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Leverage tools to pull potential licensees into the “marketing funnel”


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 8th, 2018

Given the burgeoning array of internet-based tools, how do you optimize a marketing strategy for early-stage assets? Most agree that nothing beats face-to-face communications in terms of effectiveness, but such a strategy can only go so far when you’ve got hundreds of technologies in search of a match.

Many TTOs are finding that a mix of in-person interactions, web-based marketing, and social media-driven approaches all bring different benefits to the table. Despite the array of options, however, experts note that too many promising technologies are withering in place because of all-too-common marketing mistakes.

Just getting a handle on a wide array of different types of assets can be challenging. Given the importance of this task, however, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) in Baltimore has established a commercialization strategies group whose sole purpose is to dive into the evaluation process, explained Kellin Krick, a corporate partnerships associate at JHTV.

“We have a huge volume of technologies we are dealing with on a yearly basis, and we have recognized that there is an immense value to having a group that is purely dedicated to figuring out who is operating in a [particular] space, what is [each] technology, what can it become and who may be interested in ultimately engaging with us to take the technology forward,” noted Krick. “The evaluation process starts immediately when a technology comes into the office. That is how much we value this type of process.”

Faculty inventors are a key first step in each evaluation process, advised Krick. “They are the subject matter experts and often they will actually have more knowledge about who the major players in a [particular field] are — whether it is other researchers doing similar research or potential industry collaborators that they have engaged with at academic meetings,” he said. “We definitely leverage [faculty] as much as possible and we work directly with our licensing and IP teams and support their efforts to get those technologies out the door.”

Bob Bondaryk, the head of Ximbio, a large, research-tools non-profit that is headquartered in London, breaks down the job of marketing technologies into three phases which are all part of what he terms the marketing funnel. “The first thing you need to do is let people know what you have. They need to be able to find some way to understand what it is that is actually available, and this is the awareness phase,” he said.

The next phase involves potential licensees determining whether the technologies on offer have any relevance to their interests and actually fit a need. “That is where a licensee’s journey takes them into the evaluation phase, and it is a completely separate view from just recognizing something as unique and available,” noted Bondaryk.

He added that the last phase in the marketing funnel is the part everyone wants to get to — closing the deal. Viewed from this perspective, the job of promoting and licensing technology has become more challenging in recent years because this marketing funnel has become much more sophisticated, said Bondaryk. For instance, he pointed out that years ago the marketing function was primarily just involved with creating awareness, but today potential licensees are combining their first awareness-building of these opportunities with their evaluation phase. “They don’t even want to talk to you until they are almost all the way down to having made a decision already, so they are much more mature in their thinking,” he said.

Unfortunately, way too many assets are languishing on hard-to-find “available technology” web pages, and then they are often described by layers of jargon that keep their true value well-hidden. “Some folks do a great job; their [technology pages] are clear and well-curated. But others you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find the available technology page. Sometimes it’s a tiny little link buried in a paragraph somewhere,” noted Bondaryk. “It amazes me sometimes how difficult we make the awareness-building and the evaluation phases.”

If you make it difficult to enter the top of the funnel, the technologies will never be found, let alone licensed, advised Bondaryk. Consequently, TTOs need to think about prioritizing the ease with which potential licensees can find where available technologies are posted and recognize assets that might suit their needs.

A detailed article on TTO marketing strategies appears in the July issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, as well as the publication’s rich, 11-year archive of best practices and success strategies for tech transfer professionals, CLICK HERE.

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