We have all been so busy as the year (and the decade) draws to a close at Percepta that I have been pulled from these blog posts for the better part of two months. But that is a welcome sign that the biotools industry is alive and relatively healthy.

Considering all that we encounter in the industry as a marketing consultancy we probably have a somewhat unique perspective on the wants, needs, and desires of the collective biotools segment (companies and customers alike). The list can essentially be summed up in three main wants, needs, and desires.

The Wants: The number one thing researchers want from the products they use is that they perform as promised. Researchers are most tolerant if they try some product for an off label application and it fails, but they rightfully expect it to deliver results as advertised. Assuming most biotools companies have learned and understand this well, it is still too common to see some products rushed to market before they are really ready for prime time. A bad first impression for a product (or worse yet – a company) is a hard burden to overcome. Avoid this like the kiss of death.

The Needs: This need is so obvious but so important that we couldn’t leave it out. Here goes – biotools companies need to honestly recognize that if the product isn’t obviously and distinctively different from other products then it is perceived by researchers as a commodity and that perception is the reality. That’s it. How you define the “obvious and distinctive difference” will vary greatly depending on your skills as a marketer and on your product and/or company but it better actually mean something to your target audience or it is sure to just lie there disappointingly. When that happens, companies have only one effective lever to pull – price – which is just fine. Winning on price is perfectly respectable, just ask Walmart. But don’t kid yourself into thinking about premium pricing if you are not truly differentiated in some meaningful way. The emphasis is on meaningful. Marketing and pricing managers need to remember this important reality.

The Desires: Researchers desire that suppliers treat them with respect. Seems obvious but companies sometimes fail to realize that poor or non-existent technical support, or unknowledgeable field representatives, or even poorly designed automated phone systems leave researchers feeling like they are not important. Ask yourself honestly the next time you are navigating an automated telephone systems for three or four minutes only to be told the offices are now closed. The problem isn’t that the offices are closed – it’s that they wasted your time. Why? Because you must not be very important – or so it seems.

Let’s agree that 2010 is going to be the year that biotools companies shine like never before because they are getting much more in touch with their customers and really understand their needs, wants, and desires. Happy New Year!