There was a time when marketing didn’t really focus on competitors and strategy didn’t focus much on customers.
Yet, as customers have gained access to more and more choice, marketing has been forced to focus more on how to differentiate its products from the competition and strategy has had to understand customer behaviour more to be able to beat the competition.
Terms like strategy, branding and strategic marketing are often used interchangeably. It’s important to delve deeper and understand the differences between them, so as to have the proper framework for building and executing an effective marketing plan.
In this episode, we’ll discuss what we’ve learned from Marina Hop, Founder of Viveo.
- Why a brand is NOT your logo, your graphic design, or your corporate identity
- The importance of invoking emotion in branding (and why we struggle with this in life science)
- What you can learn from two life science companies who dared to be different
- How the strength of your brand affects lead to sale conversion ratios – or, why you should play the long game
Announcer: Welcome to the Life Science Marketing Society Podcast bringing you best practices, advice and insight from marketing experts from across the life science industry and beyond. To get more insight from the Life Science Marketing Society please visit www.lifesciencemarketingsociety.org and grab your free membership.
Harrison Wright: Hello. Welcome to the Life Science Marketing Society podcast. I’m Harrison Wright.
Nick Oswald: And I’m Nick Oswald and today Harrison and I will be talking about the Life Science Marketing Society presentation from Marina Hop of Viveo Limited. She was talking about what is marketing strategy and why does it matter in life science. So Harrison, what popped out for you in that presentation?
Harrison Wright: There are so many things I could pick but I don’t think we can cover them all today. I think people have to watch the full presentation for that, but one of the things that Marina talked about was how marketing, branding and strategy are actually three different things.
And a lot of marketers confuse them out or don’t know the difference between them whereas it’s important to understand what each of those three things is, what their strengths and weaknesses are, where they’re appropriate to be used and most importantly how to combine the three to gain the best results.
And while that stuck out to me I wanted to use that as context to say that the biggest thing of all that stood out to me was the systematic approach Marina put across to solving marketing problems and executing a marketing strategy so if someone uses this methodology that Marina advocates then rather than being reactive in a sense of oh, we need to get some leads; let’s go and get some leads today or oh, we need to push this product; let’s push this product today.
It’s about taking a step back, looking at the entire situation and all the roadblocks that lay ahead and then constructing and executing a fully integrated plan to achieve your goals. It’s not a specific point that Marina put across, but if we look at the overriding theme I think that’s one of the most important things I took away.
Nick Oswald: Yeah. And I think that if you go back to looking at marketing strategy and brand, you know, as the kind of foundations of that plan that Marina was talking about there one thing that I love is when you go back and look at the historical context in any situation. And Marina gave a great insight when she talked about that marketing is what came first. It came in the 1940’s and that’s a customer-focused approach to drive sales. Whereas strategy didn’t come around until the 1960’s and that’s based on kind of military theory and so on about how to beat the competition. And so that’s a competition-focused part of the foundation there.
And then she talked about brand and then, you know, she’s talking about then the brand being the promise to the customer if you like. And that’s when it started getting very interesting for me because the natural direction to go in or the instinctive direction to go in as a marketer is to go for the, you know, as you said, get leads; go for the sale. And to be very product focused.
But what Marina talked about here was the brand message is really the multiplier of any product marketing. And the claims that you make in the brand about what your company is and how it is and the experience of buying or working with that company will be, the claims that that branding customers really believe it and basically any product marketing you do the effectiveness of that is multiplied by how good your branding is.
Harrison Wright: I love that phrase, the brand is the multiplier of product marketing. I think it just encapsulates it perfectly.
Nick Oswald: Yeah. So you’re really shortchanging yourself if you just go straight for the product marketing all the time. You need to take some time to build the brand as well. And ideally do it hand-in-hand I guess because you always need product marketing. You always need to be trying to push for the sale, but if you don’t focus on the branding as well then you’re falling behind, you know, your competitors who are doing better branding than you are.
Harrison Wright: This is such a critical point actually and I wanted to dive a little more into it. Something if people took away nothing else from this apart from this one quote from Marina here, which was lead to sale conversion ratios are much higher for strong brands. And to me it’s just a case of let that sink in. People always focus on how can we sell this product. How can we solve the customer’s problem?
Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, marketing or sales, but these are both critically important and you’ve got to do that anyway, but you make your life so much easier by having that strong brand in the first place which means A, it can’t be neglected and B, maybe it’s worth looking at how do you build a strong brand. And there are so many directions we could take this, but one thing that sticks in my mind is a strong brand is by its own nature it’s distinctive. It can be different.
A great example this brings to mind if any of you haven’t heard of Unchained Labs go and check out – just go and Google Unchained Labs. Nick you brought this up to me in a conversation before. You want to talk a little bit about them?
Nick Oswald: Yeah. I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw what they were offering because like anyone else it’s – they’re selling equipment that does a job. The equipment has features, does a specific job for a specific kind of scientist but what they’ve done beautifully is they’ve just given their products and their company a personality that you just resonate with.
And it’s simple stuff like one of their products is called Lunatic. The other one is called Uncle. There’s another one called Honky. There’s one called Bouncer. And they all have this very distinct branding, but even just the names and the coloring and the font types they u se, the graphics on the instrumentation it just pops right out at you.
And then the website carries that through by, you know, being very – what’s the word – unconventional I think, you know, rebellious and it just stands out from everyone else. That looks simple but you can bet that took a lot of planning to get that into place.
Harrison Wright: Oh, I can imagine it was a traumatic process to the people that had to execute it but what a result. I think it’s something to stress for me because if you’re building a life science tools company what’s the obvious thing that you think? Oh, we need to be professional and reliable and innovative and trustworthy which is great. I’d say those are all great aspects to have in a scientific company. But the problem is everyone else is presenting themselves as those things as well. So how do you stand out?
Nick Oswald: Yep. Exactly. And a foundational issue here that is particular to this sector and Marina touched on this is that where do science companies come from? They come from scientists. And how are scientists trained? They’re trained to be rational and not emotional. And they’re for that reason they just tend to focus, there’s a big tendency to focus on the product and the features and how great that product is and so on and neglect the emotional side of the branding which is the branding and the way that that product and company make the customer feel.
Harrison Wright: I completely agree with that on the sale side as well not just in marketing. It’s a lot of things I’ve seen new reps struggle with —
Nick Oswald: Yep.
Harrison Wright: — if they’ve come from the lab.
Nick Oswald: And one of the things that Marina talked about there was, you know, we talk about the Unchained Labs, the visuals, the kind of feel of the brand there. But another thing that Marina talked about is just delighting your customers.
And this is one thing that we always talk about as the more times that you can make a connection with someone and feel that they really got something from you — whether that is in a product they bought from you or it’s in something obvious that _____ be read or a tweet of yours that they saw or whatever, then you know, each one of those times in the mind of the buyer and you know towards the sort of feel, how a brand feels to them. So the more positive impact you can make the better it is. That’s brand building to me in essence there.
Harrison Wright: It is. If you think about it a brand is just the corporate equivalent of your personal reputation. It’s the same concept but on a larger scale.
Nick Oswald: Yep.
Harrison Wright: You know how do you build your personal reputation? It’s through the things that you do. It’s the fact that if someone, you speak to someone and you tell them you’ll get back to them in two days; you get back to them in two days. And if someone calls you you answer the phone promptly. And you do what you say you’ll do and over time that builds your reputation.
It’s the same thing with a brand. If you’re a company – and I spoke to Clwyd, actually, Clwyd Probert of WhiteHat. He told me a brilliant story about a company he’d worked for before. And they had, they did everything through an inbound marketing methodology so they had an inbound sale set up. They would generate leads online using lead magnets and nurturing campaigns, et cetera. And then they would draw them into a funnel which starts with a conversation with the sales person.
But what they would do is they had a company target where a sales person had to call somebody who signed up for a lead magnet within five minutes of downloading it. Didn’t matter what the time of day or night was.
Nick Oswald: Okay.
Harrison Wright: Didn’t matter if it was over the weekend. It would come through that you would have to call them within five minutes. And what they found was people were so overwhelmed by how responsive the company was they just completely outshone everyone. And beyond their wildest dreams they were successful all because of building that reputation of being responsive and following through with it after that initial call.
Nick Oswald: Yeah. I think that that just gives you a great, you know, the customers who see that sort of responsiveness that kind of gives you the feeling that that’s what working with that customer or that company will be like, and so you know that’s what you want from a company you’re working with, isn’t it, is responsiveness. If you need something they’re there. And I guess that’s setting that promise straight away.
Harrison Wright: If you ever heard that old saying it’s I’m sure this came from one of the famous motivational speakers of old, but I can’t remember which one, but it might have been Jim Rohn, but he said, how you do anything is how you do everything.
Nick Oswald: Yep. Yep. Definitely. And I guess this is, what this is all about is not being fake in building your brand. And it’s exactly the same in your personal life, isn’t it, is putting some of your energy into focusing on what other people want. And whereas in the marketing context that’s what you want is sales, but what your customers want is something else.
So if you focus on just what you want then you get _____ tracked into this, you know, ever decreasing circle. But if you focus on what other people want as well then that starts to pay dividends back to you. But you know it’s just the authentic you looking for the ways that you would naturally want to help people when you’re putting your attention on it like that.
Another example that you mentioned in the presentation I think that’s a good one, Harrison, is you know, for brand building is a very simple approach and it’s the one from Santa Cruz Biotechnology.
Harrison Wright: Yeah. With their twitter feed.
Nick Oswald: Yes.
Harrison Wright: That’s a really interesting point that one. So when I – I don’t know if any of you listening have seen Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s twitter feed, but it’s full of memes and jokes and pretty much that’s the majority of what they put out and it’s really funny and memorable. And I spoke to someone once about them. I mentioned it was just in the context of a conversation we were having and he hated their marketing.
Nick Oswald: Really?
Harrison Wright: This one person did, but to me that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means whatever you do if you stand out it’s going to draw some people in and it’s going to push some people away. But you’ll be memorable. It’s better than being, you know, I hate the word, but it’s better than being vanilla and being unremarkable to everybody.
Nick Oswald: Absolutely. Some people love you. Some people hate you. You’re doing the right thing. And the interesting thing about the Santa Cruz Biotechnology approach was most of that stuff on their twitter feed has nothing to do with their product or really much to do with their company apart from showing we are a fun bunch of people and wouldn’t it be fun to work with us but also it’s that positive impact thing.
It’s every time they see, you know, a customer or a twitter follower that sees one of their funnies on the twitter feed and it makes them laugh they get, you know, they get a bunch of endorphins coming out and that’s associated with Santa Cruz Biotechnology and that just builds over time to a good feeling about the brand.
So there’s all sorts of angles to approach that branding thing from pure strategy to just making feel good moments and everything in between. That for me, Marina’s pointing out in that presentation that that is the multiplier for product sales I thought was a really neat way to put it.
Harrison Wright: I do as well. And you know on a similar note something else that stood out to me in Marina’s presentation was we were talking about how to differentiate commodity products even when they don’t have their individual brand. And just to back up on that a little bit we were – what led up to that was discussing how it’s not always the best choice to have an individual plan for each separate product.
And there was one company that ended up with over 4,000 different trademarks if I remember correctly and it was just an insane waste of time and money and it confused the customers because how can you remember 4,000 different brands.
Nick Oswald: Yep.
Harrison Wright: So they segmented. They had a number of key brands and products came under those in different variants which turned out to be the much better choice. But the question we got to then is how do you differentiate these commodity products if you’re in that commoditized side of the market and there’s some forms of consumables are.
And what Marina brought up was great was that there’s essentially three ways to do that. You can either do it through the total product offering. So you know what add-ons potentially could you build onto the product be it an app, analysis feature or what else could you provide that comes as part of the product package to make the product itself more useful to you. There’s also the customer experience, things like the training, service, convenience.
And then finally there’s the product lifecycle. So it could be not about the efficacy of the product itself, but could it be manufactured in a more environmentally-friendly way or could it be packaged in a better way. So the reason that I picked up on this in particular A, it’s useful for, as a framework for thinking about how to brand commodity products but it’s also useful to think about overall because even if you’ve got the best product in the world if you’re also considering how can you make the total product package the best.
How can you make the customer experience the best it can be; how can you pay considerations to the product lifecycle in that process as well? If you’re attending to all those things you’re going to be in an unstoppable position. And if you always think total product offering, customer experience, product lifecycle underpinning everything you’re doing, you’re going to be taking so many things into consideration that you might have left out otherwise.
Nick Oswald: Yep. And I guess when you look at the big picture of that and then boil it back down to, you know, that instinctive, rational approach to try and jam sales, which is to just keep talking about your product then I guess that’s what we’re looking at here. You know yeah, keep product focus as part of your mix but then turn around and look at all of these other things, branding and then all these positioning aspects that help to just raise all that product marketing up to new levels that it could never reach without those things in place.
Harrison Wright: Absolutely. You know the nirvana for any company is to have an effective monopoly. So it would be amazing if you manage to hold onto that for any period of time. But it’s always a great place to look at. And how do you do that? If you think you can put yourself in the customer’s shoes whether they’re conscious of it or not they’re always making an evaluation from what to buy over an enormous array of factors that you probably won’t even know what all the factors are that go into their decision for each individual case not even a fraction of them.
So what could those things be? They could be features of the product itself. It could be the _____ of an instrument. It could be price. It could also be the perception of the overall company brand. You know, are they reliable? Are they trustworthy? Are they – do we enjoy working with them? It could be the customer service you’ve experienced in the past. It could be the packaging.
It could be it just stands out and grabs your attention the way Unchained Labs’ branding does and that makes you think ah, this is going to be great. I want to go for this one. And you – some people would have almost made the decision that that’s what they want to do before they’ve even evaluated everything that comes underneath. And I think the more – if you think of it as a value array, if you can skew the value with the company and the products that are being sold by your company through maximizing the appeal of every single area of value you can think of across all of these areas you’re going to be setting yourself up for success.
Nick Oswald: Definitely. Okay. On that note I think we’ll say to all of your listeners that if you want to hear more of this stuff that came from Marina from Viveo Limited than you can hop over to the Life Science Marketing Society website. The short link there is bit.ly/lsms.marina, M-A-R-I-N-A, and with your – you can get a free membership there and with that you can view her whole presentation. So with that we’ll say goodbye for this one. I’ve been Nick Oswald.
Harrison Wright: And this is Harrison Wright. Talk to you soon.
Announcer: To get more insight from the Life Science Marketing Society please visit www.lifesciencemarketingsociety.org and grab your free membership.
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Photo Credit: Anne Ruthmann