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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 for 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 them 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 off 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."

Defend Against Commoditization

Commoditization – the transformation of goods and services into a commodity – is a major problem when it threatens to rear it’s head. As technologies age, lose patent protection and become less expensive, there are often more competitors that will join the market. For many areas of the research products market, the eventual threat of commoditization is almost an inevitability. This is particularly true with reagents, chemicals, low-end equipment, plasticware, and glassware, but is also readily apparent in the market for kits and some kinds of proteins and antibodies. If these products lack a qualitative differentiator, they will all eventually become commodities. As such, customers will seek out only the lowest price goods and profit margins will take a huge hit. However, such is not always the case. In many of these markets there is still one factor that can make a huge difference. There is one way to add perceived value and differentiate your product from the commodities: branding.

When I use branding in this sense, I don’t simply mean some flashy marketing and design that contributes to brand or product recognition. Branding must mean the entire value that is behind the brand, including quality, customer service and support. Indeed, quality, customer service, and support are the things least likely to be replicated by competitors looking to sell low-price products. So then why are these things not the “one way to add perceived value”? Simple – all of these things get expressed through the brand.

Let’s take plasticware as an example. Eppendorf has an enormous share of the microtube market, and not for lack of competition. There are literally dozens of manufacturers of microcentrifuge tubes, and most microtubes are far cheaper than Eppendorf’s. So then why does Eppendorf maintain such a huge share of what should, at a glance, be a commodity? Entrenchment and longstanding brand recognition aside, they have an extremely high quality product (and I would know – I’ve put all sorts of microtubes through the gauntlet in my day), and that quality is consistent. This is then captured through the brand. People see the Eppendorf branding on a product and presume, usually rightfully, that they can trust it’s quality. Many other manufacturers who are trying to undercut Eppendorf are not able to replicate their quality at such a low price, so Eppendorf maintains the advantage of pricing its product higher due to the differentiation created by the higher quality product and expressed through the brand.

Another great example shines out in the Life Technologies 2010 Q2 earnings conference call question & answer session. Jonathan Groberg of Macquarie Research asked about Life Technologies’ PCR portfolio and commoditization in the PCR market. Gregory Lucier, Life Technologies’ CEO and Chairman, responded by saying:

…the relationship between price and volume is not a direct connection. And that’s due to a lot of the friction of publications, previous experiments. There’s just inertia to switching. And when you have market leadership like we certainly do in the PCR business, people are inclined to stay with their products, and so we benefited from that.

Again, this is a non-tangible perceived value addition. Life Technologies is attributing the continued success of its PCR line in part of the value that the brand conveys – in this case a “tried and tested” product. Scientists know that everyone uses Life Technologies PCR products, and they therefore trust them to be reliable.

If you’re on the outside of a bioscience market where commoditization is either already present or a serious risk and you’re trying to get in, or if you have a small market share and a brand with little recognition, these examples admittedly may not seem too helpful to you. While market entry is a topic large enough for a lengthy book, I will offer a few tips as they pertain to a partially or wholly commoditized market. 1) Look at your entrenched competition and use them as a baseline. What are they doing that allows them to avoid commoditization where everyone else fails? Can you position yourself to have an advantage other than price? Evaluate the hurdles that need to be overcome to do so. You can generally assume that your price point will need to be lower than the products of any well-known, entrenched marketplace behemoths (if they are present), but can be higher than the commoditized products. 2) Commoditized markets are most often very large (there’s an economic reason for this that I won’t get into) and trying to gain market entry across the entire market can often be too big of a task that dilutes marketing efforts and decreases marketing ROI. Find a particular sub-segment of the market that can be easily identified and marketed to and tackle that segment first. This strategy is almost always much more effective and gives you a foothold to expand your market share from.

Aging markets almost always lead to increased competition, but with a good marketing and business strategy, commoditization can be avoided.

"Are any of your products or the life science research markets they compete in at risk of commoditization? Want to form strategies for growing market share in a crowded marketplace with large amounts of competition? Need to develop a strong brand to fend off competition and establish your company as a market leader? BioBM’s expert business and marketing consultants are here to help you. Contact us to discuss your unique situation and learn how BioBM can help you maintain growth and profitability under pricing pressure and increasing competition."

Creating Value w/ Cross-Promotions

Cross-promotions are a very targeted way to reach prospective customers. Small companies can partner to maximize highly effective cross-promotion marketing opportunities.Cross-promotions are a valuable and highly focused marketing tool to drive additional sales. By promoting products to a customer who has purchased a related product, you help ensure that your marketing dollars are spent on a highly targeted audience that is more likely to be receptive to your marketing message. However, creating highly relevant cross-promotions can be an issue for a small company with a limited product offering, but still provides an opportunity to compete with larger competitors.

Life Technologies, a biotech behemoth among laboratory products companies, has no such problems. If they sell a customer a piece of equipment, for example, they more than likely have all sorts of reagents, kits, and even related equipment to promote based on the customers initial purchase. Knowing a customer’s prior purchases allows them to predict their needs, and cross-promotions ensure that they deliver a marketing message relevant to those needs. A small company, however, may sell the kits or reagents but not the related equipment. Cross-promotion is like a puzzle and you can only successfully execute it if you have all the pieces. The pieces, however, can be obtained through “outside” cross-promotions.

Small life science companies can form marketing partnerships to execute outside cross-promotion strategies. For example, if your company sells thermal cyclers but not PCR primers you can partner with another small company that sells PCR primers but doesn’t compete in the thermal cycler space and jointly promote each other’s products. You then gain the benefits of each others marketing efforts – every time your partner gets a sale or a new customer, you get a highly targeted lead, and vice versa. This is not only a great way to drive sales and product / brand awareness, but is also an effective way to develop highly positive long-term relationships with companies in markets closely related to your own.

"Want to reap the benefits of effective and well-executed cross-promotions? Wondering how to best implement and manage a cross-promotion strategy? BioBM Consulting’s highly trained marketing and business staff can build a strategic framework for outside or inside cross-promotion, as well as establish and manage any cross-promotion partnerships. Contact us to discuss how we can help your small life science company drive sales through compelling and highly targeted cross-promotions."

Distribution & Opportunity Cost

International distribution is am important part of revenue maximization for small bioscience companies serving the life science research market.Everything has an opportunity cost. For those not familiar with the concept of opportunity cost, it basically means the cost of not making a given decision (see a more detailed explanation on Investopedia). While a simple concept, the frequency with which it is ignored is often a huge inhibitor on small companies. Small companies, which may lack professional, well-rounded business personnel, often fail to see the costs of inaction. Allow me to lead with an example of one area which is frequently plagued by opportunity cost: distribution.

I was working with a small company who developed products for life science researchers and sold through international distributors where the company had established relationships with distributors, but sold directly to countries where local distribution was not present. This setup created many inefficiencies. Additionally, the company did not actively or effectively market to an international audience, which caused very low sales volume in countries without a distributor present. Distribution was lacking in 6 of the largest 10 economies, and there were entire continents with no distributor present. This was largely due to their approach to the establishment of a distribution network. The company had been waiting for distributors to approach them – a slow and inefficient approach with a high opportunity cost – rather than actively seek out distributors. This policy had the additional side effect of removing any screening process for distributors since the company was effectively not actively choosing who it was working with and the quality of the marketing effort by some of the distributors was very poor, leading to sub-par sales. In other words, their opportunity cost for not creating a well developed distribution network was high – there were a lot of sales that they could have been getting had their distribution network been more complete, however they were not doing so. I had estimated this opportunity cost at about 100% of the company’s then-current revenues – a huge sum for any company.

Taking advantage of international distribution opportunities is a relatively low-cost way of achieving sales. International distributors will often create or translate marketing materials, perform outside and inside sales, and perform other valuable functions, and the process of selecting and signing a distribution partner may take as little as a few hours of work for a well-connected and experienced professional. When considering the massive increase in market access and resulting increase in sales, the few hours or even a few dozen hours of work to find and secure a distribution partner seems a very small cost. It is not quite that simple, however. There are many considerations to selecting a distribution partner and the approach must be carefully considered.

Considerations in Selecting Distribution Partners

The first thing to do when expanding your distribution network is prioritize. Ask yourself: Where is my company experiencing the largest opportunity costs? What countries or regions present the largest revenue opportunities? While just going down the list of countries by GDP can be used as a reasonable general guideline for where the most opportunity lies, it’s a far from perfect method. Some countries, such as Switzerland and Singapore, have far larger life science markets than would be indicated by looking at their GDP relative to to other countries. Others, such as Russia, have relatively small life science markets. There are other more specialized considerations as well. Brazil, for example, has a huge agricultural research market but relatively small pharma research market, so products that are useful in agricultural research may find a large market here while other products may not.

Secondly, make sure you find a distribution partner who’s capabilities and expertise meets your needs. Start off by ensuring that the potential distributor’s focus matches your product offering. For example, if you have a primarily imaging-focused offering, you will likely be best with a distributor that has a strong portfolio of imaging products (unless it presents too much competition within the portfolio) since the company will have a strong competency in this area. If you sell equipment, you’ll be better off with a distributor that sells equipment, etc. Also, be sensitive to how the potential distributors sell products. What is their balance between inside and outside sales and does this balance fit with how your products are best sold? You’ll also likely have to choose between large distributors with many reps, a sizable marketing department, and very complete coverage, or small distributors who will have a smaller product portfolio and therefore will likely be able to give more attention to your products. Many factors weigh into this decision, such as the nature of the products, the competitive landscape, branding, the culture of the distributor, the distributor’s product portfolio, and many others too numerous to discuss in depth.

[td_titled_box title=”Food for Thought”]Do you have business partners or friends in other companies who do not compete with your company but serve a similar market? They may be able to offer great recommendations for distributors and even introduce you to the right person. Don’t be afraid to ask![/td_titled_box]

Of course this is just a brief overview and there are many other considerations not discussed here. Feel free to call or e-mail us if you would like to discuss other issues or potential concerns.

How to approach a distribution partner

Before you even consider approaching a distribution partner, perfect your pitch. You need to be able to convey some introductory information about your company, some info on your product portfolio, why your products are of high value to researchers (and differentiated from competing products), and a least a teaser of what the distributor stands to benefit by working with you. All of this needs to be conveyed with enough brevity that the person on the other end will actually read it / listen to it and also be compelling enough to lead them through the pitch and not lose interest in your company or products. That’s not always easy to do. Also, always remember to point back to your website or other easily accessible information about your company and products, and keep in mind your target audience and be sensitive to cultural considerations in the wording and feel of your message.

Next is your approach. Once you select the company you want to work with you can often find the name and contact info of an appropriate individual to contact online. If you end up with a non-personal e-mail address (an “info@…” or “sales@…”, etc.) don’t have high expectations of receiving a reply, especially when dealing with larger companies. I generally recommend e-mailing or physical mailing your pitch so the target has time to read and process the information contained in your pitch and look at your products. If you don’t hear back in a reasonable amount of time, then it is more appropriate to call so long as there is no language barrier. Remember that Google Translate can be a great tool when dealing with just about anyone internationally and in most cases works very well, even if it requires occasional tweaking of your message to translate properly and restricts you to written communication.

Think about and act on the issues raised above and you’ll be on the right track to growing your distribution network, improving your market access, and increasing revenues and profits. Don’t forget that your distribution networks don’t just require establishment, but require some degree of maintenance as well. Relationship management is very important and you may even want to occasionally replace an underperforming distributor. Not having a complete and effective distribution network, however, imposes a large opportunity cost and can inhibit the growth of any small life science company. A little business development can go a long way…

We’ll be posting more about this and related topics in time, so be sure to subscribe to our blog, check back occasionally, and / or follow us on twitter!

"Want to improve your distribution network? Wish you could get better results out of your current distribution network? BioBM has highly skilled staff experienced in domestic and international business development and relationship management. We can efficiently expand your distribution network, help improve your existing network, or consult with and / or train your company on the most effective ways to build and manage a top-quality, high-performance network of distributors. Contact us to discuss how we can help you fill your unmet needs."

The Power of Remarketing

It’s the season where all retailers start to think about how to spike their sales as much as possible, and while there is a lot of marketing information and tactics which are generally inapplicable to companies selling products to the life science research market, there are certainly some things to be gleaned from the marketing fervor of the holidays as well. One that struck me was highlighted in an article posted today on the website of the E-Commerce Times. Before I say anything else PLEASE remember that this article is written with the target audience of retailers who are marketing to the average consumer making personal purchases – this is not who we are, not who we sell to, and a lot of the advise in there is not good for our purposes. What is good for our purposes, however, is the general idea of remarketing and how it can empower your marketing campaigns.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing is displaying targeted advertising messages to prospective customers who have already shown interest in whatever it is that you’re selling by viewing or responding to initial marketing efforts. For example, if you have a customer on your website who looks at product X, that indicates the customer is interested in X, so sending that particular individual a marketing message focused on product X would have a far higher conversion than either sending an unfocused marketing message to that customer or sending a marketing message to people who have not previously expressed interest in the product. A remarketing effort does not have to center on your website, however, but could be based around an e-mail campaign, online advertising, or even a well thought out print marketing campaign. In other words, remarketing is a fairly flexible tool that provides a far higher return on investment than traditional marketing, although it still requires that some form traditional marketing precede it.

Don’t just take my word for it, though – according to a study from comScore, remarketing yielded over 1046% more online searches for a product and 726% more website visitation within 4 weeks of exposure to remarketing, as compared to not utilizing remarketing. While they didn’t provide data on how the massively increased search and views figures relate to conversion, we can see from these figures that that the customer who has been remarketed to expresses far more interest in the product or brand than the customer which has not been remarketed to, and this increased level of interest is certain to lead to a dramatically improved conversion.

How are you utilizing remarketing? Is remarketing part of your marketing strategy? If not, how will you fit in this highly effective form of advertising?

"Are you unsure how to most effectively utilize or implement remarketing? Are you unsure if remarketing is right for your brand or products and would like to discuss it with a team of professionals? BioBM Consulting can help you design and implement a highly effective remarketing campaign that will increase your marketing ROI. Contact us to talk about how you may be able to take advantage of remarketing to boost your sales."

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Improve Your Online Presence

Internet penetration is growing, and the internet is becoming an ever more important marketing tool.I don’t think anyone will dispute the power and influence of the internet. According to data from the International Telecommunications Union (a United Nations agency), internet penetration in the developed world will exceed 70% this year. Scientists are even more heavily influenced by the internet. We rely on it as a vast and trusted source of readily accessible data, a gateway to the tools and databases we use on a regular basis, a necessary communication tool, and a platform for collaboration across countries and continents. Fueled by fast, extensive business and university networks, internet penetration among life scientists is virtually 100%.

Just as individual consumers are turning more and more to the internet for both information and to make purchases, so are scientists. Researchers, geared towards finding their own information and encouraged by the ready availability of online information, look to the internet for information on products and services prior to purchase, and ever more are using use e-commerce for fast and efficient purchases. Because of this, it is imperative that life science companies leverage the internet to maximize their exposure, ensure that they manage their online brand image, present compelling online marketing, effectively capture online leads and convert these into sales, and utilize e-commerce where possible to reduce the barriers to purchase and increase sales efficiency.

How Important is A Website?

Online, your website is who you are. The quality of your website will be perceived to reflect the quality of your company and, by association, your products. Customers expect that the same kind of companies who create and maintain high-quality, well-performing products will put the same effort into creating and maintaining high-quality and well-performing websites. An outdated look or feel, errors, poor navigation, and a large list of other website faux pas will hurt your image and reputation. Unless you have an extremely strong reputation among your target market, you can assume that every new prospective customer who is interested in your product will look at your website for information before purchasing, and it is likely that your website will be the first place they look … unless they search for it and someone else comes up higher in the search results. Even with a strong reputation, many will still look to your website for more information. While a beautiful, well-structured website alone will not be enough to sell your products (you still need the proper content) a poor website can dramatically hurt your sales.

Refining Your Marketing Message / Having the Right Content

Your online marketing message is arguably the most important one that you will present. It is, in effect, constant; your online brand and marketing are always there for anyone to view. Again, it is very likely that almost all of your customers will view information for your products or services online at some point before purchase. You therefore need to have the appropriate mix of technical information and compelling marketing messages to encourage scientists to either buy the product at that time or inquire for more information immediately.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) / Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

It will not do you any good if your company has an excellent website that no one can find, and how you get found is through search. ComScore’s global search report has indicated that Google alone gets 1.5 million searches per minute, or well over one billion per day! Having insight into how search engines serve search results to these hundreds of millions of people is crucial to ensure that scientists looking for products or services online find yours and not those of your competitors. Search engine optimization is a tricky thing – search engines guard their algorithms and make only vague public statements as to how they work, so having someone with expert knowledge manage your SEO is crucial. For example, there is a sweet spot between a site having too few keywords, which will result in sub-optimal rankings, and too many keywords, which search engines will penalize you for. Experts have spent years figuring out the optimal “keyword density” along with many other SEO considerations and know what works and what doesn’t. Even with expert help, organically improving your search engine ranking takes time. To get around this, and get you to the critically important first page of search results today, you can make use of search engine marketing. Remember: 90% of searchers never go past the first page of search results, and 99% will not go past the third page, so being on the first page is of extreme importance. A properly managed SEM campaign can economically get you to that critically important first page page of the search results regardless of SEO, and even with good SEO it has been shown that a well-run SEM campaign will still result in an average 20% more hits. Another benefit of SEM: since most SEM campaigns are pay-per-click, you know that most of the people clicking are in your target market. After all, people most often click on links that are of genuine interest to them. Also, search engine marketing prices their advertising by the keyword, and a lot of life science keywords are niche markets, and therefore are less saturated which leads to lower costs and a higher return on your advertising dollars.

E-Commerce

According to a study by Forrester Research, sales via electronic commerce will increase by an estimated 60% from 2009 to 2014 in the United States. In Europe, the estimated increase over the same time period is 68%. A burgeoning societal tendency to make purchases online compounded by extremely high internet usage among scientists and the ease of finding products and information online, ever more researchers are turning to the internet for laboratory purchases wherever possible. Particularly for lower-cost items which do not require purchase orders or budgeted line-items (usually $2500 maximum for universities and research institutes and around $5000 for pharmaceutical or biotech companies), a well-implemented e-commerce backend to your website can make it easier for customers to buy your products, help you process orders more efficiently, and even integrate with customer relationship management and / or accounting software to automatically capture customer and order information. The most important factor, however, is the ease and speed of ordering for customers. At all times, you want to ensure that it is as easy as possible for customers to order your products.

These are only some of the considerations that a company should think about when analyzing their online presence. I did not touch on Social Media Marketing (SMM), forms of online advertising other than SEM, online brand presentation, and many other factors (a quick tangent since I’ve brought up social media marketing; if you think the most popular site on the internet is Google, you are wrong). However, the above points are perhaps some of the most important for a small life science company to consider when establishing, updating, and / or maintaining an online presence. We’ll be tackling each in more detail, including social media and the other topics we didn’t cover at all here, so be sure to follow us on twitter or add our blog to your RSS feed if you’d like to stay up to date with the latest posts.

"Does your company want a more professional online presence? Would you like to improve your online marketing? Would you like to know how you can improve your company’s search engine rankings? Get a free site review from BioBM and we will analyze your online presence and discuss how we can help you establish and maintain a top-quality online presence."

Request a free analysis of your web presence!

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Prepare for the holidays!

Now is one of the key times to market to life science researchers, especially academicsNovember is already underway and if your company sells products or services to academic researchers then you should already be preparing to double down on your marketing efforts and start reaching out to potential new customers now. Many professors and graduate students will be extremely busy in early and mid December with their class responsibilities and will not want to pay attention to anything extraneous (including marketing materials), however important purchasing decisions, particularly larger purchasing decisions, for many university labs are made in early January – after the bustle of finals and the holidays but before classes start up again. Use this to your advantage.

If there is a target market that you want to enter, be sure to start marketing to them ASAP. Again, you do not want to wait until December to reach new customers. They will need to see your marketing message a few times (preferably via different avenues) before you will have enough brand or product recognition for most prospective customers to trust you and your product. You will probably want to have multiple “touches” between now and January to both establish yourself in their minds, get across your full marketing message, and present a compelling call-to-action. There is still enough time to touch
a new prospect four times without being overbearing, but you’ll need to start now.

Also, don’t forget that the holidays are a great excuse to have a special, a sale, or some other call-to-action. While these specials are rarely enough to drive a buy decision on their own (since scientists are very analytical and generally weigh need vs. cost and make a fairly objective decision on those metrics), they can still be attention grabbing and push people into making purchasing decisions now – and those purchasing decisions will be made with your product in mind.

Your small company should be formulating a short-term marketing plan on how to approach academics and increase sales from universities between the semesters. If you sell to universities and you do not have a marketing plan for the next two months, you will likely miss out on a key opportunity to take advantage of purchasing habits and fail to realize a lot of potential sales.

"Does your company need a little extra marketing capacity for the holidays? Would you like to ensure that you have an optimal marketing message and appropriate call-to-action to grab the attention of your academic customers and motivate them to buy? Contact BioBM and we’ll help make sure you take full advantage of the inter-semester buying season, or take a look at our Marketing Services."

Change is Permanent

I was speaking with someone the other day about the general state of things (not just the industry or the economy but everything, really) when I remembered and used a phrase that was uttered to me some time ago – “change is permanent”. I didn’t mean it in a way that when something changes it is changed permanently, but rather that change in itself is permanent; change is continually happening. While I can’t remember who initially gave that phrase to me, I’m glad he or she did because I use it often and like to come back to it on occasion to step back and make sure that I am changing to adjust to the change happening around me.

It is an undeniably true statement – the state of anything is rarely constant, and even if it is there are things changing around it that will ultimately change it objectively and / or subjectively. Before we get too philosophical on the topic let me ask a simple question: when was the last time you took a minute to assess how change is happening around your organization? For example, how is your industry or sector changing? How are your customers changing? How are you ensuring a competitive strategic positioning in the future when you account for that change? While these are undeniably important questions, they are questions that we very often either neglect to address or do not address seriously. It’s very easy to get caught up in your own company’s day-to-day operations or in your own tasks and not address the future because it’s not a pressing need at this exact moment, but if you do you’ll get left behind by change; you won’t evolve.

Change is even more of a constant in such a rapidly evolving field as the life sciences. How are you directing your own evolution to prepare for future change? How are you managing change and ensuring that detecting and responding to change is built into your organization? If you haven’t recently, step back and think about the questions that I have raised. Try to do so when you’re away from your desk and have a clear head and can mentally zoom out from your insider perspective a bit. If you have a hard time coming up with answers or you know the answers and they aren’t good, then it may be time to figure out how to empower the evolution of your organization to address the future while you still have time.

"Need advice on how to integrate change into your organization? Having a hard time figuring out where your sector is going and how your company can play a larger role in it? Contact BioBM and we’ll help you figure it out."

Leveraging a Weak Dollar

Take advantage of a weak dollar to drive international sales.[one_half]Small or start-up businesses are rarely sitting on stockpiles of cash reserves. Quite the opposite, cash is usually a bit tight, so if you are running a small life science company you probably want to take every opportunity you can to improve your cash position. What you may not have thought of is leveraging the weak US dollar to generate short-term revenues and grow your cash-on-hand.

The US Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar’s value against a basket of nine other currencies, is down over 11 points from its 52-week high of 88.71 in June. Put simply, that means that if your goods are priced in US dollars, they will be a lot cheaper to customers and distributors in other countries who use currencies that have comparatively appreciated. For example, the dollar is down about 15% vs. from it’s highs against the euro and the Japanese yen, and is down about 10% from the highs against the Brazilian Real and the British pound. Your dollar-denominated products are now 15% cheaper to customers in the Eurozone than they were just four months ago! That’s a substantial discount, and one that you can flaunt to your customers and distributors in these areas and others whose currencies have similarly appreciated against the dollar.

How do you take advantage of this? Simple! Send marketing messages specifically targeting customers in a particular region and bring up the favorable exchange rate. Call your distributors and encourage them to buy now since restocking on your products is now cheaper. Don’t drag your feet, either, since the dollar may begin to re-appreciate in the near future. If you are in need of short-term revenues or an improved cash position, highlight your newly cheap products to your international customers and distributors now![/one_half]

A strong Euro makes your products cheaper in Europe. Use it to increase sales to Europe. A weak dollar / a strong pound make for good conditions to boost sales to Britain Take advantage of a weak dollar to get a boost of sales to Japan Emerging markets such as Brazil may also provide an opportunity for increased sales due to a weak dollar

"Have any questions on topics of exchange rates and dollar value or how to leverage the value of the dollar? Not sure what markets are most appropriate to target because of a weak dollar? Unsure how to appropriately frame a marketing message for your customers discussing it or talk to your distributors about it? Lacking the international distribution network to properly leverage such an opportunity? These are all things that BioBM’s skilled team of business and marketing experts can help with. Contact us for a consultation on how we can help you drive international sales, and assist in any other aspects of your business as well."

Don’t Get Left Behind

Leveraging strategic outsourcing to improve marketing and business capabilitiesTaking a pragmatic view on the state of the economy, it’s fairly easy to see that the road to recovery will very likely be a long one. Governments are in huge amounts of debt, and the “great recession” has been especially hard on small businesses, yet we see the stock markets going back up; the Dow is almost to 11,100 as I write this. Why do things feel so bad but look so good for big businesses? A lot of it isn’t due to revenue growth – global demand is still anemic. A lot of it is due to cost cutting to improve bottom lines which have left many large companies with very positive balance sheets. Now, having likely seen the worst of the recession and being in a strong financial position, large companies are starting to reinvest in anticipation of future demand growth.

How does this effect you?

Well, if you are a small or start-up company, chances are you’re still hurting. You probably couldn’t easily cut personnel and costs as the large companies have. You also may not have the stockpile of cash to resume hiring in preparation for renewed demand or may not want to hire because of uncertainties about future revenues. Therein lies a problem. How will your company compete when the large companies are getting a head-start?

The answer: by not letting them. Easier said than done? Maybe not.

For a start-up or small company, even hiring one person can be a huge investment and a very significant increase in overhead, yet you will need the additional capabilities to ramp up your marketing, business development, and other efforts to position yourself for increasing future demand. This can be done by “virtually” increasing your human resources and capabilities through strategic outsourcing. By partnering with a skilled service provider, you can execute projects faster and / or sooner, prevent schedule overruns, and effectively increase your available competencies. It also often allows you to increase or decrease your effective workforce size at will.

"If you would like to explore how BioBM Consulting can help your organization respond to marketing, business, or web needs through strategic outsourcing, please feel free to look at some of our available services or contact us to talk about how BioBM can help you prepare for increasing demand and effectively compete with your larger competitors."

BioBM Launches Inventor Services

BioBM Consulting is pleased to announce the launch of its new “Inventor Services” division, offering commercialization services to life science inventors and others who wish to commercialize intellectual property with a life science research focus. Celebrating the latest in BioBM’s expanding and innovative service offerings, BioBM Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt gave the following statement:

Statement from Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt

BioBM recognizes the massive creative capacity of life science researchers and simultaneously realizes that inventors in life science laboratories may lack access to key business and marketing experience necessary for effective and profitable commercialization of such inventions. With BioBM’s unique positioning, we recognize the value we have to offer life science inventors and can help them commercialize novel biotechnology innovations in a variety of ways. We strive to help life science inventors meet their commercial goals while expediting the development and marketing of advancements in life science tools and processes that will forward the sciences and, ultimately, human health. BioBM looks forward to fruitful collaborations with inventors from all areas of the life sciences.


The Inventor Services division of BioBM is already taking inquiries. For more information on how BioBM Consulting works with inventors, click here. For more information on the portfolio of services offered to inventors, click here.