Small life science companies are surrounded by uncertainty. How can we improve our service to customers? What new product would be of greatest interest to scientists? How can we be more certain that our strategic direction is in sync with future realities? What can we do to add value to our products? How can we attract new segments of the market? All of these are almost constant questions among all companies, but small companies are the most likely to leave them unanswered or do an insufficient amount of research to confidently answer them. Especially in rapidly changing markets such as the market for laboratory products and services, having solid information on which to base your company’s actions is highly important.
The Importance of Good Information
“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.” – Oscar Wilde
All businesses need to understand the potential risks and rewards of any specific course of action. Beyond being a principal tenet of the practice of risk reduction, it is essentially a core business need. Businesses act on this basis. If the expected reward from a specific course of action will result in a return that justifies the amount of risk, then this action is taken. But how do you even know the risks or rewards of a hypothetical future action? … The answer? Market research. Market research provides the information that allows the quantification of uncertainty and risk.
For example, say a company that develops and sells cell lines for research purposes is considering which of a choice of new cell lines to commercialize. Without appropriate information, the choice would effectively be a poorly educated guess. Even if the company has the experience to “feel out” where the demand lies, they will be acting on a short-sighted intuition with little information to justify it. One cell line may be in more demand today, but the market for it may be shrinking while another is growing, and therefore another may have greater demand in the future and provide a better return over the lifetime of the product.
With a well-designed study, almost any question about the market can be answered, and the information discovered can be extremely valuable in reducing risk and uncertainty and maximizing returns.
Types of Market Research
“Be curious always, for knowledge will not acquire you; you must acquire it.” – Sudie Back
Market research can be segmented into two distinct types: secondary research, and primary research. Secondary research utilizes information that already exists. This may consist of mining databases, utilizing demographical data, analyzing existing research reports, etc. Primary market research involves reaching out directly to individuals within the target market. Primary market research can be in person, online, or via any other mode of communication, and may involve interviewing, surveying, questionnaires, etc. Either type may be quantitative or qualitative, although secondary market research is almost always quantitative.
Making Market Research Work for You
“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” – Anton Chekhov
The first issue of importance when conducting life science market research, and one that you will have a large part in answering, is understanding what you want answered and who should be providing the answers. What information is it that you are looking to collect? Will this information answer the question you have in mind? Will answering that question help you reduce uncertainty in ways that are relevant to your business needs? Who should be answering this question to make the answer relevant? Would there be a subset of life scientists who would best answer the question, or maybe lab managers, or perhaps even distributors? These questions need to be answered to ensure the relevance of the market research study.
The next issue is the study design. How should the information be collected. Would secondary or primary research be most appropriate (or a combination of both)? How important is the question? Do you need a very thorough, and therefore more expensive, study or would a less thorough or less structured study be sufficient? How should the data be collected and analyzed?
The last and most important issue is using the data! No matter how much market research you do, it’s not going to help you unless you apply the information to help guide your decision-making.
The life sciences are rapidly evolving and in a near constant state of change, and uncertainty and risk are abound because of it. Utilizing properly designed and executed market research can give your life science company a more certain future, improved returns, and the ability to act with confidence.