Entrepreneur Report – Lab Connect LLC

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The Company

Lab Connect LLC was founded in 2002. It is a clinical research company that provides global central laboratory services including routine and esoteric laboratory testing, kit building, sample management, bio-storage and scientific support services for biopharmaceutical and CRO clients. The company has a unique combination of state-of-the-art technology, world-class laboratories, easy access to emerging markets and extensive specialized testing expertise, which means the drug development industry can rely on a single provider for all of their central laboratory service needs.

Target market

Its target market is small and mid size biopharmaceutical companies. Its target contacts are decision makers with titles such as Project Manager, Director of Clinical Operations, Clinical Research Associate, etc. with BS, MS or PhD degree, typically 35 to 50 years old, tech-enabled, but not necessarily tech-savvy.

They are disrupting an existing market. The current market size is about 4 billion dollars and the company has more than 20 competitors, including some billion-dollar companies such as Covance, Quintiles, and Quest. But the goal of Lab Connect is to develop a unique, distinctive and memorable brand to effectively differentiate from the much larger, more experienced competition. They want to promote the “decentralized central lab” concept with the messaging of “The world’s local central lab. Global reach. Local expertise”. As the CEO said, Lab Connect should be the “Toyota” or “Crate & Barrel” of the lab industry—connoting a well-designed product with good value. They are striving for a unique and differentiated “look and feel”. Some differentiating factors include connectivity and accuracy, humanness and “high touch” customer service, and high tech yet “user friendly”.

Positioning and Value Proposition

Positioning: The CEO wants to position Lab Connect as the “decentralized central lab” that provides biopharmaceutical companies with strategies for any phase of development, from target identification to commercialization, whether those companies require short- or long-term storage of their samples. He believes that proper sample management is a vital aspect of today’s clinical trials. Because samples may have to be retested for compliance, data or drug-safety reasons, a comprehensive bio-storage plan should be a part of their initial trial outline.

Value proposition: Lab Connect is focusing on taking customizable approach to meet clients’ protocol’s geographic and analytical needs, establishing regional laboratory hubs for site support, building industry leading specialty laboratories, providing unparalleled project management experience, developing innovative sample tracking and reporting technologies and keeping service oriented organizational culture, with solution driven mindset.

Channels and distribution

Since it’s a service company, its current sales channel is direct communications with decision makers of its target companies. They are taking a project management approach. Since the CEO used to work in the biopharmaceutical industry for several years before he founded his own company, he has a strong network in his target companies. He used to list all the primary contacts and let the sales people to call or visit them on a regular basis. Once they acquire a customer, they will have face-to-face meetings and start with project planning and hold routine project team meetings. They also have on-line collaborative tools with their clients.

Their customer acquisition is mainly through word of mouth. Starting from the CEO’s network in the industry, the company now has a stable customer group. Since the company did a good job in improving service quality and keeping a high switching cost, their retention rate is pretty high (around 22%, which is much higher than the industry benchmark). The company’s strategy is always focusing on increasing sales of existing customers. They’ve also tried email and cold-call sales to acquire new customers before, but didn’t achieve as many leads/sales as expected.

Blog #4 – Retargeting

Products: I used to shop in Macy’s online store. Recently I just searched for boots on Macy’s website and clicked on the product I’m interested in and stayed on that webpage for couple of minutes. Several minutes later when I logged on my Facebook page, that pair of boots appeared on the right hand side of my Facebook page.Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 4.33.09 PM

Services: I just joint Marketing Profs as a member and have searched for its online courses. Several days later when I happened to go to gigaom.com to read a marketing article, the online course provided by Marketing Profs appeared on that webpage. Another example is about Marketo. I used to search for marketing articles through Marketo. And an ad asking me to download an article from Marketo was magically showing up on my Facebook page. I’ve also seen many other retargeting examples from online retail stores such as Amazon.com and taobao.com.

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Generally speaking, these retargeting type of ads are distracting, especially when they are showing up on some totally irrelevant website of their business. But they are still effective in my opinion since they do make me more likely to buy and I did take many actions through those retargeting ads. I will download most of the articles from Marketo whenever I saw the ads on other website. And I used to spent hundreds of dollars on Amazon.com through its retargeting ads. The most important reason those ads work for me is because they know my product preference and shopping style through my recent activities on their website. So the products or services they displayed on the other website are either attractive for me in general or what I’m looking for recently. That’s how retargeting ads success – get to know the customers purchasing behavior and meet their demand.

Blog #3 – Headout

The company I find compelling on ProductHunt.com is Headout. It is a tour-planning app designed to book tours, fun activities and attraction tickets at the last minute on mobile device at cheaper prices. Currently it only provides services in New York and Las Vegas.

Here are the three bloggers I would like to reach out if I were the CEO:

Arabella Bowen: @arabellabowen. She’s the editor-in-chief at Fodors Travel. She’s a frequent traveller, a fan of arts and good designer. She’s also an active blogger with 1,447 followers in Twitter. Since she’s a decision maker in the travel magazine and also a professional traveller, she could be a good influencer of Headout by writing compelling stories on both the magazine and her blog.

Wendy Perrin: @wendyperrin. She’s a travel expert, author, speaker and founder of TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate with 57.1K followers on Twitter. I believe she’s a big influencer in the travel industry. If she could write something about Headout, the company website traffic will be largely increased.

Tim&Nat: @acooknotmad. They are travel experts and storytellers with 3,712 followers on their Twitter account. I believe from experiencers’ perspective, they could be good advocates or evangelists of Headout.

Blog #1 – Flash Volunteer

Research Company: Flash Volunteer

Flash Volunteer is a real time, real world volunteer engagement online platform. Since their mission is to “build community and increase volunteerism through creation of a sustainable, user-friendly online platform”, their potential users could be anyone who is interested in community services, looking for flexibilities, tech-enabled, but not necessarily tech savvy. Their current customers are mostly young professionals who work in the office, well educated, are interested in knowing more people and contributing to communities with fun.

Since it’s a non-profit organization, it doesn’t really need to compete with other companies. Its long-term strategy could be developing more user-friendly and easy-to-use volunteer online platforms and apps. It could “steal” some customers who are users of other volunteer platforms such as UN Volunteers and GloVo. But instead of competing with other platforms, it’s devoted to providing more options and flexibilities to volunteers. As its platform and products are developed more engaging and easy to use, it could expand its customer group, engage and motivate more people from young professionals to elder and less educated people.

Blog #2

Value Proposition and Positioning

Company: Uber

Online Channels: Uber chooses to focus on their owned website and social media platforms as its main online channels. The company’s website is becoming more user-friendly and it has online presence on all the major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+).

Value Proposition: Uber positions itself as “Everyone’s Private Driver”. It describes itself as a technology platform that makes cities more accessible and opens up more possibilities for riders as well as for drivers. It’s more of a “gain creator” type of proposition since it stresses more accessibilities and services.

Positioning: As a frequent user of Uber, here’s what I think would be a proper positioning statement for Uber:

For anyone who may need a ride, Uber is the most convenient technology platform that delivers private, quick and less expensive driving services than any other taxi companies because only Uber has the flexible and diverse driving resources as well as the most advanced technology tools that connect the rider and driver in a most efficient and convenient way.

Gaps: So far they’ve successfully communicated this product to the target customers in terms of its revenue growth and the quick business expansion. But there are some gaps between how it positions itself and how I perceive it:

  1. The value proposition is a too big and ambiguous. Every taxi company could call itself as “everyone’s private driver”. It doesn’t describe what unique features it has and why customers got to have Uber instead of other type of taxi.
  2. It includes competitive set. Features such as “more accessible and more possibilities” exist in any type of taxi companies. From a user perspective, its uniqueness lies in lower price, fast and diversity of choices.
  3. It’s more of a “pain killer” from my experience. Before Uber came into the market, people have a hard time taking a private ride when there’s an emergency. Calling a taxi takes time and it’s much more expensive than Uber. With Uber platform, I can have a private ride within 5 minutes most of the time after I booked a car and it’s much less expensive than a taxi. It solved my problem of taking a ride whenever I want without costing a lot of money. So I perceive this product as my “pain killer”.