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Category : Demand Generation

Products With Purpose

Products with purpose.Life science companies, and indeed companies in many industries, often get caught up in thinking about their products or services in terms of their features and benefits. Customers are often grouped by demographics. This type of thinking, however, often doesn’t lead to the best solutions for your customers needs.

There is a common saying that circulates among business and marketing aficionados (that I believe originated from a Harvard business professor) that no one wants a quarter inch drill – they want a quarter inch hole. If there was a tool to perform the task of making a quarter inch hole that was better suited to the job than a quarter inch drill, people would use it. Despite that, most companies selling drills focus their marketing on the drill, not the holes that the drill produces. When not focusing on the tool, many marketers focus on the customer or the market – trying to segment them into demographic baskets based on any of a wide number of criteria.

What doesn’t get the necessary amount of focus is the job that needs to be done. While life science companies actually do a better job of this than companies in many other industries, many life science marketers still lose sight of the purpose of the tool. No scientist has an inherent need for a thermal cycler. What the scientist needs is more copies of a genetic sequence. The thermal cycler manufacturer that will be positioned to have the highest ROI is the one that understands that and focuses on the job that needs to be done – amplification of DNA.

I won’t spend any more time on this topic because I don’t believe there is an epidemic lack of focus on the jobs that life science tools are meant to perform. However, there are many exceptions, and there have been many instances when a life science marketer or an entire company lost focus on the job that needed to be done and placed a highly disproportionate amount of focus on the product or the customer. Be sure you’re not the one that loses focus. Ask yourself on occasion what the jobs are that your products and services are being “hired” to perform. If you don’t have a solid answer, or if you’re not basing decisions on that answer, then it may be time to refocus.

"Is your product development not producing the blockbuster results that it should? Alternatively, do you have great products but your life science marketing just isn’t producing results? In both situations, BioBM is the solution. BioBM helps life science tool companies identify and validate marketplace needs, as well as develop and market solutions. When you’re ready to talk about ways to grow your business, contact us Our consultants are ready to help you succeed."

The Power of Targeting

Life science marketers most often ignore a critical phase of the buying cycle - when scientists aren't in the buying cycle at all.Consider this seemingly obvious statement: the reason your life science company can sell products or services to scientists is because they have needs. These needs, in turn, create demand for solutions. Life science marketing is the tool by which we identify those needs and pair them with the solutions we offer. However, scientists don’t want you to solve any old problem, they want you to solve their problem. The closer you can get to conveying a solution to an individual scientist’s particular problem, the closer you’ll be to generating a lead and / or making a sale.

Yet how close to solving specific problems are life science marketers really getting? It is very common to see the same message sent repeatedly across different channels to different audiences. Even on life science company websites, where it is very easy to customize lots of content for specific needs, we most often see an incredible lack of targeting. While non-targeted messages still drive product and brand awareness, they do ensure that prospective customers will think of your products or brands on their own when a need is recognized (some more information on that topic can be found here). Therefore, a lot of marketing is effectively going to waste because it’s not the right message, and in many cases not delivered at the right time. The right message is the one that matches needs with what you have to offer.

Only a certain amount of market segmentation is practical. With too much segmentation, you end up tailoring messages and solutions to extremely small, niche audiences and going beyond the point of diminishing returns. However, few life science marketers have that problem. The far more common problem is leaving too much on the table – not segmenting the audience enough.

For example: If you’re going to be growing a cell line, ultimately you don’t care how well an arbitrary cell line grows on a given surface. You want to know if your cells, or at least highly similar cells, grow well on that surface. Life scientists do a ton of cell culture. The research component of the cell culture market (as opposed to cell therapeutics) is estimated to be worth about $600m, and we estimate the plasticware component of that alone to be almost 60% of that. That means about $350m are being spent by research laboratories just on cell culture plastics. That’s a very large market – about half the size of the market for sequencing instruments. And while there are many cell lines, there are certainly a lot of popular cell lines out there. But even for those popular cell lines, go around to the websites of manufacturers of cell culture plasticware and see how many provide information on the use of the popular cell lines with their plasticware. Look for application notes, data, protocols, anything. Chances are you won’t find it.

Scientists don’t want to waste their time trying solutions that may have worked for someone else who has a different application. They want solutions to their specific problems. The closer you come to demonstrating that your products will solve their particular problems, the closer you’ll be to generating a lead or a sale.

"Is your life science marketing focused enough? Would being more targeted improve your marketing communications and generate more sales? Probably. The question is how do you effectively develop and execute a plan to become more targeted without requiring a massive increase in marketing efforts. BioBM has the answers. If you’d like to learn more, contact us."

Don’t Sacrifice Relevance

I’ve heard a lot of talk among certain groups of life science marketers recently along the lines of rethinking who the scientist really is. Specifically, that scientists are complex people just like anyone else, and that marketers who try to target them need to realize and embrace that (as if anyone thought that they were really just single-minded laboratory robots). I think this conversation is going far enough to risk derailing the necessary relevance of life science marketing.

A lot of this conversation is based around scientist-led efforts to redefine who scientists are. For example, the “This Is What A Scientist Looks Like” tumblr blog, or the ongoing #IAmScience movement that culminated in this video.

Of course scientists are more than just lab robots, but being scientists and pursuing scientific endeavors is the commonality that binds them together into a group of like interests and traits. There is a large difference between understanding your scientific audience and attempting to appeal to them as something other than scientists. If you put aside the scientific ties that bind them, you now have a giant undefinable group of wildly varying anybodies, and that’s not targetable.

The fact is we’re not selling them solutions for outside the lab. We’re selling them solutions for the lab. An analogous example: Xerox doesn’t portray people doing extracurricular activities outside the office because that’s not what they sell solutions for. They find innovative ways of portraying the problems of office life, such as accountants asking the Michelin Man to crunch numbers for accounts receivable while he throws tires are a giant gas station fuel dispenser monster. Xerox isn’t trying to redefine their audience, they’re trying to find innovative ways of portraying the problems they solve.

You don’t have to sacrifice relevance to gain appeal, and if you try to do so you will ultimately fail.

"BioBM Consulting helps life science tools and services companies improve their marketing and business practices and profitably grow their sales. Specializing in helping smaller companies, we are sensitive to the need to achieve a high ROI with a limited budget. Contact us to discuss innovative ways to reach and engage with your target audience."

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."

Don’t Just Tell, Show

In our last post, we discussed differentiating your life science marketing. In large part, we focused on the need to use unique marketing messages and make unique claims in order to convey the value that your products or services offer. Now it’s time to take the next step. Now that you’ve communicated your marketing message you need to validate it.

One great way of validating your marketing message is by actually showing it to your audience. Short of actually getting in front of them for a demonstration, you need to use your existing media channels to provide evidence to back up what you say. There are many creative ways to do this but for now let’s focus on one simple example that is relevant to just about anyone – data.

Showing data is one way to validate and strengthen your life science marketing messages.I’ll use a real example of a juxtaposition of two sequencing instruments (which shall remain anonymous). Now, how compelling is it if I simply tell you that sequencer X had an average predicted quality score of almost double that of sequencer Y over a 125-bp read. That sounds pretty good, but it’s easy to dismiss and I’m not really backing it up with anything – I’m making you take my word for it. On the other hand, I could show you the figure at right. Now you can see the very stark difference between the two. The message becomes more clear and tangible, and in the process become more believable as well. The customer will be more likely to accept, process, and act on this stronger, validated marketing message. (Disclaimer: it would have been better if the company compared actual quality scores rather than predicted quality scores, but it still serves as a useful example.)

One of my favorite examples of marketing claim validation, albeit outside the life sciences, comes from Blendtec. Blendtec is a manufacturer of high-end, high-powered kitchen blenders. They created a website, willitblend.com, where you can see the founder of Blendtec, garbed in a lab coat and safety glasses, blend all kinds of things – iPads, golf balls, and other things that you wouldn’t imagine would blend (nor would you want to find out on your own). This brilliant, highly entertaining form of marketing message validation actually went viral for a while some years back.

When you are making a claim in your marketing, be sure to ask yourself if you have sufficiently validated that claim. If not, figure out what you can do and what you need to do to provide the necessary validation. If you have, then you’re probably well on your way to crafting an effective marketing message.

"How effective is your life science marketing? Are you getting the ROI that you want? If you have doubts, now is the time to contact BioBM Consulting. We’ll help you build marketing campaigns that create customer demand, increase marketing ROI, and drive the success of your business."

Contact Forms Affect Leads

About half of all scientists use search engines to find product info before looking anywhere else.Contact forms are increasingly being used by life science companies (and web development companies) as a lead collection tool, but despite this very important function companies often don’t think through the design of contact forms well. For example, I was looking at a life science service company’s website today, and they had an extremely long contact form. There were about 12 fields for contact information – all required. While this is an extreme example, it does highlight the point very well. Contact forms are being misused by life science companies.

You may be thinking “Isn’t this focusing on minutiae? Contact forms aren’t that important.” If so, most people think like you. When designing a contact form they ask what information they would like to collect and that’s about it. That thinking, however, is completely backwards. Why? Contact form submissions, which essentially equate to leads, decrease dramatically the more fields you have. Evidence in a minute.

I’ve heard anecdotally that form submissions decrease between 20% and 50% for each field. That seems a bit exaggerated to me (anecdotes often are), so I looked into it. Thankfully, with creative Googling you can find a study on just about anything. A Chicago-based web dev outfit called Imaginary Landscape did our homework for us. They ran a pilot contact form on their website with 11 fields, then the next month decreased it to 4 fields. The results? They saw a 120% increase in their form submission rate. Conversely, this would mean a 62% decrease in submission rate when increasing from 4 fields to 11, or roughly a 12.5% decrease in submissions per additional field if we actually can apply an exponential mathematical model as the anecdotes would tell us we can.

It stands to reason, however, that as we make it easier to fill out the contact form, that we will lower the quality of the leads. There is almost always a trade-off between lead quality and lead quantity in any given situation in which leads are collected. However, scientists aren’t going to fill out a form and give out their contact info for no reason. We’ll simply get more people contacting us who are “on the fence” – and those are exactly the people that you want your salespeople to get in touch with so that they can sell them on your life science products and / or services.

Because of all these factors, life science companies and life science web designers must be minimalistic in their implementation of contact forms. Do not ask yourself what information you want from your customers, but rather what is the minimum amount of information you need to collect. Let your sales staff get on the phone and collect the rest after you have the lead in hand.

"Is your website getting as many leads or driving as many sales as it could be? Too few companies ask themselves that question, despite the fact that almost 50% of life scientists look to the internet first for product information. BioBM always asks that question, and our analytics services can optimize your website for sales and lead generation. Remember: the best website isn’t the one that’s easiest to navigate or the most visually engaging, but rather it is the one that produces the greatest value for the company. Contact us."

What sells lab products?

Why do scientists buy any given laboratory products? How do they make their purchasing decisions? That’s the magic question that all of us seek to answer. While there is no one answer, and what answers we can attribute are dynamic, there is something that holds true. To sell life science tools and other lab products, there needs to be value, and this value can come from many places, such as:

  • Quality – value that comes from the product itself. The product may be more reliable, easier to use, technically superior to other products, etc. Scientists almost always desire reliable products that work on the first try and product consistent results. Building a great product is a big piece of the value equation.
  • Service & Support – value that comes from your company. This is an ongoing effort to make sure your customers have everything they need to successfully use your product. For best results, your support to the customer should not only be reactive, but should include proactive support as well, especially to customers who are using a particular product or product line for the first time. While perhaps not as important as the quality of the product itself, this is another highly important piece of the value equation for laboratory tools. In a study performed by BioBM, over 60% of scientists reported having refused to order a laboratory product because of a previous experience with the manufacturer or distributor selling it.
  • Marketing – perceived value created in the minds of scientists. The thing about value is that it either has to be experienced or communicated in order to be effective. Marketing is the communicator of that value, and how well you communicate that value will directly effect the perceived value of your products, especially for customers that have never used your products or dealt with your company before. If you haven’t communicated your product’s value, or if someone else hasn’t communicated it for you, scientists won’t recognize the value and therefore won’t buy your product.


If you fall short in one area of value creation, you can sometimes make up for it in another. For example, an imperfect product may be perfectly acceptable to a scientist so long as it is well-supported. Even if your product and support aren’t top-notch, but you make a compelling value proposition in your marketing and communicate it to a wide audience, your value will be understood and you’ll still get sales. (Note that the previous statements referring to lower value products be interpreted as lower value relative to similar products and not in absolute terms. Truly negative impressions of quality or support are difficult to overcome and you cannot be successful long-term if a high percentage of your customers are not satisfied.) The total perceived value is then weighed against the price and the customer’s price sensitivity when making the final purchasing decision.

Value comes from many places, and overall value is ultimately the driver of purchasing decisions made by life scientists. Understanding how to create and communicate value will make your laboratory research products, and your company, more successful.

"Seeking to improve the value of your current products, or build more value into future ones? Looking for the most effective or most efficient ways to communicate value? Contact BioBM Consulting and talk to one of our experienced life science business or marketing consultants. They can help you create desirable products, generate awareness and demand for your products, and much more."

Serving the Underserved

Look for under-served markets to boost revenues from your product lines.As in most markets, players in the life science tools industry are always looking to get a squeeze a little more revenue out of their product lines. While price increases may erode demand and ultimately prove ineffective in helping the company’s bottom line, there are markets that are often under-served or overlooked by small life science companies. Efforts to expand into these markets often allow opportunities to grow revenues without much additional effort, and so long as your products would be a fit for the needs of the markets it could prove quite lucrative.

Small life science research tools companies often focus on their largest potential markets: pharma / biotech and academia. This focused approach leaves out a large swathe of potential customers as there are many other ancillary markets for life science tools. Forensic labs, food testing labs, environmental labs, and medical labs (at least for unregulated products / procedures) are all markets that may require little effort to expand into and are effectively less crowded due to many companies overlooking them.

Taking advantage of these often under-served markets may be as simple as creating new marketing communications directed at these markets and advertising through avenues that are higher-visibility within those markets. Product positioning can also be a major help. For example, developing protocols that are specific to the needs of those markets may differentiate your product from others who focus on more “mainstream” life science applications. You may be able to find distributors who specialize in certain markets and leverage their unique reach. Any of these things can be relatively low-cost, low-effort ways to expand your potential market size, and there are certainly other efficient ways to do so as well.

Chances are, there may be potential markets for your life science products that your company is not currently exploiting. Through marketing, distribution, and other means, you can take advantage of under-served markets and get more revenues out of your product lines.

"Need to do a lot with a little? BioBM’s consultants are experts at stretching your dollars and turning small life science marketing budgets into high-ROI demand-generating powerhouses. Contact BioBM and we’ll help you raise revenues and margins so you can fund the creation of tomorrow’s breakthrough laboratory products."

MarCom: Leads vs. Branding

In order to achieve the maximum value from your life science marketing communication efforts, be sure to understand the strengths of each medium.Not all forms of life science marketing communications should be presumed to serve the same purpose and looked at in the same manner. Indeed, the audience themselves have a tendency to view various advertising platforms differently, and treat advertising on each platform according to their views of it. There are also technical considerations which make some platforms more suitable for branding and others for lead generation. By understanding the factors which come into play and how each method is likely to be perceived, we can align our life science marketing communications to be in line with our overall marketing strategy.

Generally, there is a large gap between digital and print advertising. Digital advertising is far more capable of easily promoting immediate action by allowing the process from advertisement viewing to lead generation and capture to be wholly smooth and uninterrupted. At no point do prospective customers ever have to get up from their computers. With print, calls to action are effectively asking customers to actively go and do something, be it make a phone call, go to a website, etc, and therefore are less effective for lead generation due to that additional motivational barrier. There are exceptions to this, however, as well as things that can do to augment any particular platform’s effectiveness at each. Print advertising, for example, can be made far more effective at lead generation by offering captivating promotions that provide additional incentive to take up a call to action. Digital advertising can be made more effective for branding through providing higher-value messages, such as in content marketing, and by increasing the quality of the advertisement itself (think along the lines of “production value” for movies). Social media marketing is an example of an exception to the rule. The rules of social media are different from most digital marketing and SMM is far more based around content, engagement, and other activities which are usually not geared towards short-term lead generation. Indeed, life science social media marketing efforts too heavily focused on traditional marketing and / or advertising are doomed to failure.

This understanding of various marketing platforms and their fit for different marketing purposes must then be reflected in the marketing communications across each platform. If we are looking for short-term revenues then we want to target platforms more amenable to lead generation and capture and design our marketing communications appropriately. For example, such marketing communications should have a strong call-to-action and, when possible, be directly actionable themselves (such as by being hyperlinked). If you are looking to improve your branding, then the marketing communication should make a broader, more generally positive sentiment about the company or product line, or provide value to the customer in ways that compliment and highlight a company’s competencies and products / services.

While not a dichotomy, many marketing platforms can be scaled based on their utility for lead generation or branding. By understanding the unique advantages of various marketing platforms, life science companies can better utilize those platforms to achieve their goals.

"Are your life science marketing communications and advertisements not generating the desired results? Are you looking for a partner who understands all aspects of life science advertising and marketing? Poor marketing communications can stunt sales growth, but BioBM Consulting can help your company conceptualize, create, and deploy high-value marketing communications. We can also revitalize your marketing communications strategy to ensure you’re sending the right messages at the right times to the right people. Call us today to start improving your life science MarCom and growing your sales."

Online Leads: It’s All About Speed

With online leads, speed is a key factor in conversion.Almost all life science companies market via the internet these days. Of those, a vast majority have a method of capturing leads online – be it a contact form, an e-mail address, or even a post on the wall your company’s facebook page. Everyone always tried to have a fast response time to display their superior customer service to prospective customers, but it wasn’t until recently that we realized how important it is to have excellent response time to online leads.

A recent Harvard Business Review study found that online leads go cold incredibly quickly. Quoting the article: “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.” Wow. This data implies that companies that responded in 24 hours or more are potentially losing 98% of their sales from online leads.

Not to say we shouldn’t take that information with at least a little independent thought of our own. This information was compiled by tracking leads across 42 different companies in no particular sector, and includes both B2B and B2C sales leads. I can personally speak from my own experience both as a former scientist and as one who sold to them that scientists act more deliberately than the average consumer and therefore leads likely don’t go cold quite as fast. Still, even if you apply such an assumption, the data is still overwhelmingly supportive of cutting your lead response time down to a few hours at most.

The researchers go on to offer some reasons as to why companies aren’t responding faster to online leads: “Reasons include the practice of retrieving leads from CRM systems’ databases daily rather than continuously; sales forces focused on generating their own leads rather than reacting quickly to customer-driven signs of interest; and rules for distributing sales leads among agents and partners based on geography and “fairness.” ”

What is your company’s average or median response time? Do you keep track of it? If not, this data certainly encourages you to do so. After all, you wouldn’t want to be the company losing 98% of its leads.

"Is your customer service up to speed? If you’re not sure, call BioBM Consulting. We’ll help you implement solutions to improve your lead retention and increase sales."