Early Stage Branding: the key to attracting partners, licensees, and investors
Wait, isn’t it too early to think about branding? Quite the contrary. Even if your technology isn’t entirely ready for prime time, you need a brand. A strong brand will make you more successful with all your target constituencies. It’s the sum total of experiences that potential partners, licensees, investors and customer take away after coming in contact with you. Whether in a presentation or on your website.
Essential components of Early Stage Branding
Who are you trying to impress?
At the early stages of going to market, your target audiences may not be your ultimate customers. You may be going after:
- Strategic partners: a contractual relationship with a big company, or research partnerships with a prestigious universities, or an “OEM”
- An early adopter high-profile customer for co-development and credibility
- Licensors for all or part of your IP, allowing you to fund operations without giving away the store
- Investment capital
Despite this, your website and brochure need to address end-customers, so that potential partners get a fast read on your business case and the potency of your value proposition.
HOW TO GET BRANDING PAID FOR
Most government agencies issuing SBIR grants know that in Phase II, when you’re moving towards commercialization, your brand is as much a component of your product as the technology. You can include $25,000 to $35,000 in your grant application (or a grant revision – ask for the form) for professional assistance from a branding firm. Depending on the agency, you can make it part of indirect costs or take it out of the "fee."
Your justification should say something like, “For effective commercialization, need professional assistance in branding and positioning the company to differentiate what we offer in a clear and compelling way. This is necessary to build credibility with potential partners, licensors, investors and customers, with the right message for each.” If your product is software driven, professional assistance on your website is part of your product delivery system itself.
Make your brand relevant to every constituency
Come out of the gate with a well-defined brand and value proposition. Show how you’re different. Position yourself as part of a solution to a bigger picture global problem like health care costs, energy, resource conservation, productivity.
At the same time demonstrate an intimate knowledge of end users and their pain. We might even recommend that a section of your website talk directly to end users even though few will be visiting at this stage. It brings your solution to life for partners, licensors and investors, and shows that you’re market-savvy.
It’s also a good idea to address each type of decision-maker and influencer. Examples? In health care: physicians, hospitals, insurers, and patients. In IT: OEM partner, C-level executives at user companies, and “direct” user. While segmenting your message, always make it consistent with the overarching brand proposition and image.
One brain hemisphere is not enough
Every business decision involves both sides of the brain: the “rational”: left hemisphere and the “emotional”: right hemisphere. Make sure your presentation, website and brochures address both.
The perils of home brew
Inventing a technology and marketing it are two different animals. When tech companies create their own websites, brochures and presentations, a common reaction is “So what do these guys do again?” And that’s after a one hour meeting. The trap: telling a science story instead of a business story. It’s hard to shift gears. No worries, that’s what Reality2 is for.
Does this really work?
Over the past 25 years we’ve been getting results for both big companies and startups in every field from IT to life sciences to cleantech.