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.