Pitch perfect: 3 keys to successful BD communications

As our partnerships focus month draws to a close, Douglas MacDougall and Cory Tromblee discuss three key ways to successful business development (BD) communications.

An early stage company whose primary strategic goal is to partner its lead pipeline compound with a pharmaceutical or biotech company should begin its process by undertaking an exhaustive competitive analysis.. In this case, the competition is everywhere, around every corner, and it is highly prepared and wants to occupy the very same spot on the big pharma balance sheet as you do. We have a large network of friends doing business development in the industry. Our sources tell us that in advance of a big industry partnering meeting like JP Morgan, a BD executive at a big pharma company may see close to a 1,000 requests for meetings. A scary number.

Rule number one: don’t wind up in the deleted items bin. To gain the attention of a pharmaceutical partner, maximize your chances of successfully generating meetings and securing a strong partner, we have listed a few simple strategies for communicating your message with your potential partners. These aren’t suggestions – they are musts.

1) Messaging

The term “elevator pitch” gets thrown around a lot, and for good reason. You should be able to successfully tell your story verbally in less than a minute and in the written word, three sentences. Don’t waste your words in your elevator pitch by using terms such as ‘unmet medical need’ or ‘We are Boston-based private company funded by…”. Get to the point of what you are offering, and quickly.

“You should be able to successfully tell your story verbally in less than a minute…”

 

Having a set of core messages that the entire management team will live by facilitates this exercise being concise and ensures consistency. These sub-messages should boil down three to four key points about your company and product demonstrating the strength of your product, market opportunity and what differentiates it from the competition. Remember to also do your homework and know your audience before you engage. Why would they be interested in you or your product?

Remember – 1,000 requests. Roughly 50 of these will be granted meetings.

2) Materials

A succinct pitch to a prospective partner loses its potential for impact if you use a 50-page PowerPoint deck to explain it in the first meeting. Every company that is looking for partners should have a core deck that tells their story in 15-20 slides. And within that, there should only be 3-4 slides on the company. The remainder of the content addresses the specific opportunity for licensing or sale. Don’t give people the time to tune out. And remember the most important goal of your first meeting with a prospective partner: it is an audition for a second meeting. Many times you will meet with a member of the business development team whose task it is to triage whether to pass off your opportunity to the relevant scientific team, so it isn’t necessary to cram every detail into the deck. Likewise, before presenting to partners, it is important that your website is up to snuff. A strong, simple website is essential. A company website should reflect who the company is and consistently reinforce all of the key messages and selling points. A key component of this is that your website should not look like it was built before the turn of the century or contain out-of-date information. Again, people are often looking for excuses to weed you out – don’t let the website be the casting off point.

 

“A succinct pitch to a prospective partner loses its potential for impact if you use a 50- page PowerPoint deck to explain it…”

 

3) Setting up meetings

When you’re working on your email and / or phone pitch, remember the main three things you need to explain to people: the target, the market opportunity and the status of the project. And understand your audience. If you’re working primarily with BD folks, tailor the pitch to them. If you are tailoring it for a scientist, you can include a little more detail.

It’s also important to understand all of the relevant industry meetings that may be of use to you. JP Morgan and BIO are the two biggest and most notable, but there are many meetings where you might find a key potential partner that is working in your particular therapeutic or technologic area.

Once you have a meeting set, here is one tactic we have seen that is successful: create an agenda as soon as you sit down – even for a half-hour meeting. Here is a basic agenda we have seen work very well:

• Intros

• 10 minute overview

• 15 minute Q&A

• Set action items for next meeting

Good luck!

 

About the authors:

Douglas MacDougall is the President of MacDougall Biomedical Communications. Doug has been actively involved in the biotechnology industry for over 25 years and has provided strategic communications counsel and developed corporate communications plans for over 300 clients in the life sciences space. He speaks on topics related to crisis communications, investor relations, media relations and corporate positioning. Doug uses his extensive industry network to assist many of his clients in fund raising, partnering and executive coaching. Doug has also been a consultant to the national Biotechnology Industry Organization for over 11 years and is the founder and leader of the BIO Executive Workshop Series on “Effectively Presenting to Investors”, coaching over 1,200 life science CEOs around the world.

Cory Tromblee joined MacDougall Biomedical Communications as Media Manager in 2008. Cory brings 14 years of experience with a strong focus on biotechnology and pharmaceutical communications and media relations. Cory’s healthcare communications experience includes corporate communications, product communications, media strategy and relations, message training and advocacy relations.

How can business development communication be improved?