We have previously discussed how word-of-mouth marketing (also known as referrals) is limited in a life science environment because of the segregation of customer populations. That doesn’t mean that the opinions of your customer can not or should not be used in marketing. In fact, scientists can provide you with some of your best marketing ammunition. Since word-of-mouth marketing is not sufficient to rapidly grow sales, it becomes your job to spread the sentiment of your brand and product “evangelists”, and there are plenty of tools to do so.
The easiest and most simple ways of leveraging positive customer sentiment is through testimonials. This is a two-part process that bridges marketing communications and customer relationship management. First, customer sentiment needs to be obtained and recorded. This can be done manually by visiting, calling or e-mailing your customers or automatically by using a CRM system with e-mail capability (which most have). Side bonus: proactive engagement of your scientist-customers by your support team to see how they like your products and if they have any feedback or issues frequently improves their opinion of your customer service and support. Praise can then be used in testimonials – most useful on your website, in e-mail marketing, and in social media marketing, but sometimes usable in more traditional digital and print advertising. While the influence of unknown scientists will be less than that of known colleagues, properly used testimonials can still go a long way in earning the trust of life scientists. Feel free to get creative with testimonials as well. Audio and video testimonials, while far more difficult to convince users to send (there are techniques to overcome this), will provide a more tangible and humanized testimonial and have a greater impact.
Another way you can “stretch” word-of-mouth marketing is by using highly satisfied customers as references. If a sale is becoming difficult, having the prospective customer speak directly to a satisfied current customer can be a highly valuable process. Referrals also tend to be self-replicating, as those customers who have requested or been put in touch with a referring customer prior to purchase will very often agree to be used as referrals themselves (so long as they are satisfied with the product, of course).
There are other ways of leveraging customer sentiments in marketing, and even ways of leveraging the sentiment of scientists who aren’t yet customers in order to generate high-value marketing materials. Such non-customer scientists are often wholly impartial, and techniques that generate marketing materials from their sentiment can be some of the most high-value marketing material for a life science company.
While the structure of the life science research landscape often prevents the fluid and open communication necessary for word-of-mouth marketing or scientist-to-scientist referrals to be effective as a stand-alone marketing tool, there are plenty of things a company can do to use positive customer sentiment and product / brand evangelists. Such means can provide a significant boost to marketing efforts across many channels, and customer sentiment should be obtained and used in order to realize this improved marketing effectiveness.