We’re avid fans of search marketing for demand generation-focused campaigns (both search engine marketing and search engine optimization). Even as other platforms begin to offer enhanced levels of targeting to match the capabilities of search engine marketing, and even in situations where one can identify specific customers (through data mining, for instance), we believe that for most life science companies SEM & SEO offers superior value for demand generation. Why? When properly targeted, searchers have the greatest amount of commercial intent. In other words, they are more likely to be looking for information to help them make a purchase than are scientists targeted via other channels.
As a bit of a case study, I’ll use a recent scenario. I was discussing marketing with the owner of a small life science company who does a reasonable amount of sales through e-commerce. He was complaining about the cost of CPC advertising on Google AdWords. The company does a lot of blogging, and the blogs were disseminated quite broadly to many large life science-focused groups on LinkedIn. He bragged that the traffic resulting from blogging was extremely inexpensive (the effective CPC was probably 5% – 10% of the CPC through AdWords), the unique viewers per month was very high for a company of its size and traffic was still increasing at a good clip (most traffic was a result of the blog). Sales, however, weren’t where he felt they should be.
This case illustrates two points. 1) unique visitors is a vanity metric – it doesn’t mean anything unless you can convert those visitors to sales at a satisfactory rate. 2) Not all marketing channels will produce viewers with the same commercial intent. In fact, the intent to make a purchase can vary wildly across channels. Simply reaching your target market with just about any message is usually good for the purpose of awareness (although awareness is useless if the audience doesn’t have a reason to remember you and you don’t regularly re-engage them) but for demand generation you need to reach the audiences that have the intent to purchase a product, and specifically a product such as yours. Targeting anyone in your target market often doesn’t do the trick, especially if your target market isn’t extremely well defined.
If you think about what customers do when they are considering a purchase, it makes sense that search is the medium of choice for demand generation campaigns. They either a) have a brand in mind already and go directly to that brand, eschewing shopping around, b) ask a colleague for a recommendation or c) look for information through search engines. These three behaviors encompass almost every scientist when considering a purchase. There is only one of those things that you can have a significant effect on in the short-term and that is making sure you show up where they search. You can try to create a positive and memorable overall brand experience to influence the brand preferences of the scientist and his / her colleagues, but that isn’t something that can be done over the short term and often requires that customers have a significant degree of experience with your company in the first place (hence why attempts to generate demand via brand-building alone are something of a catch-22).
Small life science companies often don’t have the finances or time to wait around for campaigns to pay off in the long-term. Most need to see an ROI in the short-term to stay afloat. To generate those shorter-term revenues your campaigns need to focus on the places where you can target not just your target market, but the members of your target market with commercial intent.