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.