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Is the CEO Holding your Ugly Biopharma Website Hostage?

Lysa Miller

Lysa Miller

Lysa Miller is the CEO of Ladybugz Interactive Agency in Boston MA. She is the founder of The MetroWest Women's Network and Sales Empowerment Summit for Women. She participates in many roles in her company including sales, strategy, project management, web design and growth hacking for clients. She has been featured for her expertise in CIO, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and various other online publications. She volunteers her time as a guest blogger for and to manage, to help support local businesses and the local region. Lysa is also the mother of 4 beautiful children and lives in downtown Hudson, MA, a West of Boston town noted for its booming re-gentrification and entrepreneurialism.

Who put your ugly biopharma website together when your company was founded? Often, the answer is the CEO or founder, especially if the website was created using limited seed money or Series A funding.

With a tight startup budget, it’s no surprise that the CEO will often get a WordPress or Wix account and do a passable job at creating what is often called a “brochure” website, one that is fairly static and unengaging.

Scientists, however, aren’t digital marketers. Websites they create are generally not well-targeted for their audiences, are poorly branded, lack aesthetic appeal, use overly scientific language and jargon, or aren’t built with SEO in mind. Most have some combination of these issues.

While this initial ugly biopharma website may have been “good enough” in the very early days, it probably doesn’t represent the company you have become and your evolving business goals.   

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Get Your Biopharma Website Project Off the Ground with CEO Buy-In

Once your business has a stake in the ground, it’s time to put your best foot forward to attract VCs, customers, scientific collaborators, or other primary stakeholders.  You also need to get a jump on the ever-rising numbers of biopharma companies that are competing for top spots on Google’s search engine results page (SERP).

Your CEO may know the site could be better (even if they don’t call it ugly). At the same time, it can be hard to get their buy-in when they are deep into the science, live and breathe the company, and have a sense of personal ownership of the existing site. They may not be ready to turn it over. And they may be reluctant to spend the money.

It’s unfortunate when an amateur website holds an exciting company back from investment and commercial success. So how can you wrest control of your company’s website from your CEO to support your company’s growth?

Here are strategies for getting buy-in from your CEO to build your next-generation biopharma website.

Offer Proof of the Biopharma Website’s Value

As a professional in a scientific field, your CEO is used to an evidence-based approach to projects. Meet these information needs by doing research that backs up why a new website will be beneficial—and are essential to building a successful biopharma business. For example:

  • An estimated 88% of physicians use the web and social media to look into pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical devices.
  • A Stanford study revealed that 75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design.
  • 38% of website visitors will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.

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Understand the Competitive Digital Landscape of Biopharma

One of the most persuasive ways to show that a new website is needed is by pointing out industry marketing data.  For example, one report showed that, on average, biopharma companies are expected to increase marketing spending by 70% over the next six years. Another report shared that, on average, pharma brands allocated 66% of their marketing budgets to digital in 2020.

In addition to finding relevant marketing data for your industry, you can go do your own niche research.

Here are a few simple ways to do this using Google.

Method 1: Visit your competitors’ websites to check out the design, messaging, content, organization, and overall user experience. Then evaluate how they compare with your current site.

Method 2: Do a few Google searches on topics related to your business. Look who comes up at the top of the Google search page and get some ideas for your company’s website.

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Determine What Your Biopharma Website Needs to Do

Once your CEO has evidence of the website’s critical importance, start getting input from your team about the goal of your website.

Whether you call a team meeting or interview your colleagues separately, you’ll hear differing perspectives.  The CEO may prioritize educating investors, R&D may prioritize more in-depth scientific information, and sales may want to encourage reaching out to new customers. Each person’s viewpoint is valuable and will factor into deciding the nature of the website.

As you discuss website goals with the CEO, keep in mind that as a startup, you’re likely to have a small to medium-sized website that can’t be all things to all people. Help the CEO focus in and prioritize how your website can best support the company’s business goals.    

Evaluate Biopharma Website examples for Likes and Dislikes

Many website choices are subjective, and the CEO’s opinion is of vital importance. Explore their preferences early on to avoid costly delays and set-backs later on. This is especially true when it comes to design and navigational elements that affect every aspect of the site.

Start by exploring and evaluating other biopharma websites (or even those outside of your industry) to help you define what you want—and don’t want—for branding, design, messaging, navigation, functionality, and other key elements. Show the CEO some “aspirational” sites to generate ideas and excitement.  You can also learn from looking at the websites of other small biopharma companies that have evolved from early-stage startups to growth-stage companies.

After determining your website goals and studying other websites, it’s time to create an outline and think about the type of content you will need. Remember that the more homework you do on your own, the less time the agency will need to spend figuring it out with your team.

Determine Your Budget Range

Discussing website budget and costs goes hand-in-hand with setting website goals. Before moving ahead, get a commitment on what the CEO is willing to invest in a high-quality website.

While the CEO may have a bucket list of “must-haves,” stay focused and manage expectations. A larger and more complex site will cost more than a smaller, more basic website. Remember that a high-quality small site will be more effective than a mediocre large site.

If the CEO “wants it all,” It may help to explain that everything doesn’t have to be done all at once. Many smaller companies build websites in phases, enabling them to spread out website spending over time. A phased methodology also makes sense for a rapidly evolving company because it is easier to modify to changing needs.

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Set a Realistic Timeframe

Another area where realistic expectations are important is time to completion. When CEOs demand an unrealistic launch date, it’s best to educate them about the complex process of building an effective website—including overall design, page graphics, written content, backend development, customization, optimizing the site for search, and more.

Beyond the scope of work, the time frame can also vary based on internal resources and team responsiveness. It may be obvious, but you can remind the CEO that rushing the project may negatively affect the end result.

Laying out a clear schedule and workflow, with the understanding that a launch data may shift depending on a variety of factors, will help the CEO understand the process and be more comfortable moving forward.   

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Establish Your Website Approval Process

When the approval process is poorly defined a project can be blown off-course. While some CEOs are more hands-off with the website, others are reluctant to give up control so easily.

At the outset, ask the level of involvement your CEO prefers. Next, determine who else should be involved in the approval process. Finally, keep all decision-makers in the  loop—or risk having to redo large parts of the website.

Choose the Right Digital Agency for your Biopharma Website Design Project

Realize that agencies will have vastly different pricing based on their size, offerings, experience, and other factors.

There are so many interactive agencies to choose from, with quite a few having strong biopharma experience. How can you start your search?

Here are some useful tips:

  •  Do some Google research, check out Clutch reviews for B2B ratings and views, look at specialty web design companies, and do specific searches around terms such as biotech website design, early growth biotechnology agencies, and website agencies for startup biotech companies.
  • Consider designers whose work you like, even if they don’t specialize in the industry.  
  • Agencies have different price models, such as hourly rates, project rates, performance-based pricing, retainers, and mixed rates. For a useful comparison of pricing, compare apples to apples based on a specific pricing model. 
  • Find a web design agency that uses a collaborative, iterative process.
  • Improve quality, speed launch, lower costs, achieve more cohesive results, and reduce unpleasant surprises along the way.

Biopharma Website Design

Conclusion: Involve and Educate Your CEO

You can keep your CEO from holding your ugly biopharma website hostage by encouraging involvement every step of the way.

Firstly, start by providing evidence that a new website is essential. Second, keep them engaged during planning and development to avoid unwanted surprises and friction. Lastly, find an agency that works for your company. 

Ladybugz Interactive, an agile agency that specializes in biotech and biopharma websites, can work with you to build a website for your growing company.  

Contact us for an Estimate


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