A Look Behind the Curtain — What Do Your Customers and Prospects Really Think About You

I’m Kenneth Vogt, Commercial Director of Bitesize Bio and founder of Vera Claritas Inc. I play the role of Richard Roeper, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert all rolled into one, reviewing and highlighting the webinars and video presentations found at the Life Science Marketing Society.

Today I’m commenting on the presentation entitled:

Brands we like, and why we like them — A customer panel

It is described this way:

Customer panels afford you the opportunity to get into the minds of your market and understand their perspective on how they are being marketed to and what turns them toward and away from the sale. We conduct customer panels with 2-5 lab-based researchers who answer questions that are posed by a live audience and mailed to the moderator ahead of the broadcast.

This Customer Panel is focused on brand perception; how scientists see different brands, what drives positive and negative brand perception and to what extent that perception influences the sale.

Sometimes you need to hear from the other side. We put together a group that represents different kinds of buying organizations (universities, hospitals, and industry), along with different levels of responsibility from program management, to facility management, to lab staff. It was my pleasure to interview our panel:

Our panel was opinionated, passionate and frank. They described how they see all of you and what they think of your marketing methods. They talked about what they find helpful (that leads to purchases) and what they find to be time wasters for them (and you can guess the impact that has on purchases). Here are four important takeaways:

1) Don’t just sell to “the boss”

They told us that lab staff is an important part of buying decisions. It is not uncommon for an average bench-based researcher to have a personal budget of $15K-$20K to spend every year. You do yourself a disservice if you skip over these scientists trying to get to the person with the “purse strings”.

Even without a budget, these scientists are trusted by the buyers, and they are probably more trusted than you. Initial evaluations for purchases often comes from staff or post docs. They even train their staff for buying. So focus attention on the bench, both personally and as an avatar when you are developing your materials and campaigns.

2) Just the facts, Ma’am

If you happen to be too young to recognize that reference, it was the signature line of police sergeant Joe Friday from the iconic American television series “Dragnet”. Just like Sergeant Friday, your buyers are investigators. They don’t want spin, they want data. They lament that your materials need to do a better job informing them about the function and performance of your products in more practical detail.

They also want cost information sooner. You and I want to establish value before we start talking prices but there is a reason why getting to price sooner rather than later makes sense with our market. Your buyers will want to hear both sides, what it costs and what they get. A high price is not going to cut off their curiosity regarding how you can justify it. But if high value will be accompanied by high price, they need to know early. A big part of their job is looking for money so they need that information from you to do their job. If they don’t find out costs until the end of your conversations, that delays the sale for you.

You know that we here at the Life Science Marketing Society are huge proponents of borrowing best practices from other industries. But that comes with a caveat: they have to be applicable best practices. Our panel lamented that a lot of the materials they received seem to be mimicking B2C approaches when this is really B2B. They don’t care about the new colors of your equipment. We aren’t selling laundry detergent here, they need to see substance.

One blessing of our industry is that quality is often seen as more important than price. Our panel was quite clear that they are willing to pay, so long as you make the case for high value.

3) Open the kimono

We are in an industry where “black boxes” are distrusted and even disdained. You have to be open. Your prospects don’t want your cherry-picked data, they want it all. They lose confidence in you when every marketing piece toots the same tired story of some uncharacteristic result.

They want to know the source of data, and how it was generated. They are more likely to trust you when they see your imperfect data, warts and all — because they more than anyone know that’s how most data is.

4) They are marriage minded

It should be welcome news to find out that these buyers want a relationship as much as you do. They don’t like reinventing the wheel. This can mean that it might be hard to get in. But it is worth the effort because once you are in, it will be hard to get you out. (Just ask your competitors.)

It’s just a fact that they play hard to get. There is a hard truth that reputation matters, and from their perspective most life science companies DO NOT have a pristine reputation. Mergers in the industry may make sense to Wall Street but there is no love for them in the laboratory. Service really matters to them. (Hint: your marketing materials should be presenting salient facts not just about your products but also about your great service.)

This presentation is not for the faint of heart. Get ready to hear some unvarnished truth:

Brands we like, and why we like them — A customer panel

For more analysis, observation and witty repartee, be sure to check out our podcast featuring myself and Harrison Wright, plus interesting and exciting guests. Here is the specific episode examining the presentation above.

But you know you want more. Subscribe to the Life Science Marketing Society podcast here: iTunes | SoundCloud

Photo Credit: GT AMSA

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