Written by Liz Roquemore, PhD | Cardiff, UK
on June 30, 2019

What happens when sales and marketing experts from around the world connect to discuss the challenging topic of “How to engage scientists in the digital age”? Well, a little bit of magic, actually. The first ever global conference of Sales and Marketing Professionals in Science (SAMPS), held in Gothenburg, Sweden, June 17th-18th, was packed with inspiring and useful content. Here we present the three top themes that reverberated throughout the event.

Life Science Marketing Event SAMPS 2019-1Life science marketing panel participants at SAMPS discussed the role of digital marketing in reaching out to scientists.

Connecting with life scientists: a recipe for inspiration

From the outset, the inaugural SAMPS 2019 conference promised to be something special, with all the right ingredients for success: a hot topic, an exciting line up of world-class speakers, and an outstanding venue in the vibrant city of Gothenburg, Sweden—one of Europe’s fastest growing hubs for the life sciences.

With the sheer volume of data filling up the web, as well as our in-boxes and social media streams, it’s becoming more and more difficult for life science customers to identify what’s trustworthy and truly relevant for them. The information they need is often a faint whisper amidst the rising clamor of “fake news”, hollow advertorial content and so-called “targeted” messages that fall wide of the mark.

To paraphrase speaker Andy Bertera: it’s as if there’s a massive wall of data standing between you and your customer.

Three take-away messages from SAMPS 2019

How do you tunnel through—or better yet rise above—this wall of white noise? And once you establish contact, how do you continue to grow customer trust and loyalty? While it’s clear that there is no magic formula for more effective engagement of life scientists, there were 3 thought-provoking themes that came up again and again throughout the event—both in the talks and the lively discussions we had during breaks:

1. It’s okay to be emotional – scientists are people too

Robert England:“Marketing to people with emotion rather than data”

In his captivating talk, England challenged the common perception that scientists are unemotional and driven by data alone. The vast majority of scientists who enter the life science industry do so, he contends, because they are passionate about uncovering the truth, and are motivated to make a positive difference in the world. And in England’s estimation that means emotion is likely to play a big part in their decision-making.

“Emotion connects,” says England. Companies offering highly technical goods and services often struggle to convey the positive impact that their work is having on customers and the world in general.

To illustrate this point, England told the story of UP client Jenoptik (formerly Carl Zeiss Jena)—arguably the world’s best photonics solution provider you’ve never heard of. Once dominated by a conservative and hierarchical culture that suffocated innovation, Jenoptik needed to break with tradition to escape the shadow of that legacy and give people a reason to care about what they do. “We had to show they had a heart,” says England.

To accomplish this, the creative team at UP There, Everywhere kept the messaging clean and simple. With minimal copy, they focused instead on the power of imagery to create a memorable impression of how Jenoptik is shaping the future. The power of their work is reflected in this moving video.



Read more from Robert: Seven things scientists won’t tell you about how they choose products, goods and services

Gina Mullane: “Capturing new customers with integrated marketing campaigns that use storytelling in a new way”

As a CRO, Charles River Laboratories worked on 80% of drugs that the FDA approved last year, but until recently no one seemed to know who they were, what they did, or why they did it. When surveys revealed this disappointing truth, Mullane knew they needed to find a way to break the mold with their marketing campaigns.

Storytelling turned out to be the answer.

“Only 5% of people will remember a statistic,” says Mullane, “but 65% will remember a story.”

But it wasn’t just about telling good stories. The real stroke of genius was to make those stories all about the patients who ultimately benefit from what the company does. For instance, Charles River’s “Every Patient” campaign videos make an emotional connection by immersing you in patients’ day-to-day realities as they triumph over debilitating conditions and meet some of the thousands of scientists and researchers who have worked behind the scenes to develop their life-changing treatments.

“We haven’t talked about ourselves at all,” says Mullane, “and that’s the point. It’s about them, not us.”

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Stephen Archer: “Creating the most valuable messages: insights and the consequences of buying a product”

Archer’s talk reinforced the power of understanding the customer’s psyche and emotional drivers to make more personalized connections. “Nothing that you sell is a product,” he contends.

Why do people pay so much more for a Montblanc than an ordinary pen that serves the same purpose? Because, says Archer, “It’s the experience that matters—that’s the real value.”

In practice, that means concentrating more effort on identifying the true value you’re delivering to the customer. How are you helping them achieve their objectives? Only then can you provide them with “messaging that truly educates, enlightens, and enables customers to see the importance of your services.”

Read more: 5 tell-tale signs of a weak brand and what you can do to strengthen it

2. Work with integrity: “Put people before short-term profits”

Andy Bertera: “The importance of reputation and how to use it to attract and keep loyal customers"

Bertera calls New England BioLabs (NEB) the “The Staples of DNA” for good reason. Most bench scientists these days were weaned on NEB products and still keep a copy of their trusty technical reference guide close at hand. According to Bertera, it’s by helping customers, rather than selling to them, that NEB builds trust and loyalty.

Bertera used the example of a family trip to a theme park to illustrate how customer satisfaction may go up and down as you move from one attraction to the next, but at the end of the day your overall satisfaction rating depends on more than isolated experiences. Instead it rests largely on the integrity and the reputation of the company providing those experiences.

The customer experiences NEB develops are driven by its values of passion, humility, and being genuine, said Bertera. “We put people before short-term profits.”

But does it make a difference? According to Bertera, net promoter scores show that NEB ranks number one for customer experience, and that feeling of value drives revenue.

Read interview with Andy: Secrets of life science marketers: How customer experience fosters your brand reputation

Axel Tandberg: GDPR and marketing in the life sciences industry.

Since its implementation in May 2018, the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) has left life science marketers with a lot of uncertainty, particularly around the use of “big data” amassed in both private and open-source databases.

As Tandberg explains, much of the personal information we have access to was never intended to be used in the way that it is today. That’s because the European Data Protection Directive was launched in the mid-1990s—well before the technical developments that spawned the current era of “big data” and its associated applications.

GDPR effectively returns ownership of personal data to the individual, putting the onus of responsible use squarely on the shoulders of the industry. The good news, says Tandberg, is that “the life science industry has always processed sensitive data, and therefore has been forced to treat personal data with extra care,” even before GDPR.

So as long as we’re prepared to “walk the talk” when it comes to using personal data with integrity, advises Tandberg, the marriage of GDPR and 21stcentury marketing should be seen as “more of a love story” than a burden, because it is a permissive measure – opening the door to a valuable resource.

David Weber: “Punching above your weight with marketing”

When he went into private equity 3 years ago, many of Weber’s friends warned him he was going over to the dark side. “But I went anyway,” says Weber. “Private equity is not what you think it is.” In fact, when it comes to building a sustainable, growing company, research shows that “private equity buyouts are less likely to fail than non-private equity buyouts.”

You’ve probably never heard of Maravai Life Sciences, Weber points out.

“And that’s because we don’t take over the brands of the companies we acquire. We retain those brands. We retain the company culture.”

With the intention of creating something better, something sustainable—and using all the tools and resources of 21stcentury digital marketing—Maravai’s success has proven you can punch above your weight without compromising on integrity.

How well is your marketing working? Get a free consult

Robert Life Science Marketing Conference SAMPS 19 cr2 Robert England, head of UP FOR LIFE, explained why honesty and emotion are important elements in marketing to scientists.

3. Make it personal

Laura Haldane: Using Big Data to create personalized messaging

With a background that combines a degree in psychology with commercial experience that includes development of solutions for next-generation sequencing, Haldane surely knows a thing or two about what goes on in the minds of the customers and how to use big data to best effect. Her practical presentation covered the types of open-source data available and walked us through a “real-world” example of how to create more personalized content that results in higher conversions.

Some of the principles Haldane finds useful when personalizing messages include:

  • Following the crowd: Appeal to people’s desire to fit in. For example, Haldane cited a study showing that hotel towel reuse shot up 26% when a sign in the bathroom explaining the environmental benefits was switched to one that read “Most people in this hotel reuse their towels.”
  • Limiting resources: Offering too much choice can put people off. Do give them choice, but keep it limited, Haldane recommends. For example, instead of asking “When are you free?” you might try: “We now have only two slots remaining; would you prefer morning or evening?
  • Being specific: The more personalized detail you can add, the better. Haldane recommends making good use of open-source data (GDPR compliant, of course). For example, when preparing for shows, you can easily access poster titles and abstracts in advance to find the information that will personalize your messages.

Antonietta Allocca: “Maximising the power of the web, social media and its role in attracting people to events”

“Digitalization is a mega-trend that is changing the way we approach events as part of our marketing communications mix,” says Allocca. Why? Because it significantly broadens the size of the audience you can influence.

Take, for example, SLAS 2016, which followed closely on the heels of a major brand refresh project that Tecan ran in 2015, SLAS is one of the biggest annual trade shows on Tecan’s calendar. To get the most out of this very short exhibition, Allocca and her team knew they would need to “take a leap of faith” and embrace the full power of digital media.

With a holistic strategy that integrated many different digital tools and social media channels organized with help from the UP team, Tecan succeeded in engaging customers well in advance of the conference, and sustaining their interest both during and long after the event.

“Even today, we are still using reusing digital content we created for SLAS 2016.”

The results far exceeded their expectations: “Tecan_Talk was the most visible account associated with SLAS2016 hashtag after ‘SLAS_org’,” says Allocca.

View the campaign page set up by UP

View a sample of the daily event email prepared by UP

Allocca's top tips for getting the most out of digital?

  • Know your audience: “With digital media you don’t have a lot of time to talk to customers because they can quickly switch channels. In the few seconds of attention that you have with them, you have to go straight to the point.” So it pays to invest time up front to understand who your customers are, what motivates them, and what their pain points are.
  • Keep learning: “With digitalization you have to embrace the fact that things change continuously.” There’s always a new tool, channel, forum or social media platform. “You have to keep up with the latest and greatest.”
  • Dare to be different: Got an off-the-wall idea? “Don’t wait for the entire industry to do it,” says Allocca, “just give it a try.” With digital, you have the tools to monitor the results and change tack if something isn’t working.

Get more from your digital marking

Many of the thematic messages from SAMPS 2019 challenge us to “reverse the natural logic of business,” as Bertera puts it.

  • To place more emphasis on emotional content than facts and figures.
  • To put people at the center of our messaging, and ahead of short-term gain.
  • To embrace digital culture and dare to do something different and positive with it.

While there were a lot of emotional moments (yes, Evie’s Story made me cry, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one), it wasn’t just a “warm and fuzzy” affair. We came away with practical ideas and inspirations that are sure to shape how we engage scientists for some time to come.

Guide to Inbound Marketing for Life Science

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