Establishing a Growth Position in Biotech.



It's hardly surprising that Biotech company founders love the science behind their product or service. Unfortunately, this passion often causes them to make three fundamental mistakes:

  • They focus all their effort on building the product and don’t push their go-to-market position hard enough or early enough

  • They lead with the science in the company’s positioning, which seriously hinders their ability to attract interest from partners, investors and customers.

  • Finally, they are so busy operating the business, they fail to maximize their personal power as an evangelist in the market – a major success factor that’s often underutilized by Biotech CEOs.

The good news is: Addressing these areas successfully is pretty straightforward. Moreover, doing so gives you the opportunity to accelerate past your competitors.


Here are five recommendations I make to Biotech clients when they want to establish what I call a “Growth Position” for their business. That is, one that will attract interest and commitment from partners, investors and customers.


1) Closely define your audiences and what they are looking for: Obviously, partners, investors and customers have entirely different agendas, so you need to have a clear idea about what each is looking for in a solution like yours. But don’t forget, there will be differences within each category too. For example, some potential investors will be looking for quick wins, which is great if you’re looking to get acquired. Others will be more interested in a long-term play that assumes you want to build a standalone company over time. The positioning and messages you communicate will be radically different in either case.


2) Center your positioning on audience outcomes, NOT your product: Nobody, even your best customer and most enthusiastic investor cares about your product. I hope that’s not a shock. They care about the outcome it will produce for them. That’s why your positioning must focus on their objectives and priorities, and what they think and feel about your company. This might sound like Marketing 101, and maybe it is. But I’m willing to bet the majority of firms in your market niche aren’t doing it. Don’t believe me? Take 10 minutes, right now, to visit 10 biotech company websites. Most of them headlined with their product, a technology or a feature, right? Now, imagine how simple that makes it for you to establish a compelling, audience outcome-focused position that will differentiate your business immediately!


3) Make your messages easy to understand and exciting: Biotech products and services are complex. This makes it even more important to focus not just on the content of your positioning and messages, but the way they are communicated. In fact, focus on the latter is the only way you will get people interested in the former. It’s amazing how many biotech companies fail to execute on this fundamental. And remember this is not about a glossy brochure. This is about what your partner, investor or customer is thinking and feeling about your solution as you look them in the eye across a boardroom table.


4) Create a positioning effectiveness checklist: Your positioning needs to be:

o Relevant to each audience

o Promise unique value

o Be credible in terms of your ability to deliver

o Clear and simple

o Consistent across every channel, platform, event and medium you use


If you can tick off each of these, your positioning is in good shape. Of course, unless you are still bootstrapping a young startup, you won’t be managing this on a daily basis, but the intention needs to be clear to whoever is – and you need to check up on your sales and marketing activities periodically to ensure that these standards are being upheld. Failing to do this can literally cost you millions of dollars in lost opportunities.


5) Free yourself to spread the word: As CEO, you cannot allow yourself to be spending most of your time on product development and operational issues in the long term. You have to give up these tasks to others as quickly as possible. You also have to get excellent at saying “No” to things. Whenever I sit down with a client to understand how they use their time, it’s amazing how much of it is being spent on non-essentials. Ruthlessness is required here. My advice is to emulate Richard Branson. Pick your three most important strategic goals and say “No” to absolutely everything that does not significantly contribute to achieving one or more of them. Committing to this kind of radical action is what will free you to spend much more of your time acting as the primary evangelist for your business. It’s extremely challenging at first, but it is possible.


Like many aspects of running a business, although the things I’m describing here are simple, that doesn’t mean they are easy. Defining and then occupying an effective “Growth Position” demands patience and extreme commitment, until it becomes part of your company’s DNA.


If you’d like to discuss any of these ideas in more detail, don’t hesitate to contact me at hm@hamishmackenzie.com or book a 30-minute call with me here.

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Copyright, Hamish Mackenzie 2020

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