If the forecast calls for rain, followed by ever-increasing amounts of rain thereafter, what is the end result? Assuming the forecasts are correct, you would have one heck of a flood.
That’s what the state of content marketing currently is. It’s a constantly-increasing deluge. We’re flooding our audiences with it, and they don’t have the attention spans to pay attention to even a small fraction anymore. As a result, content is becoming less effective, and marketers need ways to ensure their content stands out and successfully captures that scarce customer resource: attention.
Oddly enough, one of the most valuable ways to do so is to use a rapidly-forgotten tool.
Put Your Content in Print
Which of the following are you more likely to read: A) An email newsletter with links to a bunch of different articles, or B) A magazine that you’ve subscribed to which contains those same articles? Which of those is easier to ignore? Which is easier to unsubscribe to?
The fact of the matter is that if you put something in print it is more likely to get attention. There are other benefits as well. Long-form printed materials (for example magazines or books) convey more authority than do digital content. They also have more perceived value. This means that customers will give more up to obtain it, and you can use that to collect more information from them. At minimum, they expect to have to give up their address since the content will be physically mailed to them.
Some tips for life science marketers considering printed content:
- Not all content is suitable for print. You need to ensure that the bulk of the content is of high value to the audience, or else your mailing will simply end up in the trash. Product- or service-specific content should be avoided as it will come off as pitchy.
- If you want to use your printed content to more directly generate demand, place “advertisements” for your products and services within your printed materials.
- To convey authority, try to adopt a magazine-style format. This requires a significant amount of content. If necessary, publish less often to ensure both the perceived and actual value is high
- Get creative. Simply reprinting your blog posts is boring. Do something different. If the creative juices aren’t flowing, you can always do an interview or highlight some recent industry news just to mix things up.
There have been a lot of people who have given the advice: “look at what everyone else is doing, then do the exact opposite.” While that’s not exactly a principle to live by, it can help find opportunities. Content is overwhelming the digital realm, but if anything it is retreating from print. As print becomes less and less common, it may become easier and easier to use that medium to get your audience’s attention.
The average product launch has a lot in common with a firework show. A lot of effort goes into it and it’s relatively expensive. It makes a big splash and does a fairly good job of getting a lot of attention. Also like a firework show, after the big launch effort is over, the audience goes about their lives as if it never happened. People won’t think about it much after it’s over, and within a few weeks it’s lost to history.
That is not a satisfactory outcome for a product launch, but it is the outcome for most launch efforts. A lot of this is due to planning and strategy – marketers plan big splashes and track their “success” with vanity metrics so it looks like goals were met. That’s not how things should be done. A product launch shouldn’t just create a splash. It should start a movement. The goal shouldn’t be to get “x” number of people’s attention. That’s fleeting and far removed from the things that matter. The goal should be to change the way that your target scientists think; to change their opinions on how they should do things.
That begs the question… What do we need to change in order to move from this paradigm of creating big, splashy launches to creating ones that have a more profound impact – ones that start movements?
Three Things That Will Transform Your Next Launch
Beyond the standard things that companies normally think of for product launches, such as positioning and ways to reach the target audience, there are three key things that life science companies need to do in order to make their launch be the start of something that grows and becomes stronger with time instead of fizzling away.
1) Captivate the Audience
Captivating your audience should be priority #1 for most high-level marketing communications, but it’s especially important for product launches. As we’ve discussed previously, there are a number of things you need to do to ensure you get your audience’s attention and keep it for as long as possible.
First, start with your reason. Why did you develop this product or service? Why does it exist? Do NOT start your message by saying what the product is. You might genuinely care about your new product, but remember that your scientist-customers do not. Leading with a product-centric message is a sure-fire way to ensure a lackluster response.
Secondly, make the message something the audience can agree with – and is likely to agree with. You want them to buy into your message up-front in order to make them more receptive to everything else you have to say. Show the audience that you understand them and that your goals and values are aligned with theirs.
Lastly, make it emotionally compelling. This is what will really give your message the power it needs to drive people into action. Frame the message around something they care about and make it sincere.
Note that these three core components to captivating messaging remain true regardless of the format you’re using to deliver your message. However, using more highly engaging formats such as video or interactive content helps to both attract and maintain your audience’s attention.
2) Provide Genuine Value
Don’t just ask of your scientist-customers; give to them. In order to create a memorable, lasting experience, they need to be able to derive genuine value from it. If they do not, the experience will be fleeting. This is one of the reasons so many launches fall short – if the goal is just attracting attention and the metrics used to show success are things like visits or clicks, marketers are rewarded for creating stimulating and entertaining but ultimately shallow experiences (like fireworks).
The common intermediate goal of delivering a digital download or something similar is also insufficient in most cases. White papers are most frequently skimmed once and never touched again. Case studies focus on the wrong stage of the buying journey for most of your audience. Your goal should be to create a genuine resource for your customers related to the product or service being launched. Ask yourself: what are the needs of our target audience and how can we address them in a way that both is relevant to the product / service and creates value for our brand? Answer that question and deliver on it, and you’ll create a lasting, positive experience for your customers that is perceived over and over again.
3) Build On It
If you’re going to create lasting change in your market, a one-off event isn’t enough. To keep your movement going, you need to support it. The ways in which you can do this are myriad, but should be guided by your launch. Strive to create value and create experiences which build on those created in the launch itself. Even better, have the launch itself leave behind something tangible which can be built on or built around over time. Whatever you do, don’t just walk away. If you’ve come this far in the creation of a successful launch, keep going.
Which kind of launch do you want, the firework show or the movement?
Captivating your audience should be priority #1 for high-level marketing communications. Before you get into the details of whatever it is you want to say, you need to make sure that you have the audience’s attention, will maintain it for as long as possible, and that they’re in a mindframe that’s most conducive to a positive outcome. Unfortunately, very few life science brands actually do so.
The most common statement type of introductory statement made is a “what” statement. Companies explain what they, their brands, or their product lines do, then get into how they do these things. That makes for a very drab and uncompelling introductory statement. Instead of initially focusing on what you do, focus on why you’re doing it. (You can find some examples of “what” statements and “why” statements pertaining to brand messaging in a previous post here.) It’s far easier for people to psychologically buy into a reason than it is for them to buy into a thing.
Frame your reason – your “why” – as a statement which the audience can agree with. You want them to think – consciously or otherwise – “I agree with this.” That will start the audience off on a positive note which will make them more receptive to subsequent messages. Presenting a statement which indicates that your goals or values are aligned with those of the audience can be a good method of doing so, but it is certainly not the only method.
For that additional kick which will really make your message powerful, frame your message in a way that can draw sincere emotion from the audience. This can be a difficult task and one that requires considerable creative talent. It’s more of an art than a science, but understanding the underlying motivations of your target audience is an important starting point. You need to frame the message around something that they care about.
Off the top of my head, I can recall one good example within the life sciences – certainly in no small part because it was in the Boston metro stations for a while, but also because it was a genuinely powerful message. It was an Ion Torrent advertisement and it read “Everyone Deserves a Chance to Break Through.” This meets the three criteria explained above. It is a “why” statement; it tells you that Ion Torrent is doing what they’re doing to provide people with the opportunity to make scientific breakthroughs. It prompts agreement; If you agree that everyone does deserve that chance (a fair assumption on Ion’s part) then you can get behind the idea. Lastly, it is emotionally powerful. It might invoke slightly different things for different people, but the underlying idea is one of scientific success – the empowerment to make groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ion used this much beyond their initial ad campaign. Their current slogan – “Sequencing for All” – doesn’t have the same power to captivate (largely because it lacks that critical third factor – emotion).
By making a compelling “why” statement, making it something the audience can agree with, and making it emotionally powerful, you’ll be able to heighten your audience’s receptiveness to your forthcoming messages, increase their effective attention span, and begin to create brand value right from step one. Use these statements as centerpieces of your high-level marketing communications and watch your marketing effectiveness improve.
When considering where to advertise, marketers frequently – and rightfully – consider how targeted / relevant the audience is. However, marketers often fail to consider the commercial intent (or “intent to purchase“) of the target audience within that channel. Because of this, you end up with a lot of advertising campaigns that are ineffective, deliver a poor or negative ROI, and are often not tied to results.
A subjective, qualitative measure of commercial intent (which is usually all that is required) can be easily determined by considering the likelihood that a viewer will be considering a purchase at the time of viewing the ad. For instance, someone who has just searched for a product is far more likely to intend to make a purchase than is the average person reading an article on a news website, even if it is a highly relevant, sector-specific one.
We see this mis-targeting most frequently in demand generation campaigns, particularly “awareness” campaigns. Awareness campaigns seek to target as much of the target market as possible in order to, for all effective purposes, tell them your product or service exists. These campaigns are highly ineffective because they neglect the commercial intent of the target audience. (Side note: They also tend to be uncompelling, unoriginal, and unmemorable.) The implied message is: “We have this product / service. Please go buy it.” However, the channels used for awareness campaigns, which are typically print and / or digital display ads through relevant publishers, have a low commercial intent. People who are not in the market for your product / service will forget about your advertisement long before any future recognition of needs develops.
These described channels, which are highly targeted but have low commercial intent, are far better suited for brand-building campaigns. For audiences who may have a need in the future, you want to make a positive, lasting impression such that your brand will be viewed favorably when a need does arise for the customer, therefore making the customer more receptive to your messages and more likely to favor your solutions. (Focusing on creating experiences is one such way to do this.) In other words, with channels having low commercial intent, you need to play the “long game.”
Conversely, for channels with high commercial intent, you want to play the short game. If a customers are imminently considering a purchase, they are actively filtering information for relevance in search of information to guide them through their buying journey. Campaigns designed to build brand value are likely to be filtered out and, even if they are not, may not have time to make enough of a collective impression on the customers to influence their purchasing decisions (the latter point is more true for products with a short sales cycle than those with long ones). For those customers, you want to present a message about their need and / or your solution in order to demonstrate relevance to their buying journey.
The next time you’re developing an advertising campaign, in addition to the relevance of the audience consider commercial intent. Remember the following:
• Channels where the audience has a high intent to purchase are good for demand-generation campaigns.
• Channels where the audience has a low intent to purchase are good for brand-building campaigns.
You’ll end up with more effective campaigns.
Many small life science companies have their preferred advertising / marketing channels. This approach, limited and highly focused, works well for demand generation campaigns (and, to a lesser extent, branding initiatives) in which reaching a large proportion of the target market is not necessary; when reaching just a subset of the target market is acceptable. However, when companies want to reach an entire market, it is critical that a wide variety of marketing channels are considered. The concept also applies to dissemination of content – a large amount of content channels need to be targeted if a large amount of the target market is to be reached. This is because people have preferred channels for finding information and consuming content.
As a data-supported example, take consumer behavior for consumption of digital media. As the Harvard Business Review discussed in its October 2012 article “Why Digital Media Require a Strategic Rethink“:
[pullquote_left]Most customers choose their channel before choosing a product, and they’re unlikely to jump channels. […] For example, in December 2007 NBC removed its content from the iTunes Store, causing an 11% increase in piracy the following month—and no increase in DVD sales. Conversely, after ABC added its content to Hulu, in 2009, piracy of its shows dropped by more than 20%, while TV viewership remained essentially unchanged. And in 2010, when a major U.S. publisher stopped providing Kindle editions, it saw no increase in hardcover sales.
This translates into ways in which people look for information and products as well. For instance, some scientists may use BioCompare almost all the time when looking for a product. Others may not use BioCompare at all. Others may use it only when they are having difficulty finding a product or making a decision. However, very few are likely to migrate between those groups at will. Another example: many scientists do a Google search first when looking for a chemical or reagent, but many others go straight to Sigma and search their site. There are probably very few who randomly do both. When looking for scientific news, some scientists may gravitate to Nature News. Others may go to their favorite journals (either print or digital – but unlikely both).
For those of us that don’t have scientific backgrounds, think about your own searches for information different types of products. You probably have a preferred method and channel(s) to look for various types of products. When you want to read the news, you likely have one or a few preferred websites, newspapers, or periodicals. The way in which scientists look for information or products is not very different.
Because scientists have preferred sources and channels, advertising or publishing content across a single channel or a small number of channels is often an ineffective way of reaching a large proportion of any particular target market. To ensure that your campaigns have reach, focus on the many different channels which scientists may prefer.
We’re no stranger to scientific conferences, myself especially. I’ve attended scientific conferences on all sides – as a scientist, as an exhibitor, and as a business developer targeting the exhibitors. From all this experience, I am certain that one thing, above all else, will determine your level of success if you are at a conference for sales or marketing purposes. This one thing will sound simple. It will sound obvious. But look around at the next conference you attend and see how many people aren’t doing this one thing. So… What is the “magic bullet” for conference success?
Speak with everyone you can.
A conference is a numbers game. There are a fixed amount of scientists at any given conference who will be within your target market. The more people you speak with, the more of those scientists that you’ll identify, and the more leads you’ll generate.
It doesn’t matter how pretty your booth is. You could have a massive, open, wildly elaborate booth or just a table in front of a curtain. Those elaborate, expensive booths don’t do much more to reel scientists in than a large bag of candy dumped into a bowl. All you need is to capture enough of their attention to be able to gracefully say hello and ask them what they work on.
Being successful at a scientific conference really is that simple, yet at least three quarters of the company representatives at the average conference fail to come close to being as successful as they could be because they neglect to be outgoing. If you, or someone in your company, is going to be exhibiting at a conference, be sure to take to heart that one key element for a successful conference: speak with everyone you can.
What do catalogs, websites, and many other general-purpose marketing tools have in common? There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but the answer of the day is that they all contain information on a large amount of offerings. Surprisingly frequently, the order in which these are presented is due to factors such as newness, alphabetical order, legacy documents, or some type of semi-arbitrary organization that seems to make sense to the person creating the document. These layouts do not adequately serve the company.
When creating marketing documents highlighting multiple offerings, be sure to give the most important ones the best “real estate”. While your company may define importance in its own way (it is often measured in profit potential, but may also be based in part or in whole on how central an offering is to the core business, potential for new customer recruitment, or other factors), be sure those most important products and services receive the attention which they merit.
This may seem obvious (it is) and it may seem easy to do (it is) but if you go back and look at any marketing documents your company has which describe many offerings you may be surprised at just how buried some important offerings are.
It is of critical importance that the layout of the document makes sense for the user, but life science marketers should be able to easily divert attention to important offerings while still having a logical flow of information. You should be able to simultaneously prioritize and organize your life science communications with relative ease.