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Make Purchasing Decisions Simple

Scientists may be getting overwhelmed with too much information, having effects on how they make purchasing decisions
Researchers from the Corporate Executive Board analyzed results from multiple surveys that totaled over 7,000 consumers, as well as interview with hundreds of marketing experts and executives, trying to figure out what makes a product “stick”. They looked at over 40 variables, trying to figure out what is most important in the choice of one brand over others. The results, discussed in a recent Harvard Business Review article, may surprise you. The key wasn’t frequency of interaction with the brand, nor was it price, nor was it the consumer’s initial perception of the brand. In the end, the purchasing decisions are most influenced by which company makes the decision to purchase simple.

Just so this doesn’t get taken out of context, we’re not talking about making the purchase simple. Putting up big red flags that says “buy this here” isn’t going to help you. We’re talking about making the decision simple. As Spenner and Freeman describe it in the HBR article: “the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options.” The reason for this? In a new world of marketing flooded with choice, driven by content, and with staggering amounts of marketing messages, many customers are simply overloaded with information. They’ll reward the brand that best helps them make things simple again.

How great is this effect? Spenner and Freeman created a “decision simplicity index” that graded brands on how easy it is to gather, navigate, and assess information about them. Those that scored in the top 25th percentile were 86% more likely to be purchased and 115% more likely to be recommended to others than those in the bottom 25th percentile. That is awfully dramatic.

Now all of this requires our usual grain of salt (I’m a scientist by training as well and as such am a naturally skeptical creature). These are general-purpose consumers that were studied and analyzed. The scientist is not the average consumer. The scientist is more skeptical, more analytical, and more capable of dealing with large amounts of information. However, even scientists will have a threshold at which an abundance of information will become too much information and the effect that decision simplicity has on the purchase decision will be significant. As the growth in the life sciences in general leads to the growth in life science tools, an abundance of options may eventually lead to information overload for all scientists, and those who simplify the decision making process will be rewarded.

Even now, however, life science marketers stand to benefit from making decision processes simple. We’ll be following this post up with another on how to simplify the purchase decision. Be sure to check back for more information.

"If you’re following the traditional methods of life science marketing, you are likely not to get the desired results, or may be facing diminishing returns and decreasing marketing ROI. Don’t let that happen. BioBM Consulting has life science marketing solutions for small life science tools companies that transform their marketing based on the newest scientist-consumer trends and information, helping you to drive demand and accelerate your sales. Contact us to speak with one of our professionals about how we can help your life science company."

Website Entry Points & SEO

Life science SEO - entry pointsSomewhat recently, another life science marketing agency (who shall remain anonymous), wrote that “No one ‘peruses’ websites from the homepage anymore. Sites need to be optimized to have an infinite number of ‘front doors’.” They’re largely correct on the first part – many users today will find your web content via search or other avenues which will lead them to an entry point that is not your homepage. However, the claim that every page should be a “front door” is flat-out wrong. If you’re not controlling the entry points to your website, you need a good dash of … SEO.

SEO, despite its name, isn’t all about simply ranking our website higher in the search engine rankings. Another crucial component of SEO is controlling which one of your website’s pages will show up highest for any given search term. Life science companies need to not only assess what terms they want to optimize for, but what content they want searchers for those terms to find. The best SEO plan is the one that executes on both of these factors.

The most basic tool for life science SEO is the landing page. Landing pages are single web pages that are designed to provide highly targeted content for a particular purpose. In the context of SEO, landing pages are often “one-way” pages designed to be content-rich on a particular topic, pulling in searchers for that term. Targeted audiences might be for a particular type or class of product, researchers using a particular type of sample or organism, or scientists looking to perform a specific type of analysis. Often the content of landing pages is too specific to make sense having on the more general sections of your website, but provide information that is highly relevant to your audience.

Landing pages are just one tool in the life science SEO toolbox, however. There are many other methods to control entry to your website, and not all of them even occur on your own site. For example, there are ways of “donating” SEO from one page to another. There are ways of creating super-effective landing pages outside your main website, then using those to drive traffic back to your site. The list of tools in the toolbox goes on…

Your website is not simply at the mercy of the search engines. Search engine optimization can be used to not only improve search rankings, but also to channel search traffic through specific paths and optimize how viewers interact with your website. Your website is your most important internet marketing tool, and controlling entry points is a key factor in wielding that tool properly.

"Do you know how life scientists are accessing your web content? Are you certain that you’re delivering the right messages to each segment of your audience? If not, it may be time to discuss how BioBM Consulting can help transform your life science internet marketing into a highly efficient demand generator for your company. Contact us. We’re always happy to talk."

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."

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."

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."

Google Wants You To Plus

In what’s probably half designed to make search results more personalized and half an encouragement for people to use Google+, Google implemented changes to its search algorithms recently. Google+ users who are frequently signed in while performing searches have likely already noticed, but Google+ results and pages that have been +1’d or shared by a connection are now given a massive boost in the search, usually to the front page.

Click the image blow for an example. Note the areas that I’ve highlighted in red, green, and blue, which each indicate different Google+ results.
Google's new search algorithm strongly favors Google+ content.

Say your company sells PCR primers. If you mention PCR primers in your Google+ profile or in a post or other content on Google+, and a scientist that you’re connected to on Google+ searches for PCR primers, your post will almost guaranteedly display near the top of the results (assuming the person doesn’t have lots of other connections also talking about PCR primers). Likewise, based on information that Google compiles about a user, it will have “recommended” connections and content from recommended connections get a similarly high-profile

Of course, this type of simplification ignores the difficulty of growing a following on Google+. Unlike Twitter and more similarly to Facebook, Google+ doesn’t let companies follow people who aren’t following them back. Facebook at least partially makes up for it by allowing you to have high customized pages which you can use to incentivize engagement. Google+ has no such capabilities, so building engagement can be somewhat more difficult.

Another thing about the change is that it places a huge premium on social content – posts, links, videos, images, everything. Have pictures of the team from the last conference? Put it on Google+. Was there a news article about your company or products? Put it on Google+. While you’re at it, write search engine optimized descriptions; just keep in mind that people will read them so don’t go overboard.

With that one change, social media marketing for companies with Google+ went from kind of pointless to extremely worthwhile. Just know that like any social media marketing it’s a slow process with long-term rewards, so be patient, provide good content, and do your best to build your network.

Also, expect that Google will continue to try to integrate Google+ into search, so long as they don’t do anything that creates a massivle backlash. The past few days there have been reports of google asking searchers if they’d like to ask their Google+ connections about their search. Not sure if that particular feature will stick, but it’s certainly an indication of the direction Google’s trying to go…

UPDATE: Between the writing of this and its posting, we noticed another change. Google now integrates social results from your Google contacts. This means that if someone in your gmail contacts or from a synced android phone shared something, it will also show up in the new “personal results” section and receive greater visibility, even if you’re not signed up with Google+. Furthermore, if you have a website listed in your Google or Google+ profile, Google’s search well respond as if you’e shared all pages on the site, even if you haven’t actively done so. The screenshot below is taken from a search where I was signed into Google on an account that does not have a Google+ account.
Google's new search results show results from Google contacts as well.

"If you’re looking for a company with practical experience in life science social media marketing without the “pie-in-the-sky” promises and without the unjustifiable costs, you’ve come to the right place. We can build a social media solution for just about any budget and need. Want to learn more? Just ask us."

Cause Marketing: Underutilized?

Cause marketing offers opportunities for life science marketers.Corporate social responsibility has been all the rage for years now. Corporations in many fields are almost expected to prove that their interests are one with the common good and that they’re not just money-grubbing, profiteering institutions. Corporate donations have always been popular, and get companies a tax write-off, but that doesn’t really do much good to the company. Performing feats of goodwill that benefit both the cause and the company (and often create more social good in the process) is encompassed in cause marketing.

Being in the life science tools industry I was surprised when I read a recent Harvard Business Review article that referenced some numbers on the prevalence of cause marketing from a 2010 a PRWeek/Barkely PR cause marketing survey. As of 2010, two-thirds of all companies reported engaging in cause marketing, and 97% of marketing executives believed cause marketing to be a valid business strategy! If you look around the life sciences that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Given, simple self-reporting that your company engages in cause marketing is a low target as it doesn’t require that the cause marketing effort be of significant size or visibility.

Regardless of the reasoning for the survey numbers, it lead me to think that cause marketing is indeed under-leveraged in the life sciences. I know of only a handful of such efforts across the industry – the first one that comes to mind is Labnet’s manufacture of Susan G. Komen branded pipettes (which don’t even seem to be available anymore). In a way it does strike me as odd. Certainly there are many charitable or non-profit organizations funding compelling biomedical research that would be great cause marketing partners for life science tools companies. Think about it: How compelling would it be to a life science researcher to be able to purchase a product or buy from a company that supports life science research, maybe even research in their own field? There are certainly many potential opportunities to do just that … but not many laboratory tools companies seem to be making the effort.

While I wouldn’t suggest diving into cause marketing head first because of my admittedly anecdotal musings, it does seem that cause marketing may be an opportunity ripe for the picking by life science tools companies.

"Looking for new ways to reach your customers? Want to explore innovative opportunities to reach life scientists that aren’t already saturated by your competition? Then BioBM is the partner for you. Our life science marketing experts blend the practicality that your company needs with the creativity that it desires to reach customers in ways that increase marketing effectiveness while limiting cost. Sometimes, the best place to be is where your competition isn’t. BioBM will help you find that place. Contact us and we’ll get started."

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."

Marketing Group on LinkedIn

BioBM Consulting has kicked off 2012 with a new group on LinkedIn specifically for those interested in the marketing of life science laboratory tools and services. Whereas previous groups focused on life science marketing bundled these topics broadly with pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostic, and medical device marketing, the new “Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services” group focused specifically on those who are marketing to life scientists, providing a level of depth and specificity not found anywhere else.

Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt gave the following statement about the founding of the group:

Statement from Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt

The Marketing of Life Science Tools and Services group will be a powerful resource for the life science marketing community to share and propagate ideas and best practices, ask questions, and discuss the most relevant topics in life science marketing. We hope that both our clients and all life science marketers are able to benefit from having a place where they can leverage the community’s collective expertise.


To view or join the group, please visit: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Marketing-Life-Science-Tools-Services-4213564