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Avoiding Skepticism

The scientific buying journey is fraught with skepticism. From the buyer’s perspective, this is a requirement of a good buying journey. The buyer must decide what to believe and what not to believe, determine what is meaningful and what is not, and refine their understanding of their own needs all while being blasted with marketing messages from companies that are all trying to get the scientist’s business. Skepticism is a natural and required component of these efforts. It is also the enemy of the marketer.

Skepticism is what makes overly pushy and overtly bombastic messages fail. It’s also part of the fuel for the rise in content marketing. Marketers are looking for ways to convey their messages in manners that create less skepticism. Rather than immediately jumping to validation, promotion, and flat-out selling, they first attempt to educate in a more subtly guiding manner which conditions the scientists to viewpoints that will be later elaborated on in the more traditional marketing efforts. However, promoting content to scientists is not the same as the scientists discovering content on their own, and the manner in which content is presented will, in part, determine their receptiveness to it. Additionally, taking a “hands off” approach throughout the buying journey such as to avoid skepticism would lead to overall marketing ineffectiveness due to low rates of opportunity development later in the journey.

Educational content is often necessary, but never sufficient. We therefore must consider the nature of messages, as well as how those messages are to be delivered, such that we can avoid skepticism-driven rejection earlier in the buying journey while still creating the desired effect in the later stages of the buying journey: a closed sale.

Illustration of how messages should be adapted to different positions within the buying journey.

Evolving Message Types

Early in the journey, the customer is gathering information and may not even yet realize that they have a need for a product. At this stage, educational content is the way to go. You want to help them learn and discover information that will prime them to your point of view without giving them reason to be skeptical (as promoting a commercial solution would).

As they transition from discovery and exploration to analysis, they know a need exists and start to actively gather and evaluate options. Educational content is still useful, so long as it is focused on the customers’ needs. Basic background information is of little interest to the customer at this point, unless it is something so disruptive to their journey that they need to reconsider its premises. Additionally, we want to start adding validation content – content that demonstrates to them that the solution we are advocating is correct. (For example, case studies are a very common form of validation content.) This type of content will help them understand our offering as a qualified option to solve their need. If the customer has been properly educated to accept our point of view earlier in the buying journey, validation content will not raise skepticism.

As they come to the late stages of analysis and approach their buying decision, educational content should be largely avoided in favor of additional validation as well as promotions – the “hard sell,” as we call it. At this point the opportunity exists; we just need to seize it! Dancing around it with more educational content will not effectively prompt action. More direct calls to action are required.

Message Centricity

Let me lead off with this reminder: life science marketers should always maintain a focus on their scientist-customers. That said, customer-centricity exists on a sliding scale, as most things do, and is not absolute. Changing the centricity of your messages throughout the buying journey is also necessary for optimal performance.

Early in the journey, we should have a nearly exclusive customer focus. Everything should be framed from the perspective of the customer and their needs. We should adopt their perspective as much as possible. As the journey continues, we can shed a little bit of this customer-centricity, giving room to focus more first on the technology, then ultimately on the product. We are not shifting to a product-focus. We are shifting to a customer-centric product focus. We can never focus solely on the product. Why? The product is a lower-order need and our scientist-customers will respond vastly better to higher-order needs (the reason they need your solution in the first place).

Mechanism of Discovery

The manner in which messages are delivered can raise skepticism. However, the mechanisms that raise the least skepticism are not the most effective throughout the buying journey, so shifting mechanisms of message delivery / discovery must be considered as well.

Messages that are naturally found by your audience tend to raise far less skepticism than messages that are pushed upon them. Early in the buying journey, we want to rely on mechanisms that are organic – those which allow the messages or content to be found naturally by your audience or in a manner that feels natural. They should be able to actively choose to interact with it rather than have it pushed upon them. This could include organic search, display or native advertising, and placement within third party media. In general, marketing tactics that are considered inbound would roughly overlap with organic discovery. Regardless, the customer must feel as if they are driving their own discovery.

As the customer has more interaction with your brand and consents to receive marketing, you can begin to transition from pull to push. Even with permission, you should avoid the temptation to get too pushy too quickly, as you can still very easily raise skepticism by doing so. As the customer progresses through the buying journey, you can transition more from customer-driven discovery to a more visibly active role in leading them. This more active role will be necessary; if you were to always wait for the customer to “organically” discover and interact with your content, you could very well lose mindshare to your competitors. Therefore, a careful and evolving balance is required throughout the buying journey.

Transitioning Goals

While the ultimate goal of closing a sale remains the same throughout the buying journey, looking at the interim goals can help to understand both why the aforementioned transitions are necessary and how to execute them. In brief, we transition from:

  • Shifting the scientists’ viewpoint without activating skepticism …
  • … to convincing them that the adopted viewpoint is the correct one …
  • … to persuading them to act on their beliefs and execute a transaction.


We shift from seeking to primarily avoid rejection as the customer remains open to many viewpoints, to seeking acceptance as the customer evaluates and filters their options towards an ultimate decision.

Avoiding skepticism is undeniably important, and raising skepticism with your marketing can shut your brand out of a customers’ buying journey early on. However, the approaches that we use to avoid skepticism do not make for an efficient marketing platform as the buying journey progresses. Many of the mechanisms that create skepticism are needed to close opportunities. By understanding where customers’ are in their buying journeys, and matching our approaches to it to create balance, we simultaneously limit skepticism while increasing the ultimate likelihood of a sale.

"Scientists are complicated. Buying journeys are complicated. Your path to winning them can be easy. BioBM will ensure that your customers’ buying journeys – no matter where they start – end squarely on you. Let’s take your marketing to the next level and dominate the competition. Get started."

Should You Be A Thought Leader?

Should you be a thought leader? Assess yourself by these three dimensions to find out.Being a “thought leader” has become cliché.

That’s what most brands and most content marketers aspire to be, however. They want to be visionaries; oracles of their respective fields. It seems like an attractive position to occupy, but is visionary, forward-looking content really what all content marketers should aspire for?

No. Quite frankly, not all companies’ positions justify thought leadership. So how can you tell if your company should be a thought leader?

Assess Your Brand on 3 Dimensions:

1) Nature of the Customer Relationship (Transactional vs. Collaborative) – This is the most important factor. Being an effective thought leader means that you need the market’s attention. If the attention that you have is fleeting, you likely don’t have time to position yourself as a thought leader. Transactional customer interactions are often brief, while collaborative interactions (where you act more as a partner to your customers) are far longer lasting and provide more attention. The same can often be said for the sales cycles for transactional vs. collaborative products and services. Note that transactional relationships may act more like collaborative ones if you have a high rate of repeat business and your products / services are of a high perceived value to the customer; it’s not just about how a single buying journey behaves.

Example: Contract research organizations have highly collaborative customer relationships and are well served by acting as thought leaders. It’s important that these companies demonstrate their knowledge. Companies selling general lab equipment are far more transactional and have less to gain from a thought leadership position.

2) Complexity of Your Products or Services – If your products / services are complex or technologically advanced, this provides a greater opportunity for thought leadership. Customers are more likely to want to take the time to understand the market, and you have more room to play the role of a visionary. To use an example we can all relate to: lots of people want to know about tomorrow’s smartphones. Few people are interested in tomorrow’s socks. You could make the same comparison between sequencers and old-school thermal cyclers.

3) Ambiguity Within Your Market – If the average customer knows very little about your market and / or the products / services within it, there is a greater opportunity to be a thought leader. Ambiguity generally leads to difficult purchasing decisions. Through thought leadership you can create clarity and understanding for your audience, and your audience will in turn reward you with its business.

What to Do If You’re Not a Thought Leader

If you’re not a thought leader, that doesn’t mean you should give up on content marketing. Thought leadership is only one approach to content marketing. Being one of the most popular approaches, there’s a lot of competition for the position of thought leader. Doing something else can actually be an easier way to achieve customer engagement (remember, your content is a product which must be differentiated as well). Some ideas include:

  • Be better at formatting information. You don’t have to be the first to say something if you can say it better than others. Take some of the best ideas you can find and package them into more appealing formats, such as videos, infographics, or interactive content.

 

  • Provide something other than knowledge. Not all content has to be about information. Share something else. Entertaining content is the default alternative, but get creative.

 

  • Go past content and develop resources for your scientist-customers that deliver greater value and go further in helping them solve their problems. Get outside the box of “content” as we know it and think more about what problems they have and how your brand can help solve them.

 

  • Be practical. Scientists may not want or expect you to be a thought leader, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need information. Offer simple, to-the-point content that helps them streamline their buying journey and reach a better outcome.

 

Don’t get caught into thinking you need to win some kind of information war to succeed at content marketing. While some brands may be best served by a thought leadership position, for many it’s easier and more productive to shoot for something else. There are certainly plenty of options.

"From creating customer engagement to building brand value to generating leads, content marketing is an extremely powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. It’s also one of the hardest to use effectively, and life science companies frequently assault their audiences with generic and ineffective content. There’s no reason to settle for mediocrity. With BioBM, you’ll go beyond simple content. We proactively identify new, unique ways of creating value for your audience then design superior customer experiences around those value opportunities. So contact BioBM today, and give your company the influence and reputation it needs to turn purchasing decisions in your favor."

Guide to Win / Loss Analysis

There are only two fundamental reasons that a scientist won't buy from you.As we discussed last week, there are only two fundamental reasons why someone won’t buy from you. Either you are talking to the wrong person, or the prospective customer doesn’t trust you. Unfortunately for commercial professionals, the reasons why someone could lack sufficient trust in you to purchase are myriad. Doubly unfortunately, those reasons often go undiscovered. Many organizations performing little analysis of why any given sale is won or lost, others do so superficially in ways that don’t provide meaningful information. Even more confusingly, many companies think they are performing win / loss analysis when really they aren’t! They are instead utilizing other tools and methods, often in an ad hoc and undocumented manner, which provide biased or misleading information!

Performing win / loss analysis correctly is not a trivial endeavor and requires a good deal of planning, but there are many benefits to doing so. These include:

  • Clearer understanding of the customer buying journey
  • Better understanding of the competition’s offerings (including pricing, positioning, etc.)
  • Early identification of market trends
  • Better understanding customer preferences
  • Understanding how you and your competition are perceived
  • A built-in “warning system” which informs you if your messaging is missing the mark
  • Feedback on performance of the sales team and effectiveness of sales processes
  • Market feedback to help guide product development

 

Planning for Win / Loss Analysis

Remember that win / loss analysis is a form of market research. It requires proper planning – and adherence to the plans – to ensure that the execution yields the answers you’re looking for.

The first question that needs to be answered is: who will implement the program? This should not be your sales organization! Ideally, the people running the program and performing the interviews will be far removed from the sales process. An external agency who is familiar with your market and experienced in performing win / loss analysis would be ideal, however other internal departments or functions can be used (usually a market research or CI person / team, if you have one, otherwise the applicable product manager or another relevant marketing person would be a good choice to head the effort).

Next, decide what specific objectives you hope to achieve from the win / loss analysis. There are basics that are central to the reasons a sale is won or lost and will therefore almost always be included, such as understanding the customers’ decision criteria and knowing how you measured up against the competition across a number of key factors, but you will also have the opportunity to obtain a plethora of other information. For the sake of customer participation and limiting the cost and / or effort, you will be limited to how much additional information you’ll be able to collect. You will therefore need to determine what non-core information is the most important. Are you interested in learning more about your competitors’ offerings? Do you want to know more specifics about the customers’ buying journeys? Are you interested in the finer details of how your brand is perceived compared to the competition? For long, consultative sales a customer may be more willing to engage with you in a lengthy interview. For short, low-value purchases where sales interaction was limited or non-existent, you probably won’t find customers willing to sit through a long interview. Know what can be realistically expected from your audience and plan accordingly.

The next question you need to answer is: what opportunities will be analyzed? Given the time and / or cost required to perform win / loss analysis, it is often only applied to major product lines or service areas and / or large accounts. (We do not recommend only analyzing large accounts unless your focus is improving win rate solely to large accounts; if you want to improve the win rate for all customer classes, you need to analyze them all.) You can define which opportunities will be analyzed more narrowly to cut down on the number of interviews and amount of analysis necessary, or you can be more broad to collect information about more opportunities and then perform post-hoc analyses of specific products, markets, etc. You also need to determine the frequency at which opportunities that meet the defined criteria will be analyzed. If the nature of your business is such that you have a low number of high-value opportunities, you may want to analyze them all. If you have a high number of low-value opportunities you may want to analyze only some of them. If you will be analyzing only some, you should select them either at random or at regular intervals (for example, at the conclusion of every fourth opportunity, chronologically) to prevent bias. Furthermore, ensure your criteria don’t exclude wins! It’s just as important to understand why you win as why you lose, and understanding your wins can be even more informative.

From the defined objectives, plan your questionnaire. There are a massive number of potential questions, and if you’ve clearly laid out your objectives the questions you need to ask should become somewhat obvious, but here are a few common ones to get you started:

  • What caused you to initially consider a purchase of this type?
  • Which other companies / products / solutions were being considered? Which one was ultimately chosen?
  • What actions on the part of our team made notable positive or negative impressions?
  • What selection criteria was used to make the ultimate decision?
  • What interaction influenced you most during your decision-making process?
  • How did our pricing compare to the competition?
  • Why did / didn’t we win your business?
  • Who was involved in the purchase decision?
  • Were you comfortable with the product features / company’s capabilities? Which were most / least important?
  • How do you perceive our company? How do you perceive our competitors?
  • Would you be likely to recommend our solution to others?


A common issue with win / loss analysis questionnaires is the tendency to focus almost exclusively on the latter stages of the buying journey. Remember that the early stages of the buying journey are often more influential. Ensure you ask questions that will inform you how well you are setting the stage for a win, as many lost opportunities aren’t simply failures to close.

If you end up wanting to ask more questions than they reasonably can, remember that not every interview needs to ask the same questions. If you feel that a question has been sufficiently answered, change it out and ask another which would provide more new knowledge. You can also have multiple sets of questions and rotate through them to collect input, albeit less of it, on a larger number of some ancillary questions of lesser importance. (We strongly recommend always asking a set of “core” questions which directly address the most influential reasons for winning or losing.) If you ultimately want to ask more questions than would be feasible in an interview, you can create an accompanying questionnaire to collect additional data. This can be particularly useful if you wish to collect sizeable amounts of quantitative data which can be easily collected via an online survey or similar tool. Just remember that everything you ask a customer to do effectively has a conversion rate. Asking your customer to do two things will invariably lead to an increased number of incomplete data sets from respondents who either did not take / complete the interview but completed the questionnaire or vice versa.

Preparing for the Interview

Determine who will conduct the interview. Similarly to choosing the person or team to run the program, it’s best if the interviewer is not on the sales team. The interviewer should never be someone who was involved in the sales process for that particular customer. That consideration aside, the interviewer should be someone who is familiar with the product or service being sold, familiar with the market, understands the sales process without being too intimate with the sales team, and will make the respondent feel comfortable with the interview process.

Interviews should be scheduled with the customer or prospect very soon after the opportunity has ended. A good rule of thumb is that if more than a month has passed since the opportunity was closed or lost, don’t conduct an interview. Details of their decision journey and interactions with various companies need to be fresh on their minds in order to obtain accurate information, and collecting inaccurate information is often worse than collecting no information at all. When scheduling the interview, let them know exactly what to expect and what topics you are going to discuss. If there were multiple people involved in the prospect’s decision, they should be interviewed separately as they may have differing opinions and these differences can be stark at times. If you interview them collectively, you run the risk of those differing opinions not being expressed or falling victim to groupthink.

Before the interview, the interviewer should sit down with the sales team / person who was handling the opportunity and document some facts and perspective regarding the opportunity. How did the opportunity arise? Was there any previous relationship with the prospect? What tactics and sales tools were they using and why? Were there any noteworthy challenges during the process? What was the result and was it anticipated?

There are only two fundamental reasons that a scientist won't buy from you.Performing the Interview

Interviews are generally performed by phone, although analogous communication tools such as teleconference can be used. In-person interviews can be performed as well so long as the customer is local and the interview can be performed without becoming cost-prohibitive. Being able to see the interviewee an be helpful, as gestures and body language can convey feelings which can in turn be used to help guide the conversation. (The interviewer’s impressions obtained from body language should not be documented as it could introduce a large degree of subjectivity. Additionally, when performing win / loss analysis across cultural borders, body language could be misread due to cultural differences.)

Any expectations of confidentiality should be discussed up front. As some purchasing processes involve sensitive information, ensure the interviewee(s) feel comfortable using any information necessary to fully explain themselves while knowing that any confidential information will not be recorded or shared.

The interview should have a “script” to ensure the interviewer asks all the questions, although some of which will likely vary slightly interview-to-interview (in phrasing or approach, not in intent) based on the nature of the opportunity and how the interview progresses. However, the questions on the script should be taken to be a minimum of the questions that need to be answered. A good interviewer will probe the interviewee to uncover the underlying reasons behind their answers. Simply surveying the interviewee by asking a set list of questions in sequence is a waste of a live interview and a good way to end up with incomplete information that is difficult to understand and / or leaves a lot of opportunity for guesswork. The ability to be meaningfully spontaneous is dependent on the interviewer’s knowledge of the market, the product bring sold, and the details of the opportunity and sales process for that specific prospect.

Post-Interview Analysis and Assimilation of Knowledge

Soon after each interview, send the customer a message to thank them. As with any customer interaction, a win / loss analysis is a branded experience and you want to ensure the customer experience is a good one in order to earn future business and cultivate brand advocates.

There is no single, correct way to analyze the information from a win / loss analysis because the information, and the kind of information collected, will vary based on the questions you are trying to answer and potentially other factors as well (as discussed earlier). However, data analysis provides ample opportunity to derail your win / loss analysis. It’s likely that most of your data is qualitative. If your organization has a tendency to be political, various groups may try to influence how the data is analyzed or presented in order to make themselves look better or further their own ends. It’s the job of the person managing the program to ensure this does not happen. Any quantitative data should be handled using proper statistics, and qualitative data should be analyzed in a way that is logical, defensible, and allows you to extract the necessary insight. Applying semi-quantitative methods to the analysis of qualitative data may help, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to them. Whatever methods you use to analyze the data, you need to ensure that they are consistent!

Once the data is distilled into knowledge, you need to ensure that it is utilized! When there is enough analyzed information to answer at least some of the questions that you defined in your objectives, a report should be drawn up and a meeting called with people from all departments who would stand to benefit from the resulting knowledge. (Depending on your company policies and culture, the reports and analysis may also be made available to anyone in the company who cares to learn from it, or restricted on a need-to-know basis.) At this meeting, the data and analysis are discussed, lessons learned are shared, and ideas can be generated for ways to improve – these ideas are the foundation for change. The results should inform your sales processes, market segmentation, product development, messaging, marketing communications, sales collateral, and other areas.

If you’ve obtained answers to some secondary objectives, you can remove the associated questions from the interview script. These may be replaced with questions to fulfill other knowledge objectives. Remember, however, that the primary purpose of win / loss analysis is to understand why you win or lose business! The core questions facilitating the answer to that question should, under most circumstances, not be removed or replaced. If you find yourself desiring the answer to other questions more than the answer to why you are winning / losing business, then you should use a different tool or approach which is more suited for the information you seek to gain. You may, however, rotate through other product lines or service categories in order to obtain information specific to other areas.

Closing Remarks

A recent Gartner study (“Tech Go-to-Market: Three Ways Marketers Can Use Data From Win/Loss Analysis to Increase Win Rates and Revenue“) found that less than one third of organizations conduct win / loss analysis properly. The same study found that win / loss analysis can increase win rates by as much as 50%! That should be no surprise. Understanding is the foundation upon which improvement must be built. Sure, win / loss analyses require a good deal of rigor and effort, but that 50% should be well worth it.

"Improvement requires effort and resources. The key is ensuring those resources are well-spent; that they go into endeavors which have the benefit of careful planning and prior experience. You only have so many resources to spend. Ensure your marketing resources maximize your business returns. With BioBM, you’ll be in the hands of an informed and fastidious team that melds subject matter expertise and industry knowledge to further your commercial objectives in real, meaningful ways. If you’re an innovative company, then you deserve innovative marketing. Contact us today."

The Two Reasons People Won’t Buy

There are only two fundamental reasons that a scientist won't buy from you.Marketers and salespeople wrack their brains trying to figure out how to increase conversion – be it to turn eyeballs into leads or to convert opportunities into sales. Fundamentally, there are only two reasons that someone won’t buy from you. Understanding them is crucial to increasing marketing and sales effectiveness.

Reason 1: You’re Talking to the Wrong Person

Half the battle is ensuring that you’re talking to the correct person; in other words, that your targeting is correct.

Companies waste huge amounts of marketing and sales resources trying to sell to the wrong person. The “wrong” person is generally someone who does not have a need for your product / service or someone who does not have sufficient resources, authority, or influence to purchase. From a marketing perspective, this is most often due to an overly ambitious definition of the target market. Companies tend to do so out of optimism: if you are selling to researchers within a specific field, for example, you may be tempted to define them all as your target market because you want them all to be within your target market. Such is rarely the case, however, and this leads to targeting a lot of people who – no matter how good your message and content is – simply will never buy from you.

It’s really easy to think a goose looks like a duck. Because your pool of potential customers can seem very similar to other groups which are not potential customers, it’s essential that you define your target audience specifically. This doesn’t mean that your audience has to be narrow or small, but you need to clearly draw the line between who is and who isn’t a potential customer. (This should be rooted in your positioning statement, but can – and often should – be expanded beyond that.)

It’s common for the target market to be underdefined because a company simply does not know what kinds of scientists would or wouldn’t be potential customers. That’s entirely understandable – it sometimes isn’t until a product / service hits the market that people can truly judge its value. However, this is not an excuse for poor targeting. In this case, the target market needs to be established either by market research or by a trial-and-error approach which progressively analyzes the market and whittles the target market down to include only those customer profiles who would purchase.

Reason 2: They Don’t Trust You

It doesn’t matter how good your targeting is if your audience doesn’t believe what you are telling them, and what you’re telling them boils down to one thing: the value of what I am selling you will meet or exceed the value of the money that it costs. If you are talking to a genuine member of your target audience, that is the only thing you need to convince them of to make a sale. If they believe that, they will buy 100% of the time. If not, they will decline to buy – 100% of the time.

Trust is a matter of personal belief – it is something that is part rational and part emotional. As such, there are two basic reasons that a prospective customer does not trust you:

  1. The customer requires more or different information than what you have provided to them. This is the rational reason. You have failed to successfully make your case.
  2. The customer does not have faith in the person or brand which is speaking to them. This is the emotional reason. The customer does not trust you to accurately present information to them and therefore does not believe what you say – even if it is simply factual.


Either or both of the above may be true in any given instance.

There are many reasons why lack of trust exists – everything from simple lack of message validation to a poor past experience with the person or brand – but the end result is always the same: the prospective customer selects a strategic alternative. Because there are so many reasons that a lack of trust may exist, it can be difficult to analyze precisely what is causing the distrust. It is therefore important to understand why your prospective customers go elsewhere. (The tool to do this is win-loss analysis, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming blog post.)

If you’re talking to the right person and you can get them to trust you, you will earn a sale. Conversely, in every lost sale one of these two things went wrong. Identify those areas, rectify them, and you’ll do wonders for your conversion.

"BioBM has been the marketing agency of choice for dozens of life science companies for half a decade. We use innovative marketing approaches to create transformational commercial success for your innovative products and services. If you’re seeking to upgrade your marketing, just give us a call."

Winning the Battle for Attention

Before you win a scientist's business you must win their attention.The most precious and limited resource that life science marketers and salespeople must fight for is undoubtedly money. Everyone is trying to get a piece of those often set-in-stone lab budgets. However, before that battle is an equally important one; one involving a resource that is almost as scarce and becoming scarcer. That battle is for the attention of your audience.

Attention is a resource that is inherently limited. Each person only has so many hours in the day. As more companies (and other distractions) vie for their attention, it behaves like any limited resource under increasing demand – the cost goes up.

Most marketing campaigns ignore this fact. They’re built under the assumption that the audience will care about what you have to say, but that’s a very poor assumption to make in most circumstances. Perhaps in a world of unlimited time and attention that would be the case, but will the audience care more about what you have to say than all the other things that are vying for their attention at that point in time? Put in that perspective, the answer is often a clear “no.”

So what can we do to obtain and keep scientists’ attention such that our messages even have a chance of getting through? How do we ensure that we have enough attention to effectively educate and persuade them that our viewpoints are correct and they should purchase from us? In addition to creating the standard campaign elements, you need to build in a mechanism to ensure you’re doing the following…

Step 1: Captivate

Interruptions can be easily ignored. We’re all trained to do it. Think about it… How many banner advertisements do you see in a day? How many email promotions? How many TV commercials or magazine ads or billboards? Now how many do you actually pay attention to? How many can you remember?

The lesson here is that interruptions are very ineffective. However, unless you’ve already built a large audience or community, you’re pretty much limited to interruption tactics. Those tactics will get the audience’s attention infrequently, so you have to make it matter. The first thing you need to do when you get that scarce bit of attention is ensure you’ll get it for more than a fleeting moment. You need to captivate your audience.

The worst thing that you can do – which most marketers do anyway – is start by expressing a “what” statement. In general, your audience does not care about what you are or what you’re selling (yet). You need to lead off with a statement of belief – a “why” statement – that will be both emotionally compelling to the audience and subject to agreement by them.

Step 2: Hold

That first interaction won’t last forever, so you need to ensure that you’ll be able to reclaim their attention when you next need it. That first interaction must create recognition of need. The need doesn’t have to be for your product or service, but rather for the information to follow. They need to understand that there is more to learn and future information will benefit them.

The most common way for a campaign to execute this is with an email signup followed by drip marketing. This runs into the problem of requiring their attention at a specific point in time. Once an email gets put aside for later, it becomes far less likely to be read. Support your continued communications with other means of reminding the audience, such as automatically triggered reminder emails or display remarketing ads.

(Quick side note: people are more likely to respond to loss than to gain. If you’re having trouble crafting messages that keep the audience’s attention, play off this loss aversion. Tell the audience what they are currently or losing rather than what they might gain.)

Step 3: Build

There will always be people who would likely buy from you at some point in time, but cannot or will not buy now. You want to be able to retain their attention to make purchase at a later date more likely. Even for those that do buy, you want to ensure you utilize your command of their current attention to make it easier to regain their attention later.

As interruption marketing becomes less effective, you need to ensure you have a pool of people who have given you permission to get their attention. This can be done by creating valuable resources for your market which are likely to be repeatedly referenced and revisited. It can be done through community-building efforts. It can be done through regular distribution of high-quality content. Whatever you’re doing, it needs to be something that makes your audience want to come back for more. Ideally, your continuous re-engagement efforts should also be on a channel that you control to ensure that you won’t have any trouble getting promotional messages across when you need to and you can exert control over the channel to ensure it remains of high value for the audience.

You can’t convey a message unless you have your audience’s attention. The next time you’re creating a campaign, be sure that you build in a capacity to captivate the audience and retain their attention.

"Looking to build more effective campaigns? Contact BioBM. We’ll ensure you get the audience’s attention and use it effectively to generate demand."

Content as a Sales Tool

Content marketing is for more than just lead generation: it can increase sales efficiency.A lot of people think about content marketing in terms of inbound marketing and lead generation. You create content and either make it freely available with perhaps CTA at the end, or you put it behind a lead gen form so you can collect people’s information with the intention of adding them to an email campaign list (or similar). Lead generation is certainly an important use for content marketing, but content should also be looked at as a tool to support the sales function.

How Content Supports Sales

It’s no secret that customers are taking more control of their buying journeys and pushing back their first contact with a salesperson. That is a well-documented fact, from which we can posit that the ways in which customers obtain information is changing. The information itself, however, is not. Just because customers are obtaining information in different ways doesn’t mean they need different information and it certainly doesn’t mean they need less of it. What it does mean is that the information that they were previously obtaining from salespeople now needs to be made available from them in different formats. If you have the customers’ attention and you fail to provide the information that they want, their changing behaviors indicate you’re becoming less likely to induce a sales contact and more likely to lose that attention as they seek information elsewhere. (That’s the reason companies are creating decision engines.)

That’s where content comes in. Content is the vehicle through which you provide detailed, specific information to customers and influence their thinking in the early and mid-stages (and sometimes the late stages as well) of the buying journey. Companies have always used their websites as “brochureware,” but we know that’s not enough. Various educational and persuasive content is required that goes beyond simple product or service information. In that sense, it’s doing what customers are no longer allowing salespeople to do. In doing so, content makes sales more efficient.

Bolstering Sales Efficiency

If you’re an organization that is heavily sales-driven and have great salespeople, you may wish that you could get contact with customers earlier in the buying journey. You shouldn’t. The more naive your customers are, the more effort they will take to lead them through their buying journeys to the point of purchase. If you are leading them with human effort, your sales costs increase with the remaining duration of the buying journey. The more naive your customers are, the more expensive your sales are.

Content, however, is readily scalable. For a one-time creation cost you can provide information to as many customers as the content is relevant to. There is more up-front cost, but as audience size increases the long-term costs rapidly decrease in comparison to a sales-driven effort.

Additionally, content can be viewed as a sales support asset, providing salespeople with referenceable materials and information to provide to inquiring prospects. Customers can go back to a piece of content whereas they cannot go back to a conversation (unless the conversation is via email). Content is not just an inbound tool nor does its utility end upon customer contact with sales; it can coexist with sales to collectively and synergistically advance customers’ buying journeys.

How Can Content Improve Your Organization’s Sales Efficiency?

If your company and sales organization are experiencing the following, you are probably in a good position to utilize content to improve sales efficiency:

  • Your salespeople get asked the same questions repeatedly.
  • The average time between sales contact and a positive decision is long.
  • The average number and / or total duration of sales contacts required to close a sales is high.
  • You get an abnormally high proportion of contacts whom you never hear from again (they could be contacting you to ask questions, then retaking control of their buying journey).


If you don’t know what content you need to create to start improving sales efficiency, start documenting the questions that your salespeople are being asked. Those questions and thir frequency often indicate what the most beneficial content would be for you to create. For a more thorough process, create content roadmaps for each of your customer personas. This process will help you to define in more detail the content that should be created. When deciding on what content to create, keep in mind that content = time and money! If a particular piece of content would have a small audience, it may not be worth creating. You need to balance completeness with practicality!

Content is a useful tool for decreasing the duration of customers’ sales cycles and decreasing the cost of sales. As customers take more control of their buying journeys, however, content is even more critical. It is a necessary delivery vehicle for information which will influence, educate, and persuade your customers. If your company does not provide the information they are seeking they will look elsewhere, and the customers’ attention is extremely difficult to reclaim.

"The most effective companies don’t act as peddlers, they act as shepherds. They efficiently guide the customer through their buying journey in a way that is intrinsically sensitive to their needs. If you want to become the shepherd of your customers’ buying journey, contact BioBM. We’ll help you build a marketing architecture that will win your audience’s attention, influence their thinking, and earn their business."

Content Segmentation

If your content is for everybody, it's for nobody.A common strategic issue involves trying to be all things to all people. In general, it doesn’t work. You need some degree of specialization in order to effectively create comparative value to your audience. Even if you have a very broad product or service offering, you need to be able to segment your audiences in order to effectively differentiate and avoid commoditization. You need to cut your market into segments.

The same is true for your content (which, after all, behaves like a product). Put simply: if your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody.

Is My Content Insufficiently Segmented?

Broad, unsegmented content has many weaknesses. It tends to be repeat already familiar themes. It is easily replaced. It is undifferentiated. It is low-value. Because of these problems, it simply won’t perform.

How can you tell if poor performance is due to poor segmentation or some other problem? Here are some key warning signs:

  • You have multiple distinct audiences or markets, but you send all your content to all of them.
  • You have a link on your website that says “blog” or “news” and most of your content is hosted there, regardless of topic.
  • When creating content, you rarely think about who will be consuming it
  • Most of the information within the content that you’re publishing can be readily found elsewhere
  • Your content could be described as superficial or lacking depth
  • Your audience wouldn’t care or notice if your content didn’t exist.


Any of the first three are very clear signs of poor content segmentation. The last three can also indicate segmentation problems, but could signal other content-related problems as well.

How to Properly Segment Content

Step 1: Determine your target markets, if you haven’t already done so. If you have a positioning statement, great! If not, you at least need to define and document your target customer and statement of need. Note that unless your company is laser-focused, these will likely change for each product line or service offering that you have, and you’ll want to have different content for each.

Step 2: Create audience / customer personas. If you’ve already done this for your product offerings, then you can use those as a solid starting point. They should include demographic information as well as behavioral information. Demographic information includes industry, job title, function, location, etc. Behavioral information may include what their goals and needs are, what their expectations may be, what concerns or problems might they have, what role they play in the purchasing process, how influential they are, etc.

Step 3: Determine what the purpose of your content is and, relatedly, what stage of the buying journey your content is targeting. Are you trying to stoke interest among people with a nascent need? Are you trying to persuade people who are actively considering options? These determinations will inform you what kind of content (educational, persuasive, etc.) that you should create. Dont try to do everything at once! Just as you shouldn’t try to speak to all of your audiences at once, you also shouldn’t try to say everything to a particular audience in a single piece of content or expect them to go from naive to purchasing in one shot.

Step 4: Determine what benefit you are offering the reader that holds special value for the audience you’ve just defined. This is key! It’s entirely possible to define a very specific audience but then go on to create non-specific, poorly targeted content. If you fail to create well-targeted and value-creating content, your efforts in directing it at a well-defined audience will be wasted.

Most life science companies need to speak to multiple audiences. That’s completely normal. It can become a problem, however, if you try to speak to them all at once. If your content isn’t properly segmented, it becomes watered down and less effective at influencing the audiences and affecting their behavior. By properly segmenting your content to specific audiences and needs, you’ll be a much more effective influencer.

"The rise in the importance of content is a natural result of customers taking more control of their buying journeys. As customers have less contact with sales, they look to other sources of information to educate them and validate their decisions. Unless you have a strong content program, you’ll simply be left behind by changing customer behavior. If you want to ensure that you thrive in this new reality, contact BioBM. Our content marketing expertise will help you increase your reach, influence your customers, and dominate your market."

Differentiation Through Content

Your content is a product. Differentiate it.All of us life science marketers know that we need to differentiate our products and services. Nothing new there. It’s critical to demonstrate a unique value and avoid commoditization. But how often do you think about how well differentiated your content is? My experience has shown me that for most of you the answer will be: never.

Marketers often think of their content as something which is a carrot for the customer; something that is of benefit to them and for their own good. You’re providing them with knowledge so they should just eat it up and be grateful for it. Unfortunately that viewpoint is completely misaligned with reality.

Your Content is a Product

Your audiences are customers of your content. They are paying for your content with their time and, if you require them to fill out a form, paying for it with their contact information as well. All the same rules apply to your content as apply to your products. Your content has to be worth the “price”. You need to effectively “sell” it.

Your content also needs to be differentiated. Without differentiation, your content will be just one in a never-ending stream of content pieces being continuously created. And unlike with products, your content can’t compete on price. Your content either provides unique value or it won’t be consumed by your audience. Even worse, they might consume then resent you for wasting their time.

Ways to Differentiate Content

The best and most obvious way to differentiate your content is to say something different from what everyone else is saying. Take a stance on a topic and deliver content that has particular value for your target market segment. Demonstrate your existing position(s) through content. Not only will you be reinforcing your positioning, but so long as your position is unique your content will be inherently unique as well. Content which is differentiated in this manner will help drive your target market segment towards you while driving away the off-target audiences which would eat up time and resources but ultimately not become customers.

Some other ways to differentiate content include:

  • Find an area where you have knowledge that can’t readily be found elsewhere and share it. This can also help reinforce your positioning.
  • Forego traditional content and instead develop resources that help solve customer problems. There’s huge brand and customer experience advantages to be claimed in doing so.
  • Create content in different formats. If your competition are flooding the space with white papers, do a video or a webinar. Different people have different preferences for content.
  • Drill down or add a twist. If something has already been said, get even more specific or put a spin on it in order to tailor it to a particular market segment.


Never forget that your content is a product, and like any product it risks commoditization if it is not differentiated. By differentiating your content, not only will you increase its effective audience and create more engagement with it, but you can reinforce your positioning and branding as well. Differentiated content is better for both you and your audience.

"Content marketing is a resource-intensive, time-consuming endeavor. Don’t let all that go to waste. Ensure your content is as effective as possible. Content marketing from BioBM can provide your company with the influence and reputation you need to turn purchasing decisions in your favor. Provide meaningful value to your customers, and they’ll provide value to you. It’s a virtuous cycle. Start yours."

The Power of Print

flood of emailIf the forecast calls for rain, followed by ever-increasing amounts of rain thereafter, what is the end result? Assuming the forecasts are correct, you would have one heck of a flood.

That’s what the state of content marketing currently is. It’s a constantly-increasing deluge. We’re flooding our audiences with it, and they don’t have the attention spans to pay attention to even a small fraction anymore. As a result, content is becoming less effective, and marketers need ways to ensure their content stands out and successfully captures that scarce customer resource: attention.

Oddly enough, one of the most valuable ways to do so is to use a rapidly-forgotten tool.

Put Your Content in Print

Which of the following are you more likely to read: A) An email newsletter with links to a bunch of different articles, or B) A magazine that you’ve subscribed to which contains those same articles? Which of those is easier to ignore? Which is easier to unsubscribe to?

The fact of the matter is that if you put something in print it is more likely to get attention. There are other benefits as well. Long-form printed materials (for example magazines or books) convey more authority than do digital content. They also have more perceived value. This means that customers will give more up to obtain it, and you can use that to collect more information from them. At minimum, they expect to have to give up their address since the content will be physically mailed to them.

Some tips for life science marketers considering printed content:

  • Not all content is suitable for print. You need to ensure that the bulk of the content is of high value to the audience, or else your mailing will simply end up in the trash. Product- or service-specific content should be avoided as it will come off as pitchy.
  • If you want to use your printed content to more directly generate demand, place “advertisements” for your products and services within your printed materials.
  • To convey authority, try to adopt a magazine-style format. This requires a significant amount of content. If necessary, publish less often to ensure both the perceived and actual value is high
  • Get creative. Simply reprinting your blog posts is boring. Do something different. If the creative juices aren’t flowing, you can always do an interview or highlight some recent industry news just to mix things up.


There have been a lot of people who have given the advice: “look at what everyone else is doing, then do the exact opposite.” While that’s not exactly a principle to live by, it can help find opportunities. Content is overwhelming the digital realm, but if anything it is retreating from print. As print becomes less and less common, it may become easier and easier to use that medium to get your audience’s attention.

"Stop following trends and start creating them. BioBM has helped dozens of life science clients across the globe build their brands and win business through innovative marketing. Is it your turn? If so, contact us."

The New Permission-Based Marketing

Start Building an AudienceI want to take you on a trip into the future of life science marketing, not because I’m some kind of prophet (I didn’t come up with these ideas, nor did anyone in our industry) but because if the predictions of many marketing futurists come true, and if trends continue, the future will catch you by surprise and it won’t be a pleasant experience. It just could threaten your entire ability to be successful as a marketer.

Before we go into the future, to give us some perspective, let’s take a very quick look at where we are today and how we got here.

How we got here…

Once upon a time there was no internet and everything was print. (Last time I checked, CROs and manufacturers of lab equipment weren’t advertising on TV or the radio, so we can ignore those.) Then there was the internet, and marketers saw that it was good. They could easily reach large audiences at very low incremental costs. There was email marketing and banner advertising, and those were very successful tools for a long time. We could put ourselves directly in front of our target audiences, seemingly at will. Marketers got fat and happy, feeding off the plenty that the internet provided for them.

But customers got tired of interruptions. They responded with spam filters and ad blockers. They became numb to the constant barrage of ads and learned, consciously or not, to tune out the ads that marketers were throwing at them.

Marketers sought to save their valuable channels, and came up with new ways of increasing ROI. The rich media ad was born, as was the native ad. Clickthrough improved, and marketers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Email was never the same. Marketers couldn’t keep up. Where unsolicited email was once extremely popular, now most marketers use double opt-in lists. List sizes shrunk precipitously.

…and where we’re going

We’re in the midst of the death of unsolicited email marketing and opt-in email marketing is by no means future-proof. Display advertising is threatened as well. What comes after native? Maybe there are more evolutions of display (and / or text) advertising to come, but we can’t just keep filling webpages with junk. The audience – especially our well-educated and knowledgeable audience of scientists, will find a way to take back and protect their valuable attention. So what happens when they do so to an extent that the traditional marketing-by-interruption approaches are no longer effective?

Email and display advertising goes away. You can’t go back to print: we already know that’s not effective, and who actually reads things on pieces of paper anymore? Content marketing is valuable, but that doesn’t solve the problem either – it may help keep the audience’s attention but you still need to get their attention in the first place. Conference attendance is steadily declining and an opportunity that only comes once a year isn’t enough to prop up a marketing program. So what’s left?

Barring new channels being invented between now and then, it leaves search and social media.

The value of search is abundantly clear to most marketers, and while its value increases as it becomes more difficult to reach people through other channels, search won’t necessarily enter a new paradigm because of it.

Social media marketing, on the other hand, changes immensely. Social media essentially becomes your new permission-based marketing. It’s a group of people who you can actively reach out to with your marketing messages. You expand your list disseminating valuable, share-worthy content. The rules and best practices of social media won’t change so much, but its role without your marketing program will transform. That’s why it’s so important to start building your audience now, while you can still pull people to you with advertising.

Growing an audience organically takes a lot of time and effort. Right now you can “cheat” with social advertising, but how long will it be until that becomes ineffective as well? Start growing your audience now and you’ll be prepared for the future of permission-based marketing.

"For social and content strategies that go beyond the norm to create lasting, meaningful value from your audience while positioning your brand to dominate its space, look to BioBM. Best practices aren’t enough for us. We create innovative marketing programs that will change the way your customers perceive and interact with you. Contact us."