Marketing & Sales Strategies for Startups

No matter how unique or advanced the concept, a sales and marketing strategy can be essential for successfully selling a product or service.

Even the most successful companies with highly useful products must find ways to reach their potential customers and create a positive customer experience. As a biotech founder, your focus may be primarily on the quality of your science, building your scientific team, and managing your finances. However, marketing and sales are crucial for selling your product and keeping your business running.

In order to build your brand and create strong ROI, you must develop a marketing strategy targeting a specific audience and, in some cases, hire an internal marketing team or outsource to an agency. Marketing can help increase awareness, establish a reputation, and drive demand for your product. Additionally, a sales team may be necessary to convert awareness into actual sales.

While marketing a biotech and its products or services can be challenging, it is crucial to stand out in a competitive marketplace. One way to achieve this is through digital marketing and sales processes. To save money on these marketing and sales costs, it’s important to prepare a well-defined strategy, make smart hires at the right time, and conduct plenty of research.

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Make Your Marketing Spend Count with Research

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” It’s the way you show your customers that you exist, explain what you do, and why you’re the best company to do it.

Because of regulations on how life sciences companies can market themselves, you will have the additional challenge of working within those constraints as you start to tell the world about what you’re doing. Work with a lawyer to ensure you’re compliant with any regulations over the claims you make so you don’t find yourself in legal trouble down the road.

Before you start hiring for marketing positions, executing tasks, and buying a bunch of ad space, create a cohesive and well thought-out strategy so that you don’t spend money on things that won’t help you meet your goals. Marketing will cost both time and money, and being intentional will save you from spending on the wrong things; like messaging that doesn’t tell the right story or reach the right people.

Build a Marketing Strategy That Prioritizes ROI

To create a strong marketing strategy, you need to define who will use your product, where those customers spend their time, what your messaging is like, how your visuals look, and much more. Besides helping you optimize for ROI, a well-defined strategy will also help you set goals, which can be used to measure how effective your efforts really are.

Define Your Target Market & Audience

When developing a product or service, it’s important to consider who the intended users will be. Start by identifying whether you will be selling directly to individual customers (B2C) or to other businesses (B2B).

These are two distinct types of audiences with different needs, and they require different marketing and sales strategies. Knowing whether you’re B2B or B2C is a key step in creating a marketing strategy and understanding the potential costs.

To better understand your customers’ behaviors and needs, you can gather information such as common demographics or firmographics, and common problems that need to be solved. It’s important to understand not only your own product and its value, but also where it fits in and what problem it solves. This can help you communicate your product’s value to potential customers more effectively.

Conducting research on your target market is also beneficial for sales, as effective sales strategies often rely on understanding customers’ specific problems and needs. This research can include creating buyer personas and more.

Conducting market and audience research doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can intially be done without a full-time marketer. In fact, not conducting any market research at all can possibly lead to higher costs in the long run, as you may end up wasting money on individuals or businesses that are unlikely to convert.

Conduct Competitive Analysis

It’s likely that you have already done some competitive analysis during the early stages of creating your product. You identified a gap in the market and figured out how you could fill it. The more you get to know about your competitors, the better.

By understanding their strengths and weaknesses you can hone in on other gaps you can fill, and what you can do better. This will help you continue to develop and refine your product so that you take advantage of your team’s unique strengths.

Competitive analysis is also a key step in building your brand identity and messaging. Highlight the ways in which you are different from your competitors and make sure those points are clear and consistent across your messaging.

Directing potential customers towards the specific benefits of your product compared to similar ones will save your sales team time when it comes to pitching and closing deals.

Define Your Brand

Knowing your target audience and the problem you solve for them will make it easier to define your brand, including positioning, messaging, and value propositions. Identify what sets you apart from competitors and create a consistent narrative to use across different types of marketing. Defining your brand before implementing any marketing tactics can help save money.

It’s important to research and test different marketing strategies in order to find what resonates with your audience. While creating a logo, website, and branded assets can be costly, it’s important to make sure it’s done correctly to avoid wasting money. However, if you’re working with a tight budget, there are free design tools that can serve as a starting place for logo and brand design.

When you start defining your brand, consider what has worked well in your industry, and think critically about how to market yourself in a way that fits your brand and doesn’t involve unnecessary spending. You can also start with free or low-cost marketing options and track your success. You may also want to ask yourself if you want to fit in or stick out. This can help you decide what direction you’d like your brand to go.

Define Your Marketing Goals

When creating a marketing strategy, it’s important to determine what specific goals you want to achieve. These goals can include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, and attracting new customers. Each of these goals will likely require different tactics and types of content. For example, lead generation may require tactics such as targeted advertising and email campaigns, while attracting new customers may require creating valuable and informative content.

By breaking down your goals into specific and measurable objectives, you can identify and prioritize the tactics that will likely have the highest return on investment (ROI). Additionally, by linking your goals to key performance indicators (KPIs), you can monitor and adjust your strategy based on what has been proven to be most successful. This will help ensure that your marketing efforts are aligned with your overall business objectives and common goals, and that you are effectively reaching and engaging with your target audience.

Set a Budget & Analyze Performance

Creating a comprehensive marketing plan is essential for any business looking to boost their bottom line. Before you begin allocating funds for ads and marketing materials, it’s important to establish a realistic budget and stick to it.

While it’s necessary to test different marketing strategies to see what resonates with your audience, it’s also important to avoid overspending before you have a clear understanding of what’s most effective. A good approach is to start small, evaluate the results, and gradually increase your investment as you gain more insight into what works best for your target audience.

To truly understand the return on investment (ROI) for your marketing efforts, it’s important to have the right tools in place to track and analyze engagement. The US Chamber of Commerce recommends starting with free tools and building up from there. Keep in mind, however, that not all marketing efforts will have quantifiable payoffs, such as earned media like articles written by reporters. Building brand awareness is an investment that may not yield immediate results but can pay off in the long run. It’s important to align your marketing plan with the company’s business goals.

Decide Which Marketing Tactics Make the Most Sense for You

When it comes to developing a successful marketing strategy, there are a plethora of tactics to choose from that can cater to different budgets. The key to selecting the right marketing methods is to consider what will be most effective for your specific product or service and target audience.

It’s important to keep in mind that different industries and products may require different marketing approaches. Some of the most commonly used methods include social media advertising, email marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization, influencer marketing, and traditional advertising such as print, television, and radio.

Not only should you consider the costs of each marketing tactic, you should also look to understand whether their reach and effectiveness towards your target customers is optimal. While some tactics may be more expensive, they may also be more likely to reach and engage your target audience effectively. Therefore, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits of each tactic, and align it with your marketing plan.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One of the cheapest ways to get people to your website is by using search engine optimization. Put simply, by using words and strategic links to outside sources, you will raise your rank in search engine results. It sounds complex, but by using just a few tools, you and your team will easily uncover the elements of your website that you need to include.

Some companies hire experts, but you can use these free tools to cover the basics. Every single part of your website should be optimized so that you increase the chances of customers finding you through a simple search.

Some common SEO and analytics tools include:

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a cost-effective way to reach and engage with potential customers. However, it tends to have a lower return on investment (ROI) compared to search engine optimization (SEO). This is because SEO typically results in a higher volume of targeted traffic to a website, while content marketing aims to build a relationship with potential customers through providing them with valuable and informative content.

This approach can be particularly effective for businesses that can provide content that has real value to their customers, rather than just promoting their products or services. For certain businesses, content marketing can be a powerful way to establish their brand as a thought leader in their industry, and to build trust with potential customers over time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that content marketing is not a quick conversion strategy. It takes time to develop a following and to establish a relationship with potential customers.

That being said, because content marketing is relatively inexpensive to implement, it can be a great way to experiment and test different types of content to see what resonates with your audience, and to use data and analytics to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

Some common content marketing tools and content management systems include:

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a lot more than just running Instagram ads. It encompasses a variety of activities, including creating and sharing content, engaging with followers, utilizing analytics tools, and yes, running ads on various search engines and other platforms.

It also involves creating a strategy to promote your business, brand, or product through the various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. A well-executed social strategy can help build a loyal customer base, increase brand awareness, and ultimately drive more conversions.

Using analytics tools is crucial when it comes to social media marketing efforts, however. The right tools can allow you to track metrics such as click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates, which can be key indicators of the effectiveness of your campaigns.

It’s important to regularly evaluate the performance of your social media marketing campaigns to see if they are delivering the desired results. If not, you may need to adjust your strategy or consider other channels to reach your target audience. With the right social media marketing strategy, you can effectively reach your target audience and achieve your business goals.

By monitoring these metrics, you are more capable of making data-driven decisions that will optimize your social media strategy and will hopefully improve your return on investment (ROI).

That said, the ROI of social media marketing can vary depending on your target audience. If the majority of your customers are heavy social media users, then social media marketing is likely to be a more effective strategy, as they are more likely to be reached and engaged through these channels. However, if your target audience is not active on social media, then social media marketing may not be as effective, and it should be a lower priority in your overall marketing strategy.

Some common social media marketing tools include:

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a digital marketing technique that allows you to reach potential customers by sending them emails. By signing up for your company’s email list, these leads have expressed interest in your business, and email marketing can help nurture them. By creating a thoughtful email marketing campaign, it’s possible to guide leads through the different stages of your marketing funnel, from initial awareness to conversion.

One of the key advantages of email marketing is that it is a form of direct marketing. This means that you can reach your customers or target audience directly, rather than relying on intermediaries such as social media platforms. This can be particularly effective in today’s crowded online environment, where it has become increasingly difficult to get people’s attention.

Another advantage of email marketing is that you have full control over the channel. Unlike social media and search engines, where you may be limited in your ability to reach your followers, with email marketing, you can always contact the individuals on your email list.

That said, building an email list can be challenging, but it is well worth the effort. When used correctly, email marketing can help keep your customers informed about new products, updates, and other services, as well as educate them about the value of your brand and keep them engaged between purchases. Additionally, it can be used as a softer sell, by creating email campaigns that educate the audience on the value of your brand and keeping them engaged between purchases.

Some common email marketing tools include:

Paid Marketing

Paid marketing, also known as performance marketing when combined with brand marketing, promotes your product or service through paid advertising campaigns. This can include online ads, sponsored posts, and paid articles in online publications that can bring in qualified leads for your marketing and sales teams to nurture.

It focuses on measurable results to drive budgeting and decision-making, and involves continuously running campaigns, analyzing their success, and making adjustments to improve performance.

While it can be an effective way to reach a large audience quickly, it can also be one of the most expensive forms of marketing.

One of the benefits of paid marketing is that it is easy to track and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. This can help you to optimize your strategy and make data-driven decisions about where to allocate your advertising budget.

However, as a new and small business, it’s crucial to approach paid marketing cautiously. It’s easy to overspend on advertising and not see the return on investment you were hoping for. To minimize this risk, start by being conservative with your paid marketing budget, and target your customers as precisely as possible.

This means focusing on the demographics, interests, and behaviors of your ideal customers and using that information to create targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate with them.

Additionally, it’s essential to test different paid marketing channels and see what works best for your business. It can be a good idea to start with a small budget and try out other ad formats, platforms, and targeting options, then track and analyze the results to see which campaigns are most effective. This can help you to make more informed decisions about where to allocate your budget and scale up your paid marketing efforts over time.

This article from Forbes gives a great explanation of how to slowly build up your paid marketing activities without blowing your budget in one go.

Some common paid marketing and media tools include:

Craft a Sales Strategy & Focus on Retention

Reaching out to, nurturing, and acquiring new customers is a crucial part of any business and often requires a specific sales-focused approach. To ensure the success of your customer acquisition efforts, it’s essential to think about how your sales team will take on these tasks and to hire individuals with experience in selling within your industry to lead the strategy.

Additionally, to maximize ROI and minimize costs, it’s essential to have both a short-term and long-term sales plan in place that your sales department can execute effectively. This can include outreach via email and phone, building relationships within the industry, implementing systems to consistently generate leads, and nurturing those leads that have the potential to convert.

You can then use sales analytics tools to figure out which of your funnels are leading to the most conversions. Some of the most common tools include:

There are many other tools available besides the ones mentioned here. If you do decide to use a sales tool, take the time to research features and pricing and find one that best suits your organization’s needs and budget. If you’re interested, you can review Zendesk’s list of 20 sales tool or Crunchbase’s article on the 25 sales tools your team should use.

As we mentioned in our article about saving money on personnel, Smart Staffing: How to Keep Startup Costs Low, you can also consider structuring compensation for your sales team based on their performance, such as how many leads they convert or how much revenue they generate. This can include setting sales goals and quotas, providing incentives, or offering bonuses.

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of customer retention. The most cost-effective way to increase sales is to sell less by focusing on maintaining long-term customer relationships. This can be achieved by providing exceptional account management and customer support, and by taking customer feedback into account. Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your business to others, which can generate leads at no cost. Hiring the right sales professionals can help ensure your customer experience is top notch.

Remember the Big Picture

When it comes to marketing and sales, it’s important to remember that investing in the right strategies can lead to significant returns. It’s crucial to align your marketing and sales efforts and ensure that the teams responsible for them are working well together.

Before allocating any budget towards marketing, we recommend you establish a clear understanding of your company’s brand, the unique value of your product or service, and your target audience. This way, you can ensure that your marketing efforts will resonate with your target customers and drive conversions.

Investing in building brand awareness and credibility can have a positive impact on your sales efforts. When potential customers are already familiar with your company and trust in your brand, it makes it easier for your sales team to convert leads into customers. This ultimately leads to a higher return on investment for all your marketing and sales efforts.

For more insights on how to approach sales and marketing in the life sciences industry, we recommend checking out this guide on Life Sciences Marketing. The overall goal is to find your target customers, effectively communicate the value of your product or service to them, and retain their loyalty over time.

Related articles and resources:

Resources for founders, scientists, and the life sciences community.