We’ve got to hand it to life science marketers. Many are entrepreneurs with a great product, while others have been successfully selling products on the internet for years, before it was so commonplace. Which type of preparation is more important for being successful in this environment, undergoing lengthy scientific training or learning marketing acumen with courses or a degree in business? As I was starting out in the field, I remember my boss telling me that a solid science degree is most important, as “marketing is easy to learn.” While I agree, I also find that there is a strong tendency in life science to eschew the formal discipline of marketing in favor of employing tactics which “have always worked” or “seem to work for others.” We have a name for this pervasive reliance on tactics, rather than a solid life science marketing strategy: Tactitis. Below we list the top ways to cure this ailment as well as ways to tactfully (get it?) respond to those in your organization who suffer from this devastating disease.
- Write a Marketing Plan. This advice may seem pedantic, but we run across many life science marketers who skip this important step. Creating a marketing plan for your company or product line keeps you focused on your goals and forces you to think your life science marketing strategy through. The tactics you choose will be based on your strategy and will lead to achieving your objectives. We provide many resources here to help you out, including a free webinar (including a marketing plan template) and a short blog series.
- Do Your Research. You should include a survey of your customers’ needs and habits as part of your marketing plan, and we’ve discussed that market research is more easily accessible these days. Formally or informally, ask your customers what value you can provide them, both in your product offerings and your communications with them. For example, have they shifted from using phone-based technical service in favor of web chat or an FAQ? You’ll also likely find that a positive feedback loop occurs when you start meeting customers’ needs better–getting more helpful information will become easier.
- Ask Questions. With the sweeping changes taking place in media and consumer behavior, we’re often surprised that life science marketers are so content with the status quo. Take conference exhibit halls, for example. Staid displays with brochure racks were invented in the days where we could not search and browse for every product we need on the internet. However, many life science marketers don’t do a rigorous return on investment (ROI) analysis on this and other allegedly “tried and true” tactics. Asking tough questions about all tactics, and analyzing how they are supporting the company’s goals, will help to avoid this debilitating symptom of Tactitis.
- Track Goals. A corollary to #3, and something that is also easier to accomplish these days, is to track how the tactics you’ve chosen to support your strategy are helping to meet your goals. Be sure to avoid “analysis paralysis” however, keeping high level, strategic view of the numbers. For example, a month by month analysis of your Facebook likes is fascinating, but how does this metric translate to your strategic goals (and are you sure the users are real)? Track numbers and step back from time to time to make sure your metrics are meaningful and adjust tactics as needed.
By following the suggestions above, you should be able to rid your life science company from the ravages of Tactitis. However, some stalwarts will likely remain, being sure that the cart should indeed be put before the horse, and that tactics should drive strategy. For every person who suggests that the company “create a viral video” or says that “we’ve always done it this way” there should be at least one voice of reason that responds. Below, we’ve offered some verbal “anecdote antidotes” to stave off Tactitis when a colleague has been afflicted:
“How does that tactic align with our strategic goals for the year?”
“That’s a great idea. Since we don’t know how that tactic will help us meet our goals this year, maybe you can do a pilot project to show us how.”
“I don’t remember seeing that tactic in the marketing plan for this year. Why don’t you add it, showing how it will help us meet our goals with supporting customer research and a competitive analysis.”
“Do we know what the ROI is for that existing tactic, or can we even measure it?”
We hope someday that there will be an effective Tactitis vaccine to help life science marketers resist the urge of utilizing tactics that don’t support strategic goals. Until then, we hope that these suggestions will help to prevent senseless acts of random tactics, a hallmark of Tactitis.
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