Life science marketing: the importance of an external marketing audit

23 January 2017| by Clare Russell

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Why conduct an external audit?

Taking stock of the information available to you is essential for developing your life science marketing and communications plan. A vital part of the planning process is developing your unique value proposition and creating a plan for communicating it to your prospects. Let’s assume that you have read our other blogs on this subject, so you have already conducted some web-based research and conducted an audit with your internal staff to uncover some important insights. As such, it’s now time to turn your attention beyond your own company and onto your customers, prospects and partners.

Why conduct an external audit?

Looking beyond the confines of your own organisation will give you more perspective on your buyers and prospects. An external survey or audit will help you to understand their buying decisions and behaviours. It can also give you a great insight into how others view your products, services and brand. This all contributes to giving you the information needed to better position yourself within the market and communicate in a way that will truly attract the interest of your sales prospects.


Know your targets to attract their interest

A huge part of devising an effective marketing or communications plan is getting under the skin of your potential customers. Different people will have very different needs, pain-points and constraints to work with. If you take the time to understand these factors, you can start to direct your communications efforts to be as effective as possible. This could start with something as simple as dividing your targets into influencers and decision-makers, or you could specify all stakeholders down to their job titles. Whether you’re targeting lab managers, academic scientists, doctors, patients or members of the media, you need to understand their situation if you want to provide a meaningful offering that resonates.


Specificity offers depth and leads to a better marketing plan

An external audit is your chance to focus in on your target market, gathering information not just from customers, ex-customers and prospects, but also third parties like suppliers or partners. While it may be easier to simply group your target audiences together as ‘scientists’ or ‘doctors’, you’ll inevitably overlook many of the nuances that make individual stakeholders tick. If you use an external audit to clearly identify who you’re targeting, their ‘buyer’s journey’ and the people that influence their decisions, you can add a greater level of depth to your marketing and communications efforts. In the long run this will shape your strategy, tactics and the content you develop.

The most meaningful external audits will combine quantitative research (e.g. an online survey distributed to your range of external audiences), with qualitative research (e.g. round table discussions or in-depth interviews) to fully probe the findings from the quantitative research. Once this stage has been completed, you are ready to start developing your buyer personas.


Using all this information to develop life science buyer personas

Taking the time to define who your buyers really are – what truly drives them, what their goals are, what challenges them, what frustrations they have – is a huge tactical advantage. Without an external audit you may simply tailor your plan to target ‘scientists’ based on your potentially narrow understanding of their role. The broad and unspecific nature of being in this position means you’re forced to remain top level in your communications and will end up missing out some of the key factors that would really resonate with your targets. You cannot incorporate enough of the necessary detail as you simply do not know if your audience will either understand or be interested in what you have to say. You may gain some traction with a small number of people, but you could discourage others. With an external audit, however, you can get to the bottom of who you need to talk to, what they need to hear, and how to adjust your communications specifically to them.

So, as an example, let’s assume that as a result of your external audit you come to realise that you want to speak directly to the supervisors of clinical chemistry labs. Building a buyer persona for these supervisors will give you a clear picture of their goals, challenges and common sales objections. So, let’s call our clinical chemistry lab supervisor, Laboratory Lucy. You know that she typically manages the schedule for her busy team, investigates complaints, develops laboratory SOPs, and is responsible for improving processes to ensure her lab is run efficiently and that mistakes are kept to a minimum. Her main challenges are that she is short-staffed and has to wear many different hats within the lab as a result. She is resistant to changing any established procedures and protocols, again because she is short-staffed and it would take too much time. Therefore, if you are introducing a new technology, instrument or test to Laboratory Lucy, then you know that you are going to have to provide her with the tools to demonstrate that it:

  • can be handled easily by her existing team with minimal downtime or training
  • will save time and money in the long run by increasing efficiency and data quality
  • will increase the productivity of the team without needing to increase headcount
  • will reduce errors (and therefore complaints)

To help convince Laboratory Lucy to adopt your technology or test, you need to create a marketing communications plan that showcases how your offering will deliver all of the above. You could do this by:

  • basing your campaign messaging around these key factors
  • providing information on trends and technological developments within the clinical diagnostic lab and how these can benefit busy clinical chemistry lab supervisors
  • offering a cost analysis demonstrating how your new technology will save her money vs. her existing way of working
  • creating ready-to-go SOPs for your new technology, to reduce her workload and make it easier to integrate your system into her existing workflows
  • providing case studies showing how labs like Lucy’s have already used the system to increase productivity, reduce workload and save money

Hopefully you can see through this example how thoroughly understanding your target audience allows you to add real depth and a personal value to your communications. Getting to this level of granularity should really help you stand out from your competitors, attract new high quality leads and close them into customers.


Want to learn more about using external audits and buyer personas to develop your marketing plan?

If you want to learn more about this subject, download our free ebook, ‘Your 7 Stage Guide to Developing an Effective Life Science Marketing & Communications Plan’. It has everything you need to start getting ahead of your competition this year.


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