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Category : Digital Marketing

Are You Providing Self-Service Journeys?

Customers are owning more of their own decisions.

We’ve all heard the data on how customers are delaying contact with salespeople and owning more of their own decision journeys. Recent research from Forrester predicts that the share of B2B sales, by dollar value, conducted via e-commerce will increase by about a third from 2015 to 2020: from 9.3% to 12.1%. Why does Forrester see this number growing at such a rate? Primarily due to “channel-shifting B2B buyers” – people that are willfully conducting purchases entirely online rather than going through a manned sales channel.

All this adds up to more control of the journey residing with the customers themselves and less opportunities for salespeople to influence them. Your marketing needs to accommodate these control-desiring customers. It needs to accommodate as much of the buying journey as it can, and in many instances it can and should accommodate the entire buying journey – digitally.

Scientist considering an online purchase

Accommodating Digital Buying Journeys

Planning for the enablement of self-service journeys is a complex, multi-step process. In brief, it consists of:

  1. Understanding the relevant customer personas. Defining customer personas is always a somewhat ambiguous task, but my advice to those doing it is always not to over-define them. It’s easy to achieve so much granularity that the process of defining a customer persona becomes meaningless due to the presence of far too many personas with far too little to distinguish their journeys in a practical sense. It’s okay to paint with a broad brush. For a relatively small industry such as ours, factors such as “level of influence on the purchasing decision” and “familiarity with the technology” are far better than the commonly used definitions of B2C demographics which you’ll likely see used if you look up examples of creating customer personas. It probably doesn’t much matter if the scientist you’re defining is a millennial or Gen X-er, nor do you likely need to account for the difference between scientists and senior scientists. That’s not what’s important. Focus on the critical factors, and clear your mind of everything else.
  2. Mapping the journey for each persona. This can be done with data analytics, market research, and / or simply as a good old-fashioned thought experiment, depending on your resources and capabilities as well as how accurate you need to be. If you’re using data, use the customers who converted as examples and trace their buying journeys from the beginning (which will probably have online and offline components). Bin them each into the appropriate persona then use them to inform what the journey requires for each persona. The market research approach is fairly straightforward and can be done with any combination of interviews, focus groups, and user testing approaches. If you’re on a budget and just want to sit down and brainstorm out the decision journey, start with each “raw” customer persona, then ask “where does this person want to go next in his decision journey?” A scientist may want more information, they may desire a certain experience, etc. Continue asking that question until you get to the point of purchase.
  3. Mapping information or experiences to each step of the journey. Once you know the layout of the journeys and the goals at each step, it should be relatively clear what you need to provide the customer at each step to get them to move forward in their journey. This step is really just asking: “How will we address their needs at each discrete step of their journey?”
  4. Determine the most appropriate channel for the delivery of each experience. You now know what you’re going to deliver to each customer at each point in the decision journey to keep them moving forward, but how you deliver it is important as well. On paper, it might seem as though you can simply provide all the information and experiences the customer needs in one sitting and then that’s all they will need to complete their decision journey. In practice, it often doesn’t work that way. Decisions often involve multiple stakeholders and often take place over the course of days, weeks, or months. Few B2B life science purchasing decisions are conducted on impulse. For young or less familiar brands you may also need time for the scientist to develop sufficient familiarity with the brand in order to be comfortable purchasing from you. This is the time where you must consider not only the structure of the buying journey, but the somewhat less tangible elements of its progression. Structured correctly, your roadmap should essentially remove steps from the buying journey for the customer.
  5. Implement it! You now know what the scientists’ decision journeys look like and exactly how you’ll address them. Bring that knowledge into the real world and create a holistic digital experience that enables completion of the self-serve buying journey!
  6. That’s it! Your marketing is now ready for today’s (and tomorrow’s) digitally-inclined buyers.

    Owning the JourneyNetwork internet brain head

    What we’ve outlined above will create a digital experience that allows customers to complete a purchasing decision on their own terms, which is something they increasingly want to do. If you build such an experience you will give yourself a definite advantage, but your customers will still shop around. It’s not enough to get them to hone in solely on your brand (which, if we’re being honest, is an incredibly difficult task).

    Digital marketing is not only capable of enabling your scientist-customers to complete their decision journeys on their own, however. It is possible to create a digital experience that owns a hugely disproportionate share of the decision journey to provide outsized influence upon it. Such mechanisms are called decision engines, and when properly implemented they provide their creators with massive influence on their markets. If you would like to learn more about decision engines, check out this recent podcast we did on the topic with Life Science Marketing Radio or download our report on the topic.

    "Is your life science brand adopting to the changing nature of scientists’ buying journeys? If you’re not well on your way to completing your marketing’s digital transformation, then it’s probably time to call BioBM. Not only do we have the digital skill set to develop transformational capabilities for our life science clients, but we stay one step ahead with our strategies. We live in an age of constant change, and we work to ensure that our clients aren’t simply following today’s best practices, but are positioned to be the leaders of tomorrow. We’ll provide you with the next generation of marketing strategies, which will not only elevate your products and services, but turn your marketing program into a strategic advantage. So what are you waiting for?"

Carlton Hoyt Discusses Decision Engines on Life Science Marketing Radio

Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt recently sat down with Chris Conner for the Life Science Marketing Radio podcast to talk about decision engines, how they are transforming purchasing decisions, and what the implications are for life science marketers. The recording and transcript are below.

Transcript

CHRIS: Hello and welcome back. Thank you so much for joining us again today. Today we’re going to talk about decision engines. These are a way to help ease your customer’s buying process when there are multiple options to consider. So we’re going to talk about why that’s important and the considerations around deploying them. So if you offer lots and lots of products and customers have choices to make about the right ones, you don’t want to miss this episode.
(more…)

Personalization Can Backfire

Marketers are used to seeing a lot of data showing that improving personalization leads to improved demand generation. The more you tailor your message to the customer, the more relevant that message will be and the more likely the customer will choose your solution. Sounds reasonable, right?

In most cases personalization is great, but what those aforementioned studies and all the “10,000-foot view” data misses is that there are a subset of customers for whom personalization doesn’t help. There are times when personalization can actually hurt you.

When Personalization Backfires

Stressing the points which are most important to an individual works great … when that individual has sole responsibility for the purchasing decision. For large or complex purchases, however, that is often not the case. When different individuals involved in a purchasing decision have different priorities and are receiving different messages tailored to their individual needs, personalization can act as a catalyst for divergence within the group, leading different members to reinforce their own needs and prevent consensus-building.

Marketers are poor at addressing the problems in group purchasing. A CEB study of 5000 B2B purchasers found that the likelihood of any purchase being made decreases dramatically as the size of the group making the decision increases; from an 81% likelihood of purchase for an individual, to just 31% for a group of six.

For group purchases, marketers need to focus less on personalization and more on creating consensus.

Building Consensus for Group Purchases

Personalization reinforces each individual’s perspective. In order to more effectively sell to groups, marketers need to reinforce shared perspectives of the problem and the solution. Highlight areas of common agreement. Use common language. Develop learning experiences which are relevant to the entire group and can be shared among them.

Personalization focuses on convincing individuals that your solution is the best. In order to better build consensus, equip individuals with the tools and information they need to provide perspective about the problem to their group. While most marketers spend their time pushing their solution, the CEB found that the sticking point in most groups is agreeing upon the nature of the solution that should be sought. By providing individuals within the groups who may favor your solution with the ability to frame the nature of the problem to others in their group, you’ll help those who have a nascent desire to advocate for you advocates get past this sticking point and guide the group to be receptive of your type of solution. Having helped them clear that critical barrier, you’ll be better positioned for the fight against solely your direct competitors.

Winning a sale requires more than just understanding the individual. We’ve been trained to believe that personalization is universally good, but that doesn’t align with reality. For group decisions, ensure your marketing isn’t reinforcing the individual, but rather building consensus within the group. Only then can you be reliably successful at not only overcoming competing companies, but overcoming the greatest alternative of all: a decision not to purchase anything.

"Looking to improve how you communicate with your market? There are only so many minutes in the day and effective communications must first successfully fight for those minutes, then deliver a message that resonates. The power to captivate is what will bring you a greater share of attention, and you can only win the customers who are paying attention to you. BioBM is here to help you win – at every step. We ensure that you win market share through winning and maintaining another important share: share of attention. The days of marketing by interruption are fading away. The days of marketing by captivation have arrived. These days can be yours. Seize them."

Increasing Customer Affinity

Affinity has a transformational value on brands.

Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon have all moved beyond having a simple transactional relationship with their customers to one that creates intimacy and serves their needs in a more holistic manner. These companies are generous, they are unselfish, and their approach is well beyond one of asking for the next sale. Whereas most companies self-promote in order to obtain the customer’s next purchase, elite brands seek not only to create customer loyalty, but to be loyal to their customers.

The overwhelming majority of companies are only good at fostering transactional affiliations with customers. They ask for their business, the customer gives it to them, and that is largely the end of the relationship. Companies frequently try to obtain repeat business; those who do so well attract supporters – customers who have moved beyond individual transactions and consciously prefer your brand, buying repeatedly. Relatively few companies are effective at recruiting promoters, people who actively share their positive impression of your brand through advocacy to others. Those brands which have strong networks of promoters are often very successful, but there is a fourth level of customer affinity that not only drives even further degrees of loyalty, but also leverages customer assets to build brand value even further, creating a positive feedback loop for both the brand and customers: co-creation.

Co-creators actively add value to the brand by contributing to its offerings for other customers. They are so invested in the brand that they add to it themselves. This may be altruistic, but may also be to realize some kind of return, be it financial, recognition, or otherwise.

Increasing Affinity

Most companies pay careful attention to how loyal their customers are to them, measuring things like net promoter score and tracking sentiment on social media. They think that good customer service will win the loyalty of customers, and while good customer experiences may turn transactors into supporters and perhaps even the occasional promoter, good service is not enough to routinely transform customers’ affinity to the highest levels. In order to move up the affinity ladder, brands need to not only focus on how loyal their customers are, but how loyal the brand is to their customers. If a customer is anything more than a transactor, they are giving you more than money. Likewise, you need to be doing something more than selling products and services (in other words, creating transactions) to better foster that affinity. You need to actively add value to the lives of your customers outside of the transactional realm.

Building co-creation opportunities often, but not always, requires a degree of altruism. You must seek to provide opportunities for your target market which do not actually cost them anything.

Examples of Co-Creation

Many businesses are built entirely around co-creation. Yelp or any user-driven recommendation website are almost entirely based on co-creation. Facebook is driven by co-creation. Airbnb is a co-creative endeavor, relying on its hosts to build the success of their platform. Your business, however, does not need to be centered on a co-creation business model in order to leverage it for increased customer affinity.

Customer-centric resources are tools that any company can use to greatly heighten customer affinity. By helping customers solve problems outside the context of a buying journey, you will provide massively positive experiences that will increase affinity. While resources do not require a co-creation component, such a component may be integrated into them. Consider the Nike+ ecosystem, where users can share workouts, compare progress with friends, and help motivate each other. The GoPro Channel is another well-known co-creation resource, where GoPro leverages its own popularity to support its customers’ best creations.

Social Media, “Engagement” and the Affinity Failure

Many marketers consider themselves to have succeeded at forging relationships with customers if they have high “engagement” metrics or large social followings. These are not indicators of affinity and are often vanity metrics. A social follow is by no means an indication of support, and it certainly does not suggest that the follower will promote your brand. In the life sciences and most B2B industries, social media is largely a platform for the dissemination of content. It is a utilitarian tool. While the ability to foster personal relationships with members of your target audience certainly exists, social media is not a natural channel for brand-customer communication. If your goals are to increase your audience size and reach, seek new social followers. If your goals are to increase customer affinity, look for non-transactional ways to provide value to your audience.

As customers not only take greater control of their purchasing decision journeys but compress them as well, brand affinity becomes increasingly important. Those brands which are able to create heightened levels of customer affinity will have immense advantage in an accelerated journey which reduces the consideration and evaluation phases. Customers are increasingly making decisions based on established preferences. The brands with the greatest customer affinity will be the winners.

"Looking for ways to increase customer affinity? BioBM develops resources for life science brands that grow their audiences and enable them to dominate their brand space. If domination is on your brand’s agenda, then contact BioBM today."

The End Is Not Nigh (now let’s get serious…)

People love to decry the end of marketing. It’s a good attention-getter. While those who shout about the coming of the end of marketing from their soapboxes are usually guilty of lacking realism or using poor logic, they do make us think about the future and that can be a learning experience. Let’s take an example…

Knowledge @ Wharton recently published an interesting, albeit narrow-sighted and overly apocalyptic article about the end of marketing and what, according to the author, will be the very narrow opportunities to engage audiences that will remain in the future. The author does a very good job of identifying trends but a very bad job of predicting what the future will likely look like, but both the good and the bad provide important lessons and highlight valuable opportunities.

First, the trends. No reason to discuss these much because most should be more or less obvious to anyone reading this.

  1. People would rather listen to other people than brands.
  2. People are going to greater lengths to avoid the onslaught of advertisement.
  3. Marketing technology “cannot truly understand the complexities of consumer intent” and therefore hitting the trifecta of the right message on the right channel at the right time is exceedingly difficult. (This I would actually say is up for debate. It’s a gray area. A discussion for another time, perhaps…)
  4. Marketers are overwhelming digital channels, further driving users to avoid marketing out of simple necessity. See point #2.

And here are the author’s four corresponding points of how he envisions the future:

  1. “As consumers bypass media with greater ease, the social feed is the wormhole to the entire online experience.”
  2. “As consumers outcompete marketers for each other’s attention, every piece of media contained in the feed is not only shareable, but shoppable.” – basically, he’s arguing that social channels become capable of performing transactions.
  3. “As the individual controls the marketing experience, communication shifts from public to semi-private.” In other words, people move from things like Facebook to things like Snapchat, where there are fewer ads and more privacy.
  4. Only two types of marketing will remain: discounts / sales and transparent sponsored content.

These predictions amount to a wild fantasy.

The most obvious flaw in the author’s reasoning is that somehow a completely shoppable social media ecosystem would evade the rules that everyone else has to play by – namely that when marketing becomes overwhelming, the audience will block it out or leave. This also ignores the plain fact that the large majority of the things that people buy are not found organically via social media. There is no shortage of people who shop. Decisions may be influenced in the social sphere, and perhaps some impulse decisions both begin and end there, but those are the exception; the overwhelming majority of purchasing decisions do not occur entirely within the social sphere and that would not change if social channels were empowered with transactability.

The real world contains a great deal of equilibrium. The ability to target people and their ability to tune it out is a balancing act. It is a cat and mouse game. Technology works both ways, and as new channels and technologies are born there become more ways to reach customers. However, as channels are flooded, the impact of each individual effort diminishes. Marketing self-regulates by decreasing its own ROI as utilization of any particular channel increases.

So What Will the Future of Marketing Look Like?

There are definitely many channels that will continue their trend towards ineffectiveness. It’s increasingly likely that audiences, fed up with maddening digital display advertising techniques, continue to adopt ad blocking technology and erode the potential of that channel. Email, while still rated as a high-ROI channel, is looking like it may have a perilous future as email service providers become better at filtering out promotions. Social media will certainly take on a larger share of permission-based marketing, but it will remain a risky business to rely too much on “rented” audiences. Increasing utilization of content marketing will continue to add noise and, in turn, increase its own cost by requiring better and better content to obtain the inherently limited resource it seeks to obtain: the audience’s attention. Increased use of social media may, if adoption increases as we project, fall victim to a similar effect, limiting brands’ ability to market effectively using social channels.

Not all developments will be bad. A decline in interruption tactics will lead to a fundamental shift in how marketing is viewed from a tool to generate demand to a mechanism to deliver value to audiences and a source of strategic advantage. Customer-centric resources and other owned platforms will proliferate as companies seek new ways to deliver value to customers while increasing the affinity level between customer and brand. These companies with strong brand affinities will create sustainable advantage for themselves as they shortcut and compress the customer decision journeys. Additionally, new and yet unknown channels will develop, and at increasingly rapid pace. Consider that until about 20 years ago, no digital channels existed at all. Accelerating technology development will continue this trend and also enable more personalized, coordinated, and targeted marketing in a manner which is more accessible and usable by companies of all sizes, budgets and capabilities.

I’m not going to try to pinpoint detailed specifics – I’m not claiming to be a psychic and it would be a waste of your time to read simple conjecture – but there are things that we can be fairly certain of given current trends, a bit of logic, and a hint of foresight. Marketing isn’t going anywhere, and while in the future it may not look quite like it does today, it will still be something that Philip Kotler would distinctly recognize.

"Marketing is a race, but unlike the 200 meter sprint there aren’t any referees that will call you for a false start. Get a jump on your competition, charge forward on the path to market domination, and start leveraging the next generation of marketing strategies today. Work with BioBM."

Remarketing by the Numbers

We recently cited some newly released findings from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) stating that “display retargeting from paid search ads can deliver a 40 percent reduction in CPA.” It was met with some hesitation from Mariano Guzmán of Laboratorios Conda, who stated:

“[…] when I have clicked on a [life science website] what I have experienced is a tremendous amount of retargeting for 1 month that I have not liked at all as an internet user, and I do not feel my clients would as well”

Being me, I like to answer questions with facts as much as possible, so I dug some up. This one’s for you, Mariano!

To directly address Mariano’s concern, I found some studies on people’s opinions on retargeting. A 2012 Pew Research Study found that 68% of people are “not okay with it” due to behavior tracking while 28% are “okay with it” because of more relevant ads and information (4% had no opinion). I’m a little skeptical of the Pew study because they were priming the audience with reasons to “be okay” or “not be okay” with remarketing. In a sense, these people are choosing between behavior tracking + more relevant ads vs. no behavior tracking + less relevant ads. However, when users actually see the ads the ads don’t say to the viewer “by the way, we’re tracking your behavior.” Are some users aware of this? Certainly. Might some think it consciously? On occasion, sure, but nowhere near 100% of the time. However, 100% of the Pew study respondents were aware of it.

A slightly more recent 2013 study commissioned by Androit Digital and performed by Toluna asked the qusestion in a much more neutral manner (see page three of the linked-to study). They found that 30% have a positive impression about a brand for which they see retargeting ads, only 11% have a negative impression, and 59% have a neutral impression.

The Pew study and the Androit Digital study did agree on one thing – remarketing ads get noticed. In both, almost 60% of respondents noticed ads that were related to previous sites visited or products viewed.

Now to the undeniably positive side… The gains a company stands to make from remarketing.

In addition to the 40% reduction in cost per action cited in the aforementioned BCG study, a 2014 report from BCG entitled “Adding Data, Boosting Impact: Improving Engagement and Performance in Digital Advertising” found that retargeting improves overall CPC by 10%.

A 2010 comScore study evaluated the change in branded search queries for different types of digital advertising and found retargeting had provided the largest increase: 1046%.

In a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research, stated that retail conversion rates are 3% on PCs and 4% to 5% on tablets. According to the National Retail Federation, 8% of customers will return to make a purchase on their own. Retargeting increases that number more than three-fold, to 26%.

There are many more studies that sing the praises of remarketing, however I wanted to stay away from case studies that investigate only single companies as well as data collected and presented by advertising service providers.

Here are my thoughts on the matter: Do some customers view retargeting unfavorably? Certainly, but that’s the nature of advertising. No matter what form it takes, some people will object to it. Considering that there is nothing ethically wrong with retargeting, we can’t give up on something that is proven to be a highly effective tactic because some people have an objection to it. In the end, it’s our job as marketers to help create success for the organizations we serve.

Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services

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."

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."

Personalized Experiences

The image below is of a Target which is near me. It shows what you would see if you just walked in the exterior doors of the Target. Can you think of any problem with this?

Providing a single generic experience for all customers increases the duration and complexity of their experience (or purchasing decision!)

You could walk in that Target looking for a sweater, I could be looking for toothpaste, and someone else could be looking for an end table. Regardless of our very different reasons for being there, however, we’re presented with the same initial experience. That’s not helpful.

Now Target is a little bit limited by the fact that they have physical stores. It’s not particularly easy – in fact it’s downright impractical if not impossible – to personalize a physical experience for every customer who walks into your store. You can’t exactly modify the physical store for every customer. However, you can readily personalize the experience in the digital realm. Despite this, even the largest life science tools and services companies fail to do so.

The world’s best e-commerce sites, such as Amazon or eBay, don’t have that problem. They use what they know about you, and also what they know about the products they’re selling, to try to get you from where you are to where you’re going as fast as possible. (Note this doesn’t only apply to personalization, although personalization is an important part.) However, you don’t need to be a billion-dollar company to personalize digital experiences. There are many tools that make website personalization accessible to mid-sized companies and even which make financial sense for small companies with a strong e-commerce focus.

As we’ve discussed in a previous report, research from the Corporate Executive Board has shown that increasing the simplicity of the buying journey can lead to an 86% increase in initial purchases of a product and a greater than 100% increase in the likelihood that a product or brand will be recommended. Helping customers solve their problems has been shown to elicit a more positive reaction than any other brand experience. Help your customers solve their problems in a simple, streamlined manner, and they’ll reward you with their business. Personalization is an important part of doing so.

"Looking to improve the performance of your life science company’s e-commerce site? Want to streamline your customers’ purchasing decisions and earn more of their business in doing so? Contact BioBM. We’ll help you implement practices which not only improve performance, but provide strategic advantage for your company over the competition."

The Power of Expectations

Pay attention to customer expectations to create more effective experiences.For most of you reading this, your company will have a LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t require much – upload your logo, post some basic company info, and copy-paste a paragraph or two from the “about” page of your website and you’re just about set. We looked at 408 life science tools and services companies and found that 69 did not have LinkedIn profiles – that’s only 17%. So why bring it up?

The important number here isn’t the 17% of companies lacking LinkedIn profiles. It’s the 83% that do. When an overwhelming number of companies do something, it affects the market’s expectations. You may be so used to finding LinkedIn pages for a company that when you can’t or don’t, something strikes you as being wrong. If you’re one of those 17% of companies lacking a LinkedIn profile, that doesn’t reflect well upon your brand.

Of course, this rule doesn’t only apply to LinkedIn profiles. It extends to any element of customer experience across any touch point. If someone calls your customer service or sales line and they press 0, they expect to be able to speak with a person. The navigation for your website should be in a bar at the top of the page and / or at the top of the left sidebar. These examples may be obvious, but they illustrate the point. Breaking customer expectations without a good reason depreciates the experience that the customer is having.

Audience expectations can also be used to your advantage. By breaking expectations you can create a feeling of uniqueness or potentially make people pause and think about something. Any such attempt, however, needs to be carefully considered. In breaking the expectation, would you be annoying the audience? If so, would the benefit outweigh the drawback? (In our initial example of LinkedIn profiles, the answer seems to be “no” – there is no reasonable benefit to not having a company profile.)

Through attentiveness to audience expectations you can improve customer experience, fomenting a more positive brand impression. Going against expectations can also be used to your advantage. Regardless of your intention, when crafting customer contact points, be considerate of customer expectations to create more effective experiences.

"The experiences you provide to your customers can set you apart. If you want help building great experiences, contact BioBM. We’ll work with you to turn customer experience into a strategic asset for your brand."