Compliance, Science, and Marketing

December 4, 2008

The economic and regulatory environments are changing at drastic rates. It's difficult to remain on top of all the new trends, laws, and standards of an industry that balances the traditional and the state-of-the-art.

The economic and regulatory environments are changing at drastic rates. It's difficult to remain on top of all the new trends, laws, and standards of an industry that balances the traditional and the state-of-the-art.

Investment in expert review of the regulatory paths keeps a company and its products from fines and/or suspension from sales. Investment in safety and efficacy studies validates a product for a market becoming increasingly aware of scientific and medical value as well as deceptive products. Investment in marketing is an important decision, since almost everyone knows a recession can be turned into an opportunity if marketing strategy is well conceived. Even if you consult the experts in each of these fields, how do you blend it all together and make every dollar count toward the ultimate goal of success?

Blending Compliance with Marketing

Legal compliance and regulatory rules follow a company from product conception to sale. Don't just observe the laws and the guidelines begrudgingly, annoyed that there are so many hoops to jump through. Consider it an opportunity.

Every dollar spent on your legal compliance strategy should be cashed in on by informing your market that your company is not merely cooperative, but genuinely cares about providing the best product possible. Allay the fears that haunt so many consumers and companies by releasing your safety data before anyone even has the chance to ask. Professionally presented Web, targeted PR, and sell-sheets are only a few of the places that your efforts can be used to communicate your commitment to your customers.

Blending Marketing with Science

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is assuming that marketing is merely pretty or eye-catching advertising. It isn't.

Marketing is your total customer and public communications strategy. In the nutritional market, it also includes communicating the science that has been done or will be done on your products. This is not always easy, but it must convey a scientifically accurate and compelling message to your market in an attractive and exciting manner.

Science has often been described as being the only arena where full-grown adults are always asking, "Why?" Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to most scientists), there is a time to stop asking and start communicating the findings to the market. For this reason it is a great idea to have marketing consultants who have an understanding of and can advise in the area of scientific planning. Doing so ensures that your niche, your marketability, and your dollar are all being taken into consideration and used to further a common goal.

Blending Science with Compliance

You already have to deal with compliance-not just the current regulations but also the ones that are likely to be forthcoming. Compliance is one area where it's best to stay ahead of the game. Consider including your scientific team in your product strategy discussions.

Your scientific professionals may have great ideas, like combining batch testing with other favorable tests (e.g., consistency of ORAC ratings). Perhaps you're getting your ingredients overseas and need to consult with a scientific specialist as to the most accurate ways to test for purity. Even pre-FDA audit inspections of a manufacturing facility will generate insight by having an experienced industry chemist view the facility with a much more stringent eye than the typical in-house quality control team. Scientists are famous for being meticulous, and when it comes to compliance there is no such thing as being meticulous to a fault.

Completing the Circle with Clever Business Strategies

Practically everyone's heard of the reports indicating that when a recession hits, a company should actually increase its marketing efforts. Studies have proven that companies willing to find an appropriate niche and hit it hard from a marketing perspective have an opportunity to overtake the market share of those who naively choose to cut their marketing budgets. The question that should be considered from the beginning is, "What exactly am I going to market?"

It's not only your product that you're marketing, but your company and its values as well. If you're wise, you'll take full advantage of what initially appears to be additional regulatory hurdles.

The current fear of contaminated products and the increase of compliance regulations create a window of opportunity that you can use to announce your company's efforts to consistently provide safe and high quality products. Regular public exposure of companies selling the equivalent of "snake oil" calls for scientific efficacy from all products, which a well-positioned company will provide without ever being asked.

Last, but not least, all of your efforts must be in the public eye during these times. Your goals should be for buyers to be able to easily discover you, validate your company and products, and buy from you.

During times of economic challenge, opposite poles of perception consistently make a profit-the cheapest deal and the most extravagant luxury. In the nutrition industry, you can add another category: the most efficacious health benefits. Historically, when times get challenging, people continue to cling to their health and actively invest in it. Politics and world news have recently hit this last category very hard, so now more than ever there is a need for companies to carefully integrate compliance, science, and marketing to succeed to their fullest.

The market is still full of potential, but occupied by a more careful buyer. By providing the information necessary to put aside any underlying fears, you open a door to excitement and hope for a healthier life.

Amanda Kirkpatrick is chief marketing officer and Andrew Buirge, is chief scientific officer for Aim & Act Inc. (Bozeman, MT), a strategic scientific, marketing, and compliance services firm. Aim & Act is a member of the Consultants Association for the Natural Products Industry (CANI; Clovis). For more information visit www.Aim-Act.com or call 406/585-5593. For more information about CANI, visit www.cani-consultants.org.