Life Science Marketing - Beyond Conference Booths and Trade Journal Ads

Those of us who have been in the life science industry for some time remember the days when marketing planning consisted of two main activities: deciding which conferences to attend and pouring over editorial calendars of trade journals and wondering whether a picture of the new instrument can be photoshopped into last year’s ad. Those simple days are over. Life as a scientific instrument or tools marketer has gotten more complex. While conferences and journal ads are still a thing, digital and social channels are now critically important to life science marketing success.

Juggling the New and the Old

Life science marketers are traditionally fairly conservative: a strict regulatory environment and a target audience with a very evolved sense for BS make jumping onto every bandwagon a losing proposition.

But digital and social marketing are no longer the latest hype, many of these channels are coming of age and have proven their value for marketing everything from cosmetics to chemistry analyzers.

And, over the years, or, in the case of email, over decades, we have learned a thing or two about what works and what not. These insights can help you create a life science marketing strategy that is more (data) science than art.

The Goal: Moving a Prospect Through the Funnel

The goal of every marketing campaign always was and still is to guide prospects through the process of awareness (of their problem) to consideration (of possible solutions) and finally to a purchase decision (of - hopefully - your product).

The way to move a scientist is by providing good, unbiased content, that speaks to their curiosity and establishes trust in and respect for your company and products without being “salesy”.

This is where a well-planned, expertly executed and diligently measured content marketing strategy enters the picture. Let’s have a closer look.

Content Marketing – Value for Free

The heart and soul of every content marketing strategy – unsurprisingly – is great content. Great content educates, is thought-provoking, well-written and comes in different forms: articles, white papers, application notes, eBooks, social media posts, blogs, and videos.

Great content provides valuable information to the reader, rather than product features or benefits, avoids sales pitches like the plague and costs the reader nothing.

The purpose of the content is to build a long-term relationship between your company and the prospect. The Life Science Marketing Society estimates that 7 – 20 touchpoints are required before a prospect is ready to buy. During that process you want the potential buyer to be aware of your company as a provider of valuable information - not as the one with too many pesky pop-up ads.

On a side note: Ignore video at your own peril. Video is the fastest growing content format and is expected to represent 82% of all internet traffic by 2021. To put this number in perspective: we are talking a whopping one million minutes of video transmitted every second.

Email – the technology that keeps on giving

Getting and retaining sustained attention is where the engine of content marketing comes in: email. Yes, it is old technology, but it works very well. Move over Twitter and Facebook, email – done right – still has the highest ROI of all digital channels.

The median email marketing ROI is 122%. That’s four times higher than any other digital marketing channel!!

The crucial elements of successful email campaigns are:

  • A list of relevant contacts,
  • A subject line that entices people to open the email,
  • The promise of interesting content and a call to action, e.g. click through to download a white paper or watch a how-to video,
  • Analytics to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Copious amounts of content has been created about each of these topics. In summary, building your list involves collecting business cards the old-fashioned way, e.g. at conferences, as well as using sign-up forms on your webpage, through social media and by including a sign-up link in your signature block. Buying lists is no longer a feasible option, because most marketing automation providers only allow organically generated email lists. Sending out large numbers of emails yourself ruins your sender reputation and all but guarantees that your emails will end up in the spam filter. There is no alternative: organically build you must!

Writing a subject line is more art than science and a task that deserves at least as much attention as crafting the body of the email. Great content, a clever joke, a generous discount, alluring imagery is all for naught, if the recipients never open the email.

When it comes to taking action, captivating content with a thought-provoking headline is critical. After that, the content has to speak for itself, if it provides value to the reader, they are more likely to open your next email, sign up for your newsletter or mailing list, associate you with quality and evaluate your products when making the purchase decision.

Analytics - know what works

Every self-respecting, data-loving scientist will understand this point intuitively: you need to collect and analyze data to know what works and what doesn’t.

While the ROI of glossy ads is difficult to establish and the number of people reading your poster might be a better proxy for the number of scientist friends you have than the sales potential of your product, digital and social media use generates detailed records that can be easily accessed, linked back to sales numbers and used to calculate the ROI of your campaigns.

Nurture campaigns – chaperoning prospects through the funnel

Every opened email, click through, download and webpage visit can be recorded and used to create a detailed picture of every user: their interests, preferences and where they are in their decision-making process. Marketing automation tools can then be used to automatically serve that prospect more relevant-to-them information and chaperone them through the sales funnel and hopefully out the other end with a PO for your product in hand.

Life science marketing these days is more than just ads and conference booths. While Snapchat, life streaming and augmented reality might yet be too gimmicky for the average scientists, email campaigns, especially content driven nurture campaigns have proven their value many times over. The best time to jump on that bandwagon was yesterday; the second best is today.