It’s part of my job to be very familiar with the life science tools sector. The need for familiarity commonly drives me to the websites of a number of different manufacturers – this has been especially true recently. However, if you were to ask me how many of those manufacturers presented me with their brand again after leaving their website, there are only a handful. Within that handful, however, I could name 100% of the companies. The rest? Maybe 25% to 50%, off hand, and only that many because I make a note of knowing my market.
This illustrates two key things. 1) Your brand (and product line) is much more likely to be remembered if you present it to your audience repeatedly, and 2) there is a surprising underutilization of remarketing within life science tools. The former is an opportunity. The latter is a problem, but could be an opportunity.
Most buying journeys in the life sciences aren’t completed in a single instance. With the exception of commodity-like items and repeat purchases, most purchasing decisions involve multiple “sessions” of consideration. In other words, scientists by and large don’t just sit down and buy something. They take time to consider and evaluate their needs and their options. A purchasing decision is more likely to last days, weeks or even months than it is minutes or hours. However, most demand generation-focused marketing campaigns are geared towards a customer taking action in a single sitting.
For instance, say a customer finds your company through search. (If a scientist is proactively looking for a product, there’s about a 45% chance that they performed a search as their first action within their buying journey.) Unless that customer is then sufficiently satisfied with where they are in the buying journey to take the next step then and there, they will leave. Without remarketing, that customer is gone. You’re left to sit and hope that the customer remembers you. With remarketing, however, that’s not a problem. You can present your brand, product, and / or message to that potential customer multiple times, reinforcing your brand and message to that prospect. This isn’t only applicable to search, however. The same could be said for any type of marketing or advertising – email, social, print, etc. – where the potential is there for the customer to go to your website, view some information, then walk away never to be seen again. If you think about it, that potential exists for just about any type of campaign.
Does remarketing sound complicated? It’s not. Remarketing does not require any fancy software or tools. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Google Analytics, AdWords, and the ability to paste a few lines of code into their website can set up remarketing. Even video remarketing with YouTube is easy to set up.
As with most forms of advertising, remarketing should be as targeted as possible given the practical considerations of audience segmentation. For instance, ads targeted to specific product lines which a customer viewed will generally more effective than a single, broad message to anyone that’s visited your website.
Most companies are letting a lot of good prospects get away. These are prospects that have shown interest through the activity of going to your website and viewing particular content. These are prospects that can be targeted, but in most cases aren’t because companies don’t know who they are. By leveraging the power of remarketing, life science tools companies can stay in front of scientists who have shown interest in their brand and products, helping to ensure that they stay in consideration during the scientists’ buying journeys and, ultimately, increasing their conversion.
Having worked with a large number of manufacturers, it seems that there’s almost as many different processes to grow distribution networks as there are companies looking for distribution. However, there does seem to be one method that’s all too frequent: find a distributor that’s “good enough” and run with it.
This admittedly sounds counter-intuitive – after all, why would anyone want a distributor that’s only “good enough” – but it happens surprisingly frequently. It’s easy to get a bit lazy when it comes to distribution. Identifying and qualifying distributors is a tedious, time-consuming, and sometimes difficult process. Many manufacturers don’t have a good understanding of the distribution landscape in many geographies. There’s always a large amount of uncertainty when it comes to distributor selection, so many people turn to gut instinct. Whatever the reason is for not vetting a sufficient pool of distributors, it can carry a huge opportunity cost.
Think about the difference in performance between one of your very good distributors and an average one. For most companies, the 80/20 rule is in full effect when it comes to distributors – 80% of their distributors are mediocre, while 20% are very good or exceptional. (I’ve heard a number of manufacturers state this rule should be changed to 90/10 when applied to distributors.) While it’s a stretch to say that all of a manufacturer’s distributors will ever be exceptional, this indicates that there is a very large amount of room for improvement. Not all of this improvement can come from better distributor management; some improvement needs to be rooted in better selection of distributors.
The first critical step to selecting better distributors is to create a profile of what a high-performing distributor would be for your company and product line. What are the most important strengths and capabilities you need them to have? What functions will you need them to perform? What skills and knowledge must they possess? What signals will you look for that would indicate a distributor would meet these needs?
The second critical step is to ensure that you’ve successfully identified all of the relevant distributors for evaluation – and engage with them. With success being dependent on a such a broad array of factors, it’s important to engage with many distributors to learn more about them and feel them out. Unless you’re literally using distributors as order fulfillment centers, their interest in distributing your product line is often the most important factor in their success. Interest is something that you can only gauge by speaking with distributors, so it’s important to engage with a number of distributors to enable you to accurately weigh your options.
Distributors are central to the success of many life science manufacturers. Depending on the market and the product line, the difference between an excellent distributor and a mediocre one could be anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars per year. With so much at stake, isn’t it worth the effort to ensure that you’re selecting the best distributor available?
We talk so much about content on a conceptual level that I thought it might be helpful to offer some more practical advice. Luckily for me, there’s a lot of knowledge out there to work with. In this post, we’ll look at two studies that surveyed B2B buyers on their preferences for content.
A study published by the CMO council this past summer asked a lot of useful questions. I’ve summarized some key insights below:
The 5 most trusted types of content:
- Research reports or white papers from professional associations – 67%
- Research reports or white papers from industry groups – 50%
- Customer case studies – 48%
- Reports and whitepapers from analysts – 44%
- Independent product reviews – 40%
The 5 most valuable sources of content in purchasing decisions:
- Professional associations and online communities – 47%
- Industry groups – 46%
- Online trade publications – 41%
- Seminars and workshops – 41%
- Trade shows – 35%
(These results hint at who can help you amplify your voice most effectively)
The 3 most valued characteristics of content:
- Breadth and depth of information – 47%
- Ease of access, understanding and readability – 44%
- Originality of thinking and ideas – 39%
The 3 most disliked characteristics of content:
- Too many requirements for download – 50%
- Blatantly promotional and self-serving – 43%
- Non-substantive / uninformed – 34%
The above data is largely self-explanatory so I’ll save a long-winded explanation.
Salesforce Pardot also had some interesting information in its “State of Demand Generation 2013” study, most notably on the legnth of content. They asked B2B buyers how long content should be and gave three choices: under 5 pages, over 5 pages, or as long as it takes to inform them. 70% stated that they prefer content to be under 5 pages and only 2% stated that they prefer content to be over 5 pages (the remaining 28% said “as long as it takes”). We generally advise to make your content as long as it takes, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend sacrificing quality for brevity, but given these results it may be worthwhile to re-evaluate long pieces of content to see if you could either be more concise or break the content up into multiple discrete units.
The Salesforce Pardot study also found that about 3 in 4 B2B buyers prefer different content at each stage of the research process. That’s not particularly surprising, considering that informational needs change over the course of the buying journey. However, it is a good reminder not to keep dangling the same piece of content in front of your prospects.
Take all of this data with a grain of salt, as every industry is different. However, the information can serve as general guidance in the creation and / or publishing of content.
We’re big advocates of content marketing, and we’re glad to see that content marketing is rapidly being adopted by life science companies. However, as content marketing becomes more popular, we’re seeing more companies creating content simply for the sake of creating content without much regards to strategy, customer, or value. While content marketing is highly valuable when done correctly, it can actually be detrimental if done carelessly.
To understand why, we need to step back and revisit the concept of a company’s brand and understand that the brand resides in the mind of the customer. It is the result of the customers’ cumulative experiences with the company. Everything the company does influences the brand, content included. A strong, positive brand elevates all of the company’s marketing and sales efforts. It improves the level of trust that your customers extend to you. It makes your communications more likely to be not only received by your audience, but digested. It can even make closing sales far easier. The opposite is also true – having a weak or negative brand makes virtually all marketing and sales endeavors that much more difficult.
Well-written content that is educational, helpful, or otherwise valuable to the audience reflects positively upon the company. Trivial, meaningless, or irrelevant content can reflect negatively. Even if superficial or poorly written content is helping you attract more eyes, if those eyes are not part of your target audience they are worthless. Even worse, if they are part of your target audience and are not impressed with your content, they could leave with a negative impression which hurts your company. Just because your target market is exposed to your brand doesn’t mean that it’s helping you. (Side note: This is also why no marketing analytics effort should place too much value on views.)
This is also why content should not be thought of one-dimensionally, especially if you’re making it publicly accessible. When you make content public, you’re losing some element of control over who views it and for what purpose. If you’re posting content for a particular purpose, it may be consumed by others who have a different purpose. To use a simple example, if you’re posting content for SEO, which by necessity is publicly accessible, you still need to address the needs of your audience. Similarly, if you’re disproportionately posting content which is relevant only to a particular segment of your audience, you may turn off other segments of your audience.
For most life science companies, content can enhance many areas of marketing and sales and should be central to the marketing effort. Content marketing needs to be taken seriously and be approached strategically. Haphazardly creating content which is of questionable value is not only a wasted effort, but it can actually hurt you.
It’s enticing to try to close every prospect at the first opportunity. You can certainly rationalize doing so – you’re just trying to make the most of every opportunity, ASAP. Attempting to do so, however, can drive away your customers by forcing them to choose before they are ready to buy. While this may seem obvious in theory, life science marketers and salespeople routinely attempt to push their customers through their buying journey.
Your scientist-customers are risk-averse. If a customer isn’t sure that your product or service can perform the job they need it to perform, or if they don’t yet see that it is worth the price, they’ll view the purchase as being a high-risk endeavor. Asking a fresh prospect to make a purchase is a very big step for them – it involves a lot of risk since they are not yet certain about the utility and value of your product. The conversion of such a step would be very, very low.
To improve your conversion, you must allow your prospects to take smaller steps. Break up the buying journey into easily digestible chunks. For instance, a prospect whose email address you received from a conference may be sent an series of emails linked to various pieces of content. They may be invited to view a demo video, then subsequently given a demonstration. Perhaps after that there is a free trial, and only then would they be given the “hard sell”. This is merely an illustrative example, but one in which we have broken up one potentially huge step (visiting a booth at a conference → buying a product) into many smaller, less risky steps.
Marketers can also use these small steps in conjunction with marketing automation, CRM and / or analytics software to gain more insights into the customer. These insights may be subsequently fed to sales and / or used to help score the leads to help ensure that sales resources are deployed effectively.
Any buying journey can be broken up into an infinitesimal amount of steps, but we don’t want to make the buying journey too long by breaking it into an extremely large number of tiny steps – or, even worse, to decrease conversion by providing too many opportunities to drop out of the process. Additionally, not every product has the same amount of risk and will require the same amount of steps. Generally speaking, products which are more novel to the customer, products which are complicated, more expensive products, and products which are more central to the scientists’ research will carry more risk and therefore require more steps. So how do we know how many steps we might need? Consider the informational requirements of the average customer when making a purchasing decision and develop a content roadmap. This well help you determine the appropriate content which should be delivered, and the nature of the content should enlighten you as to the form it should take. Always allow the customer a direct path to purchase and contact high-quality leads directly to nudge them into making a decision.
One final note – the “small steps” notion does not apply only to the actual purchase. Asking a fresh prospect to give up a plethora of personal information right away will also lead to a low conversion. Ensure that you don’t place any obstructively large steps in your customer’s way.
In order to help determine the appropriate course of action for any given lead, such as when it is appropriate to have sales actively pursue a lead, it is important to score these leads. Generally, scoring is performed on two separate levels: profile scoring and engagement scoring. Profile scoring involves determining how closely a lead’s attributes (e.g. company, industry, job title, seniority, job function, etc.) match those of an ideal customer profile. Engagement scoring involves determining how much interest a lead has shown based on their previous actions. These could include downloading an article, visiting a website, attending a webinar, visiting a conference booth, filling out a contact form, etc. Note that both profile scoring and engagement scoring involve set but arbitrary values. It is up to you to decide what is most important and how each factor within each score should be weighted, but take care when doing so as studies have shown disconnects between what companies state their primary marketing targets are, how they allocate their resources, and what qualifications they use for lead scoring. If you find that your own scoring isn’t ideal, change it! It was arbitrary in the first place!
Leads are generally considered qualified if they cross a threshold of scoring, at which point they are pushed to sales for active pursuit of an opportunity. Don’t be too strict with your qualification criteria. According to the marketing automation platform Eloqua, less than 50% of companies have a single “perfect” lead which is in the highest scoring bracket on a profile basis and an engagement basis.
For leads which are not yet qualified, they should be nurtured via a “content drip” – a slow, steady exposure to educational and / or persuasive content designed to advance the leads through the buying journey. At most basic, this could be a series of automated emails. Ideally, if resources allow, this content drip should be based on prior behavior. For instance, if a lead is gained through a piece of educational content, then it may be prudent to first send that lead opportunities to download more educational content in support of the first piece of content, then only if they download another would persuasive content be sent.
For actionable, qualified leads it is critical to assess the value of a customer acquisition and from that point determine the appropriate level of resources to commit to each. According to a study from the United States Travel Association, face-to-face sales close 40% of prospects while inside sales close just 16%, making outside sales 2.5x more effective. However, the costs are widely different. Each contact by an outside sales rep costs about $300 – $500 whereas the average contact from an inside sales rep costs only $25 or $30, according to Mike Moorman of ZS Associates. In some cases, the nature of the product may dictate whether an outside or inside response is most appropriate, and the structure of your sales force can cause the costs of outside sales to vary widely, but don’t simply default to an inside approach because you can. You might be able to sell that $100,000 enterprise software license or that $200,000 research contract over the phone, but it may very well be worthwhile to send someone to the client site to increase the likelihood of closing the deal.
While there are certainly a number of best practices that all life science marketers should follow, there is no “one-size-fits-all” method to generating and handling leads. In determining the best strategies and tactics, an understanding of your target market and your own situation is of first and foremost importance. It is when this understanding merges with best practices that marketers can achieve truly great results in generating demand for their life science companies.
This post is the second in a three-part series. Last week we discussed lead generation, and you can find that post here: https://biobm.com/2013/11/leads-101-part-1.
Responding to Inquiries
Unless you’re marketing and selling very high-value products to a relatively small audience, be it a niche market or a narrowly defined role, you’re probably relying fairly heavily on inbound marketing to drive lead generation. (If you’re not, you’re probably doing something wrong, such as relying too heavily on distributors to do your marketing for you.) Inbound leads go cold extraordinarily quickly, so it is critical to respond as soon as possible. A study published in Harvard Business Review study found that contacting potential customers within an hour of receiving a inquiry leads to a seven times higher qualification rate than contacting the an hour later and a 60 times higher qualification rate than waiting 24 hours or longer. To state this another way, waiting a day to get around to your inquiries could cost you over 98% of your leads.
So how can we reduce response time and thereby maximize conversion? A Velocify study asked just that question, and the answer was quite clear. 1) Automate your lead distribution to your sales force, 2) “push” your leads to your sales force rather than having them “pull” leads, and 3) send leads out in a “shotgun” fashion – send each lead out to multiple reps and allow the fastest to respond. Companies that did these three things were shown to have a downstream conversion rate 107% higher than those companies that handled their leads manually.
I didn’t imagine I would need to say this until I read about a study on the matter, but don’t forget to contact the people that place inquiries. You might imagine this should be obvious, yet a study of lead response behavior conducted by InsideSales.com which included data from 696 companies showed that 36% of inquiries placed through an online form were not responded to within two weeks! There’s simply no excuse for letter your leads slip through the cracks.
Remember that not every lead requires a response, however. For example, if a prospect is requesting a piece of content then depending on the nature of that content and the prospect’s past behavior it may not be helpful to contact the prospect personally, at least not if you’re delivering the content automatically. Likewise, if a lead is disqualified due to being well outside your target market, then courtesy aside, there is little value in a response. This brings us to our next topic of lead scoring, which we’ll discuss next week.
Everyone wants more sales. Everyone wants more demand. Sales can’t come from nowhere and demand has to be realized somehow, and the way we marketers help generate sales and realize demand is, largely, through generating leads. According to a recent Webmarketing123 study, the top objective and the top challenge for B2B marketers (or at least digital B2B marketers) is generating leads. Lead generation has even become more of a focus in content marketing – something which has traditionally been more of a branding activity than a demand generation activity. With how central leads are to most marketers’ missions, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on leads in the life sciences as well as go over some of the myriad information out there and what it means for our industry – for marketers of life science tools and services.
Let’s start at the top! Lead generation first requires an understanding of how much a lead is worth. Unless you can estimate the value of a standard lead, you won’t be able to determine what is an appropriate amount to spend on generating each lead. Assuming that all leads are created equal (they’re not, but we’ll say so for sake of simplicity) you can approximate the value of a lead by calculating the net present value of your average customer and multiplying by your conversion rate. If this number is very small, you’ll likely want to minimize the cost of lead acquisition. On the other hand if this number is extremely large, it will likely be worth spending more per lead to generate more leads – at least to a point.
Regardless of the value of the customer, the buying journey will be the critical factor in determining how to generate leads for your product or service. Based on the informational needs of the customer during this journey, which can be gathered through market research and validated through testing and analytics, you should be able to create a content roadmap which informs the campaign architecture and directs content creation efforts in support of lead generation.
In most circumstances, lead generation in the life sciences should be supported heavily by scientific content with a low barrier; for example, a white paper that requires only an email address to download. This is especially true if you have any kind of marketing automation in place, since the cost of a nurture campaign for low-quality leads can be incredibly small. The reason content is so important is to establish trust and, thereby, reduce perceived risk. Scientists are trained to be skeptical and will not readily accept the claims in your marketing as fact. Content helps overcome this through educating the audience on your technology, demonstrating your expertise, etc. This provides more confidence that your products / services will fulfill their need, thereby reducing perceived risk and increasing perceived value (a less risky purchase is a more valuable one), making it more likely that a scientist will buy. Additionally, downloading a piece of content in exchange for a small amount of personal information is a far lower barrier than placing an inquiry about a product and thereby requesting a sales call. For all but low-value products, these baby steps towards purchase are often necessary.
Keep in mind that contact forms greatly effect lead generation as well. Each additional field in a contact form leads to approximately a 12.5% decrease in form submissions. Keep forms as short as possible and also make sure they’re accessible without being in the way. You want prospects to be able to contact you easily at any time without feeling that you’re trying to push them into contacting you.
Of course, content and contact forms are all components of inbound lead generation. Inbound methods are great if scientists are looking for what you are selling. If not, you probably need to get your hands dirty and go and create your own leads. This can be done at conferences, via cold calling / cold emailing, or with good old-fashioned advertising. If you’ll be trying to generate leads at conferences, or even just fill up your database with prospect for downstream marketing, remember that conferences are a numbers game and talk to as many people as you can. If you decide to cold call or cold email, remember to be forthright and to the point. If you’ll be advertising to pull in your audience, consider using a content hook rather than a hard call to action about a product to play to scientists’ curiosity.
Next week we’ll be discussing responding to leads, including some best practices which can can lead to massive increases in conversion.