Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category

More about Microblogging

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

In my prior post on the value of social media tools, I noted the potential synergy between blogging and microblogging. In this post, I will elaborate on the application and uses for microblogging and how this tool can benefit a Technology Transfer Office (TTO).

Earlier this year, it was reported that more than 50 million [Twitter] tweets per day were being generated. That’s 600 tweets per second. I characterize the more than 100 million registered Twitter users today as follows:

  • Public figures, including politicians, public servants, celebrities and sports figures. These individuals currently dominate the Top 100 lists and some have attracted millions of followers. I believe that their dominance of this medium will likely shift over time.
  • Media professionals across all sectors, including journalists, media outlets, and the trade press. The media at large has really embraced microblogging over the past 2 years. This category will continue to expand rapidly into the future, as it has provided an innovative new medium to share breaking news stories as well as editorial content on a timely and virtually continuous basis.
  • Messaging professionals, including consultants, professional speakers, and various subject matter experts. Microblogging has provided a cost effective megaphone for independent consultants and organizations with large and small advertising budgets to have a voice in a very crowded space.
  • Marketing professionals, both internal to an organization and the external service providers they hire to support them (i.e., media, public relations, e-mail marketing, and advertising agencies). This category includes forward-thinking TTOs that are creative and looking for innovative approaches to market their capabilities and intellectual property (IP) portfolios for technology commercialization and licensing.

Of course, there is also a sizeable category of “Other” individuals with abundant opinions and perspectives for anyone willing to listen.

TTOs have the opportunity to capitalize on this new communications vehicle as another tool in their marketing toolbox to supplement their current IP marketing efforts.

Is your TTO experimenting with Twitter or other means of microblogging to promote your technology portfolio?

–By Jack Spain

Social Media Tools Can Be Valuable for Tech Transfer Offices: Blogs and Microblogging

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The task of developing a social media strategy for your organization may sound daunting. So much of the hype of social media tools appears to be focused on consumers or business-to-consumer (B2C) applications. After following this trend for the past several years, I am seeing many organizations beginning to analyze and even embrace social media tools for business-to-business applications (B2B).

There are an abundance of social media tools available today, but I am going to focus on two specific tools that can deliver real value to a Technology Transfer Office (TTO) – blogs and microblogging.

Blogs (or web logs) can be an effective vehicle for communications today in a time when information travels at the speed of the Internet. Blogs can be used by TTOs to:

  • Communicate valuable expertise and experiences with technology commercialization
  • Broadcast information on key intellectual property and licensing opportunities across your institution or enterprise
  • Share critical needs for collaboration and partnerships—an important component of Symbiotic Innovation
  • Improve overall awareness of your organization

While microblogging tools (dominated by Twitter today) have considerable limitations, they offer the potential to be an effective communications vehicle. Microblogging can be utilized to:

  • Announce new blog postings and other relevant announcements
  • Provide your organization with a communication tool to quickly and cost-effectively extend your reach to prospective licensees and partners
  • Expand and extend your current professional network of contacts

Since some TTOs are uncertain about whether they should be microblogging, I will elaborate on that particular social media tool in another post later this week. And next week, I will share my guidelines for effective blogging and microblogging.

What social media tools have you used to enhance your B2B communications?

–By Jack Spain

Effective Communications with External Stakeholders

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Establishing effective communications with potential licensees or prospective partners external to your institution or enterprise is a daunting task. Successfully getting someone’s attention, developing the business case for a constructive dialog, and establishing the proper protocol for effective interactions can be quite complex and time-consuming. My tips for effective communications with external associates include the following techniques.


1.     Empathy. It is worth the investment of your time to conduct background research on your prospective partner’s business including market strategy, financial condition, and recent news and events to increase your chances of conducting successful meetings and negotiation sessions. To the extent possible, seek multi-dimensional win-win-win agreements for strategic self-sustaining partnerships.


2.    Value Proposition. It is often wise to assume that your target contacts are overworked and paralyzed from information and assignment overload. It will work to your advantage to develop a succinct “elevator speech” on the value and benefits that your institution brings to the relationship. Be prepared to utilize multiple communication approaches that best fit the most appropriate communication style for your target audience.


3.    Communication. Attempt to speak in the language of your partner, being sensitive to the use of acronyms and the vernacular of your office, industry, or institution. Effective listing skills are quite often the most powerful proficiency that you can utilize for effective communications to establish new professional relationships.


4.    Investment. Results are typically commensurate with investments of time and resources. If you are negotiating or facilitating a big deal, prioritize, plan, and invest your time proportionately. Successful outcomes result from clearly defined deliverables, roles, and responsibilities while proactively managing expectations throughout the process.


5.     Metrics. It is important invest time to clearly define the appropriate criteria for success. Ideally, the criteria should be objective, rational, and relatively easy to measure. Once defined and agreed upon, monitor, track, and proactively communicate the results to key stakeholders.


Effective personal and professional relationships are a function of trust through consistent communications with integrity. Effective communications is the foundation to executing deals and developing new productive external relationships for your institution.

—By Jack Spain

Effective Communications with Internal Stakeholders

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Maintaining effective communications with key stakeholders within your institution or enterprise (i.e. inventors, attorneys, administrators, financial, or public relations personnel, etc.) sounds easy, but quite often is considerably more challenging and resource intensive than we expect. Many of us are working with colleagues who have too many demands placed on them with too few resources and too little time. My tips for effective communications include following techniques.


1.     Empathy. View your role as a “service provider” and think of your internal colleagues and associates as “customers” and “suppliers”. With this perspective, it is important to invest time to understand your customer’s goals, objectives, issues, and challenges which can be accomplished by exercising effective listing skills during your interactions.


2.    Communication. It is almost impossible to over-communicate today with the amount of information transmitted continuously across your organization. Be proactive in your communications and attempt to speak in the language of your customer (i.e. beware of acronyms and internal office or industry vernacular). During your interactions pay close attention that your colleagues are actually listening to you and acknowledging your dialog. Far too often our colleagues may be paralyzed from information and assignment overload.


3.    Understanding. Invest adequate time to ensure that you fully understand the needs and expectations from your customers. Identify the specific criteria for success for both parties and seek multi-dimensional win-win-win agreements. Always keep in mind that last minute changes are considerably more expensive than getting it right the first time or making the necessary course corrections early in the process.


4.    Commitment. Prioritize your projects and your time on a continuous basis. Remain attentive to key milestones and events and keep in mind that “no” is an acceptable answer if your current priorities do not permit you change direction or commit to additional actions (of course, most things are negotiable). Bottom line is that results are generally commensurate with investments in both time and resources.


5.     Relationships. It is quite advantageous to build relationships proactively. Your network of professional contacts can often be leveraged to your advantage to connect with key influencers and decision-makers across your institution. It is also important to remember that initial impressions are very difficult to change so initiating any new relationships in a positive manner will often set you off on a trajectory for success.


Effective personal and professional relationships are a function of trust through consistent communications with integrity. Effective communicators are often associated with delivering positive results. Maintaining this type of reputation will position you and your organization for successful working relationships across your institution.


—By Jack Spain

Tips to Becoming an Effective TTO Change Agent

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Managing change within any organization today is increasingly more challenging each year. Stakeholder expectations are increasing; cycle time expectations are collapsing for all institutional processes and transactions; geographic boundaries are collapsing as a result of globalization; institutional organizational strategies are increasingly dynamic; every element of an enterprise is becoming more complex; competition is becoming more intense each quarter in every commercial sector; and our physical world is transforming into a virtual digital workplace with more extensive connectivity.


Effective change leadership is one of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities for leaders. How do Tech Transfer Office (TTO) directors effectively lead their organization through changes in the institution’s leadership; reorganizations; institutional economic challenges; or legal disputes? How can you become a champion and lead your organization in the pursuit of objectives to align with a new set of imperatives from your institution or immediate management?


I recommend five critical imperatives to position a TTO director as an effective change leader:


1.         Maintain a firm grasp of the current realities, challenges, and opportunities throughout the organization with proactive feedback loops and effective organizational controls.


2.         Ensure that the appropriate energy, priority, and focus are maintained on the change initiative until the desired results have been accomplished.


3.         Assemble the right skills and talent on the change team to ensure that your team will meet its overall goals.


4.         Set high expectations for and continuously strive to over-communicate.


5.         Establish the foundation to prepare your team to succeed with effective execution of your plan.


One of your most essential responsibilities as a leader is to maintain the appropriate focus on your change initiatives to ensure that your team is successful in achieving your goals. It is so easy and all too tempting to become distracted by the next issue to hit your desk, but effective leaders persevere to institutionalize the desired change.


Please share your lessons learned, challenges, and victories from guiding a change initiative within your institution.


—By Jack Spain

IP Marketing Iterative Process: Getting the Deal

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

In recent posts on Marketing Intellectual Property, I have conveyed the merits of implementing an iterative marketing process; validating your decision to invest your resources in commercializing a technology; developing your marketing plan; executing your plan; and proactively scheduling checkpoints to regularly validate your plan. The final and most critical step is to ensure that you are attentive to the remaining tasks to position you to successfully execute a licensing agreement.

There are several key points to consider throughout this stage of the process.

  1. Understand the perspective of your licensee. You must ask the right questions and invest time to ensure that you understand what is included in the agreement for the licensee to position this deal for a successful win-win-win outcome (institution, inventors, and licensee). Will your technology provide the licensee with a strategic competitive advantage? It your technology synergistic or complementary to their existing commercial offerings, or does it provide the licensee with new market opportunities. Is the licensee anticipating that they will be granted exclusivity to your patents, or are they specifically looking for field of use or geographic rights? The answers to these questions provide the framework for a mutually-beneficial licensing agreement.
  2. Communicate the licensing process. It is imperative to clearly define, document, and communicate your licensing process for prospective licensees to improve the cycle time and the productivity for negotiating agreements. Publishing your expectations, licensing steps, application and agreement templates, and key contact information on your tech transfer website benefit all parties.
  3. Manage the licensing process. Proactively managing expectations regarding the time investment, key milestones in the licensing and approval process, along with financial commitment expectations will result in fewer surprises, debates, and disputes throughout the negotiation process. This is important for all internal and external stakeholders involved to avoid unnecessary delays. For many technologies, time-to-market is critical and delays in the licensing process can result in deals that do not get executed due to lost market opportunities from other emerging innovations. It is also important to continue to stay focused and not get distracted by other initiatives competing for your attention this close to the “finish line” of getting the deal.


Signing a licensing agreement is a very satisfying and rewarding experience and is often the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and planning over many months. Enjoy the moment and leverage your recent experiences as lessons learned for your next licensing deal. Remember that if your prospective licensee is not requesting exclusive access to your patents, you should also continue to support your marketing campaign in parallel with managing current deal opportunities.

—By Jack Spain

IP Marketing Iterative Process: Checkpoints for the Marketing Plan

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

In recent posts on Marketing Intellectual Property, I have described the merits of implementing an iterative marketing process; validating your decision to invest your resources in commercializing a technology; developing your marketing plan; and executing your plan. Another essential element of an effective iterative process is to incorporate timely checkpoints to test and validate your assumptions, reflect on the feedback that you have received, and communicate with your key stakeholders.


Pausing periodically to update your marketing plan based on the results you have achieved to-date positions you for greater success in commercializing your technologies and to proactively manage expectations with your management and the respective inventors. It is not uncommon for often unforeseen events to change the market landscape for a target innovation. For instance, consider the impact on:


  • the appeal of specific technologies after changes in political administrations (e.g. innovative green technology solutions)
  • the appeal of specific technologies after natural disasters (e.g. innovative geospatial solutions to assist relief efforts in Haiti and Chili)
  • the appeal of specific technologies after national security incidents (e.g. innovative airport security solutions)
  • the appeal of specific technologies after a major FDA product recall (e.g. innovative agricultural product screening solutions)


I recommend that you schedule a checkpoint every 30 to 90 days for each of the technologies that you are actively marketing to:


1.         Reevaluate the approach you are using to engage target licensees.


2.         Recalculate your anticipated return on investment from your marketing campaign.


3.         Reassess your target markets for commercializing subject technologies.


4.         Adjust your online marketing materials periodically to reflect frequently asked questions and additional insights you have gained.


4.         Proactively update key stakeholders on your progress and plans for the subject technologies.


Please share specific events that you have experienced that have had a remarkable impact on marketing innovations in your technology portfolio.


—By Jack Spain

Virtual Workforce Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Laura Schoppe and I have posted several blog entries recently on the virtues of a virtual organization model, including posts on our recent NPR interview, Flex Options in the Workplace, and the benefits of a virtual team. Laura also wrote an article for Mobility Enterprise Magazine. The Fuentek virtual business model is the foundation of how we deliver consistent, high-quality, high-value services to our global clients. During the past nine years, we have recognized several key best practices and lessons learned.


Best Practices for Leaders:


1.         Establish, maintain, and communicate clear and concise expectations and accountabilities for all staff members.

2.         Maintain a focus on results, not where and when staff members are working.

3.         Develop and maintain just enough process definition along with effective training and mentoring programs for staff members.

4.         Institute an effective screening, recruiting and hiring process for prospective job candidates.

5.         Communicate proactively and on a regular basis.

6.         Invest in web-based database, collaboration and communications tools.


Best Practices for Staff Members:


1.         Have the ability and desire to work independently without the abundance of social interactions available in traditional organizations.

2.         Be self-motivated and not dependent on continual guidance, communications, and reinforcement from a supervisor.

3.         Be dependable and dedicated, and consistently deliver high-quality services on time and within budget.

4.         Establish a fully functioning home office that includes business class technology, high-speed Internet, dedicated telephone and the ability to be isolated from household distractions.

5.         Focus on maintaining strong time management skills, and clearly compartmentalizing professional and personal responsibilities.


Lessons Learned:


1.         Managing a virtual team requires increased flexibility from both staff and leaders.

2.         The virtual organization model is more appropriate with seasoned, mature and experienced staff members.

3.         Effective and highly motivated staff members typically have a strong desire for independence and a flexible work schedule.

4.         Satisfaction for both staff and leaders requires effective and continuous feedback loops to avoid surprises.

5.         Leaders must invest in funding cost-effective face-to-face interactions periodically to strengthen communication, collaboration and build trust across the entire team.


Managing a virtual organization requires less time investment day-to-day from a leadership perspective, but it does require greater focus and intensity on how you effective manage your staff.


What have been your professional telecommuting and virtual workforce experiences?


—By Jack Spain

IP Marketing Iterative Process: Executing the Marketing Plan

Monday, February 1st, 2010

An effective, iterative IP marketing process should include a well-conceived plan that focuses on delivering an acceptable return on your resource investments. Once your plan is in place, the fun begins with Executing the Marketing Plan. This essential phase includes contacting the target licensees that you identified through your market research, and managing the interactions between the licensees, inventor, attorneys, and other key technology transfer office personnel. Key steps in this phase to support marketing your intellectual property include:


1.         Contact prospective target licensees utilizing the best practices and methodologies that you have outlined in your marketing plan. Quite often this is a combination of telephone calls, email, conferences, and workshops.


2.         During each marketing campaign, you need to manage your schedule accordingly to ensure you are available to respond to questions and requests about the target technology on a timely basis.


3.         In order to efficiently vet prospective licensees and manage your time effectively, you should have a consistent process to capture and document your interactions. Ideally, you should utilize an IP management database system throughout the entire life cycle of the intellectual property asset. Depending on the anticipated commercial potential of the technology and the number of projects you are managing, it is extremely valuable to have a repository that provides you with the current status and state of each prospective licensee along with key metrics to measure the overall progress of your marketing campaign.


4.         Most Inventors are consumed with their research projects and do not have a lot of time available for a high volume of interactions with prospective licensees. It is important that you are conscious and mindful of the Inventor’s availability and effectively manage the quantity and quality of interactions with each Inventor.


5.         An effective marketing plan is iterative and periodically updated and realigned to reflect the questions and feedback from target licensees. You should update the marketing promotional materials representing your technology to capture the relevant feedback you receive throughout the execution phase.


6.         Obviously, the end goal of this phase of the marketing process is to facilitate development of licensing applications that have a reasonable likelihood of progressing into the Deal phase with the objective of executing a formal licensing agreement.


An essential skill to exercise throughout the execution phase is effective listening. You should be acutely listening to the responses and feedback from your target licensees and learning from how the Inventor responds to questions and challenges from interested parties. While your marketing plan should be an excellent roadmap to present your technologies to prospective licensees – it is also just as important to continuously refine your plan based on how the market responds to the novelty and potential commercial applications of your target technologies.


—By Jack Spain

IP Marketing Is an Iterative Process: Developing the Marketing Plan

Monday, January 25th, 2010

An effective, iterative IP marketing process should include a well-conceived plan that focuses on delivering an acceptable return on your resource investments. Your plan should be more of a “living,” outline-level guide than a voluminous document that you rarely revisit. An effective marketing plan can be developed with the following steps:


1.         Meet with the inventor to ensure that you have a solid understanding of the current state of the technology and to confirm the inventor’s willingness and availability to support the marketing effort.


2.         Write an “elevator pitch” or clear, concise, and compelling technology marketing description that will capture the attention and interest of your target audience.


3.         Determine the optimal approach to showcase your technology in a cost-effective manner.


4.         Develop a technical specifications sheet consistent with industry standards for the technology based on the market research in the technology assessment and when you validated your “go” decision.


5.         Identify the suitable promotional materials and methods to support your marketing plan. Refining your specific promotional plan to the norms of your target market can be considerably more effective than a “one size fits all” approach.


6.         Establish a method to package and distribute the technology to licensees. It is typically less resource intensive to define your approach early in the marketing process as opposed to being reactive after you have executed your first licensing agreement.


7.         Schedule checkpoints with the key stakeholders to confirm and validate your plans along with your resource and schedule estimates.


Developing a thoughtful marketing plan will save your organization considerable time and money and should produce a greater number of successful outcomes in the form of licenses per resources invested.


Are there additional steps you take in developing a marketing plan?


—By Jack Spain