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Marketing After the Startup

By John Friess

In changing gears, however, we understood that some things don't change. By year two in a company's life, brand identities, color schemes, and corporate culture begin to belong to the entity and come to be identified with it. In shifting our market focus, for example, we briefly considered how our name, wired.MD, might seem to limit us to the physician marketplace. However, because our original name had become so much a part of our corporate and public identity, we decided to stick with it.

BACKROOM MANEUVERING.. Of course, a major marketing shift after the original plan also involves attending to necessary shifts in other aspects of the enterprise. For example, we quickly realized that our team wasn't appropriately designed for our revised marketing strategy. So we've trimmed the staff to 9 full-time and 5 part-time workers, from the 16 full-timers previously employed.

In addition, we've refined our goals. Under our new marketing model, we now have 63 customers -- 15 medical libraries or health-resource centers and 48 small to large physician groups. What is important, we have determined, is carving out a definitive chunk of the market -- specifically, licensing streaMed in one manner or another to 3,000 physicians, which is equal to one half of one percent of the total marketplace. That amount of market share would place us in the ranks of highly viable healthcare-information software companies, opening up many doors for our future.

SHOW ME THE MONEY. I said earlier that the development time frame for new products can be defined in animal years. Now, let me stress that this time line is shrinking even further. It's essential that companies which have moved beyond the startup phase progress quickly from macro to micro thinking. By that I mean making sure the right message is getting to the right prospects through the right channels. Indeed, focus for Year Two must be on marketing and sales of existing product lines.

So define the market (as we did when spotting the enthusiasm in the health-resource center), tailor the product appropriately (as we did when we shifted to the marketing capabilities of our software package), and adjust the marketing strategy so that it is both effective and cost-effective. Run the numbers, and excise the excess.

Finally, keep in mind that an adolescent company still has a key advantage: the entrepreneurial spirit. Founders who are agile, resilient, passionate, and ignorant about the impossible are able to meet the Year Two changes that the market imposes.

John Friess, 27, founded wired.MD with his brother, Mark, in March 2000, and serves as vice president of marketing, overseeing product strategy, market development and industry marketing. Based in Portland, Oregon, the company develops technological solutions for healthcare providers that benefit patients and practices. Its major product line, called the streaMed* Patient Education Solution, is a video patient education software suite. Suitable for airing in doctors' waiting areas, examining rooms, medical libraries and health resource centers, the videos are designed to educate patients about their diagnoses, treatment plans and procedures. The company has completed two financing rounds: $900,000 in July 2001 and $1.1 million in November 2002.

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