What makes science marketing different?
Niche suppliers are everywhere. Clinical Research Organizations that specialize in a therapeutic area, labs that service a specific industry and lawyers that specialize in patent law are just a few examples. The same holds true for marketing agencies and consultants.
When I was on the client side of the industry, I had managed many marketing suppliers… from individual consultants, to medium-sized suppliers that were specialists in one area (i.e. – web design), to large multi-disciplinary agencies. At all levels, these “agency” side businesses offered excellent creative, project management and fulfillment. What they lacked at times, though, was the ability to understand and speak the “language”. They were not familiar with the client base, had no ability to differentiate from competitors, were not able to develop the message, or write copy… that was up to me. Which was OK for the most part, but did at times present some challenges.
So, OK… knowing science-related business and the market is one thing, this can apply to any industry. What is more interesting is how science marketing is different from a purchaser’s perspective. Specifically, how the general mindset of scientists can affect the way you market to them.
I have recently come across a book entitled “Persuading Scientists” by Hamid Ghanadan (Rockbench Publishing)… and the author is quite right in subtitling it marketing to the world’s most skeptical audience. In his book Mr. Ghanadan, amongst many other things, differentiates the scientist buyer from, for example, a typical retail, or even a B2B consumer. The difference is in the fact that the scientist, although also as complex as any other buyer, makes decisions in a more logical unbiased and less emotional way. For this reason, both the marketing strategy and tactics need to account for this. Some of the examples that the author gives suggesting the need to slow down the marketing to sales conversion, engage their peers (key opinion leaders), provide value added information/education and help them recognize a need. He delves deeper into the scientists “flux” between curiosity, skepticism, filtering (i.e. – ignoring marketing fluff) and validation and the need for the marketer to identify how to get the scientist to label their product or service as valuable, important and most notably, credible.
In summary, marketing to a scientist requires some additional finesse and experience. Yes technology, social media, good creative and sales support are important, but so is the understanding that the scientist buyer and therefore science marketing, are unique. .
We at Leapfrog are big on effective marketing solutions and for years have been harping on measureable programs… after all if you can’t measure the effectiveness of a campaign or program, you might as well put your entire marketing budget on 21-black of a roulette wheel in Vegas. Wait… the roulette wheel is more effective, at least you will know when you win or lose.
So always being interested, as we are, on the thought leaders’ ideas regarding marketing investment returns, we have recently read an article in Forbes Magazine on the subject. The article stipulates that ROI cannot be used as a true measurement of marketing effectiveness as it is designed more for investment rather than expenditure, is not incremental with expense (i.e. – a $100,000 print ad campaign will not automatically yield 10X the return of a $10,000 campaign). The writer stipulates that a truer measurement is one of ROMI or Return on Marginal Investment, where the calculation of final return is based on final profit as opposed to a specific ratio of income vs. investment.
In our minds, there is a simpler way to measure. Yes, the end game - profit is the ultimate in measuring a business’s success, but with so many other variables, can one really trace the profit specific to marketing expense… never mind a specific seasonal product campaign, or a single ad? We think the key is defining the “R” in ROI. This can be the number of visitors to a tradeshow booth, the number of clicks on a web page, the number of forwards of an e-mail, etc… It could also be an incremental measurement, i.e. – improved satisfaction survey scores or less calls into your service desk.
So, in summary… by all means measure that marketing program’s success, but before signing off on the expense, define your “R”! .