries to lower the cost.  Even so, analysts on Wall Street are always keeping a close watch on the results from these clinical trials because the success or failure of a trial can have a huge impact on a company’s future earnings. Plus, the outcome of a trial can mean new opportunities for the same company, its competitors, partners and suppliers.

Here’s a list of 10 companies and their clinical trials from a recent article by Adam Feuerstein:
  • Affyymax - Hematide for anemia due to chronic kidney disease
  • Allos Therapeutics - Folotyn in non-small cell lung cancer
  • Amgen - Denosumab for prevention of cancer-related bone damage
  • Decalth Systems - Percutaneous Hepatic Perfusion (PHP) for cancer-related liver metastases
  • GenVec - TNFerade for pancreatic cancer
  • Isis Pharmaceuticals - Mipomersen for heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (FH)
  • Medivation - Dimebon for Alzheimer's disease
  • Novelos Therapeutics - NOV-002 for non-small cell lung cancer
  • Optimer Pharmaceuticals - Fidaxomicin (OPT-80) for clostridium difficile infection
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals - Telaprevir for hepatitis C
Click here to read the full article and more details about the trials.

I personally hope that each of these trials meet their goals so that patients no longer have to wait for a better treatment — or in some cases, any treatment at all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

3 tips to avoid the "Plague" of over-eager product licensing

At STINSON Brand Innovation, we’ve been involved with clients on both sides the licensing table — those with technology to share, and those who have acquired rights to others’ brands.  We learn from every new encounter with these deals. And we often collaborate with other business consultants who bring a unique perspective to the planning.

One such collaborator is Technology Commercialization Group.  TCG works with senior executives worldwide to help them launch and develop markets and business operations in the medical device, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, veterinary and related healthcare industries.

TCG recently shared this article with us.

The author is Dr. Robert C. Keefer.  Dr. Keefer, one of TCG's principals, has 20 plus years of experience in business, finance and marketing for Fortune 500 pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, and for a number of start-ups and emerging biotech, diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies.

Large healthcare companies, scrambling to create viable products for the pipeline, are eager to in-license promising pharmaceuticals and medical device products. But the marketplace is flooded with offers, so companies eager to out-license their products may find a timely deal at a good valuation very tricky to achieve.
On top of that, the “Plague of Over-Eager Product Licensing” can easily infect your chances of closing a deal with the right licensing partner in the time frame you need. It’s practically an epidemic: Companies anxious to out-license a product quickly prepare a non-confidential licensing summary and then e-mail it to anyone and everyone, without regard for the recipients’ goals, strategies and real needs.

This approach is especially bad when e-mails are sent to the general company e-mail address. You hope they wind up in the business development (BD) department and with the right person in BD; however, that is not how it works in today’s business development and licensing environment.

At companies large enough to have both the money and the multiple needs, business development departments are organized by specialty. If your licensing opportunity has to do with wound care and your proposal is routed to the BD person working in cardiovascular disease, chances are it is not going to be forwarded. If it is, you don’t have the contact information for follow-up.

Broadcast e-mails can turn a perfectly good licensing opportunity into nothing more than spam. They generate responses from people who are probably not qualified nor motivated to anoint themselves as the person who will see that your opportunity is given its due regard. Even if they do respond, the endless questions, phone calls and inadequate due diligence back and forth will eat up your time. One of the symptoms of the Plague is that you think you want to get “yeses,” or at least well-qualified quick “nos”, but what you really get are just quick “nos”. BD executives have many opportunities and spend their time on the ones that come to them in the right way.

It also doesn’t work to send your licensing summary to a board member, the CEO or other top executive just because they might recognize your name and agree to forward it to the right person with their “stamp of approval.” This is another symptom of the Plague. It doesn’t work. We know; we’ve learned.

That CEO or executive has other worries, especially in these difficult times. If he/she does forward it, it goes to the next level down, who sends it to the next level down. If your licensing opportunity eventually does get in the right hands, at best you have created a “gritted teeth” situation by ignoring the person ultimately responsible for generating licensing deals. The business development folks are the gatekeepers of licensing opportunities. Their job is to work with R&D and commercial operations to understand what needs the company has in the pipeline and then to find deals to fill those needs. And here you come trying to circumvent the system. Not a good way to start.

You might get lucky with these methods — just like you might win the Lottery — but more likely, you will end up wasting time and taking much longer to find your licensing partner than if you had done your homework in the beginning.

Here are three steps to a better result:

1.  Create a non-confidential licensing summary that sells.

Anticipate questions. Potential licensing partners will scrutinize your document looking for reassurance that your licensing opportunity is credible and your summary complete enough to endorse and send it on to the team for further evaluation. They want a clear picture of the quality and quantity of data in support of the indication and the marketing opportunity. They’ve got to see the benefits to patients, doctors and providers. They have to sense that you know the competition — current and emerging. They need a solid projection on costs — estimated final price point, manufacturing costs, remaining development and regulatory costs.

The summary has to be complete enough to answer their questions without revealing confidential data that could jeopardize pending patents or spur copycat products. Walking that fine line between what is confidential and what is important must be done thoughtfully and with business development experience.  The attorneys can’t be in charge. You need to protect your company’s assets but give potential licensing partners enough information to sell them and to prevent deal-breaker surprises down the line.
A good non-confidential licensing summary is 2-3 pages long and can be used in multiple ways, including the invaluable one-to-one partnering meetings in Europe, North America and Japan. The summary must address the following topics at the right level of detail and scope: 
  • Executive summary
  • Product description
  • Clinical indications
  • Unique benefits
  • Regulatory filing status
  • Manufacturing and development program
  • Market prospects
  • Economic benefits
  • Competitive status
  • Intellectual property
  • Company overview
2.  Fully qualify the companies and individuals on your list.

Do your homework first. The industry is in a state of upheaval; strategies and personnel are changing continually. You can’t infer attitudes and preferences from what you knew yesterday. The company may have changed direction as recently as last month, last week or even yesterday as a result of an acquisition, failed clinical trial or a decision to focus on a specific therapeutic area.

Doing your homework means you have found the right person and you’ve talked to that person to learn the corporate, R&D and commercial strategies, as well as their current priorities. Armed with this information, you can and should tweak your licensing summary for that company. You might stress a different feature of your technology or product. It’s still the same opportunity, just positioned differently. 

While it might be obvious, this is often done best by someone who has done it before and has the learned lessons and contacts to prove it. Use and learn from experienced people. Advisors typically have the freshest contacts and the name recognition and rapport with the BD folks you need to reach. It is an art as much as a science, but the science includes communicating with a potential licensing partner in a listening/learning mode. While it might be an exaggeration (but not much), we’ve found that over 95% of people who have something to sell are so convinced of the curing power of their technology or product that they instantly lapse into a telling/selling mode.   Again, not good!

3.  Develop a team of opportunity champions at your target companies.

If you’ve created a great licensing summary that has captured the interest of a qualified company, the business development person will circulate your document to a specific team charged with evaluating and conducting due diligence.

A company can have 100 to 200 licensing opportunities to evaluate every year. So each one is measured against the others as well as against the internal opportunities being championed by their own product developers. Will this one get FDA approval quicker? How much more data do we need? Will it be easier to recruit patients for the clinical trial? Does this product give the sales rep a new message that will give a lift to all our other products? 
This requires a constant focus on building a team of opportunity champions outside the BD department in R&D, marketing, etc. If you have an established rapport with the company, and do it in the right way, your doing this will benefit you without alienating the BD contact person.  Most often it is not the business development person who has the most influence on completing the licensing deal, so learn the team dynamics and be able to communicate with all members on their terms. 

That means you need to be instantly able to help your newly developed champions sell the deal “up” and respond to internal questions about regulatory issues, clinical development, patent protection, emerging competition, marketing and sales, etc.

Yes, following this plan takes more time than sending out a broadcast e-mail with a hastily prepared licensing summary. But it is the cure for the “Plague” of Over-Eager Product Licensing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

3 ways to give your eyes a mini-vacation

During “Save Your Vision Month” sponsored by the American Optometric Association, Cindy Brumm reminded us of the importance of taking care of our eyes, especially in our computer-driven world. 

We sit in front of computer screens for hours on end, which wrecks havoc on our bodies.  Neck strain, wrist pain, tight hamstrings and hip flexors, backaches…the list is endless.  It’s important for us to get up at least once an hour to stretch and move around in order to relieve the physical stressors caused by all this sitting.  And it’s equally important to give our eyes a break to prevent eye strain, dry eyes, and blurry vision.

The American Optometric Association describes eye problems caused by prolonged computer use “Computer Vision Syndrome.” Defined as "the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work that are experienced during or related to computer use," it’s a good bet that many of us suffer from it.  We look straight ahead at our computer screens for extended periods of time, blink less often, and work in environments that are often dry.

What can you do to prevent eye problems and promote eye health?  The ergonomics of your work station is especially important – your monitor should be 20-26” from your eyes and the top of the monitor should be a little below horizontal eye level.  Make sure your monitor is clean and glare-free, and adjust resolution, brightness and contrast to ensure that what you see is sharp and easy to read.  If you are able to place a humidifier nearby, that helps prevent dry eyes.

One of the best things you can do for your eyes is easy and doesn’t cost a thing.  Just take occasional “eye breaks:”
  1. Blink forcefully to help moisten your eyes
  2. Use artificial tears if your eyes feel especially dry
  3. Most important, rest your eyes, allowing them to look off into the far distance.  This helps counteract all the near work you do at your computer.  Look far off down the hallway, at a far corner of the ceiling or, if you sit near a window, look at the sky or down the street.
 Your eyes will thank you for these “mini-vacations” and they’ll stay healthier, longer.

Have you noticed any eye problems from working at your computer?  Share your experiences or thoughts by clicking on “Comments.”

Monday, April 12, 2010

IBM wants to inspire us blog — research on Blog Muse at CHI2010

Our finance and operations director, Robb Hughes, just finished the book Inbound Marketing.  And he’s been thinking a lot about how to consistently “create remarkable content.”  Here are some of his observations (and research about a tool to be presented this week at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta).

Inevitably if you have a personal blog or contribute to your company blog, you have probably had similar musings. 

IBM has been developing a tool they call “Blog Muse” that might save bloggers from “writers block.”

IBM’s research shows better than 80% of those who begin a corporate blog never post more than five entries.  Blogs can be a powerful tool that pull in customers and expose your company and ideas to new audiences, but no blog will see the light of day on a search engine result page if there are so few entries. 

In the beginning blogging can feel like a real waste of time. Hardly anyone visits the blog. No one is commenting.  Many bloggers ask, what’s the point?

Blog Muse can offer inspiration. It offers bloggers topic suggestions made by readers. Topics are ranked and distributed to bloggers that write blogs about similar topics. That way, a topic about the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner isn’t sent to a car enthusiast blog.  Once the blogger has written the blog, readers who suggested the topic are alerted. Everyone wins. Bloggers write about relevant topics that have passionate readers and readers can find new blogs that write about their interests. Bloggers testing the software also have seen about twice as many comments and three times as many ratings. Traffic is up too. How much wasn’t specified.

IBM is unsure if it will commercialize the technology and says there is additional research to be done. The original research was done over only four weeks with 1,000 users.  The latest data will be presented at CHI 2010 on Wednesday, April 14 by Casey Dugan, Werner Geyer, and David R. Millen of IBM T.J. Watson Research.  Their workshop entitled “Lessons Learned from Blog Muse: Audience-based Inspiration for Bloggers” will describe the evaluation of a system whose goal is to inspire potential blog writers by connecting them with their audience through a topic-suggestion approach.

Their conclusion: topics requested by users are most effective.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Going “Above the fold” with Google Labs Browser Size Tool

Our blog today was submitted by creative CHEMist, Greg Dosmann.

Google Browser Size is a visualization of browser window sizes commonly used by Google’s visitors. In the image below, the "90%" contour means that 90% of people visiting Google have their browser window open to at least this size or larger.

This tool is useful for ensuring that key content of a page’s interface is visible by a wide audience. The print design term “above the fold” refers to the location of important news stories or a visually appealing photograph on the upper half of the front of a newspaper. So, the Google tool tool is an interesting new take on the term “above the fold” as it illustrates just how important it is in web design as it is in print. Although many argue that folds do not exist on a web page, the principles of “above the fold” do.

Here’s how it works:

The Google tool allows you to input a URL and the site is quickly displayed under a colored graph that shows what percentage of your audience will be able to see important content without the need of scrolling. Depending on the contrast of your site, it is a good idea to adjust the opacity of the overlay so you can really see where the lines fall on the interface. I explored this tool, applying it to a few different sites I have designed, and the only problem I found was that it only works effectively for left justified sites. With some slight adjustments you can get a rough idea of percentages surrounding a center justified site although it isn’t quite the same.

It’s critical in the early stages that web designers understand where important information is displayed and what the audience will see within a fraction of a second upon landing on a page. I hope the next version of this tool would be offered as a downloadable application as it would be extremely beneficial to web designers who want to test their sites in the earliest stages.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

5 common reasons for insomnia — and 6 tips to help you sleep better

Cindy Brumm takes care of a lot of things in our office. In today’s blog, she offers way for us to take care of ourselves, too.

We live in a chronically stressed society and often lie awake at night, “to do” lists running through our heads.  Cultural norms have us believing that we need to be constantly productive and on the move, and that sleep is for sissies.  Unfortunately, our bodies weren’t built for non-stop action, and restful sleep is our best tool for distressing and healing our bodies and minds, and boosting our immune systems.

Experts like Dr. Frank Lipman, author of REVIVE: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (2009), estimates that as many as 70% of Americans suffer some sort of sleep deprivation.   Even mild deprivation can interfere with our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms and result in serious health issues, if prolonged.  High blood pressure, heart attacks, hormone imbalance, diabetes, depression and even weight gain can be correlated with sleeplessness, as can a loss in productivity, lack of attention to detail, and impaired motor skills.

What causes poor sleep?  Many factors can contribute, but a few common reasons for insomnia include:
  • Too much stress, which sends our nervous system into overdrive
  • An unhealthy diet, especially one heavy in stimulants (caffeine, alcohol), processed foods, fat and sugar
  • Gastrointestinal issues, like acid reflux (often caused by stress and/or fatty and acidic foods) Breathing problems, including sleep apnea
  • Chronic pain
While drugs are available to help alleviate insomnia, it’s best to identify causes of sleep loss and adjust habits and behaviors first.  

There are many tips to help you sleep better – here are a few simple ones that can yield big results, if practiced consistently:
  1. Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, including colas, teas and chocolate. And watch your sugar intake. If you must indulge, try to do so at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  2. Double-check medication side effects with your physician.  Some drugs, especially those for blood pressure, asthma, depression, and allergies, can cause sleeplessness.
  3. Go for a walk in the sunshine.  Now that spring is here, get out in the fresh air and sunlight.  Not only will the exercise help your body relax and loosen up, but the sunshine will help you build up natural amounts of vitamin D, which also boosts your energy levels.  (This is especially important because many of us work inside under artificial light.) 
  4. Turn off the news.  You don’t need to absorb the world’s problems right before bed.  If you need a news fix, Tivo it and watch it in the morning.
  5. Set a regular routine.  Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet, and go to bed around the same time every night.
  6. Just breathe.  Yes, sounds simplistic, but taking time to focus on your breath can make a difference.  During the workday, try to take a couple of 5 minute breathing breaks to relieve stress.  In the evening, set aside 5-15 minutes of “quiet time” at the end of each day for deep breathing.  By focusing on your breath, you help your mind and body slow down and relax which, in turn, can help you fall asleep faster and rest more fully.  An easy breathing exercise: breathe in for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts.  Just focus on the breath and let your thoughts go.  It’s okay – you’re worth the 15 minutes.
Tweaking some of your habits doesn’t cost a thing.  I’ve noted 6 habit-busters above.  Why not pick 2 and give them a try?  You may just find that you’re sleeping better and have more energy than ever.  

Friday, April 09, 2010

New Clearasil campaign concentrates on the Science...of Looking Awesome

This brand review was written by Katie Pendlay, our global design director at Stinson Brand Innovation.

Clearasil, a Reckitt Benckiser-owned brand, introduced a new campaign a couple of weeks ago called “The Science of Looking Awesome.”

The brand is no longer using the humorous approach of last year’s campaign. They had previously pitched the product to teens, but are now shifting to 18-21-year-olds. The ads last year were based on a tagline of “May cause confidence.” In a commercial titled “Lipstick,” a teenager asks a girl if he can “borrow her lipstick,” and then he kisses her on the lips. In another ad, teenage boy gains so much confidence he even hits on his friend's mother. These ads caused a bit of controversy, so perhaps a shift to something more reverent is the underlying reason for the shift. Many believed that the racy ads aimed at teens crossed a line. Perhaps they are trying to keep up with the current research findings that teens are more overtly sexual and they need to be more risqué with the advertising in order to appeal to that age group. Now,  both the print and TV ads use graphics including diagrams of chemical bonds. Procter & Gamble’s Olay has also shifted to a more scientific positioning with launches of Pro-X and Olay Total Effects.

This shift of approach can be analyzed using one of our proprietary tools, Action Shoes®.  Action Shoes is a tool and a method that:
  • analyzes actions
  • creates options for actions
  • helps group people by similar action styles
  • helps create breadth of action possibilities
If we were telling the story of “Clearasil” using the six shoes in Action Shoes, the old campaign used the pink slipper. The pink slipper’s association is emotion and people. It is fun and “warm and fuzzy.” The old campaign’s use of humor, as crass as it might have been to some people, still showed the personal relationships and personal needs associated with the product.

If we were to look at the new campaign, perhaps the Navy formal would be the shoe they are currently using. The Navy shoe concentrates more on the formality of the product — the protocols, procedures and guidelines, and in this case, the science.

But let’s not throw away the pink slippers just yet; Clearasil is not moving away from its core message of "confidence." Michael Fanuele, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG, said Clearasil is “emphasizing a different part of the story: What goes into the products we make as opposed to simply celebrating what it does. It’s a fiercely competitive category, and at the end of the day, consumers want to choose something that works.” 

Thursday, April 08, 2010

20% Sub-Q Ig Therapy — a first-in-class product from CSL Behring

CSL Behring received approval from the FDA in March to begin marketing Hizentra, a 20% subcutaneous formulation for treating patients diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency (PI). A once weekly immunoglobulin (Ig) replacement therapy, Hizentra, provides effective protection against infection by maintaining a steady and normal level of immunoglobulin in the body.

Hizentra is the first 20% subcutaneous immunoglobulin (SCIg) approved in the U.S. by the FDA. This high-concentration product is stabilized with L-proline, a naturally-occurring amino acid which allows the medication to be stored at room temperature, offering patients and physicians convenience and portability. Hizentra can be safely self-administered by PI patients under a physician's care.

PI medications are typically intravenously infused and result in severe side effects and infusion site reactions. Now, PI patients have a new treatment option with the freedom to self-administer their IG therapy when and where it suits them.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How to stay focused on your “Core Genius”

I believe we all have inside of us a “core genius”... some one thing that you love to do, and do so well, that you hardly feel like doing anything else. It’s effortless and a whole lot of fun. And if you could make money doing it, you’d make it your lifetime’s work.

In most cases, your Core Genius is directly tied to passions and life purpose.

That's why you see successful people put their core genius first. They focus on it—and delegate everything else to other people on their team.

Jack Canfield, a mentor and friend, shared these thoughts with me.  He said that for him, his core genius lies in the area of teaching, training, coaching and motivating. Another core genius is writing and compiling books. Over Jack’s 35-year career, he has written, co-authored, compiled and edited more than 150 books – and he loves to do it! He does it well, and people get great value from it.

Compare that to the other people in the world who go through life doing everything, even those tasks they’re bad at or that could be done cheaper, better, and faster by someone else.  They simply can’t find the time to focus on their core genius because they fail to delegate even the most menial of tasks. When you delegate the things you hate doing or those tasks that are so painful you end up putting them off—you get to concentrate on what you love to do. You free up your time so that you can be more productive. And you get to enjoy life more.

So why is delegating routine tasks and unwanted projects so difficult for most people?

Surprisingly, most people are afraid of looking wasteful or being judged as being above everyone else. They are afraid to give up control or reluctant to spend the money to pay for help. Deep down, most people simply don't want to let go.  Others (potentially any of us) have simply fallen into the habit of doing everything themselves. "It's too time-consuming to explain it to someone," you say. "I can do it more quickly and better myself anyway." But can you?

Here’s more of what Jack Canfield, shared with me:

Delegate Completely!

If you’re a professional earning $75 per hour and you pay a neighborhood kid $10 an hour to cut the grass, you save the effort of doing it yourself on the weekend and gain one extra hour when you could profit by $65.  Of course, while one hour does’t seem like much, multiply that by 52 weekends a year and you discover you’Ave gained 52 hours a year at $65 per hour —or an extra $3,380 in potential earnings.

Similarly, if you’re a real estate agent, you need to list houses, gather information for the multiple listings, attend open houses, do showings, put keys in lock boxes, write offers and make appointments.  And, if you’re lucky, you eventually get to close a deal. 

But let’s say that you’re the best closer in the area. 

Why would you want to waste your time writing listings, doing lead generation, placing lock boxes, and making videos of the property when you could have a staff of colleagues and assistants doing all that,  thus freeing you up to do more closing?  Instead of doing just one deal a week, you could be doing three deals because you had delegated what you’re less good at.

One of the strategies I use and teach is complete delegation. It simply means that you delegate a task once and completely - rather than delegating it each time it needs to be done.

Most entrepreneurs spend less than 30% of their time focusing on their core genius and unique abilities.

In fact, by the time they've launched a business, it often seems entrepreneurs are doing everything but the one thing they went into business for in the first place.

Many salespeople, for example, spend more time on account administration than they do on the phone or in the field making sales, when they could hire a part-time administrator (or share the cost with another salesperson) to do this time-consuming detail work. In most cases, in a fraction of the time it would take them and at a fraction of the cost.

Most female executives spend too much time running their household, when they could easily and inexpensively delegate this task to a cleaning service or part-time mother's helper, freeing them to focus on their career or spend more quality time with their family.

Don't let this be your fate!

Identify your core genius, then delegate completely to free up more time to focus on what you love to do.

I believe that you can trade, barter, pay for and find volunteer help to do almost everything you don't want to do, leaving you to do what you are best at - and which will ultimately make you the most money and bring you the most happiness.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

7 questions to ask if your design is stuck – what would a dancer do?

Our blog today was submitted by Brandy Gonsoulin, project and operations manager at STINSON.  She’s also a former dancer, and still a dancer at heart.
I often think back to the multiple dance rehearsals I have been a part of and the great choreography that came out of those sessions.  

Mostly, I think of how we approached the creative process and how it differs from most business brainstorming sessions.  We didn’t get in a room and say “Let’s make something great happen.”  Instead, we started moving and manipulating ideas until something great eventually did happen. And soon one idea would lend itself to another and another and another.  We approached every session like this because we were trained to view our space and movement through a lens that was different from the obvious. We were trained to ask unrealistic questions and challenged to find the answers.

We all know that great design is that which appeals, is usable, solves problems. and, to the most extreme, changes how we function in daily activities.  And where there’s great design, there’s usually greater profit.  Every company in the business of design (and we all are) faces this very challenge of creating an offering/product that will appeal, be usable, and solve problems for its customers – and do it better than the competition.  This development process can sometimes leave most capable teams daunted.

What if the next time you sat down to design, create, invent, or just do your daily tasks, you looked through the lens of a dancer.  And then started posing the problem into questions of movement:
  1. How does/will it move through space?
  2. Who will it interact with?
  3. Can it be reversed, split, or shifted?
  4. What is the energy, intention behind it?
  5. Where does it need to end up?
  6. Is the opposite of the obvious way the most appealing?
  7. Is the music driving the movement, or the other way around? 
The questions can go on and on and will most likely lead your idea down a different path than you and your team may have ever been.

Click here to read an interesting blog on how the study of movement is being applied – in products like the iPhone and Wii Fit technology. 

Monday, April 05, 2010

6 Views on Customer Strategy Trends for 2010

Several industry watchers grab their binoculars to look ahead to the customer strategy trend that will have the biggest impact on business in 2010. Not surprisingly, social media is still atop the “what's hot” list. Next year, however, expect to see the emphasis shift from branding to service, as companies expand their use of online communities and customer forums to both serve customers and to create places where customers can help each other. Ultimately, 2010 will be the year to make it easy for customers to be heard, to respond to and resolve their issues expediently, and to create advocates as a result.

1.  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., cofounders of Peppers & Rogers Group

One of the biggest sea changes in the way our whole society functions is happening as a result of social media: People are helping other people more than ever before on service websites like those Verizon and Dell provide for their customers. The reason customers help other customers is simply, "Because I got good service, I want to help other people."  It's generating a tremendous increase in the charitableness of people. And it fuels a trusting environment. Today's increasingly central role of person-to-person trust will change the character of business over next decade. We now have a mechanism—the wisdom of crowds, social transparency—that forces vendors to play it straight. Trust will ensure the future success of a company. Organizations have to do things that are good for them this quarter and that are good for their customers over the long term. Trust is now a currency.

2.  Natalie Petouhoff, Ph.D., senior analyst, Forrester Research

Two areas of focus will be knowledge management and social media. Social media is a business transformation tool. It's important to engage in conversations and use the information from those interactions as intelligence on how to transform your business. We're seeing this especially in service: It's no longer "do more with less;" it's now, "fix this." Budgets are opening up as a result.  Agents have one-on-one relationships with customers and when that doesn't work, customers are broadcasting that one-to-millions. If you respond, customers respect that. They don't expect perfection. You can't listen and do business as usual. You have to respond.  There's also a new paradigm of super-user customers who love to answer other customers" questions, and who want to be acknowledged, get kudos, and be VIPs. Companies are integrating that [service resolution] information back into their KM systems for agent and for self-service, and have a robust KM system as a result.

3.  Jeanne Bliss, president of Customer Bliss and author of I Love You More Than My Dog

Two things: One is that the leaky bucket did not get refilled in 2009 in the way it had previously. There wasn't the prosperity of more customers as there had been in the past. So, many executives are finally looking at customers as the asset of their business. As a result, they're realizing that they have to do things differently to retain customers. It's become a great forcing function. Also happening is that we've gotten over the "magic-bullet-itis" of social media. Executives now understand that social media is part of an overall customer listening strategy, so they'll do a better job of integrating social media into a customer listening strategy instead of thinking as a separate entity. It’s really just one more arrow in the quiver to listen to and respond to customers.

4.  Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

With more [cloud-based systems] and smarter devices, it's never been easier to put our ideas into action, and into the hands of more people. So it will be important that our ideas are bigger, better, and more focused on our customers. That's why 2010 will be an important year to begin really listening to customers, and using social media monitoring tools to fully understand what is important to them, who they listen to, and how we can best serve them. Listening to their sentiment can help us generate better ideas to put into action, and hopefully, inspire customers to stay with us longer.

5.  Joe Outlaw, principal analyst, Frost & Sullivan

Support for social media and social networking will have a large impact in 2010. There's been a lot of hype around trying to monetize lead generation and peer-to-peer on the sales and marketing side. There's more on the customer service side, like forums, that is real and works today. Companies use software to monitor sites and blogs for customer service issues, not necessarily for brand defense. They're hearing about something that may impact the contact center's ability to deliver service. Comcast, for example, tracked people complaining about the dropped feed of a big fight; the company was able to proactively prep agents on what to say, and found that local TV coverage was actually the problem. This might be considered brand defense, but it's also service.  Additionally, service, which often doesn't have much budget, is partnering with sales and marketing folks on their companies" social media efforts. We're in the early stages of determining what information should go where and who should deal with it, but the side benefit is that sales, marketing, and service are working more closely together.

6.  Jeff Hilimire, chief digital officer, Engauge

The customer strategy trend that will make the biggest impact on business in 2010 is the ability to forge a relationship with customers in the way that they wish to interact with you versus the way you want them to interact. This means understanding that some customers want to talk to you on the phone, some want to receive emails, some want to get a text, some a Facebook message, and yes, some a response via Twitter. This will force companies to rethink the way in which they interact with their customers, focusing on one-to-one conversations instead of mass messaging.

You can read what’s on my mind for the coming year in Issue 14 of ACCELERATE Newsletter

Friday, April 02, 2010

7 questions to ask about “Going the Extra Mile”

Are you someone who consistently goes the extra mile and routinely over delivers on your promises?

It's rare these days, but it's the hallmark of high achievers who know that exceeding expectations helps you stand above the crowd. Almost by force of habit, successful people simply do more.

As a result, they experience not only greater financial rewards for their extra efforts but also a personal transformation, becoming more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more influential with those around them. These high achievers stand out from the crowd because of their extra efforts. They are unwilling to give up, even in the face of difficult times. They get the promotions, they get the loyal customers, they grow their businesses twice as fast, they get financial rewards, job security, and they go home feeling satisfied.

My friend and mentor, Jack Canfield, offers these 7 questions to help examine our desire, our ability, and our propensity to go the extra mile.

1.    Do you exceed expectations?

2.    Do you surprise people with more than they were expecting from you?

3.    Do you have the opportunity - but also the personal initiative - to go the extra mile?

To be successful you must change your thinking. You can only win by making extra efforts. People who go the extra mile always get payback. You will discover yourself becoming more self-confident, more self-reliant and more influential with those around you. People notice the special services and all the small touches that make dealing with you so pleasurable. And when they are talking to their friends they will mention you and recommend you because you are the one who stands out. People will see that you pay attention to detail, that you consider all the small things that really make a business successful, that you care about your image, and that you belong with all the other people who work hard to achieve. You will attract new business and new opportunities.

4.    Have you listened to a success story for an example of someone who worked exceptionally hard to get what they wanted?

You’ll hear how they put in the extra time, did what wasn’t part of their job description, and over-delivered on what was asked of them. You’ll hear how they stuck at it until they broke through, and usually you’ll hear how it only took them a couple of years to do it.

5.    What have you been doing for the past couple of years? 

Think of what you could accomplish if you made it a habit to exceed everyone’s expectations. Image what doors could be open to you if you decided to be of better service and value.

6.    How are you willing to go the extra mile? 

What kind of extra service are you willing to provide in order to stand out from the rest? What areas of your life could you be giving more of your effort and time, becoming more valuable, and improving your reputation?

7.    Are you willing to treat everyone like you’d treat your dearest friend? 

Don’t skimp on service. Don’t be mediocre or run of the mill. Show people what you are capable of. Show them that you care about your image and reputation.

When it comes to success, the people who are willing to go the extra mile get there that much faster!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

LinkedIn Group discussion on the “attributes of an iconic brand”

Those of you who know me know that I love LinkedIn.  With some 4,975 connections at last count, I’ve been able to use the network to share ideas and referrals – and ultimately meet business partners – all over the world.  (By the way, I invite you to connect with me. Click here.)

Beyond the directory database of connections, I enjoy the LinkedIn Groups that can generate engaging discussions.

Recently Simon Edwards, a brand manager at 3M in Reading, UK sparked a stimulating exchange with this: “I'm having an interesting discussion with my team, what are the common attributes of an iconic brand?”

I thought I’d share a few of the responses Simon got from brand marketers across the globe.

Jason Mlicki
Owner, Mlicki
Columbus, OH

Some underlying attributes tend to be focus, clarity and authenticity. However, all iconic brands tend to connect customers with an overreaching philosophy that fosters emotional connection between the customer and the brand. Examples of brands and the emotions they foster:
  • Nike = Performance. "I feel like I can run faster or jump higher when I wear my Nikes."
  • Target = Affordable Design. "At Wal-Mart, I get the best price. At Target, I get style and price."
  • Apple = CounterCulture. "I want style, simplicity and usability. My Mac says to the world that I'm different and unique. In short, I hate Windows and everything it represents."
Ian West
Managing Director at One-Marketing Ltd
Chelmsford, UK

I think the key word here is 'common' - asking what attributes iconic brands share. Picking up on Jason's comment, these are essentially differentiators in terms of the brand narratives. In some of the research projects I am working on we look for 'brand cohorts': First asking a sample to attach emotional qualities to brands in question (represented by logos). Then we ask a second sample to assemble groups of brands together into cohorts that share similar values - finally we analyse the emotional qualities against the groups. In this way we hope to build up a database of brands and their atributes to use as benchmarks for new branding exercises.

Ed Burghard
CEO and Manager at The Burghard Group
Cincinnati, OH

The typical way I teach this is that a brand must meet 5 key criteria. Iconic brands meet them with excellence and are proactively managed over time to do so. The 5 criteria are - relevancy, competitiveness, authenticity, clarity of promise, consistency of communication. The hard work is the proactive management of the brand (including product development) to ensure the 5 criteria are delivered.

Michael L Price
Integrated Marketing Missionary, Agency Pro, Blogger, and Social Media Apostle
Philadelphia, PA

At its heart each iconic brand has the following:
  1. An intangible connection
  2. It never changes thus leaving a lasting impression
  3. It inspires
And each one of these attributes resonates across both the external and internal stakeholders.

John Furgurson
Owner, BNBranding
Eugene, OR

I agree with all that, but here's another way to think about it: Iconic brands have a compelling story to tell. When that story is told over time, it establishes that intangible connection that inspires, is authentic, clear, competitive, etc etc.
Louise Barfield
Development Director at CRICKET Ltd
London, UK

Agree there's another dimension - some brands embody an emotional response - they literally transport you or provide a means of escape, or invite you to join a different community or 'gang'. That's beyond iconic, perhaps (but, let's face it, iconic is an over-used term in branding) but 'transformational' brands leave a mark like no other.

Brenton Schmidt
Differentiation Zealot, Brand Strategy Shaper, Authenticity Evangelist
Kitchener, Canada

To build on the ideas related to story telling...

Coke is often defined as an iconic brand because of the deep meaning the brand carries. Iconic brands often align with an archetypal character and story which is instantly recognizable, psychologically stimulating and meaningful.

Coke embodies the Innocent archetype as expressed through their advertising from polar bears to Santa Claus or the classic 'I'd like to teach the world to sing' campaign.

From the inside cover of 'Hero and The Outlaw-Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes':

Some brands are so extraordinary that they become larger-than-life, symbolic of entire cultures, admired by consumers the world over. But in spite of all the banter about branding, few companies come even close to developing such iconic identities for their brands.

The authors suggest that the way to do this is by tapping into archetypes or deep psychic imprints to gain meaning, market share for your brand.

Stephen Abbott
Brand Strategist, Managing Partner, Octopus Strategies
Vancouver, Canada

I would like to add 'Leadership' to the list of attributes already mentioned.

It's not about market share, though; iconic brands play by their own rules. These brands tend to break the preconceived notion of function, service, style or culture, catching the competition off guard and finding unprecedented loyalty (which the competition promptly argues is illogical based on "feature facts", as if those matter.)

Andy Wright
Marketing Director - Men's at ACP Magazines
Sydney, Australia

An iconic brand plays a valued role in a consumer's life. They deliver a feeling that the consumer just can't get from any other brand. That feeling may be security, safety, familiarity, excitement, satisfaction, indulgence or many others. These feelings are delivered through the brand experience, when you pick up the phone to a call centre, visit a store, open the packaging, see a TV ad, open the lid of a laptop - lots of smaller defining brand moments that add value to an overall experience.

Jeetendra Lalwani
Brand manager at Bates 141
Mumbai, India

I would like to say for a brand to be iconic, it has to constantly innovative, understand the new trends and deliver on the same. Since I am from india and cricket is the passion here. I would like to state the example of Sachin Tendulkar. He is a star who has delivered on all the fronts whether it is Test cricket or One days. Even today when the game has changed rapidly and adopted the 20-20 format he is still a superstar unlike other stars like dravid, Ganguly who have failed on that front. Sachin Tendulkar is surely a true replica of an iconic brand
Sherry Paprocki
Author, President of Paprocki Ltd.
Columbus, OH

Think Abecrombie & Fitch. If that strong emotional bond isn't formed with a target audience, nothing else will happen. Appeal to the five senses.