Stage 1: Fundamentals and Foundation work
If you’re in the early stages of formulating your B2B biotech, or life sciences marketing plan, or alternatively need some pointers to get started, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next few weeks we’ll publish a series of short articles and infographics to help with key steps. We will base them on our direct and extensive experience of marketing in the life sciences and biotech industry. Additionally, we plan to cover key marketing channels, goals and how to measure success.
Our first article covers key background work that you need to do, before you formulate any effective life sciences marketing strategy. It’s important that you take time to ensure you have these fundamentals in place as a solid foundation to direct you. You will need them on both inbound and outbound aspects of your marketing. Dedicate this time in advance before outlining all the specific plan details, including marketing channels and scheduling.
1. Customers and Personas
You need to have a clear insight into your current customer base, and specifically what qualifies them as leads for your products. Ensure you know what lead qualification data you hold and where the gaps are — e.g email, job titles, location, life science research or technology areas of interest, sector (academia, Pharma etc.,), purchasing history, to name a few. Note that the latter should be captured through active opt-in from subscribers to comply with your country’s data laws. Ask yourself — can you split them into different personas, or demographic groups? Do they need a different marketing approach and campaign? Who makes the purchasing decision? How do you keep in touch with your customer base and inform them about your products? What is the current approach used to retain customers and make them loyal to you?
2. Products, market positioning and price
Product USP and lifecycle phase
If you’re responsible for a specific product or product portfolio, you need to have a clear vision of the product USP. Which stage of the product life cycle is it at — introduction, growth, maturity or decline? Different approaches are needed for each stage. It’s common for a product that’s developed in-house to be preceded by a lab to launch stage. After initial feasibility and idea generation, it’s common to invest considerable time and money for R&D, testing, QC and compliance. An alternative is the use of an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) model. Here, you opt to buy and source a product or technology from a smaller supplier, and rebrand it to sell to your customer base.
In-house development versus OEM
If you’re offering a unique product that you’ve developed in-house, you have an advantage in the market. However, you may also need to recoup considerable development costs with your pricing.
A rebranded OEM product can have smaller margins, but you forfeit development costs. As a result, market positioning could be very different to an in-house product. Especially, if your competitors are doing the same thing, or the OEM manufacturer is also selling the product directly to customers.
So, how do you differentiate your product to the customer? Critical to success are your brand reputation in the area, and out-manouevering your competitor on customer reach in the target market. Other ideas include further in-house testing, more expedient delivery, and better support to help your re-branded product get ahead. You need to communicate these advantages clearly in your marketing messages.
You should be also be aware of the product pipeline for the upcoming year, including new product releases prior to starting your annual marketing plan.
3. Competitor Analysis
You need to have a clear idea of the position you occupy in the market with your products, before you embark on marketing activities. This also feeds into determining your USP. Hence, a competitor analysis is a fundamental part of your marketing plan. You need to identify your competitors and evaluate their strategies to have a thorough understanding of their strength and weaknesses, relative to your offering.
4. Your sales growth targets
A critical task is to establish annual projections for growth for product offerings to help prioritise your marketing activities. This will help you allocate marketing time and budget effectively as well. Depending on your company structure, this may be the remit of the sales team. It’s important you have a clear understanding for the basis of sales projections. They may be based on year on year growth trends from previous performance — so-called bottom up approach. Alternatively, they can be the result of a company priority designated by the executive board, or the revenue you require to recoup R&D costs of a new product. This will help direct your strategy. The latter two reasons may require more initial time and effort allocation than the former. Especially if your product is already in a sustained growth phase.
5. Available Budgets
You need to have an idea of your allocated fiscal marketing budget. If you have a joint budget pool for your team, it’s common to have to submit a plan as justification for the budget you receive.
Doing your ground work is essential to provide direction and a solid foundation for your marketing plan. As your first quarter progresses, you may need to modify to account for changes. These could include unseen market factors, a new offering from a competitor for example, and sales performance. Indeed, adaptability is a key skill for marketers who suceed. However, researching thoroughly at the planning stage provides you with clear justification for the strategies adopted.