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Stop Hosting Your Own Videos

I know this isn’t going to apply to 90% of you, and to anyone who is thinking “of course – why would anyone do that?” – I apologize for taking your time. Those people who see this as obvious can stop reading. What that 90% may not know, however, is that the other 10% still think, for some terrible reason, that hosting their own videos is a good idea. So, allow me to state conclusively:

Hosting your own videos is always a terrible decision. Let’s elaborate.

Reasons Why Hosting Your Own Videos Is A Terrible Decision:

  1. Your audience is not patient. If you think they’re going to wait through more than one or two (if you’re lucky) periods of buffering, you’re wrong. Videos are expensive to produce. If you’re putting in the resources to make a video, chances are you want as much of your audience as possible to see it. Buffering will ensure they don’t.
  2. Your servers are not built for this. Your website is most likely hosted on a server which is designed to serve up webpages. Streaming video content is probably not your host’s cup of tea. In fact, they’d probably rather you not do it (or tell you to buy a super-expensive hosting plan to accommodate the bandwidth requirements of streaming video).
  3. Your video compression is probably terrible. Your video editing software certainly will export your video into a compressed file. “Compressed,” in this sense, means not the giant, unwieldy raw data file that you would otherwise have. It does not mean “small enough to stream effectively.” You know whose video compression is next-level from anything else you’re going to find? YouTube, Vimeo, or probably most other major services that stream video on the internet as a business.
  4. There are companies that do this professionally. When I was in undergrad and majoring in chemical engineering, the other majors jokingly referred to us as “glorified plumbers,” but I don’t touch pipes. I don’t know the first thing about plumbing. So what do I do when I get a leak? I call a plumber, because they’ll definitely solve the problem far better than I would. Likewise, if you want to host video, why not get a professional video hosting service? There’s plenty of them out there, including some that are both very reputable and inexpensive.

An Example

I’m at my office on a reasonably fast internet connection. It’s cable, not fiber optic, but it’s also 11:30 in the morning – not prime “Netflix and chill” time when the intertubes are clogged up with people binge watching a full season of House of Cards. Just to show you that any bandwidth problems aren’t on my end, I did an Ookla Speedtest:

The internet is fast.

239 Mbps. Not tech school campus internet kind of fast, but more than fast enough to stream multiple YouTube videos at 4k if I wanted to.

And now for the example… I’m not going to tell you whose video this is, but they have an ~1 minute long video to show how easy their product is to use. Luckily or me, they don’t have a lot of branding on it so I can use them as an example without shaming them. The below screenshots are where the video stopped to buffer. Note that the video was not fullscreened and was about 1068 x 600. You can click the images to see then full size and see the progress bar and time at the bottom.

Made it 18 seconds! Off to a slightly less than disastrous start…

28 seconds. Getting there…

Well that didn’t go far. 32 seconds.

37 seconds. There’s no way I’d still be watching this if I wasn’t doing this for the purposes of demonstration.

42 seconds…

51 seconds! Almost there!

“Done” … or not quite done. 56 seconds. I don’t even know why it stopped to buffer here as almost the entire rest of the video was already downloaded.

The video stopped playing 7 times in the span of 64 seconds.

What To Do Instead

Perhaps the most well-known paid video hosting service, Vimeo has a pro subscription that will allow you to embed ad-free videos without their branding on it for $20 / month. There’s a bunch of other, similar services out there as well. Or, if you don’t want to spend anything and don’t mind the possibility of an ad being shown prior to your video, you can just embed YouTube videos. The recommended videos which show after playback can be easily turned in the embed options. You can even turn off the video title and player controls if you don’t want your audience to be able to click through to YouTube or see the bar at the bottom (although the latter also makes them unable to navigate through your video).

Basically, if you want your videos to actually get watched, do anything other than hosting them yourself.

P.S. – If you’ve read all this and still think hosting your own videos is the correct solution, which it’s not, here’s a tip: upload them to YouTube, then download them using a tool like ClipConverter. This way you’ll at least get the benefit of YouTube’s video compression, which is probably the best in the world.

"Want marketing communications that truly captivate and engage your customers? It’s time to contact BioBM. Our life science marketing experts are here to help innovative companies better reach, influence, and convert scientists."

FAQs: Content and SEO’s Low-Hanging Fruit

Creating content in support of your products and services is hard. Finding something to say which is both unique and valuable to the audience is a non-trivial endeavor, however it remains critical for persuading your audience that your product or service is right for them … and persuading search engines that your website is important.

That said, it’s incredible how many brands overlook this one simple, effective, easy-to-create content tool: the FAQ.

You don’t even have to do the thinking for an FAQ. Your customers do it for you. In your day-to-day sales and support operations, customers are asking questions all the time. All you need to do is document them and their answers, put it on your website, and bingo! – You now have an FAQ.

FAQ Best Practices

It’s absolutely possible to make a terrible FAQ, but really easy not to. If you follow these guidelines when creating your FAQ, you’ll be set:

  • Talk to your sales and / or support teams about the questions that they are getting from customers. If you’re creating an FAQ, you want to be sure it’s answering questions that your customers actually have.
  • The best FAQ questions are broadly relevant and / or address an important question. If you have a question from a person with a niche application which would only be relevant to a small subset of the audience who is also using your product for that application, it’s probably not worthy of adding to the FAQ. If you have too much clutter, people won’t use it.
  • It’s really easy to end up with oceans of FAQ content. Your don’t want your FAQ content to fluster your audience because there is too much of it. In addition to being selective with what content makes the grade for your FAQ section, use design tools such as accordions to help minimize the content overload and help ensure that customers are only presented with the FAQ content which is most relevant to them.
  • Keep FAQ content on the page of the product / service it pertains to whenever possible. Forcing people to navigate away to FAQ content is usually neither a good navigational experience nor the best for SEO.
  • If you have a long FAQ section, try to keep the most important and / or broadly relevant information towards the top, where it will be more likely to be seen.

To give you a better idea of how you may be able to leverage FAQ content, let’s take a look at a few examples.

FAQ Critiques

Agilent’s website makes ample use of FAQ content, which is great. To give an example, I’ll look at the page for their 280FS AA Atomic Absorption Spectrometer. They have a lot of stuff on this page, but they use a left-hand navigation menu with anchor links to help users find the information they need. In the “Support” section there is an FAQ, along with other categories of content, each of which has an accordion feature.

FAQ section on a product page of the Agilent website

Agilent’s FAQ has a good amount of content in it, and they make it more manageable by only showing the questions. You have to click the question to see the answer. Unfortunately, when you click the question, you are directed to a page that has only that one question and answer on it, meaning the page is of relatively low value and has taken the user away from the bulk of the information they are seeking, leading to a sub-optimal user experience (you need to wait for the page to load, then click back to get back to where you were). Additionally, having many pages with “thin” content is far less beneficial from an SEO standpoint than having one page with lots of content. If, for instance, they instead had a nested accordion in which the answer dropped down when it was clicked, this would circumvent the need for individual pages for each answer while still showing a relatively manageable amount of information to each user.

Laboratory Supply Network also makes frequent use of FAQs. FAQs are perhaps of even greater value for distributors and resellers since these companies are often starved of unique content. FAQs, product reviews, and other mechanisms for generating unique content can both improve their SEO and differentiate them from competition who may be selling similar (or the same) products. As an example, we’ll use their Q500 FAQ on Homogenizers.net. Laboratory Supply Network puts their FAQs in a separate tab from other information on the product page, helping to prevent clutter. They also have all the FAQ information directly on the product page, which maximizes the SEO benefit. However, within the FAQ tab, there are no aids to help users find the information which may be of value to them. The only way to see which questions are answered is to scroll through them all – and through their answers. This is non-ideal, especially if there are a lot of questions and / or the questions have long answers. While users will scroll, too much scrolling decreases the likelihood that content near the bottom will be seen.

FAQ section on a product page of the Homogenizers.net website

In Conclusion

FAQs add value for your customer and improve the SEO of your website. As with just about any content generation effort, your primary question should be: “can we do this in a manner which is valuable for our audience?” If you have a complex product or service or there is any common uncertainties that customers have about your business, it’s likely that you can both deliver and receive value through an FAQ. Ensure that you’re following best practices, and you’ll maximize its value.

"Looking to create content which has a discernible impact on your business? Looking for practical, realistic means to improve your search marketing? BioBM helps life science companies with almost any marketing needs. Contact us today and learn how we can help build your company into a powerhouse brand with rapidly growing revenues."

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."

Why People Are Loyal … to ANYTHING

I was reading the MarketingCharts newsletter today and saw a headline: “What Brings Website Visitors Back for More?” The data was based on a survey of 1000 people, and they found the top 4 reasons were, in order:
1) They find it valuable
2) It’s easy to use
3) There is no better alternative for the function it serves
4) They like it’s mission / vision

Website Loyalty Data from MarketingCharts.com

I thought about it for a second and had a realization – this is why people are loyal to ANYTHING! And achieving these 4 things should be precisely our goal as marketers:
1) Clearly demonstrate value
2) Make your offerings – and your marketing – accessible
3) Show why your particular thing is the best. (Hint: If it’s not the best you probably need to refine your positioning to find the market segment that it is the best for.)
4) Tell your audiences WHY. Get them to buy into it. Don’t just drone on about the what, but sell them on an idea. Captivate them with a belief!

Do those 4 things well, you win.

BTW, the MarketingCharts newsletter is a really good, easy to digest newsletter – mostly B2C focused but there’s some great stuff in there even for a B2B audience and you can get most of the key points in each day’s newsletter under a minute.

"Captivate your customers’ loyalty. Contact BioBM and let’s turn your marketing program into a strategic advantage."

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…)

What Google RankBrain Means for SEO

Network internet brain headThere’s been a ton of buzz in SEO circles about Google’s new RankBrain algorithm. This is very understandable for two reasons. First, it’s a nerd’s dream. It’s an artificial intelligence-based algorithm, and anything with AI in it is buzzy and awesome. Secondly, and more importantly, Google has stated that RankBrain is already the third most important ranking factor behind content and links.

To really understand what RankBrain means for life science SEOers, let’s zoom out a bit and understand what RankBrain is and what it does.

What Is RankBrain?

Put simply, Google RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence system designed to help process search results in order to provide more relevant results to searchers. Specifically, RankBrain is intended to help Google return more relevant results for terms and phrases it’s never heard before. This was particularly important as the internet ever increasingly quickly spews forth new vocabulary and people speak in a stream-of-consciousness type manner into their phones.

Put somewhat more technically, RankBrain converts all language into vectors, with any given vector’s position and direction representing its conceptual meaning. Semantically related terms have vectors which are positioned close to each other and, similarly, groups of related terms (vectors) are positioned closely to other groups of vectors which have close semantic meaning. Through some crazy mathematics and / or magic which I’m sure would be beyond me even if I did have access to the details of it, this ever-changing map of vectors enables Google to make a best guess with regards to terms or phrases it does not know. However, it also [presumably] allows it to better map known concepts to each other as well.

How to Optimize for RankBrain

If this isn’t the first article you’ve read on how – specifically – you should optimize for RankBrain, then let me apologize on behalf of whatever other advice you may have received. The correct answer is: you do nothing. Continue to be a person, and do the rest of your job like a person. The “like a person” part is important.

Since the beginning of search engines, people have been trying to game the system. It’s been a decades-long battle between website owners, who want to convince search engines that their websites are important, and the search engines themselves who want to return the most relevant results to searchers. Initially, search engines were fairly rudimentary and it was easy to convince them your website was more important than it actually was. As time went on, search engines took away more and more tricks. By and large, search engines have won – it’s now extremely difficult to game the system. However, that doesn’t mean that the ranking systems were perfect. RankBrain is simply a response to allow it to better adapt to the actual people doing the searching. In other words, it’s attempting to make Google’s search algorithm a little bit more human. It’s becoming less important to obsess about every word you use since Google is starting to place less importance on the term itself and more importance on the meaning. After all, that’s what people are really looking for. They don’t want results that just have the words they used. They want results that will provide the meaning they seek.

This doesn’t mean that SEO is dead. It’s not. All this means is that you shouldn’t be trying to fool anyone. The best way to increase your website’s value to search engines is, by and large, to increase your website’s value to your target audience. Have great content that makes people want to share it? That’ll be good for SEO. Have a well laid out and easily navigable site? That’ll be good for SEO. Is your website highly relevant to the people you’re looking to target? That’ll be good for SEO as well. Of course there’s always some technical factors that people still manage to overlook – for instance, ensuring your title attribute is relevant and meaningful and that your page load times are decent – but at the end of the day if you’re making a site that’s great for your target audience, it’ll probably end up having fairly good SEO as well.

Don’t Forget to Use Words

I personally find this to be the most amusing piece of advice that I find myself giving over and over again: don’t forget to use words. Seriously, you can have the flashiest website, all the video content in the world, giant shiny infographics, and a totally cool podcast, and all those things are great. You know what none of them have? Words – the text kind. Think of it this way:

  • What do people type / speak into search engines? Words.
  • What do search engines’ web crawlers read? Words.
  • What form the bulk of the results that search engines return? Words.

While the above is admittedly an oversimplification, it’s still 90% true. Words are still very important. It still comes down to the content.

"Is your company winning the battle for attention? If not, you need BioBM more than you think. Sure, we can help you with search marketing, but the battle for attention is much more than that. SEO is only one part. BioBM crafts captivation strategies that don’t just increase the number of eyeballs you get from search, but holistically build a captivated audience that demonstrates loyalty to your brand. Don’t just make a splash. Start a movement. Contact BioBM to get started."

Lessons from Scientific Publishing’s Fight to Survive

crumpled scientific journal articleFirst it was open access, then pure and simple pirating (Sci-Hub), and now preprints, as this recent New York Times article outlines. The business model of the major scientific publishers is under attack.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many of us. For one, it’s been a slow and steady process occurring over the course of many years. Secondly, it’s something that scientists have openly complained about for a long while. The system of publishing in the biomedical sciences is slow, arduous, and by and large hasn’t been improved upon in centuries. The cost to institutions of obtaining subscriptions is huge.

That said, many of the large scientific publishers are some of the most entrenched, disruption-shielded companies in all of the sciences. Not only have they had a near-monopoly on the mass dissemination of scientific information for centuries, they have also been the de facto method by which scientists are evaluated. For any academic and many industry scientists, how many articles you publish and in what journals has the power to define the course – and the fruitfulness – of your career. Almost all generally accepted methods for measuring the impact of a scientist’s contributions are based around citations from publications in scientific journals. Deviating from the system would be a massive professional risk for all but the most respected and recognized scientists.

With such massive forces reinforcing the system of scientific publishing, escaping it would seem intractable. Now, perhaps for the first time, it seems vulnerable.

Understanding the Points of Weakness

The scientific publishing industry is something of a dinosaur, built for a world in which information had to be transmitted through the dissemination of physical objects. While it adapted rapidly to digital distribution in the internet age, it failed to accommodate for a number of other changing realities which altered its value to scientists.

Primarily, scientists no longer had an inherent need for publishers in order to effectively disseminate information. While publishers still helped organize and prioritize information, the dissemination of information has become easy, near-immediate, and free. This both decreased the value of publishers and also decreased barriers to pirating, since the unit-cost of disseminating any given article (or a great many articles) is effectively zero. Sci-Hub may be an unsolvable problem for publishers, and it’s not the only one of its kind. Scientists who don’t want to partake in such blatant piracy can use the #icanhazpdf hashtag on Twitter and have an article sent to them by a peer with access. This leads to a downwards spiral effect on the value that publishers add from an information dissemination standpoint – easier access to information leads to more pirating, which in turn provides easier access to information, all the while making publishers roles less as couriers and more as gatekeepers, trying to ensure that information can only be seen by those who pay for the privilege.

Additionally, while digital technologies were being used to make many aspects of life easier and faster, and scientific technologies continued to evolve at a rapid pace, innovations in publishing were extremely limited. Aside from eliminating the need to physically mail manuscripts, the arduous peer review process remains largely unchanged. While there is no immediately obvious replacement for peer review, the overall experience of submitting articles for publication remained very slow in a world that was becoming very fast, making the perception of the process feel slower even though it was no slower than before. This increasingly negative perception also erodes value, as it makes the traditional publishing process seem more flawed.

Costs, however, have not been reduced. Each publisher has, in essence, a monopoly on the information which they own. They do not compete to provide access to any given journal or article, so there is relatively little competitive pressure to decrease prices, aside from the constraints of institutional libraries’ limited budgets. Therefore the present situation is really not at all surprising. The perception of value has decreased – perhaps significantly so – yet prices have not decreased to match. The market believes it is overpaying, and it is revolting against the industry in a search for both a better value, a better experience, and a structure which is more in line with scientists’ own values.

crumpled scientific journal article

Important Lessons for All Industries

Nothing exists in a vacuum. It was easy for scientific publishers to get comfortable with their seemingly irreplaceable status as the couriers of knowledge, but as the would changed around them they shifted from facilitating the spread of knowledge to inhibiting it. However, big publishers still have yet to substantially alter their business models to adjust to a very different reality. We must learn from this.

  • Get what you give. Just because the products or services which you are providing remain unchanged, that doesn’t mean that your value remains unchanged as well. Benefits are relative, and your pricing should adapt to the benefits provided – even if you’re massively entrenched.
  • Fighting your customers’ values is a losing battle. Scientists largely believe in sharing information. Once technology evolved to allow instant sharing of information at any scale, publishers became inhibitors to the flow of information. Not only were they inhibitors, but they were profiting from limiting access to knowledge. This made them a big target for scientists’ discontent.
  • Customer experience always matters. Even if there are no alternatives, consistently poor customer experience will drive customers to seek alternatives. It creates an environment which is ripe for disruption.
  • Anyone can be unseated, no matter how entrenched. The traditional scientific publishers haven’t been dug out yet, and they still have some time to adapt, but they are in desperate need of business model innovation. If they cannot adapt their business model, they will eventually fail.

No company, no matter how large it is, how much market share it has, how long and storied its history, or how entrenched it has become, is invulnerable. Eventually, everyone must adapt. It has become increasingly clear that one of the pillars of maintaining a successful company in today’s dynamic environments is agility. Time will tell whether publishers have the necessary agility to survive.

"Is your company adapting its business model to meet changing market demands? Do you have the agility to not only be successful today, but in 5 or 10 years? If your answer isn’t a resounding “yes” then you need BioBM. Our expert life science consultants will help you transform your business into an enterprise capable of weathering the turbulent winds of the future. Want to be ready for tomorrow? We’ll get you there together. and see what we can do for your business."

Personalization Can Backfire

Marketers are used to seeing a lot of data showing that improving personalization leads to improved demand generation. The more you tailor your message to the customer, the more relevant that message will be and the more likely the customer will choose your solution. Sounds reasonable, right?

In most cases personalization is great, but what those aforementioned studies and all the “10,000-foot view” data misses is that there are a subset of customers for whom personalization doesn’t help. There are times when personalization can actually hurt you.

When Personalization Backfires

Stressing the points which are most important to an individual works great … when that individual has sole responsibility for the purchasing decision. For large or complex purchases, however, that is often not the case. When different individuals involved in a purchasing decision have different priorities and are receiving different messages tailored to their individual needs, personalization can act as a catalyst for divergence within the group, leading different members to reinforce their own needs and prevent consensus-building.

Marketers are poor at addressing the problems in group purchasing. A CEB study of 5000 B2B purchasers found that the likelihood of any purchase being made decreases dramatically as the size of the group making the decision increases; from an 81% likelihood of purchase for an individual, to just 31% for a group of six.

For group purchases, marketers need to focus less on personalization and more on creating consensus.

Building Consensus for Group Purchases

Personalization reinforces each individual’s perspective. In order to more effectively sell to groups, marketers need to reinforce shared perspectives of the problem and the solution. Highlight areas of common agreement. Use common language. Develop learning experiences which are relevant to the entire group and can be shared among them.

Personalization focuses on convincing individuals that your solution is the best. In order to better build consensus, equip individuals with the tools and information they need to provide perspective about the problem to their group. While most marketers spend their time pushing their solution, the CEB found that the sticking point in most groups is agreeing upon the nature of the solution that should be sought. By providing individuals within the groups who may favor your solution with the ability to frame the nature of the problem to others in their group, you’ll help those who have a nascent desire to advocate for you advocates get past this sticking point and guide the group to be receptive of your type of solution. Having helped them clear that critical barrier, you’ll be better positioned for the fight against solely your direct competitors.

Winning a sale requires more than just understanding the individual. We’ve been trained to believe that personalization is universally good, but that doesn’t align with reality. For group decisions, ensure your marketing isn’t reinforcing the individual, but rather building consensus within the group. Only then can you be reliably successful at not only overcoming competing companies, but overcoming the greatest alternative of all: a decision not to purchase anything.

"Looking to improve how you communicate with your market? There are only so many minutes in the day and effective communications must first successfully fight for those minutes, then deliver a message that resonates. The power to captivate is what will bring you a greater share of attention, and you can only win the customers who are paying attention to you. BioBM is here to help you win – at every step. We ensure that you win market share through winning and maintaining another important share: share of attention. The days of marketing by interruption are fading away. The days of marketing by captivation have arrived. These days can be yours. Seize them."

The Plight of the Distributor

Let’s be frank: if you are a laboratory products distributor, you have a ton of competition. With inexpensive digital marketing at anyone’s fingertips and drop-shipping increasing in prevalence, it’s incredibly easy for almost anyone to start a distribution company with little up-front investment. As the laws of economics would predict, if something is cheap and easy, lots of people will try to do it.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to succeed, however. In fact, it may be more difficult than ever.

The Value Squeeze

There are way too many distributors out there and differentiation is hard to come by. Distributors are facing increasing pricing pressure, and while it is certainly in part due to heightened competition and simultaneous tepid growth in research budgets, eroding margins also have a much more fundamental reason.

As a whole, distributors simply don’t add as much value as they once did.

Information used to be time consuming to find, and often difficult or impossible to find. Distributors were once viewed as a critical source of knowledge on various equipment. Today, for many purchases, it’s very easy for scientists to obtain the large majority of the information they need on their own. Doing so is often significantly easier for the scientists than subjecting themselves to a sales rep. We see evidence of this in the increasing delay of when customers are contacting suppliers within their buying journeys. The value of distributors to customers has eroded.

Geography used to be a massive barrier to the flow of information, and a local distributor was critical to allow customers to even know a product existed. Today, according to BioBM’s own research, 100% of users perform an internet search at some point in a buying journey (unless their goal is only to purchase a known product from a specific brand). Any company anywhere in the world can get in front of that customer with a simple search ad which costs all of a few dollars. Email can connect any two people in the whole world. Even product demonstrations are becoming increasingly virtual. The result: the value of distributors to suppliers has eroded as well.

The Four Models for Successful Distributors

The old rules are no longer relevant. Being a distributor in today’s business environment means assuming a particular role and providing a particular value. As such, there are a limited but highly defined number of business models which can reliably provide long-term success to both new entrants and incumbents alike.

  1. The Price Competitor. The Price Competitor attempts to be as visible as possible for people who are looking for a specific product, offer as many products as possible, and offer them at the lowest price. They seek the value buyers – people who know exactly what they want and only want the best price – and provide value to those customers by sacrificing margins to provide discounts. Their advertising is minimal but effective, as their razor thin margins simply don’t allow much else. They generally will deflect as much of the responsibility for support back to the manufacturers as they don’t want to spend the resources to do otherwise. For The Price Competitor, reducing cost as much as possible becomes almost a singular focus. The distributor who can obtain the best prices from their suppliers while operating on the lowest margins is most often the winner. The smart supplier, however, will avoid the price competitor, as they add little to no value to the supplier so long as the supplier’s list pricing is competitive
  2. The Exclusive Rep. The Exclusive Rep fills their product portfolio with unique items that they obtain exclusive rights to resell within their territory. Being beholden to their product lines, their success is often based on the products which they represent and their ability to maintain favored status with suppliers. To obtain their exclusivity, The Exclusive Rep will bear additional responsibility for developing the market in their territory, stock inventory, offer demos, or perform other services which are of value to the supplier. The additional value to the customer comes in the form of convenience – having someone local who knows the products well.
  3. The Relationship Builder. A difficult model for new entrants and one that is arguably the most endangered, The Relationship Builder relies on person-to-person relationships between their sales team and researchers. They rely heavily on an outside sales force. Acquisition of business is based on trust, extremely high levels of service, and loyalty. Because of this, they break the trend of the customer taking control of their buying journeys and instead customers may involve The Relationship Builder earlier and more directly. Relationship Builders used to be able to be effective in all types of sales, however due to easing access to information are presently most successful for complex purchases. These types of distributors add value to the supplier by having existing relationships with potential customers and add value to the customers by being a trusted source of information to aid them in their purchasing decisions.
  4. The Decision Engine. The Decision Engine provides a superior customer experience which makes the buying journey easier and more fulfilling for their customers. Their success is based on their ability to claim ownership of as much of the customers’ buying journeys as possible. They are adapting to a declining ability for salespeople to influence customers by providing the platform on which customers make their own decisions. The Decision Engine provides value to customers by enabling them to make purchasing decisions more quickly and easily, and provides value to suppliers by drawing in potential buyers.

Note that these business models are mutually exclusive. The price competitor generally does not have sufficient resources to take on any of the additional duties required by the other business models. The exclusive rep cannot be a decision engine due to lack of choice within each product category. The decision engine and the relationship builder have conflicting approaches to serving the needs of the customers’ buying journeys. The relationship builder will have a difficult time being seen as a trusted advisor if they are only promoting a single type of solution for each customer need, and therefore cannot reliably be an exclusive rep.

Lacking the ability to meaningfully differentiate aside from by their product offerings (and only the exclusive rep can reliably secure a differentiated product line), distributors must pick one of these business models and execute it better than the competition. That is the only mechanism to ensure success. Even then, the changing nature of scientists’ buying journeys puts business models themselves at risk.

"Finding and elaborating the right strategy is often difficult, but it is a process equal in importance to execution. If you are looking for a strategy which will allow your life science company to thrive, contact BioBM. Our existing knowledge – a laser-focused knowledge of the life science market – gives us a better understanding of the territory through which you must navigate. While every company’s journey will be different, having BioBM as your guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge to maximize your chances of success.

Ready to start your journey to success? Let us guide you."

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."

Increasing Customer Affinity

Affinity has a transformational value on brands.

Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon have all moved beyond having a simple transactional relationship with their customers to one that creates intimacy and serves their needs in a more holistic manner. These companies are generous, they are unselfish, and their approach is well beyond one of asking for the next sale. Whereas most companies self-promote in order to obtain the customer’s next purchase, elite brands seek not only to create customer loyalty, but to be loyal to their customers.

The overwhelming majority of companies are only good at fostering transactional affiliations with customers. They ask for their business, the customer gives it to them, and that is largely the end of the relationship. Companies frequently try to obtain repeat business; those who do so well attract supporters – customers who have moved beyond individual transactions and consciously prefer your brand, buying repeatedly. Relatively few companies are effective at recruiting promoters, people who actively share their positive impression of your brand through advocacy to others. Those brands which have strong networks of promoters are often very successful, but there is a fourth level of customer affinity that not only drives even further degrees of loyalty, but also leverages customer assets to build brand value even further, creating a positive feedback loop for both the brand and customers: co-creation.

Co-creators actively add value to the brand by contributing to its offerings for other customers. They are so invested in the brand that they add to it themselves. This may be altruistic, but may also be to realize some kind of return, be it financial, recognition, or otherwise.

Increasing Affinity

Most companies pay careful attention to how loyal their customers are to them, measuring things like net promoter score and tracking sentiment on social media. They think that good customer service will win the loyalty of customers, and while good customer experiences may turn transactors into supporters and perhaps even the occasional promoter, good service is not enough to routinely transform customers’ affinity to the highest levels. In order to move up the affinity ladder, brands need to not only focus on how loyal their customers are, but how loyal the brand is to their customers. If a customer is anything more than a transactor, they are giving you more than money. Likewise, you need to be doing something more than selling products and services (in other words, creating transactions) to better foster that affinity. You need to actively add value to the lives of your customers outside of the transactional realm.

Building co-creation opportunities often, but not always, requires a degree of altruism. You must seek to provide opportunities for your target market which do not actually cost them anything.

Examples of Co-Creation

Many businesses are built entirely around co-creation. Yelp or any user-driven recommendation website are almost entirely based on co-creation. Facebook is driven by co-creation. Airbnb is a co-creative endeavor, relying on its hosts to build the success of their platform. Your business, however, does not need to be centered on a co-creation business model in order to leverage it for increased customer affinity.

Customer-centric resources are tools that any company can use to greatly heighten customer affinity. By helping customers solve problems outside the context of a buying journey, you will provide massively positive experiences that will increase affinity. While resources do not require a co-creation component, such a component may be integrated into them. Consider the Nike+ ecosystem, where users can share workouts, compare progress with friends, and help motivate each other. The GoPro Channel is another well-known co-creation resource, where GoPro leverages its own popularity to support its customers’ best creations.

Social Media, “Engagement” and the Affinity Failure

Many marketers consider themselves to have succeeded at forging relationships with customers if they have high “engagement” metrics or large social followings. These are not indicators of affinity and are often vanity metrics. A social follow is by no means an indication of support, and it certainly does not suggest that the follower will promote your brand. In the life sciences and most B2B industries, social media is largely a platform for the dissemination of content. It is a utilitarian tool. While the ability to foster personal relationships with members of your target audience certainly exists, social media is not a natural channel for brand-customer communication. If your goals are to increase your audience size and reach, seek new social followers. If your goals are to increase customer affinity, look for non-transactional ways to provide value to your audience.

As customers not only take greater control of their purchasing decision journeys but compress them as well, brand affinity becomes increasingly important. Those brands which are able to create heightened levels of customer affinity will have immense advantage in an accelerated journey which reduces the consideration and evaluation phases. Customers are increasingly making decisions based on established preferences. The brands with the greatest customer affinity will be the winners.

"Looking for ways to increase customer affinity? BioBM develops resources for life science brands that grow their audiences and enable them to dominate their brand space. If domination is on your brand’s agenda, then contact BioBM today."

The End Is Not Nigh (now let’s get serious…)

People love to decry the end of marketing. It’s a good attention-getter. While those who shout about the coming of the end of marketing from their soapboxes are usually guilty of lacking realism or using poor logic, they do make us think about the future and that can be a learning experience. Let’s take an example…

Knowledge @ Wharton recently published an interesting, albeit narrow-sighted and overly apocalyptic article about the end of marketing and what, according to the author, will be the very narrow opportunities to engage audiences that will remain in the future. The author does a very good job of identifying trends but a very bad job of predicting what the future will likely look like, but both the good and the bad provide important lessons and highlight valuable opportunities.

First, the trends. No reason to discuss these much because most should be more or less obvious to anyone reading this.

  1. People would rather listen to other people than brands.
  2. People are going to greater lengths to avoid the onslaught of advertisement.
  3. Marketing technology “cannot truly understand the complexities of consumer intent” and therefore hitting the trifecta of the right message on the right channel at the right time is exceedingly difficult. (This I would actually say is up for debate. It’s a gray area. A discussion for another time, perhaps…)
  4. Marketers are overwhelming digital channels, further driving users to avoid marketing out of simple necessity. See point #2.

And here are the author’s four corresponding points of how he envisions the future:

  1. “As consumers bypass media with greater ease, the social feed is the wormhole to the entire online experience.”
  2. “As consumers outcompete marketers for each other’s attention, every piece of media contained in the feed is not only shareable, but shoppable.” – basically, he’s arguing that social channels become capable of performing transactions.
  3. “As the individual controls the marketing experience, communication shifts from public to semi-private.” In other words, people move from things like Facebook to things like Snapchat, where there are fewer ads and more privacy.
  4. Only two types of marketing will remain: discounts / sales and transparent sponsored content.

These predictions amount to a wild fantasy.

The most obvious flaw in the author’s reasoning is that somehow a completely shoppable social media ecosystem would evade the rules that everyone else has to play by – namely that when marketing becomes overwhelming, the audience will block it out or leave. This also ignores the plain fact that the large majority of the things that people buy are not found organically via social media. There is no shortage of people who shop. Decisions may be influenced in the social sphere, and perhaps some impulse decisions both begin and end there, but those are the exception; the overwhelming majority of purchasing decisions do not occur entirely within the social sphere and that would not change if social channels were empowered with transactability.

The real world contains a great deal of equilibrium. The ability to target people and their ability to tune it out is a balancing act. It is a cat and mouse game. Technology works both ways, and as new channels and technologies are born there become more ways to reach customers. However, as channels are flooded, the impact of each individual effort diminishes. Marketing self-regulates by decreasing its own ROI as utilization of any particular channel increases.

So What Will the Future of Marketing Look Like?

There are definitely many channels that will continue their trend towards ineffectiveness. It’s increasingly likely that audiences, fed up with maddening digital display advertising techniques, continue to adopt ad blocking technology and erode the potential of that channel. Email, while still rated as a high-ROI channel, is looking like it may have a perilous future as email service providers become better at filtering out promotions. Social media will certainly take on a larger share of permission-based marketing, but it will remain a risky business to rely too much on “rented” audiences. Increasing utilization of content marketing will continue to add noise and, in turn, increase its own cost by requiring better and better content to obtain the inherently limited resource it seeks to obtain: the audience’s attention. Increased use of social media may, if adoption increases as we project, fall victim to a similar effect, limiting brands’ ability to market effectively using social channels.

Not all developments will be bad. A decline in interruption tactics will lead to a fundamental shift in how marketing is viewed from a tool to generate demand to a mechanism to deliver value to audiences and a source of strategic advantage. Customer-centric resources and other owned platforms will proliferate as companies seek new ways to deliver value to customers while increasing the affinity level between customer and brand. These companies with strong brand affinities will create sustainable advantage for themselves as they shortcut and compress the customer decision journeys. Additionally, new and yet unknown channels will develop, and at increasingly rapid pace. Consider that until about 20 years ago, no digital channels existed at all. Accelerating technology development will continue this trend and also enable more personalized, coordinated, and targeted marketing in a manner which is more accessible and usable by companies of all sizes, budgets and capabilities.

I’m not going to try to pinpoint detailed specifics – I’m not claiming to be a psychic and it would be a waste of your time to read simple conjecture – but there are things that we can be fairly certain of given current trends, a bit of logic, and a hint of foresight. Marketing isn’t going anywhere, and while in the future it may not look quite like it does today, it will still be something that Philip Kotler would distinctly recognize.

"Marketing is a race, but unlike the 200 meter sprint there aren’t any referees that will call you for a false start. Get a jump on your competition, charge forward on the path to market domination, and start leveraging the next generation of marketing strategies today. Work with BioBM."

If You Don’t Own Your Channels, You Don’t Own Your Audience

A very telling thing happened in October. YouTube, in preparation to release it’s paid subscription service, Red, told its top content creators that “any ‘partner’ creator who earns a cut of ad revenue but doesn’t agree to sign its revenue share deal for its new YouTube Red $9.99 ad-free subscription will have their videos hidden from public view on both the ad-supported and ad-free tiers.” (ref: TechCrunch). In other words, if content creators who are getting revenue from their YouTube videos don’t agree to Red, their channel will go dark. All those subscribers will mean nothing if they can’t access your content.

This should be something of a reality check for marketers. On YouTube or any third party social channel, your audience doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to the channel. Those Twitter followers? Twitter owns them. All those Facebook likes? They’re not your property, they’re Facebook’s. Any one of those channels can do anything they want with them at any time. Feel insecure? It is.

What if Facebook removed access to people who have liked your page unless you pay for engagement? There’s no reason they couldn’t. Or what if the social network that you’ve poured so many resources into in order to develop a large following were to fade away – perhaps people start abandoning Twitter en masse for Snapchat (or whatever comes after Snapchat)?

You don’t own your social media audiences. In many cases, you don’t even own the content you’ve shared on that social channel. You definitely don’t own your advertising audiences or any other audience which is rented. Any and all of these audiences can be taken away. If you’re looking to develop an attentive and loyal audience that’s both engaged and secure, what can you do?

Building an Owned Audience

Building an owned audience requires that you create a platform for audience growth which is under your full control. Any audience on a “rented” channel belongs to the channel and not to you.

Building an owned audience also requires that the channel you create offer sufficient value such that people want to engage with it and return to it. Getting someone to hit the “follow” button on a social platform is very non-committal. Getting someone to sign up for an entirely new platform is a higher bar. You need to ensure that you sufficiently understand and address genuine audience needs in order to for them to commit. Furthermore, unlike social media, you need to provide enough value that the audience will go back just for the value your owned platform provides; there won’t [necessarily] be many other people and brands drawing them back into it, giving them reasons to return and engage. While yours may be just one of 100 liked pages and 500 friends competing for space on a Facebook user’s feed, that may be enough to provide you with the opportunity to grab for their attention. There may be a lot of competition for that attention, but there are also many reasons for the users to continuously return to the channel; the burden of reeling the audience back in is widely distributed among their many connections and the platform itself. On an owned channel, you must make it entirely your responsibility to entice to engage and continue to reengage over time, but each time they do you own that attention. You write the rules.

That begs the question: What do you need to do to build an owned channel?

The form that the owned channel takes is irrelevant. The form should simply be a response to audience needs. It can be as simple as a blog or as complex as anything you or I could imagine. There are only three requirements:

  1. It has to provide genuine value to the target audience. That’s what is going to attract their attention. Understand what problems your customers are having and focus on helping to solve them. Your platform has to be primarily about your customers.
  2. The value has to be sustained over time. An audience that only pays attention once doesn’t do you much good. While the audience itself can sometimes be leveraged to add value to the platform, don’t plan on it happening. Expect that you’re going to have to be the one to continue to add value to the platform over time. If that seems like an unsustainable effort, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
  3. It has to meaningfully connect the audience with your brand.

By creating a platform which enriches the lives of members of your target market, you’ll find yourself growing a willing, captive, and secure audience – on your terms.

"Future-proof your marketing and create a strategic advantage by having “owned” audiences that turn the tides of customer sentiment to your advantage. Scientists are slow to change their loyalties, but if you can consistently provide the best value – the best experiences – your brand will become the default selection above which others must prove their worth.

Own the incumbent advantage. Contact us."

New Report on Conference Exhibition ROI

BioBM conducted a survey of 61 life science commercial professionals to assess their opinions of conferences, conference spending, revenues derived from conferences, and trends related to conferences. The results are in the newly published “Scientific Conferences Survey Report” now available for free download.

The report seeks to shed light on a number of key questions surrounding conferences. Considering the massive costs and increasing ability to digitally and inexpensively reach a hyper-targeted audience, are conferences really still worth it? Are we over-investing in them at the expense of higher-ROI opportunities? How does spending on conferences compare to the revenues generated from them? What differentiates high-performing exhibitors from others? How will exhibition spending change in the near future? Will virtual conferences play a significant role in the short- to mid-term future?

Some of the results are shockingly clear and many provide valuable insights. To preview the document or download your copy, visit the report page.

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."

Why MAPs Are Good Business

I’ve heard a number of manufacturers say that online sales are “a race to the bottom.” That’s a bit like hearing a dinosaur tell you that being warm blooded is overrated. While online sales certainly aren’t right for all types of products, e-commerce often provides a superior experience for purchasers – usually because it’s easier and faster. Research from Forrester has shown that 49% of B2B buyers have intended to buy a specific product then purchased another product because it was easier to buy online. 88% of executives purchase products online. $1.1 trillion of B2B sales are projected to move online by 2020. This will likely only accelerate with generational change, as younger purchasers are far more likely to make B2B purchases online.

There is, however, a legitimate concern that e-commerce, with its much more public pricing, causes downwards pressure on prices. This is strongly exacerbated when selling through distribution – particularly if you have multiple distributors in the same country or who sell in the same currency. Especially in the United States, there is an endemic of discount, online retailers who add little to no value while encouraging price competition and therefore decreasing margins and disincentivizing other distributors from spending on marketing or support. They are effectively leeching off other distributors and, if domestic, off the supplier itself. This creates a situation where pricing is no longer based on value (which has been proven to capture more value) but rather based on cost, with distributors selling at the lowest margins they are willing to accept regardless of the magnitude of the discount the supplier provides. Low margins erode your distributors’ ability to spend on marketing and provide quality support.

Fortunately there is one simple solution to all of these issues; One that prevents the “race to the bottom,” disadvantages distributors who cannot add value to the sale, and potentially allows suppliers to recoup value for themselves. That solution is a strong and enforced minimum advertised price policy. We strongly encourage minimum advertised prices any time where there is competition between sellers of the same product, be it distributor-distributor or supplier-distributor.

MAPs: Encouraging Good Competition

A minimum advertised price (MAP) policy is either a contractual or informal agreement not to advertise products below a specified price. (We strongly recommend that MAP policies be written into distribution agreements to increase their ability to be enforced.) The MAPs may be individually specified for each product or they may be a fixed percentage of all product prices. Distributors who are found to violate the policy are usually given notice and have a specified amount of time (set in the agreement) in order to bring their advertised prices in line with the MAPs. Those who do not may be subject to a range of penalties, varying from reduced discounts to immediate suspension of the distribution agreement.

An enforced MAP policy protects distributor margins, enabling spending on marketing and support, which help drive demand and improve customer experience. It disadvantages distributors who are not adding value to the sale, since by eliminating price competition it forces distributors to compete based on customer experience. These improved customer experiences are positive not only for the customer but also for the brand, since an improved experience will lead to increased overall satisfaction with the brand.

If your distributors are giving deep discounts in the absence of an MAP policy, that probably means you’re discounting more than necessary to begin with, and therefore throwing away value. If you are confident that your pricing is competitive, there should be no need to discount. By discounting, your distributors are affirming that they have more margin than they need. You can therefore reduce distributor discounts and retain more value, or institute a higher MAP and give more value to the distributor, thereby encouraging sales. As most suppliers advertise their own list prices by default, any distributor discounts in areas where you sell direct potentially allow your distributors to undercut you. (We’re big proponents of setting competitive list prices then having MAP set to the list prices.)

Competition based solely on price is detrimental to the distributors, the supplier, and the supplier’s brand. By establishing and enforcing a minimum advertised price policy, you’ll largely eliminate bad competition and replace it with good competition that elevates the brand by requiring competition be on the basis of enhanced customer experiences. You’ll reward your best distributors, discourage the discounting “leeches” who don’t add value, and potentially be able to claim more value for your own company as well.

"Distribution and marketing have one very important factor in common: there are a lot of partners out there which can help you reach your audience, but winning them over is a different story. Successful distribution is an additional link in the value chain that also adds significant complexity and often requires careful management to provide benefit to all stakeholders. Ensure your distribution partners don’t just help you reach your target audience, but help you win your customers. Contact BioBM and start winning."

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."

The Growth Rate Disparity

Having compiled quite an extensive amount of published life science market size data, we’ve noticed a lot of very optimistic growth rates. That led me to wonder if that optimism is warranted, given overall growth in life science R&D, or if there’s something about published market reports that cause them to overstate growth rates.

As I’m sure many of us realize, life science R&D spending isn’t exactly skyrocketing. According to the Battelle and R&D Magazine “2014 Global R&D Funding Forecast” life science R&D spending has only rose from $184.2 billion in 2011 to $201.3 billion in 2014. This equates to a 3.00% compound annual growth rate. All else being equal, we should expect to see published life science market growth rates hovering around that, with the exceptional outlier for high-growth markets. It stands to reason that growth in the markets for life science tools and services should be in line with the growth in overall R&D spending.

To determine if the published studies hold to this, we took our list of published market size data and cleaned it using the following criteria:

  • Only global market size data were considered. All regional market size data were removed.
  • All studies not listing a growth rate were removed.
  • All studies publishing data from 2008 or earlier were removed. We only wanted to look at fairly recent data, roughly in line with the time frame of the R&D spending data from Battelle.
  • Only the newest study of a particular market from any given publisher was included. If XYZ Reports had a study of the cell culture market from both 2011 and 2013, only the 2013 report data was included.
  • If there was data for a directly related market and sub-markets from the same publisher, only the overarching market was taken. For instance, if data for the cell culture market and for the cell culture media market existed from XYZ reports, we would ignore the cell culture media market data in favor of the broader cell culture market data.


This data cleaning still left us with quite a large amount of data – 104 studies. These studies projected an average growth rate of 11.2%, far higher than the 3.00% increase in life science R&D spending. Weighted by the value of the market size estimate, the weighted average was still 10.4%, again far greater than life science R&D growth. In fact, the lowest growth rate from those 104 studies was 4.0% (a 2012 BCC Research study of the electrophoresis market and a 2013 Decibio study of the Life Science Research Tools Market). Even the lowest published growth rates are higher than the growth in life science R&D spending. This makes absolutely no sense.

There are a few potential ways in which our analysis may be flawed, either by bias or by failing to consider all realities. For instance:

  • The data we compile only includes studies that make public the market sizes and growth rates. This excludes a number of market research companies operating in the life sciences space. While our analysis included 104 studies, these studies all came from only 7 companies. Still, there is no evidence that these growth rate estimates are far higher than the estimates from any other companies.
  • Some of these market sizes may include growth from outside the life science R&D sector, such as diagnostics or life science (pharma / biotech) manufacturing. While this may be true in part, it does not explain the size of the disparity. With the exception of certain high-growth sub-markets, such as biosimilar manufacturing, IVD and manufacturing growth rates are both generally predicted to be in the mid single digits.
  • Companies which publish research may be focusing on “hot” markets and more likely to release studies on those high-growth markets. This is potentially a source of bias, however there are many very well-established markets included in this analysis (cell culture, research antibodies, chromatography, electrophoresis, microscopy, etc.) and even those markets have growth rates higher than the overall life science R&D market. The same can be said for market studies that analyze the life science tools and services markets at a very broad level, such as “Life Science Research Tools,” “Life Science & Chemical Instrumentation,” “Laboratory Equipment,” and “Preclinical Outsourcing.”
  • Decreases (or deceleration) in life science R&D funding may be disproportionately applied across R&D costs. It may be the case that spending on products and services tends to be more resistant to budgetary contractions than personnel, infrastructure, and other sources of cost. We do not believe this to be true, however, as much equipment and service spending is far easier to cut than staff or space.


In conclusion, we believe that it is very likely that life science growth rates are overstated in published reports, perhaps by as much as a factor of two. While we can’t be certain why such overestimates exist as we do not know how the studies were performed, we do know that they are not remotely in line with overall life science R&D growth rates and the discrepancy is very unlikely to be explained by other mitigating factors. The next time you use a commercially sold study to gauge growth rates, you may want to take them with a grain of salt and assume that they are an overestimate.

"The quality of your data will directly affect the quality of your decision-making. To obtain the best quality data, look to the people that have the most focused industry experience. BioBM conducts market research only within the life science tools and services sector. This exclusive focus means we know your market better than most (or all) other agencies, enabling us to provide superior data and analysis because we know what questions to ask. We better understand your needs, your markets and your customers, and better understanding is the whole point. Take the first step towards enlightenment."

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."