Running a Life Science Marketing Agency

Life Science Marketing Agency

Debra Harrsch is CEO of Brandwidth Solutions, a B2B marketing firm specializing in Life Sciences and Clinical Diagnostics. Below is the adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast.

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Marketing Life Sciences

How did you come to run a specialist Science Marketing agency?

I started my career selling chemistry analyzers and cell counters and from there I went on to be a Director of Marketing Communications for a supercritical fluid chromatography company.

Having moved from that clinical space into the life sciences space and then into software, I worked for a small entrepreneurial company in Philadelphia called Interface. Two months later we got acquired by a large corporation (similar to where I had just come from!)

So, I started Brandwidth Solutions because I found that all along when I've been working with life science marketing agencies and clients, their needs are very different. Even on the clinical side when you’re sat with the lab director, it's a different conversation it’s more about education rather than just selling advertising.

We started the agency back in 2005 by identifying this obvious niche to marry agency knowledge with the customer's needs and develop value propositions that hit their pain points. Since we began in life sciences and clinical diagnostics, we’ve also expanded into healthcare, pharmaceutical and energy sectors.

How are life science customers reacting to the pandemic?

This is a great opportunity for marketers to try stuff they don't normally try, because now more than ever they're not having the sales reps on the road. So how else do you reach your audience? You have to find another way to do it.

So re-evaluate what you have, reposition how you're going to use it, and then make a plan.

They studied what happened to Marketing and Sales during the Great Depression, and those that continued to market came out stronger on the other side because they didn't have to start from scratch.

You gotta keep marketing - You’ve got to keep reaching customers

The customers aren’t going to stop using the internet during the next three months either. We work in industries where the buyer's journey takes anywhere from a week to four years. So, if you stop marketing now, you’ll feel the effects nine months down the line.

How has strategic marketing evolved over the last twenty years?

We've said for a long time that content is king. People are working from home and consuming more content than ever on their home computers.

We have clients whose product content talks to several different personas: the end-user, the I.T. software guy, the C-suite, the manager… By creating content around each of these personas and their specific pain points and needs, we build the value of what’s in it for each of them.

AZoNetwork: We've been getting a lot of requests for virtual events and podcasts. These are things that clients wouldn’t have necessarily tried before. It's funny how it takes a global pandemic to get people to try something new!

What are you seeing more requests for?

Content, website development and Social Media.

We recently did a white paper on digital transformation stitching in three case studies. They were not only getting the technical information on the white paper, but they were also getting the case study content from three different industries. This hybrid format will be both easy to consume and generate leads at the same time.

How should Life Science companies find their voice on Social Media?

Social media is like a tree; and the trunk of the tree is the blog, the branches of the tree are your social media channels and the leaves are your customers.

We start with a 60 day research phase and we understand your competitors and what’s important to your customers. We then develop a blog calendar where all those assets you're developing will go out on social media. We make the content work for clients with an article for them for internal use, I will also develop the blog post and the social media channel post so they get all of it at once.

Whilst you may not sell anything as a direct result of Social Media, it’s about staying top of mind in the customer’s awareness, so that when they eventually do come to that buying decision, they already have an affinity and trust with you.

How do you view the online customer experience in 2020

People value the online experience more and more. We have to make sure that we're addressing their needs online, whether it's a website, podcast or video. Even if it's an App, people won’t tolerate anything that takes longer than five seconds to load… You’ve lost them.

AZoNetwork: We keep a very close eye on mobile traffic and optimizing pages using AMP accelerated mobile pages. We recently wrote a blog piece on how to optimize all of the different Google Ad extensions. As it was quite complex and in depth search subject matter, we decided that instead of one big long video that we create lots of short snippet sixty second video clips.

However, by the time we loaded 21 videos into the blog page it loaded very slowly. Therefore we created a lazy load system which enabled us to immediately display 21 thumbnails of different videos which, when clicked would then begin to play. That is what UX is all about, making sure the customer finds exactly what they need in as few clicks as possible.

How is digital marketing removing the barriers for entry for smaller companies when entering new market places?

Digital marketing has made things more reasonably priced and easier access for smaller companies. We still have the same adage where people need to see you 6-8 times before they even recognize you. You've got to have a situation where they see you multiple times in different places so that when their need arises, they remember you.

How have your CRM and marketing automation tools allowed businesses to operate with increased efficiency?

It's not just about having a marketing automation platform and the CRM, it's about marrying the two together. When we do a client’s website we actually stitch things into their website so that marketing automation platform and CRM talk to each other. We have an agreed plan with the sales team follow up when they reach a certain score.

AZoNetwork: We split lead scoring into two categories, explicit characteristic data such as country, job title, company size etc. and intrinsic behavioural data such as downloads, webinars, pageviews and RFQs. We marry those two sets of data to get an overall score.

When rolling out a CRM in a company, what advice would you give?

A lot of training and patience goes into it. I think it's getting everybody to understand what the value of the CRM is.

Sales and Marketing have to work together - Marketing is 6-9 months ahead of sales. They should be having that dialogue to see how they can make it easier for each other – i.e. encouraging Sales to pick market segments or verticals so that Marketing can be more specific with their messaging.

Ask us about digital marketing

I've seen in many companies where dysfunction between Sales and Marketing leads to lots of wasted time, effort and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

What would be your policy on passing leads over to sales?

We ran a webinar for a client and they had eleven hundred registrants and over six hundred people showed up. It's then about nurturing that lead, not just passing the lead right off to Sales.

The follow up to the webinar for those that attended:

  • Thank you for coming and here is the slide deck and an executive summary

For those that weren't able to make it:

  • Sorry we missed you, here's the link to the webinar and the executive summary along with the slide deck.

Then we’d enter them into separate nurtures whilst keeping the sales team aware of what's happening in the CRM.

I think that any collateral where it’s just the manufacturers talking is not as valuable as two independent speakers – When you can demonstrate that level of educational thought leadership, we had over thirty or forty minutes of questions.

AZoNetwork: Also, recording that qualitative data against prospects within your CRM, whether it’s a webinar Q&A or if you have a trade show booth – The tricky part is distilling the useful data so that your Sales and Marketing team can digest, interpret and act upon it.

With a 10x10 booth you've invested $15,000 right there, even more when you’ve brought the sales team and paid for insurance, product shipping etc. So you have to make the most of the opportunity by pre-event Marketing and post event Marketing on a granular level which speaks to individuals.

Be smart about it: You don't need a million leads, you probably couldn't handle a thousand leads you need at least 100 leads that are targeted and that you can have a follow up dialogue with.

How will Trade Shows and Virtual Events compliment each other?

We like human contact - we don't like being isolated. We like learning in multiple formats not just visually or aurally, but kinetically as well

I find what happens to me in these virtual events is that I can I can wander off back to my email. Whilst the technology and capability is great, I don't think it does away with the in person meeting.

We talked about Zoom family dinners and while at least you're seeing and hearing each other, it's not the same as somebody sitting at the table, chit-chatting about stories. You spend eight hours on the trade show floor, can you imagine sitting in front of your computer for eight hours on a virtual trade show?

How will remote working affect the future of the workplace?

There are some things that you have to be present for. My son's a welder who has to physically go to work - you can't do it remotely. However, this particular situation has proven that many people can get their work done remotely – It has environmental benefits and people spend more time with their loved ones.

Microsoft Teams - How to Collaborate from Home

What does the next five years look like?

This crisis is proving that the world needs Science in the most important ways - Science and Medicine are telling us things we don't want to hear. Science will solve this… and Marketing needs to tell that story Pfizer just released in the US a great video showing people in science working to solve this.

We are more connected than we think and I think from a Marketing point of view we could use that. From everything we're Marketing whether it’s cell counters, ventilators, nasal swabs or research capabilities and how science is solving issues. I think that it's important that we keep that human tone in our Marketing; people buy from people not from companies. It's about solving problems in crises, and this is a story which Marketing can tell.

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Posted by Frank Barker

Having spent his younger years playing Rugby in the sunny climes of Spain and Australia, Frank graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc in International Business before settling back in rainy Manchester. Frank has helped numerous Science, Engineering and Healthcare companies to create marketing strategies that engage with niche audiences. Having started his career in Sales, he now runs the Marketing department for AZoNetwork. He specialises in data management for sales teams, equipping them with the most actionable, real-time marketing insights from the first touch point through to revenue generating opportunity. A sportsman at heart, Frank still enjoys lacing up the boots for his beloved Macclesfield 1st XV Rugby or pulling on the whites to represent the more serious Macclesfield 3rd XI Cricket team.    

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