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Stop Hosting Your Own Videos

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

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

Reasons Why Hosting Your Own Videos Is A Terrible Decision:

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

An Example

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

The internet is fast.

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

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

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

28 seconds. Getting there…

Well that didn’t go far. 32 seconds.

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

42 seconds…

51 seconds! Almost there!

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

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

What To Do Instead

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

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

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

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

FAQs: Content and SEO’s Low-Hanging Fruit

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

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

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

FAQ Best Practices

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

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

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

FAQ Critiques

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

FAQ section on a product page of the Agilent website

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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

We Just Got Skyscrapered

Just yesterday, we got skyscrapered. No, we didn’t get an office in a giant building or fly an ad from one or anything like that, nor is that some weird pop-culture thing that teenagers are putting on YouTube. We were the target of an attempt at “skyscraper marketing” … and I’m talking about it, so I guess it worked in a sense.

I’ll talk more about this particular instance in a moment, but first I wanted to give an intro to skyscraper marketing for anyone who isn’t familiar with it.

The “What” and “Why” of Skyscraper Marketing

Skyscraper marketing was one method which was popularized after Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm update. To summarize the implications of that in brief: there was once a time when you could “trick” Google into thinking that your website was more important than it was by posting links around the internet pointing to your website. Hummingbird was the Google update that put an end to that once and for all and penalized websites that did not comply. From then on, if you wanted to prove your website’s importance (and thereby improve your search ranks), you needed to earn your backlinks organically.

That’s about the time when content marketing became more important. From that point, not only was it the validation that showed prospects you knew what you were talking about, but it was the primary tool at your disposal to influence your search rankings (beyond the basic on-site optimization, such as optimized URLs and title tags, that everyone does and therefore isn’t a real source of competitive advantage). The more shareable the content, the more backlinks it would likely get, and therefore the better it was for SEO.

Thus, Skyscraper Marketing was devised. At its most basic, I can break it down into a three step process:

  1. Find successful content.
  2. Improve upon it.*
  3. Share it with people who would be interested in it and, in turn, share it themselves.

*The necessity for improvement is debatable, but you do have to do something to it. More on that in a moment…

The “How” of Skyscraper Marketing

Skyscraper marketing is, essentially, a type of influencer marketing in that the important part is the last step – getting people with engaged audiences to share it. That being the case, there are two primary approaches (and you don’t have to choose between them – you can do both at the same time).

The first approach is the incremental improvement approach. You find some good content which you have something to add to / make better / pose a counterpoint to / etc., then distribute it to a bunch of people who would find it relevant and potentially want to share it. In this approach, you’re adding something to the general body of knowledge in the hope that your contributed insight is enough to make it a worthwhile share – especially from people who have large audiences themselves. Again, the goal is to get as many backlinks and as many eyeballs as possible (those goals do overlap) so the more people you reach out to the better.

The second approach is the “stroking one’s ego” approach. In this approach, your goal isn’t necessarily to improve upon good pieces of content, but rather to act as an aggregator. You take really good tidbits from the thinking of a number of different influencers, and repackage them into a single, easily digestible, and readily shareable piece of content, being sure to reference and link to the authors / posts whose thinking you aggregated. You then reach back out to those people and let them know that you published something which referenced them. People, being generally inclined towards things that make themselves seem important, will share your article which highlights their own thinking.

BioBM’s Skyscraper Marketing Tips

As with influencer marketing, you want to take care to do it correctly. If you don’t, you’ll not only waste your time and effort, but you’ll also get a reputation among the influencers in your market as a peddler of junk content. If that happens, skyscraper marketing or other forms of influencer marketing will be more difficult for you in the future. Just as poor quality content can reflect badly upon your brand, asking people to share poor quality content will erode your relationships with those influencers.

To not be “that guy,” here are some useful tips:

  • Don’t spam your network. Only send out good content and only send it to people who would find it genuinely relevant.
  • Don’t plagiarize copy … or ideas. If people realize they’ve heard it all before elsewhere, they probably won’t share it.
  • Note that “improved content” does not mean “longer content.” A lot of people have a habit of focusing on expanding upon an idea rather than improving upon it. Improvement is far more important than expansion. If you make something better or take a novel perspective on an idea, that’s far more worthy of sharing than simply adding more of the same.
  • “Improved content” also doesn’t mean that you need to improve on the idea itself. Communicating it more effectively – for instance, using illustration to more clearly demonstrate a complex point – can be just as valuable.
  • Always remember: your content behaves like a product and must be differentiated!
  • If you’re going to take an ego-driven approach, be sure you show that you have taken the time to fully understand and eloquently explain the idea, and give some praise to the original author without coming of as a flatterer.

So to finish the story…

Upon checking our social media dashboards this morning, I saw this tweet:

I’ve been published more than the average person, but that’s still enough to get my attention so I gave it a quick read through. I ended up not sharing it on our @BioBM twitter account (and I don’t use my personal @CHoytPhD twitter anymore) for a few reasons. Primarily, we have very high standards for what BioBM publishes through our channels. We generally require there to be some element of newness, and we didn’t find there to be any particularly fresh thinking. (Sorry, Joe! No offense intended.) Secondarily, it was a really obvious skyscraper attempt, especially since our idea which was shared wasn’t strongly relevant to the body of the article and was simply one of many listed in bullet point format towards the end. On the other hand, Joe did well not to plagiarize the ideas which he referenced, but rather offered a tidbit of them with a link to the source. That was nice of him. (Thanks, Joe!)

That said, it did engage a discussion on twitter and his post did end up being linked to on our blog, so I suppose Joe can claim victory after all. He’s also welcome to follow this shameless promotion for our “Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services” LinkedIn group and post it there as well. 2262 members and counting!

Just for fun, and because who doesn’t love architecture, here’s a few more images of skyscrapers. All images are courtesy of Unsplash, which in an amazing feat of generosity allows their beautiful, high-resolution images to be used for any purpose and without attribution. I find that so awesome that I’m giving them attribution anyway.


"Innovative companies deserve innovative marketing. If you want to leverage the next generation of marketing strategies to not only help you achieve success, but create genuine strategic advantage for your company, contact BioBM. It’s never too early or too late, but the sooner we get started the more of a head start you’ll have."

Why People Are Loyal … to ANYTHING

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

Website Loyalty Data from MarketingCharts.com

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

Do those 4 things well, you win.

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

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

Are You Providing Self-Service Journeys?

Customers are owning more of their own decisions.

We’ve all heard the data on how customers are delaying contact with salespeople and owning more of their own decision journeys. Recent research from Forrester predicts that the share of B2B sales, by dollar value, conducted via e-commerce will increase by about a third from 2015 to 2020: from 9.3% to 12.1%. Why does Forrester see this number growing at such a rate? Primarily due to “channel-shifting B2B buyers” – people that are willfully conducting purchases entirely online rather than going through a manned sales channel.

All this adds up to more control of the journey residing with the customers themselves and less opportunities for salespeople to influence them. Your marketing needs to accommodate these control-desiring customers. It needs to accommodate as much of the buying journey as it can, and in many instances it can and should accommodate the entire buying journey – digitally.

Scientist considering an online purchase

Accommodating Digital Buying Journeys

Planning for the enablement of self-service journeys is a complex, multi-step process. In brief, it consists of:

  1. Understanding the relevant customer personas. Defining customer personas is always a somewhat ambiguous task, but my advice to those doing it is always not to over-define them. It’s easy to achieve so much granularity that the process of defining a customer persona becomes meaningless due to the presence of far too many personas with far too little to distinguish their journeys in a practical sense. It’s okay to paint with a broad brush. For a relatively small industry such as ours, factors such as “level of influence on the purchasing decision” and “familiarity with the technology” are far better than the commonly used definitions of B2C demographics which you’ll likely see used if you look up examples of creating customer personas. It probably doesn’t much matter if the scientist you’re defining is a millennial or Gen X-er, nor do you likely need to account for the difference between scientists and senior scientists. That’s not what’s important. Focus on the critical factors, and clear your mind of everything else.
  2. Mapping the journey for each persona. This can be done with data analytics, market research, and / or simply as a good old-fashioned thought experiment, depending on your resources and capabilities as well as how accurate you need to be. If you’re using data, use the customers who converted as examples and trace their buying journeys from the beginning (which will probably have online and offline components). Bin them each into the appropriate persona then use them to inform what the journey requires for each persona. The market research approach is fairly straightforward and can be done with any combination of interviews, focus groups, and user testing approaches. If you’re on a budget and just want to sit down and brainstorm out the decision journey, start with each “raw” customer persona, then ask “where does this person want to go next in his decision journey?” A scientist may want more information, they may desire a certain experience, etc. Continue asking that question until you get to the point of purchase.
  3. Mapping information or experiences to each step of the journey. Once you know the layout of the journeys and the goals at each step, it should be relatively clear what you need to provide the customer at each step to get them to move forward in their journey. This step is really just asking: “How will we address their needs at each discrete step of their journey?”
  4. Determine the most appropriate channel for the delivery of each experience. You now know what you’re going to deliver to each customer at each point in the decision journey to keep them moving forward, but how you deliver it is important as well. On paper, it might seem as though you can simply provide all the information and experiences the customer needs in one sitting and then that’s all they will need to complete their decision journey. In practice, it often doesn’t work that way. Decisions often involve multiple stakeholders and often take place over the course of days, weeks, or months. Few B2B life science purchasing decisions are conducted on impulse. For young or less familiar brands you may also need time for the scientist to develop sufficient familiarity with the brand in order to be comfortable purchasing from you. This is the time where you must consider not only the structure of the buying journey, but the somewhat less tangible elements of its progression. Structured correctly, your roadmap should essentially remove steps from the buying journey for the customer.
  5. Implement it! You now know what the scientists’ decision journeys look like and exactly how you’ll address them. Bring that knowledge into the real world and create a holistic digital experience that enables completion of the self-serve buying journey!
  6. That’s it! Your marketing is now ready for today’s (and tomorrow’s) digitally-inclined buyers.

    Owning the JourneyNetwork internet brain head

    What we’ve outlined above will create a digital experience that allows customers to complete a purchasing decision on their own terms, which is something they increasingly want to do. If you build such an experience you will give yourself a definite advantage, but your customers will still shop around. It’s not enough to get them to hone in solely on your brand (which, if we’re being honest, is an incredibly difficult task).

    Digital marketing is not only capable of enabling your scientist-customers to complete their decision journeys on their own, however. It is possible to create a digital experience that owns a hugely disproportionate share of the decision journey to provide outsized influence upon it. Such mechanisms are called decision engines, and when properly implemented they provide their creators with massive influence on their markets. If you would like to learn more about decision engines, check out this recent podcast we did on the topic with Life Science Marketing Radio or download our report on the topic.

    "Is your life science brand adopting to the changing nature of scientists’ buying journeys? If you’re not well on your way to completing your marketing’s digital transformation, then it’s probably time to call BioBM. Not only do we have the digital skill set to develop transformational capabilities for our life science clients, but we stay one step ahead with our strategies. We live in an age of constant change, and we work to ensure that our clients aren’t simply following today’s best practices, but are positioned to be the leaders of tomorrow. We’ll provide you with the next generation of marketing strategies, which will not only elevate your products and services, but turn your marketing program into a strategic advantage. So what are you waiting for?"

Carlton Hoyt Discusses Decision Engines on Life Science Marketing Radio

Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt recently sat down with Chris Conner for the Life Science Marketing Radio podcast to talk about decision engines, how they are transforming purchasing decisions, and what the implications are for life science marketers. The recording and transcript are below.

Transcript

CHRIS: Hello and welcome back. Thank you so much for joining us again today. Today we’re going to talk about decision engines. These are a way to help ease your customer’s buying process when there are multiple options to consider. So we’re going to talk about why that’s important and the considerations around deploying them. So if you offer lots and lots of products and customers have choices to make about the right ones, you don’t want to miss this episode.
(more…)

What Google RankBrain Means for SEO

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

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

What Is RankBrain?

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

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

How to Optimize for RankBrain

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

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

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

Don’t Forget to Use Words

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

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

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

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

Lessons from Scientific Publishing’s Fight to Survive

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Points of Weakness

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

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

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

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

crumpled scientific journal article

Important Lessons for All Industries

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

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

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

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

Personalization Can Backfire

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

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

When Personalization Backfires

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

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

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

Building Consensus for Group Purchases

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

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

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

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

The Plight of the Distributor

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

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

The Value Squeeze

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

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

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

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

The Four Models for Successful Distributors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Segmentation

If your content is for everybody, it's for nobody.A common strategic issue involves trying to be all things to all people. In general, it doesn’t work. You need some degree of specialization in order to effectively create comparative value to your audience. Even if you have a very broad product or service offering, you need to be able to segment your audiences in order to effectively differentiate and avoid commoditization. You need to cut your market into segments.

The same is true for your content (which, after all, behaves like a product). Put simply: if your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody.

Is My Content Insufficiently Segmented?

Broad, unsegmented content has many weaknesses. It tends to be repeat already familiar themes. It is easily replaced. It is undifferentiated. It is low-value. Because of these problems, it simply won’t perform.

How can you tell if poor performance is due to poor segmentation or some other problem? Here are some key warning signs:

  • You have multiple distinct audiences or markets, but you send all your content to all of them.
  • You have a link on your website that says “blog” or “news” and most of your content is hosted there, regardless of topic.
  • When creating content, you rarely think about who will be consuming it
  • Most of the information within the content that you’re publishing can be readily found elsewhere
  • Your content could be described as superficial or lacking depth
  • Your audience wouldn’t care or notice if your content didn’t exist.


Any of the first three are very clear signs of poor content segmentation. The last three can also indicate segmentation problems, but could signal other content-related problems as well.

How to Properly Segment Content

Step 1: Determine your target markets, if you haven’t already done so. If you have a positioning statement, great! If not, you at least need to define and document your target customer and statement of need. Note that unless your company is laser-focused, these will likely change for each product line or service offering that you have, and you’ll want to have different content for each.

Step 2: Create audience / customer personas. If you’ve already done this for your product offerings, then you can use those as a solid starting point. They should include demographic information as well as behavioral information. Demographic information includes industry, job title, function, location, etc. Behavioral information may include what their goals and needs are, what their expectations may be, what concerns or problems might they have, what role they play in the purchasing process, how influential they are, etc.

Step 3: Determine what the purpose of your content is and, relatedly, what stage of the buying journey your content is targeting. Are you trying to stoke interest among people with a nascent need? Are you trying to persuade people who are actively considering options? These determinations will inform you what kind of content (educational, persuasive, etc.) that you should create. Dont try to do everything at once! Just as you shouldn’t try to speak to all of your audiences at once, you also shouldn’t try to say everything to a particular audience in a single piece of content or expect them to go from naive to purchasing in one shot.

Step 4: Determine what benefit you are offering the reader that holds special value for the audience you’ve just defined. This is key! It’s entirely possible to define a very specific audience but then go on to create non-specific, poorly targeted content. If you fail to create well-targeted and value-creating content, your efforts in directing it at a well-defined audience will be wasted.

Most life science companies need to speak to multiple audiences. That’s completely normal. It can become a problem, however, if you try to speak to them all at once. If your content isn’t properly segmented, it becomes watered down and less effective at influencing the audiences and affecting their behavior. By properly segmenting your content to specific audiences and needs, you’ll be a much more effective influencer.

"The rise in the importance of content is a natural result of customers taking more control of their buying journeys. As customers have less contact with sales, they look to other sources of information to educate them and validate their decisions. Unless you have a strong content program, you’ll simply be left behind by changing customer behavior. If you want to ensure that you thrive in this new reality, contact BioBM. Our content marketing expertise will help you increase your reach, influence your customers, and dominate your market."

Differentiation Through Content

Your content is a product. Differentiate it.All of us life science marketers know that we need to differentiate our products and services. Nothing new there. It’s critical to demonstrate a unique value and avoid commoditization. But how often do you think about how well differentiated your content is? My experience has shown me that for most of you the answer will be: never.

Marketers often think of their content as something which is a carrot for the customer; something that is of benefit to them and for their own good. You’re providing them with knowledge so they should just eat it up and be grateful for it. Unfortunately that viewpoint is completely misaligned with reality.

Your Content is a Product

Your audiences are customers of your content. They are paying for your content with their time and, if you require them to fill out a form, paying for it with their contact information as well. All the same rules apply to your content as apply to your products. Your content has to be worth the “price”. You need to effectively “sell” it.

Your content also needs to be differentiated. Without differentiation, your content will be just one in a never-ending stream of content pieces being continuously created. And unlike with products, your content can’t compete on price. Your content either provides unique value or it won’t be consumed by your audience. Even worse, they might consume then resent you for wasting their time.

Ways to Differentiate Content

The best and most obvious way to differentiate your content is to say something different from what everyone else is saying. Take a stance on a topic and deliver content that has particular value for your target market segment. Demonstrate your existing position(s) through content. Not only will you be reinforcing your positioning, but so long as your position is unique your content will be inherently unique as well. Content which is differentiated in this manner will help drive your target market segment towards you while driving away the off-target audiences which would eat up time and resources but ultimately not become customers.

Some other ways to differentiate content include:

  • Find an area where you have knowledge that can’t readily be found elsewhere and share it. This can also help reinforce your positioning.
  • Forego traditional content and instead develop resources that help solve customer problems. There’s huge brand and customer experience advantages to be claimed in doing so.
  • Create content in different formats. If your competition are flooding the space with white papers, do a video or a webinar. Different people have different preferences for content.
  • Drill down or add a twist. If something has already been said, get even more specific or put a spin on it in order to tailor it to a particular market segment.


Never forget that your content is a product, and like any product it risks commoditization if it is not differentiated. By differentiating your content, not only will you increase its effective audience and create more engagement with it, but you can reinforce your positioning and branding as well. Differentiated content is better for both you and your audience.

"Content marketing is a resource-intensive, time-consuming endeavor. Don’t let all that go to waste. Ensure your content is as effective as possible. Content marketing from BioBM can provide your company with the influence and reputation you need to turn purchasing decisions in your favor. Provide meaningful value to your customers, and they’ll provide value to you. It’s a virtuous cycle. Start yours."

The Power of Print

flood of emailIf the forecast calls for rain, followed by ever-increasing amounts of rain thereafter, what is the end result? Assuming the forecasts are correct, you would have one heck of a flood.

That’s what the state of content marketing currently is. It’s a constantly-increasing deluge. We’re flooding our audiences with it, and they don’t have the attention spans to pay attention to even a small fraction anymore. As a result, content is becoming less effective, and marketers need ways to ensure their content stands out and successfully captures that scarce customer resource: attention.

Oddly enough, one of the most valuable ways to do so is to use a rapidly-forgotten tool.

Put Your Content in Print

Which of the following are you more likely to read: A) An email newsletter with links to a bunch of different articles, or B) A magazine that you’ve subscribed to which contains those same articles? Which of those is easier to ignore? Which is easier to unsubscribe to?

The fact of the matter is that if you put something in print it is more likely to get attention. There are other benefits as well. Long-form printed materials (for example magazines or books) convey more authority than do digital content. They also have more perceived value. This means that customers will give more up to obtain it, and you can use that to collect more information from them. At minimum, they expect to have to give up their address since the content will be physically mailed to them.

Some tips for life science marketers considering printed content:

  • Not all content is suitable for print. You need to ensure that the bulk of the content is of high value to the audience, or else your mailing will simply end up in the trash. Product- or service-specific content should be avoided as it will come off as pitchy.
  • If you want to use your printed content to more directly generate demand, place “advertisements” for your products and services within your printed materials.
  • To convey authority, try to adopt a magazine-style format. This requires a significant amount of content. If necessary, publish less often to ensure both the perceived and actual value is high
  • Get creative. Simply reprinting your blog posts is boring. Do something different. If the creative juices aren’t flowing, you can always do an interview or highlight some recent industry news just to mix things up.


There have been a lot of people who have given the advice: “look at what everyone else is doing, then do the exact opposite.” While that’s not exactly a principle to live by, it can help find opportunities. Content is overwhelming the digital realm, but if anything it is retreating from print. As print becomes less and less common, it may become easier and easier to use that medium to get your audience’s attention.

"Stop following trends and start creating them. BioBM has helped dozens of life science clients across the globe build their brands and win business through innovative marketing. Is it your turn? If so, contact us."

The New Permission-Based Marketing

Start Building an AudienceI want to take you on a trip into the future of life science marketing, not because I’m some kind of prophet (I didn’t come up with these ideas, nor did anyone in our industry) but because if the predictions of many marketing futurists come true, and if trends continue, the future will catch you by surprise and it won’t be a pleasant experience. It just could threaten your entire ability to be successful as a marketer.

Before we go into the future, to give us some perspective, let’s take a very quick look at where we are today and how we got here.

How we got here…

Once upon a time there was no internet and everything was print. (Last time I checked, CROs and manufacturers of lab equipment weren’t advertising on TV or the radio, so we can ignore those.) Then there was the internet, and marketers saw that it was good. They could easily reach large audiences at very low incremental costs. There was email marketing and banner advertising, and those were very successful tools for a long time. We could put ourselves directly in front of our target audiences, seemingly at will. Marketers got fat and happy, feeding off the plenty that the internet provided for them.

But customers got tired of interruptions. They responded with spam filters and ad blockers. They became numb to the constant barrage of ads and learned, consciously or not, to tune out the ads that marketers were throwing at them.

Marketers sought to save their valuable channels, and came up with new ways of increasing ROI. The rich media ad was born, as was the native ad. Clickthrough improved, and marketers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Email was never the same. Marketers couldn’t keep up. Where unsolicited email was once extremely popular, now most marketers use double opt-in lists. List sizes shrunk precipitously.

…and where we’re going

We’re in the midst of the death of unsolicited email marketing and opt-in email marketing is by no means future-proof. Display advertising is threatened as well. What comes after native? Maybe there are more evolutions of display (and / or text) advertising to come, but we can’t just keep filling webpages with junk. The audience – especially our well-educated and knowledgeable audience of scientists, will find a way to take back and protect their valuable attention. So what happens when they do so to an extent that the traditional marketing-by-interruption approaches are no longer effective?

Email and display advertising goes away. You can’t go back to print: we already know that’s not effective, and who actually reads things on pieces of paper anymore? Content marketing is valuable, but that doesn’t solve the problem either – it may help keep the audience’s attention but you still need to get their attention in the first place. Conference attendance is steadily declining and an opportunity that only comes once a year isn’t enough to prop up a marketing program. So what’s left?

Barring new channels being invented between now and then, it leaves search and social media.

The value of search is abundantly clear to most marketers, and while its value increases as it becomes more difficult to reach people through other channels, search won’t necessarily enter a new paradigm because of it.

Social media marketing, on the other hand, changes immensely. Social media essentially becomes your new permission-based marketing. It’s a group of people who you can actively reach out to with your marketing messages. You expand your list disseminating valuable, share-worthy content. The rules and best practices of social media won’t change so much, but its role without your marketing program will transform. That’s why it’s so important to start building your audience now, while you can still pull people to you with advertising.

Growing an audience organically takes a lot of time and effort. Right now you can “cheat” with social advertising, but how long will it be until that becomes ineffective as well? Start growing your audience now and you’ll be prepared for the future of permission-based marketing.

"For social and content strategies that go beyond the norm to create lasting, meaningful value from your audience while positioning your brand to dominate its space, look to BioBM. Best practices aren’t enough for us. We create innovative marketing programs that will change the way your customers perceive and interact with you. Contact us."

Case: Distributor Incentives

Case studies from BioBM are fictionalized, although the situations are faced by leaders at real companies.

LabTherm, a small, US-based manufacturer of laboratory incubators and ovens, had developed a proprietary heating technology that allowed them to provide a very high degree of temperature accuracy and uniformity more inexpensively than other high-end manufacturers. While they had a price advantage compared to other manufacturers that competed on quality, they still competed at the high end of the marketplace. LabTherm had been founded by Calvin, an enterprising engineer, about 7 years prior. After an initial period of slow growth and very modest revenues, LabTherm seemed to be starting to take off and was growing rapidly. They had recently made their 20th hire and moved into a larger space to accommodate their growth, although they remained a very engineering-focused organization.

New Responsibilities Bring New Ideas

Maintaining revenue growth from your distribution network

John had been a sales associate within LabTherm but expressed an interest to do more, and was recently granted new responsibilities and a new title. He had previously dealt primarily with end users in the US as well as some independent US-based sales reps, but was recently promoted to business development manager, a position which expanded his responsibilities to managing distributors internationally, under the supervision of Janice, LabTherm’s VP of Marketing and Sales.

On the recommendation of Janice, LabTherm had recently undergone a big push into Asia, adding many distributors across East and Southeast Asia. One distributor in particular, MegaLab, which operated in Eastern China, was proving to be a star. MegaLab’s sales had rapidly eclipsed those of many dependable, long-time distributors in the US and Europe. Between the new distributors and a new marketing push, LabTherm was growing rapidly and had more than doubled in size over a two-year span.

John saw what MegaLab was doing and wondered how the other distributors could be influenced to do the same. While there were some distributors who did no more than address international leads that came in directly through LabTherm, many were competent, seemingly interested distributors who actively promoted LabTherm’s line, John thought they were not doing as much as they could. An analysis he performed and presented to Janice supported that belief; yes, China was a large research market that was surpassing that of many European countries, but compared to the respective market sizes MegaLab was still far outperforming LabTherm’s european distributors. Furthermore, MegaLab had done this without exclusivity in China (they were only very recently granted exclusivity), while many of the European distributors had exclusive rights to sell the LabTherm line in their territories.

LabTherm already knew they were leaving a lot on the table internationally. Although the number was much lower than it was a few years ago, about 75% of their sales still originated domestically from US customers and reps. MegaLab had grown to account for one-quarter of all sales that came in through LabTherm’s distribution partners.

While Janice was happy with the direction that LabTherm’s international sales were heading – international sales growth had slightly outpaced the very high rate of domestic sales growth – she recognized there was a problem. Janice and John went to Calvin, the founder and CEO of the company, to propose they rethink their distributors’ incentives. After John presenting his case, Calvin gave the project his blessing, provided they don’t do anything that would interfere with business from LabTherm.

Managing Incentives to Increase Distributor Performance

Being a small company, LabTherm didn’t find it necessary to formalize their distributor incentive plan, but they had an informal plan which was applied to all distributors. New distributors were given one-year non-exclusive agreements. After the first year they may be given exclusivity, dependent primarily on their sales. Discounts were provided based on order quantity within any particular order. LabTherm’s sales and customer service support to both the distributors and their customers were excellent, but they didn’t offer much marketing support beyond putting the distributor name and contact information on brochures and other marketing assets.

Maintaining revenue growth from your distribution networkJohn was confident that failing to provide more support in marketing was probably a hindrance to the success of a number of distributors, but he also didn’t believe there was much he could do about it. Calvin, who retained direct control over new spending, was very conservative with marketing spending. John and Janice had once lobbied him for a simple Google AdWords campaign, and Calvin didn’t like the idea of buying traffic – even traffic that was seemingly highly relevant. Calvin believed that organic search, word-of-mouth, and their relatively new email marketing efforts were enough. They walked away from that meeting without even a modest budget for search advertising.

Another non-starter was public pricing. LabTherm posted all their prices online and also had online ordering to make it as easy as possible for domestic customers to place orders directly. While this was a source of discontent from MegaLab and many of LabTherm’s distributors, Calvin, Janice, and John all believed that they would hurt themselves by removing pricing from their website. Not only would that be a significant blow to their e-commerce sales, if not render them implausible altogether, but it could also cost them their price advantage. After all, they thought, if the domestic customers can’t see that LabTherm had lower pricing, they wouldn’t be nearly as likely to buy LabTherm.

That didn’t leave them a lot of room to work with. John suggested that they change their order size-based discount incentives to discounts based on total order value over the past year. “What we want to do is encourage total sales, not just large orders,” John said to Janice. “Having discounts based on order volume doesn’t incentivize greater total sales, but rather fewer amounts of larger orders; it encourages stocking inventory. Plus, otherwise good distributors who don’t want to stock inventory may be turned off if we’re effectively trying to push inventory on them based on our discount scheme.”

“But we want those big orders,” Janice replied, “and we want distributors to keep inventory. Not only does it help reduce prices for end users by greatly reducing the effective per-unit shipping costs and also reduce order fulfillment times by having units locally available, but if distributors are sitting on inventory they’re going to want to get rid of it as soon as possible. That means they’ll be more motivated to promote and sell the LabTherm products.”

“What about a hybrid solution?” John asked. “It doesn’t have to be all one way or another.”

“True, but I don’t want to create a situation that’s so complex no one knows what any given distributors’ discount is at any point in time. Imagine poor Laurie having to keep track of all that,” Janice said, referring to LabTherm’s bookkeeper who also processed orders. “And it’s not going to be any better on the distributors’ side. A lot of our distributors are smaller companies than we are, including MegaLab. They’re not going to want something that complex either.”

They sat in silence and pondered for a while before Janice turned her chair around and looked out the window. “Perhaps we’re thinking about the problem too one-dimensionally. There has to be something other than discounts that we can use to create incentive for our distributors … and that Calvin would approve of.”

What do you think?

What should John and Janice do to incentivize LabTherm’s distributors and continue to fuel growth? Join the discussion on LinkedIn.

Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services

Best Practices Aren’t Enough

Many marketers look to market leaders for examples on what to do. The thinking is: if I can replicate what the largest and most successful incumbents in my market are doing, I’ll be just as successful as they are. While there are times when best practices are useful, there are many times when they are not enough. More often than not, a copycat marketing strategy will not replicate competitors’ success.

There are a number of times when marketing best practices are insufficient. These include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • When incumbents have a brand advantage that biases customers in favor of your incumbent. All else being equal, if your competitors have a brand advantage they will continue to outcompete you.
  • When there are a large number of incumbents and no one or two competitors that dominate. You certainly can’t dominate your market by following in the footsteps of other companies who don’t dominate either.
  • If the product or service you are selling is not sufficiently differentiated from competition. All else being equal, scientists will prefer to stick with what they know.
  • When the marketing practices of your competitors are misinformed or – for whatever reason – just not that good.

 

In these instances, you need to go beyond best practices. You have to choose which elements of your marketing program are of the greatest strategic importance and surpass competitors in order to gain advantage and capture market share. But how do you know what to focus on?

The answer should be rooted in two things: customer value, and differentiation. Differentiation is somewhat obvious – we can’t create advantage by doing the same thing as our competitors, so those things cannot be the focus unless you know you can do them substantially better and there would be some barrier to your competitors replicating your success. Unlocking customer value is often far more obscure of a goal. To do so, adopt a customer-centric viewpoint and consider what needs they have that lie beyond the realm of commercial products and services. Uncover needs that are related to your business and your offerings and align with your values, then create branded solutions which address them. (For more information on that topic, see this post.) Once you understand how you can create value for customers that goes beyond products, the possible natures of the delivery of that value will become relatively obvious. (More on value that isn’t intrinsically linked to your products here and here.)

Unless you have a vastly superior product or brand value, best practices can get you no further than your top competitors. To surpass them, become a market leader, and truly dominate your markets, you need to do things differently.

"Best practices only get you as far as your competition, and that’s neither our goal nor the goals of our clients. At BioBM, we strive to create leaders. We strive to transform markets. We strive to dominate competition. … What do you strive to do? Let’s make it happen."

Research Sans Assumptions

Reports & Papers from BioBM - life science marketing and distribution reportsIn most market research, you start with a hypothesis or a set of assumptions and you take it from there. Those assumptions often aren’t conscious – for instance, when asking a user to rank a set of product attributes you’re assuming you know which attributes are most important – but they’re almost always present. For most research that’s fine, however for problems that are large and unknown these assumptions hinder our ability to identify a solution. This is true not just for traditional market research efforts, but for analytics-driven research as well. Diving into data – big or small – to try to answer a question doesn’t guarantee a correct result.

For those big, vexing problems, we need another approach.

Customer Research Without Assumptions

Serendipitous discoveries require that we shake those assumptions. We need to be able to observe and learn without our questions or research getting in the way of themselves. In order to do this, we need to adopt a customer-centric perspective. We once again need to stop thinking about the customers and start thinking like the customer.

Obviously, in order to perform research you still need to know what it is that you’re seeking to understand. We therefore still need to be able to ask questions and set goals, but we need to ensure those goals are assumption-free. To do so, start with the problem you want to solve or question you want to ask, and then convert that into a broad but addressable customer-centric issue. In other words, you need to be able to frame it as a human experience.

Addressing problems framed in this manner is not something that can be done with surveys or some kind of defined Q&A process – both require questions which embody assumptions. Instead, such research must be primarily observational. You want to be able to gather information in an open-ended manner. Questions should only be asked in response to observation. The primary issue in the design of such studies must be: what about our customers can we observe in order to gain the necessary understanding?

When to Take an Assumption-less Approach

The assumption-less approach to market research should only be undertaken for big, unknown problems. If you are even moderately familiar with the customers and the market, can envision a defined set of possible outcomes with a good degree of certainty, and can frame a set of hypotheses, then the problem is capable of being defined in a manner which does not necessitate an observational, assumption-less study.

The assumption-less approach is best when:

  • You are highly unfamiliar with the customers, market, or problem.
  • The problem at hand is novel.
  • Other methods of research or analytics cannot be used or have failed.
  • You cannot define a set of likely outcomes and have no hypothesis to test.


Aided by technology, many life science marketers who perform market research are increasingly relying on a combination of surveys and analytics to perform market research. These methods, however, cannot answer all questions. Hypothesis-driven market research imparts assumptions which can confound the understanding of unknown problems. To best tackle those big problems, take an assumption-less approach and perform an observational study which seeks to better understand unadulterated customer experiences.

"Have tough questions about your market that you’re struggling to answer? BioBM’s bespoke market research studies get to the heart of the problem and deliver understanding that enables transcendence in business results for life science companies. Learn more about our market research services or contact us."

Transform Your Next Launch

Don't create a splash - start a movement.The average product launch has a lot in common with a firework show. A lot of effort goes into it and it’s relatively expensive. It makes a big splash and does a fairly good job of getting a lot of attention. Also like a firework show, after the big launch effort is over, the audience goes about their lives as if it never happened. People won’t think about it much after it’s over, and within a few weeks it’s lost to history.

That is not a satisfactory outcome for a product launch, but it is the outcome for most launch efforts. A lot of this is due to planning and strategy – marketers plan big splashes and track their “success” with vanity metrics so it looks like goals were met. That’s not how things should be done. A product launch shouldn’t just create a splash. It should start a movement. The goal shouldn’t be to get “x” number of people’s attention. That’s fleeting and far removed from the things that matter. The goal should be to change the way that your target scientists think; to change their opinions on how they should do things.

That begs the question… What do we need to change in order to move from this paradigm of creating big, splashy launches to creating ones that have a more profound impact – ones that start movements?

Three Things That Will Transform Your Next Launch

Beyond the standard things that companies normally think of for product launches, such as positioning and ways to reach the target audience, there are three key things that life science companies need to do in order to make their launch be the start of something that grows and becomes stronger with time instead of fizzling away.

1) Captivate the Audience

Captivating your audience should be priority #1 for most high-level marketing communications, but it’s especially important for product launches. As we’ve discussed previously, there are a number of things you need to do to ensure you get your audience’s attention and keep it for as long as possible.

First, start with your reason. Why did you develop this product or service? Why does it exist? Do NOT start your message by saying what the product is. You might genuinely care about your new product, but remember that your scientist-customers do not. Leading with a product-centric message is a sure-fire way to ensure a lackluster response.

Secondly, make the message something the audience can agree with – and is likely to agree with. You want them to buy into your message up-front in order to make them more receptive to everything else you have to say. Show the audience that you understand them and that your goals and values are aligned with theirs.

Lastly, make it emotionally compelling. This is what will really give your message the power it needs to drive people into action. Frame the message around something they care about and make it sincere.

Note that these three core components to captivating messaging remain true regardless of the format you’re using to deliver your message. However, using more highly engaging formats such as video or interactive content helps to both attract and maintain your audience’s attention.

2) Provide Genuine Value

Don’t just ask of your scientist-customers; give to them. In order to create a memorable, lasting experience, they need to be able to derive genuine value from it. If they do not, the experience will be fleeting. This is one of the reasons so many launches fall short – if the goal is just attracting attention and the metrics used to show success are things like visits or clicks, marketers are rewarded for creating stimulating and entertaining but ultimately shallow experiences (like fireworks).

The common intermediate goal of delivering a digital download or something similar is also insufficient in most cases. White papers are most frequently skimmed once and never touched again. Case studies focus on the wrong stage of the buying journey for most of your audience. Your goal should be to create a genuine resource for your customers related to the product or service being launched. Ask yourself: what are the needs of our target audience and how can we address them in a way that both is relevant to the product / service and creates value for our brand? Answer that question and deliver on it, and you’ll create a lasting, positive experience for your customers that is perceived over and over again.

3) Build On It

If you’re going to create lasting change in your market, a one-off event isn’t enough. To keep your movement going, you need to support it. The ways in which you can do this are myriad, but should be guided by your launch. Strive to create value and create experiences which build on those created in the launch itself. Even better, have the launch itself leave behind something tangible which can be built on or built around over time. Whatever you do, don’t just walk away. If you’ve come this far in the creation of a successful launch, keep going.

Which kind of launch do you want, the firework show or the movement?

"Is it time to start your movement? If so, contact BioBM. Move beyond the firework shows and vanity metrics. We’re not here to create splashes. We’re here to start movements."

Organize Your Content

Image credit: http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/18872702So you have a really good content marketing program up and running. You and / or your team are routinely publishing high-value content for your target scientists – blog posts, white papers, webinars, and maybe even podcasts and other forms. Your content is getting a lot of views out of the gate, and it’s helping to generate leads for your organization. Sounds great, right?

The problem is, for most organizations, the value that any particular piece of content provides diminishes rapidly over time. Content is most often organized chronologically, and even for the content that isn’t, pieces of content have a habit of fading from view over time for one reason or another. This is true even for content that doesn’t become outdated. Blog posts get buried in archives. Webinar recordings get taken down with site updates and never reused. Etc. Much of the long-term value and potential of this content is being lost. So what can we do about it?

The answer is simple: Get organized. Instead of the traditional content repositories where content goes to die, create repositories that act as genuine resources for your customers. In building a repository, not only will you continue to derive value from your content over a much longer time frame, but you’ll also provide more value to customers by enabling them to find more content which provides the information or experience they’re seeking.

Creating a Valuable Content Repository

When creating a content repository, start with taking an inventory of your content. Secondly, organize that content into topics, ensuing that the topics are customer-centric and not solely company-centric or product/service-centric. These first two steps are relatively simple. The last is far more complex: create a well-designed repository for your content. What does a repository need to be “well-designed?” It needs to:

  • Have intuitive navigation. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, the repository is useless.
  • Focus on a central theme. If, for instance, you have two business units that are fairly disparate, it may make sense to have two content repositories rather than one.
  • Encourage exploration. You know you have a good repository if users are organically immersing themselves in it to find multiple pieces of content which interest them.
  • Bring together disparate forms of content around similar topics. If a customer is interested in single-cell RNA-seq and you have a video, two blog posts, and a white paper about it, that customer should be able to find all of those pieces of content as easily as finding any one of them.


So much good content fails to meet its potential due to the simple fact that it effectively disappears over time. You spent valuable time, effort, and money creating great content, so organize your content to ensure that it can continue to provide value, to both your company and your customers, over a long time horizon. In doing so, you may just be creating a genuine resource for your customers as well.

"Effective content marketing requires a serious effort. Ensure that effort is one that your customers will reward you for. To create content – and content strategies – which will drive customers to you and provide superior value for your company, contact BioBM."

Shift From a Product Focus

Stop focusing so heavily on products, and start focusing more on customers.Most life science companies still have a product focus, and many can get away with it because our industry, along with many other B2B industries, is a bit behind the marketing curve. Many companies place a very high priority on operational efficiency and building better products. Those things are undeniably important, but in many circumstances they’re not sufficient for winning markets anymore. There are plenty of products which were incremental improvements, or even significant improvements, and were offered at equal or lower products than their mainstream competitors but still failed. While there are many ways to fail in marketing a product, one of the largest is marketing a product. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

If You’re Only Marketing Products, You’re Doing It Wrong

Lets think about scientists for a minute. What are their goals? Maybe they’re trying to discover the next big drug. Maybe they’re trying to understand some burning scientific question. Whatever their goals are we can be reasonably certain that they are not to purchase “X” type of product. The need for a product is a low-order need. The experiment that the product will be used in is even a subordinate need to the ultimate goal. The point is that your product is relatively far from the thing that the scientist really cares about. Yet life science companies are trying to create competitive advantage in a manner which is almost entirely product-centric. That doesn’t make any sense.

We’ve seen symptoms of this shift from product to customer for a while. Personalization, for instance, tries to provide value by making the customer’s decision easier. Content marketing, when done well, tries to arm customers with knowledge. Companies are, whether conscious of it or not, being pulled into a more customer-centric viewpoint. But being pulled behind your competitors doesn’t create sustainable competitive advantage.

For a long time, companies looking to innovate would ask themselves “What else can we make and sell?” The question that you need to shift yourself to asking is “How can we provide value to our customers?”

Making the Shift

The most central facet of a customer-centric shift, especially since we are still talking about marketing products, is framing the product according to the needs of the customer. By that, I don’t just mean focusing broadly on customer needs, but rather focusing on specific customer segments’ purchase criteria and your products’ position relative to them. You don’t need to have a better, faster, or smarter product than your competitors. You need to have a product which more closely aligns with the needs of a specific customer. A Tesla is not claiming to be better than a Cadillac. They are simply meant for different audiences, and each segment is loyal to their brand in part because the brand focuses on their particular needs and desires (even if these desires are situational and therefore subject to change).

Think about how you can leverage network effects to your advantage. Most people think about customer data in the light of providing personalized promotions, knowing what company-created content to send to whom, or understanding a users’ purchase history. Get past that. Think about what information your customers have to share with each other and how you can help spread that information. This can be as complex as community-building or as simple as curating customers’ questions. Whatever the implementation, this information creates advantage over those who cannot provide such value. Network effects build on themselves and can be difficult to replicate.

On a non-product level, don’t forget to consider the brand advantages which drive scientists to your products in the long-term. Creating superior experiences for your customers imparts brand advantage for your company that manifest in improved customer acquisition and loyalty.

Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean product innovation, and customers are no longer making purchasing decisions solely based on the features of the product. Product-based advantages are becoming ever more tenuous, and competing effectively and creating sustainable advantage requires shifting focus to the customers. Provide superior value to them based on an understanding of their needs, and you’ll win their business.

"Looking for more effective ways to earn the business of your target scientists? There are plenty of opportunities waiting to be seized. Contact BioBM and we’ll uncover those opportunities and help you execute strategies to capitalize on them, grow your market share, and create sustainable advantage for your life science company. Tell us your challenges."