A small fish in a big pond, David and Goliath—the list of analogies goes on and on. How many times have you heard someone say that a small start-up or private company just can’t compete against the bigger, well-established players? While this may have been the case in the past, it doesn't reflect today's reality. Actually, smaller life science companies are intrinsically more competitive than the goliaths of the life science world in many ways.
Small life science companies have traits that larger companies don't possess and can utilize technology and agility to outmaneuver larger counterparts. In order to accomplish this, small life science companies must focus on 3 areas:
Smaller companies need to be much more in touch with their customers. Many smaller firms talk with customers on a daily basis, which is a great advantage to their mission. These companies are collecting direct insight and feedback from customers to learn about their real problems and needs. Essentially, they are able to hone in and monitor what their customers are yearning for in a brand. In large businesses, oftentimes decision makers aren't directly exposed to customers and their insight comes secondhand in the form of a report or verbiage in a business review.
One approach for small life science companies to differentiate themselves is with personal service. This can come in many fashions. It can be a refined and narrow focus on a research technique or approach to the customer experience. Big companies often have a generic approach to customer support—they lack a personal touch and are unmemorable at best. Small firms should create a customer-centric brand personality—a welcoming, responsive one—and differentiate themselves based on how satisfying they are to work with. So, instead of chatter about how a test or instrument has attribute A, B, C and benefit X, Y, ZZZZZZ... instill a sense of understanding customer needs and solving customer problems. Small life science businesses need to tap into their passion and obsess about their mission of delivering value.
Small businesses need to keep their costs down. This isn't a choice, but a requirement. Small firms don't have the overhead that their larger counterparts enjoy. To off-set the substantial difference in manpower and dollars, smaller life science companies need to be smarter and creative in their approach. They need to look at automation and digital marketing to diminish difference in scale.
One such strategy is marketing automation, which allows companies to be more productive with their time. Though significant effort and money is required to implement an automation strategy, it's well worth it. Without the manpower to visit, talk, or mail every lab person under the sun, marketing automation enables companies to target segments of the market with refined messages at minimal cost compared with an army employees.
Digital and inbound content marketing is another great equalizer. Numerous reports indicate that up to 80% of the buyer's journey happens before they contact an organization.1-3 If this number is accurate, then inbound marketing favors those life science companies that have more brains than they do money. Smaller companies should be able to continually generate valuable content based on their level of customer intimacy to walk the skeptical-by-nature buyers through the process.
All organizations need to step back periodically and assess which programs and efforts are successful and those that are not. Small companies should assess the performance of their strategic planning and business tactics much more frequently than once per year. They need to put meaningful measurements in place and conduct regular check-ins on the performance of their marketing and business efforts. With marketing automation and website analytics at their fingertips, small companies must quickly identify successful trends to efficiently replicate success in subsequent endeavors. A small company's responsiveness and ability to act on customer needs benefits ongoing marketing efforts, helps to add meaningful improvements to current products, and enhances new product development.
A resourceful and competent small life science organization can outperform larger counterparts via customer intimacy, valuable content creation, and by identifying successful trends—in other words, remain true to their mission and focused on their goals. They need to remain nimble and outmaneuver their larger counterparts by not getting bogged down by rigid rules, processes, and regulations requiring multiple meetings and sign-offs.
Small firms must take the time to understand what the big companies are doing without letting this dictate the smaller firm's path. Small life science companies persistently need to be proactive in their approach; otherwise they will always be one step behind.