In the past, strong, innovative products could literally sell themselves in the life science market. Biotech tools companies focused on developing new technologies that were quickly adopted by end-users with minimal marketing effort. To produce profits, internal manufacturing efficiencies were relied upon to bring ever better products to the market in less time.
But the very forces that caused the market for biotechnology tools to evolve so quickly are now forcing a reassessment of how companies do business. The “push-to-market” model of technology-driven companies is being replaced by a more customer-centric attitude where the unmet needs of end-users drive the development of new products and services.
It is often assumed that, because this is a scientific market, the evaluation of competing products and purchasing decisions takes place in the realm of objective assessment, but in fact, they often take place in the realm of belief and familiarity.
Recognizing this characteristic of the scientific consumer helps us to better understand the dynamics of a market where an unusually high percentage of buyers use products with their own hands to “craft” some important end result. Whether it is a world-renowned investigator deciphering the expression patterns of a specific gene, or a graduate student growing a colony of cells, the end user has an emotional attachment to the process.
One of the most intriguing—and challenging—aspects of competing in the life science market is the high degree of homogeneity exhibited by scientific customers, particularly in the ways they prefer to receive and respond to marketing. Product development decisions seem almost simple compared to the challenge of creating effective communications designed to inform and influence life scientists. Perhaps the similarities exhibited by scientists should come as no surprise—for the most part these individuals have followed the same educational path, they read and aspire to be published in the same prestigious journals, they belong to many of the same professional societies and they have been inculcated with the same ethics and values. Life scientists are simultaneously imaginative and yet skeptical, creative and yet critical.
Consider the environment in which scientists have been educated, were trained and currently work. New theories and techniques are vigorously challenged and acceptance can often take many years. The same inherent skepticism poses a major hurdle for all suppliers seeking to introduce a new kit or instrument that deviates from tools or techniques that have proven successful in the past.