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Category : Content Marketing

Preferences for Content

Pay attention to your customers preferences for content consumption.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.

"For small life science companies, great products often aren’t enough. No one will try your products if they don’t trust you, but if they don’t try your products you can’t demonstrate their value. Content solves that chicken-and-egg problem by demonstrating and sharing your company’s valuable knowledge and experience. If you need help creating content which will speed your market penetration, contact BioBM."

Can the Shallow Content

Don't create superficial content for life science audiences.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.

"Does your content add value to your brand? Is it providing measurable value? If you’re looking to improve the quality of your content, create strategies for more effective use of content, or just have questions about how you can effectively implement content marketing in your organization, contact BioBM. We’ll help you develop and implement a highly effective content marketing program which drives value across multiple facets of your marketing and sales programs and adds value to your brand."

Case: Content at a Small CRO

Content is an important sales support tool.It feels like every week I see or learn something that reinforces just how valuable content is to life science companies. For instance, I was recently discussing some sales dilemmas with the founder of a young, small CRO. Let’s call him Greg. Greg’s CRO performs a well-differentiated and valuable research service. However, Greg was lamenting about the “commoditization” of contract research – how his firm can’t seem to compete on quality and all anyone cares about is price.

Knowing what his CRO does, I was a bit disturbed by this. There are such things as commodities, sure, but the whole reason commodities become commoditized is because there is no difference in quality. Even coal fetches different prices based on, among other things, how clean it burns. If someone can mine better coal and get a better price for it, surely his CRO should be able to get a better price for their superior service. … I dug deeper.

Greg used a current problem he was having to illustrate his larger problem. He had drafted a proposal for his contact at a pharma company. That person reviewed his proposal, along with a number of others, then handed it to his boss to make a decision. According to Greg, the boss would then just choose one of the cheap ones.

Now there are times when budgets are tight and price is simply the most important factor, but this was a recurring problem. So what was really the big problem?

Greg’s CRO is young and small. He has built a rapport with his contact. He has not, however, built a rapport with the decision maker, which he does not have access to. So the person making the decision only knows Greg’s CRO from the information that is available about them on their website and with a quick internet search. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but Greg’s CRO has no educational content. Unless the decision maker happens to know Greg or someone on his team, there is no reason for him to believe that they are capable of producing the higher-quality output they claim to be able to. Compared to the more established and lower cost CROs, selecting Greg’s CRO would be a high-risk endeavor!

To lower the perceived risk, and therefore increase the likelihood that their proposal is selected, Greg’s CRO needs to demonstrate their knowledge through content. Content can, at least to some extent, mitigate the inability to demonstrate knowledge through person-to-person content. It could help provide the confidence that may lack if Greg’s CRO cannot provide many reputable customer references. Instead of only knowing Greg’s CRO as a proposal, at least they would be able to build some degree of positive brand image.

Content is an extremely multifunctional marketing tool that can assist organizations in numerous ways. Content can aid in sales support, as with the case of this CRO, it can generate leads, it can help drive inbound search traffic, it can improve your brand. There’s so much that content can do, and it contributes to so many aspects of marketing, that content marketing should really be a default. Especially in knowledge-intensive sectors like contract research and life science tools, content should be a centerpiece of the marketing effort for most companies. Content marketing is simply too valuable, and valuable in too many situations, to ignore.

What do you think?

What would you do if you were Greg? Would you invest in content marketing? Would you take another approach? Join the discussion on LinkedIn and share your thoughts.

Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services

"Is content the centerpiece of your marketing effort? If it’s not, or if you’re not sure what you need to do to craft high-value, multifunctional content, contact us. We’ll put you on the path to more leads, improved conversion, and more effective overall marketing – with content at the center."

Customer-Centric Content

Content marketing must be undertaken from a customer-centric viewpointContent marketing is no longer a novel tactic among life science tools and services companies. Truly effective content strategies, however, are still rare. Many life science marketers approach content marketing too superficially, with an “if I write it, they will come” mentality. There are two common problems in most content marketing campaigns that are epidemic to the life science tools industry, although both are usually rooted in lack of a meaningful content strategy.

The most common problem is publishing content that you want the viewers to see rather than content that they would be interested in. This problem most frequently manifests as an excessive amount of company-centric and / or product-centric content. This content is often overtly promotional and may consist largely of new product announcements, sales and other deals, highlights of publications using the company’s products / technologies, company news, events the company will be exhibiting at, and similar content. This content marketing tactic is lazy and self-serving, but most often fails to accomplish the desired effect of increasing demand for its products. Being overtly promotional, the content is not readily trusted and may actually create skepticism among the audience, causing them to disengage from the company’s content and potentially limit the effectiveness of the company’s other marketing efforts.

The other common problem is publishing content that you believe the viewers want to see but which is content that they do not want to get from you. This content is often generic and could be readily obtained elsewhere. It may be easy to take the most interesting and relevant content from Nature News, your favorite scientific journals, and other sources, but the content generally becomes diluted in rewriting / reposting and chances are the scientists already have better sources for such information. You’re probably not going to become the Nature News of your field – at least not without a herculean effort or unless your field is extremely niche.

This begs the question: what kind of content should be published? The content must be customer-centric. It must be content that holds unique value for the audience while adding value to your brand and / or products. To get yourself started in creating a content strategy that meets these criteria, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What content can we create that our audience cannot get elsewhere or could only get from a very limited number of sources?
  • What kind of content would the audience like to see specifically from us?
  • How can we use content to enhance the value of our products / services in a way that is educational and will be appreciated by the audience rather than fueling skepticism?
  • What knowledge do we have that is of value to the audience and can be used to demonstrate leadership in our field?


Remember that scientists are customers of your content – they are “paying” for your content “product” with their time and attention. Your content needs to be sufficiently engaging to be worth their attention, but it also needs to be relevant and valuable enough to reflect positively on your brand.

It’s also worth noting that many companies get into the habit of thinking: we need to make X number of posts per [unit time]. While these time-constrained content goals are good to have, they should serve as guidelines rather than rules. Having something valuable to say is more important than saying something according to a set minimum schedule. If you don’t have something valuable to share, don’t share anything at all. It’s better to consistently have high-value content which is published on an inconsistent basis than to have content of inconsistent value published consistently.

Content marketing is not something to take lightly. If you lack strategy or execution content marketing can be an easy way to waste a whole lot of time and effort. The rush for many life science companies to “start doing content marketing” should be tempered by the need for a coherent strategy in order to create the desired outcomes. Done correctly, content marketing can take your brand and position it as a leader in your field.

"Is your company consistently publishing high-value content? Is your content sufficiently customer-centric? If the answer to either of these questions is no, it’s time to call BioBM. Our life science content marketing experts will help you formulate a content strategy which will build significant value for your brand among your target audience. Contact us to get started."

Product-Unrelated Value

At BioBM, we often advocate that companies find ways to create what we call “product-unrelated value” (we first discussed it publicly in a blog post last month). Note that when we say product-unrelated, we don’t mean “has nothing to do with your product” but rather “is not intrinsically linked to your product”. Product-unrelated value should still be something that is relevant to your products, services, or market, but the delivery of value to the customer, as well as the realization of value by the customer, should be completely independent of purchase or use of your products. Product-unrelated value can build trust and strengthen your brand without requiring the user to have participated in the purchasing cycle. Still, many companies scoff at the notion of spending resources to develop value that isn’t intrinsically linked to a product.

It’s good to know that some of the top thinkers agree with our philosophy, though.

Bill Lee, the president of the Customer Reference Forum, Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, and frequent contributor to the HBR blog network, recently wrote: “It’s always a good idea to look for new ways to create value for customers. But focusing only on doing so through your product or service is entirely one-dimensional. The hard reality is that your product or service, however great it is — however much it helps your customers get a job done or provide an enjoyable experience — is likely just not that important to their lives in the grand scheme of things.

Companies exist because they are able to provide value to their customers. Companies that cannot do so cease to exist. Life science tools companies, and indeed companies across all industries and sectors, need to realize that they need to focus on creating value for customers in more ways than just through their products. Those that argue that product-unrelated value doesn’t help their bottom line are being shortsighted. Product-unrelated value builds the critical trust and brand value that allows a company and a brand to succeed in the long-term. This is especially true with a highly skeptical audience such as scientists.

"Is the value that your company provides effectively building your brand and growing your market share? If not, it’s time to contact BioBM. We’ll help you determine what can be done to improve your brand and fuel demand for your products."

Adapt to Your Customers

Adapt your life science marketing to the customers.It’s no secret that traditional approaches to life science marketing are becoming less effective. Customer behavior is changing, and returns on advertising dollars are being hit hard. A recent Harvard Business Review article reaffirmed this point, stating:

[…] buyers are no longer paying much attention. Several studies have confirmed that in the “buyer’s decision journey,” traditional marketing communications just aren’t relevant. Buyers are checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews.

The days of trying to tell your customers what to buy and why they should buy it are long gone. Replacing that paradigm must be one that respects the scientists’ freedom in their quest for information. Life science marketers must position themselves within the customers buying paths, not try to dictate the paths themselves. We must let the scientists make their own purchasing decisions and act as a courier rather than a candidate. However, in order to be an effective courier, your brand must be trusted by the customers.

How does a brand go about building trust? By providing value. For the purposes of this discussion we can segregate value into two categories: product-related value and product-unrelated value. Note that by related we don’t mean “having anything to do with” but rather “intrinsically linked to”. In this sense, product related value is something that by definition requires affiliation with the product. Examples could include technical or customer support, benefits realized by use of the product itself, or any communication of those benefits. Product-unrelated value is anything that can be completely removed from the context of your product while having its value to the scientist undiminished.

Product related value is somewhat of a catch-22. Unless a scientist has used your product or heard good things through word of mouth, there’s not much you as a marketer can do to build solid product-related value prior to a customer’s interaction with your company (and it’s difficult to get a customer to interact with your company prior to the building value for them). That leaves product-unrelated value.

How can we, as marketers of life science tools, provide value to scientists outside of manufacturing and delivering valuable life science tools? The answer is simple (even if the execution isn’t): look outside your core business. You may be a manufacturer or a service provider, but you need to find ways to deliver unique value that don’t intrinsically depend on your product or service. The most common way of doing so is by providing information and expertise (either novel or curated).

One of my favorite examples of delivering product-unrelated value is, ironically, within a product catalog. However, I’ve found it to be one of the most common product catalogs in life science laboratories specifically because of the product-unrelated value within it. It is the New England Biolabs “Catalog & Technical Reference”. Many molecular biologists keep this catalog – a CATALOG! – close at hand because of its very useful technical reference section with, as they put it, “up-to-date technical charts, protocols and troubleshooting tips to aid experimental design.” That technical reference acts as the courier and delivers their products alongside it. It makes the molecular biologists decision simple: New England Biolabs knows their stuff – after all, look at all these useful protocols and troubleshooting guides – so it’s reasonable to presume that they make quality products.

The combination of a leadership brand position and a courier / decision simplicity marketing style, along with quality products to back it up, is an incredibly powerful combination. The creation of such a combination by life science marketers will allow them to capture market share and, ultimately, dominate their segment.

"Finding ways to create and deliver product-unrelated value in order to build trust and brand leadership can be a very difficult task. Luckily, you have the experts at BioBM here to help you. Our life science marketing consultants help define truly unique strategies that deliver value in ways that differentiate you from your competition. Looking to take the next step in building your business? Talk to us. We’ll explain our process, learn about your situation, and guide you towards increasing market share."

Customers of Content

Scientists have many things competing for their attention.Social media, blogs, social bookmarking, RSS, e-mail… There’s so much competing for scientists digital attention these days. When a scientist (or anyone) is in front of a computer they have a purpose in mind, and be it leisure, education, or work, their time there is limited. Simply engaging in content marketing is no longer enough. Your life science company’s content is competing for the attention of your audience, and it has to meet the needs or desires of the audience better than any other content they have access to, or else they simply won’t view and absorb it. Scientists aren’t just customers of your products anymore, but are customers of your content as well.

Your customers pay for your content marketing “product” with their time and attention. They could be viewing anyone else’s content, or simply doing something else. There are near-limitless sources vying for their time and attention, and you have to have a content product that is sufficiently valuable for them to give you their time in exchange. You also need to behave yourself in trying to “sell” your content. Just as you would readily unsubscribe from a vendor who sent e-mails every hour, or get quite angered with a merchant at a market who followed you down the street screaming for you to look at his wares, your customers will get quite annoyed if you don’t moderate your content. You need to balance quality and frequency. Consistently high-quality content can be posted more often. Lower-quality content should not be. (Wondering how to determine the quality of your content? Ask us.) Just as your customers reward high-quality products with repeat purchases and word-of-mouth referrals, they also reward high-quality content with return visits and by sharing your content with others.

Your content behaves as a product, and should be treated with the much of the same respect given to your products or services. With a well-designed content marketing strategy and similarly well-executed content marketing plan, you’ll be able to target and attract future [paying] customers even when they’re not in the traditional buying cycle (and give your SEO a nice boost in the process).

"Looking to improve your life science content marketing? If not, you should be. Content marketing plays a very important role in both retaining new customers and attracting new customers when they’re not even in the traditional buying cycle, and can be a great asset to your SEO and branding as well. Contact us and we’ll discuss ways for you to extract value from content marketing through improved brand loyalty, better search engine rankings, and more."

Marketing: When & How

Life science marketers most often ignore a critical phase of the buying cycle - when scientists aren't in the buying cycle at all.What I’m about to tell you isn’t anything groundbreaking. It’s not new, it’s not innovative, and you may even say that it’s obvious. It is, however, dramatically and consistently overlooked by the overwhelming majority of life science companies. It’s something that any plan to generate demand should be built around: a consumer’s behavior when looking for a solution to a problem (and in our case, a scientist’s behavior).

It goes like this:

  • Phase 0 – Steady State: The scientist has no recognized need for your type of product(s) / service(s), and is effectively not in the buying cycle
  • Phase 1 – Realization: Realization of the need to solve a problem, or realization of an opportunity to improve his / her work in some way. This can happen independently, or be induced by presentation of external information.
  • Phase 2 – Exploration: The scientist is acquiring information about the need or opportunity and looking for potential solutions.
  • Phase 3 – Analysis: The scientist is evaluating the information collected and is attempting to create a short list of viable, desirable solutions.
  • Phase 4 – Decision: The final decision is made to use a particular solution or to ignore the need.

  • Note that these steps are not entirely serial, but rather overlap somewhat. In particular, exploration and analysis commonly overlap significantly, as scientists look for solutions and, to at least some extent, evaluate those solutions as they find them, then continue to do so as they find more solutions. What we’re calling the “steady state” and realization may overlap somewhat as well, as problems and opportunities are not always obvious and may be slowly discovered over time.

    That seems both simple and logical, right? So where do companies go wrong? They forget that most of their target audience, at any given point in time, is NOT in the buying cycle! They ignore phase 0!

    Most life science companies simply attempt to pitch their products over and over through traditional channels using traditional methods, most often focusing on features / benefits. The underlying concept is that even if a scientist isn’t ready to buy (either in the buying cycle currently or can be induced into the buying cycle), that this strategy will build product and / or brand awareness. While this concept is true, it does not build brand value, which is much more highly correlated with how likely a customer will be to return to you when considering a purchase.

    What life science marketers should be doing is seeking to add value regardless of the buying cycle phase that the scientist is in, or even regardless of whether they are in the buying cycle. This is done through content marketing. Content marketing allows the provision of information valuable to your scientific audience at any time. While not nearly as effective as traditional, outbound marketing when a customer is analyzing potential solutions to a problem, at all other times it provides more value. We therefore argue that content marketing (or similar value-added marketing efforts) should be the default and not more traditional feature/benefit-based marketing approaches. Traditional marketing approaches should be limited to channels in which customers are likely to be actively looking for or evaluating products, or in situations when it is likely that scientists could be induced into the buying cycle.

    Companies need to ensure that they are leveraging more useful content marketing tactics and integrating them effectively with their traditional marketing tactics such that they can effectively engage the needs of their target audience regardless of whether or not they’re in the buying cycle, or what phase of the buying cycle they are in. Doing so isn’t simple, and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for it, but those companies that succeed in doing so are building strong foundations for long-term success.

    "Marketing to scientists isn’t always easy, but you shouldn’t let it weigh down your company. If you have products that you feel aren’t meeting their potential, give us a call. We’ll help you analyze your situations and help you define and execute a plan to improve your sales, create strong, sustainable growth, and meet your goals. At BioBM, our passion is helping life science tools companies to succeed."

Technology & Scientific Sales

Break free from the paradigms created by previous life science sales technologies to fully take advantage of new life science sales technologies.Technology provides scientific salesmen with great tools. Perhaps the best example of this in recent history, at least in terms of visibility and adoption, are salesmen’s use of tablet devices to deliver sales presentations, product information, and other marketing content to prospective customers. Advances in technology, however, are often underutilized, especially in smaller life science companies. While general-purpose adoption is often good, these companies often fail to realize the full potential of such technology.

Too frequently, small life science companies (and sometimes larger ones as well) adopt new sales technologies by retrofitting the last generation of content for it without ever considering what benefits the new technology offers that could be leveraged to actually improve content delivery. In doing so, only a portion of the total potential benefit is realized. Let’s go back to the example of tablets. Sales presentations used to often require binders full of product information, salespeople would have to carry around brochures and other product information to leave with potential customers, and all of this created a lot of bulk that was heavy to carry around and could be clumsy to dig through on the spot. Companies also incurred the costs of printing, storing, and supplying such materials to their sales reps. Furthermore, customers could easily misplace a few pieces of paper and these materials were not readily shared and disseminated with labmates or other colleagues. Tablet computers were seen a way to solve these problems, and many companies and independent reps have adopted this technology. However, few examined how they could further improve their content delivery beyond alleviating these obvious issues. They simply retrofitted their previous content for electronic delivery via tablet (through pdf, powerpoints, word documents, existing web content, etc).

Now think about what could be possible if these companies thought about creating content that took advantage of the improvements in technology. Think about all the ways that various content could interact. Think about how content could potentially be created that is dynamic and allows salespeople to respond to expressed customer needs with specialized information that is more pertinent to those specific needs (the “landing pages” of next-gen content delivery). Think about how content delivery could become both more fluid and functional. These kinds of questions represent some of the forward thinking that needs to be done in order to truly leverage advances in technology to improve life science sales.

Technology is constantly changing, evolving, and improving. In order to maintain a truly up-to-date and highly effective sales force, life science tools companies need to not only adopt these technologies, but escape the paradigms created by previous technologies in order to create new and better ways to perform and support sales.

"Looking for ways to improve your sales practices? Is your life science company creating too few opportunities, or failing to convert the opportunities that it is creating? BioBM Consulting is here to help. With our deep industry experience, we can help you analyze your sales processes and implement methods to increase conversion and drive revenues. Contact us to discuss how BioBM can help your company succeed."

Comment on Webinars

I saw a post on one of the LinkedIn groups I’m a member of for a webinar that was of interest to me. Long story short: it was terrible. So you don’t make the same mistakes that this company did when you’re creating life science webinars, I thought I’d share a quick tip.

Remember that a webinar (or an in-person seminar for that matter) is a form of content marketing. The lure is the promise of information that is valuable to the user. In order for your webinar to be a success, you must deliver on that promise. The content that you provide needs to address the reason that people are attending your webinar – the topic of the webinar in the first place. If your title and abstract don’t match the presentation, you’re going to hurt your reputation, not help your marketing effort.

Also, you need to balance the amount of content with the marketing message as is appropriate for your webinar. It is possible to have a webinar strictly about a product or service, and there’s nothing wrong with that and such webinars can have value to individuals who are seeking more information about such products and services, but if that is going to be the focal point you need to be up front about it. If you’re creating a webinar on “best practices in high-throughput nucleic acid purification”, for example, attendees are going to expect to learn something of value about high-throughput nucleic acid purification. If you make too much of a marketing pitch and don’t provide enough valuable information on the topic, you’re going to hurt your reputation, not help your marketing effort.

Life science webinars can be useful tools to gather an audience and positively project your brand image and services, but you have to do it correctly. Align the webinar with the desires of the audience to create value and you’ll find success.

"Want to create high-impact webinars? Not satisfied with the quality of your marketing efforts or marketing materials? BioBM Consulting creates high-impact life science marketing campaigns for life science clients that drive sales and improve ROI. To start attracting and influencing more potential customers, call us today. We’re life scientists just like your customers, and boy do we love marketing."