Launch and Learn: What Does it Mean for Biotechnology?

launch and learn

One of the tenets of new media and marketing is a strategy called ‘Launch & Learn.’ It refers to executing marketing campaigns, launching products or websites quickly, setting up metrics to determine their success, and redefining as necessary. The benefit? Begin building brand loyalty and communicating with your customers early, rather than delaying launch, or waiting until your website or product has achieved perfection. The new paradigm has been driven by the growth of tools to create ‘web 2.0‘ websites, where users can interact and give feedback. This has accelerated the pace of business and the feedback loop cycle, and companies have quickly learned the benefit of launching campaigns and products sooner rather than later.

What about Biotech products? We all know that there are many factors that come into product development and doing business in Biotech. Our products are not T-shirts which we can design one day and toss out the next. So, the products we launch are unlikely to hit the market any more quickly. However, engaging customers through web 2.0 tools, and testing ideas or campaigns can surely benefit any product or company. In biotechnology, especially, where so many directions for products can be taken, from tools for studying drug targets to the latest in instrumentation, it seems imperative to get as much feedback as possible, especially since products often take a long time to be developed. If you work in a highly regulated area of Biotech, such as diagnostics, turn ‘launch and learn’ around and determine what things you can launch quickly to learn more about customer needs. Biotech can learn a lot from newcomers such as 23andMe, who have created blogs and communities, likely towards this goal.

Changing to a ‘launch and learn’ strategy involves a change in attitude towards a more facile development of applications, sometimes relying on open source software and outsourcing projects to smaller, specialized groups. I see many in Biotechnology and science being reluctant to embrace these new ideas, partially because of the age demographic (no offense–I’m describing myself too). We learned that big agencies do Ads and PR, professional website design is expensive and lengthy, and that large companies are the only ones that can ‘reach the masses.’ Additionally, Biotech has been a very slow adopter of social media, which bucks all of these trends.

Traditional marketing, as well, with ideas that brands should remain consistent, also stands in the way and leads to more ‘staid’-fastness. I would argue that reaching your customers earlier by launching a website that may not yet have the perfect ‘look and feel’ you want, is more favorable than waiting and missing the opportunity to connect earlier and with more people. While new media moves quickly, building relationships with customers takes time, why miss out? Your Search Engine Optimization will thank you for launching early as well, because rankings improve the longer a website has been published. Launching early is exceedingly more important if your website embodies a new idea or product. According to Ries and Trout’s classic book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the first law states that ‘it’s better to be first than it is to be better,’ so it’s clear that launching and learning aligns with traditional marketing. This philosophy should be pervasive in your strategy and tactics–plan to use media which is amenable to determining your metrics and ROI quickly, and to revise your plans according to what you find.

Do I suggest that you put up a sloppy website rather than having none at all? Launch a product, either physical or virtual, before it’s ready? Not at all! Be proactive, and hire a team of professionals who adopt the ‘launch and learn’ philosophy. Be wary of those who present long time lines or large price tags. Don’t rush decisions, but don’t belabor them either. Want to learn more about it? I highly suggest reading Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae and Jeff Jarvis’ What Would Google Do. Also, of course, Comprendia can help you to implement ‘launch and learn’ strategies and tactics to help you become more market driven, contact us.