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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.