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Tag : life science marketing

Are You Providing Self-Service Journeys?

Customers are owning more of their own decisions.

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

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

Scientist considering an online purchase

Accommodating Digital Buying Journeys

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

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

    Owning the JourneyNetwork internet brain head

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

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

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

Carlton Hoyt Discusses Decision Engines on Life Science Marketing Radio

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

Transcript

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

Best Practices Aren’t Enough

Many marketers look to market leaders for examples on what to do. The thinking is: if I can replicate what the largest and most successful incumbents in my market are doing, I’ll be just as successful as they are. While there are times when best practices are useful, there are many times when they are not enough. More often than not, a copycat marketing strategy will not replicate competitors’ success.

There are a number of times when marketing best practices are insufficient. These include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • When incumbents have a brand advantage that biases customers in favor of your incumbent. All else being equal, if your competitors have a brand advantage they will continue to outcompete you.
  • When there are a large number of incumbents and no one or two competitors that dominate. You certainly can’t dominate your market by following in the footsteps of other companies who don’t dominate either.
  • If the product or service you are selling is not sufficiently differentiated from competition. All else being equal, scientists will prefer to stick with what they know.
  • When the marketing practices of your competitors are misinformed or – for whatever reason – just not that good.

 

In these instances, you need to go beyond best practices. You have to choose which elements of your marketing program are of the greatest strategic importance and surpass competitors in order to gain advantage and capture market share. But how do you know what to focus on?

The answer should be rooted in two things: customer value, and differentiation. Differentiation is somewhat obvious – we can’t create advantage by doing the same thing as our competitors, so those things cannot be the focus unless you know you can do them substantially better and there would be some barrier to your competitors replicating your success. Unlocking customer value is often far more obscure of a goal. To do so, adopt a customer-centric viewpoint and consider what needs they have that lie beyond the realm of commercial products and services. Uncover needs that are related to your business and your offerings and align with your values, then create branded solutions which address them. (For more information on that topic, see this post.) Once you understand how you can create value for customers that goes beyond products, the possible natures of the delivery of that value will become relatively obvious. (More on value that isn’t intrinsically linked to your products here and here.)

Unless you have a vastly superior product or brand value, best practices can get you no further than your top competitors. To surpass them, become a market leader, and truly dominate your markets, you need to do things differently.

"Best practices only get you as far as your competition, and that’s neither our goal nor the goals of our clients. At BioBM, we strive to create leaders. We strive to transform markets. We strive to dominate competition. … What do you strive to do? Let’s make it happen."

Preferences for Content

Pay attention to your customers preferences for content consumption.We talk so much about content on a conceptual level that I thought it might be helpful to offer some more practical advice. Luckily for me, there’s a lot of knowledge out there to work with. In this post, we’ll look at two studies that surveyed B2B buyers on their preferences for content.

A study published by the CMO council this past summer asked a lot of useful questions. I’ve summarized some key insights below:

The 5 most trusted types of content:

  • Research reports or white papers from professional associations – 67%
  • Research reports or white papers from industry groups – 50%
  • Customer case studies – 48%
  • Reports and whitepapers from analysts – 44%
  • Independent product reviews – 40%

 

The 5 most valuable sources of content in purchasing decisions:

  • Professional associations and online communities – 47%
  • Industry groups – 46%
  • Online trade publications – 41%
  • Seminars and workshops – 41%
  • Trade shows – 35%

(These results hint at who can help you amplify your voice most effectively)

The 3 most valued characteristics of content:

  • Breadth and depth of information – 47%
  • Ease of access, understanding and readability – 44%
  • Originality of thinking and ideas – 39%

 

The 3 most disliked characteristics of content:

  • Too many requirements for download – 50%
  • Blatantly promotional and self-serving – 43%
  • Non-substantive / uninformed – 34%


The above data is largely self-explanatory so I’ll save a long-winded explanation.

Salesforce Pardot also had some interesting information in its “State of Demand Generation 2013” study, most notably on the legnth of content. They asked B2B buyers how long content should be and gave three choices: under 5 pages, over 5 pages, or as long as it takes to inform them. 70% stated that they prefer content to be under 5 pages and only 2% stated that they prefer content to be over 5 pages (the remaining 28% said “as long as it takes”). We generally advise to make your content as long as it takes, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend sacrificing quality for brevity, but given these results it may be worthwhile to re-evaluate long pieces of content to see if you could either be more concise or break the content up into multiple discrete units.

The Salesforce Pardot study also found that about 3 in 4 B2B buyers prefer different content at each stage of the research process. That’s not particularly surprising, considering that informational needs change over the course of the buying journey. However, it is a good reminder not to keep dangling the same piece of content in front of your prospects.

Take all of this data with a grain of salt, as every industry is different. However, the information can serve as general guidance in the creation and / or publishing of content.

"For small life science companies, great products often aren’t enough. No one will try your products if they don’t trust you, but if they don’t try your products you can’t demonstrate their value. Content solves that chicken-and-egg problem by demonstrating and sharing your company’s valuable knowledge and experience. If you need help creating content which will speed your market penetration, contact BioBM."

Analytics Will Save You

Analytics plays an important role in life science marketing, even for small companies.

 

From a marketing standpoint, most small life science companies live in the dark. There is a near-complete lack of meaningful information; it is rarely collected and when it is, it is rarely analyzed in a meaningful way. Even those who look at their marketing analytics every day gain very little useful information from it. Unsurprisingly, this limits the marketing effectiveness of the afflicted companies. Many small companies rely heavily on inbound marketing and it would be relatively easy to gain a very good understanding of their marketing effectiveness, but even those leave far too much to guesswork and undervalue information.

Analytics does not need to be complicated. It is not synonymous with “big data” and it doesn’t need to be expensive. On the contrary, analytics is one of those things that pays for itself. It allows you to make many of your other marketing efforts more effective. Done right, it clears out the fog created by “vanity metrics” and provides the information that you need to make decisions that improve actual business metrics.

Let’s say your company is like most small companies: you do a lot of marketing, a lot of it is digital, and most of it revolves around your website. You might have an email campaign, a search engine marketing campaign, and let’s say you do a bit of print advertising as well. If you market like most small life science companies, you have Google Analytics installed on your website and you either check it infrequently or obsessively. All that marketing you do points back to a few different pages on your website. Analytics tells you what is coming from paid or organic search, but the rest is mostly just direct traffic. You’re not really sure what comes from your email campaign vs. your print advertising vs. people bookmarking a page and coming back to it later. You definitely don’t know where your conversions are coming from. If you change something on your website, or add another email to your nurture campaign, you might have a hunch of how it affected conversion but if you’re trying to optimize a few things at the same time you definitely don’t know what is causing changes in performance. You use analytics, but you don’t really understand your analytics in a way that helps you make meaningful marketing decisions. You want to know more, but you don’t really have a budget for it.

So what can you do? Without a budget, you certainly can’t implement marketing automation which would keep good track of multi-platform campaigns, but your marketing probably isn’t so complex that you really need to do all that and you can still take a big step forward with Google Analytics alone.

For starters, implement event tracking for key actions on your website. Event tracking will help you answer questions such as “Did this new content increase my website conversions?” or “How many people are downloading the brochure for our main product?” You can also see how visits with events, or with a particular event, differed from overall visits (using “advanced segments” which you can read about here). So, for example, you’ll know whether those form submissions are coming mostly from organic traffic, referrals, or somewhere else.

Secondly, utilize query strings and / or redirects to better segment where traffic is originating from. You probably noticed that some websites will have a URL that ends something like this: […].html?source=twitter (content-centric websites like news sites like to do this the most). Everything after the question mark is a query string – it doesn’t effect navigation at all but it provides additional information. You can use query strings to differentiate the links that you post so you can more easily tell sources of traffic apart later. Also, say you post something on Twitter that gets shared on a different site. If you later get a conversion because of that shared link, chances are it will still have the unique query strong that you added so you’ll know that conversion originated because of a Twitter post rather than a seemingly random referral from a website for some unknown reason.

Lastly, if you’re using Google AdWords or Google Product Ads, be sure to use conversion tracking. It’s relatively easy to implement and it will greatly help you determine the ROI of your paid search campaigns.

There are a number of other things which you can do to better analyze your marketing effectiveness using Google Analytics and little else, but the above three things will dramatically improve your understanding of your marketing efforts compared to the average small life science company. They will also allow you to wean yourself off of “vanity metrics” – metrics such as monthly visitors which make you feel good when they go up but aren’t strongly tied to your bottom line – and instead focus on the factors that genuinely impact your business.

Without a significant budget, or even with no budget and just a bit of time, small life science companies can gain a much more comprehensive and meaningful view of their marketing. The inability to make data-driven decisions amounts to guesswork; it forces you to make decisions based primarily on instinct. Such decisions increase risk and decrease the likelihood that your marketing will be successful – both now and in the future. Luckily, there are analytics that are easy enough to implement and robust enough to provide you with sufficient data to make informed decisions. That’s why analytics will save you.

"Do you want to get a better understanding of your marketing without spending tens of thousands of dollars on subscriptions to marketing automation platforms? Do you wish Google Analytics would give you meaningful insights into your marketing performance instead of spewing out vanity metrics? All this is perfectly achievable, at limited cost. BioBM Consulting helps small life science tools companies implement Google Analytics, as well as other analytics platforms, in ways that help them achieve understanding without increasing overhead. Contact BioBM today to learn more about how we’re empowering companies with data."

New Marketing Strategy Paper

BioBM Consulting has released a new paper on life science marketing strategy, entitled “Marketing Strategy for Life Science Start-Ups: A practical guide to the most important and least understood things that founders and CEOs need to know to effectively generate demand.” This white paper discusses many elements of marketing strategy for life science start-ups or for existing companies developing new product lines or services, and provides a practical, do-it-yourself style focus on areas that are most commonly problematic for small life science companies.

This white paper is freely available 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/

Think Like The Customer

A little while ago we discussed the importance of adopting the scientist-customer’s perspective in your marketing to create communications that have a customer-centric viewpoint – showing an understanding of their wants and needs and offering a solution – rather than creating product-centric (or service-centric) communications. Having spoken to a number of companies about this point, I see a misunderstanding that commonly arises and it merits further discussion.

When bringing up this topic, the common response from a company’s marketers or executives is “But we already are thinking about our customers and their needs!” Simply thinking about the customer is still not optimal, however. Marketers should consider the needs of the scientists from the perspective of the scientists. You need to think like the customer! When you truly adopt their perspective you will be able to create communications that convey value in a manner that is sync with their own thought processes. In other words, you’ll be able to eliminate the gray area between their needs and your product / service. You will be able to clearly demonstrate value in a way that is meaningful to the customer rather than leaving them to “connect the dots” and try to understand the value proposition on their own. (A beneficial side effect of this approach is the ability to create better user experiences based on understandings of the mindset of the target scientists.)

It should be noted that your ability to adopt the scientists perspective will be limited by your understanding of the customer, so it is critical to speak directly with the customers to get a feel for their opinions and their mindset. Quantitative market research data can help, but speaking with your target market provides many more insights and allows you to better get a feel for scientist sentiment.

By truly understanding life scientists, and adopting their perspective when crafting marketing messages, you can create marketing communications that are more effective from the start.

"Are your communications as effective as they need to be, or would you like to realize more value from your existing marketing efforts? If so, perhaps it’s time for a different approach. BioBM Consulting helps life science tools companies create superior communications to drive lead generation, improve brand value, and capture market share. Contact us to learn more about how we can create results for your company."

Most Popular Paper Updated

BioBM’s first and most popular white paper, “Life Science Marketing on a Low Budget,” has been updated and improved. The paper addresses means of campaign execution that are low-cost, scalable, and allow for a high degree of targeting, thereby offering the potential for very high ROIs. It incorporates new data, expanded considerations for choosing marketing channels, and information on quasi-free marketing opportunities.

To request a copy, please visit: http://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/

Reduce the Risk in Buying

Life science marketers often hold many simultaneous viewpoints on why customers purchase products. Frequently, the attributed reasons include a hodgepodge of quality, price, ease of use, suitability for their application, adoption by others, various performance metrics and many other reasons that may be general or product-specific. All that gets a bit confusing, and is a bit over-defined if you ask me. I prefer to start from one attribute and then elucidate from there: life scientists make purchasing decisions based on risk.

Considering the scientist as a purchasing decision-maker, risk has two main components: financial and utility. Financial risk can be represented as price, although a more accurate representation is total cost of ownership (TCOO). If a product is very expensive, that makes the purchase more risky since there will be less resources to devote to other important endeavors and also since there are more sunk costs if the product doesn’t perform to the customer’s expectations. Utility risk pertains to the product ability to perform the functions that it is expected to by the customer. In other words, from a customer-centric standpoint: “In my particular application(s), how likely is this product to meet my expectations?”

The risk-based view can answer a question that leaves a lot of companies scratching their heads: why free samples are used so infrequently. It’s common for life science consumables companies, especially smaller companies, to give out free samples when a product is first launched in order to get people to try it. Most often, unless the brand is highly trusted, free samples fail their purpose and are left unused on the shelf. This is because giving away the product only serves to reduce one of the two main components of risk: financial risk. It does nothing to mitigate utility risk.

What life science tools and services companies should aim to do is reduce overall risk by lowering utility risk as much as possible such that financial risk does not need to be reduced and they therefore do not need to discount their product (or perhaps can raise the price on their product!) This gets to the heart of conveying value to the customer – that value should, as much as possible, be something that is experienced rather than something that is simply told. This becomes clear if you ask yourself: “What can we do to minimize utility risk?” Simply claiming that your product works would be pretty far down the list.

If you’re still not convinced, go out and ask a few scientists which of the following they would be more likely to purchase: 1) a product that claims to have better performance but you are unsure if it will work for you, or 2) a product that has lesser performance but you are certain it will work.

Performance metrics are undeniably important, and scientists have different reasons for purchasing different products. At the end of the day, the product with the lowest risk will be able to capture a greater market share than its competition.

"Looking for more insights on how your life science company can capture market share and accelerate revenue growth through improved marketing? Talk to BioBM. Our life science marketing experts can help your company identify opportunities, develop strategies to capitalize on them, and execute activities to capture value from them."

Positioning Statements

Over the 2+ years that BioBM has now been in business, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a wonderful diversity of life science tools companies and contract research organizations. One thing that we’ve been consistently surprised about is how many small life science companies lack positioning statements for their product lines and services. Positioning statements should be central parts of any marketing strategy. Even for the more pragmatic life science marketers who may eschew strategies for every product line, positioning statements should still be central to their marketing. They not only help form the basis of marketing messages, but ensure consistency in the message. Without them, marketing messages often degrade into uncompelling feature / benefit statements.

Such that life science marketers can more effectively create positioning statements, we’re going to give a quick lesson and offer some tips to help make the statement more powerful and help marketers avoid common pitfalls.

How a Position is Stated:

I’ll use a close approximation of Geoffrey Moore’s version from his book Crossing the Chasm (a great read, by the way): For [target customer] who [statement of need], the [product name] is a [product offering] that [statement of key benefit]. Unlike [primary competitive alternative], our product [statement of primary differentiation]. As you notice, there are a number of “variables” in this.

The target customer should be defined specifically. Keep in mind the target customer is NOT a market. “The pharmaceutical industry” or “environmental labs” are not customers. People are your customers. People make purchasing decisions, and you should state what people you need to speak to. There should be at least one noun that represents people (for example: “scientists,” “lab managers,” “analytical chemists,” etc.)

The statement of need cuts through your target customer to get to your customer segment. Of your target customers, what need will identify which will see value in your product? Ensure that you’re realistic. No matter what the situation, you will never achieve 100% market share so don’t pretend that you will. If you define the need too broadly, your targeting will be weak, leading to your messages not reaching the right people (and not being as effective when they do) and therefore decreasing the efficiency of your marketing communications.

The product offering should be a factual description of your product. There’s no place for terms like “revolutionary” or “breakthrough” in your product description. If you have fluff here, you’ll end up with fluff in your marketing messages, so be honest, be specific, and avoid exaggeration and hyperbole.

The statement of key benefit addresses how your product meets the aforementioned need of your customers. This statement should be specific and factual. Descriptors like “best” “reliable” or “high quality” should not be used. Also, benefits and specifications are not always interchangeable. If you use a specification or feature in your statement of key benefit, be sure to ask yourself if the benefit that feature / spec conveys would be obvious from the perspective of your audience. Furthermore, the focus should be on the single most valuable benefit; this is not a laundry list. Choosing one benefit is often not simple, but you either need to make the tough decision or reconcile multiple benefits in order to present them as one unified benefit. Lastly, note that the key benefit does not have to be your primary differentiator. That comes later.

The primary competitive alternative is not necessarily another product or service (although it often is). You want to address how most of your audience with your stated need are currently fulfilling it.

The statement of primary differentiation should summarize how your product or service provides value in ways that no other competitor can claim. It may be related to your statement of key benefit, but does not have to be. Remember: the key benefit is what provides the greatest value to the customer. The primary differentiators are what distinguishes you from other competitors. (Side note: the best differentiator should be determined by market analysis.)

A strong positioning statement is something that life science marketers can and should refer to in order to develop messages that are consistent and on target. To keep your marketing focused and ensure you target the most opportune audiences, have a positioning statement for all your product lines and service categories.

"Positioning is an art, and the best positionings are not simply drawn up arbitrarily but have their basis in information about the product, the customer, and the competitive landscape. If you are launching a new product or service (or recently launched one) and would like to improve your success through positioning, contact BioBM. We’ll help you define a strong positioning that’s based on data and empowers your marketing team to deliver value – both to your customers and for your company."