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Tag : marketing communications

Focus on “Why”

While a large part of a company’s brand is controlled by what a company does, this is not a compelling corporate image to project. It would be far more beneficial to life science brands to focus on why they do it, as “why” is simply an inherently more compelling proposition than “what”.

As an example, I’ve taken the first self-defining statement from five life science tools companies’ about pages and anonymized them. This is what I came up with:

  1. “[Company] develops and manufactures innovative scientific instruments and systems that exploit digital imaging technology for a range of disciplines.”
  2. “We believe in the power of science and appreciate its rigorous discipline. That’s what drives our passion for innovation, leading to transformative offerings that support endeavors throughout the world.”
  3. “[Company] develops, manufactures, and markets a wide range of laboratory instruments, apparatus, and consumables used for research in functional genomics, proteomics, and food safety.”
  4. “As a global technology leader, [Company] is taking action to harness the power of insights and transform them into knowledge to deliver innovative, differentiated solutions for our customers.”
  5. “Established in [date] as a cooperative laboratory of experienced scientists, [Company] is a world leader in the production and supply of reagents for the life science industry.”


Of those five, three (1, 3, and 5) are extremely straightforward definitions of what the company does, one (4) is a description of how a company does what they do, and only one (2) is a description of why they do what they do. Did you notice any particular one being more compelling that the others?

Your reason for existing can actually be a very compelling driver for both new customer acquisition as well as customer loyalty. Not only can it improve your current business, but also enable you to more easily enter new marketplaces. Furthermore, integrating this reason for existence into your company can motivate your employees and make you more productive and successful. I don’t mean to make it sound like a magic bullet, but your company’s reason for existing can and should be a powerful driver for both internal and external stakeholders.

There’s a great TED talk on the subject:

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Simplify Your Message

Last week, I discussed the importance of positioning statements in crafting and delivering marketing messages. Today I’ll discuss a similar topic: making your life science marketing more effective by keeping your marketing messages simple. First, let me explain what I mean by “simple”.

Having a simple marketing message does not necessarily mean that it should be short, that it should contain only a small amount of information, or that you should stay away from technical information, data, or other things that may by some definitions seem “complex”. Instead, a simple marketing message is one that focuses on the customers needs, your products core claims to value, and little else. It is a message that isn’t diluted with a long list of relatively unimportant attributes that detract from your core message.

It may not be immediately clear how this is related to the positioning statement. The positioning statement should be rooted the customer need that your product or service is solving as well as how yours is differentiated from other offerings. It is concise and to the point. If this is the starting point for all of your marketing messages, then you will be starting with a message that is highly targeted and focused on the key value proposition. From that point, all you have to do is resist diluting your message.

This isn’t to say that you should only ever focus on one single value proposition. Indeed, different attributes may have different perceived value to different customers and there also may be two or more value propositions that are almost equally important to a large segment of your audience. However, the focus of the message should be on the most important value propositions and put the others on the back burner. To do this, life science marketers need to have a very clear understanding of how their product or service creates value. Without such an understanding, there will be the temptation to propose value in as many ways possible, which in turn dilutes the value propositions that create the most value.

Life science tools and services create value for their customers in a wide variety of ways. Chances are, however, that a select few of those value drivers are by far the most important to your customers. By focusing marketing messages on those key value-creating attributes. life science marketers can more effectively generate demand for their products. Using a positioning statement as the basis for your marketing messages helps to achieve this.

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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."

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.

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Speaking to Inquisitiveness

Scientists are naturally curious and inquisitive people. You can leverage this curiosity to empower your marketing.Scientists are very analytical people, in general. This is not surprising and is an easy assumption to make, but many novice life science marketers over-interpret this analytical nature. They presume it to mean that life science marketing should be relatively dry and that it should only provide information. While I admit that life scientists are exceptionally good at sniffing out marketing, and greatly prefer information to gimmicks or catch phrases, that’s not to say that your life science marketing communications need to be boring. What they should do is have an understanding of what is important to your audience and the psychology of your audience. Regardless of the market segment that you are targeting, one thing that you can be reasonably certain of when marketing to any type of scientists is that they will be highly curious and inquisitive, and this is something that you can leverage to your advantage.

The challenge, then is piquing that inquisitiveness. How can you use your audience’s natural scientific curiosity to your advantage? Is your technology interesting or complex? Perhaps you can offer to explain it to them and / or show them how it works. Are you claiming that your company / product / service / technology performs better than that of competitors? Perhaps you can show them why. If your market is extremely niche, or there are a limited number of ways to use a product that you are marketing, you can often draw an even closer link to the underlying science and / or methods, and this close connection with the science can be a powerful draw on scientists desire to learn.

Regardless of the specific technique used, so long as the message stays relevant to the interests of your scientific audience, you can captivate your scientific audience while providing them with information that shows off the benefits of your product or service. The curious scientist will then be much more receptive to further marketing and / or information, is more likely to act, and can be more easily engaged.

"Are you looking for new and better ways to get your customers’ attention? Is your life science marketing just not achieving the desired results? Don’t wait and wonder – act now to start improving your ROI and getting more sales. Call BioBM Consulting and we’ll show you how you can enact positive change, develop highly effective marketing communications, and build a marketing strategy that will take your company’s sales to where they should be."

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.

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Scientists: Your Best Marketing

You can proactively use the sentiment of satisfied life science customers to improve marketing and sales.We have previously discussed how word-of-mouth marketing (also known as referrals) is limited in a life science environment because of the segregation of customer populations. That doesn’t mean that the opinions of your customer can not or should not be used in marketing. In fact, scientists can provide you with some of your best marketing ammunition. Since word-of-mouth marketing is not sufficient to rapidly grow sales, it becomes your job to spread the sentiment of your brand and product “evangelists”, and there are plenty of tools to do so.

The easiest and most simple ways of leveraging positive customer sentiment is through testimonials. This is a two-part process that bridges marketing communications and customer relationship management. First, customer sentiment needs to be obtained and recorded. This can be done manually by visiting, calling or e-mailing your customers or automatically by using a CRM system with e-mail capability (which most have). Side bonus: proactive engagement of your scientist-customers by your support team to see how they like your products and if they have any feedback or issues frequently improves their opinion of your customer service and support. Praise can then be used in testimonials – most useful on your website, in e-mail marketing, and in social media marketing, but sometimes usable in more traditional digital and print advertising. While the influence of unknown scientists will be less than that of known colleagues, properly used testimonials can still go a long way in earning the trust of life scientists. Feel free to get creative with testimonials as well. Audio and video testimonials, while far more difficult to convince users to send (there are techniques to overcome this), will provide a more tangible and humanized testimonial and have a greater impact.

Another way you can “stretch” word-of-mouth marketing is by using highly satisfied customers as references. If a sale is becoming difficult, having the prospective customer speak directly to a satisfied current customer can be a highly valuable process. Referrals also tend to be self-replicating, as those customers who have requested or been put in touch with a referring customer prior to purchase will very often agree to be used as referrals themselves (so long as they are satisfied with the product, of course).

There are other ways of leveraging customer sentiments in marketing, and even ways of leveraging the sentiment of scientists who aren’t yet customers in order to generate high-value marketing materials. Such non-customer scientists are often wholly impartial, and techniques that generate marketing materials from their sentiment can be some of the most high-value marketing material for a life science company.

While the structure of the life science research landscape often prevents the fluid and open communication necessary for word-of-mouth marketing or scientist-to-scientist referrals to be effective as a stand-alone marketing tool, there are plenty of things a company can do to use positive customer sentiment and product / brand evangelists. Such means can provide a significant boost to marketing efforts across many channels, and customer sentiment should be obtained and used in order to realize this improved marketing effectiveness.

"Is your life science marketing not as effective as you would like? Would you like help capturing and using customer sentiment to improve your marketing materials, marketing ROI, and sales effectiveness? BioBM can implement simple, cost-effective, and rapidly deployed solutions that will have you fully leveraging customer sentiment (for marketing and other uses) and reaping the benefits. Contact us today and we’ll discuss your situation and how we can help."

Avoid Cheap Catch Phrases

I just was on a life science tools company’s website (not a clients’, and the company will remain anonymous) and this company seemed to describe every one of their products as an “industry standard” in the first sentence. This pains me.

Scientists aren’t stupid. Catch phrases like “industry standard” or “market leader” are readily identifiable and dismissed by a generally intelligent and analytically-minded scientific audience. Such statements also don’t provide any of the information that customers are looking for. If your product really is an industry standard or is a market leader, don’t just state it and expect them to take your word for it. Explain it. Say “more researchers use X than any other product for [purpose]”. It’s a stronger, more definitive statement that at least looks like you’re attempting to provide meaningful information. Just stay away from the cheap catch phrases, especially if you can’t back them up.

Why Are You Marketing?

Make sure you've answered all the right questions before you launch an advertising / marketing campaign.One of the worst things that you can do in life science marketing is not fully understand why you’re marketing. In other words, each time you publish an advertisement, change content on your website, post an article on twitter, or do anything else related to marketing communications, it should have a purpose and you should know what that purpose is ahead of time. Your message and marketing content should then be designed to successfully fulfill that purpose.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because of the disjoint between intention and execution that I so often see in life science marketing. I’m certainly not one to say what other people are thinking, but it seems that a lot of marketers get caught up in trying to be creative and / or make the marketing materials look pretty, or simply don’t ask themselves the right questions when designing their marketing. Some of the disjoint may also be ascribed to a lack of understanding of scientist behavior (or consumer behavior in general). Marketers often simply fail to think about how the audience will think of something rather than how they want them to think or what they want them to do. They ask themselves “does this contain the message we want to convey?” and forget to ask if the message as its presented will actually be effective. Simply adding a call to action to a marketing message, while a good idea in most situations, neither gives it purpose nor ensures effectiveness.

You should be able to answer: why is this marketing going to be effective? If you don’t have a concrete answer for that question, then you either didn’t care enough (surprisingly common) or you didn’t ask yourself the right questions (more common). If that is the case, ask yourself some of the following questions then revisit any marketing communications in question:

  • What is the ultimate goal of this marketing communication? What do we want the customer to do or think?
  • What is the message that we are trying to convey? How do we know that is the right message given our target audience?
  • What will the customer be doing when they our marketing message? How will that affect their behavior and perception of the message? Given those things, are they likely to be receptive to this message?
  • Does this marketing material engage the customer? Will it be compelling to them?


This is a small sampling of potential questions that could be asked to help ensure the execution of your marketing communications are in line with your intentions and will actually be effective. If you find a problem area or have difficulty answering one of these questions, let that lead you deeper to more questions until you have a better understanding of how to match purpose with function and / or have a better understanding of your audience. Retaining the lessons learned from asking these questions will help both current and future marketing campaigns, and the improvement in effectiveness and ROI will be well worth it.

As a general rule we don’t do this, but given the breadth of this topic I wanted you to be able to access me personally with any questions you may have. If you want to ask a question and fill out the contact form below it will go to my inbox and you’ll get an answer straight from me.

"Are you looking for ways to improve your marketing ROI? Would you like to send more powerful, more effective marketing messages? Are you simply looking for better ways of targeting potential customers? Not to worry – BioBM is on your side. Our life science marketing and advertising experts can help you design, target, and execute marketing campaigns that improve your ROI, drive more customers into your sales channels, and help you grow your revenues and your business. For access to a full range of marketing services and expertise, contact BioBM. Our professional consultants will help you understand what needs to be done to improve your marketing and what you need to do to get there."