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Carlton Hoyt to Present at ACP-LS Meeting

The ACP-LS annual meeting is the only time of the year when you can surround yourself with the best minds in marketing and sales of life science tools and services! This year’s meeting will be held on Thursday, September 18th and Friday, September 19th at the Boston Marriott Quincy in Quincy, Massachusetts. As a “Friend of BioBM” you can receive $250 off registration with this link.

BioBM Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt will be hosting one of the breakout sessions which will wrap up the ACP-LS Annual Meeting on the afternoon of the 19th. This session will focus on developing superior customer experiences and using them to achieve and maintain strategic brand advantages that drive customer preferences in your favor and improve your bottom line.

If you would like to see the meeting agenda, you can do so here: http://www.acp-ls.org/agenda

New Paper on Decision Engines

BioBM Consulting has published a new paper which outlines the current problems facing scientists when attempting to make a purchasing decision, the negative impacts this is having on scientists, and how decision engines can be leveraged to create transformational change within life science markets. “How Decision Engines Will Reshape the Life Science Buying Journey” explains why information has become the enemy of purchasers and suppliers alike, explains what decision engines are and how they are already creating disruptive change in other markets, and outlines a general framework for creating decision engines.

All with all BioBM papers, “How Decision Engines Will Reshape the Life Science Buying Journey” is available free of charge to all those in the life science tools & services industry. To learn more about the new report, to preview it, or to request a copy, please visit: https://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/

Small Steps

For better conversion, allow your customers to take smaller stepsIt’s enticing to try to close every prospect at the first opportunity. You can certainly rationalize doing so – you’re just trying to make the most of every opportunity, ASAP. Attempting to do so, however, can drive away your customers by forcing them to choose before they are ready to buy. While this may seem obvious in theory, life science marketers and salespeople routinely attempt to push their customers through their buying journey.

Your scientist-customers are risk-averse. If a customer isn’t sure that your product or service can perform the job they need it to perform, or if they don’t yet see that it is worth the price, they’ll view the purchase as being a high-risk endeavor. Asking a fresh prospect to make a purchase is a very big step for them – it involves a lot of risk since they are not yet certain about the utility and value of your product. The conversion of such a step would be very, very low.

To improve your conversion, you must allow your prospects to take smaller steps. Break up the buying journey into easily digestible chunks. For instance, a prospect whose email address you received from a conference may be sent an series of emails linked to various pieces of content. They may be invited to view a demo video, then subsequently given a demonstration. Perhaps after that there is a free trial, and only then would they be given the “hard sell”. This is merely an illustrative example, but one in which we have broken up one potentially huge step (visiting a booth at a conference → buying a product) into many smaller, less risky steps.

Marketers can also use these small steps in conjunction with marketing automation, CRM and / or analytics software to gain more insights into the customer. These insights may be subsequently fed to sales and / or used to help score the leads to help ensure that sales resources are deployed effectively.

Any buying journey can be broken up into an infinitesimal amount of steps, but we don’t want to make the buying journey too long by breaking it into an extremely large number of tiny steps – or, even worse, to decrease conversion by providing too many opportunities to drop out of the process. Additionally, not every product has the same amount of risk and will require the same amount of steps. Generally speaking, products which are more novel to the customer, products which are complicated, more expensive products, and products which are more central to the scientists’ research will carry more risk and therefore require more steps. So how do we know how many steps we might need? Consider the informational requirements of the average customer when making a purchasing decision and develop a content roadmap. This well help you determine the appropriate content which should be delivered, and the nature of the content should enlighten you as to the form it should take. Always allow the customer a direct path to purchase and contact high-quality leads directly to nudge them into making a decision.

One final note – the “small steps” notion does not apply only to the actual purchase. Asking a fresh prospect to give up a plethora of personal information right away will also lead to a low conversion. Ensure that you don’t place any obstructively large steps in your customer’s way.

"To put our expertise in demand generation to work for your life science company, contact BioBM. When we couple your great products and services with our expertise in demand generation, we’ll achieve great results."

Easily Improving Retention

Email is the easiest way to improve customer retention - if you do it correctly.Nothing is better for customer retention than great products. As marketers, however, the quality of the product is at least somewhat out of our control. The easiest tactic that the marketer has to improve retention is, ironically, one of the ones that can most easily turn customers off: email.

The occasional newsletter or promotional email will help so long as you don’t overuse it. Simply reminding customers of your brand will have a positive effect. Sending emails with great content will help even more, and is something that provides more value to customers and which fewer life science companies do. However, there is one thing that few companies do and large companies are often particularly bad at…

The surprise personal email. The surprise personal email should be from a person and be highly personalized. (Note that this does not mean it cannot be automated; using email automation for this is fine.) The more information you use about the customer the better; referencing their application is great, but at minimum you should refer to them by name and reference the product which they purchased. This email could be sent soon after a purchase where personal contact would not necessarily be expected (a low-cost consumable, for instance) or months after the purchase of something where follow-up would be expected. Generally, the surprise personal email should inquire about the customer and offer support. You want to show that you care and you’re accessible. Response rates will vary based on the nature of the product and the timing, but response rates as high as 20% are not uncommon so be sure you can take the time to tend to the responses which you may receive. It will be worthwhile; not only will you be helping your customer retention but you’ll also get a lot of useful feedback about your product or service.

Email is often overused in ways that underperform for the life science companies that leverage it. At the same time, it is the easiest way to improve customer retention. By seeking to provide value to the customer, email will better serve that purpose. Ensure that your emails provide value to the customers and demonstrate commitment to them and your scientist-customers will reward you for it.

"As email marketing is becoming less and less effective, it’s important that life science companies update their approach to email marketing in order to realize the greatest returns. Unfortunately, most companies have a difficult time breaking out of their traditional paradigms of email marketing. That’s where BioBM comes in. We can help you meld best practice tactics with world class content strategies to take email from a slowly failing relic to a powerful and effective cornerstone of your marketing. Contact us to learn more."

Marketing Channels

To ensure that your campaigns have reach, focus on the many different channels which scientists may prefer.Many small life science companies have their preferred advertising / marketing channels. This approach, limited and highly focused, works well for demand generation campaigns (and, to a lesser extent, branding initiatives) in which reaching a large proportion of the target market is not necessary; when reaching just a subset of the target market is acceptable. However, when companies want to reach an entire market, it is critical that a wide variety of marketing channels are considered. The concept also applies to dissemination of content – a large amount of content channels need to be targeted if a large amount of the target market is to be reached. This is because people have preferred channels for finding information and consuming content.

As a data-supported example, take consumer behavior for consumption of digital media. As the Harvard Business Review discussed in its October 2012 article “Why Digital Media Require a Strategic Rethink“:

[pullquote_left]Most customers choose their channel before choosing a product, and they’re unlikely to jump channels. […] For example, in December 2007 NBC removed its content from the iTunes Store, causing an 11% increase in piracy the following month—and no increase in DVD sales. Conversely, after ABC added its content to Hulu, in 2009, piracy of its shows dropped by more than 20%, while TV viewership remained essentially unchanged. And in 2010, when a major U.S. publisher stopped providing Kindle editions, it saw no increase in hardcover sales.
[/pullquote_left]

This translates into ways in which people look for information and products as well. For instance, some scientists may use BioCompare almost all the time when looking for a product. Others may not use BioCompare at all. Others may use it only when they are having difficulty finding a product or making a decision. However, very few are likely to migrate between those groups at will. Another example: many scientists do a Google search first when looking for a chemical or reagent, but many others go straight to Sigma and search their site. There are probably very few who randomly do both. When looking for scientific news, some scientists may gravitate to Nature News. Others may go to their favorite journals (either print or digital – but unlikely both).

For those of us that don’t have scientific backgrounds, think about your own searches for information different types of products. You probably have a preferred method and channel(s) to look for various types of products. When you want to read the news, you likely have one or a few preferred websites, newspapers, or periodicals. The way in which scientists look for information or products is not very different.

Because scientists have preferred sources and channels, advertising or publishing content across a single channel or a small number of channels is often an ineffective way of reaching a large proportion of any particular target market. To ensure that your campaigns have reach, focus on the many different channels which scientists may prefer.

"Are you looking to increase your company’s reach? Want to develop promotional strategies to help drive inbound lead generation or improve your company’s brand strength? Contact BioBM. Our team of life science marketing experts will help your company reach more scientists, reel them in, and convert them into profitable sales which drive your company’s growth. For more information, call us at +1 313-312-4626."

Motivating Your Distributors

Life science manufacturers need to take an active role to ensure their distributors stay motivated.Last week, we discussed how the key to a distributor successfully selling a given product line (from the supplier’s standpoint) is how motivated they are to carry, promote, and sell the line. There is simply no substitute for effort. The responsibility for maintaining the motivation to put in that effort, however does not fall solely on the distributor. As we mentioned last week: “The effort that distributors will give to a product line is not solely dependent on the distributors themselves; the supplier’s distributor manager is responsible for keeping the distributors motivated as well.” So, what can (and should) a manufacturer do to help motivate their distributors and keep them selling?

Of course, this question has some obvious answers such as price / discount rates, exclusivity, etc., but it’s the less obvious answers, and therefore the less commonly diagnosed and remedied problems, which we are interested in.

Previously we discussed how distributors should play a role in executing suppliers’ marketing strategies but suppliers should not shift too much marketing responsibility to distributors. By treating marketing as a collaborative effort between supplier and distributor, you are actually creating an excellent opportunity to improve distributor motivation over a long time frame. By providing marketing support to your distributors you will both achieve more holistic and better integrated marketing campaigns and also demonstrate that you are committed to the success of your distributors.

Another often overlooked tool for motivating your distributors is fostering relationships between them. Highlighting the success of some distributors will demonstrate that distributors can successfully sell your products, and creating and fostering channels of communication between them will help them learn from each other, increasing the effectiveness of your entire distribution network.

The implementation of a system to enable and foster easy collaboration on both of these levels does not need to be time consuming nor expensive. While there is existing channel management software, it often focuses too much on the supplier-distributor relationship and not sufficiently on fostering communication between distributors. So long as you do not require that a system to manage this process is integrated with many other enterprise systems, an effective solution can be constructed relatively inexpensively using mostly free, open-source tools.

Life science tools manufacturers need to take an active role in fostering the success of their distribution networks; “set it and forget it” type strategies are very rarely effective. Improving distributor performance does not need to be difficult, but it is the distributor manager’s job to ensure that the distributors stay motivated. By enhancing collaboration and communication with distributors, suppliers are investing in their distributors’ long term success while helping to ensure their own.

"Looking to improve the effectiveness of your distribution network? Stop looking and start improving. BioBM’s distributor management / channel management services help life science tools companies optimize their distribution networks and create partnerships that ensure the long-term success of all parties. You want to be successful. So do your distributors. Contact BioBM today and take a step towards success."

Speak with the Customers

speak with your scientist-customersLife science companies rarely speak with their customers as often or as deeply as they should. You can make the common excuse about scientists being distant and antisocial (which I would like to go on record as saying is complete nonsense) but many companies actually start out being good at speaking with customers but then lose that trait as they grow. Why? Simple – taking the time to speak with customers isn’t something that’s easily scalable. It’s easy to view large amount of customer interaction as unnecessary and cut it in the name of efficiency. Or a company might just become large enough that it makes a lot of financial sense to automate the heck out of everything. While marketing automation and customer relationship management automation are very powerful tools that we strongly advocate, they should not displace real conversations with your scientist-customers, for a number of reasons.

1) Customers love good support.

Nothing says “we don’t care about you” like a robotic confirmation email sent from a DO-NOT-REPLY email address. While you can still do better without actually speaking with the customers, your customers will appreciate getting an email from a real person (or at least what looks to be an email from a real person) with the ability to reply to that person and ultimately get a response. It shows that you care enough to give them some of your time, if they want it. And while some customers may abuse the privilege, most will not and it gives you the opportunity to create a lot of goodwill. It’s great for your brand and great for customer-retention.

Of course, you don’t need to wait until after the sale to have a conversation or to demonstrate great support (but we’ll address that in a minute).

2) You WILL learn things.

Want feedback on your product? Want MORE and BETTER feedback? Want to learn what the customer is thinking when they’re contemplating a purchase or perusing your website? You could fire off an email asking them to take a survey to try to win an iPod, and that might be useful if you’re dying for quantitative data to perform some large-scale analysis, but in most situations you’ll be better served and you’ll almost always get a better response from just striking up a conversation. Have an actual person type an email to a few people who bought your product three months ago and ask how things are going. I’m sure most of you would be genuinely interested in how the customer feels about your product, so let that interest shine through. Show them that you have an interest in them and you care about what they think and how things are working out.

Of course, you don’t need to wait until after the sale to have a conversation and learn about your audience (almost there…)

3) It can be great for conversion.

You know those live chat boxes that you occasionally see popping up asking if you want to chat with a representative? Or the popup-like “lightbox” that appears after you’ve been on a website for 10 seconds where you’re asked if you’ll take a 4-minute survey? Those both seem pretty silly and useless and they often are, however their failure is more due to design than their intention. Customers will speak with you during their buying journey, and you can effectively prompt them to do so on your website (or just about anywhere else). Whether you’re making use of live chat or simply encouraging users to call or email, try to start a conversation as early as possible without being forceful or gimmicky about it. Not only will you help your conversion by answering questions and helping to simplify the customer’s buying journey, but you’ll also learn a lot about how they make their buying decisions and demonstrate good support all at the same time.

It’s very easy to get out of the habit of having meaningful conversations with customers. By ensuring that you take the time to speak with the customers you’ll be doing a valuable service to your company and helping your scientist-customers at the same time. There’s simply no substitute for real conversations.

"Looking to spark more conversations with your customers without overloading your staff? Not a problem! Talk to BioBM. We’ll create strategies for improving customer relationships as well as collecting and utilizing more feedback and information then help deploy and integrate the technology solutions to help you efficiently manage customer relationships and communications. Contact BioBM to learn more."

Succeeding at Conferences

salesman speaking with scientist at a conferenceWe’re no stranger to scientific conferences, myself especially. I’ve attended scientific conferences on all sides – as a scientist, as an exhibitor, and as a business developer targeting the exhibitors. From all this experience, I am certain that one thing, above all else, will determine your level of success if you are at a conference for sales or marketing purposes. This one thing will sound simple. It will sound obvious. But look around at the next conference you attend and see how many people aren’t doing this one thing. So… What is the “magic bullet” for conference success?

Speak with everyone you can.

A conference is a numbers game. There are a fixed amount of scientists at any given conference who will be within your target market. The more people you speak with, the more of those scientists that you’ll identify, and the more leads you’ll generate.

It doesn’t matter how pretty your booth is. You could have a massive, open, wildly elaborate booth or just a table in front of a curtain. Those elaborate, expensive booths don’t do much more to reel scientists in than a large bag of candy dumped into a bowl. All you need is to capture enough of their attention to be able to gracefully say hello and ask them what they work on.

Being successful at a scientific conference really is that simple, yet at least three quarters of the company representatives at the average conference fail to come close to being as successful as they could be because they neglect to be outgoing. If you, or someone in your company, is going to be exhibiting at a conference, be sure to take to heart that one key element for a successful conference: speak with everyone you can.

"Marketing and sales should work together. To build or optimize your demand generation efforts in a way that deliver high-quality leads which your sales team can effectively convert into sales, contact BioBM. We’ll work with you to create the strategies and campaigns which deliver results and grow your company’s revenues."

Reflect Your Priorities

What do catalogs, websites, and many other general-purpose marketing tools have in common? There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but the answer of the day is that they all contain information on a large amount of offerings. Surprisingly frequently, the order in which these are presented is due to factors such as newness, alphabetical order, legacy documents, or some type of semi-arbitrary organization that seems to make sense to the person creating the document. These layouts do not adequately serve the company.

When creating marketing documents highlighting multiple offerings, be sure to give the most important ones the best “real estate”. While your company may define importance in its own way (it is often measured in profit potential, but may also be based in part or in whole on how central an offering is to the core business, potential for new customer recruitment, or other factors), be sure those most important products and services receive the attention which they merit.

This may seem obvious (it is) and it may seem easy to do (it is) but if you go back and look at any marketing documents your company has which describe many offerings you may be surprised at just how buried some important offerings are.

It is of critical importance that the layout of the document makes sense for the user, but life science marketers should be able to easily divert attention to important offerings while still having a logical flow of information. You should be able to simultaneously prioritize and organize your life science communications with relative ease.

"Is your life science company looking to improve the effectiveness of your communications? Our life science communications team has helped companies across all sub-sectors of life science tools and services improve their marketing by empowering their messages. Whether you are a manufacturer of research kits, a clinical research organization, or developing the next breakthrough bioinformatic software, we speak your language (and the language of your audience) and can help drive results through practical, measured improvements. Contact BioBM to learn if our services are a fit for your organization."

Shed The Problem Customers

Life science marketers should identify and mitigate their problem customers; not cross-sell to them.Anyone who has spent time in sales or customer support can recall a few customers who always demand more than others or are just notoriously stingy. Chances are that all life science companies have some, and they’re all cutting into your profits. While a few extra service calls or the occasional negotiated discount might not be that bad, when this type of behavior is repeated or taken to an extreme customers can become unprofitable. This effect is aggravated by a very common practice: cross-selling.

Denish Shah and V. Kumar from the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University published an article in the Journal of Marketing which analyzed data from five Fortune 1000 companies. Their research showed that while only about one in five customers who cross-buy are unprofitable, those that are account for approximately 70% of companies’ total loss from customers. While cross-selling increases profitability from good customers, it also increases losses from bad ones.

Who are these unprofitable problem customers? There are many types, but in the life sciences we have noticed some that have a history of returning items, not making complete payments, demanding an inordinate amount of time from sales and service personnel, or requesting many demos or free trials before making only a small purchase.

The solution to minimizing the losses from these customers is not to stop cross-selling, and the authors of the aforementioned study note that cross-selling is definitely profitable in the aggregate, but it highlights the fact that there are such things as bad customers and companies need to shed them. However, unprofitable customers need to be flagged by sales, support, and / or marketing (this can be done very simply and easily in just about any CRM system) and these customers should either not be marketed to or should be “upsold” more profitable products to compensate. In some circumstances, especially for service companies, relationships with clients may need to be terminated altogether.

No matter what you do to limit the customer losses, do not cut back on service. It’s better to let unprofitable clients go than to offer poor or lacking service. Letting a customer go effects you one time. Poor service can leave a much larger impact.

Your company almost certainly has some problem clients, but chances are you probably wouldn’t be able to come up with a list. By keeping track of your problem customers and taking appropriate action to mitigate them, you’ll be able to increase your profitability with a very low expenditure of effort.

"Looking for ways to better manage your customers? Want to incorporate analytics to better direct marketing decisions? BioBM helps life science companies do both. Our analytics solutions will help gather more and better data while our CRM and marketing automation implementations help manage that data while providing you with a greater amount of control of your marketing. Help your marketing and sales staff make better decisions faster and easier. Contact BioBM."