Industry digital marketingSEM4 Market Research Studies Every Biotech Startup Needs

4 Market Research Studies Every Biotech Startup Needs


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In 2020, the biotech industry experienced a boom in venture capitalist (VC) funding. Of course, that increase was spurred by the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. But even after vaccine rollouts, funding continued to climb in all areas of biotech until 2022. This year, funding dropped nearly 40 percent.

It’s no wonder that venture capitalists are being more selective with their investments. It takes an average of ten to fifteen years and $2.6 billion for a new drug to go to market. That’s a long-term, high-cost investment with no guarantee of success in the end. Some investors are pulling out of biotech altogether in search of industries with a quicker turnaround on profits, making it more important than ever for biotech startups to go to market with successful strategies.

So how do biotech startups navigate this environment? They need a sure path to help reassure investors. That’s where market research comes in. Market research can help biotech startups get the buy-in they need from increasingly selective investors with insights on:

  • The market demand for a product.
  • Who the buyers are and how to speak to them.
  • Who the key competitors are and how to position against them.

Failure to Launch: Why Some Biotech Startups Fail Where Others Succeed

The number of biotech companies finding success when they go to market has decreased in the past year. One study showed that only 43 percent of the innovative drugs launched in 2021 met or exceeded expected sales forecasts, compared to 55 percent in 2020 and 86 percent in 2019.

Yet, there are still some startups who are successfully bringing innovative technologies to market. For example, Danyelza, by y-mAbs Therapeutics, exceeded expectations when they launched the only FDA-approved immunotherapy treatment for high-risk neuroblastoma.

Stepping away from pharmaceuticals, Algenesis, an environmental biotech startup, developed an algae-based biodegradable plastic. Their product promises to be high-performant enough to compete with petroleum-based plastics. They launched their shoe brand, Blueview, earlier this year and are working to expand on their technology for a more diverse portfolio with all the funding they’ve received in the last two years.

So why are some biotech startups succeeding while others are failing?

Success in biotech is a combination of knowing what the market wants and getting in at the right time. Companies like y-mAbs Therapeutics and Algenesis succeeded because they saw an unmet need and provided a solution for it in a way the existing players in the space weren’t.

Market Research Helps Biotech Startups Determine When the Time is Right

B2B biotech businesses can benefit from a multitude of market research opportunities, but there are four — market opportunity research, buyer persona research, message testing research, and competitive landscape research — that provide the most useful insights to biotech startups that are about to launch a new product.

Market Opportunity Research

Every startup wants to succeed. Unfortunately, many startups lack situational awareness.

These blindspots might include:

  • An inability to concretely determine a TAM, SAM, or SOM for their solution.
  • A failure to fully understand if their solution is a niche solution, of interest to very few people, or if it has a broader appeal.
  • A lack of understanding around how much spending power target buyers have.
  • An inability to target organizations effectively by market segment – enterprise, mid-market, or SMB.
  • Whether their solution truly targets an unmet need or is merely launching into a sea of similar solutions.

Market opportunity research can shed light on these blindspots and help biotech startups avoid common mistakes. Additionally, market opportunity research can provide insights on the competitive landscape and an overall sense of product-market fit.

The ROI on Market Opportunity Research: Startups who conduct market opportunity research have a better chance at survival, growth, and market dominance, compared to their peers.

Buyer Persona Research

In B2B Biotech, end-users and buyers aren’t one in the same. There are so many players who have to approve and purchase a new biotech product before it’s presented to a patient to choose as a treatment.

For example, a startup developing new medications for a rare, hard-to-treat disease wants to positively impact the patients who would use them. However, once they pass approval, they would need to market these drugs to healthcare systems, doctors and clinicians, who choose to administer these medications, and PBMs, who typically purchase on behalf of insurers. Then, a provider can talk to a patient about it.

B2B buyer persona research delves into known and potential buyers, identifying important factors about buying behavior, such as their role in group decision making. That way, sellers know how to talk to each persona and how to position the product to meet their needs. This research also reveals the buyer’s preferred information resources, so marketers know which publications and channels will make the most impact for their campaigns.

The ROI on Market Opportunity Research: If you don’t understand buyer needs and how buyers need to be approached, you’ll end up being outpaced by other Biotech startups who do know this information.

Message Testing Research

If messaging is the backbone of a good marketing strategy, then message testing is the spinal alignment.

A typical message testing study presents a stimulus to a focus group. This stimulus is often a series of short-form content, such as taglines, value propositions, or product descriptions. The group provides feedback on how well the messaging stimulus resonates with them, what words they like or dislike in the statements, and whether or not the message makes them want to learn more about the solution. These insights act as a guide for marketers to revise their current messaging and create future messaging.

The ROI on Message Testing Research: If you can’t say the right things to the right people, you won’t get far as a Biotech startup.

Competitive Landscape Analysis

Even at the forefront of innovation, biotech startups struggle with competition. As Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as an original idea.” Chances are, no matter how tight the niche is that the startup is targeting, there is a competitor developing something similar enough to be a threat.

Competitive landscape analysis can provide startups with awareness of their competitors, where and how they differentiate, and areas in the market where it’s possible to gain a foothold. Primarily these insights come from interviews with competitor customers, ex-sellers who used to work for competitors, and open-source intelligence.

The ROI on Competitive Landscape Analysis: Don’t let the competition be a blind spot in your marketing strategy. Otherwise those headlights behind you might soon become taillights.

Don’t Crash Due to a Lack of Clarity

A recent CB insights report highlighted the 12 reasons startups fail. Right at the top of their list were the following reasons for failure.

  1. Ran out of cash
  2. No market need
  3. Got outcompeted
  4. Flawed business model

Clearly #2, #3, and #4 on the list directly impact #1. Additionally, #2, #3, and #4 are all things that can be positively impacted by market opportunity research, buyer persona research, message testing research, or competitive landscape analysis. Given this, it’s safe to say that any biotech startup who is clear minded will beat out those who are not.

Let market research provide the clarity needed for success. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help your biotech startup get the insights you need to succeed, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you get on the right track.

This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that provides market research & marketing services exclusively to organizations with B2B tech sector initiatives. Want to learn more about the market research we deliver? Our B2B Market Research services can help.

A special thanks to Sean Campbell, CEO Cascade Insights, for advising on this piece. 

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Alexis Ford

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