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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."

Wide Nets Don’t Win

The fear of loss is stronger than the desire for gain.

This is a scientific fact. Here’s the first paper that describes it, but there are a lot more which confirm it. It’s known as loss aversion, and it makes both us and our customers irrational.

Loss aversion is, for instance, why challenger marketing works so well. Lots of companies talk about benefits – what customers have to gain by using your product or service – but customers respond better if you can convince them that the way they are currently doing things is wrong. Tell them that they are currently experiencing loss and they’ll more likely act in your favor. (Don’t just take it from me – you can ask the Corporate Executive Board.)

Challenger marketing is underutilized, however. Why? Simple. Loss aversion. Most marketers are scared of being negative. They think – without any proof to support it – that communicating a thought which could be perceived as negative will turn customers off and cause a blowback on their brands. They are afraid of making people upset more than they desire gains. This persists and directs action even in spite of evidence that being negative at times can provide positive results.

An even more critical and fundamental area where loss aversion cripples marketers is in positioning. Marketers, and the corporate honchos that preside over them, love to cast wide nets. They just love to pretend that everyone is a potential customer. When that becomes the default scenario, we find ourselves in a dangerous position. Loss aversion makes us scared to cut out pieces of the market, that’s not what makes positioning an effective tool. Wide nets don’t win.

Positioning is about defining who is and who isn’t a target customer. We want to maximize the chance that we’re going to close opportunities. We do that not by casting the widest net, but by resonating with those our net is designed to catch. Those are the people we should want to sell to – not the masses who will suck up our marketing dollars and sales efforts but have little chance of converting. That requires putting your loss aversion aside and cutting out your true piece of the market – that which you are realistically and effectively able to capture.

Loss aversion is a powerful tool for marketers, but the same thing that makes it so useful can be harmful when it manifests in ourselves. Don’t just understand the psychology of your scientist-customers, but understand your own psychology as well. You’ll make better decisions as a result.

"Have a question for Carlton on life science marketing? Shoot us a message."

Remarketing by the Numbers

We recently cited some newly released findings from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) stating that “display retargeting from paid search ads can deliver a 40 percent reduction in CPA.” It was met with some hesitation from Mariano Guzmán of Laboratorios Conda, who stated:

“[…] when I have clicked on a [life science website] what I have experienced is a tremendous amount of retargeting for 1 month that I have not liked at all as an internet user, and I do not feel my clients would as well”

Being me, I like to answer questions with facts as much as possible, so I dug some up. This one’s for you, Mariano!

To directly address Mariano’s concern, I found some studies on people’s opinions on retargeting. A 2012 Pew Research Study found that 68% of people are “not okay with it” due to behavior tracking while 28% are “okay with it” because of more relevant ads and information (4% had no opinion). I’m a little skeptical of the Pew study because they were priming the audience with reasons to “be okay” or “not be okay” with remarketing. In a sense, these people are choosing between behavior tracking + more relevant ads vs. no behavior tracking + less relevant ads. However, when users actually see the ads the ads don’t say to the viewer “by the way, we’re tracking your behavior.” Are some users aware of this? Certainly. Might some think it consciously? On occasion, sure, but nowhere near 100% of the time. However, 100% of the Pew study respondents were aware of it.

A slightly more recent 2013 study commissioned by Androit Digital and performed by Toluna asked the qusestion in a much more neutral manner (see page three of the linked-to study). They found that 30% have a positive impression about a brand for which they see retargeting ads, only 11% have a negative impression, and 59% have a neutral impression.

The Pew study and the Androit Digital study did agree on one thing – remarketing ads get noticed. In both, almost 60% of respondents noticed ads that were related to previous sites visited or products viewed.

Now to the undeniably positive side… The gains a company stands to make from remarketing.

In addition to the 40% reduction in cost per action cited in the aforementioned BCG study, a 2014 report from BCG entitled “Adding Data, Boosting Impact: Improving Engagement and Performance in Digital Advertising” found that retargeting improves overall CPC by 10%.

A 2010 comScore study evaluated the change in branded search queries for different types of digital advertising and found retargeting had provided the largest increase: 1046%.

In a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research, stated that retail conversion rates are 3% on PCs and 4% to 5% on tablets. According to the National Retail Federation, 8% of customers will return to make a purchase on their own. Retargeting increases that number more than three-fold, to 26%.

There are many more studies that sing the praises of remarketing, however I wanted to stay away from case studies that investigate only single companies as well as data collected and presented by advertising service providers.

Here are my thoughts on the matter: Do some customers view retargeting unfavorably? Certainly, but that’s the nature of advertising. No matter what form it takes, some people will object to it. Considering that there is nothing ethically wrong with retargeting, we can’t give up on something that is proven to be a highly effective tactic because some people have an objection to it. In the end, it’s our job as marketers to help create success for the organizations we serve.

Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services

Are Conferences Worth It?

BIO 2012 convention hallI don’t think I need to tell anyone just how readily reachable customers are these days. We have an incredible amount of channels and tools at our disposal to reach a target audience. Advertising opportunities get continually more targeted. Want someone’s contact information? You can certainly dig it up. Want to target senior scientists working in genomics labs in pharmaceutical companies? You could easily do that with LinkedIn, or if you prefer otherwise there are a ton of publishers and websites who can help you target such an audience via advertising, email, or just plain old print.

So is it really necessary that life science companies spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) creating conference exhibits, then tens of thousands more any time they want to exhibit at a conference? The costs are genuinely enormous – conferences are often the single largest line item in B2B companies’ marketing budgets. A 2014 study from Forrester Research put the percentage of marketing budget going to in-person events at 20%; almost 50% more than the second largest category, which was all digital advertising combined. That same study, however, found that while overall B2B marketing budgets were increasing, more marketers were planning on decreasing spending for in-person events than increasing spending for them.

A 2013 study from InsideSales.com (summarized nicely here by MarketingProfs) found that conferences were rated as the 4th most effective method for lead generation as well as the 4th most effective method for driving brand awareness by B2B marketers and salespeople. Considering that they found lead generation quantity and quality to be the #1 and #2 top marketing challenge cited, with product and service awareness third, perhaps conferences are still worth the cost after all. (FYI – lead generation has ranked the top marketing challenge in study after study for a long time. Not to excavate the internet, but here’s an example from 2013 published by IDG Enterprise and another from 2011 by MarketingSherpa) To add some more recent sentiment on the effectiveness of in-person events, a 2015 study from Regalix (summarized here by MarketingCharts) asked CXOs what online and offline marketing tactics they found to be effective. The #1 answer, with 84% of respondents citing them as effective, was in-person events.

There is one question that different people in the life science industry seem to have different opinions on that we can settle using data: are conferences falling out of style? We took a basket of North American conferences and got attendance data for the last 5 years to see if we could spot any clear trends. Full disclosure for the nitpickers among us, unfortunately they’re not truly random – they’re just the ones we thought of first and could obtain attendance data for.

Conferece 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
American Association for Cancer Research 12,254 11,761 12,415 15,794 16,500
American Chemical Society* 17,455 15,178 17,396 14,353 18,754
American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) 7,440 5,606 7,484 5,138 5,758
American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 8,430 8,484 8,376 7,502 7,259
Experimental Biology 13,376 14,956 13,263 13,558 11,970
PittCon 16,876 17,199 15,754 18,197 16,255
Neuroscience 31,250 30,469 28,574 32,357 31,975
Bio-IT World 1,865 2,160 2,528 2,576 3,021
TOTAL 108,946 105,813 105,790 109,475 111,492

*The American Chemical Society meetings are biannual. These numbers reflect a total attendance for both Spring and Fall meetings.

From this data, which admittedly is far from comprehensive, it seems that conference attendance is relatively steady, at least in recent years. Unfortunately that doesn’t help us answer our burning question: are conferences worth it?

None of those aforementioned studies say anything about ROI, they are all based on qualitative responses, and we all know something can be effective without being efficient. We’re also not just B2B. We’re life science. Maybe for us it’s different. Maybe the legendary scientific skepticism makes conferences not worth the cost?

We’re going to tap the collective knowledge of the market and see what you – life science marketers and salespeople – think. We’ll share the data we collect so we can see exactly what direction conferences are heading. Are they effective within our industry? Please take the survey. It has 23 questions and should take about 6 minutes. If we can get 100 respondents by the end of April we’ll create a resource listing scientific conferences with attendance, dates, costs, and location.

Are scientific conferences worth it? Take the survey.

Avoiding Skepticism

The scientific buying journey is fraught with skepticism. From the buyer’s perspective, this is a requirement of a good buying journey. The buyer must decide what to believe and what not to believe, determine what is meaningful and what is not, and refine their understanding of their own needs all while being blasted with marketing messages from companies that are all trying to get the scientist’s business. Skepticism is a natural and required component of these efforts. It is also the enemy of the marketer.

Skepticism is what makes overly pushy and overtly bombastic messages fail. It’s also part of the fuel for the rise in content marketing. Marketers are looking for ways to convey their messages in manners that create less skepticism. Rather than immediately jumping to validation, promotion, and flat-out selling, they first attempt to educate in a more subtly guiding manner which conditions the scientists to viewpoints that will be later elaborated on in the more traditional marketing efforts. However, promoting content to scientists is not the same as the scientists discovering content on their own, and the manner in which content is presented will, in part, determine their receptiveness to it. Additionally, taking a “hands off” approach throughout the buying journey such as to avoid skepticism would lead to overall marketing ineffectiveness due to low rates of opportunity development later in the journey.

Educational content is often necessary, but never sufficient. We therefore must consider the nature of messages, as well as how those messages are to be delivered, such that we can avoid skepticism-driven rejection earlier in the buying journey while still creating the desired effect in the later stages of the buying journey: a closed sale.

Illustration of how messages should be adapted to different positions within the buying journey.

Evolving Message Types

Early in the journey, the customer is gathering information and may not even yet realize that they have a need for a product. At this stage, educational content is the way to go. You want to help them learn and discover information that will prime them to your point of view without giving them reason to be skeptical (as promoting a commercial solution would).

As they transition from discovery and exploration to analysis, they know a need exists and start to actively gather and evaluate options. Educational content is still useful, so long as it is focused on the customers’ needs. Basic background information is of little interest to the customer at this point, unless it is something so disruptive to their journey that they need to reconsider its premises. Additionally, we want to start adding validation content – content that demonstrates to them that the solution we are advocating is correct. (For example, case studies are a very common form of validation content.) This type of content will help them understand our offering as a qualified option to solve their need. If the customer has been properly educated to accept our point of view earlier in the buying journey, validation content will not raise skepticism.

As they come to the late stages of analysis and approach their buying decision, educational content should be largely avoided in favor of additional validation as well as promotions – the “hard sell,” as we call it. At this point the opportunity exists; we just need to seize it! Dancing around it with more educational content will not effectively prompt action. More direct calls to action are required.

Message Centricity

Let me lead off with this reminder: life science marketers should always maintain a focus on their scientist-customers. That said, customer-centricity exists on a sliding scale, as most things do, and is not absolute. Changing the centricity of your messages throughout the buying journey is also necessary for optimal performance.

Early in the journey, we should have a nearly exclusive customer focus. Everything should be framed from the perspective of the customer and their needs. We should adopt their perspective as much as possible. As the journey continues, we can shed a little bit of this customer-centricity, giving room to focus more first on the technology, then ultimately on the product. We are not shifting to a product-focus. We are shifting to a customer-centric product focus. We can never focus solely on the product. Why? The product is a lower-order need and our scientist-customers will respond vastly better to higher-order needs (the reason they need your solution in the first place).

Mechanism of Discovery

The manner in which messages are delivered can raise skepticism. However, the mechanisms that raise the least skepticism are not the most effective throughout the buying journey, so shifting mechanisms of message delivery / discovery must be considered as well.

Messages that are naturally found by your audience tend to raise far less skepticism than messages that are pushed upon them. Early in the buying journey, we want to rely on mechanisms that are organic – those which allow the messages or content to be found naturally by your audience or in a manner that feels natural. They should be able to actively choose to interact with it rather than have it pushed upon them. This could include organic search, display or native advertising, and placement within third party media. In general, marketing tactics that are considered inbound would roughly overlap with organic discovery. Regardless, the customer must feel as if they are driving their own discovery.

As the customer has more interaction with your brand and consents to receive marketing, you can begin to transition from pull to push. Even with permission, you should avoid the temptation to get too pushy too quickly, as you can still very easily raise skepticism by doing so. As the customer progresses through the buying journey, you can transition more from customer-driven discovery to a more visibly active role in leading them. This more active role will be necessary; if you were to always wait for the customer to “organically” discover and interact with your content, you could very well lose mindshare to your competitors. Therefore, a careful and evolving balance is required throughout the buying journey.

Transitioning Goals

While the ultimate goal of closing a sale remains the same throughout the buying journey, looking at the interim goals can help to understand both why the aforementioned transitions are necessary and how to execute them. In brief, we transition from:

  • Shifting the scientists’ viewpoint without activating skepticism …
  • … to convincing them that the adopted viewpoint is the correct one …
  • … to persuading them to act on their beliefs and execute a transaction.


We shift from seeking to primarily avoid rejection as the customer remains open to many viewpoints, to seeking acceptance as the customer evaluates and filters their options towards an ultimate decision.

Avoiding skepticism is undeniably important, and raising skepticism with your marketing can shut your brand out of a customers’ buying journey early on. However, the approaches that we use to avoid skepticism do not make for an efficient marketing platform as the buying journey progresses. Many of the mechanisms that create skepticism are needed to close opportunities. By understanding where customers’ are in their buying journeys, and matching our approaches to it to create balance, we simultaneously limit skepticism while increasing the ultimate likelihood of a sale.

"Scientists are complicated. Buying journeys are complicated. Your path to winning them can be easy. BioBM will ensure that your customers’ buying journeys – no matter where they start – end squarely on you. Let’s take your marketing to the next level and dominate the competition. Get started."

BioBM Provides a Template for Attribute Analysis

In continuation of its mission to empower life science marketers with valuable resources to aid them in their jobs, BioBM has published an attribute analysis template.

An attribute analysis is a powerful tool used to identify competitors’ positions within a market and a critical analysis when positioning a product, service, or brand. It both helps to identify key differentiators and shows how crowded or competitive any particular position is. The MS Excel-based template provided by BioBM, which is accompanied by detailed instructions, will make attribute analyses much simpler and easier for novices and much less time consuming for veterans.

The attribute analysis template may be requested at https://biobm.com/resources/attribute-analysis-template/

Should You Be A Thought Leader?

Should you be a thought leader? Assess yourself by these three dimensions to find out.Being a “thought leader” has become cliché.

That’s what most brands and most content marketers aspire to be, however. They want to be visionaries; oracles of their respective fields. It seems like an attractive position to occupy, but is visionary, forward-looking content really what all content marketers should aspire for?

No. Quite frankly, not all companies’ positions justify thought leadership. So how can you tell if your company should be a thought leader?

Assess Your Brand on 3 Dimensions:

1) Nature of the Customer Relationship (Transactional vs. Collaborative) – This is the most important factor. Being an effective thought leader means that you need the market’s attention. If the attention that you have is fleeting, you likely don’t have time to position yourself as a thought leader. Transactional customer interactions are often brief, while collaborative interactions (where you act more as a partner to your customers) are far longer lasting and provide more attention. The same can often be said for the sales cycles for transactional vs. collaborative products and services. Note that transactional relationships may act more like collaborative ones if you have a high rate of repeat business and your products / services are of a high perceived value to the customer; it’s not just about how a single buying journey behaves.

Example: Contract research organizations have highly collaborative customer relationships and are well served by acting as thought leaders. It’s important that these companies demonstrate their knowledge. Companies selling general lab equipment are far more transactional and have less to gain from a thought leadership position.

2) Complexity of Your Products or Services – If your products / services are complex or technologically advanced, this provides a greater opportunity for thought leadership. Customers are more likely to want to take the time to understand the market, and you have more room to play the role of a visionary. To use an example we can all relate to: lots of people want to know about tomorrow’s smartphones. Few people are interested in tomorrow’s socks. You could make the same comparison between sequencers and old-school thermal cyclers.

3) Ambiguity Within Your Market – If the average customer knows very little about your market and / or the products / services within it, there is a greater opportunity to be a thought leader. Ambiguity generally leads to difficult purchasing decisions. Through thought leadership you can create clarity and understanding for your audience, and your audience will in turn reward you with its business.

What to Do If You’re Not a Thought Leader

If you’re not a thought leader, that doesn’t mean you should give up on content marketing. Thought leadership is only one approach to content marketing. Being one of the most popular approaches, there’s a lot of competition for the position of thought leader. Doing something else can actually be an easier way to achieve customer engagement (remember, your content is a product which must be differentiated as well). Some ideas include:

  • Be better at formatting information. You don’t have to be the first to say something if you can say it better than others. Take some of the best ideas you can find and package them into more appealing formats, such as videos, infographics, or interactive content.

 

  • Provide something other than knowledge. Not all content has to be about information. Share something else. Entertaining content is the default alternative, but get creative.

 

  • Go past content and develop resources for your scientist-customers that deliver greater value and go further in helping them solve their problems. Get outside the box of “content” as we know it and think more about what problems they have and how your brand can help solve them.

 

  • Be practical. Scientists may not want or expect you to be a thought leader, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need information. Offer simple, to-the-point content that helps them streamline their buying journey and reach a better outcome.

 

Don’t get caught into thinking you need to win some kind of information war to succeed at content marketing. While some brands may be best served by a thought leadership position, for many it’s easier and more productive to shoot for something else. There are certainly plenty of options.

"From creating customer engagement to building brand value to generating leads, content marketing is an extremely powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. It’s also one of the hardest to use effectively, and life science companies frequently assault their audiences with generic and ineffective content. There’s no reason to settle for mediocrity. With BioBM, you’ll go beyond simple content. We proactively identify new, unique ways of creating value for your audience then design superior customer experiences around those value opportunities. So contact BioBM today, and give your company the influence and reputation it needs to turn purchasing decisions in your favor."

Guide to Win / Loss Analysis

There are only two fundamental reasons that a scientist won't buy from you.As we discussed last week, there are only two fundamental reasons why someone won’t buy from you. Either you are talking to the wrong person, or the prospective customer doesn’t trust you. Unfortunately for commercial professionals, the reasons why someone could lack sufficient trust in you to purchase are myriad. Doubly unfortunately, those reasons often go undiscovered. Many organizations performing little analysis of why any given sale is won or lost, others do so superficially in ways that don’t provide meaningful information. Even more confusingly, many companies think they are performing win / loss analysis when really they aren’t! They are instead utilizing other tools and methods, often in an ad hoc and undocumented manner, which provide biased or misleading information!

Performing win / loss analysis correctly is not a trivial endeavor and requires a good deal of planning, but there are many benefits to doing so. These include:

  • Clearer understanding of the customer buying journey
  • Better understanding of the competition’s offerings (including pricing, positioning, etc.)
  • Early identification of market trends
  • Better understanding customer preferences
  • Understanding how you and your competition are perceived
  • A built-in “warning system” which informs you if your messaging is missing the mark
  • Feedback on performance of the sales team and effectiveness of sales processes
  • Market feedback to help guide product development

 

Planning for Win / Loss Analysis

Remember that win / loss analysis is a form of market research. It requires proper planning – and adherence to the plans – to ensure that the execution yields the answers you’re looking for.

The first question that needs to be answered is: who will implement the program? This should not be your sales organization! Ideally, the people running the program and performing the interviews will be far removed from the sales process. An external agency who is familiar with your market and experienced in performing win / loss analysis would be ideal, however other internal departments or functions can be used (usually a market research or CI person / team, if you have one, otherwise the applicable product manager or another relevant marketing person would be a good choice to head the effort).

Next, decide what specific objectives you hope to achieve from the win / loss analysis. There are basics that are central to the reasons a sale is won or lost and will therefore almost always be included, such as understanding the customers’ decision criteria and knowing how you measured up against the competition across a number of key factors, but you will also have the opportunity to obtain a plethora of other information. For the sake of customer participation and limiting the cost and / or effort, you will be limited to how much additional information you’ll be able to collect. You will therefore need to determine what non-core information is the most important. Are you interested in learning more about your competitors’ offerings? Do you want to know more specifics about the customers’ buying journeys? Are you interested in the finer details of how your brand is perceived compared to the competition? For long, consultative sales a customer may be more willing to engage with you in a lengthy interview. For short, low-value purchases where sales interaction was limited or non-existent, you probably won’t find customers willing to sit through a long interview. Know what can be realistically expected from your audience and plan accordingly.

The next question you need to answer is: what opportunities will be analyzed? Given the time and / or cost required to perform win / loss analysis, it is often only applied to major product lines or service areas and / or large accounts. (We do not recommend only analyzing large accounts unless your focus is improving win rate solely to large accounts; if you want to improve the win rate for all customer classes, you need to analyze them all.) You can define which opportunities will be analyzed more narrowly to cut down on the number of interviews and amount of analysis necessary, or you can be more broad to collect information about more opportunities and then perform post-hoc analyses of specific products, markets, etc. You also need to determine the frequency at which opportunities that meet the defined criteria will be analyzed. If the nature of your business is such that you have a low number of high-value opportunities, you may want to analyze them all. If you have a high number of low-value opportunities you may want to analyze only some of them. If you will be analyzing only some, you should select them either at random or at regular intervals (for example, at the conclusion of every fourth opportunity, chronologically) to prevent bias. Furthermore, ensure your criteria don’t exclude wins! It’s just as important to understand why you win as why you lose, and understanding your wins can be even more informative.

From the defined objectives, plan your questionnaire. There are a massive number of potential questions, and if you’ve clearly laid out your objectives the questions you need to ask should become somewhat obvious, but here are a few common ones to get you started:

  • What caused you to initially consider a purchase of this type?
  • Which other companies / products / solutions were being considered? Which one was ultimately chosen?
  • What actions on the part of our team made notable positive or negative impressions?
  • What selection criteria was used to make the ultimate decision?
  • What interaction influenced you most during your decision-making process?
  • How did our pricing compare to the competition?
  • Why did / didn’t we win your business?
  • Who was involved in the purchase decision?
  • Were you comfortable with the product features / company’s capabilities? Which were most / least important?
  • How do you perceive our company? How do you perceive our competitors?
  • Would you be likely to recommend our solution to others?


A common issue with win / loss analysis questionnaires is the tendency to focus almost exclusively on the latter stages of the buying journey. Remember that the early stages of the buying journey are often more influential. Ensure you ask questions that will inform you how well you are setting the stage for a win, as many lost opportunities aren’t simply failures to close.

If you end up wanting to ask more questions than they reasonably can, remember that not every interview needs to ask the same questions. If you feel that a question has been sufficiently answered, change it out and ask another which would provide more new knowledge. You can also have multiple sets of questions and rotate through them to collect input, albeit less of it, on a larger number of some ancillary questions of lesser importance. (We strongly recommend always asking a set of “core” questions which directly address the most influential reasons for winning or losing.) If you ultimately want to ask more questions than would be feasible in an interview, you can create an accompanying questionnaire to collect additional data. This can be particularly useful if you wish to collect sizeable amounts of quantitative data which can be easily collected via an online survey or similar tool. Just remember that everything you ask a customer to do effectively has a conversion rate. Asking your customer to do two things will invariably lead to an increased number of incomplete data sets from respondents who either did not take / complete the interview but completed the questionnaire or vice versa.

Preparing for the Interview

Determine who will conduct the interview. Similarly to choosing the person or team to run the program, it’s best if the interviewer is not on the sales team. The interviewer should never be someone who was involved in the sales process for that particular customer. That consideration aside, the interviewer should be someone who is familiar with the product or service being sold, familiar with the market, understands the sales process without being too intimate with the sales team, and will make the respondent feel comfortable with the interview process.

Interviews should be scheduled with the customer or prospect very soon after the opportunity has ended. A good rule of thumb is that if more than a month has passed since the opportunity was closed or lost, don’t conduct an interview. Details of their decision journey and interactions with various companies need to be fresh on their minds in order to obtain accurate information, and collecting inaccurate information is often worse than collecting no information at all. When scheduling the interview, let them know exactly what to expect and what topics you are going to discuss. If there were multiple people involved in the prospect’s decision, they should be interviewed separately as they may have differing opinions and these differences can be stark at times. If you interview them collectively, you run the risk of those differing opinions not being expressed or falling victim to groupthink.

Before the interview, the interviewer should sit down with the sales team / person who was handling the opportunity and document some facts and perspective regarding the opportunity. How did the opportunity arise? Was there any previous relationship with the prospect? What tactics and sales tools were they using and why? Were there any noteworthy challenges during the process? What was the result and was it anticipated?

There are only two fundamental reasons that a scientist won't buy from you.Performing the Interview

Interviews are generally performed by phone, although analogous communication tools such as teleconference can be used. In-person interviews can be performed as well so long as the customer is local and the interview can be performed without becoming cost-prohibitive. Being able to see the interviewee an be helpful, as gestures and body language can convey feelings which can in turn be used to help guide the conversation. (The interviewer’s impressions obtained from body language should not be documented as it could introduce a large degree of subjectivity. Additionally, when performing win / loss analysis across cultural borders, body language could be misread due to cultural differences.)

Any expectations of confidentiality should be discussed up front. As some purchasing processes involve sensitive information, ensure the interviewee(s) feel comfortable using any information necessary to fully explain themselves while knowing that any confidential information will not be recorded or shared.

The interview should have a “script” to ensure the interviewer asks all the questions, although some of which will likely vary slightly interview-to-interview (in phrasing or approach, not in intent) based on the nature of the opportunity and how the interview progresses. However, the questions on the script should be taken to be a minimum of the questions that need to be answered. A good interviewer will probe the interviewee to uncover the underlying reasons behind their answers. Simply surveying the interviewee by asking a set list of questions in sequence is a waste of a live interview and a good way to end up with incomplete information that is difficult to understand and / or leaves a lot of opportunity for guesswork. The ability to be meaningfully spontaneous is dependent on the interviewer’s knowledge of the market, the product bring sold, and the details of the opportunity and sales process for that specific prospect.

Post-Interview Analysis and Assimilation of Knowledge

Soon after each interview, send the customer a message to thank them. As with any customer interaction, a win / loss analysis is a branded experience and you want to ensure the customer experience is a good one in order to earn future business and cultivate brand advocates.

There is no single, correct way to analyze the information from a win / loss analysis because the information, and the kind of information collected, will vary based on the questions you are trying to answer and potentially other factors as well (as discussed earlier). However, data analysis provides ample opportunity to derail your win / loss analysis. It’s likely that most of your data is qualitative. If your organization has a tendency to be political, various groups may try to influence how the data is analyzed or presented in order to make themselves look better or further their own ends. It’s the job of the person managing the program to ensure this does not happen. Any quantitative data should be handled using proper statistics, and qualitative data should be analyzed in a way that is logical, defensible, and allows you to extract the necessary insight. Applying semi-quantitative methods to the analysis of qualitative data may help, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to them. Whatever methods you use to analyze the data, you need to ensure that they are consistent!

Once the data is distilled into knowledge, you need to ensure that it is utilized! When there is enough analyzed information to answer at least some of the questions that you defined in your objectives, a report should be drawn up and a meeting called with people from all departments who would stand to benefit from the resulting knowledge. (Depending on your company policies and culture, the reports and analysis may also be made available to anyone in the company who cares to learn from it, or restricted on a need-to-know basis.) At this meeting, the data and analysis are discussed, lessons learned are shared, and ideas can be generated for ways to improve – these ideas are the foundation for change. The results should inform your sales processes, market segmentation, product development, messaging, marketing communications, sales collateral, and other areas.

If you’ve obtained answers to some secondary objectives, you can remove the associated questions from the interview script. These may be replaced with questions to fulfill other knowledge objectives. Remember, however, that the primary purpose of win / loss analysis is to understand why you win or lose business! The core questions facilitating the answer to that question should, under most circumstances, not be removed or replaced. If you find yourself desiring the answer to other questions more than the answer to why you are winning / losing business, then you should use a different tool or approach which is more suited for the information you seek to gain. You may, however, rotate through other product lines or service categories in order to obtain information specific to other areas.

Closing Remarks

A recent Gartner study (“Tech Go-to-Market: Three Ways Marketers Can Use Data From Win/Loss Analysis to Increase Win Rates and Revenue“) found that less than one third of organizations conduct win / loss analysis properly. The same study found that win / loss analysis can increase win rates by as much as 50%! That should be no surprise. Understanding is the foundation upon which improvement must be built. Sure, win / loss analyses require a good deal of rigor and effort, but that 50% should be well worth it.

"Improvement requires effort and resources. The key is ensuring those resources are well-spent; that they go into endeavors which have the benefit of careful planning and prior experience. You only have so many resources to spend. Ensure your marketing resources maximize your business returns. With BioBM, you’ll be in the hands of an informed and fastidious team that melds subject matter expertise and industry knowledge to further your commercial objectives in real, meaningful ways. If you’re an innovative company, then you deserve innovative marketing. Contact us today."

The Two Reasons People Won’t Buy

There are only two fundamental reasons that a scientist won't buy from you.Marketers and salespeople wrack their brains trying to figure out how to increase conversion – be it to turn eyeballs into leads or to convert opportunities into sales. Fundamentally, there are only two reasons that someone won’t buy from you. Understanding them is crucial to increasing marketing and sales effectiveness.

Reason 1: You’re Talking to the Wrong Person

Half the battle is ensuring that you’re talking to the correct person; in other words, that your targeting is correct.

Companies waste huge amounts of marketing and sales resources trying to sell to the wrong person. The “wrong” person is generally someone who does not have a need for your product / service or someone who does not have sufficient resources, authority, or influence to purchase. From a marketing perspective, this is most often due to an overly ambitious definition of the target market. Companies tend to do so out of optimism: if you are selling to researchers within a specific field, for example, you may be tempted to define them all as your target market because you want them all to be within your target market. Such is rarely the case, however, and this leads to targeting a lot of people who – no matter how good your message and content is – simply will never buy from you.

It’s really easy to think a goose looks like a duck. Because your pool of potential customers can seem very similar to other groups which are not potential customers, it’s essential that you define your target audience specifically. This doesn’t mean that your audience has to be narrow or small, but you need to clearly draw the line between who is and who isn’t a potential customer. (This should be rooted in your positioning statement, but can – and often should – be expanded beyond that.)

It’s common for the target market to be underdefined because a company simply does not know what kinds of scientists would or wouldn’t be potential customers. That’s entirely understandable – it sometimes isn’t until a product / service hits the market that people can truly judge its value. However, this is not an excuse for poor targeting. In this case, the target market needs to be established either by market research or by a trial-and-error approach which progressively analyzes the market and whittles the target market down to include only those customer profiles who would purchase.

Reason 2: They Don’t Trust You

It doesn’t matter how good your targeting is if your audience doesn’t believe what you are telling them, and what you’re telling them boils down to one thing: the value of what I am selling you will meet or exceed the value of the money that it costs. If you are talking to a genuine member of your target audience, that is the only thing you need to convince them of to make a sale. If they believe that, they will buy 100% of the time. If not, they will decline to buy – 100% of the time.

Trust is a matter of personal belief – it is something that is part rational and part emotional. As such, there are two basic reasons that a prospective customer does not trust you:

  1. The customer requires more or different information than what you have provided to them. This is the rational reason. You have failed to successfully make your case.
  2. The customer does not have faith in the person or brand which is speaking to them. This is the emotional reason. The customer does not trust you to accurately present information to them and therefore does not believe what you say – even if it is simply factual.


Either or both of the above may be true in any given instance.

There are many reasons why lack of trust exists – everything from simple lack of message validation to a poor past experience with the person or brand – but the end result is always the same: the prospective customer selects a strategic alternative. Because there are so many reasons that a lack of trust may exist, it can be difficult to analyze precisely what is causing the distrust. It is therefore important to understand why your prospective customers go elsewhere. (The tool to do this is win-loss analysis, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming blog post.)

If you’re talking to the right person and you can get them to trust you, you will earn a sale. Conversely, in every lost sale one of these two things went wrong. Identify those areas, rectify them, and you’ll do wonders for your conversion.

"BioBM has been the marketing agency of choice for dozens of life science companies for half a decade. We use innovative marketing approaches to create transformational commercial success for your innovative products and services. If you’re seeking to upgrade your marketing, just give us a call."

Winning the Battle for Attention

Before you win a scientist's business you must win their attention.The most precious and limited resource that life science marketers and salespeople must fight for is undoubtedly money. Everyone is trying to get a piece of those often set-in-stone lab budgets. However, before that battle is an equally important one; one involving a resource that is almost as scarce and becoming scarcer. That battle is for the attention of your audience.

Attention is a resource that is inherently limited. Each person only has so many hours in the day. As more companies (and other distractions) vie for their attention, it behaves like any limited resource under increasing demand – the cost goes up.

Most marketing campaigns ignore this fact. They’re built under the assumption that the audience will care about what you have to say, but that’s a very poor assumption to make in most circumstances. Perhaps in a world of unlimited time and attention that would be the case, but will the audience care more about what you have to say than all the other things that are vying for their attention at that point in time? Put in that perspective, the answer is often a clear “no.”

So what can we do to obtain and keep scientists’ attention such that our messages even have a chance of getting through? How do we ensure that we have enough attention to effectively educate and persuade them that our viewpoints are correct and they should purchase from us? In addition to creating the standard campaign elements, you need to build in a mechanism to ensure you’re doing the following…

Step 1: Captivate

Interruptions can be easily ignored. We’re all trained to do it. Think about it… How many banner advertisements do you see in a day? How many email promotions? How many TV commercials or magazine ads or billboards? Now how many do you actually pay attention to? How many can you remember?

The lesson here is that interruptions are very ineffective. However, unless you’ve already built a large audience or community, you’re pretty much limited to interruption tactics. Those tactics will get the audience’s attention infrequently, so you have to make it matter. The first thing you need to do when you get that scarce bit of attention is ensure you’ll get it for more than a fleeting moment. You need to captivate your audience.

The worst thing that you can do – which most marketers do anyway – is start by expressing a “what” statement. In general, your audience does not care about what you are or what you’re selling (yet). You need to lead off with a statement of belief – a “why” statement – that will be both emotionally compelling to the audience and subject to agreement by them.

Step 2: Hold

That first interaction won’t last forever, so you need to ensure that you’ll be able to reclaim their attention when you next need it. That first interaction must create recognition of need. The need doesn’t have to be for your product or service, but rather for the information to follow. They need to understand that there is more to learn and future information will benefit them.

The most common way for a campaign to execute this is with an email signup followed by drip marketing. This runs into the problem of requiring their attention at a specific point in time. Once an email gets put aside for later, it becomes far less likely to be read. Support your continued communications with other means of reminding the audience, such as automatically triggered reminder emails or display remarketing ads.

(Quick side note: people are more likely to respond to loss than to gain. If you’re having trouble crafting messages that keep the audience’s attention, play off this loss aversion. Tell the audience what they are currently or losing rather than what they might gain.)

Step 3: Build

There will always be people who would likely buy from you at some point in time, but cannot or will not buy now. You want to be able to retain their attention to make purchase at a later date more likely. Even for those that do buy, you want to ensure you utilize your command of their current attention to make it easier to regain their attention later.

As interruption marketing becomes less effective, you need to ensure you have a pool of people who have given you permission to get their attention. This can be done by creating valuable resources for your market which are likely to be repeatedly referenced and revisited. It can be done through community-building efforts. It can be done through regular distribution of high-quality content. Whatever you’re doing, it needs to be something that makes your audience want to come back for more. Ideally, your continuous re-engagement efforts should also be on a channel that you control to ensure that you won’t have any trouble getting promotional messages across when you need to and you can exert control over the channel to ensure it remains of high value for the audience.

You can’t convey a message unless you have your audience’s attention. The next time you’re creating a campaign, be sure that you build in a capacity to captivate the audience and retain their attention.

"Looking to build more effective campaigns? Contact BioBM. We’ll ensure you get the audience’s attention and use it effectively to generate demand."

Content as a Sales Tool

Content marketing is for more than just lead generation: it can increase sales efficiency.A lot of people think about content marketing in terms of inbound marketing and lead generation. You create content and either make it freely available with perhaps CTA at the end, or you put it behind a lead gen form so you can collect people’s information with the intention of adding them to an email campaign list (or similar). Lead generation is certainly an important use for content marketing, but content should also be looked at as a tool to support the sales function.

How Content Supports Sales

It’s no secret that customers are taking more control of their buying journeys and pushing back their first contact with a salesperson. That is a well-documented fact, from which we can posit that the ways in which customers obtain information is changing. The information itself, however, is not. Just because customers are obtaining information in different ways doesn’t mean they need different information and it certainly doesn’t mean they need less of it. What it does mean is that the information that they were previously obtaining from salespeople now needs to be made available from them in different formats. If you have the customers’ attention and you fail to provide the information that they want, their changing behaviors indicate you’re becoming less likely to induce a sales contact and more likely to lose that attention as they seek information elsewhere. (That’s the reason companies are creating decision engines.)

That’s where content comes in. Content is the vehicle through which you provide detailed, specific information to customers and influence their thinking in the early and mid-stages (and sometimes the late stages as well) of the buying journey. Companies have always used their websites as “brochureware,” but we know that’s not enough. Various educational and persuasive content is required that goes beyond simple product or service information. In that sense, it’s doing what customers are no longer allowing salespeople to do. In doing so, content makes sales more efficient.

Bolstering Sales Efficiency

If you’re an organization that is heavily sales-driven and have great salespeople, you may wish that you could get contact with customers earlier in the buying journey. You shouldn’t. The more naive your customers are, the more effort they will take to lead them through their buying journeys to the point of purchase. If you are leading them with human effort, your sales costs increase with the remaining duration of the buying journey. The more naive your customers are, the more expensive your sales are.

Content, however, is readily scalable. For a one-time creation cost you can provide information to as many customers as the content is relevant to. There is more up-front cost, but as audience size increases the long-term costs rapidly decrease in comparison to a sales-driven effort.

Additionally, content can be viewed as a sales support asset, providing salespeople with referenceable materials and information to provide to inquiring prospects. Customers can go back to a piece of content whereas they cannot go back to a conversation (unless the conversation is via email). Content is not just an inbound tool nor does its utility end upon customer contact with sales; it can coexist with sales to collectively and synergistically advance customers’ buying journeys.

How Can Content Improve Your Organization’s Sales Efficiency?

If your company and sales organization are experiencing the following, you are probably in a good position to utilize content to improve sales efficiency:

  • Your salespeople get asked the same questions repeatedly.
  • The average time between sales contact and a positive decision is long.
  • The average number and / or total duration of sales contacts required to close a sales is high.
  • You get an abnormally high proportion of contacts whom you never hear from again (they could be contacting you to ask questions, then retaking control of their buying journey).


If you don’t know what content you need to create to start improving sales efficiency, start documenting the questions that your salespeople are being asked. Those questions and thir frequency often indicate what the most beneficial content would be for you to create. For a more thorough process, create content roadmaps for each of your customer personas. This process will help you to define in more detail the content that should be created. When deciding on what content to create, keep in mind that content = time and money! If a particular piece of content would have a small audience, it may not be worth creating. You need to balance completeness with practicality!

Content is a useful tool for decreasing the duration of customers’ sales cycles and decreasing the cost of sales. As customers take more control of their buying journeys, however, content is even more critical. It is a necessary delivery vehicle for information which will influence, educate, and persuade your customers. If your company does not provide the information they are seeking they will look elsewhere, and the customers’ attention is extremely difficult to reclaim.

"The most effective companies don’t act as peddlers, they act as shepherds. They efficiently guide the customer through their buying journey in a way that is intrinsically sensitive to their needs. If you want to become the shepherd of your customers’ buying journey, contact BioBM. We’ll help you build a marketing architecture that will win your audience’s attention, influence their thinking, and earn their business."