Archive for December, 2006

I can’t help looking at logos, compulsively evaluating their appeal and effectiveness. Some logos simply grab the eyeballs and emotions in a very powerful way, others make me want to…well, to be blunt, lose my lunch on the sidewalk.

Much of my work is in the pharmaceutical field, and there seems to be a dearth of good design and creativity when it comes to logos. While I think that some of the top 50 pharma companies have reasonably appealing logos (Pfizer, J&J, Novartis, Lilly, and Valeant come to mind), many of them are pretty much “blah”.

On the biotech (medicine) side, however, there are at least a few that are graphically appealing, simple, creative, and (how else do I put this??) postive-feeling. Here is the countdown of my current top five:

5. Zelos: attractive typeface, nice use of complementary colors – somehow this logo manages to feel both professional and informal at the same time.

4. Javelin: while I’m not sure why someone would name a medical company after an instrument that, when used, everyone runs away from, this logo is a nice graphic that corresponds well with the company name. The javelin imagery is pleasing and modern, and the color combination works well.

3. OSI: something about the use of the parenthesis around OSI just works – it’s a simple but unexpected way to emphasize the name. The grey and red color combo is appealing, and the use of non-capitalized type for the word “pharmaceuticals” makes the logo more approachable.

2. Solstice Neurosciences: it takes a lot for me to have postive feelings about anything orange (just a personal quirk), but this logo works nicely. The company name is imaginatively captured by the treatment of the “O”, and in this instance, the typeface still feels very approachable even when using all caps.

…and now, my favorite (for many years, ever since I first saw it)…

1. Gilead: a sweet combination of professionalism and academia, and a great use of white/red reversal. The typeface for “Gilead” is nice too, but it’s the graphic that makes this. Simple, striking, memorable – I’d wear this on a t-shirt in a heartbeat.

There are many, many logos, taglines, and websites that make me want to gag – far too many to list here – but when it comes to the You can’t possibly be serious?!? Award, I think this one takes the cake…!

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A good counter-balancing article, run by the LA Times. It’s good to see someone in the “Big Media” refusing to pile on with more negative spin on “Big Pharma”.

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After almost 20 years of “career” jobs (and, of course, other “get by” jobs before that), I finally ventured out on my own in the middle of 2006. I’d thought about such a move for many years, but did not feel ready – until late 2005, when it dawned on me that the ONLY way I was ever going to have a tailor-made opportunity to harness my strengths and run in my desires was to…well, tailor-make it myself. No-one else was going to do it for me – an employer’s agenda will always trump my ideals.

So, what are the lessons I’ve learned thus far? Here are 10:

1. Have a clear, yet flexible vision. Know what it is you are pursuing, make sure that you can articulate it to others…but be aware that the market may, as you start to promote what you’re doing, point you in some different directions. These variations on your dream may, in fact, be the most lucrative course. My initial business model – providing high-level consultative sales expertise for my provider network, while also providing fee-based consulting service for my client base – is meeting clear market needs. But I’ve already seen a couple of new, complementary avenues open up that are variations on the theme. I like to plan and anticipate and map out EVERYthing – these months have convinced me that I am not, in fact, in charge of the universe, and sometimes a new direction comes from left field – or at least from shortstop! Be ready to evolve.

2. Act. This lesson flows from 1. above. If you have 80% of your offering/message/direction mapped out, grab it by the horns and get out there. The other 20% probably won’t show up until you’re rubbing shoulders with your target market, and starting to make noise. It is more important to show your face than to have everything in place. Once I knew I was going into business for myself, I drew up a list of everything that I figured had to be done, and just did it. Yes, I had to reprint my business cards a few months into it once my message was refined (and once I decided to add a landline and not just live off my cell #), but by then I’d already gotten the ball rolling. Cards are cheap. Delay is expensive.

3. Network. A lot. Believe that your professional colleagues want to see you succeed, and don’t hesitate to ask them to help. I send out a regular stream of e-mails and cards, and make lots of phone calls to those who will provide support and referrals – the most valuable business development resource of all. If you haven’t built up goodwill over the years, and don’t have a real or virtual Rolodex of cheerleaders, you’re probably sunk as far as succeeding in your own (or any) business. On the dark days – when nothing seems to be happening – I take comfort in the fact that I can rehearse the names and faces of many people who are actively wanting to see me succeed.

4. Help others. Give of what you have – your time, your knowledge, your connections. When you help others with their needs, they will go to extraordinary lengths to help you. I’ve been able to help people make connections with others (including potential employers) and find needed resources with no financial return expected – but I fully expect that this commitment to help my clients and partners and other colleagues will not be in vain. For some of my partners, I’ve “given away” my business and marketing expertise to help them refine their approach – and I know that, in return, there is tremendous loyalty built up over time.

5. Take full advantage of cheap and free communications. One of my first acts was to launch a blog (using WordPress), and write articles of interest (granted, not everyone is a writer – I thoroughly enjoy working with words). Then, very inexpensively, I began a weekly e-newsletter using Constant Contact (the “Friday Collection”) which goes out to my target audience with news, resources, and links – and, with continual repetition of my business identity. I invested the grand sum of $50.00 to have a “caricature” made of my face, which now appears on the newsletter and on all my e-mails. Each of these initiatives has been a tremendous success, with very little invested except time and creativity. Free press releases, announcements in trade magazines, posts on other blogs – the methods for gaining exposure are legion, and increasingly, free.

6. Be an expert. You have to have some area of expertise for people to pay attention to your signals, over the level of background noise. Be sure that what you do, or offer, is narrow and specialized enough that you are not an also-ran. And demonstrate the trappings of expertise by writing articles, doing book and conference reviews, and interviewing thought-leaders – all tactics I’ve employed on my blog.

7. Take great care in establishing your brand identity. Your logo, tagline, and message to the market are your best foot forward – unless people can quickly grasp who you are and what you do, and have something memorable to hang it all on, you’ll have trouble maintaining traction. It goes without saying – so I’ll say it – that you’ll need to research available names according to URLs available on the internet, and also look into trademarks. It took me many weeks to settle on “Impactiviti”, a completely “clean” word, which I could absolutely own. Be sure that you have a talented graphic designer help you create the logo – there are even on-line services for this now, which will help develop a logo for a fixed price (shameless plug: I do provide branding services as well – see www.impactiviti.biz).

8. Join. Be part of professional organizations, go to local meetings, volunteer your time. Be involved, and help get your clients involved. Consider professional networking platforms, such as LinkedIn. Starting a new business can be lonely – help stave off the danger of isolation-induced discouragement by getting side-by-side with others. In my case, I’ve been able to join a local chapter of a training organization, and help clients and partners get more involved, for networking and even speaking opportunities.

9. Target your best opportunities for initial business. It’s probably not the “world at large.” More likely, it is clients you already know and have worked with. While you want to get your message out to the broader marketplace, your first business is probably going to come from those with whom you have a track record. My wiring has always been to try to reach everyone – it’s a discipline for me to focus on a handful of my closest colleagues. But, of course, it is the people I’ve already cultivated over time that are most open to hear from me, both clients, and others who can provide referrals.

10. Don’t be afraid to be plain, transparent, and open. People respect authenticity. No, you cannot do everything – if someone asks you about something that is “to the side” of your sweet spot, as tempting as it might be to grasp at any business, simply admit that it’s not in your repertoire but see if you can find another resource. Ask people for help – I often have run ideas past a handful of my partners and clients, before they go “out” to the public, for input and critique – and have found great responsiveness as I allow them a transparent look into my thought processes.

11. And now, a bonus entry – be fully prepared to fail. Now, by this I don’t mean give in to pessimism, or be guilty of bad planning. It just may be that your business idea simply won’t fly – and that won’t be the end of the world. Count the cost up front, run a “worst-case scenario” exercise, and launch the business without desperation – there is a serenity that comes from having already considered the “what if” possibilities. I am quite convinced that other doors will open if this one closes, and it is easier to be patient when you’ve planned for the possibility (likelihood!) that revenue may not come as quickly as you’d like. The greater failure would be not trying – and many entrepreneurs did not hit the target the first time out.

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5 things

“Tag, you’re it!”

I don’t play tag anymore, and I always despised “chain letters,” but there is an interesting exercise going around the blogosphere of late – writing up 5 things about yourself that others probably wouldn’t know, then tagging 5 others to do the same.

Karl Kapp just tagged me…and, hey, there was no threat that my spleen would be vaporized by aliens if I didn’t participate, so why not. Here goes:

1. I have five boys. I was the third of four boys. My dad was the third of three boys. I think my grandfather was one of two or three boys (don’t have the family tree handy…). Anyway, there is a certain biological destiny at work – and my third son figures he’s slated to have six boys, in order to keep the chain intact!

2. I met my wife (of 25 years now!) in Lake Placid NY one summer, where we both worked at a McDonald’s. I worked the grill, she cleaned the lobby, and I found it difficult to concentrate on my work! We used to pass notes written on french fry wrappers.

3. I once worked as a waiter in a 4-star French restaurant, and as a wine steward at a high-end Italian restaurant. I have also delivered newspapers, bagged groceries, cleaned restrooms, worked in a plastics factory, done grunt work for a mason, and served as a busboy, among other less glamorous roles!

4. I enjoy building stone walls (dry, fieldstone). A tour of our backyard* makes that quite obvious!

5. I have known 3 years of liberation from depression after decades of struggle, thanks to an amazingly effective medication from the much-maligned “Big Pharma.” (see Clearing Clouds).

I’ll go along with the meme and tag 5 others, although I don’t know if they’ve been previously tagged:

Joe Stirt

Glenn Reynolds

“Jack Friday”

Dr. Peter Rost

Dr. Jane Chin

*(some of the backyard stonework – garden terraces)

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A cuppa Joe

We mainline a lot of coffee here in the U.S., and with good reason. We’re not like those Old World tea drinkers, hoisting a presumptuous pinky in the air while sipping a weak-spined brew of putting-on-airs leaf extract. No sirree!! We want some hearty joe, preferably to go, to jump-start some serious red blood pumping so that we can get stuff done. Java and calorie-encrusted donuts, Yes! A “spot of tea” and delicate crumpets – er, no.

So, how are the coffee companies doing on their branding exercises?

Ignoring the supermarket/mass market brands (Folgers, Maxwell House, and the like) which bear some resemblance to coffee but carry no interest from a branding perspective – or a drinking perspective, for that matter – I’ll give a few thoughts to coffee brands I actually like.

Starbucks – blah, blah, blah, everyone’s talked about Starbucks. I know, I know. But credit must be given where it is due – they turned coffee into an experience. They “branded” coffee into the realms of fine beers and wines, with various beans and roasts, highbrow terms, etc. Fact is, most of the coffee just tastes good, for those of us that prefer stronger flavors to amorphous swills. And their pioneering use of the Starbucks debit card was brilliant. These people have continuously found ways to build user experience around their brand, and the dollars keep ending up in their tills. I wish they’d open one up in my town.

Dunkin’ Donuts – growing up in the Northeast, I’ve always known about DD. Their coffee was always reasonably good, and they were the donut/coffee shop for the blue collar set. Get a big joe and a cruller and off to pound some nails!

Some years ago, they came out, in some markets, with a Dark Roast that was pretty darn good – then they killed it. Boy, was that stupid (personal peeve). Their new campaign, however, “America runs on Dunkin'”, is pretty good. With that phrase, they’re preserving their more “functional” identity, but they are slowly moving up the food chain into a higher quality niche, with cappuccino drinks, etc. I still stop at DD’s, without shame, though typically feeling more at home when there in denims and a flannel shirt.

Then there’s Krispy Kreme. These people actually have pretty good coffee, though their core message and branding is around the donuts. Fact is, decades ago when I went to college in the South, KK’s were viewed as budget gut-fillers. Then, someone turned their shops into an experience, where you could get a free one “Hot Now” as they rolled off the line. We now drive 1 mile (each way) out of our way on trips to Connecticut just to go to KK, since the kids love the experience as much as the adults like the coffee. And, yes, I have a KK shirt and thermal mug, despite the fact the logo is pretty dated.

And now, two surprise entries. Not big, well-known chains. What is our workaday, regular morning coffee? Kirkland (from Costco). Incredibly affordable in those 3-lb. cans, and consistently good. Not great, but quite good enough for the daily fix. From a price/benefit ratio, can’t beat it. No cool logo, no great tagline, no catchy campaign – just solid performance. Sometimes I’ll mix in some Eight O’Clock dark roast just to make it a bit heartier.

Then, my all-time favorite coffee – Mill Mountain. From a little group of coffee shops in central Virginia. Mill Mountain Blend is roasted and ground on site, and it is strong. Walk around downtown Roanoke at the right time, and the olfactory branding experience is almost irresistible. I’m sure there are hundreds of places like this – the bags may be plain, and the branding identity undistinguished, but the joe sells itself after one sip. I’ve been known to go to extraordinary lengths to get a few pounds of Mill Mountain smuggled into New Jersey so that I can have a few fleeting weeks of peak Java experience before, sadly, having to return to more pedestrian sipping…

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The story, from Sports Illustrated (June 2005), starts like this:

“I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared to Dick Hoyt, I suck.

“Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars – all in the same day.

“Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right? And what has Rick done for his father? Not much – except save his life….”

An amazing and touching story about the love of a father for his disabled son. The story, in words, here. But even better, watch the video below. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

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Impactiviti recently interviewed David Currier, Director, Professional Education, Endius, Inc (Endius is a medical device company located in Massachusetts). The topic of this Impact Interview is Training in Pharma, Biotech, and Devices – Dave has experience in all three areas, and can uniquely shed light on the similarities and differences.

Dave currently leads the company’s sales training, and surgeon training programs. He has over 15 years experience in field sales, sales training, and organizational development for for pharma, biotech, and medical device companies. Over 15 years experience in field sales, sales training and organizational development for (big) pharma, biotech and medical device.

Q1: What made you decide to focus in on training as a career path?

After 5 years of sales as a territory representative and a hospital representative I was promoted into my company’s training department. I joined a wonderful team of professionals and we instructed, guided and coached hundreds of new and experienced representatives.

Do you know that “high” you feel when you have a really great interaction with a physician or have a great day in the field when everything went well? Well, training gave me that feeling on a regular basis.

I also enjoyed collaborating with other training managers and had a lot of fun designing curriculum and being creative implementing it. As my career progressed I realized that I had reached a fork in the road. One direction meant that my brief experience in training was to be treated as a stepping stone toward another discipline within commercial operations. The other direction meant that I would make training a long-term career.

Many individuals who arrive at this situation decide to move into field sales management. Those who choose to stay the training route then hone their craft by obtaining professional training certifications. I am happy that I set off in this later direction because as my training career has evolved I have found that my business acumen has evolved as well. As a Director of Training you take a seat at the table with other Directors of the commercial operations of a company such as Sales, Marketing, Regulatory, Medical and Managed care. Now I enjoy being able to make an impact on a company on a strategic level and also to continue making an impact on people’s skills and knowledge at an individual level.

Q2: Did you find much difference in the learning/training needs between pharma and biotech field forces?

Yes and No. I have always been a strong proponent of the fundamentals of selling to the medical community. Irrespective of whether you are Big Pharma or specialized biotech you still have to understand anatomy, pathology, treatment options, your product and competitor products. Both groups still need to know how to utilize sound principles of selling such as questioning, listening and handling questions and concerns.

One difference that I have found is that the expectations for the specialty rep are higher for the application of the fundamentals. Specialty reps are expected to possess a higher level of proficiency in clinical understanding by their physician customers, and are expected to maintain a higher level of adeptness in selling and key account management skills.

Not to say that the Big Pharma reps don’t attain these levels…many do, and those reps are very successful. I have always found that representatives who invest in the skills of their craft by continuously learning tend to perform at high levels in the long run. Successful reps want to constantly be better. I have found that many specialty reps have chosen their career paths to remain in field sales… the vast majority of them view their professional development as very important.

Q3: What are the unique training challenges in the medical device field?

Representatives need to know the company’s instrumentation extremely well so that they can effectively support their customers intra-operatively. Needless to say, device representatives need to know anatomy, pathology and the techniques for implanting devices extremely well also. It is quite common for surgeon customers to ask representatives technical questions during a case – they must not only anticipate these questions, but also must be very confident in their responses.

Of course the company must also train the physicians in how to use the devices, instruments and implants. Very often this involves the implementation of “surgical skills” or “bioskills” programs. These are programs that allow surgeon customers to practice using the company’s products in cadavers and are taught by surgeon faculty with extensive clinical experience.

One of the biggest challenges is the frequency in which new products hit the market in device. Instruments and implants are modified quite often and there are always line extensions to deal with.

Q4: Are there major differences, or mainly common ground, in the compliance issues among the three industry sectors?

Mostly common ground. All training curriculum that is produced and implemented must also be reviewed in the same fashion you find in all medical companies…medical, marketing, sales and regulatory. Ensuring that the company is marketing to FDA “clearances” for the devices is always a priority (“clearance” is the term typically used in device world, wherein for pharma it is “indications”).

In the medical device field there is ADVAMED which is an organization comprised of all the leading device manufacturers. They also provide an ethical code of conduct for sales and marketing that is quite similar to Pharma Code.

Q5: What made you feel strongly enough about sales training to write a book about it?

I was involved in a meeting one day brainstorming ideas for a product launch and we were discussing all the important factors that need to be considered in successfully selling the product before, during, and after the launch. A colleague of mine, Jay Frost, who is a professional writer said to me…”you know all this stuff so well you should write a book.”

We discussed the idea and concluded that there were a lot of people who we believed would benefit from a book that gave an accurate accounting of what successful pharmaceutical selling was all about…the good, the bad and the ugly. Such a book would be great for people interested in a career as well as those who were just hired into the position of sales representative. I believe in selling products in a way that involves integrity and respect for the customer and this was a great vehicle to get the word out.

I just wrote and wrote. When I was done I handed over my resulting manuscript to Jay. He then turned the text into a professional and polished product…also adding terrific information on subjects that he knew quite well. I was lucky to have Jay prod me along to do this and since its publication the reviews have been terrific and it has been consistently the best selling book in its category (note: review of Be Brief – Be Bright – Be Gone here).

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As my readers know, Impactiviti is a relatively new business venture, launched in mid-July with the goal of “matching up” clients and vendors in a more intelligent and efficient manner. That the need exists, I have no doubt – after enjoying brainstorming sessions with a number of clients, and quickly bringing optimal suppliers to the table (as well as providing some expert advice and creativity), it’s obvious that the Impactiviti method of sourcing training is a winner.

Also, many vendors see the clear benefit of having a strategic partnership with Impactiviti, as new business can be found without the overhead of traditional sales expenses, with solid opportunities “pre-screened” to make sure there is a good match.

So (as I am regularly asked) – How is it going? Here’s a summary of progress so far…

– We now have established partnerships with 10 companies, for business referrals. In addition, there are informal agreements with a number of other suppliers, whose services may be needed by clients on occasion. These companies provide everything from workshops to custom modules to curriculum design to technology-based training to compliance to events to simulations to management development to…well, just about anything you’d need.

– We’ve begun working with a growing number of new clients on training needs (at both a strategic and tactical level). This has been more enjoyable than I even imagined – instead of simply coming with a limited set of offerings from one company, we can focus entirely on client needs – whatever they are – and then find the best ways to meet them.

– Some clients are now engaging Impactiviti for fee-based consulting, whereby expertise is being provided in a more traditional consultative arrangement. This allows for a deeper, more strategic relationship.

– I’ve been asked to join the newly-formed Business Advisory Board for one provider company, that has looked to me for creative marketing and business input. Other companies in the Impactiviti Preferred Provider network have enjoyed the benefit of marketing advice as part of our collaboration.

– Via conferences, e-mail, this blog, and an extensive professional network from many years in the field, the Impactiviti network of client and supplier contacts continues to grow. This enables us to increasingly be your “go-to” resource that we endeavor to be (which sometimes takes unexpected forms, such as informally helping clients with career changes…!)

– Back in July, a Google or Yahoo search on the word “Impactiviti” would have yielded…nothing. Now – well, try it for yourself!

So, all-in-all, a productive launch after 5 months! Thanks to all who have provided words of support and encouragement along the way, and especially the clients and partners who see the value of putting Impactiviti to work on their behalf!

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Not that many years ago, the powerful tools and services now available to us were only a dream (in an amusing twist of irony, look at these spot-on predictions made by AT&T – the only problem being, that AT&T ended up not being the ones to roll them out!) Now we have great technologies to extend our reach, which get easier and less expensive to use with every passing day.

One of those tools is webcasting. No longer is it necessary to have an enterprise “virtual classroom” platform installed – these services can be outsourced, and used on a pay-as-you-go basis.

If you are interested in enhancing training by the use of webcasting, give Impactiviti a call. We can help you think through the options and connect you with the services you’ll need.

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I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to John Mack at the recent eyeforpharma conference on Sales Effectiveness and eMarketing – John runs the popular Pharma Marketing Blog, and publishes the Pharma Marketing News newsletter.

We decided to team up, for the latter publication, and join our impressions of the conference in an article just published (this point-counterpoint article begins on page 15, but enjoy scanning the rest of the newsletter)!

As you might expect from the titles, John writes mainly on marketing themes, and he is not afraid to “take on” issues!

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