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Tag : buying journey

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?"

The Four Key Types of Content

There are a lot of reasons why content can fail to fulfill its objectives. When content fails, it usually just feels like “stuff” – things that are churned out more for the sake of having content than to serve a specific purpose. The most common reason for failure is lack of a coherent content strategy. Even when a strategy exists, however, content often fails because its role in the customer decision journey isn’t clear. In order for content to be maximally effective, it’s critical to understand the decision journey, the four main types of content, and what role each type of content needs to have within the decision journey.

The Four Types of Content

All content can be binned in one (or more) of four general categories:

  1. Educational Content. Educational content provides helpful information to the audience. It is strictly customer-centric. It can build brand value and awareness by helping customers build useful knowledge and solve problems. It is best aligned to early stages of the buying journey when the need is nascent and the customer may not even be aware of their need. Educational content often is used to make the customer aware that a need exists. For instance, a brochure highlighting problems with an industry-standard method would be educational content.
  2. Validational Content. Validational content serves to verify a belief that the customers hold or a claim that the brand is making. Exceptional validational content does so while still maintaining the customer as the core focus, but all validational content also has a strong focus on the brand or its offering(s). This is most useful when the customers have an established need and you want to guide them towards your solution. For instance, a performance comparison of multiple offerings from different vendors would be considered validational content.
  3. Promotional Content. Promotional content is used to prompt customers who are ready or nearly ready to make a decision into action. It is the most solution-centric type of content, and it often doesn’t look or feel like content as many content marketers would think of it. For instance, an email offering a discount would be promotional content. Most ads we see on TV are promotional content.
  4. Emotional Content. Unlike all the other forms of content, emotional content doesn’t seek to influence the customers’ perceptions of need, but rather seeks to connect with customers on a less tangible, emotional level, although it doesn’t need to be overtly emotional per se. Emotional content is used outside of the context of a purchase to influence customers’ brand preferences, and therefore position your brand to have an advantage in customers’ future buying journeys.

Content doesn’t need to fall into only one of these categories. For instance, validational content is often used in conjunction with promotional content in order to both prove a point and attempt to prompt a purchase. A hybrid of emotional and promotional content may be used to try to induce an impulse buy. Educational content is often used with emotional content to position a brand as a thought leader. Just about any type of content can be used with any other. You could even have all four in one.

Mapping Content Types to the Buying Journey

A fairly simple buying journey model would be one that starts at the consideration of a need, continues through the evaluation of a number of options to fill the need, ends in a purchase, then continues to a post-purchase period where the solution is experienced, affinity with the brand (or against the brand) is formed, and advocacy (or antagonism) may take place. The cycle then begins again at some point when a further need is realized. (For a more detailed discussion of customer journeys, I recommend reading “Competing on Customer Journeys” in HBR.)

In this model, educational content would span from before consideration, where it may be used to catalyze realization of a need, through the early evaluation phase, where it helps shape the customer’s understanding and perception of the need and influences the criteria by which potential solutions will be evaluated. Validational content should be deployed from the late consideration phase through the evaluation phase in order to reinforce the brand’s proposed solution. Promotional content should be leveraged late in the evaluation phase up to the point of purchase in order to induce the customer to initiate a purchase.

Emotional content, unlike all the other types of content, is not reliant on a place within a buying journey and does not seek to directly influence customers’ purchasing behavior. Instead, it exists to shape the customers’ perceptions of the brand, thereby putting the brand at an advantage due to conscious or subconscious preferences / biases in the brand’s favor. It can be deployed at any time.

A basic buying journey with the four types of content mapped to it.

Content requires many things to be successful. It needs to be differentiated and segmented. It needs to be organized and customer-centric. It needs to avoid falling into a pit of skepticism. The most fundamental of requirements when creating content, however, is the need to serve a specific purpose that aligns with specific goals for influencing customers’ purchasing behavior.

To be even more effective in your content marketing, keep an inventory of your content, and include in that inventory which of the four types of content each piece falls into and which stage of the buying journey it attempts to influence. That will help reveal holes in your content marketing program and allow you to spend your efforts on the areas of greatest need that will provide the largest returns.

"88% of B2B companies utilize content marketing, but only 30% believe their content marketing program to be effective. We certainly understand that content marketing is a challenging and resource-intensive endeavor. That’s all the more reason to ensure your money and efforts are well spent.

BioBM has pioneered the next-generation of content marketing strategies in the life sciences, and our leading marketing thinking has been published by the American Marketing Association, Content Marketing Institute, and other prestigious associations. We don’t stop at “best practices,” and we 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. Provide meaningful value to your customers, and they’ll provide value to you. It’s a virtuous cycle. Start yours."

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."

Remove Steps With Content

While we strongly advocate that many content marketers in the life sciences shift from a content paradigm to a resource paradigm, there are still ample roles for more traditional content to play. This is especially true in demand generation endeavors when content is being leveraged to fulfill a specific role in a buying journey. When using content to move prospects closer to making a sale, the most effective content removes steps from the customers’ buying journeys. It actually makes the journey shorter while influencing the customer in a way that favors your brand.

If you want to create content that moves your scientist-customers forward in their buying journeys, you need to know where you’re starting, where they’ll finish, and not try to take a larger step than your content is able. To create great content that can help shorten a buying journey and direct customers in your favor, follow these 4 planning steps before actually putting pen to paper.

1) Map the buying journey.

You can’t effectively influence customers to progress in their buying journeys unless you understand the nature and the steps within those buying journeys. There is no shortcut to this – you need to talk to the customers. When doing so, it’s important to get feedback from a broad range of customers. In addition to simply speaking with different demographics (for instance, customers in different market sectors or those with varying seniority), it’s important to speak with those whose buying journeys have ended differently. Talk to your own customers, those who have made purchases of alternate or similar solutions, those currently involved in a purchasing decision, and some who have exited a buying journey without making a purchase. It’s important to understand all of the paths these journeys took and the factors that led to their ultimate decision.

Remember: a buying journey is not a line. It is a roadmap, where there are multiple routes from the start to the destination, and you want to understand those various routes as much as possible. Mapping the buying journey is something that will be useful well beyond content planning, so it’s a good thing to do regardless. For instance, a map of the customers’ buying journey is invaluable when designing campaigns. It’s not a simple or fast process, but it’s well worth the effort.

2) Pick a step to remove.

Once you understand the “routes” the buying journey may take, you can decide which step you want to remove. To be broadly effective and achieve the best ROI, this should be a step that is on many of the routes and is not presently being addressed well. It should also not be too large of a step, as there is a practical limitation to how much of the buying journey you can bypass with content.

3) Determine why that step exists.

The step you’re trying to remove is there for a reason. The scientist-customer may be trying to understand something, or seeking a particular experience, or looking to verify a specific belief. Unless you know exactly what they’re trying to do, you can’t design content to bypass that step.

In many cases you may be able to use your own best judgment to understand why a step in the buying journey exists, and in others you may want to speak to the target market. The more effort you put into this process the more likely you’ll end up with a correct answer, but the effort needs to be proportional to the effort required to actually create the content. Otherwise, you’d be just as well off taking the “shotgun” approach, designing a few different pieces of content, and A/B testing.

However, to know how much effort you would need to design the content, step 3 needs to overlap with step 4…

4) Determine the best way to bypass the step.

Churning out white papers is only going to get you so far, and there are a lot of steps in the buying journey that can only be effectively skipped by richer content. If your audience seeks only information, there may be a wide variety of content formats you can choose from. If your audience requires an experience, you may be required to use rich media.

The only way to use content to skip a step in the buying journey is to provide the audience with exactly what they are looking for. You can’t take a shortcut and expect to be effective.

There are far too many companies who use their content marketing programs haphazardly, as blog post and white paper factories. Those are wasted efforts. When creating content to generate demand, understand the buying journey, focus on a particular step, then design content to fulfill the needs of that step and get scientists past it. Only then will your content program achieve its potential.

"As marketers’ usage of content marketing has surged in the life sciences, we’ve seen a very predictable trend: it’s become less effective. At BioBM, we 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. If you are looking to leverage compel your audiences or to build influence and reputation, don’t settle for a generic create-publish-share-repeat paradigm. Work with an agency that can help you achieve success through differentiated, value-creating customer experiences. Speak with BioBM, and we’ll show you how we can help."

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."

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."

New Paper on Decision Engines

BioBM Consulting has published a new paper which outlines the current problems facing scientists when attempting to make a purchasing decision, the negative impacts this is having on scientists, and how decision engines can be leveraged to create transformational change within life science markets. “How Decision Engines Will Reshape the Life Science Buying Journey” explains why information has become the enemy of purchasers and suppliers alike, explains what decision engines are and how they are already creating disruptive change in other markets, and outlines a general framework for creating decision engines.

All with all BioBM papers, “How Decision Engines Will Reshape the Life Science Buying Journey” is available free of charge to all those in the life science tools & services industry. To learn more about the new report, to preview it, or to request a copy, please visit: http://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/

Adapt to Your Customers

Adapt your life science marketing to the customers.It’s no secret that traditional approaches to life science marketing are becoming less effective. Customer behavior is changing, and returns on advertising dollars are being hit hard. A recent Harvard Business Review article reaffirmed this point, stating:

[…] buyers are no longer paying much attention. Several studies have confirmed that in the “buyer’s decision journey,” traditional marketing communications just aren’t relevant. Buyers are checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews.

The days of trying to tell your customers what to buy and why they should buy it are long gone. Replacing that paradigm must be one that respects the scientists’ freedom in their quest for information. Life science marketers must position themselves within the customers buying paths, not try to dictate the paths themselves. We must let the scientists make their own purchasing decisions and act as a courier rather than a candidate. However, in order to be an effective courier, your brand must be trusted by the customers.

How does a brand go about building trust? By providing value. For the purposes of this discussion we can segregate value into two categories: product-related value and product-unrelated value. Note that by related we don’t mean “having anything to do with” but rather “intrinsically linked to”. In this sense, product related value is something that by definition requires affiliation with the product. Examples could include technical or customer support, benefits realized by use of the product itself, or any communication of those benefits. Product-unrelated value is anything that can be completely removed from the context of your product while having its value to the scientist undiminished.

Product related value is somewhat of a catch-22. Unless a scientist has used your product or heard good things through word of mouth, there’s not much you as a marketer can do to build solid product-related value prior to a customer’s interaction with your company (and it’s difficult to get a customer to interact with your company prior to the building value for them). That leaves product-unrelated value.

How can we, as marketers of life science tools, provide value to scientists outside of manufacturing and delivering valuable life science tools? The answer is simple (even if the execution isn’t): look outside your core business. You may be a manufacturer or a service provider, but you need to find ways to deliver unique value that don’t intrinsically depend on your product or service. The most common way of doing so is by providing information and expertise (either novel or curated).

One of my favorite examples of delivering product-unrelated value is, ironically, within a product catalog. However, I’ve found it to be one of the most common product catalogs in life science laboratories specifically because of the product-unrelated value within it. It is the New England Biolabs “Catalog & Technical Reference”. Many molecular biologists keep this catalog – a CATALOG! – close at hand because of its very useful technical reference section with, as they put it, “up-to-date technical charts, protocols and troubleshooting tips to aid experimental design.” That technical reference acts as the courier and delivers their products alongside it. It makes the molecular biologists decision simple: New England Biolabs knows their stuff – after all, look at all these useful protocols and troubleshooting guides – so it’s reasonable to presume that they make quality products.

The combination of a leadership brand position and a courier / decision simplicity marketing style, along with quality products to back it up, is an incredibly powerful combination. The creation of such a combination by life science marketers will allow them to capture market share and, ultimately, dominate their segment.

"Finding ways to create and deliver product-unrelated value in order to build trust and brand leadership can be a very difficult task. Luckily, you have the experts at BioBM here to help you. Our life science marketing consultants help define truly unique strategies that deliver value in ways that differentiate you from your competition. Looking to take the next step in building your business? Talk to us. We’ll explain our process, learn about your situation, and guide you towards increasing market share."

Creating Balance in Marketing

Creating Balance in Life Science MarketingLife science marketing requires a degree of balance between two opposing factors: information (content) and simplicity. On one hand, life science marketers want the scientist-customer to be able to access all of the information that they may need or want in order to make a purchasing decision. On the other hand, marketers and salespeople want to efficiently guide the customer to the point of making a purchasing decision, and want to create simplicity such that the customer is efficient in his or her own decision making. These needs are often in opposition: providing more information than any particular scientist wants can complicate the purchasing decision, lengthening the sales cycle and creating “stress points” in the campaign where scientists may lose interest, while oversimplifying their decision-making process may leave scientists without enough information and feeling as if they are being forced into a decision.

So how do we balance these two opposing forces? It is not simple. Any given scientist-customer may have different information demands. A single marketing flow will provide poor results in life science tools sectors where such demands may significantly differ (as is true in most sectors). The key lies in planning and foresight.

Through both internal knowledge and interviews with members of your target market, life science marketers should be able to gather all possible information requirements of a prospective customer, classify this information into “essential” and “non-essential” information, and determine what information may be needed at what point in their purchasing decision. Essential information will form the backbone of the marketing campaign architecture – the content designed to “touch” all prospective customers. Non-essential information should be offered but not placed directly in front of all customers. Consider these factors along with when certain pieces of content will be required or beneficial and draw out a content roadmap. The content roadmap should provide life science marketers with a clear view of the informational requirements and will implicitly guide marketers towards deciding the optimal channels for delivering any particular piece of content.

Through understanding the information requirements of the audience and development of a content roadmap, life science marketers can develop a marketing campaign architecture that balances content and decision simplicity to customize and self-optimize the campaign for each individual prospect.

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Let The Scientists Decide

Scientists will make their own purchasing decisions. To improve marketing effectiveness, life science companies must help them make their own decision, not push one on them.A common failure in life science marketing is being too pushy. Marketers frequently try to force scientists into accepting their viewpoints by making bold claims and attempting to force marketing content upon them. This approach, however, misjudges the audience. Scientists are taught to be skeptical and to arrive at their own conclusions. When companies are selling scientific products to them, scientists approach a purchasing decision with that same level of skepticism. Bold claims and forcefully wielded content do not overcome that skepticism.

Most life science marketers (and therefore, presumably, most people reading this post) were scientists at one point. Think about yourselves and how you would make a purchase of any significant importance. Maybe a computer or a television. You likely didn’t just go to a store (online or in person), look at one model, decide that you like it and buy it right there on the spot. You most likely looked up other options, researched reviews, or asked around to see if anyone you know has had experience with that model or brand. Scientists do the same thing when making purchases for their labs. They shop around, ask around, and compare multiple options. They form their own decisions, regardless of how many benefits you claim, how many features you have or how many testimonials you tout. There should be no expectation that your marketing will be able to take someone from a point of mere curiosity to the point of making a purchase then and there. Yet so much marketing is designed to do just that.

The most common reason for this overbearing and unrealistic marketing approach is fear. Put simply, many marketers fear that if they do not generate a lead or sale at any given point of contact then they have “lost.” This is not the case – ask any life science marketer how many “touches” a prospect needs to become a lead, then a lead to an opportunity, and finally an opportunity to a sale. The answer will almost never be “one”. However, marketers are unwilling to lose control. You need to be able to accept that scientists are going to shop around, try to find more information, and eventually come to their own decisions. They are simply too skeptical to accept your company as the sole provider of information in their purchasing decision.

This does not mean that marketers need to sit back and watch the purchasing decision get made. Marketers are correct in being proactive. However, in order to create a truly effective marketing campaign, life science marketers must understand what the customers will want to know and how they’ll want to obtain that information. There will be content that the customer wants that is out of your control. The best marketing campaigns will neither refuse to cede control nor allow the scientists to continue their decision-making alone, but rather will act as a shepherd that guides them to the content that both satisfies their needs while helping to validate the company’s claims.

Let the scientists decide. Just be there to help them make their decision in your favor.

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