For a business leader in Industrial Biotechnology, scaling R&D and securing the investment to do so are always front of mind and top of the organisation’s priorities for many years.

However, leading an IB business isn’t for the faint hearted and, from experience with IBioIC member companies, the leadership teams tend to be incredibly ambitious when it comes to commercial success. They have a big vision for the company and the difference it can make to other organisations and, ultimately, society as a whole.

However, it takes years to build the right presence and reputation in the market – especially if you are providing a true innovation.  But hiring a commercial team probably isn’t feasible if you are in the earlier levels of Technology Readiness.

What if….

So, what if, months and years before launch, you could do things every week that contributed to this?  Things that were woven into the projects you are already working on, the events you are already attending and made use of the resources in which you have already invested. 

What if, by the time you came to a commercial launch, you already had a database of engaged companies, you were already on page one of Google for the things potential partners and clients search for, you had thousands of followers on social media and you were known internationally as the go-to expert in your field? 

And what if you already had this traction for a round of investment?

My background is in the biopharmaceutical industry and, in companies like Amgen, we would proactively start educating the market on the related science up to five years before a commercial launch with the aim of normalising new technical concepts – before the pressure was on to generate revenue. They achieved this with minimal resources (although you and I know their version of “minimal resources” is not the same as ours).  So, this is where the online opportunity comes in….

The new opportunity

Business decision-makers - potential partners and future clients – now rely on online research more than any other source of information to make major purchases or investments on behalf of their organisation.  Before any individual supplier website is visited, they will carry out an average of 12 searches on related topics.  Furthermore, 75% of decision makers use their online social networks to read the latest industry insights. 

This presents an opportunity to engage much earlier than you could before and on a much larger scale – but only if you do it right. There is no room for promotion here, it’s all about the reader.

And here’s the really exciting thing for SMEs…

The search and social algorithms have become really sophisticated over the last two years which enables small start-ups to punch well above their weight in the market.  That’s because Google continues to advance its algorithms to ensure only the most useful and highest value insights are ranked for search terms – no matter what your marketing budget is.  They’ve got really good at this and, as a result, small organisations publishing the highest quality content are being ranked on the first page.

It’s never too early to start

However, Google also only looks at your website once every 2-4 months so it can take 12-24 months to build your reputation with Google and start ranking for useful search terms.  So, I would go so far as to say, it’s never too early to start working on this.  It doesn’t have to be an extra job – it can make more use of your everyday work and the events in which you have invested.

You have probably realised by now that there is no quick fix for building a social media following either.  The answer is to work on it regularly and consistently.  There is no magic trick and there is nothing complicated to know.  You simply have to make it a daily habit.

Where to start

A successful online strategy that attracts the right people to your website is built on a foundation of two things: sharing high quality, meaningful insights and presenting that content in a context that is specific to your target audience. 

The incredible advantage we have in our sector is that we live in a world rich with information, insight, new science, new applications and events so the sources of insight are so much higher than for many other sectors.  So, the real trick is to have an online strategy that derives from gaining the right customer insight – not market demographics or what people think about your science - but the circumstances and challenges they are experiencing in their role.

However, from experience, the most important starting point is the leadership team’s recognition of the online opportunity and motivation to grasp this at an early stage.  Once an evidence-based online strategy is embedded throughout the organisation, it’s amazing what you can achieve.  The results of your efforts will only contribute to your key milestones and will put you firmly on the front foot for investment and launch.

Alix Mackay helps business leaders build their presence in the market and engage potential partners and clients in order to achieve the most successful launch and accelerate sales performance.  Based in Glasgow, she is an associate member of IBioIC, a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and co-leads the Life Sciences Scotland Marketing and Communications.