What is an archetype, and what role do archetypes play in marketing and sales for life science, drug development and biotech companies?

Archetypes are those character types that appear in stories and myths; examples include the Hero, the Sage and the Jester. There are thousands of archetypes, which audiences can identify by recognizing their pattern of attributes. For example, the Sage archetype embodies wisdom, intelligence, truth seeking, clarity of thought and prudence. The Networker archetype embodies conversational skill, empathy, talent for creating connections and communities, intuition and a broad knowledge base.

Archetypes fulfill four primary functions that affect marketing and sales:

  • alignment among internal personnel or departments (in particular, marketing and sales)
  • consistency of internal and external expression (that is, tone of voice and personality)
  • resonance (how receptive your internal and external audiences are to your messages)
  • differentiation (the audience’s perceived uniqueness of your organization)

Let’s look at how these four functions of archetypes affect marketing and sales in the life sciences, including products and services related to life science research, drug development and biotech?

Using archetypes to drive marketing and sales in the life sciences, drug development and biotech.

Alignment: To achieve corporate goals, the marketing and sales teams must be aligned. And once they have common goals, archetypes can help with the tactical achievement of these goals. We’ve seen this happen through the use of a simple yet crucial question: What would the (insert Archetype name here) do? That is, how would the Sage write a white paper? Or: how would the Sage give a sales presentation? As we’ll see below, there are many specific situations where alignment between sales and marketing can drive better engagement with audiences and lead to increased sales.

Consistency: By providing a commonly understood set of guidelines for behavior, tone of voice and personality, the use of archetypes creates consistency in messages received by audiences. As I discussed in the last issue this consistency leads to increased trust, and ultimately to higher sales.

Resonance: Archetypal patterns exist in all cultures. We can harness our audiences’ inherent pattern matching ability, allowing them to complete the archetypal pattern on their own. This tendency to match patterns is impossible for audiences to ignore; they’ll automatically fill in the pattern by themselves—which means they’re actually doing some of our marketing work for us. This resonance leads to increased engagement and ultimately to the opportunity for increased sales.

Differentiation: Many products and (especially) services in the life sciences are (essentially) commodities. In these cases, it’s difficult to achieve any pricing power. Archetypes have been used for decades in sectors outside the life sciences to drive differentiation, and thus ensure higher margins.

Archetypes have been used for decades in sectors outside the life sciences. 

Ten specific situations when archetypes can give you a sales advantage.

There are ten specific situations in which archetypes can dramatically affect your sales cycle. To put this another way, there are ten situations in which archetypes can affect the buying cycle of your prospects. As I explore these, examine your own situation. If you recognize yourself or your organization in these descriptions, you should give careful consideration to archetypes; they can help you create alignment, consistency, resonance and differentiation to drive sales.

Archetypes help with sales when the life science, drug development or biotech sector is highly commoditized or densely crowded.

The original use of archetypes in marketing was to provide differentiation for consumer goods that lacked any meaningful differences from competitive products. As we discussed in our last issue, archetypes help create differentiation in the minds of the audience, through the creation of resonance, clarity, consistency and trust—all precursors to differentiation. This differentiation is particularly valuable when the sector is crowded or highly commoditized; both situations describe much of the life sciences and the sectors related to drug development and scientific instrumentation.

Archetypes help with sales when the life science, drug development or biotech sales cycle is long.

When the sales cycle is long, prospects come into contact with your touchpoints on multiple occasions. For long buying cycles in the life sciences, prospects will typically encounter many different touchpoints up and down the ladder of lead generation, shown in the illustration below. These touchpoints can include:

  • Earned exposure: podium presentations, articles published in trade publications, press releases, etc.
  • Content marketing: white papers, infographics, webinars, blog posts, social media sharing, etc.
  • Paid exposure: web site, videos, brochures, email blasts, etc.
  • Personal contact: trade show booths, sales presentations, application engineers, etc.

Ladder of Lead Generation

With such a wide variety of touchpoints, consistency is crucial in ensuring that the message received by your prospects is the same across the entire sales cycle, regardless of whether it lasts days, weeks, months or even years. The proper use of archetypes drives consistency.

Archetypes help with sales when humans are doing the buying in life science, drug development or biotech sectors.

This statement is ridiculous, because of course we only sell to other humans. But I’m raising an important point. Scientists and others with technical training often believe that their rational worldview somehow makes them immune to marketing. This view is actually an irrational one, because the data are very clear: emotions are deeply involved in our decision-making processes. In a paper published in 2004, which studied patients with lesions in a very specific are—the ventromedial sector of the prefrontal cortex—the author states:

The studies of decision-making in neurological patients who can no longer process emotional information normally suggest that people make judgments not only by evaluating the consequences and their probability of occurring, but also and even sometimes primarily at a gut or emotional level. Lesions of the ventromedial (which includes the orbitofrontal) sector of the prefrontal cortex interfere with the normal processing of ‘somatic’ or emotional signals, while sparing most basic cognitive functions. Such damage leads to impairments in the decision-making process, which seriously compromise the quality of decisions in daily life.”  Bechara, A., ”The role of emotion in decision-making: evidence from neurological patients with orbitofrontal damage,” Brain Cogn. 2004 Jun; 55(1):30-40

In other words, decision-making involves the emotional centers in the brain. Archetypes tap into emotions. Examine the set of attributes of hundreds of archetypes, as I have, and you’ll see that most, if not all, have an emotional component. Examples include: Compassionate oversight (the Guardian), Intuitive support (the Concierge), Combination of rationality and instinct (the Detective) and Empathy (the Guide). Archetypes are a way to engage your audiences on many levels—including the crucial emotional plane.

Archetypes help with sales when the life science, drug development or biotech buying process involves multiple individuals.

When there is a team-based purchasing process (a.k.a., buying by committee), different members of the purchasing team will come in contact with distinct messages from diverse touchpoints, originating from separate employees.

With such a wide variety of touchpoints, consistency is crucial in ensuring that the message received by each member of the buying committee is the same. So the more people that are involved in the buying cycle, the more you need the kind of consistency of message that archetypes can provide. Archetypes help your employees remain on-message, no matter who on the buying team they are addressing.

Sales and Marketing divisions are not solely responsible for customer contact anymore.

Archetypes help when you have multiple divisions that are “public-facing.”

Gone are the days when you only have two divisions responsible for customer or market contact—sales and marketing. As shoppers seek information through more channels, the number of functional areas or divisions within your organization that have public contact has grown.

Examples of these additional public-facing personnel include application engineers, help desk personnel, subject matter experts who are creating content, bloggers, people engaged with social media, repair personnel, installers and trainers—and that’s on top of the sales and marketing personnel—are all public-facing.

If your archetype has been well chosen, and if your team has been trained properly on the use of your archetype, then archetypes can drive consistency through deputizing your employees, and this helps the sales cycle when you have multiple divisions that are public-facing.

Archetypes help with sales when the life science, drug development or biotech selling process involves multiple individuals.

Just as when there are many people involved from the buying side, archetypes can help when there are many people involved from the selling side (selling by committee). Archetypes accomplish this by ensuring a consistent message is disseminated by all employees. This is related to the point I just made: your different public facing divisions must all be aligned, and archetypes are a great way to accomplish this. In addition, individual employees within these divisions must be aligned and again, archetypes are a great way to do this.

The more people you have involved in the sales cycle, the more you need the consistency of message that archetypes can provide. In the 1990s, there was great emphasis on creating “brand police” inside corporations, to keep the messages and touchpoints from breaking the rules established for the correct behavior—that is, to keep the colors correct, to keep the corporate identity in the correct proportions and to keep the messages consistent.

Today, every employee with a Facebook page or Twitter account has the opportunity to be an ambassador for your organization. So rather than rely on the brand police to maintain consistency, empower your people: deputize every employee to ensure that your messages and other expressions are consistent. Properly trained in the use of archetypes, your employees can become effective brand ambassadors.

Archetypes help with sales when buyers’ decisions about who should be on the short list happen primarily online, without contact with your life science, drug development or biotech sales team.

When people who are considering a purchase are anonymous, consistency of message and differentiation from competitors are crucial. And these days, shoppers make significant progress through their buying journey without stepping out of the shadows of the Internet. Archetypes can play a useful role here, enabling your team to remain consistent and deliver a differentiated message.

Archetypes help with sales when your life science, drug development or biotech product or service is complex in nature.

As the complexity of your product or service grows, it takes longer to explain to buyers, and longer for them to comprehend. This lengthens the buying cycle, and consequently the sales cycle. It is common in these situations to have a larger selling team, and a larger buying team.

The proper use of archetypes drives consistency, and this helps your team stay on point and avoid the tendency to over-explain or “lose the forest for the trees.”

Archetypes help with sales when the content used to attract and nurture your life science,  drug development or biotech prospects is technical, complex or sophisticated.

As shoppers retreat into the anonymity of the Internet, inbound marketing is rising in importance. The fuel that drives the entire inbound marketing ecosystem is, of course, content. This content must be fresh, organized, unique and relevant, as was discussed in Creating Effective Inbound Marketing in the Life Sciences.

If your content is technical, complex or sophisticated, archetypes can add a human personality and distinct tone of voice. As a result, your audiences will come to understand that they’re being addressed not by a robot, but by a person. This increases engagement.

Archetypes can help when you have life science, drug development or biotech buyers spread out over diverse geography.

“Just as everybody possesses instincts, so he also possesses a stock of archetypal images.” – Carl Jung

Carl Jung said, “Just as everybody possesses instincts, so he also possesses a stock of archetypal images.” Jung claimed that archetypes are universal, present in all cultures and all peoples. While the surface details may seem “foreign,” the myths and stories of ancient cultures from all over the world reveal similar archetypes. Archetypes in some ways transcend culture; they bond all humans together.

The sophisticated marketer can harness this fact, and use archetypal expression to connect with buyers on several continents, speaking many different languages.

How can you maximize the value of an archetype?

I’ve covered ten specific sales situations in which archetypes can give you a competitive advantage. Archetypes accomplish this by helping you increase alignment, consistency, resonance and differentiation, in turn driving engagement and sales. But archetypes have to be properly used to yield these results.

An analogy is appropriate here: just because a group of people own some baseball bats and gloves, that doesn’t magically transform them into a winning baseball team. They need the knowledge of “best practices.” They need training and experience. They need the discipline to recognize mistakes and take corrective action.

This is true of archetypes as well. Your team needs more than just an archetype—“Oh, we’re the Prima Ballerina.” To be successful and to gain the greatest advantage from your archetype, your employees need knowledge of “best practices.” They need training and experience. They need the discipline to recognize mistakes and take corrective action. These will all be topics I cover in a future issue.

Learn more about the use of archetypes in life science, biotech and drug development marketing and sales.

To learn more about archetypes, here are some links to additional articles:

Bringing archetypes to life to drive sales in life science marketing, Vol. 7, No. 9

Aligning archetypes with products, services, culture or communications to drive sales in life science or biotech marketing, Vol. 7, No. 8

The relationship between your position and your archetype in driving engagement and sales in life science marketing, Vol. 7, No. 7

Putting Your Archetype Into Action in Life Science Marketing, Vol. 6, No. 6

Choosing an archetype that will differentiate your life science organization — a ten-step process, Vol. 6, No. 5

Archetypes in action in life science marketing, Vol. 6, No. 4

Families of archetypes and their use in life science marketing, Vol. 6, No. 3

Gaining differentiation (and pricing power) through the use of archetypes in life science marketing, Vol. 6, No. 2