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BioBM Consulting has announced the latest expansion of its life science business and marketing services with new distribution management and online reputation monitoring services.
Distribution management services are available as a consulting or outsourced solution and are aimed to improve global life science distributor performance by improving communication, distributor motivation, training, and support through implementation of best practices in distribution management. Online reputation monitoring services allowing a company to efficiently and inexpensively guard its reputation through alerts and tracking of online sentiment via active monitoring by BioBM’s Internet Services division.
Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt gave the following statement to commemorate the additional services:
Statement from Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt
The new distribution management and online reputation monitoring leverage BioBM’s existing skills and capabilities to further expand our service offerings to clients. By taking advantage of existing competencies, these valuable services will be able to executed efficiently and as such we will be able to offer them at relatively low costs to both new and existing clients.
BioBM Consulting maintains a strong focus on providing a broad portfolio of business and marketing services, delivered at low costs, to create unmatched value for our clients. Our distribution management and online reputation monitoring services strengthen that focus, and we remain committed to developing new service and consulting offerings that create high value opportunities for life science products manufacturers.
Both services are currently offered. To learn more about our distribution management services, please view our business services page. To learn more about our online reputation monitoring services, please view our internet services page.
Going somewhat in step with our previous post on projecting expertise, I’ve noticed a recent trend of life science companies starting or sponsoring unbranded, off-site blogs. I have no problem with using such blogs as a marketing tool so long as the strategy for doing so is properly addressed. There are a lot of potential things that can be done wrong, strategically, and some key issues need to be considered before launching an unbranded off-site blog. Here are a handful:
Scientists don’t like underhanded marketing. If you’re promoting your company or products and you aren’t forthcoming about self-promotion (for example, neglecting to mention that the blog is written by a company employee or that the blog is funded by your company), scientists will think you are trying to trick them and that will hurt your reputation.
How will you target the desired audience? I’ve witnessed many of these blogs post information that doesn’t seem to have a well thought-out theme and end up being more general and less focused than the target audience. Remember the ultimate purpose: marketing.
Set goals, and make sure they’re well-defined. What do you want to achieve? How will you measure success? If the blog isn’t meeting the required metrics, take it down and focus your resources somewhere more worthwhile.
Have a valid reason for neither incorporating a blog on your main site, nor using your branding in a more prominent manner.
Off-site / unbranded life science blogs can be good marketing tools when used correctly, but all the rules of marketing still apply. Think strategically to make sure that you’re achieving your goals with such a blog.
"Have questions? We have answers. Contact us anytime if you’d like to discuss blogs or any other topic covering life science business or marketing."
Life scientists are busy people. Between bench work, meetings, writing, presentations, seminars, and everything else they may have to do in their day, their time is limited. As such, they appreciate (knowingly or not) situations where the purchasing of products that they need is easy, fast, and simple. While the ease of the purchasing process is usually not so important as to change the mind of someone who has decided on purchasing a given piece of lab equipment, antibody, reagent, or other bioscience product, it can easily sway the undecided buyer one way or the other. By identifying and lowering or removing the barriers to purchasing your laboratory products or services, you can sway those undecided minds in your life science company’s favor.
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but for brevity’s sake we can break down the sales process, from the eyes of the customer, into three steps:
Finding your product / service
Obtaining the desired information
Acting on the desire to purchase
The first step is arguably the most important. It should go without saying that unless scientists can find your product, they are not going to buy it. Getting found is a multi-faceted issue that has no single solution, but rather many different potential solutions that can be used in combination based on your company’s situation. Having distributors list your products in catalogs, traditional marketing campaigns via print advertising in scientific journals, banner advertising on relevant websites, e-mail campaigns, search engine marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, word of mouth marketing, and utilizing in-house sales teams are all options with different benefits and drawbacks and a unique mix of any of these may be appropriate for your company and product (note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive). Identify how you can maximize your exposure in a cost-effective manner and implement those solutions so your life science products are easily found.
No matter how a customer finds your product or service, you always need to make sure you provide them with the desired information to get them interested in buying. As a general rule, more information is better so long as it is well-organized, relevant, and positive. Use this information to keep them engaged the entire time they browse it. Any time a researcher wants more information about your product but doesn’t find it is an opportunity for them to walk away or look for different products, so even if in formats not well suited to containing large amounts of information, the location of additional information should be given and this information should be as easily accessed as possible. A key component to this, since it will almost inevitably contain the most information about your products or services, is having a website with all the necessary product information laid out in an easily navigable way. (you can learn more about streamlining your website for additional sales here)
Lastly, the ability to act on the desire to purchase should be a fast, simple, and easy process (or at least as much is plausible given the nature of the product or service). For example, if your product does not require a quote-driven sales process, e-commerce allows your customers to order quickly and easily. Online forms for quote requests or demonstration requests are similarly low barriers to action. Where possible, free samples are a great way to get your products in front of the customer. If the customer needs to contact your company, let them do it in the manner that they prefer to, be it e-mail, phone, a simple contact form, etc. to ensure that they are comfortable establishing the necessary communication to further the sales process.
Scientists, lab managers, purchasers, and procurement agents all prefer simple and streamlined sales processes, and reducing the barriers to purchasing your bioscience product can be an easy way to increase your conversion. While the ease of the purchasing process is most often not important enough to the customer to change a purchasing decision altogether, it can easily sway the undecided buyer one way or the other. By streamlining your sales process, you can tilt those undecided buyers in your favor and increase your life science sales.
"Would you like to make it easier for life scientists across pharma, biotech, and academia to buy your products and / or services? Want to use a streamlined sales process to tilt undecided buyers towards purchasing your products? BioBM Consulting’s marketing and internet consultants can help you streamline your marketing and sales process. Talk to us and we’ll help you boost your conversion by identifying and lowering barriers to purchase."
Many companies under-utilize their website, and life science companies are no exception. There is often a lot of marketing going on, and that’s good, but most websites seem to stop there. While good online marketing will indeed reflect well on your products / services and make customers more likely to buy, companies often fail to think about how their website can take that one step further and leverage it fully to dramatically improve lead or sale generation. In order to do this, however, you need to know how visitors are using your site and analyze why they use it like they do.
Make friends with Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s fairly easy to set up (it just requires adding a small amount of HTML to each page on your site) and for basic analysis it’s quite easy to use as well. Google Analytics will tell you how visitors to your site are getting there, what keywords they are using when finding your site via search, what pages they are looking at, etc. Put together, this is powerful information.
Chances are that some users will enter your site via virtually every page. You should, however, be able to determine what pages users enter your site from most often. Are these the pages that you’d want them to be entering your site from? If not, you may want to rearrange some content or add / change the content of the pages to make them pages you would want visitors entering from. There are other techniques for influencing what page users enter from as well. Just don’t expect all users to enter your site via your homepage – it’s never going to happen. The majority probably will, but that’s as good as you’re going to do.
Imagine you are a salesperson. You have all sorts of pitches and responses to customer inquiries and concerns. As you stand in front of a scientist, lab manager, etc., you can alter your responses to their statements in real-time. You can have a dynamic conversation. On your website, you don’t get that luxury but you still want to make the sale or get the lead. Your website, in effect, is the salesperson that talks to the most customers so make it behave as such. Since your website cannot have that fully dynamic conversation you therefore have to anticipate what the viewer is going to want to know or do after viewing a certain page and make sure that they have access to the desired information (or action) from that page.
Along those lines, you do not want any page to be a dead-end. If you get to a page where there are no good options to continue looking for more information or enter the quote / sale process, you probably found a page that a lot of viewers are exiting your website from. Even at the end of the sale or lead generation process, lead users back to the homepage to continue browsing your products / services.
Side Note from BioBM Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt
A tactic that I’ve seen work wonderfully in the past have been free samples of consumable products or demonstration requests of equipment. These tactics significantly reduce the barriers to getting your product in front of the customer. There are both pros and cons to this strategy, however. We’ll discuss this in more detail at a later time, so be sure to check back, or contact us if you would like to discuss it in greater depth now.
Another web faux pas is not having a way to complete the sale or lead generation process online. There are situations where companies have a reason for not implementing an e-commerce platform (for example, they do not sell directly to scientists) but there is never a reason not to at minimum capture lead information on your website. Some people will find filling out an online request for more information or performing an online purchase easier or simply preferable to calling to inquire about a product or faxing / calling in an order. You want potential customers to progress with the lead / sale process in the way they find easiest. Taking into account the preference of your customers by utilizing these relatively easy measures helps lower the barriers to purchasing and therefore increases conversion and helps you derive more value from your website.
Having a well-designed website is about more than just the look and feel. A well-designed website will ensure that maximum value is captured from your website. It is often not possible to know how to optimize this value upon the initial design of your site, but by monitoring and analyzing your site’s analytics you can determine how to best lead take your audience of scientists and researchers from site to sale.
"Are you interested in deriving more value from your website? Want to turn more visitors into leads and / or sales? BioBM’s experienced internet consulting staff can implement and perform the necessary analytics to determine how to optimize your website for improved conversion. Contact us if you have questions or would like more information on how we can help you derive more sales and leads from your website. Alternatively, you can request a free site review to ensure that any problem areas for your website and overall online presence are properly identified remedies are discussed."
When viewing the websites of companies selling life science tools or services, I frequently notice that many companies have problems with online content. Whether it is a general lack of content, quality of the content, or presentation of the content, one or more of these things is often a problem area for many life science tools companies, and chances are that these easily avoidable problems are costing you valuable sales and / or leads.
Quantity of Content
There’s a balance that needs to be struck with the amount of content that you create for your products. From a search engine optimization standpoint, more information is better, period, but SEO is generally not the most important thing to consider. From a user experience standpoint, which is generally more important, you want all the information that a prospective customer would want to be able to find, however not so much that any given piece of information becomes lost in a sea of content and is difficult to locate.
Generally, you should have enough content to do these things fairly thoroughly:
1) Identify the problem that your life science product or service is solving
2) Describe your product / service and how it solves the problem
3) Illustrate the comparative advantages to other solutions (value proposition)
4) Urge the prospective customer to the next step with a call to action
At worst, I’ve seen products described with two-paragraphs or a list of features and no accompanying documents. This is obviously not sufficient for ANY product. Even many products that have multiple pages of content, however, do not have all the content they need because they do not do those four things I listed above. It does not matter if you’ve talked about every bell and whistle that your product has if you don’t take any time to tell a prospective customer why they need it. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you’ve masterfully illustrated a problem and convinced the researchers that they need a solution but have not communicated how your problem solves it. Every piece of the puzzle needs to be in place.
Quality of Content
If you have done those four things identified above then you should have plenty of high-quality content, right? No, it’s not quite that simple, and there is plenty more that you can do to communicate value. Do you have results showing how your product can improve a particular experiment or process? Show them. Do you have a relevant, attractive marketing video that you can add to the site? Do so. Do you have a list of protocols that are already developed for your product? References from published literature? Testimonials from customers? All of these things add to the quality of your content and, in turn, the perceived value of your product. Just make sure that this auxiliary content improves the case that you’re making when talking about those four key things (problem identification, product description, comparative advantages, call to action).
Also, when analyzing the quality of your online content, don’t forget to think of SEO. For example, google and other search engines like text and content that is directly on your website rather than hidden in a pdf or other document. As another good practice, don’t forget to include appropriate keywords that you’d like you site to come up in searches for. (Generally, any time you’re doing any sort of web design, whether a complete site build or a simple content change on a single page – always think of SEO. It never hurts, and always helps.)
Presentation of Content
This is the hardest part of content design, but also the part that will allow you to differentiate yourself the most from your competition, as you can absolutely make your product shine if you do it well. Presentation has to allow users to easily navigate your site and find the information that they want while accommodating all the information that you need to include. You should think about the user experience from the standpoint of prospective customers. Who will they be, why are they on your site, and what will they be looking for? Design your content to be presented in a way that takes them from the entry points, guides them through the information that they want to find (and the information you want to present) and funnels them into the beginning of the sales process.
If you’re not already, use Google Analytics. It’s free, and it’ll help you analyze the traffic on your website so you can help optimize the layout of your content. By knowing the traffic patterns on your site, you can improve your site and make adjustments to help drive researchers and purchasers to your most valuable content and into the sales process.
Remember that online, your website is who you are. The same can be said for your products and services. Content that is compelling, attractive, professional, well organized, well written and well designed will reflect well on your company and your product. Knowing what you need to say, how you need to say it, and how you need to present it will attract a larger and more relevant audience and improve your conversion of visitors into leads and sales.
"Want to improve your website traffic and draw more scientists to your site while improving the relevance of the audience your site attracts? Want to easily and effectively increase your leads and sales by optimizing your online content? Our life science internet and marketing consultants can work with you to develop and deploy top-quality, optimized content for your website or anywhere you need it. Contact BioBM and get help optimizing your content from a professional. Our PhD-holding staff is built to understand even the most technical and highly scientific products and services."
Social media is all the rage – it has been for almost a decade now. From the generation Y-ers who initially picked up on the pioneering social network Friendster back in 2002 to the new generation of socially networked seniors with Facebook friends galore, the world is now socially networked. Using social networks for marketing purposes, a practice more technically referred to as social media marketing or just SMM, is a young and rapidly evolving practice (as you may notice from the lack of detailed information in the Wikipedia entry on the subject). While the leveraging of social networks for marketing purposes is not a particularly new idea, companies have traditionally been slow to adopt social networking. While some companies have had overwhelming successes with SMM – such as Bio-Rad’s PCR song spoof of the Village People’s “YMCA” that went massively viral within the scientific community two years ago – most companies’ social media efforts, particularly those of small companies, are largely failures. In this post, I will address some of the basic yet important and often overlooked questions and challenges of social media marketing that many companies fail to address, as well as discuss some of the social media outlets and some of the specific concerns involving each.
Issue #1: Understand who you are trying to talk to
This is the easiest and least complex step and should be the first step as well, but nonetheless even this relatively simple issue gets overlooked sometimes. Simply ask yourself: “Who am I trying to communicate with?” If you are serving life science researchers generally, then the answer to this question will be broad – you’ll be communicating with research assistants and lab techs, PIs and professors, grad students and lab managers, procurement department employees, etc. They may be in academia, pharma / biotech, CROs, etc, etc, etc. This will likely make it easier to find your audience but may make it harder to connect with them since they’ll have diverse interests. Alternatively you may be focusing on a small subset – say, researchers in big pharma performing mass spectroscopy analysis of proteins. This kind of refined specification may make it harder to find your audience but will make it easier to connect with them since you will know their interests to some extent.
Issue #2: Understand why you are talking to them
An equally important and amazingly frequently overlooked question is “why”. Why are we trying to engage this audience? Do we want to get their opinions? Do we want to control or convey our brand image? Do we simply want to promote products and / or services to them? Don’t just answer yes or no to these questions – delve into them a bit. If you want to promote products to them, think about how you plan on doing so. Do you plan on offering exclusive promotions? Do you want to use social media as an outlet for conveying information on new products? Dig deep and think about what your goals are.
Issue #3: Understand how your audience uses any given social media platform
This is the #1 reason for failure of any social media marketing strategy. Companies fail to understand how the audience is using a particular platform. A related pitfall involves rolling out an identical engagement plan across all (read: “disparate”) platforms. While this is a complex issue and could be the subject of a book, allow me to give you a few things to remember. 1) Social Networks are your audience’s turf, not yours. Unlike your website, print or online advertisements, or just about any other marketing platform you utilize, you are not in control of a social network, and your audience is not there specifically to interact with you. You are both a guest and a member of a conversation, so act accordingly. Interact. Contribute. 2) You need to give people a reason to listen to you, and this reason has to be congruous with the reason that your audience is on a particular social platform in the first place. In other words, delivering value is not enough – you need to deliver value within the context of the audience’s presence on any given social network.
Issue #4: Resource your efforts appropriately
One of the great things about SMM is that social platforms are almost always free to use, but this doesn’t mean that an SMM campaign doesn’t require any significant amount of resources. While SMM can be significantly less expensive than other marketing outlets, social media marketing is not some simple endeavor that involves merely sending out an occasional tweet whenever you have a promotion. It requires forethought, planning, engagement, conversing, creating and delivering value, and all these things take time. Figure out where you can get the greatest returns from your social media marketing investment and focus on that. Only roll out a broad SMM campaign across many platforms if you have the time and budget to do so. As with other marketing endeavors, spreading your efforts too thin will lead to failure.
Brief comments about different social media platforms
Facebook – This is a purely social, mostly recreational platform. It’s a great place for strong consumer brands, but others can have difficulty connecting with their audience here. Remember that people go on Facebook for personal reasons and to make personal connections. If you’re going to connect to most scientists here, you’ll need to reach out to them not just as scientists, but as people.
Twitter – People express a variety of interests here, so listen to what your audience is saying and participate. Perhaps the greatest power of social media marketing via twitter is it’s search function. Connect with people who are talking about things that pertain to your company. Also, be sure to give your account some personality.
LinkedIn – You’re probably not going to pick up many customers here unless you’re doing higher-level B2B sales, but it is a great way to connect with potential business partners. Since your space on LinkedIn is your turf, so to speak, make the best of it. When presenting yourself on LinkedIn think of your company first, and your products as a function or extension of your company.
Forums – While not always thought of as a social network, the same rules apply. Forums can be great ways to find and convey messages to groups of researchers and scientists (and others) interested in a specific topic. Again, be engaging and be sure to add value to the conversation.
YouTube – Remember that after someone watches a video on YouTube, they’ll see “related videos”, so if your competitors are on YouTube as well, they’ll probably be presented with their videos after watching yours (although this works both ways). It’s a great way to host content that can be easily linked to, shared, embedded, and otherwise distributed.
As a closing note, don’t spend all your effort trying to create the next huge, viral media phenomenon. While it’s a noble goal, the success rate in trying to do so is very low, and the compulsion to spread the word needs to be very high. A 2006 Millward Brown study suggested that on average only 13% of people who receive any viral message pass it on. This means that for every 8 people the message reaches, one of those must pass it on to another 8 in order for the message to maintain it’s rate of spread. That’s a lot to ask for. Don’t let these numbers discourage you from trying, especially if you have a great idea (again, I point to Bio-Rad’s video), but don’t think that going viral is necessary for a good SMM campaign.
Social media marketing is a great way to connect with customers, get feedback on products or services, crowdsource for ideas, and convey and monitor your brand identity, but it is something that requires planning. Not adequately defining SMM strategies, not understanding your audience or social platforms, or under-resourcing your SMM efforts are all-too-common and avoidable reasons for social media marketing failures. A little planning and some understanding of the social networking landscape can dramatically improve returns on social media marketing.
"Need help defining a social media marketing strategy? Want to talk to a social media marketing expert about how best to engage customers on a given platform? Want to create and launch a well-rounded SMM campaign? The marketing and web experts at BioBM have deep knowledge and robust experience in SMM. Talk to us and tell us about what you want to accomplish, and we’ll help get you there."
And now, for your enjoyment, the Bio-Rad PCR song!
I don’t think anyone will dispute the power and influence of the internet. According to data from the International Telecommunications Union (a United Nations agency), internet penetration in the developed world will exceed 70% this year. Scientists are even more heavily influenced by the internet. We rely on it as a vast and trusted source of readily accessible data, a gateway to the tools and databases we use on a regular basis, a necessary communication tool, and a platform for collaboration across countries and continents. Fueled by fast, extensive business and university networks, internet penetration among life scientists is virtually 100%.
Just as individual consumers are turning more and more to the internet for both information and to make purchases, so are scientists. Researchers, geared towards finding their own information and encouraged by the ready availability of online information, look to the internet for information on products and services prior to purchase, and ever more are using use e-commerce for fast and efficient purchases. Because of this, it is imperative that life science companies leverage the internet to maximize their exposure, ensure that they manage their online brand image, present compelling online marketing, effectively capture online leads and convert these into sales, and utilize e-commerce where possible to reduce the barriers to purchase and increase sales efficiency.
How Important is A Website?
Online, your website is who you are. The quality of your website will be perceived to reflect the quality of your company and, by association, your products. Customers expect that the same kind of companies who create and maintain high-quality, well-performing products will put the same effort into creating and maintaining high-quality and well-performing websites. An outdated look or feel, errors, poor navigation, and a large list of other website faux pas will hurt your image and reputation. Unless you have an extremely strong reputation among your target market, you can assume that every new prospective customer who is interested in your product will look at your website for information before purchasing, and it is likely that your website will be the first place they look … unless they search for it and someone else comes up higher in the search results. Even with a strong reputation, many will still look to your website for more information. While a beautiful, well-structured website alone will not be enough to sell your products (you still need the proper content) a poor website can dramatically hurt your sales.
Refining Your Marketing Message / Having the Right Content
Your online marketing message is arguably the most important one that you will present. It is, in effect, constant; your online brand and marketing are always there for anyone to view. Again, it is very likely that almost all of your customers will view information for your products or services online at some point before purchase. You therefore need to have the appropriate mix of technical information and compelling marketing messages to encourage scientists to either buy the product at that time or inquire for more information immediately.
It will not do you any good if your company has an excellent website that no one can find, and how you get found is through search. ComScore’s global search report has indicated that Google alone gets 1.5 million searches per minute, or well over one billion per day! Having insight into how search engines serve search results to these hundreds of millions of people is crucial to ensure that scientists looking for products or services online find yours and not those of your competitors. Search engine optimization is a tricky thing – search engines guard their algorithms and make only vague public statements as to how they work, so having someone with expert knowledge manage your SEO is crucial. For example, there is a sweet spot between a site having too few keywords, which will result in sub-optimal rankings, and too many keywords, which search engines will penalize you for. Experts have spent years figuring out the optimal “keyword density” along with many other SEO considerations and know what works and what doesn’t. Even with expert help, organically improving your search engine ranking takes time. To get around this, and get you to the critically important first page of search results today, you can make use of search engine marketing. Remember: 90% of searchers never go past the first page of search results, and 99% will not go past the third page, so being on the first page is of extreme importance. A properly managed SEM campaign can economically get you to that critically important first page page of the search results regardless of SEO, and even with good SEO it has been shown that a well-run SEM campaign will still result in an average 20% more hits. Another benefit of SEM: since most SEM campaigns are pay-per-click, you know that most of the people clicking are in your target market. After all, people most often click on links that are of genuine interest to them. Also, search engine marketing prices their advertising by the keyword, and a lot of life science keywords are niche markets, and therefore are less saturated which leads to lower costs and a higher return on your advertising dollars.
According to a study by Forrester Research, sales via electronic commerce will increase by an estimated 60% from 2009 to 2014 in the United States. In Europe, the estimated increase over the same time period is 68%. A burgeoning societal tendency to make purchases online compounded by extremely high internet usage among scientists and the ease of finding products and information online, ever more researchers are turning to the internet for laboratory purchases wherever possible. Particularly for lower-cost items which do not require purchase orders or budgeted line-items (usually $2500 maximum for universities and research institutes and around $5000 for pharmaceutical or biotech companies), a well-implemented e-commerce backend to your website can make it easier for customers to buy your products, help you process orders more efficiently, and even integrate with customer relationship management and / or accounting software to automatically capture customer and order information. The most important factor, however, is the ease and speed of ordering for customers. At all times, you want to ensure that it is as easy as possible for customers to order your products.
These are only some of the considerations that a company should think about when analyzing their online presence. I did not touch on Social Media Marketing (SMM), forms of online advertising other than SEM, online brand presentation, and many other factors (a quick tangent since I’ve brought up social media marketing; if you think the most popular site on the internet is Google, you are wrong). However, the above points are perhaps some of the most important for a small life science company to consider when establishing, updating, and / or maintaining an online presence. We’ll be tackling each in more detail, including social media and the other topics we didn’t cover at all here, so be sure to follow us on twitter or add our blog to your RSS feed if you’d like to stay up to date with the latest posts.
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