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Stop Hosting Your Own Videos

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

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

Reasons Why Hosting Your Own Videos Is A Terrible Decision:

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

An Example

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

The internet is fast.

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

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

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

28 seconds. Getting there…

Well that didn’t go far. 32 seconds.

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

42 seconds…

51 seconds! Almost there!

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

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

What To Do Instead

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

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

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

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

FAQs: Content and SEO’s Low-Hanging Fruit

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

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

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

FAQ Best Practices

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

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

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

FAQ Critiques

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

FAQ section on a product page of the Agilent website

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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

We Just Got Skyscrapered

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

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

The “What” and “Why” of Skyscraper Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

The “How” of Skyscraper Marketing

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

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

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

BioBM’s Skyscraper Marketing Tips

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

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

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

So to finish the story…

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

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

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

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


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

Why People Are Loyal … to ANYTHING

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

Website Loyalty Data from MarketingCharts.com

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

Do those 4 things well, you win.

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

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

Are You Providing Self-Service Journeys?

Customers are owning more of their own decisions.

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

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

Scientist considering an online purchase

Accommodating Digital Buying Journeys

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

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

    Owning the JourneyNetwork internet brain head

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

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

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

Carlton Hoyt Discusses Decision Engines on Life Science Marketing Radio

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

Transcript

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

What Google RankBrain Means for SEO

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

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

What Is RankBrain?

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

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

How to Optimize for RankBrain

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

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

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

Don’t Forget to Use Words

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

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

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

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

Lessons from Scientific Publishing’s Fight to Survive

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Points of Weakness

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

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

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

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

crumpled scientific journal article

Important Lessons for All Industries

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

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

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

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

Personalization Can Backfire

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

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

When Personalization Backfires

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

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

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

Building Consensus for Group Purchases

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

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

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

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

The Plight of the Distributor

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

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

The Value Squeeze

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

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

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

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

The Four Models for Successful Distributors

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEO Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Changed

SEO is still important in the life sciencesIt’s no secret that the SEO world has changed. Ever since Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm changes, and the subsequent updates to them, prior best practices fell apart. There’s no doubt about that. Things that were once highly effective tools of SEO, like link wheels, are no longer relevant. Because of the ever-decreasing ways in which a marketer can manipulate search engine ranks, there has been an increasing chorus of people proclaiming the “death” of SEO.

Some Self-Serving Claims

It’s been a long-running trend to proclaim the death of SEO. Here’s a nice little article from 2007 which lists other, older articles proclaiming the death of SEO. The claim that SEO is dead is not a new one.

These claims tend to come from two kinds of people: SEO-ers who’ve jumped ship and are trying to get people to follow them, or from people who work on elements of marketing that could be considered strategic alternatives to SEO. Once upon a time, a lot of these voices were from people doing search advertising. Now they’re mostly from content marketers.

Is content marketing important for SEO? Sure it is. Is it more important for SEO than it used to be? In most cases, yes. Is it a replacement for SEO? Not a chance.

The New Age of SEO

Let’s be clear on something: SEO is not dead. SEO will quite possibly never be dead so long as search engines as we know them remain widely used tools.

SEO has been an ever-changing field since the beginning. Remember “keyword jamming”? Remember those websites that were padded with “invisible” text at the bottom of the pages back in the 90s? Remember the link farms of the 2000s? … The most effective tactics have always changed as Google and other search engines have evolved, and I would be very surprised if that fact doesn’t remain true for a long time to come. The only thing about SEO that is infallibly true is the value of those highly coveted top organic search ranks.

The job of the SEOer has not changed. The SEOer is not suddenly a content marketer. The SEOer’s toolbox, however, has changed.

Many technical factors surrounding SEO are still important. Site performance is still very important and something that can be directly controlled. Clickthrough is still very important and is something which is readily influenced. Ensure that any page that you would want to use as a landing page has the appropriate metadata such that your site’s appearance in search results attracts searchers. Making use of Google Authorship and tagging content accordingly can have a profound effect, especially for companies which generate a lot of high-quality content. Additionally, SEOers need to ensure the website’s entry points should be controlled.

Keyword research is still important. The results of this keyword research are then fed to content development teams to help guide the content focus towards things that people are looking for. SEOers then need to ensure that the content is appropriately optimized, or that the content development teams know enough about SEO to create well-optimized content themselves.

Content marketing is very important for most organizations, but it’s still just one piece of SEO. Having an SEO strategy which focuses solely on content will put you at a strategic disadvantage versus those companies with a more holistic approach.

"Looking to improve your inbound marketing? BioBM’s marketing team doesn’t evangelize any aspect of marketing; we take a holistic approach to identify and execute on the areas of greatest potential impact for your life science organization. Want to learn more? Contact us today."

Content is for Your Customers

Your content isn't for you - it's for your customers.One of the biggest pitfalls of content creation – and by far the biggest content mistake by amateur life science marketers – is forgetting that your content isn’t just directed AT your target audience, but is FOR your target audience. Many content creators focus too heavily on what they want their customers to hear rather than sincerely addressing customers’ needs through content and, in doing so, providing customer value.

To illustrate the point, here are some types of content which I frequently see and which have the wrong focus:

  • Generic event-promoting blog posts (“We’ll be at the XYZ meeting in booth 2000!”)
  • “White papers” which don’t do anything but restate the value claims for a product or service.
  • Frequent social media posts about ongoing promotions.
  • Blog posts which are little more than product overviews.
  • Posting just about any overt promotional message to a LinkedIn group.


All of the above are company-centric or product-centric promotions. They do not properly address the customers’ needs. Even if a prospect has a potential but unrealized need for the product, these kinds of “content spam” will simply drive them away by trying to create an opportunity to purchase when most of your audience is likely not actively in a relevant buying journey. It’s the wrong message at the wrong time, and they’ll filter it out along with the mountains of other promotional content which they get bombarded with.

Instead of company-centric and product-centric messages, use your content channels to provide value-added, customer-centric content. Creating valuable customer-centric content, as well as matching each piece of content to the appropriate channels, requires three things:

  • Understanding what information your customers are looking for.
  • Understanding your customers’ preferences for consuming content.
  • Ensuring that your content distribution is properly targeted such that any given piece of content is provided to the most relevant audiences


To do these things effectively, you need to remove your own mindset from the equation. You need to stop thinking about your customers and start thinking like your customers. If you can effectively do that when you’re planning content, you’ll end up with content which is more valuable to your customers.

"Most life science companies are creating content, but in a world where more and more content is being generated, is your content valuable enough to rise above the clutter and get your audience’s attention? If you’re looking to improve the value of your content marketing efforts, turn to BioBM. Whether you need help defining content strategies or need someone to put words to paper, we can create high-quality content that earns you the respect – and the business – of your customers. Contact us today."

Carlton Hoyt to Present at ACP-LS Meeting

The ACP-LS annual meeting is the only time of the year when you can surround yourself with the best minds in marketing and sales of life science tools and services! This year’s meeting will be held on Thursday, September 18th and Friday, September 19th at the Boston Marriott Quincy in Quincy, Massachusetts. As a “Friend of BioBM” you can receive $250 off registration with this link.

BioBM Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt will be hosting one of the breakout sessions which will wrap up the ACP-LS Annual Meeting on the afternoon of the 19th. This session will focus on developing superior customer experiences and using them to achieve and maintain strategic brand advantages that drive customer preferences in your favor and improve your bottom line.

If you would like to see the meeting agenda, you can do so here: http://www.acp-ls.org/agenda

Personalized Experiences

The image below is of a Target which is near me. It shows what you would see if you just walked in the exterior doors of the Target. Can you think of any problem with this?

Providing a single generic experience for all customers increases the duration and complexity of their experience (or purchasing decision!)

You could walk in that Target looking for a sweater, I could be looking for toothpaste, and someone else could be looking for an end table. Regardless of our very different reasons for being there, however, we’re presented with the same initial experience. That’s not helpful.

Now Target is a little bit limited by the fact that they have physical stores. It’s not particularly easy – in fact it’s downright impractical if not impossible – to personalize a physical experience for every customer who walks into your store. You can’t exactly modify the physical store for every customer. However, you can readily personalize the experience in the digital realm. Despite this, even the largest life science tools and services companies fail to do so.

The world’s best e-commerce sites, such as Amazon or eBay, don’t have that problem. They use what they know about you, and also what they know about the products they’re selling, to try to get you from where you are to where you’re going as fast as possible. (Note this doesn’t only apply to personalization, although personalization is an important part.) However, you don’t need to be a billion-dollar company to personalize digital experiences. There are many tools that make website personalization accessible to mid-sized companies and even which make financial sense for small companies with a strong e-commerce focus.

As we’ve discussed in a previous report, research from the Corporate Executive Board has shown that increasing the simplicity of the buying journey can lead to an 86% increase in initial purchases of a product and a greater than 100% increase in the likelihood that a product or brand will be recommended. Helping customers solve their problems has been shown to elicit a more positive reaction than any other brand experience. Help your customers solve their problems in a simple, streamlined manner, and they’ll reward you with their business. Personalization is an important part of doing so.

"Looking to improve the performance of your life science company’s e-commerce site? Want to streamline your customers’ purchasing decisions and earn more of their business in doing so? Contact BioBM. We’ll help you implement practices which not only improve performance, but provide strategic advantage for your company over the competition."

Demand Problem? Brand Problem?

Poor demand generation could be rooted in a brand problem.“But our product performs better than the competitors! And it performs better for almost all applications!”

This is the cry of one too many life science companies (especially smaller companies) who thought that an incremental improvement – and a bit of advertising money – would be all that’s required to outcompete their competitors. This company probably has a few loyal customers, but they’re just not seeing the market penetration that they thought they should. After all, with a superior product you should be able to capture a leading share of the market so long as the market is aware of it, right? In theory, yes. The problem is that it’s not so simple, and the real world doesn’t work like it should in theory.

Every one of us demonstrates this on a regular basis. Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. Are you absolutely certain that each brand which you’re buying is the best one? Maybe for a few kinds of items, but almost certainly not for all. The brands all claim to be the best, but not many people have sampled every brand of food which they eat, or compared them all for nutritional value and other important product attributes. Chances are you don’t even look at all the brands – you just get what you’re used to getting for many things. While it’s true that decisions for scientific purchases are more deliberate than picking up a gallon of milk, there’s still an emotional component to any purchase. Whether you know it or not, your customers are ascribing value to each brand they come in contact with (often subconsciously).

For the company in the scenario outlined at the beginning of this article, the unrecognized problem is that unrecognized, confounding brand effects may be holding them back. In other words, the company is getting “out-branded”. Even though their product is an improvement to competitors or alternatives, and from a strictly rational decision standpoint customers should be driven to their product, the benefits are not enough to overcome emotionally-based perceptions. This problem is especially prevalent for small companies and for products early in their life cycle when there may not be independent validation of the products’ value.

Causes of Brand Problems & Potential Solutions

As we’ve discussed previously, brand value is effectively the sum of all the experiences that stakeholders have had with your brand. For any given customer, it’s the sum of all of that person’s experiences. (Note that these experiences can be second hand as well; a discussion about a brand with a colleague is still a brand experience.) This value manifests itself as an emotional attachment and resulting brand preference, which may be conscious or subconscious. If the sum of the customers’ experiences with the competitors’ brands have been more positive than their experiences with your brand, they will show a preference (perhaps even an irrational preference!) for the other brand which will hurt your demand. If you’re a small company or working with a new brand, it may be that they simply don’t have enough experience with your brand. For larger companies, it is more likely to be that the customer experiences which you have provided have been poor. Each of these issues call for a slightly different approach…

For small companies / new brands, you need to give your market a reason to engage with you in the first place, and unless your product / service is truly revolutionary, the product alone won’t be a compelling enough reason due to the aforementioned brand effects. This is not a conundrum, however. Consider ways to deliver value that is not intrinsically linked to your product but still relevant to it; in other words, ways in which you can provide value to your target market that do not require buying anything from your company or using your product. Creating valuable content has become the default method of doing so, however many markets are suffering from content overload; there is simply too much content being produced considering the audience’s limited time. If that is the case, consider developing resources rather than content.

For more established companies with a larger existing reach and customer base, work on improving existing experiences. Note that “experiences” could mean anything from support to digital user experience to the actual quality of your products. Diagnosing poor customer experience within a large enterprise is well beyond the scope of this discussion, but improving customer experiences is critical for any life science company which is underperforming. While fixing the root cause of your poor experiences is critical, creating customer resources can be a helpful way of getting customers to re-engage with your company and create positive brand value.

You don’t have to do something wrong for your market to be biased against you and hurt the demand for your products. Brand value is not an absolute. It is an relative, emotional thing, and the most important aspect for your company’s performance is how well your brand value stacks up against your competitors’. By focusing on customer experience, you’ll help to grow that brand value over time and shift market preferences in your direction. Along with those preferences will come more sales.

"Is your life science company losing the brand battle to your competition? Looking to move customer preferences towards your brand? Contact BioBM. We can design superior customer experiences for your company that tilt the scales in your favor to provide lasting strategic advantage."

Content First, SEO Second

Put a premium on the quality of your content, and don't churn out low-value content for SEO.By now, any decent SEO-er knows that the old way of performing SEO – basically, manipulating ranks through inorganic backlinks – is worthless. Google caught on and killed it. As of Panda 4.0, there are extremely limited ways in which someone can fool the rankings system, and doing so will only hurt you in the long run. That being the case, more SEO experts are turning to content development to improve SEO. In a sense, this is good – content development is a legitimate way of trying to improve rankings. However, as SEO-ers start to think about content, we need to remember that the content itself needs to be prioritized above SEO at all times. In other words, life science marketers cannot let the quality of their content slip due to the desire to focus on SEO.

Remember that the purpose of using content for SEO is to have your content seen by your target audience. Your audience, when consuming that content, is going to judge you by its quality. If you’re churning out low-quality content for SEO purposes you may get a lot of eyeballs, but you’re going to be turning off your audience due to the low value of the content which they’re landing on. This can be especially damaging if the audience doesn’t have prior experience with your company. Instead of trying to develop content strictly for SEO, take the high-quality content that’s being developed as part of your content marketing strategy and optimize it!

There are a number of things that you can do to improve the SEO of your high-quality content. For example:

  • Think about how your audience would ask questions related to the topic at hand. Is there any particular phrasing that they would use? If so, try to incorporate that phrasing into your content to improve the match for relevant “long-tail” search terms.
  • Make appropriate use of heading tags.
  • Ensure your page titles and URLs are optimized and relevant. Some content management systems default to generic nomenclature for URLs and titles, using things like an arbitrary numbering system or the date instead of a rich description. Ensure your settings use the title of your content (or at least part of it) in the page title and URL.
  • Improve the clickthrough rate of digital content by using a descriptive meta description tag
  • Improve the CTR of your digital content even more by using Google Authorship and ensuring you have a good headshot in your linked Google+ account. This can have a huge impact – I’ve seen various case studies claiming that pages with authorship attribution and a headshot displayed in the search results see between 20% and 150% increases in clickthrough. Eye-tracking data is just as compelling: searchers will pay more attention to author-attributed pages than higher-ranking videos with larger images.


If necessity dictates that you need to create content strictly for SEO purposes, especially if it would fall outside the bounds of your content strategy, ask yourself the following questions to ensure that you don’t churn out junk content:

  • Does our target audience have a need to know about this topic?
  • Can we create content which would genuinely fill that knowledge gap?
  • Would our target audience expect us to provide this type of content? If not, would they find it odd that we are? … I think of this as the realtor / lawnmower conundrum. Your realtor, knowing that you just bought a house, would be in a great position to sell you a lawnmower. They even know what kind of lawn you have. However, you would likely be put off if your realtor tried to sell you a lawnmower.


While the tools at one’s disposal to positively affect search engine ranks are more limited than they used to be, SEO is still important. As SEO tactics take a more content-centric approach, it’s important you don’t churn out low-value content. Your content strategy should be focused on the content. Working SEO into your content strategy will have a far more positive long-term effect than trying to take to shape content around an SEO strategy.

"In their quest to determine who to give their business to, your customers are judging you every step of the way. Providing value to them through great content is a critical way to earn their trust and respect, giving your life science company an edge on the competition. If you are looking for superior content strategies which will create competitive advantage for your company, contact BioBM. We’ll ensure your company is providing value to your customers which pays you back in increased business. And we’ll make sure it gets seen while we’re at it."

The Role Of Branding – Part 3

This is the final post in a three-part series on branding. For the first post, go here. For the second, go here

Brand Positioning Formula

Last week, we discussed solving the above equation which tells us what the most powerful brand positioning opportunities are. Now we must translate the results of that equation into tangible elements that will align with that desired position. This includes some basic elements of messaging (such as the brand name itself, slogans, and core messaging) includes visual elements (logos, typography, and other elements) and also includes voice & tone, which provides guidance as to the overall “feel” of customer interaction and customer-facing communications.

Special focus should be given to the core messaging, as that is where the capability to captivate the audience really lies – especially early on. In order for the brand positioning to be effective, you need the audience to go along with it, and the core messaging is what will deliver the most impact. To be effective, the core messaging needs to do three things. First, you need to make a compelling “why”-type statement. In other words, you need to tell the audience why you’re doing what you’re doing rather than just what it is that you do. Secondly, you need to frame it as a statement that the audience can agree with. You want them to buy into it. Lastly, you need to make it emotionally powerful, such that they become engaged with your brand’s story. The logos and imagery will be important carriers of your brand, in other words they will trigger the association in the minds of the customers, but they actually play a relatively small role in the positioning of the brand. That’s far more about what you have to say and how you say it. The most common error made in initial brand development is focusing too heavily on imagery and visual elements to the detriment of the other aspects.

Once the core brand elements have been determined, it is useful to collect some feedback on them. This can be done via a primary market research study, or even with real-world data collected via a phased rollout. Certain brand elements may be able to be A/B tested to determine which are optionally effective, although you need to be careful not to put too much weight on short-term behavior as the brand is concerned most with long-term impact and the two are not always in alignment.

At this point, you understand your desired position and have formed your core brand elements. It takes a lot of thoughtful effort to get to this point, but this is only the foundation. Brand positioning is the platform upon which the brand is developed and truly built. Ultimately, the brand is created by experiences, and crafting positive experiences for the customers which align with the brand position are the key to making the brand position a reality. What those experiences will vary from brand to brand, but one thing always remains true: helping your customers solve problems is the most likely way to evoke positive emotions. Focus on identifying and solving your customers’ problems, especially in a way which doesn’t require a purchase, and you’ll be on track to develop positive brand value. Do this better than your competitors and you’ll create a competitive brand advantage for your company. (More information on providing superior customer experiences can be found in our latest paper: “Superior Experiences.”)

Whether you are actively shaping it or not, your brand is being developed every day, with every stakeholder interaction. It’s up to you to develop your brand into something that provides positive value for your company. Competitive advantage isn’t all about products and operations – brand plays a very significant role in determining winners and losers. Shape your brand into something valuable, develop it through positive customer experiences, and you’ll position your company to be the winner.

"Is your company taking an active role in shaping its own brand? Are you providing your customers with superior experiences which create lasting brand value – and competitive advantage? If your answer is “no”, then we should talk. Contact BioBM and we’ll help you develop your brand into a source of competitive advantage which drives the commercial success of your company. We’re happy to speak with you."

The Role Of Branding – Part 2

This is the second in a three-part series on branding. For the first part, go here. The third part can be found here.

As mentioned last week, the ideal brand position can be thought of in formulaic terms; it is all the “valid” brand positions, less the positions that are occupied strongly by competitors, less those that are unimportant to your target market(s).

Brand Positioning Formula

So how does one go about solving that equation?

Start with determining all of your company’s valid brand positions. To do this, you need to answer the question: “What are all the positions which we could validly claim?” The answer is dependent on a multitude of internal factors – everything from company vision and mission, company culture, down to the details of how you do business. This process therefore requires a holistic internal investigation, usually gathered via internal documents and from team members. It should be structured like a market research project with a qualitative and quantitative component and both primary and secondary research. Qualitative secondary research is a good place to start, where you can assess things like mission and vision as well as company processes that might give insight to potential differentiators. Qualitative primary research is generally next, with interviews of influential employees to get their opinions of what the company or brand means to them. A quantitative survey of a larger set of internal participants (presuming the organization is large enough to merit it) is helpful to validate and clarify the results of the qualitative research.

Next, look to see how your competitors are positioned. Start with analyzing how they are attempting to position themselves. At most basic, this could be done with an attribute analysis using their publicly available brand messaging. (More details on how to perform an attribute analysis can be found here.) If you want to dig even deeper, put yourself in the customers’ shoes and try to interact with your competitors to determine how they present themselves. This is difficult to do impartially by yourself, so it’s best to have neutral participants interact with the competitors on your behalf and report their experiences to you. Ask yourself: how does it feel to interact with the competing companies? What kind of experiences are they providing and directing customers towards?

After determining the competitors’ projected position, you also need to determine their actual position. This asks the question: “How are our competitors perceived by the target market?” If your market is large enough there may be data on the competitors in published market studies, but generally this requires your own primary market research. Qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys will provide the data to analyze your competitors’ actual positions.

Lastly, you need to determine which of the valid brand positions are actually relevant and important to the target market. Similarly to determining the actual competing brand position, this requires speaking with the target markets. To save on cost and time, these two questions can be answered simultaneously. As with any market research project, what questions you ask and how you ask them is extremely important such that you obtain unbiased answers.

With all the values on the right of the equation known, you can now complete the equation and determine your ideal brand position.

The next step is to translate the results of this equation into tangible elements which will align with the desired position. We’ll discuss this in our next post.

"Brand value may be intangible, but its effects on your business are not. A branding advantage may be the difference between customers choosing your product and them choosing your competitor’s – it’s not uncommon for a perceived demand generation problem to be rooted in the brand. To secure brand value, you need to ensure that your brand position is meaningful and that your brand experiences are positive and reinforce each other. That’s a big task, but it’s not one you have to do alone. Call BioBM. We’ve helped dozens of life science companies build their brands and generate more demand. We can help you, too."

The Role Of Branding – Part 1

This is the first in a three-part series on branding. The second part can be found here. The third part can be found here.

Branding is an abstract concept, and a lot of marketers have different ideas of what the act of branding really means from both a strategic and tactical perspective. At BioBM, we have a very clear vision of the role of corporate branding efforts, and we want to share that vision with you so you can move towards improving your own brands.

One quick note: For the purposes of this discussion we’ll refer to corporate brands only, with the understanding that divisions or product lines can have their own brands as well, and that everything we mention here applies to any such brand.

First, we need to understand what brands and brand value really are. A brand is basically the abstract notion that is your company. It is all of the things which the perceptions of your company are effectively attributed to. Brand value (which is distinct from brand equity – how much your brand is worth in money) is the collective opinions of your brand. It is the resulting sum of all the experiences which customers and / or other stakeholders have had with your brand. Given these definitions, we can see that on an individual level, the brand and brand value can differ from person to person. There can be no singular thing that is the brand in its entirety. It is therefore also useful, in various situations, to consider the brand or brand value from the standpoints of different groups of stakeholders. For instance, your target market may have a different perception of your brand than do your employees or the public. For the purposes of this conversation, we’ll assume that you, like most marketers, are primarily concerned with the perceptions of the target market.

Considering that the brand value is held externally, and that it is a matter of perceptions, marketers cannot create brands in the way that they create other marketing assets (a brochure, for example) or the way that your company might create a product. What we CAN do is try to influence those perceptions, and corporate branding efforts should be seen as an effort to do just that.

When marketers think about “creating” a brand, what they really need to do is think about brand positioning – aligning the brand for the maximum probability of success. Successful brand positioning requires two things. The first is differentiation. If your brand is not differentiated from competitors, then it will have a difficult time demonstrating comparative value and, therefore, outcompeting the competition. The second is alignment. Your brand needs to be aligned with your vision and values, and it also needs to be aligned with the customers’ values and goals. If your brand is not aligned with your own values, then you will have a difficult time staying true to the brand positioning and providing experiences that reinforce it. If it is not aligned with the customers’ values, then your claimed position will not contribute any perceived value to your brand.

Venn Diagram of Brand Positioning OpportunityTo understand what your brand’s ideal position is, you need to understand three things. First you need to understand what brand position you would like to claim and could validly claim independent of any external considerations. This requires an understanding of your vision, your goals, your core competencies, and other company-centric factors. We then need to understand competitors’ brands: both their desired brand positions and ACTUAL brands. In other words, we want to understand both how they want their brand to be perceived and how it actually is perceived by the markets in question. Lastly, we want to understand the customers within your target markets. What are their goals and values? What do they value in a company?

Where your potential brand positions overlap with the customer values with minimum competition from other brands, you can identify your most opportune brand position!

Your brand, therefore, isn’t something that should simply be conjured up by locking a few creative types in a room for a few days. Your ideal brand positioning can be expressed as a [non-quantitative] mathematical equation! It’s a rational endeavor in addition to a creative one, but the rational elements of positioning are arguably more important, as they’ll inform you how you need to be positioned in the first place.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to determine the three necessary “variables” in order to to solve this equation.

Brand Positioning Formula

"Brand value may be intangible, but its effects on your business are not. A branding advantage may be the difference between customers choosing your product and them choosing your competitor’s. To secure that value, you need to ensure that your brand position is meaningful and that your brand experiences are positive and reinforce each other. That’s a big task, but it’s not one you have to do alone. Call BioBM. We’ve helped dozens of life science companies build their brands and generate more demand since 2010. We can help you, too."

New Paper: Superior Experiences

BioBM Consulting has published a new paper entitled: “Superior Experiences – How Small Life Science Companies Can Out-Compete Large, Established Competition.” This paper describes why customer experience can be a comparative strategic advantage for smaller life science companies and why many large companies fail to provide excellent customer experience, details the foundation for strong, branded customer experiences, and discusses what makes for an experience which imparts value onto the brand. Life science marketers who read the paper should gain a better understanding of some of the fundamentals of branding, customer experience, and how the two are closely tied to one another.

Keeping with BioBM’s mission of providing resources to the life science marketing community, “Superior Experiences” is available free of charge. To learn more about the new paper, to preview it, or to request a copy, please visit: https://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/