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We Just Got Skyscrapered

Just yesterday, we got skyscrapered. No, we didn’t get an office in a giant building or fly an ad from one or anything like that, nor is that some weird pop-culture thing that teenagers are putting on YouTube. We were the target of an attempt at “skyscraper marketing” … and I’m talking about it, so I guess it worked in a sense.

I’ll talk more about this particular instance in a moment, but first I wanted to give an intro to skyscraper marketing for anyone who isn’t familiar with it.

The “What” and “Why” of Skyscraper Marketing

Skyscraper marketing was one method which was popularized after Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm update. To summarize the implications of that in brief: there was once a time when you could “trick” Google into thinking that your website was more important than it was by posting links around the internet pointing to your website. Hummingbird was the Google update that put an end to that once and for all and penalized websites that did not comply. From then on, if you wanted to prove your website’s importance (and thereby improve your search ranks), you needed to earn your backlinks organically.

That’s about the time when content marketing became more important. From that point, not only was it the validation that showed prospects you knew what you were talking about, but it was the primary tool at your disposal to influence your search rankings (beyond the basic on-site optimization, such as optimized URLs and title tags, that everyone does and therefore isn’t a real source of competitive advantage). The more shareable the content, the more backlinks it would likely get, and therefore the better it was for SEO.

Thus, Skyscraper Marketing was devised. At its most basic, I can break it down into a three step process:

  1. Find successful content.
  2. Improve upon it.*
  3. Share it with people who would be interested in it and, in turn, share it themselves.

*The necessity for improvement is debatable, but you do have to do something to it. More on that in a moment…

The “How” of Skyscraper Marketing

Skyscraper marketing is, essentially, a type of influencer marketing in that the important part is the last step – getting people with engaged audiences to share it. That being the case, there are two primary approaches (and you don’t have to choose between them – you can do both at the same time).

The first approach is the incremental improvement approach. You find some good content which you have something to add to / make better / pose a counterpoint to / etc., then distribute it to a bunch of people who would find it relevant and potentially want to share it. In this approach, you’re adding something to the general body of knowledge in the hope that your contributed insight is enough to make it a worthwhile share – especially from people who have large audiences themselves. Again, the goal is to get as many backlinks and as many eyeballs as possible (those goals do overlap) so the more people you reach out to the better.

The second approach is the “stroking one’s ego” approach. In this approach, your goal isn’t necessarily to improve upon good pieces of content, but rather to act as an aggregator. You take really good tidbits from the thinking of a number of different influencers, and repackage them into a single, easily digestible, and readily shareable piece of content, being sure to reference and link to the authors / posts whose thinking you aggregated. You then reach back out to those people and let them know that you published something which referenced them. People, being generally inclined towards things that make themselves seem important, will share your article which highlights their own thinking.

BioBM’s Skyscraper Marketing Tips

As with influencer marketing, you want to take care to do it correctly. If you don’t, you’ll not only waste your time and effort, but you’ll also get a reputation among the influencers in your market as a peddler of junk content. If that happens, skyscraper marketing or other forms of influencer marketing will be more difficult for you in the future. Just as poor quality content can reflect badly upon your brand, asking people to share poor quality content will erode your relationships with those influencers.

To not be “that guy,” here are some useful tips:

  • Don’t spam your network. Only send out good content and only send it to people who would find it genuinely relevant.
  • Don’t plagiarize copy … or ideas. If people realize they’ve heard it all before elsewhere, they probably won’t share it.
  • Note that “improved content” does not mean “longer content.” A lot of people have a habit of focusing on expanding upon an idea rather than improving upon it. Improvement is far more important than expansion. If you make something better or take a novel perspective on an idea, that’s far more worthy of sharing than simply adding more of the same.
  • “Improved content” also doesn’t mean that you need to improve on the idea itself. Communicating it more effectively – for instance, using illustration to more clearly demonstrate a complex point – can be just as valuable.
  • Always remember: your content behaves like a product and must be differentiated!
  • If you’re going to take an ego-driven approach, be sure you show that you have taken the time to fully understand and eloquently explain the idea, and give some praise to the original author without coming of as a flatterer.

So to finish the story…

Upon checking our social media dashboards this morning, I saw this tweet:

I’ve been published more than the average person, but that’s still enough to get my attention so I gave it a quick read through. I ended up not sharing it on our @BioBM twitter account (and I don’t use my personal @CHoytPhD twitter anymore) for a few reasons. Primarily, we have very high standards for what BioBM publishes through our channels. We generally require there to be some element of newness, and we didn’t find there to be any particularly fresh thinking. (Sorry, Joe! No offense intended.) Secondarily, it was a really obvious skyscraper attempt, especially since our idea which was shared wasn’t strongly relevant to the body of the article and was simply one of many listed in bullet point format towards the end. On the other hand, Joe did well not to plagiarize the ideas which he referenced, but rather offered a tidbit of them with a link to the source. That was nice of him. (Thanks, Joe!)

That said, it did engage a discussion on twitter and his post did end up being linked to on our blog, so I suppose Joe can claim victory after all. He’s also welcome to follow this shameless promotion for our “Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services” LinkedIn group and post it there as well. 2262 members and counting!

Just for fun, and because who doesn’t love architecture, here’s a few more images of skyscrapers. All images are courtesy of Unsplash, which in an amazing feat of generosity allows their beautiful, high-resolution images to be used for any purpose and without attribution. I find that so awesome that I’m giving them attribution anyway.


"Innovative companies deserve innovative marketing. If you want to leverage the next generation of marketing strategies to not only help you achieve success, but create genuine strategic advantage for your company, contact BioBM. It’s never too early or too late, but the sooner we get started the more of a head start you’ll have."

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."

Is Publishing the Holy Grail of Content Marketing?

There’s a lot of noise coming from some fairly reputable sources extolling the virtues of publishing as the next generation of content marketing (I’m sure you’ll be very familiar with this if you follow the Content Marketing Institute at all). For instance, let’s take a look at a recent article from the Harvard Business Review website – “Content Is Crap, and Other Rules for Marketers” – which makes some great points, but misses some equally if not more important points.

To begin, let’s summarize his 4 rules, which are all extremely valid points…

Rule 1 – Recognize that content is crap. This is best highlighted by the author: “We never call anything that’s good ‘content.’ Nobody walks out of a movie they loved and says, ‘Wow! What great content!’ Nobody listens to ‘content’ on their way to work in the morning. Do you think anybody ever called Ernest Hemingway a ‘content creator’? If they did, I bet he would punch ‘em in the nose.” He goes on to state that marketers need to be more like publishers.

A bit of a side note before we move on. The author is appealing to emotion a bit and is forgetting that content is a somewhat technical term – no one says they drink “dihydrogen monoxide” either. What this is more illustrative of is the mentality of many content marketers. What’s important isn’t, for example, that the people who watch great movies don’t refer to it as “content” but that the producers, writers, directors, and actors who set out to make a great movie don’t refer to it as content. It’s the mentality of content – making “stuff” that begs for attention – which gets people stuck in a losing paradigm and it’s a paradigm that needs to be dropped.

Rule 2 – Hold attention, don’t just grab it. “Marketers need to build an ongoing relationship with consumers and that means holding attention, not just grabbing it. To get people to subscribe to a blog, YouTube channel, or social media feed, you need to offer more than a catchy slogan or a clever stunt. You need to offer real value, and offer it consistently.” The author argues that publishing solves this problem.

Rule 3 – Don’t over-optimize metrics. It’s too easy to confuse measurement with meaning. He uses the example of Buzzfeed, who no longer uses clickbait titles as they’ve realized that they optimize for pageviews, which are just clicks, but betray the reader’s trust. By under-promising and over-delivering, you create more engagement with the content and make it more likely that the reader will return to read another article later. It’s the long game vs. short game conundrum. You can make the numbers look good if you pretend not to care about your numbers a year from now.

Rule 4 – Understand that publishing is a product, not a campaign. In brief, the author makes the point that one of the keys to being successful in being more like a publisher is to treat it with more permanence and seriousness.

There are some great points here… Content is not enough. You can’t simply interrupt your way to success; you need a way to build an audience. Ensure your metrics are effectively measuring value creation. And publishing has serious merits, but the answer is bigger than publishing.

The Inherent Problems With Publishing

Yes, publishing is often superior to more basic forms of content marketing, but it’s not for everyone. Not every company has some amazing, inherently compelling story to tell, and not every company has the resources to continually deliver pieces of that story through carefully crafted content consistently over a long period of time. That’s a massive effort. Assuming publishing is a magic bullet ignores reality and ultimately falls victim to the same problems plaguing other iterations of content marketing: if it becomes well adopted, it’s very quickly going to become much more difficult to do effectively.

The audience’s attention is inherently limited, and while publishing tries to occupy more of that attention, it doesn’t solve the attention problem and it falls into the same trap as more “generic” forms of content marketing. It’s actually a natural response to the lack of supply of customer attention which follows basic economic principles: If the supply of something is limited and demand increases the result is an increasing cost. As more and more content competes for limited attention the “cost” of the customers’ attention increases, meaning you need higher quality content to obtain it. Treating content marketing more like publishing doesn’t change that fact, it simply throws more resources at the problem so higher quality content can be produced – a necessity to continue to compete for customers’ attention in an environment where it is in ever-increasing demand. It’s not like audiences couldn’t do things such as subscribe to blogs almost two decades ago, it’s simply that it takes a better content effort to grab and hold attention than it used to.

Should You Be a Publisher?

Publishing cannot be the answer for everyone. It is literally impossible for 100% of brands to be successful publishers because the audience does not have enough attention to go around. How can you tell if you should be a publisher? Answer these two questions:

  1. How interesting are you? Take a good honest look at your brand and figure out how interesting you are. Some have great stories to tell. Some do amazing things. Some would make highly impactful thought leaders. Others simply aren’t so captivating. If your brand simply isn’t all that interesting compared to others in your space, you might want to consider something else.
  2. Can you – and will you – sufficiently resource the effort? Putting out top-quality content on a regular basis is no easy job by itself, and publishing requires more than that. The amount of time and resources that will need to go into planning, editing, graphic design, etc., will be significantly greater. At the same time, publishing still won’t provide a short-term payoff. Do you have the resources and the necessary leadership buy-in to be a publisher?

The Real Focus

If you’re not in the upper echelon of brands with regards to your ability and willingness to be a publisher, all is not lost. After all, being a publisher is not the goal. The reason that taking on the role of publisher is being touted as superior to content marketing is because it’s more effective at delivering meaningful value to customers. That’s also the underlying reason why it better holds the audience’s attention. At the end of the day customers gravitate to value, and there’s a lot more ways to provide value than just being a publisher.

Shift your paradigm from thinking about content to developing actual resources that solve genuine customer problems. Ask yourself what problems customers are having that they might not pay for a solution to, but are readily solvable with a bit of time and effort. Analyze them, prioritize them, and solve the most critical ones that provide the best opportunity for long-term value creation and evolving the customer relationship beyond a transactional one.

Double down on customer experience. Make it easier, faster, and simpler for customers to obtain value from you. Look at some of the juggernauts of tech – Google, Facebook, Uber, Amazon – they didn’t get to where they are because of content marketing. Most of their content marketing efforts aren’t even on people’s radar. What they do is solve problems quickly and simply. You know what’s a great experience? When you can type a question and an answer appears, when you press a button and a cab simply shows up, or when you can instantly be connected to any of your friends. There’s are myriad examples out there, and while it may be easier to do in tech than in the life sciences, it’s certainly not impossible in any industry.

If you’re existing content marketing efforts are becoming less effective, one option is certainly to hunker down, take it more seriously, and spend the resources to become a highly effective publisher. But that’s expensive, difficult, and only delays the onset of many of the underlying problems plaguing content marketing. Publishing treats the symptoms, not the disease. Rid yourself of all paradigms but the one which relies on this one fundamental truth: customers will favor those brands which contribute the most value to their lives. Let that reality guide your actions and you’ll soon find your audiences flocking to you.

"Are you struggling to attract your target audience? Do you find you need to interrupt them to try to get their attention? Then it’s time to do something different. Shed all your old paradigms and focus on unique and differentiated ways to add genuine value to your audiences’ lives. Provide meaningful value to your customers, and they’ll provide value to you. It’s a virtuous cycle. Start yours."

Stop Thinking About Content

Content marketers in the life sciences have reached a critical point. The traditional paradigm of content marketing is becoming ineffective. Content marketers have endeavored to create, publish, share, and then repeat this cycle to the point where there is far too much noise. It is becoming ever more difficult to win the battle for attention. Quite simply, content marketing is no longer enough.

We need to shift from a simple content marketing paradigm to a resource marketing paradigm. We need to stop thinking about creating more stuff and start thinking about how to build things of utility that meaningfully help solve our audiences’ problems.

It’s not just the life sciences that are experiencing this, either. It’s everywhere. This is a pandemic problem across almost all industries. We have recently been honored to have our solution, as elaborated by BioBM’s Carlton Hoyt, recognized by the Content Marketing Institute. You can read about how to take your content marketing program beyond the traditional paradigm and start creating transformational value for your audience which will both captivate them and build genuine value for your brand in the CMI article “Stop Thinking Content, Start Thinking Resources

"Looking to take your content marketing to the next level? BioBM goes beyond simple content. We proactively identify new, unique ways of creating value for your audience then design superior customer experiences around those value opportunities. We design customer-centric resources which compel your audience to interact with your brand in a highly positive way, giving your company the influence and reputation you need to turn purchasing decisions in your favor. Provide meaningful value to your customers, and they’ll provide value to you. It’s a virtuous cycle. Start yours."

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."

Should You Be A Thought Leader?

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

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

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

Assess Your Brand on 3 Dimensions:

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

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

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

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

What to Do If You’re Not a Thought Leader

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Content as a Sales Tool

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

How Content Supports Sales

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

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

Bolstering Sales Efficiency

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

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

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

How Can Content Improve Your Organization’s Sales Efficiency?

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

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


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

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

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

Content Segmentation

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

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

Is My Content Insufficiently Segmented?

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

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

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


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

How to Properly Segment Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

Differentiation Through Content

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

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

Your Content is a Product

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

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

Ways to Differentiate Content

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

Some other ways to differentiate content include:

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


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

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

The Power of Print

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

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

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

Put Your Content in Print

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

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

Some tips for life science marketers considering printed content:

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


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

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