023 – Are you following your market compass with Chris Deardorff

In this episode, Chris Deardorff and Meghan get down to the business of business. They explore the true meaning of marketing, where it can (and isn’t) being implemented by companies, and jump into the “Three Truths about Marketing.”

  • What companies are getting wrong [6:30]
  • Why you need to develop a target audience [11:04]
  • How to develop a buyer persona [15:50]
  • What’s changing in the Denver Health-Tech space [19:00]
  • A Steve Jobs Primer for Marketing [26:30]

Chris Deardorff is the CEO at Market Compass. He is a driven and creative marketing professional with in-depth product marketing experience in the B2B and Digital Health space.

Market Compass is a marketing strategy and creative execution firm located in Boulder, CO.  Market Compass’ mission is to help startup and small business technology companies optimize their marketing operations.

Text COMPASS3 to 44222 to get the Three Truths About Marketing
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Steve Jobs on “Think Different”

Guest: Chris Deardorff

Company: Market Compass

Host: Meghan Alonso

Host Company: Imua Services

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iTunes: bitly.com/InspiredbyIMUA

Podcast Transcription:

– [Announcer] Are you ready to master the waves of medical device product development? Well, wax up your surfboard because you are listening to Inspired by Imua. And here is your medical device product development expert, that Hawaiian-hearted hostess who will help you hang ten, Meghan Alonso.

– [Meghan] E Komo Mai and aloha! You’re listening to Inspired by Imua where we help you master the waves of medical product development. Each week we interview guests that educate, guide and inspire to give you and your product the skills that you need to hang ten. If this is your first time listening, Imua is spelled I-M-U-A and it’s a Hawaiian word meaning to advance forward with passion despite rough waves. There are plenty of those in medical product development. But keep listening ’cause we’ve got you covered. So my guest today is going to give you some insight into early stage marketing for startup and even, even as you’re a little bit farther along. Just some, some really important marketing advice here. It’s often overlooked and I don’t want people to think oh, well I did this one thing, I have my marketing figured out. It’s extremely strategic and it can really shape whether your product sinks or whether it swims, so. Please welcome Chris Deardroff and he works with startups and small businesses, healthcare companies, business-to-business, and he’s really involved in the Denver and Boulder local area with all of their startup, health accelerators and incubator programs, so he’s the guy to know if you’re listening from that area. So, Chris, are you ready to hang ten?

– [Chris] Absolutely, really excited to be here, Meghan.

– [Meghan] Alright, so I gave a little glimpse into your background, so elaborate on that a little bit more. Maybe how you even started doing this.

– [Chris] Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question and really I’ve been passionate about startups and entrepeneurship since college. And for different reasons was kind of pulled more into the corporate world where I really got some fantastic experience working for companies from GE, Covidien, to some smaller, midsize companies. Both spanning in the healthcare technology as well as the business technology space. And, for me, yeah, I’ve been in mostly marketing roles in the last ten years. And it was a realization, of kinda that ten year mark, almost, that, if I don’t start my own company soon, it’s probably not going to happen. And, one of the real, I guess, triggers for starting my company as a specifically, a marketing organization, is, if you look at a lot of startups, particularly in the Denver and Boulder area, what you see is a lot of varied product and innovation focused companies. So they have great concepts. They’re very engineering-minded. Their problem is, that’s only half the battle. And what I mean by that is, they’re not really thinking about the other side of the coin which is marketing. You can have a great product, you can innovate, but if you don’t market it, no one’s gonna know about it. And, so, to me, there’s a real gap, I think, within startups and even to some extent, small businesses today. And that’s the gap that I’m trying to fill. That’s the problem I’m trying to solve, is to help companies who are very good at innovation, very good at product development, also succeed on the marketing front.

– [Meghan] Hm-mmm. And before I forget, guys, Chris has a download for you today. So, The Three Truths About Marketing. And you can get that by texting, so you, the number to text is 44222 and you’re gonna type the word, compass3, no spaces. So again, text the number 44222, and then in the body of the text, like where you would normally say, hey, what’s up?, then you’d type compass3, with no spaces, and that’s just shortened for Market Compass and it’s the three marketing truths that you need to know. Sorry for that little plug there.

– [Chris] No worries.

– [Meghan] So, talk about, you know we talked about how difficult it is, sometimes companies don’t realize what the importance is for marketing.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Meghan] So how do you help these companies realize that? And what are you out there doing to educate them when you’re out talking to them, these incubators and accelerators?

– [Chris] Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, with any company, I don’t care what size the company is, every company is looking to grow. Every company is looking to increase their bottom line. And, so, when I’m talking with them, it’s really important that I talk about marketing in the context of growth. And so, really, my tag line, or what I tell a lot of companies when I first meet them, is Market Compass has the mission to help companies grow quickly through optimizing their product marketing operations. And when I say product marketing, that’s specifically referring to marketing a specific product or product portfolio. So, it’s different than from what some people might think of as corporate marketing or branding. It’s marketing that’s really centered on a product or product line. And the reason for that is that’s where a lot of consumer decisions are made. It’s not necessarily at the company level. It’s at that product level. And so it’s really important that companies do product marketing very, very well. And so, that’s really where I start in terms of my pitch with them. And then, from there, it’s really getting a sense of their situation and really understanding their top goals, priorities, as well as their needs from a marketing standpoint.

– [Meghan] Okay. And then, what do you see people out there not doing right.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Meghan] Or that they’re, that they just don’t know sometimes.

– [Chris] So I’d say the absolute number one problem that a lot of startups and small businesses are faced with when it comes to marketing is they’re way too tactically foucsed. And what I mean by that is, they just execute a bunch of tactics without any rhyme or reason. And really without knowing, what’s the why? What are they really trying to achieve with their marketing? And so, what my company, Market Compass, helps them doing is taking a step back and really trying to define, what’s the objective of their marketing? Is it lead generation? Is it awareness? Is it growing revenue? Is it all three? And really from there, putting together a cohesive and comprehensive marketing plan that clearly defines the objectives, the strategies, the key initiatives. And then from there, you can put together a tactical plan that you can execute. But that you know is in line with, what are your key objectives and strategies? And the benefit of this is that you then have marketing that is efficient, it’s cost-effective and ultimately, it’s more successful because it’s following a plan rather then just kind of shotgunning marketing tactics.

– [Meghan] So what have you seen with the startup community out in Colorado that, well actually, just anywhere in general? What are some things that companies really need to have in line with marketing before they start to go out and fundraise?

– [Chris] Yeah, that’s such a great question, Meghan. And really where I start with startups in terms of just getting their marketing operations up and running is, first, a marketing plan. And a lot of people when they hear marketing plan they’re like, oh gosh, this is a 30 to 50 page or 50 slide deck that’s probably just gonna sit on some shelf and collect dust. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is a two to three page plan where you’re basically writing down or putting together everything I just talked about in terms of what’s your objective from a marketing standpoint? What are your key strategies? What initiatives do you think you need to deliver on? And then, your second page can essentially be your marketing tactical plan. So, over the course of three, six, maybe nine months, what tactics do you want to execute on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis? Once you have that, you essentially have your road map in terms of really driving your marketing operations. The second thing that I really encourage companies to do, particularly startups early on, is to really develop their positioning and messaging. And the reason I say this is, so many startups really aren’t positioned well in the market. So what I do is, through our company, we help them optimize their positioning based on the competitive landscape, based on the market environment. And then, once we have their positioning in a good spot, we’ll then work on several levels of messaging. And really the point of doing this, is to really give them a backbone to all their marketing content. Because a lot of times you’ll see companies’ marketing content, it’ll be all over the place. It’ll be inconsistent in tone, in word choice, in message. And so that’s where in developing essentially what I call a messaging framework, they’ll have content, they’ll have messaging that’s consistent, on point and, ultimately, really resonates with their target audience. So those are kind of two just very easy starting points that every startup should really make sure they do from a marketing standpoint right from the get go.

– [Meghan] Hm mmm. So when you say messaging, and messaging on different levels, are you talking about speaking to different audiences? Like, hey, right now I’m speaking to the investor, so this is how I’m gonna talk to the investor, versus right now, I’m talking to a key opinion leader, maybe it’s a surgeon who’s really gonna help promote my product to others, I’m gonna speak to him a different way. So what, dive in a little deeper with that messaging there.

– [Chris] Yeah, absolutely. So any, before you develop any sort of messaging framework, you have to define the target audience. And in some cases you can use the same messaging framework for multiple audiences. Maybe you have a primary audience, a secondary audience. And in some cases maybe you have to use different messaging. I just worked with a Boulder startup and we actually developed two separate messaging frameworks for them. One was for their–

– [Meghan] Oh, okay, this is really good. Tell us the story with that.

– [Chris] Yeah, yeah. So, this particular company, they do crowd funding investing. And they’re really revolutionizing basically, the investing world, particularly kind of for low dollar amount investments. And really they have two markets. Their markets are, one, companies who are looking to receive investments through their platforms, so brands. And then the other is actual investors. So people who are actually looking to invest through their platform. And so, as a result, basically they’re targeting two different customer bases. We then have them develop two different messaging frameworks that really spoke to each of them. And it really turned out very well because they realized they were trying to essentially speak to both markets at once. And by having two messaging frameworks we were able to really spell out, okay, this is the messaging and the language you need to use with the investor market. This is the messaging and the language you need to use with the company or the brand market.

– [Meghan] Yeah, is that Springboard Equity by any chance?

– [Chris] No, no, they’re called Kickfurther and they’re a very fast-growing company right now and they were actually one of the top companies at Richard Branson’s CES startup competition a few months ago and they actually got to pitch to Richard Branson himself and… Anyways, they’ve been a great company to work with and I think they’ve got very exciting times ahead of them.

– [Meghan] So this, they’re for not just companies in the healthcare medical device space. They’re for any company looking to equity-based crowd fund?

– [Chris] Absolutely.

– [Meghan] Okay. So, you can go check that out on their website. Springboard Equity is another one actually, specifically geared towards medical and healthcare based companies if you’re interested in something else like that.

– [Chris] Yeah, yeah.

– [Meghan] So, yeah, that’s a really good example that they have their two client base essentially that they’re pitching to and–

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Meghan] They need to speak differently to them.

– [Chris] Absolutely. And I would say their situation is somewhat unique. A lot of companies aren’t gonna have such two separate market segments that they really need to speak directly to. So, in most cases, I think companies can get away with one messaging framework. And like I said, maybe you have a primary target audience and a secondary target audience. But certainly, in some situations, such as Kickfurther’s, you may need to have two messaging frameworks to really speak most effectively to different target audiences.

– [Meghan] Yeah, I did a exercise a few months back that some people use the term ideal customer avatar or, that, and this is just a who is your customer?

– [Chris] Right.

– [Meghan] To even get as in-depth to make a story up about them. Or, you know, it can be based on a real person. Like this person I used to work with, Chris, he’s my ideal customer.

– [Chris] Right.

– [Meghan] So then you make, you take Chris and you elaborate on that and put in a story about where this customer shops.

– [Chris] Right, yes.

– [Meghan] What they think about, what movies they watch, what do they read? How do they usually make their buying decisions? What groups are they in on LinkedIn? Or what groups are they in in Facebook? And that way, if you nail down all these details about that particular person and you have this story around them it’s easy to connect with other customers that are similar and it’s easier because you have that messaging geared towards Chris.

– [Chris] Yes. And I’m so glad that you brought that up because another thing we do is we work with companies in developing and defining buyer personas. Which I think is pretty much what–

– [Meghan] Okay, same thing, yeah.

– [Chris] You’re looking at with avatars. But really the whole idea is knowing your customer inside and out. And the whole idea here is that, if you know your customer, you can empathize with them. And you can get a good sense of what problems they have and what problems do they need solving. And so, a great way to do this is really to kind of almost map out the key things or the key characteristics of your customer base. And I’m not just talking about the typical demographics, gender, income and age. Certainly those things are great. But you also really want to get the psychographic aspects of your customer base. So, specifically, what motivates them? What excites them? What fears do they have? What compels them to take action? What prevents them from taking action? What are they specifically look for in making purchase decisions. And so, when you map all that out, you can really get a good sense of who your customer is from a holistic standpoint. And in doing that, that is only going to empower your marketing. Because, instead of having a detached, removed approach to marketing to your customers, it’s, essentially, your customers are an extension of you as a marketer, or vice versa.

– [Meghan] Yeah.

– [Chris] And so, you’re just going to be more equipped to really market and speak to them effectively if you understand their personas.

– [Meghan] So, you had mentioned this in an earlier conversation that we had. I just really think it’s interesting. Tell us about what specifically is happening in the greater Denver area in digital health and then healthcare startup companies. So that could be beneficial.

– [Chris] Yes.

– [Meghan] It’s definitely, it’s not an inexpensive place to live but it’s less expensive than some of the other places out here in California.

– [Chris] Sure, absolutely. And, truth be told, I am a Colorado native. So, one of the few born and raised here. So, I don’t know any different. But that means that I can certainly understand how it is expensive for others coming to the area. But, yeah, so, part of why I focus on the healthcare market for my business is a couple of reasons. One is, a lot of my background comes from working with medical device and healthcare technology companies. The other is, very recently, the Denver Chamber of Commerce issued a challenge to the business community. Specifically the healthcare business community. That they wanted to make Denver the Silicon Valley of healthcare by 2020. So with that has come a lot of exciting and new development, particularly in the Denver area, in terms of healthcare startups. So you’re seeing just a very strong and high population of startups popping up within the Denver area. Particularly in the digital health space. So we’re talking healthcare software, we’re talking wearables, health and wellness technologies. The other thing that is happening is there’s a startup community that is already taking shape called Prime Health and that’s a community that’s really focused on bringing healthcare entrepreneurs and startups together. And then the next, I think, the next evolution or the next phase of that is gonna be a healthcare accelerator called Catalyst.

– [Meghan] Oh, okay.

– [Chris] And that’s actually gonna be kind of a brick and mortar accelerator that healthcare startups and entrepreneurs will be able to go through and actually kind of build, grow and refine their healthcare-focused businesses.

– [Meghan] And is there some funding opportunities? Or maybe funding opportunities isn’t the best way to describe it. With the Economic Development Department? Are they subsidizing companies that want to move to the Greater Denver area?

– [Chris] You know, that’s a great question and I don’t know the answer to that specifically. I think if people are interested, they can Google Prime Health Colorado. They can also Google Catalyst Healthcare Colorado. And on both of those sites you can get a lot of healthcare-related information. And really from there I think you can kind of figure out what are the different channels to navigate in terms of either subsidizing or even fund raising opportunities.

– [Meghan] Um hmm, yeah, it’s interesting to see these other communities popping up. I mean, of course, the big hubs are Southern California, San Diego, Orange County, and then you’ve got Bay Area, Minneapolis, Boston. But I’ve seen a lot popping up out of Phoenix, Denver and even in Florida, too. So those are some new– Oh, and then, this is more established but not as big as, the Raleigh, Durham, Cary, North Carolina area.

– [Chris] Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s been interesting to see how much things have changed just even, gosh, the last five years. But we now have a world-class healthcare institution located just east of Denver. It’s called the Anschutz campus and there they have the University of Colorado flagship hospital. They have Children’s Hospital of Denver. And it’s really become this healthcare hub in a lot of ways. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to kind of the medical center area in Houston–

– [Meghan] Yeah.

– [Chris] Where they’ve got like almost a whole downtown area of hospitals and healthcare centers. And that’s really the model that, I think, Denver is trying to follow. And so, in that same vein, I think that they’re really trying to attract a lot of private healthcare companies and startups to really kind of help support and be a part of that larger healthcare community.

– [Meghan] Yeah, and even, this isn’t, this is a ways out of Denver, but I flew from San Diego area, I flew all the way to Vail, Colorado, specifically to have my hip surgery a few years ago. And the reason was because the pioneer of arthroscopic hip surgery, Dr. Philipon, is at the Steadman Clinic.

– [Chris] Steadman Hawkins, yep.

– [Meghan] And people travel all over the world to come there and have surgery. And I had to, it was kind of like I was applying for college.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Meghan] I sent my, these x-rays and all these notes from my doctors and my physical therapists and whatever I’d had done. And this big questionnaire and I had a few phone calls and then, then they made their decision and then I had to schedule my surgery it was like six months out.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Meghan] So, but it was, I wouldn’t have it any other way because he’s the specialist. Are you gonna go to the guy who does ten of these a day? Or are you gonna go to the one who does ten of them a year?

– [Chris] Yeah, exactly. That’s really funny you mention that because I actually went there a few years back for a shoulder surgery.

– [Meghan] Oh, okay.

– [Chris] And I think I got there for like initial consult or something and I walk out and there is Kurt Warner. You know, Super Bowl winning quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, played for the Arizona Cardinals, who had just come out of getting hip surgery himself.

– [Meghan]

– [Chris] So it’s just, I think that’s just the Steadman Hawkins Clinic. And they also have an office in Denver. They’re just an example of just kind of world-class healthcare environment that’s taking place in the Denver and kind of the larger Colorado area.

– [Meghan] Yeah. So let’s get into this download that you have available. So again, it’s, text the word, you’re gonna text, actually text the number, so, the number to text is 44222 and then you type in Compass3, all one word. So tell us a little bit about what’s included in that.

– [Chris] Yeah, well, so, this is really a primer for just about any healthcare entrepreneur, CEO, or even if you’re just more of an experienced marketer. It’s really, the idea with it is to expose what I call the three secret truths of marketing. And, the reason I call it that is, you know, whether I’m at some get together with friends or family and I tell ’em I do marketing, a lot of times the first things that come up are like, oh, like, Mad Men, or, like, do you make like the–

– [Meghan] Okay, first of all, that’s advertising.

– [Chris] Yeah, right. And they’re like, oh, do you make the Pepsi or the Doritos commercials you see at the Super Bowl? And you’re like, well, not exactly. And, truth be told is, while those are great examples of advertising and really kind of high end, expensive marketing, that’s really not what day-to-day marketing looks like for a lot of companies. And the other thing I try to remind people is marketing’s not just some sort of like magical or squishy or soft function that businesses just do for the heck of it. Marketing is about providing your customers a compelling reason to buy your product. That’s it.

– [Meghan] Yeah.

– [Chris] And so it’s really, it’s truly a necessary function. Just as much as accounting or finance because without marketing, one, customers aren’t gonna know about your product or company. And, two, you’re not gonna give them any reason to really buy a product or service from you. And so that’s really kind of the idea or the premise for The Three Secret Truths of Marketing. And, really what I did is I happened to just stumble across a video of Steve Jobs. And it was actually a private video of him talking to the Apple employees after he came back from his ouster, I don’t know, 13 years earlier.

– [Meghan] Yeah.

– [Chris] And you can, I provided a link on YouTube to watch it if you want. But he really makes some really key points that I really wanted to summarize in this article. And really the first is, you need to be able to emphasize how your product makes your customers’ lives better. That should be priority one when it comes to marketing. More simply, what problem does your product or service solve for your customers. The second idea, and this is an idea that so many marketers just completely lose sight of, it’s keep it simple. And we tell ourselves, oh, it’s such an easy concept to follow. But I can’t tell you how many companies who, they’ll give lip service to keeping it simple and basic and they will overwhelm their customers with just tons of texts and copy and materials and really at the end of the day, the companies, their customers are just not sure what they’re supposed to get out of it. So keep it simple. And then the last point from this paper is, make an emotional appeal. If you think about things from a psychological standpoint, people make decisions certainly to some degree based on data and facts, but a lot of times they’re making it on emotion. And basically an emotional appeal. And so you wanna make sure that, within your marketing, you always make an emotional appeal with your products. So really, a great example I like to point to is, if you look at Apple’s commercials, you know, yes, they’re very slick, they’re very crisp and very well done. But the thing that they do so well, is they pull those emotional heart strings. They show, you know, when they first introduced FaceTime, they showed a grandpa being able to be introduced to his grandson for the first time via FaceTime. When they introduced the Apple Watch, they showed a couple being able to send each other their heartbeats from different locations. And so, you really wanna be thinking about how can I make an emotional appeal to my customer base to where it really resonates with them. Not only just on an intellectual, a data level but on a emotional level.

– [Meghan] Yeah.

– [Chris] So that’s just kind of the high level synopsis of the article. I highly recommend you check it out and if you find it interesting, I’d love for you to reach out to Market Compass at our website, which we provide the URL on the article page.

– [Meghan] So for those that are driving or, I listen to podcasts while I’m walking my dog, so, for those that aren’t by their computer, give us that website, and what’s the best way to get in touch with you, too.

– [Chris] Absolutely. So, the website is www.themarketcompass.com and we have a contact page where you can basically reach out to us and get in touch with us through the contact page. You can also connect with us on our social media platforms. So we’re on Facebook, if you just search for Market Compass. And then also on Twitter, our handle is @MarketCompass.

– [Meghan] Alright, well, thanks for joining us today and we’ve got a value packed session here for sure.

– [Chris] Absolutely, it was a ton of fun, Meghan.

– [Meghan] So guys, if you wanna connect, and be engaged, meet other people going through the same thing that you’re going through, Chris just mentioned Facebook, yes, people do use Facebook for business, so go ahead jump on in there and connect with the Market Compass. And also, jump on over to Inspired by Imua. Just type that in the search bar. So that’s our Inspired by Imua group where you can chat with others. So, thanks for hanging ten with me today and until the next episode, imua.

– [Announcer] Mahalo for joining us. If you’re new to riding the waves of medical device product development, or, if you’ve been in development for a while already, Inspired by Imua is here to surf with you. Wanna be a master of the waves? Text hang ten, that’s H-A-N-G-T-E-N to 44222. We’ll send you the most common wipe outs companies make in product development so you can avoid them and reach master wave status. Again that’s hang then to 44222. We publish a new episode every Tuesday. So catch us at inspiredbyimua.com. Imua!

About the Author

Meghan M. Alonso
Meghan M. Alonso, referred to by Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington as a medical device development expert, is known for equipping medtech & IVD companies with the knowledge, resources, and connections they need to bring innovative products to market. She’s the IVD Product Marketing Manager for NAMSA and founder of Imua Services. She’s a contributing author for best selling book “Put a Shark in Your Tank” with Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington, and the prestigious “Molecular Profiling – Methods and Protocols”(a must read in molecular diagnostics). Her podcast, MedTech Inspired, in which she interviews the hottest startups, experts, and investors, won iTunes “New and Noteworthy”. According to the Huffington Post, she helps clients navigate the complicated process of bringing their ideas to the marketplace. She’s a patriotic military wife, pet parent, founder and co-founder of 4 successful companies who thrives on guiding medical device and IVD companies through development and manufacturing. When she isn’t helping others, Meghan is hard at work on her MBA she is pursuing from Auburn University, staying active with her adorable husky Abby, crossfitting, enjoying great restaurants and fine wine with her husband, soaking up the sun the nearest beach, and promoting the adoption of shelter dogs.

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