Take the Elevator Test
A good gauge of a positioning statement’s usefulness is the elevator test: Can it clearly communicate your story in the 15 seconds it takes to ride the elevator with someone?
For example, our firm recently supported the cancer diagnostics company Dako with an integrated campaign for the Serum HER-2/neu Assay. Serum HER-2/neu is a biomarker test for metastatic breast cancer developed by Oncogene Science/Bayer Diagnostics. Although the test had been available for several years, adoption was slow. There were over 60 clinical papers and presentations qualifying the test’s clinical utility in monitoring disease progression and therapy response, but no one clear message about why it should be used.
After surveying oncologists, histopathologists, clinical lab managers, and Dako sales reps, we concluded that the primary reasons a clinician would want to use the test are that it is simple and direct—simple because it is the only test for the HER-2/neu biomarker that requires just a blood draw, direct because it detects serum concentrations of HER-2/neu.
We devised the following statement: “The Serum HER-2/neu Assay is a simple blood test that allows more precise management of breast cancer, because serum concentrations of HER-2/neu are validated to reflect disease progression and therapy response in women with metastatic breast cancer.”
Clinicians responded enthusiastically to these messages during market testing, stating that they gave them compelling reasons to order the test. An e-mail series targeting oncologists and histopathologists has achieved a click rate of 2.74%—well above the industry average of 1%.
A colleague recalls working with a healthcare executive of whom it was said, “If you ask him the time, he’ll tell you how to make a clock.” Occasionally when working with biotech clients, we’ve observed a tendency to employ R&D language when describing a product or its benefits. R&D jargon can be exacting and useful when explaining how and why a product works. However, it can also lead to complicated explanations. Here are some tips to avoid getting bogged down in too much detail:
• Focus on the need. Remember the famous sales anecdote about the hardware company executive who said, “Our customers aren’t buying quarter-inch drill bits. They’re buying quarter-inch holes.” What is it your customers need? A biological process or the result of that process?
• Use simple language. “Use” instead of “utilize,” “with” instead of “accompanied by” and “after” instead of “subsequent to” are just some examples of ways to simplify phrasings. In general, don’t use a 75-cent word when a 25-cent word will do. Words with fewer syllables are easier to understand and remember.
• Save complex concepts for detail aids. Ads, e-mails, and other awareness-building tools should focus on topline messages. Once the customer is engaged, secondary pieces such as technical sheets can be used to provide appropriate detail about mechanism of action and the finer points of the science behind your product.
• Remember the patient. The endpoint of R&D is sometimes viewed as getting the product through clinical trials and on the market. The product’s true endpoint is better care. Let that notion serve as your compass, the “true north” that helps all other messages align.