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Category : Marketing Communications

Let The Scientists Decide

Scientists will make their own purchasing decisions. To improve marketing effectiveness, life science companies must help them make their own decision, not push one on them.A common failure in life science marketing is being too pushy. Marketers frequently try to force scientists into accepting their viewpoints by making bold claims and attempting to force marketing content upon them. This approach, however, misjudges the audience. Scientists are taught to be skeptical and to arrive at their own conclusions. When companies are selling scientific products to them, scientists approach a purchasing decision with that same level of skepticism. Bold claims and forcefully wielded content do not overcome that skepticism.

Most life science marketers (and therefore, presumably, most people reading this post) were scientists at one point. Think about yourselves and how you would make a purchase of any significant importance. Maybe a computer or a television. You likely didn’t just go to a store (online or in person), look at one model, decide that you like it and buy it right there on the spot. You most likely looked up other options, researched reviews, or asked around to see if anyone you know has had experience with that model or brand. Scientists do the same thing when making purchases for their labs. They shop around, ask around, and compare multiple options. They form their own decisions, regardless of how many benefits you claim, how many features you have or how many testimonials you tout. There should be no expectation that your marketing will be able to take someone from a point of mere curiosity to the point of making a purchase then and there. Yet so much marketing is designed to do just that.

The most common reason for this overbearing and unrealistic marketing approach is fear. Put simply, many marketers fear that if they do not generate a lead or sale at any given point of contact then they have “lost.” This is not the case – ask any life science marketer how many “touches” a prospect needs to become a lead, then a lead to an opportunity, and finally an opportunity to a sale. The answer will almost never be “one”. However, marketers are unwilling to lose control. You need to be able to accept that scientists are going to shop around, try to find more information, and eventually come to their own decisions. They are simply too skeptical to accept your company as the sole provider of information in their purchasing decision.

This does not mean that marketers need to sit back and watch the purchasing decision get made. Marketers are correct in being proactive. However, in order to create a truly effective marketing campaign, life science marketers must understand what the customers will want to know and how they’ll want to obtain that information. There will be content that the customer wants that is out of your control. The best marketing campaigns will neither refuse to cede control nor allow the scientists to continue their decision-making alone, but rather will act as a shepherd that guides them to the content that both satisfies their needs while helping to validate the company’s claims.

Let the scientists decide. Just be there to help them make their decision in your favor.

"How would you like to improve your life science marketing? BioBM Consulting offers flexible marketing solutions with services that are designed especially to meet the needs of smaller life science tools companies. Our hands-on approaches have helped many companies build and improve their marketing infrastructure. How can we help yours? We’d be happy to find out. Contact us to discuss your situation and we’ll create some possibilities."

Free Life Science Marketing

Free Life Science Marketing.Need to do a product launch on a shoestring budget? Is your ad budget almost expended but you wish you could do more? Don’t start worrying quite yet… There’s a few avenues to leverage FREE life science marketing that you can take advantage of at just about any time. All you need is some content.

Protocol Submissions.

While there are other sites that allow you to upload protocols, the one that carries the most weight is likely Nature Protocol Exchange. You get the gravitas of the Nature name, their signature online look and feel, and protocols are generally posted very quickly. While the benefits are a far cry from that of an actual peer-reviewed methods paper, posting protocols online is easy, relatively fast, and free. Similarly, Nature Methods has a section for suppliers to post application notes.

Press Releases

Have company news? There’s a whole host of sites out there that will either allow you to submit life science press releases directly or through an editor. LabGrab is a personal favorite, and of course there’s our own LifeSciPR, but that’s just a small sampling. More traditional “news” sites such as Lab Equipment Magazine or GEN will often accept news as well, as will many other laboratory and life science news sites. Getting a release published in a printed publication often costs money, however doing so isn’t important. There’s also a huge amount of free press release sites, but unless they’re targeted to the right audience their value is marginal at best.

Similarly, many relevant websites and publications will accept new product news as well. There are even some life science forums that allow companies to post information on new products and services.

When posting press releases or other news items, don’t forget to link back to your company or product website for a little SEO kick!

Blogging

Have content, will write? When done well, blogging is great for both branding and SEO. You have an opportunity to project your company’s expertise in relevant areas by writing and publishing great content, and there’s no limit to how much you do so! Does your life science company’s website not have a blog? Don’t know how to install one? Don’t worry about it! Start up a WordPress blog and you can port it over to your own site later. If you write really good content of a solid length, consider eschewing the blog post and submitting it to a relevant online & print publication instead (again, I’ll use Laboratory Equipment Magazine and GEN as examples.)

Social Media

Many social media channels are readily adaptable to life science marketing use. Our favorites are Twitter and LinkedIn. On both, users effectively tell you what their interests are. LinkedIn is particularly good because of groups. You can read more on using LinkedIn for life science marketing here.

The aforementioned methods are far from comprehensive. For instance, if you’re not lacking in time but are lacking in money, you could write white papers, which are a great way to generate leads. Depending on the price and nature of your product, and assuming you’re both a little more sales oriented and sell in the US, you could search the NIH RePORT database for prospects for highly targeted cold calling and cold e-mailing.

While we would never recommend trying to base your marketing around free methods alone, they can be used to stretch a budget or just get a little extra publicity. If you have more time than money, then the above methods can be a very productive way to boost your life science marketing efforts.

"Need to stretch a life science marketing budget? BioBM can help you identify the best ways for you to get the most out of a limited budget and start generating the demand necessary to get your business rolling. Contact us to discuss your situation and we’ll let you know if we can help."

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."

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."

Market Where Others Aren’t

Get more from your life science advertising dollars by marketing through underutilized channels and with underutilized methods.Consider this: the life science advertising market is similar in functionality to a stock market or the market for any good or service. People want to maximize the return on their investment. In a perfect market, the ROI of all channels would become equal because those that provided a higher ROI initially would become more expensive and / or more crowded until the ROI dropped, and those providing a lower ROI would lose advertisers and the demand would decrease, thereby lowering prices and competition through that channel and increasing its ROI. In reality that’s not the case. A lot of life science marketers have a tendency to turn to “traditional channels” for ad placement and marketing communications. Even those who consider a broader spectrum of possible channels than those considered “traditional” often limit themselves. This creates an imperfect market, and imperfect markets create opportunity.

How can you take advantage of this imperfect market? Consider marketing where others aren’t.

One approach: Look for the channels that may be underutilized. For example, Quertle, a semantic search engine for scientific journals, was offering a $1 CPC ad rate a while ago. If expected traffic quality was poor this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the opportunity for targeting on Quertle is fantastic. Imagine how many life science tools companies were likely throwing money into Google AdWords haphazardly when they could have received equally good traffic for $1 per click! The imbalance caused by underutilization is most almost entirely due to life science marketers’ lacking sufficient information on all the channels available to them.

Another approach: Look for the marketing methods that may be underutilized. We recently discussed the apparent underutilization of cause marketing. There are certainly other methods for marketing communications that may be useful but are underutilized – guerrilla marketing is likely another such example. There are certainly others, and they create a similar opportunity to increase your life science marketing ROI. In the case of underutilized marketing methods, the imbalance is most often caused by a lack of creativity or aversion to risk.

By marketing where others aren’t, you can decrease the cost of your life science advertising while increasing visibility, thereby greatly increasing your ROI. Look for the opportunities that underutilized channels and methods present, and consider whether they would be effective tools to reach your audience.

UPDATE: Between when this post was written and when it’s being posted, another great example of leveraging an under-utilized marketing medium appeared. Ion Torrent went and built a mobile lab on a bus and they’ll be driving it around to major research centers and conferences. You can see it on their YouTube channel.

"Is your life science tools company looking to get more bang for its marketing buck? BioBM can help. We manage marketing campaigns that reach customers less expensively than “traditional” methods, increasing marketing ROI and allowing you to reach more customers without increasing your budget. Curious what BioBM can do for you? Contact us."

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."

Differentiate Your Marketing

Differentiation of your life science marketing message can be the difference between success and failure.Your marketing message is what communicates the benefits of your products and services. It is the tool that life science companies must use to convey value. Just like you must differentiate your products and services to create potential value, you must also differentiate your marketing message in order to communicate and thereby realize that value.

Think about some common claims that are made by life science companies. I’m sure we’re all heard companies claim that their product or service is one or more of the following:

  • faster
  • better
  • an “industry standard”
  • high quality
  • reliable
  • high-value
  • more consistent
  • “the best _____ available”


You know what all of those claims say? Almost nothing. Those claims are virtually worthless because they’re not differentiated. Are your competitors not going to claim that they’re fast, or high quality, or reliable? In rare situations, maybe not, but otherwise you’re both saying the same thing and you’re gaining no advantage from making similar claims.

So what must you do to differentiate your message? Obviously any life science company has to make claims and convey benefits. What can you say? Well, you can say all of the above things – you just can’t say them in that way.

Let’s take the the first and perhaps the most simple example on that list – “faster”. “Product X is faster” in and of itself means nothing. It gives no indication as to how fast something is. To use it effectively, we need to at least put it into perspective. “X is faster than Y”. Getting better, but we still don’t know how much faster. “X is 50% faster than Y”. 50%? That’s far more impressive. Why didn’t we say that the first time? Let’s keep going… We’ve put things in perspective but I still don’t know how fast X is, at least not in absolute terms. “Product X performs this function in just 1 hour, half the time that it takes using product Y”. Now we’re starting to get fairly compelling. The prospective customer would have a good grasp on how fast the product is and knows how much it outperforms the competition in that regard. Because of this, assuming speed is in fact important to the target market, they’ll be much more likely to take action than if you simply said “Product X is faster”.

Through differentiation of your marketing message, you’ll be able to more clearly and effectively convey the value your products have to offer. The end result will be more leads and more sales.

"Have a great life science product or service that just isn’t selling like it should be? Your marketing message may be the culprit. Contact BioBM Consulting and we’ll help you analyze your marketing campaigns to determine what needs to be done to get your sales to where they should be."

Your Slogan May Backfire

An article in the Journal of Consumer Research, recently discussed in the Harvard Business Review, found that while brands have priming effects slogans often have reverse priming effects. In other words, brands often influence consumers as intended but slogans often cause the opposite effect.

Quoting the HBR article…

[pullquote_left]After participants were exposed to brands associated with luxury (such as Tiffany and Neiman Marcus), they decided to spend 26% more, on average, than after they were exposed to neutral brands (such as Publix and Dillard’s). After they were exposed to brands associated with saving money (such as Dollar Store and Kmart), they decided to spend 37% less than after they were exposed to neutral brands. The brands had the intended “priming” effect.[/pullquote_left]

[pullquote_right]But when it came to slogans, the same participants exhibited the opposite of the desired behavior. After reading a slogan meant to incite spending (“Luxury, you deserve it”), they decided to spend 26% less than after reading a neutral slogan (“Time is what you make of it”). When a slogan invited them to save (“Dress for less”), they decided to spend—an additional 29%, on average. The slogans had a “reverse priming” effect.[/pullquote_right]

The research suggests that this is a result of behavioral resistance to perceived attempts at persuasion. While consumers do not view brands as an attempt to persuade, slogans are viewed as an attempt to persuade and therefore exert the opposite effect. This effect, which was measured in general consumers, is most likely heightened amongst a highly rational and critical scientific audience.

Quick note to our readers: do NOT take this result as an indication that you should use reverse psychology in your slogan. Simply be careful in selecting what your slogan will be and don’t be afraid to get creative.

"Is your brand doing its job and adding value to your products and company? If not, or if you’re not sure, it’s probably time to do something about it. One option: call the experts at BioBM and let us help you build a brand that’s powerful. A brand that makes a statement. A brand that sticks. A brand that will evoke respect from your customers, envy from your competitors, and pride from yourself."

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."