In today’s digital age, where any negative customer interaction is just few keystrokes away from becoming a viral social meme, a positive customer experience has never been more important – especially in life science marketing.
From your marketing messages to your sales process to customer support, your entire customer experience must reflect your brand’s values and work toward managing a positive reputation. A good customer experience matters not only after someone purchases your product or service, but during the sales and marketing process as well. Your brand reputation relies on the entire journey.
What is a good customer experience?
Gartner defines customer experience management (CEM) as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
Customer experience goes beyond offering an outstanding product. It requires a carefully managed process and the support of technologies that enable communications, response and monitoring all the way through your customer’s lifecycle.
From the expectations you set in your marketing communications to how quickly you respond to customer inquiries, every touch point with your customer is creating an experience that affects your brand’s reputation.
In the past, the responsibility for customer experience was often divided up among customer support, product marketing and other departments. But that’s not what works today. Ultimately the responsibility for managing your brand’s reputation should lie in your marketing department. An over-arching planned approach to brand reputation is key to exceptional customer experience.
The FlyWheel from Hubspot shows that sales, marketing and service must be aligned to provide a exceptional customer experience during the entire customer lifecycle.
A shift in customer experience
Customer experience management has become hyper-important in today’s digital era because the way customers find products and approach purchase decisions has changed. Customers today are more empowered and educate themselves with online research before making a buying decision. Your brand’s online reputation is affected by the sort of content you offer on your website, the level of service you provide to customers, as well as how people talk about you in social media.
Andy Bertera, Executive Director of Marketing and Sales at New England Biolabs, and a speaker at the upcoming the Sales and Marketing Professionals in Science (SAMPS) conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, says having a single point of oversight for all major touch points with the customers, from marketing to sales to customer service to tech support makes a difference.
“I’m a great believer that customer experience is the source of all competitive advantage. So understanding the different touch points and having the ability to enhance and develop them based on our own internal ideas and, of course, customer insight and feedback is crucial,” Bertera said.
Fostering your reputation
In the life science industry, reputation has an impact. Reputation management has changed significantly in the last 10-20 years. Not only because of technology and social media, but also because of the way customers expect to receive information and services. Things move faster, and negative reactions can spread quickly.
Researchers, by nature, tend to be quite skeptical. Therefore, you should provide information that is backed up by facts and use cases, and doesn’t sound like a sales pitch. Showing examples from academic published works can be very important in the life science industry. That doesn't mean you can’t appeal to emotions, however.
“At the end of the day, you still have a consumer who is using that product and they can be influenced by brand reputation and messages about what product they buy,” said Bertera. “Even if, as scientists, they don’t like to admit they are influenced by marketing tactics.”
Make sure you understand the difference between truths and myths in marketing to scientists.
Creating useful content in life science
Understanding the mindset of scientists can inform the sort of content you produce. When creating a life science blog for example, keep in mind that scientists and academics are looking for new ideas as well as examples of what has worked already. Steer away from creating content that focuses too much on product features, and offer educational information that will help your customers do their jobs better.
For example, New England Biolabs is one of the few companies that still publishes a printed catalog every other year. This may seem like an unnecessary expense in the digital age, but Bertera explains that the value of their catalog isn’t so much in the list of products, but in the guide in the second half that contains technical tips, tools, scientific information and formulas about how the products are used.
“We find that customers are keeping some of their catalogues 10 or 20 years,” Bertera said. “They have dog-eared pages or post-it notes stuck in there. If you think about it, when you’re in the lab with gloves on, you’re not really going to want to take your gloves off and go back to your laptop and go to a website to look up a formula. So you can just pick up this catalog, and go ‘what was the calculation I need to do?”
New England Labs has the same approach to content on their website and how their customer support team operates. They put product information secondary to providing useful scientific information to customers and prospects. Providing tips and insights that help customers do their jobs better fits with one of their core company values: “passion for science”.
“We’ve had people call up technical support with questions about how to run an experiment and realized partway through they weren’t even using our products,” said Bertera. “But we help them, because one of our core values is to always put the science (and the scientist) first.”
Also be sure to consider that researchers and scientists tend to buy the same products over and over to ensure consistency in their experiments or projects. They may be unlikely to try a new product until they start a new project or a new discovery is made. So by providing useful information, online, in catalogs or blog articles, you can help scientists gain a positive impression of your company even when they aren’t in a mindset to buy.
And by continuing to publish and send useful information (not product pitches), you will keep your company top of mind next time they are looking for a new product or working toward their next breakthrough.
This is one of the core principals of inbound marketing.
Brand experience throughout the customer journey
Creating a consistent brand experience throughout the customer journey as well as throughout the lifetime of your company will have a great impact. For some companies, maintaining the same level of customer experience as the company grows can be challenging.
Yet, consistent messaging and a good customer experience across all channels matters. “You can have the best product in the world, but if the ease of purchase is not there, the customer is not going to buy it,” Bertera said. “If they buy it and they like it, but then technical support is poor, they are not going to re-buy. You have to think about all the different aspects of the customer journey.”
Don’t think about the customer journey as having any sort of beginning or end. Focus on developing a relationship for the lifetime of the customer. “Hopefully that is at least a couple of years, if not the career of the customer,” Bertera said.
Strive to build the customer experience continuously. Build your brand reputation by finding new ways to add value and communicate with your customers. Focus on new ways of getting their attention, but keep your communication consistent.
“You can invest all this energy into your digital marketing platforms, but one conversation with a customer service or technical support, or even sales representative who isn’t representing your brand in the way you want, throws all that money out the window,” said Bertera.
Meeting industry-specific challenges
The life science industry faces some unique challenges when it comes to reputation management. These include:
• Regulatory issues. Companies such as pharma, medical device and diagnostics have regulatory challenges, both in the way products are developed and the way companies can talk about them. But managing reputation for a positive brand experience is still important. A consistent customer experience can be the difference between loyalty and desertion.
• Scientists work differently. In many life science industries, customers are working in academic or research settings that are not commercially driven. This can create challenges in how new products are introduced. For example, researchers tend to purchase the same products used in a published study in order to get the same results. So the opportunity here relies in providing useful information to advance the science and build your reputation as experts in your field.
• Not just B2B or B2C, but B2B2C. Many life science companies are marketing their products to the consumer or user of the products, but the customers are not actually spending their own money. They are working with government grants or through a company so this puts another layer into the buying decision. Procurement and approval procedures can be complex and go beyond the department doing the purchasing.
• Use of social media. The adoption of social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, in science and academic settings has been slower than other industries, but don’t think it’s not relevant. Scientists, like others, use social media for personal connections. There is, however, more of a tendency to separate work and personal use. Facebook tends to be for family and friend updates, so scientists might not like to see your work-related content, especially retargeting there. But LinkedIn is increasingly being adopted for professional growth among both academics and commercially employed scientists.
• Vary the content by channel. Factor in what your audience expects from each channel, whether social media, video, your website, print materials, email or one-to-one marketing. Ensure the message is right for each one, but stay focused on creating a consistent brand reputation.
Learn from other industries
One of the key benefits of attending marketing conferences like SAMPS in Gothenburg is the ability to share and get ideas from others in the life science industry. This event promises to help you learn more about how to engage scientists in the digital age. But don’t be afraid to borrow from other industries to learn what works there.
“Steal with pride,” said Bertera. Learn from other industries. Borrow ideas that work from other verticals and reinvent them for your own industry. You can expect to see examples of that presented at the SAMPS conference.
Want to know more? Listen to this podcast
In this podcast, Harrison Wright talks with Andy Bertera of New England Biolabs exploring how a company’s values play a role in the development of their customer experiences, and how this, and the brand that they embody, can result in long-term customer loyalty.
Interested in life science marketing?
Attend the upcoming marketing conference in June. How to Engage Scientists in the Digital Age: Life Science Marketing Event, Sweden, 18th June 2019.”