These days there are many ways that a life science company can reach out to researchers, which is great. You likely don’t just have one list of contacts in your CRM, you’ve got employees using LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. With this added flexibility comes new questions regarding how to make contact that is welcomed. We like to use the golden rule, in other words, do unto others as you’d have done to you. Here are some examples of what we consider to be breaking the golden rule, illustrating why it is a simple and effective guideline for many different situations.
- Unsolicited newsletter opt in. I was recently signed up for a newsletter simply because I’d exchanged an email with someone that had nothing to do with their products. I hear this complaint often from colleagues, that they’ve been signed up for newsletters and resent the sender. Your newsletter recipients should request to be signed up, or you should match their interests closely and monitor unsubscribes closely. Don’t assume a contact is a lead, and remember a newsletter is a regular publication which carries more weight than just sending an email.
- No ‘unsubscribe’ on mass emails. Related to the last point, you should ALWAYS include an unsubscribe option for all email blasts. Modern CRM software and other tools make it easy to send mass emails, but failing to include the option to unsubscribe can cause resentment towards your brand. In addition, without the option to unsubscribe, your leads may mark your emails as spam, meaning you could be blacklisted and that they will no longer receive your messages.
- Automated direct messages (DMs) from Twitter. This is one of my personal pet peeves and I can assure you that we NEVER do this and advise our clients against it. Some applications send a DM automatically when you follow an account, and experienced users (i.e., those you want to engage) get very irritated by them. Depending on the user’s settings, it can arrive as a text message, and minimally an email. On Twitter, you may be following 1,000 or more accounts–can you imagine if all of them texted or emailed you regularly? (Note: We’ll cover etiquette in our March 10th Twitter Workshop.)
- Lack of respect for communities. I think the above Twitter transgression occurs with new users because they don’t understand the etiquette of the community. I see similar missteps with those who join one of our LinkedIn groups and immediately post 3 self-serving items. I guess the golden rule assumes that you can ‘stand in the shoes’ of the other person, but as a newbie it’s difficult. In short, don’t rush into a new application and make assumptions about contacting people. Take your time or find an aficionado who can help you.
- Too frequent communication. A possible issue with having so many ways to communicate with people is that you could barrage someone with the same message too many times. With broadcast advertising (e.g., print Ads), it was considered a good thing to get your message in front of a potential customer multiple times, with personal communication the rules are different. When planning, determine the maximum number of times a person may see your message in, say, a week’s time. Consider how you’d feel if you received the same message from a company with the same frequency. Also, always remember that your targets may not hold the same affection for your brand as you do, so do the comparison with a company you’re not overly fond of. I like to use the car dealership I bought my car from 6 years ago that still sends me monthly mailers (a personal gripe). Look for tools which will help you marry contact information between applications, for example this Constant Contact plugin for Salesforce .
- Mixing personal and company connections. We’ve covered this before, but from my personal experience the problem seems to be getting worse so I’m bringing it up again. Building a network is a fantastic way to find and engage prospective leads, but you should be very careful to not assume that your personal contacts don’t feel as though they’ll be automatically entered into your company’s CRM. An example that illustrates this concept well involves LinkedIn contact information. Should you upload your LinkedIn contacts into your company CRM? As a general rule, I’d say no. However, we do manual updates when we see, for example, that emails are bouncing and we know it’s because the person has moved jobs. Usually this means we know the situation fairly well and have followed the above rules as well, so that the person can opt out if needed. You should also think about your personal brand when making these decisions–if your company abuses the contact information now or at a later date, the damage to your reputation could be irreversible.
We hope these examples will help you understand a simple way to determine how your company’s communications will be perceived, so that you can make them as effective as possible. Also, feel free to ask our advice if you’re unsure about a campaign you’re planning, we’re always available for a free consultation.
Personally, have you been irritated by communication missteps, and how do you think could they be avoided by life science companies?
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