You see it on the television, you read it in the newspapers – the global economy is slowing. The IMF has cut GDP estimates for the world as a whole to 4.0%, highlights the threat of renewed recession in the US and EU, has curbed estimates on China slightly, and projects a sharp drop-off in India’s economic growth compared to last year. Other economies are projected to show sharply weaker growth as well. Huge public debts also threaten austerity in major economies. All in all, the global economy is in a very precarious position … but what does that mean for you, the manufacturers and distributors of life science research tools?
Overall, the global life sciences research market will likely contract, and we are already seeing supporting evidence of such. The proposed 2012 NIH budget is trimmed by a modest 0.6%. I expect European and Japanese life science R&D spending to be trimmed by a similar amount. While many developed economies are struggling with debt, investments in research don’t seem to be high-priority chopping block items. What about the massive $100bn+ pharmaceutical and biotech research and development budgets? Well, while one may reasonably postulate that people in developed economies are losing their health care along with their jobs and this would lead to falling revenues, that does not seem to be the case. In fact, the largest threat to pharma / biotech seems to be generics, but even then global sales growth is still projected to be positive, albeit diminished. That being the case, don’t expect private-sector R&D to grow, but it shouldn’t shrink either. Overall, we will likely see only a very modest contraction in overall life science R&D spending. That’s good news.
The bad news is that this cuts the “growth” out of the market, although this is worse news if you’re a large company or an established player in your market segment. These companies rely more on growth in the market in order to grow themselves (at least organically), and companies with a high market share or those that have seen their market share plateau are more likely to see a sales contraction from a contraction in global life science R&D funding. Smaller companies that have plateaued will need to assess their technology and competencies in order to develop plans for value-added innovation in current markets and / or expansion into new markets in order to sustain growth, or else they will simply contract with the market. Larger companies with more cash will likely use M&A to achieve growth. Look for them to acquire early-stage companies with very promising high-impact technologies as well as established small-to-mid size companies that have high-quality product lines that are complimentary to their own.
Contrary to general consumer behavior, we are unlikely to see a move to lower-cost products within the research tools market. Less research funding generally means less labs or smaller labs, not across-the-board cuts in funding to all labs. In other words, the dollars spent per researcher will likely be roughly the same, but the overall number of researchers will decrease, spreading the contractile pressure fairly evenly across all laboratory products instead of driving researchers to lower-cost products. Practically speaking, this means that manufacturers and distributors who sell products that compete on price will feel the squeeze just as bad, if not worse since many of these “generic” or “commodity” type manufacturers do not have the technology and R&D capability to expand into new markets. As these companies have thin margins and already focus on efficiency, thereby not leaving much more room to squeeze out additional efficiency, they will feel the pain of any contraction quite acutely if they haven’t been saving cash.
On the other hand, small and mid-size companies that rely more heavily on technology adoption for growth will likely still have strong performance, as companies will still want to put their research dollars into tools that make research faster, better, and easier. These companies don’t rely so much on market growth since they are, in effect, building sub-markets and carving out new space. While their effective “ceiling” may be decreased, this will likely affect them only minimally since they are still in the growth phase and have not come close to reaching their maximum potential. One exception to this could be those companies that manufacture high-value capital equipment that is most often purchased to upgrade from an older instrument and / or technology. Look for sales in these products to decline somewhat as organizations look to decrease their R&D overhead by decreasing funding to core facilities and putting off large, non-critical purchases. With few exceptions, however, scientists will continue to adopt new technologies.
Another way a contraction will affect the life science research tools market is by decreasing marketing ROI. With an overall decrease in spending, there will be more marketing dollars chasing fewer customers, so marketing ROI will likely decrease by a few percentage points, especially since new players in the market will likely continue to enter given its size and comparative stability, and also to seize opportunities created by new technologies. While sales forces can shrink to demand, the channels through which marketers need to reach customers do not shrink, and this puts a fairly strict limit on how much a marketing budget can contract without negatively affecting sales.
A contracting global economy certainly will not effect the research products markets as much as it will the consumer markets, and this is very good news for those in the space and for the future of biomedical research a a whole. Nevertheless, any slowing or contraction presents risks. By understanding the situation and the likelihood of future possibilities and preparing for what may lie ahead, life science companies can plan for and mitigate those risks to help ensure continued success.
There is often a disconnect in communication and reporting among the marketing and sales / business development teams in life science companies that makes the calculation of ROI less relevant, or just flat out less correct, than it should be. Each team or division generally focuses largely on what they can control and what their end-goals are. Usually for life sciences marketing teams the metric of choice is leads, and for sales teams the metrics of choice are sales and conversion rate. Considered separately, these metrics do not form a holistic approach that considers the interests of the company.
Primarily at odds when marketing and sales metrics are considered and reported separately is lead quality. As most marketers and practically all salespeople know, poorly designed or poorly targeted marketing communications can often generate large amounts of poor-quality leads. The large volume of leads will look good for marketing, but ultimately will be bad for sales, as few of the leads will convert. Because of this, an overarching reporting structure that considers both leads and sales should be implemented which tracks lead capture and development over the complete cycle. With such an overarching reporting structure, a better understanding of ROI can be gained.
Simply reporting a more holistic measure of ROI is not sufficient, however, as ultimately companies are not interested in reports, but in revenues. Certainly there are many problems that can be identified and subsequently fixed through improved reporting, however there need to be methods of direct contact, information flow, and feedback between marketing and sales teams.
Some products may not require sales teams, and for these products marketing will directly lead to sales without the intermediate step of lead generation. While in these situations it is easy for ROI to be measured, for many products and virtually all services it is not so simple. In these situations marketing and sales must collaborate, and data from one function must be related to data from the other. Only with more holistic approaches can a meaningful measure of ROI be grasped and meaningful strategies developed to increase it.
There is a recent article in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News discussing large life science tool companies and how recent growth (and by “recent” I mean the past half decade or so) of these large companies can be largely ascribed to acquisition. David Green, the president of Harvard Bioscience, was quoted as saying that “The average organic growth in the life science instrumentation industry, with the exception of sequencing-based businesses, remains a modest 3–6%.” I can only presume he’s speaking about public companies, which are generally much larger than the average company and therefore more constrained in terms of their potential growth.
This, I argue, is not surprising at all. Larger companies are simply better suited to buy than develop. Given that various granting agencies (for example, the NIH) pump billions upon billions of dollars a year into life science research, wouldn’t it be expected that the more common option for large companies would be to eat up the newly formed companies that are so often a product of that investment?
Now this is not the case in all fields. The technology that moves forward some sectors of the life science tools market are far less frequently products of grant-funded research. In these sectors, R&D spending is necessary and there will often be fewer start-ups to acquire. Companies in these sectors may be limited to the number of viable acquisitions possible or reasonable and therefore must find ways to grow organically.
Regardless of the sector, this is good news for small life science companies founded on solid, promising IP that are looking to get bought out. It seems there are plenty of behemoths with deep pockets who are willing to throw plenty of money around for the right opportunity. However, for those who don’t have that killer technology, whose product portfolio doesn’t fit excellently into that of a much larger company, or who simply wish to remain independent, you have no option but to grow organically. That, my friends, is a topic for another day.
In one of the first posts on our new site we discussed some ways in which life science tools companies can take advantage of a weak dollar, but with a decidedly U.S.-centric focus. With the dollar index hitting a three-year low last Thursday and not far from an all-time low, we decided to revisit the topic, this time with an international focus. While a weaker U.S. dollar is most often a positive for U.S.-based manufacturers, it can pose problems for international companies that want to export into the United States. While there is no way for a company to circumvent the exchange rates, a very weak dollar may present a good time to act on certain cross-border opportunities for some non-U.S. life science companies.
The U.S. Dollar Index (5-year chart)
For non-U.S. distribution companies, the exchange rate probably doesn’t seem so bad. A cheap dollar can be a good time to stock up on inventory from U.S. suppliers. Manufacturers need to look a little harder for a silver lining as their products become effectively more expensive in the U.S. Now, however may be a time to look to the U.S. to source parts, etc. in order to decrease manufacturing costs. If you are willing to bet that the dollar is near a local minimum, you may even want to prepay for items that are sourced within the United States.
Ever think about starting operations inside the U.S.? Now might just be the time. One-time expenses will now be relatively cheap and operating costs will currently be low, allowing your company to mitigate the large capital outflows necessary to begin operations. (shameless self-promotion warning: looking for a way to less expensively start U.S. operations?) Speaking more generally, for non-U.S. companies, now is the time to execute dollar-denominated contracts.
The dollar may not stay weak for long. With expected budget cuts by the U.S. Government and tightening of fiscal policy by the Federal Reserve (including the end of the second round of qualitative easing) imminent, it is likely that the dollar will stabilize at the very least, meaning we are likely near or at low levels. If your bioscience company have a future expense that will be in dollars, you may realize significant savings by pushing that expense forward and executing now.
Great ideas are precious things. They are the fuel driving innovation, the sustenance of progress, the energy that powers success. Not all great ideas are so great in practice, however. In the life sciences, as in all industries, ideas that are put into action need to be periodically re-evaluated to make sure they are working out to be as good as we thought they were. If they are not, then we would be best off scrapping them and focusing our energy and resources on something else … but life science companies seem to have a very hard time doing so, and this inability is to their detriment.
For your information...Want to learn more about go / kill decision making? You can read about the stage-gate project management technique, from which go / kill is based, on Wikipedia.
The area where this lack of go / kill is most prominent and has the largest effects is product development. Life science product development projects have well-defined milestones and easily tracked metrics, yet go / kill criteria are usually nonexistent and when they are they are most often poorly defined and almost never strictly obeyed. Put simply, not having such criteria is a poor business practice and not obeying them is a poor business decision. Go / kill criteria are defined based on the risk at any point in time in comparison to the revenue potential. This information, which may be subjective but is still based on the best knowledge and information at the time the criteria is created, tells us whether we are likely to achieve our desired returns at any stage-gate (the point at the project when the go / kill decision is made) if we move forward with the project. If you are unlikely to achieve the desired returns, and resources would be better allocated elsewhere then the kill decision should be made, yet it very rarely is.
It is, to some extent, easy to understand why companies so infrequently utilize stage-gates successfully. Kill decisions are hard to make. In our business culture, killing a project is often interpreted as the project failing and this can cloud the business judgment of those on the team who do not want to appear to have been on a failed project. In practice, recognizing the need for a project kill and implementing it should be commendable, a gesture that the project team are willing to put the greater good of the company as a whole. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. No one ever handed out a “best project kill decision of the year” award. Kills are not seen as an achievement but project completion is, so most often projects push on even in the kind of adversity that makes desired returns extremely unlikely.
Other types of endeavors can benefit from stage-gate type go / kill decision making. For example, marketing campaigns can be periodically re-evaluated for ROI determination. If the ROI is not up to par, the campaign can be killed in favor of another which has a greater likelihood of success. Distributor / supplier relationships can be subjected to go / kill, and because of easily quantifiable metrics these decisions can be very easily gauged. Go / kill gates can even be easily and beneficially applied to the continuation of existing products. There are a multitude of other areas where life science companies can benefit from such gates as well.
Ensuring that resources are allocated to areas providing the greatest benefits is a cornerstone of a successful company. Ongoing projects and processes have a need to be periodically reevaluated to determine if they should be continued or “killed” in favor of other more promising endeavors. Despite this, life science companies rarely use go / kill decisions. Implementation of stage-gates and proper adherence to go / kill criteria will help life science companies ensure that that their resources are more optimally allocated and utilized.
All companies making and / or selling life science tools and services have a product portfolio, but often these portfolios are not viewed in a strategic manner. While aligning current company competencies with current marketplace needs is a simple way to have successful products, a broader view of the product or service portfolio is necessary to ensure greater corporate, and long-term, success. In this post, I’ll go over some of the broader considerations of managing a product portfolio.
Note that many companies discuss product portfolio management to effectively be the new product development project selection process. While new product development project selection is an important part of product portfolio management, I believe this viewpoint to be too narrowly focused, as existing products need to be factored into portfolio management as well, and there are issues related to portfolio management that are indeed independent of new product development. I will discuss new product development project selection in more depth in a later post, as it is a critical business process, but for this post I will simply try to address some common questions relating more globally to product portfolio management in the life sciences.
How many products are the right amount?
Deciding how many products should be in your product portfolio is a difficult question, but there is a correct answer that requires balancing a multitude of factors. First of all, and arguably most importantly, is the amount of products that you can profitably develop. If you have the skills and the market need exists for more products, then building more is usually a good idea. Also important, however, are risk and the scope and goals of the company. If your product portfolio is too small or too narrow, then you may be exposing yourself to a large amount of risk by putting too many eggs in one basket, so to speak. On the other hand, if you have too many products you may lose focus of your scope and your goals, or simply lose the ability to effectively maintain or all of your product lines.
Should product X be in our product portfolio?
Again, if you have the skills to build a given product and the market need exists for it, then it is usually a good idea to build it. Before diving in head first, however, be sure you know the opportunities and threats of doing so. Also, if a given product is sufficiently outside the rest of your product portfolio, then other problems may arise. Your customers not view you as having a competency in that area and this can hurt customer confidence in that particular product or product line, adversely affecting sales. Furthermore, a disparate product from others in your portfolio may incur large marketing cots, as the effective economies of scale achieved by co-marketing (effectively marketing for many products at once) may not exist. For older products, you periodically need to ask if the product is still worth supporting. This should not be a simple question of if the product is obsolete, however, but rather will the profits from making or selling the product meet the desired rate of return. Ultimately, strategy and rate of return are the most important deciding factors in deciding if a product should be developed, maintained, or scrapped.
How do I know my product portfolio has the right mix of products?
Your developed product portfolio should accurately reflect your core competencies and the current needs of the life science research market while your product development projects should be addressing anticipated future needs. Make good use of market research to figure out exactly what those needs are with respect to your business.
Notes for life science distribution companies
If you’re a life science distribution company your job of product portfolio management is in many ways much simpler since you have no product development costs. However, there are still costs associated with bringing on a new product or product line, so having as large an offering as possible is often not a good strategy. Also, consider your strategic positioning within the life science marketplace and align your product offerings to that positioning. If your strategy involves certain segments of the life science market, leverage your product portfolio to gain a reputation as an expert “go-to” seller within that market segment. Since you have less variables to deal with than manufacturers, fully-quantitative, even automated, processes for dealing with portfolio management processes are also sometimes possible.
Effectively managing your product portfolio will not only ensure that your business is profitable in the short- and mid-term, but by aligning with strategies and goals can help lead your bioscience company to long-term success.
A lot of small life science companies, including those manufacturing products or offering services but especially small distributors, are unsatisfied by their penetration of the pharma / biotech markets. While academic labs are often quite open and accessible, access to labs in industry is extremely restricted. Because of this, it is very important to have an engagement strategy and make good use of your “ins” if you plan on increasing your sales to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology research markets. The best plan for your company will differ based on your company’s positioning, but I’ll quickly go over a few general strategies including some which are useful for all companies.
If you manufacture a research tool and do not have an outside sales force, you will likely be selling to industry via a distributor, at least in part. The easiest way to obtain better market penetration in pharma / biotech is to work with a distributor who has strong sales in those sectors (of course, the same guidelines should apply for selecting any distributor). Trying to sell directly to pharma in this circumstance would effectively be akin to reinventing the wheel. Don’t know what distributors have good penetration in those segments? Ask them. If they are interested in distributing your product, they’ll want to make themselves look good and will likely offer a reasonable metric from which you can gauge their pharma / biotech market penetration.
If you are selling to pharma / biotech companies directly, you likely either offer a high-value, high-complexity product or service or you are a distribution company. The precise strategies for the two would be different, but on the more generalized level appropriate for this discussion they appear quite similar. In either situation, perhaps the best way to get an “in” is to hire a sales representative with contacts to researchers, lab managers, or purchasing managers in industry. In this manner, you can utilize (and perhaps internalize) the rolodex of your new reps who have more extensive industry contacts.
Regardless of your company’s positioning, your sales to industry can benefit from good CRM practices and fully leveraging high-quality lead generation techniques. Draw potential customers in pharma and biotech to your product through advertisements, search engine optimization, and / or face-to-face at conferences and capture their information through requests for more information about your products, demonstration requests, special offers, etc. Once you have the information, you have your “in”. When industry prospects are converted to customers, manage these high-value relationships to allow you to maintain your access to their research facilities.
Many pharma and biotech companies purchase through procurement agencies such as VWR or Fisher. Be sure to maintain a good relationship with these companies. While they have been known to ask for something in exchange for nothing, they also try to steer the purchasing decisions of scientists to products which offer profits for Fisher and value for the customer. It’s not always possible, but getting your products a preferred status within their purchasing departments can be a significant boon to sales.
Pharma and biotech companies are notoriously difficult for salespeople to gain access to and marketing and selling to their scientists can be difficult. If you would like to improve your access to these markets, be sure to execute a plan which allows you to both create and capitalize on opportunities to get an “in” within biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
Small companies often have trouble with gaining traction for their new products. Researchers in the life sciences are notoriously hesitant to change brands or adopt new technologies. Once a lab has a tried and tested method and tried and tested products, good luck getting them to change anything. Furthermore, large life science companies with huge marketing budgets and well-established and trusted brand names add to the difficulty of market entry in many markets. With these factors stacked against you, and compounded by having a limited marketing budget to work with, how can you compete and gain a significant market share? The key to doing so is often not what a business owner or product manager wants to hear, but it often the best way of proceeding – be patient and think small.
The Pitfall of Impatience
Let’s be both frank and realistic for a moment – your marketing budget isn’t unlimited. In fact, if you’re a small life science company entering a new market your budget is very likely far smaller than that of at least some of your competitors. Canvassing a large market or advertising in highly visible, broadly targeted media (by, for example, running print ads in Nature) is very expensive and can quickly drain a limited budget. Even for a product that would have broad appeal and for which that might seem like a reasonable strategy, it is usually less efficient than other methods since in more mainstream media your marketing messages are still effectively trying to go toe-to-toe against those of your entrenched competitors. In short, trying to market your new product to everyone at once is a good way to burn through your marketing dollars with little return. If you do go that route, you better have some extraordinary benefits that you can convey extremely well, or have very deep pockets.
While you may think of a new product’s lack of market penetration as a curse, you also need to be able to view it as a benefit. You don’t need to protect a vast swathe of the market from competitors and you can pick your battles (read: you can pick the battles that you can win). Think about a certain market that your product would be more suited for than the competition. Does it have a certain set of features that would make it more suited for use in a particular method? Does it more easily integrate with certain equipment or processes? If not, can you design something in that would give in an advantage in a particular niche? Even if your product design has no niche focus, can you draw on the benefits of the product to show how these advantages could be leveraged by a particular audience? The answer to the last question is almost always yes (if it’s no, you’re probably just not giving it enough thought – call me and I’ll help).
Once you’ve determined a target market to focus on, you can market to that audience specifically. This will be more effective since you’ve tailored your marketing (and maybe even your product) to that audience, and will also be a good deal cheaper. Don’t forget to foster the ever-important customer interactions and feedback that any early-stage product needs. Chances are your entrenched competitor will not want to fight it out in the trenches over a niche market, and your product will gain significant market share within that niche. From that niche, your product will then be in a much better position to roll out your product to other segments of the life science research market.
A challenge for any company is properly managing customer interactions. Sometimes overlooked in a small-company environment, customer relationship management should be an important process within any company in the life science research industry, even those who do not sell directly to end-users. A lack of proper customer relationship management can lead to poor understanding of marketing effectiveness, a lack of valuable customer feedback, a lack of understanding about the customer base, loss of potential sales, etc. Despite the great potential benefits, however, CRM implementation should not be taken lightly.
Reports from Gartner Group and Meta Group had three very striking findings: 1) Over 50% of CRM implementations are viewed as failures by the customer, 2) 55-75% of CRM implementations fail to meet their objectives, and 3) customers usually underestimate the costs of CRM implementations by 40-75%. Forrester Research, in an article published in CRM Magazine, elaborated on some of the problems experienced during CRM implementation. The problems most commonly cited by executives were:
|Defining New Processes||16.2%|
These numbers indicate that while customer relationship management is a very important process, it is not one to be taken lightly.
How can your company successfully integrate a CRM platform and avoid being one of the 50%+ who have a “failed” implementation? Being aware of the common problems is one key step, but it is not enough to simply know the problems – you need to be able to create solutions. One of the most common inhibitors to the creation of such solutions is that companies do not fully understand the problems that a CRM platform is trying to solve. Ask yourself: What are the issues that I am trying to address by implementing a CRM platform? How do you hope to improve marketing? How do you hope to improve sales? How about customer support? Do not simply assume that implementing a CRM platform will be a silver bullet to a myriad of problems. You need to define and design it to do so.
If you already integrated a customer relationship management system and you are not happy with the implementation, there is still good news. Chances are that your CRM system is built with enough flexibility to not require starting from scratch. CRM systems are generally very flexible and customizable and often they will have features or capabilities that will be able to solve the problems that you may be experiencing.
Customer relationship management can a very powerful tool across multiple functions of your business. Successful implementation, however, requires a good understanding of both your business, its needs, and CRM systems. Having all of this knowledge before delving into a CRM implementation project can help ensure the effectiveness of the system as well as constrain the costs of the project.
Commoditization – the transformation of goods and services into a commodity – is a major problem when it threatens to rear it’s head. As technologies age, lose patent protection and become less expensive, there are often more competitors that will join the market. For many areas of the research products market, the eventual threat of commoditization is almost an inevitability. This is particularly true with reagents, chemicals, low-end equipment, plasticware, and glassware, but is also readily apparent in the market for kits and some kinds of proteins and antibodies. If these products lack a qualitative differentiator, they will all eventually become commodities. As such, customers will seek out only the lowest price goods and profit margins will take a huge hit. However, such is not always the case. In many of these markets there is still one factor that can make a huge difference. There is one way to add perceived value and differentiate your product from the commodities: branding.
When I use branding in this sense, I don’t simply mean some flashy marketing and design that contributes to brand or product recognition. Branding must mean the entire value that is behind the brand, including quality, customer service and support. Indeed, quality, customer service, and support are the things least likely to be replicated by competitors looking to sell low-price products. So then why are these things not the “one way to add perceived value”? Simple – all of these things get expressed through the brand.
Let’s take plasticware as an example. Eppendorf has an enormous share of the microtube market, and not for lack of competition. There are literally dozens of manufacturers of microcentrifuge tubes, and most microtubes are far cheaper than Eppendorf’s. So then why does Eppendorf maintain such a huge share of what should, at a glance, be a commodity? Entrenchment and longstanding brand recognition aside, they have an extremely high quality product (and I would know – I’ve put all sorts of microtubes through the gauntlet in my day), and that quality is consistent. This is then captured through the brand. People see the Eppendorf branding on a product and presume, usually rightfully, that they can trust it’s quality. Many other manufacturers who are trying to undercut Eppendorf are not able to replicate their quality at such a low price, so Eppendorf maintains the advantage of pricing its product higher due to the differentiation created by the higher quality product and expressed through the brand.
Another great example shines out in the Life Technologies 2010 Q2 earnings conference call question & answer session. Jonathan Groberg of Macquarie Research asked about Life Technologies’ PCR portfolio and commoditization in the PCR market. Gregory Lucier, Life Technologies’ CEO and Chairman, responded by saying:
…the relationship between price and volume is not a direct connection. And that’s due to a lot of the friction of publications, previous experiments. There’s just inertia to switching. And when you have market leadership like we certainly do in the PCR business, people are inclined to stay with their products, and so we benefited from that.
Again, this is a non-tangible perceived value addition. Life Technologies is attributing the continued success of its PCR line in part of the value that the brand conveys – in this case a “tried and tested” product. Scientists know that everyone uses Life Technologies PCR products, and they therefore trust them to be reliable.
If you’re on the outside of a bioscience market where commoditization is either already present or a serious risk and you’re trying to get in, or if you have a small market share and a brand with little recognition, these examples admittedly may not seem too helpful to you. While market entry is a topic large enough for a lengthy book, I will offer a few tips as they pertain to a partially or wholly commoditized market. 1) Look at your entrenched competition and use them as a baseline. What are they doing that allows them to avoid commoditization where everyone else fails? Can you position yourself to have an advantage other than price? Evaluate the hurdles that need to be overcome to do so. You can generally assume that your price point will need to be lower than the products of any well-known, entrenched marketplace behemoths (if they are present), but can be higher than the commoditized products. 2) Commoditized markets are most often very large (there’s an economic reason for this that I won’t get into) and trying to gain market entry across the entire market can often be too big of a task that dilutes marketing efforts and decreases marketing ROI. Find a particular sub-segment of the market that can be easily identified and marketed to and tackle that segment first. This strategy is almost always much more effective and gives you a foothold to expand your market share from.
Aging markets almost always lead to increased competition, but with a good marketing and business strategy, commoditization can be avoided.