Looking back on my 20+ years marketing career, I am amazed at how much time and energy was spent on perfecting designs, brochures, presentations, etc… At the time, it felt like every thing had to be absolutely perfect the first time we shared it with others. Almost as if we were going to be judged and evaluated on getting it right the first time around. We probably were.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where we often place too much value in “doing things right the first time” and “looking good” than we do in the messy iterative process of innovation and learning. Our bosses are only comfortable sharing our work with their superiors once it has been thoroughly completed, scrubbed and sanitized. It’s no surprise that management tends to be uncomfortable with experimenters or agile marketers who try to move too quickly for their taste. This phenomenon is compounded in industries like Medtech where there is always a fear that something could go wrong and reflect poorly on the broader organization. While this may be understandable, such environments can also be incredibly stifling, slow to act and shortsighted. I’ve seen billion-dollar organizations which in 2016 still didn’t have a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and have intentionally avoided social media. Why? Because of a fear of losing control, a fear of making mistakes, a fear of attracting negative publicity or being labeled as a maverick. In large, hierarchical and traditional organizations, often driven by R&D, Operations and/or Finance, it’s easy to see why there can be an inherent fear of upsetting the apple cart. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Working these past few months on an innovative mobile health (bootstrap) startup has highlighted for me the importance of quick action and getting stuff “out there” as soon as possible. There really isn’t any other choice. The benefit, however, is that you quickly learn to focus on the essential. Much as we would love to develop grand visions and comprehensive strategic plans, we are constantly reminded that the clock is ticking and money is running out.
This single-minded focus on achieving a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), forces us to accept “good enough” while doubling down on agile development cycles with rapid user feedback loops. Creative briefs are done in a matter hours using whatever application you have at hand and no standard formatting. Designs are received from freelancers on the other side of the world within 24 hours and reviewed in under 60 minutes of receipt. No time for fancy agencies and all the niceties that come with big budgets. Hardworking developers release their first prototypes at 4:00 AM. All of this, while simultaneously working virtually (what travel budget?) with teams in Asia, Europe and the US. We are running fast and are keen to test the MVP, not so much because it is going to work/look great (it won’t), but for everything early enthusiasts and adopters will teach us from it. It’s a thrill. It’s a rush. It’s also the complete opposite of what we’ve been doing in big chip Marketing for years. We don’t follow particular rules or protocols, the product looks a bit shaky, there are no fancy presentations, we have no design agency, no sexy logo, barely a landing page, but we are doing innovative & pioneering work that is going to disrupt models of patient-provider communication for years to come (check out Mojobots.co if you are curious).
Here are a few principles of Startup Marketing that have stood out for me:
Its been said that great brands repel as much as they attract. You can’t, therefore, achieve greatness if you are not prepared to take some risks and potentially alienate a portion of your internal & external audiences. Many Medtech and Healthcare firms clearly have a difficult time accepting this.
Bottom line: If you are doing “comfortable” & “safe” marketing, meeting internal expectations, always playing by long-standing internal rules, fussing over cosmetics, working on the 10th revision of whatever, waiting for everything to be just right so it can look good to someone above you, … Please don’t just settle. Push yourself and others around you to adopt some of the startup principles listed above, which begin with placing greater value on action & fast learning than on pursuing pointless perfection, following established protocols and fussing over superfluous aesthetics.
Andrew Hyncik is an International Strategic Marketing & Product Development veteran with 20+ years of experience in the Medtech, Healthcare, CPG and Pharma industries. For more Medtech insights, original articles or consulting services, visit www.MedtechMojo.com
Andrew Hyncik and Pascal Malengrez are International Strategic Marketing & Product Development leaders who amplify classical medtech marketing with digital startup thinking.