Most life science marketing activities are wasted because they prematurely try to persuade their audiences rather than first engaging them. But engaging scientists is far from easy, given their finely honed sense of skepticism and their strong tendency to filter out biased information. To develop more effective campaigns, marketers must first understand the psychological landscape of how scientists make decisions, and then to develop the most appropriate types of content to engage scientists, rather than deter them. In this first of a two-part Linus Report series, I introduce a model for how scientists consume information and then map this model to the archetypal scientific buying journey. This information will serve as the precursor for the second part in this series in the next issue, where I will offer the principles of Content-Centric Marketing for science and an actionable guide for the content types that make marketing campaigns up to 10 times more effective.
Answer this question honestly: Could the science industry’s marketing significantly improve?
Most life science marketing activities are wasted. Advertising the way it is typically employed often garners little attention and generates dubious awareness—and not even measurable, at that. Lead generation statistically results in 1% response rates at best, or in other words, is 99% fruitless. Trade shows ordinarily convert less than 5% of attendees as leads. Finally, traditional printed sales collateral is expensive to produce, ship, store, inventory, update, and discontinue.
It’s not that these channels are flawed. What is flawed is the way we as marketers employ them today.
Marketing must produce results, and one of the most critical variables in effectiveness of marketing programs is content. Yet too often content becomes the limiting factor for success, treated as an afterthought. As content strategist Kristina Halvorson put it, “For years, we’ve been spending millions of dollars on strategy and research, user-experience design, visual design and technical platforms. In other words, we’ve invested in everything we need to build the vehicles for our content. And yet, strangely, it’s the content that gets left until the last minute.”1 Too true.
The idea of focusing on content is not new. So why do so many science marketers fall prey to overinvesting in the mechanics of marketing programs that produce predictably mediocre results? It is not due to a lack of intelligence, experience, or resources.
It is because generating credible content is difficult. But it is not impossible. Indeed, it is our task. To make existing marketing channels significantly more effective, science marketers must drastically rethink how they develop their marketing programs. What is required is a simple shift: Instead of developing ads, brochures, electronic direct mail, and landing pages, science marketers should consider their programs as content strategies.
Such a change in view will have numerous and profound effects on a science company’s commercialization strategy in whole. Yet it requires no reorganization; nor does it require additional talent. It simply requires focusing the company’s current efforts toward developing and deploying the right kinds of content at the right time. By thinking of marketing programs as content strategies, companies will increase the effectiveness of their marketing programs by up to one order of magnitude.
To achieve this shift, in this Linus Report series, I offer a model that describes the types of content needed to make marketing campaigns successful, based on the archetypal scientist’s decision-making journey. This model is called Content-Centric Marketing for Science. In our experience, employing this model can significantly improve the effectiveness of marketing programs by up to one order of magnitude from current trends. First, this model requires a fine understanding of scientists, which I will provide in this issue.
A Deeper Understanding of Scientists
Scientists are influenced about their product choices through one of two main channels: peers and content. They weight the credibility of content from a variety of sources, and then seek the most relevant and credible information to decide about their purchases. This represents the scientists’ own buying journey. Through richer, more nuanced comprehension of how scientists typically make decisions and of their archetypal buying journeys, marketers can develop effective marketing programs that influence the decision of scientists through their buying journey in favor of the company’s products and services. The first phase is to understand the psychology of the archetypal scientist as a consumer, and then to map his/her typical buying journey.
The Archetypal Scientist
Scientists are assumed to be rational. The idea of the nonemotional scientist is a common public misperception, that the scientific mind makes decisions based on logic alone. To conclude that scientists2 are strictly logical obscures the rich complexities of the human mind. In fact, research has determined that humans become clinically indecisive if the part of the brain that controls emotion is damaged or compromised.3
Scientists are human beings. They exhibit all the subtleties of human thought and behavior in their work. For marketers to overlook this fact creates costly assumptions. Like everyone, scientists make decisions by balancing a set of logical, emotional, and ego-based trade-offs. Where scientists differ is that they have undergone formal training to evaluate information in an unbiased, evidence-based, factual manner. Given their highly refined minds, it is especially difficult to persuade them. To develop an effective mode of communicating with them, it is important first to put logic and emotion in context.
Three Decision-Making Drivers, Three Classes of Benefits
We can begin to understand some of the intricacies of the scientific mind by considering the drivers of human choice. Marketing strategist David Aaker, in his book Building Strong Brands, argues that there are three classes of benefits a brand can possess. Each benefit maps directly to one of the three decision-making drivers. The following figure presents details of each.
Most marketing messages for scientific products and services provide only logical feature/benefit statements, failing to engage the scientist’s emotion or ego. The key is to know when and how to engage either a scientist’s emotion, or his/her logic or ego during the buying journey. This can be approached by mapping how the archetypal scientist consumes information.