Episode 252: Marketing Real World Data that Accelerates Clinical Trials with Jaimee Ryan of COTA

Episode Summary

During this episode of Tech Qualified, Tristan Pelligrino and Justin Brown chat with the Head of Marketing at COTA, Jaimee Ryan. The podcast episode uncovers Jaimee’s journey as a B2B marketer, why she enjoys the startup culture, how she built a strong marketing foundation and what’s on the horizon with COTA’s marketing plans.

Episode Highlights

  • Jaimee talks about her earlier career…working for a series of startups
  • Jaimee breaks down how she came across the opportunity to work with COTA and why she loves the startup environment
  • She discusses how COTA’s mission is important and how it connects with her as a marketer
  • COTA works with Life Sciences companies, Provider organizations and Payers – all which require different strategies.
  • The organization’s primary source of revenue is through the Life Sciences target audience.
  • COTA provides organizations with real world data that can be used to accelerate clinical trials.
  • One of the major challenges COTA’s target audience faces is the fact that clinical trials are constantly under scrutiny and must continue to be more efficient.
  • COTA’s technology takes a lot of unstructured data and formulates the information in a way that makes sense for their customers.
  • Jaimee describes the state of marketing when she came on board and what she did to build the foundation.
  • At COTA, it was important to establish the company’s credibility in their space and a lot of focus was put into that effort during Jaimee’s first year.
  • In-person events were never a big ROI for COTA and they focus on promoting the research done by their innovative employees.
  • Education material is a very large part of the company’s marketing strategy – building content around real world data and real world evidence.
  • One of COTA’s big company goals in 2020 is to increase brand awareness.
  • Jaimee breaks down how her team develops goals – a focus on quarterly objectives called “rocks” drives the process.
  • COTA has a dedicated team member who manages the company’s rocks and holds everyone accountable.
  • Jaimee works to get feedback from internal and external resources – especially when trying to determine what content is the most effective.
  • One of Jaimee’s most effective approaches to understanding COTA’s customers is through listening to sales calls.

Key Points

  1. Jaimee talked about her decision process to get back into the startup world and stated “I decided life waits for no one, so, we just kind of had to go for it. So I jumped back in.”
  2. According to Jaimee, “When I arrived at COTA, it was messy. The state of marketing was messy, fragmented and disorganized. So really my job, when I came in, COTA had really evolved as a company. But, our exterior identity did not really represent that well. So we were doing very sophisticated things with very sophisticated customers.”
  3. Jaimee mentioned that she built credibility and thought leadership in a variety of ways “…we did that through white papers, promoting our research through, participating at the major industry conferences. So my job last year was really just to promote the efforts of our research team and our clinical staff, to build that credibility.”


Full Transcript

Intro voiceover: [00:00:00] The Tech Qualified podcast is dedicated to providing B2B technology marketers with access to real world case studies and best practices. We interview industry leaders to uncover what’s working in the world of B2B technology marketing. If you’re wondering how you can position your technology company as the choice in the marketplace then follow along as we go on this journey together.

[00:00:28] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to another episode of Tech Qualified. I’m Tristan Pelligrino and I’m here with my business partner at Motion, Justin Brown.

[00:00:34] Justin Brown: [00:00:34] Hello everyone.

[00:00:36] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:00:36] And this episode of Tech Qualified is brought to you by Motion, a marketing agency that focuses on the strategy and development of thought leadership programs for B2B technology companies.

[00:00:45] Today our guest is Jamiee Ryan, the Head of Marketing at COTA. Jamiee, thanks for joining us today.

[00:00:51] Jaimee Ryan: [00:00:51] Thanks so much for having me.

[00:00:52] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:00:52] All right. Well, to give our audience a little background on yourself, can you walk us through some of your past work history and then, what you’re up to right now, COTA?

[00:01:00] Jaimee Ryan: [00:01:00] Sure. I started my career, working for a series of startups. I did three back to back, at various stages and with very different outcomes. One was sold, one went on to be a leader in its industry, and then the other one ran out of business and is no longer around today. After working at a string of startups, I went on, based on where I was in my personal life, starting a family with my husband.

[00:01:26]I was looking for, something a little less kind of, consuming than the startup atmosphere. So I went on to work for a public research university, and I was working for one of their research institutes, doing Marketing and Communications for them. So I stayed there for about seven years, which was a great fit.

[00:01:48]Coming from startups, which are very frenetic, and you’re making 10 important decisions a day…  to a public research institute where I’d be lucky if I made 10 decisions in a month. But it was the right fit for me, at that time.

[00:02:02] And then, the COTA opportunity actually came about, from one of the CEOs of  one of my early startups I reconnected with, and, he had just taken over as CEO of COTA, was looking for a marketing person. We met a couple of times to talk about the opportunity and then I came on board in January of 2019.

[00:02:24] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:02:24] All right, fantastic. And Jamiee, I have to ask you’ve, you’ve done the startup route, then you went a little more on the conservative side. Now you’re right back into that mode. What draws you back in, or what drew you back in in this case?  

[00:02:37]Jaimee Ryan: [00:02:37] I have three young children, ages seven, five, and three. So I’m certainly… the idea and knowing the time commitment and the energy commitment and the emotional commitment that startups require…it wasn’t the perfect time in my life to pursue it. But, talking it over with my husband, I feel like I am best suited for startups.

[00:03:00] I love the pace and COTA in particular has a huge upside and a lot of opportunity and a mission that I really connect with. I decided life waits for no one, so, we just kind of had to go for it. So I jumped back in.

[00:03:14] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:03:14] That’s awesome. Yeah, with three kids, I’m sure you have plenty of time.

[00:03:17] Jaimee Ryan: [00:03:17] Oh yeah.

[00:03:18]Tristan Pelligrino: [00:03:18] So, maybe for our audience, could you give us a little context on the Ideal Customer Profile, of COTA and then exactly, what you’re doing to solve some of their problems?

[00:03:30] Jaimee Ryan: [00:03:30] Sure. COTA works with, Life Sciences companies and with Provider Organizations and also with Payers. It’s a pretty broad range of Customers. So, we definitely have different strategies for reaching each of those groups.

[00:03:45]Our primary source of revenue for at COTA is Life Sciences. The way that we work with them is, we provide them with real world data that they use to accelerate clinical trials. So ultimately getting the best drugs to patients faster and less expensively. So there’s a huge upside there from,  just helping to make clinical trials more efficient, but then also the potential impact on the patient.

[00:04:11]Then we work with Providers. And basically what we do is we curate their EHR data. So, for those who aren’t familiar with EHR data, Electronic Health Records, so your Ethics and your Cerners, traditionally they’re collecting all of this information, but it’s almost impossible to use once it’s in the system, because it’s fragmented. So much of the important information is contained in unstructured fields, like the Doctor’s notes. So a company like COTA comes in and we’re able to take all of that kind of messy, disorganized data, structure it, and then return it to the provider organization so that they can run real time reports and be more efficient , as a provider organization.

[00:04:56] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:04:57] Got it. And with providers, I mean, I can imagine these are large organizations in some cases. Can you, talk about like typically who your counterpart is initially or what the buying committee looks like in that case?

[00:05:09] Jaimee Ryan: [00:05:09] Yeah,  I mean, it’s quite incredible, that what COTA has been able to do because we’re a small company, founded in 2011 by oncologists. We’re working with some of the top cancer centers in the country. Our ability to kind of show that we are credible, and trustworthy enough, so that we can access something as important as an EHR system that has very sensitive information has been a huge undertaking and something that, we’ve turned out to be very good at. The security and compliance process for granting access to any EHR system is very rigorous.  We have some very, very talented engineers and technical people, legal people, that have, really build up our abilities there.

[00:05:58] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:05:58] You know, I know you’ve been here for a little over a year, is that right so far?

[00:06:02] Jaimee Ryan: [00:06:02] Correct. Yes.

[00:06:03] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:06:03] Okay. Can you maybe give us a sense of, this is always an interesting topic for our audience, just to, explore what your environment was when you came on board, and then some of the big decisions that you had to make as head of marketing. Maybe that’s… building out some of the technology stack that’s in place, or even rolling back and identifying your customer personas and messaging. What was the state of marketing when you got there and what were some of your biggest initial projects?

[00:06:33] Jaimee Ryan: [00:06:33] Yes. I like to compare it to the EHR. When I arrived at COTA, it was messy.  The state of marketing was messy, fragmented and disorganized. So really my job, when I came in, COTA had really evolved as a company. But, our exterior identity did not really represent that well. So we were doing very sophisticated things with very sophisticated customers.

[00:06:59] But if you went to our website, you would think, we were just finishing a friends and family round or something of funding. So it was important for me, from day one to really, move the needle on just how we were presenting ourselves, externally. So the biggest thing was, my first day in the job, I think I met with a prospective brand agency who could help us,  do kind of a mini brand strategy process, but then also implement the output into, an improved website, improved messaging, improved pitch deck. So that was a pretty critical thing.

[00:07:37]I think I was very intentional from the beginning  trying to find a firm that, wasn’t gonna spend six months with me to go through a brand strategy process and then come out with a PowerPoint of recommendations. I needed to find kind of a like-minded firm that said ” Let’s maybe rip up the traditional playbook” and say ” We need to really accelerate this process” and come up with  kind of rebuild the brand and come out with these kind of very tactical, but important pieces like improving the website and improving our pitch deck.

[00:08:12]Justin Brown: [00:08:12] What have you gotten out of all of that? Can you talk a little bit about what the customer journey is right now? How you are driving demand, getting people into the pipeline, having conversations with them, nurturing them along the process. Can you talk a little bit about the customer journey and what you’re doing to get noticed?

[00:08:33] Jaimee Ryan: [00:08:33] Sure.  I think the biggest thing again for us last year was building credibility. When I think about all of our marketing activities are either, related to our research or technology or our mission. So really trying to build up the credibility piece around our research.

[00:08:49]We have very talented, clinical staff here, medical oncologists and research oncologists who are doing great things, really trying to promote that research. Because, especially in pharma, so much of that is kind of reputation and relationships. So once we start putting out, very credible research and very interesting research that starts to spread and we start to  build a reputation within various pharma organizations. So, that was really just helping our business development people come across as, credible people working for a credible organization, that was leading this industry forward. Because, we’re ultimately a real world data company in oncology.

[00:09:30]There’s only a few major players in it today. So trying to educate the market about the value of real world data and how that can impact clinical trials.  The biggest thing for us was the credibility piece and positioning ourselves as thought leaders.

[00:09:48] So we did that through white papers, promoting our research through, participating at the major industry conferences. So my job last year was really just to promote the efforts of our research team and our clinical staff, to build that credibility.

[00:10:05] Justin Brown: [00:10:05] And what is your main way to get people to interact with you and your brand? Is that, going to events? Is it outbound sales? Is it that inbound marketing approach where we’re going to put out enough thought leadership and enough content that people are going to notice us and then reach out to us? What is your approach for getting people to interact with you?

[00:10:29]Jaimee Ryan: [00:10:29] Events are expensive , participating at the major trade shows in our industry, alongside, your top 20 pharma companies… it’s nice to have a presence, but it’s hard to really be noticed when you’re a small company with a limited budget with a booth next to Pfizer.

[00:10:47]So events where we definitely want to have a presence and from a research perspective, certainly we want to, participate. But, events have never been a huge…the return on investment just isn’t really there for us. So I would say, where we’ve been most successful, is again, around  promoting our research.

[00:11:06]Doing things like white papers, really, putting some of our experts out there to participate on panels, really leading with the thought leadership piece, which then gets people interested in COTA. It gets them talking to their colleagues if they’ve ever, once we’ve had, since we’ve been able to be successful in some pharma companies,  it’s also that word of mouth ,  that as we can continue to deliver and continue to be successful with our customers, our reputation in the marketplace builds, which makes everything easier.

[00:11:38] Justin Brown: [00:11:38] Gotcha. And in terms of, the things that have been really working on that thought leadership, type content and getting it out there to the public. What are some of the bigger initiatives that you have on tap for this year?  I feel like you spend your life trying to figure out the things that work  and when you finally find one, it’s good to keep doing it. But in addition to that, are there any other big plans for this year? What do you have on tap in terms of  your big plans?

[00:12:04] Jaimee Ryan: [00:12:04] Sure. One initiative that we feel pretty passionately about is, the education component.  Because as I mentioned, this is a new space, this is a growing space, the FDA is giving some signals that they are supportive of real-world data and real-world evidence. But there is a lack of education within the industry. So “How you use it? What the value is?” In some of those kind of, even just foundational, elements that need to be, explained and communicated.

[00:12:34] So, our marketing approach for this year is really kind of, based around education. So, we’re looking at a couple of different platforms to conduct online education courses, either self-directed or ones that we would host. Also looking at webinar opportunities and really kind of going all in on the education piece as a way of  moving the industry forward and then also showing COTA’s place as a thought leader.

[00:13:04] Justin Brown: [00:13:04] That’s fantastic. I think, one of the best ways now to cut through the noise, like you mentioned, there’s just so much that’s out there, in a variety of spaces, whether that’s Marcom or pharma or what have you, and you have to be doing something to provide value, to try to generate interest. And I’m curious, how do you balance short term lead generation initiatives. Making sure that, potential leads are converting to MQL or SQLs or opportunities or whatever it may be for your setup. So how are you balancing that, demand gen short term with the long term strategies like brand  awareness and education, what does that balance look like for you?

[00:13:49]Jaimee Ryan: [00:13:49] It’s not always, a pretty picture to be honest. Many times it doesn’t feel very balanced as a growing company …most of our resources go into, building out our technology, research, and most important things about our business, kind of these foundational elements.

[00:14:04] So marketing isn’t even in the top five, in the priorities.  It’s obviously important from a brand awareness and market awareness standpoint. But resources are definitely limited when it comes to, marketing. So,  I think we’re trying to do our best to balance all of these needs and achieve this ultimate goal of increasing market awareness, which is actually one of  our company goals for 2020.  But also doing that with a limited budget and spending money in the right way as a startup who’s trying to,  do the right thing and move an industry forward should be doing.

[00:14:39]Tristan Pelligrino: [00:14:39] And Jamiee, we talked about market awareness as being an overarching goal. How do you break that down into smaller pieces? Maybe there are quarterly goals or even weekly. How do you start to chip away at something? Cause it’s quite a lot, right?

[00:14:54] I feel like a lot of our folks that are listening and that we’ve had on, when you have a goal like that, sometimes it is a little difficult to get your arms around it, right. To figure out what that is and how you started to chip away at it. So, curious to see  what your approach is.

[00:15:08] Jaimee Ryan: [00:15:08] Absolutely I’m working with a cross functional team, so members from our business development team, members from our research team, you know, various public facing departments in our organization to kind of come up with more tactical goals.

[00:15:25] So breaking those up, quarter by quarter. Coming up with goals and objectives, whether it’s something like publishing a white paper or participating in a webinar, participating on a panel at a major conference. Coming up with tactical goals throughout the year so we can kind of achieve  this huge goal and then the other thing is, just putting in some KPIs to make sure that we’re  measuring  if we’re moving the needle when it comes to market awareness. So simple things like looking at our web traffic, looking at the number of inbound leads that are coming through our website.

[00:16:00]Jaimee Ryan: [00:16:00] We have someone who manages our company rocks and kind of holds everyone accountable.

[00:16:05] So, we have a monthly town hall and at every town hall, the rock owner has to give an update on where they are and achieving the quarterly goals. So good, bad and ugly, you have to give an update to your colleagues, on a monthly basis.

[00:16:19] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:16:19] Accountability is so important…what are some of the biggest things, or even the biggest thing you’ve learned from past experiences where you said, “Hey, I’m going to apply it here at COTA.” or, it’s something that you’ve learned and you wanted to change up at COTA. What would that look like?

[00:16:33]Jaimee Ryan: [00:16:33] I would say to work at a startup, you have to be flexible… things change day to day.

[00:16:40]Especially often with immature technologies or being an early adopter in an industry.  That ability to be agile and to kind of move with the industry and be able to adjust your strategy. I think if you can’t do that, I don’t think you can be successful as at a startup. I think that  flexibility and agility is critical.

[00:17:02] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:17:02] And when you have so many things that run through, education, like you talked about earlier. How do you prioritize which content that you decide to focus on? You know, it sounds like that is your biggest, initiative and the thing that’s working the best.

[00:17:20] How do you prioritize which pieces of content are more visible? Which ones you’re focusing on? How do you have so many programs running at once? Can you talk about, how you prioritize your content?

[00:17:31]Jaimee Ryan: [00:17:31] Sure. Well I’m a big believer in getting feedback, both internally and externally. So I work with a number of people, either consultants or key opinion leaders in the industry, to get their feedback on what content they feel like has the most value and is most needed, and their experience in the industry.

[00:17:52] And then also I work very closely with our business development team to get their feedback, from their customer engagements . Where the gaps are and how COTA can fill them?

[00:18:02] Justin Brown: [00:18:02] That’s super interesting having those conversations with sales. I think sometimes there isn’t as tight of a bond as maybe there should be though.

[00:18:11]you have marketing who’s developing the content that’s going out to try and generate the interest, and then you have sales who’s actually hearing from these folks. What’s your approach to getting that information from these real life conversations?

[00:18:25]Jaimee Ryan: [00:18:25] Whenever I had the opportunity to participate in a sales call silently, I always love to do that because that’s, for me to hear the voice of the customer or hear the voice of the prospect is so valuable because then in my little marketing bubble, I may think the way that we’re positioning or messaging something is completely clear or that’s totally resonating with our customers or prospects. in reality to here our salespeople actually deliver that. there’s a huge gap getting that real time feedback. and luckily  I work with really great salespeople who sometimes afford me those opportunities t o listen in on some of their sales calls… and then also just again, working closely with them and meeting with them on a regular basis and getting that real time feedback I think is so…I’m trusting them as the people who are out in the field.  in really taking that feedback to heart and adjusting our messaging or collateral or, any piece of marketing content appropriately.

[00:19:23]Tristan Pelligrino: [00:19:23] Cool. And Jamie, you mentioned trusting some of  your, folks that you’re working with. I was curious, again, it’s something we try to ask all of our guests.

[00:19:30] What are some of your favorite resources that you really rely upon to keep up with B2B tech marketing?

[00:19:36]Jaimee Ryan: [00:19:36] Yeah. I get a lot of my real-time feedback, through constantly following key opinion leaders, on LinkedIn and getting the content that they’re sharing and, the things they find, that are changing the industry…trying your best to kind of keep your finger, on the pulse of new content and new approaches that are coming out using social media. And then also, connecting with some of our local trade organizations. So there’s, a lot of local industry groups catered to, whatever box you want to put yourself in, whether it’s, you know, women in pharma or women in healthcare or startups in pharma, startups in healthcare.

[00:20:16]I think there’s a lots of opportunities to connect with, like-minded professionals, particularly here in the Boston area. And I try to take advantage of those opportunities.

[00:20:26] Tristan Pelligrino: [00:20:26] Great. Yeah. Some of those in-person events are the best where you get to have a conversation and learn from people that are applying  marketing strategies in different ways.

[00:20:36]Jamiee, I wanted to ask, where should, folks go to learn more about you and COTA?

[00:20:43]Jaimee Ryan: [00:20:43] Certainly you can look for me on LinkedIn… I’m more of a consumer of LinkedIn than a contributor, but it’s something, a personal goal of mine for 2020. You can learn more about COTA on our website, which is

[00:20:58]Tristan Pelligrino: [00:20:58] Jamiee, thanks again. I really appreciate you spending some time with us here today. It was great having you on Tech Qualified.

[00:21:03] Jaimee Ryan: [00:21:03] Great. Thank you so much for having me.


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