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Tag : life science marketing

User Testing & Conversion

Price comparison of Amazon Supply vs. other large life science distributorsI did a small study earlier this week to compare prices across six major US life science distributors (you can read about it here). Because of that, I had occasion to go through those companies’ websites and look for products. All of these companies are, by industry standards, fairly large companies, and all of them sell online. For some of them, online sales is a very significant portion of their revenues. I would bet that for most it’s their fastest growing sales channel. Yet most had glaring problems in their website. One had search results that blinded the user with bright yellow highlighted terms all over the page. Another had a high percentage of products that were not identified by their model number. Yet another had an annoyingly persistent “featured product” box that showed up front and center in the search results but never had anything in it. There was a search that seemingly only used “OR” logic for every word in the term – the more terms you added, the less relevant the results became.

These are glaring errors that hurt user experience, and they could be easily identified if these companies did user testing. This is an important point, as anything that takes away from the experience of using your website decreases your competitiveness by driving users away from your website (and likely to your competitors websites).

For those who may not be familiar with it, user testing involves someone who is within your target demographic and recording their interaction with their website. You usually give them a generic task to perform on your site and they speak their thoughts as they perform the task. The output comprises a series of screencasts with voice recordings which are then analyzed to find problems with the user experience or more generally find things that users like and don’t like (there are other techniques and tools that can enhance the output as well).

User testing is very common in many markets, but seems to be relatively uncommon in the life sciences. That may, in no small part, be due to the inherent difficulty in getting a group of scientists to sit down and do a user test, but we find that to be more of an excuse than a reason. User testing may simply not be in the culture of life science marketing, contrasted to it being fairly prevalent in B2C markets. Whatever the reason that it isn’t used, there is no good reason that it shouldn’t be used.

Anything that adversely affects user experience will have a negative impact on the purpose of the website – be it lead generation, sales, or simply progressing users through the purchasing funnel. User testing, especially in conjunction with website analytics, can be a powerful tool to improve user experience and the overall performance of your life science company’s website.

"Even if you have a new website, it’s important to gauge user feedback of it in order to improve user experience and increase conversion. User testing allows you to do just that. Contact BioBM and we’ll help you acquire and analyze feedback from scientists that will help you improve your web properties – and your sales."

Ads are Not Enough

Scientists may be getting overwhelmed with too much information, having effects on how they make purchasing decisionsMany of you reading this may be familiar with BioBM, but for those who are not: the best one or two phrase description of what we do would be “marketing for small life science tools companies“. That being the case, we run into a lot of problems that are more common to smaller companies or start ups. For example, one of the more common issues that we run into is an improper marketing focus. A product is developed, and the manufacturer rushes to pull the advertising trigger before sitting down and thinking about the message or the audience. They focus on the channel rather than content and on their product rather than the users. They confuse an advertising plan for a marketing strategy.

When a product launch is on the horizon, the first question that needs to be asked with regards to marketing is “How?” The answer cannot be some combination of in journal X, website Y, search engine Z, and by emailing a bunch of people who really don’t want you to email them. That’s not “how”, that’s “where”. More specifically, the question that needs to be asked is: “How will we be able to persuade scientists that our product provides a superior value than alternatives?” That is the most basic question that marketing needs to ask. From that perspective, the answer “by advertising in journal X” seems both insufficient and a bit silly.

An advertising plan is not a marketing strategy. Before any life science tools company thinks about channels, it needs to address that most fundamental marketing question and, with consideration of the product or service, its competition, the behavior of the target market, and many other factors, consider the messages and content that will need to be delivered. (Side note: the positioning should have been determined long before this point.) Only then can the company start to think about how their marketing content should me delivered and how to draw people to it.

"Are you a life science tools / services company that’s creating innovative, valuable products? If so, then we have a great synergy. BioBM Consulting takes products and services and help companies realize their value through strategic, powerful, and creative marketing. Want to see what we can do for you? Just contact us."

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."

End of Solution Sales

In our Marketing of Life Science Tools and Services group on LinkedIn, we recently discussed an article in the Harvard Business Review on “The End of Solution Sales.” While this is an excellent article and I suggest reading it, we’ll focus on one key finding: that “[…] customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision — researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on — before even having a conversation with a supplier.” This is just the beginning, but it does highlight something of key importance for marketing that is not discussed in the article.

If 60% of the purchasing decision is concluded before interaction with sales, marketing needs take responsibility (and claim the opportunity) for satisfying customers’ self-driven quests for information.

As the default behavior of B2B consumers is changing to include more self-fulfilled quests for information, life science marketers must make the necessary information to drive their target audience’s purchasing decisions available. The ability to predict the information that will be necessary, as well as the downstream ability to shape content to the audience’s measured behavior, is of increasingly critical importance. Marketing campaigns need to be able to respond dynamically to collected data on prospect behavior if the appropriate content is to be delivered at the appropriate time. A content roadmap becomes an even more critical component of generating demand. These factors collectively drive the importance of performing market research / marketing research, developing a clear marketing strategy, and planning a content-driven campaign.

If B2B purchasing decisions are 60% made by the time a conversation w/ supplier occurs, this places more of a responsibility on life science marketers to shape opinion before that first conversation. More planning is required, however such planning will have an increasingly positive effect on marketing ROI. Furthermore, we can conclude that marketing campaigns driven primarily by awareness-generation efforts will continue to decrease in effectiveness.

"Is your marketing strategy prepared to carry customers most of the way through their purchasing decision? If not, you’re losing out on sales – and chances are your losses are accelerating. When you’re ready to turn your marketing around and capture more demand, talk to BioBM. Our life science marketing consultants will help you analyze your markets, create concrete strategies and plans, and develop marketing campaigns that drive sales and profitability within your organization."

Marketing & The Cost of Sales

Efficient life science sales operations require that opportunities are handed from marketing to sales at the correct point in the buying cycle. When there is a lack of proper marketing support, leads often get handed over to sales too early, creating situations where sales effort is wasted, leading to operational inefficiencies in sales. The symptoms caused by underdeveloped leads are usually three-fold:

  1. Sales conversion is low because of poor lead quality which is ultimately due to underdeveloped leads. This situation often leads to sales and marketing pointing fingers at each other.
  2. The sales cycle is prolonged, requiring more overall effort from sales and, therefore, increased costs
  3. Leads will go cold at a high rate


The opposite effect, where sales effort is insufficient or too much is left to marketing, is also possible. Recent research suggests that it may actually be common and also cause decreased conversion and wasted sales effort. Regardless, the method for diagnosis is similar.

If you are creating a lot of leads but not closing a lot of opportunities then you may be under-nurturing (or over-nurturing) your leads. Compare your marketing contact points to your content roadmap (you may need to design a content roadmap if you do not already have one). A content roadmap based on strategy and market research should provide a complete picture of the information requirements of your target audience. Like a blueprint for a house, the content roadmap will provide a framework for creating leads and, subsequently, nurturing your leads into qualified opportunities. Overlay that framework onto your current marketing campaign and ask: Are you delivering all of the necessary content? Is sales delivering content that marketing should deliver (or vice versa)? At this stage, the difference between what you are doing and what you should be doing should be clear.

"Alignment of marketing and sales is a critical component to maximizing demand. Poor cooperation between these departments can cause distrust and poison an organization’s ability to convert. If you’re looking to more effectively lead your customers through their buying cycle, feel free to call us at BioBM. We can help ensure that your marketing and sales departments work collaboratively to create high-quality leads and close on them."

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.

"Looking to greatly improve demand for your products? BioBM develops marketing strategies for small and mid-sized life science tools companies that are both powerful and practical. In addition to leveraging the best practices in life science marketing, our smaller-company focus takes budget into strict consideration and delivers campaigns that perform at a big-company level while meeting small-company budgetary restrictions. Call us to learn more about our services."

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.

"How would you like to improve your life science marketing? BioBM Consulting offers flexible marketing solutions with services that are designed especially to meet the needs of smaller life science tools companies. Our hands-on approaches have helped many companies build and improve their marketing infrastructure. How can we help yours? We’d be happy to find out. Contact us to discuss your situation and we’ll create some possibilities."

Making Decisions Simple

This is the second part in a two-part post on the importance of simplicity to the decision to purchase. For the first post, which explains why simplicity is important, see Make Purchasing Decisions Simple.
By simplifying the purchasing decision you can not only gain more customers, but create more satisfied customers as well.
As scientists are presented with ever increasing options and information, the traditional purchase funnel model is breaking. Research has shown that as consumers are overloaded with information and choice, more are adopting a dynamic buying cycle, adding and dropping products from consideration nearly continuously as they progress towards their decision. Others are focusing in on a single brand, excluding any others from consideration. Furthermore, overabundance of choice is decreasing consumers’ satisfaction with both the purchase process and their purchase. There is a way to benefit from this, however. In doing so, you’ll obtain more customers and increase their satisfaction: Make their purchasing decision simple. But how do you do this? The answer comes in three parts.

First, users must be able to easily navigate your product information. Independent of format, they must be lead to the information that they need easily and the information must be presented neatly. In many cases, this means that you’ll need to present information for many different applications, but finding the information for each application must be obvious. It should come as no surprise that the easiest format to provide such a broad amount of information is on your website. Users must be able to find as much information as they want without being overwhelmed. Good navigation will provide easy access to a lot of information with a lot of opportunity to move to the next step.

Secondly, users must be able to trust the information they find, which means that life science tools companies need to provide trustworthy information. Some level of trust will be built by validating your marketing messages with data and other proven information. Testimonials may help somewhat. Reviews and information from independent scientists on third-party websites will imbue even more trust. (Want to lead people to content on external websites then easily guide them back to your website? Ask us about our solutions.) However your company attempts to build trust, your marketing and sales teams need to take a proactive role in doing so.

Lastly, life science tools companies need to make it easy for customers to weigh their options. Note that weighing options does not mean comparing all the options that are out there – again, too much information and choice is often the problem and not the solution. However, over the course of providing customers with information, you’ve likely established many choices (even if they are all your own products, as may likely be the case). Now you must assist the customer in making the final decision. Does your product have multiple models? Help select the one that is best for them. Are there different feature sets available? Help guide customers through the process of choosing which features are right for them. This can be a hands-off or hands-on process, depending at what point you generally convert prospects into leads.

By providing easily navigable, trustworthy information, and helping customers weigh their options, life science marketers can make their purchasing decisions far simpler. By being the one that does so, you not only gain the opportunity to tilt the scales heavily in your favor, but you ultimately increase customer satisfaction by making your customers more certain that the decision to buy your product was the correct one.

"Does your life science marketing make scientists purchasing decisions simple? Are you getting a lot of visibility but not generating a lot of leads or sales? BioBM Consulting has develops custom solutions, specifically designed for small life science tools companies, that leverage the best practices in life science marketing without costing tens of thousands of dollars to implement. Contact us to learn more."

Make Purchasing Decisions Simple

Scientists may be getting overwhelmed with too much information, having effects on how they make purchasing decisions
Researchers from the Corporate Executive Board analyzed results from multiple surveys that totaled over 7,000 consumers, as well as interview with hundreds of marketing experts and executives, trying to figure out what makes a product “stick”. They looked at over 40 variables, trying to figure out what is most important in the choice of one brand over others. The results, discussed in a recent Harvard Business Review article, may surprise you. The key wasn’t frequency of interaction with the brand, nor was it price, nor was it the consumer’s initial perception of the brand. In the end, the purchasing decisions are most influenced by which company makes the decision to purchase simple.

Just so this doesn’t get taken out of context, we’re not talking about making the purchase simple. Putting up big red flags that says “buy this here” isn’t going to help you. We’re talking about making the decision simple. As Spenner and Freeman describe it in the HBR article: “the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options.” The reason for this? In a new world of marketing flooded with choice, driven by content, and with staggering amounts of marketing messages, many customers are simply overloaded with information. They’ll reward the brand that best helps them make things simple again.

How great is this effect? Spenner and Freeman created a “decision simplicity index” that graded brands on how easy it is to gather, navigate, and assess information about them. Those that scored in the top 25th percentile were 86% more likely to be purchased and 115% more likely to be recommended to others than those in the bottom 25th percentile. That is awfully dramatic.

Now all of this requires our usual grain of salt (I’m a scientist by training as well and as such am a naturally skeptical creature). These are general-purpose consumers that were studied and analyzed. The scientist is not the average consumer. The scientist is more skeptical, more analytical, and more capable of dealing with large amounts of information. However, even scientists will have a threshold at which an abundance of information will become too much information and the effect that decision simplicity has on the purchase decision will be significant. As the growth in the life sciences in general leads to the growth in life science tools, an abundance of options may eventually lead to information overload for all scientists, and those who simplify the decision making process will be rewarded.

Even now, however, life science marketers stand to benefit from making decision processes simple. We’ll be following this post up with another on how to simplify the purchase decision. Be sure to check back for more information.

"If you’re following the traditional methods of life science marketing, you are likely not to get the desired results, or may be facing diminishing returns and decreasing marketing ROI. Don’t let that happen. BioBM Consulting has life science marketing solutions for small life science tools companies that transform their marketing based on the newest scientist-consumer trends and information, helping you to drive demand and accelerate your sales. Contact us to speak with one of our professionals about how we can help your life science company."

BioBM Publishes New Paper

BioBM Consulting has released a new paper, entitled “Redefining the Life Science Buying Cycle: A novel paradigm enabling life science tools companies to communicate with their entire target market in order to build a strong brand.” This white paper discussed the flaws in the traditional view of the life science buying cycle, replaces it with a new purchasing paradigm, and instructs life science marketers how to effectively target more of their desired audience by utilizing different marketing methods.

This white paper is freely available to individuals in the life science 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/