The three essential factors underpinning effective email marketing in the life science sector

20 August 2020| by BioStrata Team

3 essential factors underpinning effective email marketing in the life science sector

In today’s digital age, prospects have so much access to information that their buying decisions are becoming increasingly driven by their own online research. To effectively generate leads and acquire customers, life science businesses need to embrace this change in behaviour and adopt a consumer-driven inbound marketing approach that educates, engages and empowers prospects. As such, a key aspect of any inbound life science marketing campaign is to provide prospects with helpful and relevant content that adds value to their buying process.

But with content flooding the marketing landscape, this approach is much more likely to work when you engage the right person, with the right message, at the right time. One way to do this is by using optimised, targeted email marketing (NOT spam) to promote your content and connect with leads, prospects and customers. If done properly, this approach could earn you a return on investment (ROI) as high as £38 for every £1 you spend!

So how do you do this? As well as ensuring your emails are mobile-optimised and improved through data-driven analysis, it’s crucial that they are also targeted and personalised to enhance their impact and compel your prospects to act.

Whether you are sending emails out to rented lists to generate new leads or emailing your own database to nurture your existing leads through their buying journey, here are the three main factors underpinning all successful life science email campaigns.


1. Define the key components and goals of your campaign

One crucial element of a successful email marketing campaign is to define the outcome you want to achieve. For example, consider a fictional biotech company, DNA Inc, looking to drive awareness and generate demand around its innovative drug screening technologies. Having written a new eBook, ‘How to Drive Innovation in Drug Discovery’, it wants to use email to promote the eBook to educate and engage its current prospects, generate new leads, and acquire new customers (while also providing additional value to current customers and evangelists).

To optimise such an email strategy, the key aspects of the campaign need to be carefully defined before drafting any email copy. One useful approach is to start by writing down the answers to these ‘Five Ws and One H’ questions:

  • Who are you emailing? If you have defined your buyer persona, you can use this information to fuel your campaign. Consider their habits, demographics, behaviours, goals, frustrations, pain points and how you will ensure your content will be relevant to them. For example, DNA Inc. may decide to target ambitious drug discovery scientists who are interested in implementing exciting novel technologies in their research.
  • What do you want your audience to do after they receive the email? As well as quantifying clicks and open rates, make sure you include a clear call to action, e.g. DNA Inc. will want the recipient to download their eBook.
  • When is it an appropriate time to send your email? Send the email when your prospect is at the right point on their path to purchase. For example, DNA Inc. needs to send its email to prospects who are at the awareness as well as consideration stages of their buying journey, rather than at the decision stage (see this definition of the buyer’s journey). If your prospect is at the wrong buying stage, your email (and content offering) will not interest them. This also includes considering if your email will be used as a one-off “email blast” or as part of a longer workflow of lead-nurturing emails.
  • Where is your audience going to read your email? For example, if it will be on their smartphone, make sure your email is mobile-friendly. Also, will they read it at work? At home? How much info do they need to take action?
  • Why are you sending this message? It’s important that the email will benefit the recipient so write down what your prospect will gain from receiving your email. For example, DNA Inc. may decide that by providing a ‘how to’ guide to driving innovation in drug discovery, it will help its buyer persona enhance the success of their research.
  • How will you know you have met your goals? It’s important to assess the success of your emails so you can measure their impact and improve performance in the future.


Use this email writing template to define your primary goal 


2. Make sure your emails get opened

After your email lands in your prospect’s inbox, the subject line is the first thing they’ll see, so it’s vital to get this right if you want them to open your email. This is especially important when emailing busy life science professionals, who will generally have only a few minutes to glance at their emails, so yours has to really stand out to get noticed.

To help, here are a few best practices we usually follow when writing email subject lines:

  • Front-load important words or key phrases. Use language that promises a reward, like ‘discover’ or ‘find out’, or use a question/answer format to intrigue the recipient. Try to avoid salesy language, like ‘discount’ or ‘percent off’, as this could ring *SPAM* alarm bells (not to mention set off software spam filters!)
  • Keep it short and sweet. You want the recipient to see the whole line, or at least most of it, in their inbox. If it’s too long, they may not bother reading it at all (open rates tend to drop for subject lines with over 60 characters). Remember that simple language can often be the most impactful.
  • Unleash your creativity! Use trial and error to test out five or six different subject lines until that ‘Eureka!’ moment happens when you hit on the right one. If one doesn’t stand out and there are certain parts you like of each, then consider combining them into one perfect subject line. You could also explore being slightly controversial (within reason!) if you really want to grab their attention. We typically draft at least five variants before settling on our favourite.
  • Consider using questions in your subject line. Directly asking your recipient a question in the subject line is a great way to engage reader interest.
  • Use a ‘From’ name and email address. Send your email from a company email address. If the recipient already knows an individual at your company, send it directly from that person. Avoid sending emails from a ‘no reply’ address and make sure it’s possible for your prospect to reply directly to the email to maintain the contact and keep the conversation going. This could increase the chances of making a sale further down the line.
  • Preview text. Many email service providers feature preview text next to the subject line (e.g. Gmail) and it’s especially important to consider when the recipient will be viewing the email on their mobile phone. The preview text should continue the theme of the subject line, such as a header that teases the content. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to add a personalised message (if appropriate) and summarise the value of the email.
Optimising these elements as much as possible could be the difference between a prospect opening or ignoring your email.

To give you an even better chance of capturing your audience’s attention, it may be worth also performing A/B subject line tests. This involves sending the same email with two different subject lines to two different subgroups of your contact database and comparing opening rates, which can help identify which subject line will be most successful when sending the email to your full email list. In this way, the subject line can offer even more value by giving you an insight into the type of messaging that appeals (or doesn’t) to your buyer persona, helping to inform your future email campaigns.


Use this life science email writing template to create the best subject lines


3. Propel your prospects into action

To see real success from your emails, you need to write copy that really resonates with your recipients and that enables them to easily see the value of your offering. Writing with clarity, purpose, and your primary goal in mind will help to make it clear why the email is being sent to them. Make it an enjoyable and easy experience for your reader (and delight them by doing so) by sticking to these simple rules of thumb:

  • Write for ‘scannability’. As a busy life science professional, your prospect will probably skim-read your email during a five-minute break from their hectic schedule in the lab, hospital or office. Using short paragraphs, headlines, bullet points and bolding will make it easy for them to take in your message in the time it takes to say, “life science email marketing”!
  • Brevity is your best friend: Keep things short and sweet, including copyediting your own work several times over to get it as tight and punchy as possible, removing all superfluous words and phrases. 
  • Personalise (when appropriate). Make your email feel like you’re having a one-to-one conversation with the recipient, even when working at scale. Remember there’s a human at the end of your email, so speak to them as you would want to be spoken to. Tap into your contact database through smart content; use their name, location, interests, behaviours, and even content downloads to inform your personalised message (but keep it subtle).
  • Use the right tone. This will come from really knowing your buyer persona and writing in a way you know will appeal to them. For example, DNA Inc. will know it is talking to drug discovery experts, so should use more specialist language and position itself as a thought-leader in the industry that can be trusted.
  • Proofread, and then proofread some more. Sending an email riddled with typos and errors to a valued prospect or customer could leave you red-faced, and even undermine the success of your email campaign. So, before hitting the send button, proofread, check all links, and send tests to see how your email looks on popular apps and email service providers.
  • Include a call-to-action (CTA). Try to encourage the reader to step out of their inbox; include one clear CTA at the end of the email that aligns against your primary goal. Use direct, clearly stated and simple statements, such as ‘Download our eBook’ with a link to the corresponding landing page where they can fill in the contact form and access your content. This is a crucial part of your campaign as this is where you can progress the relationship with the contact and nurture them into further interactions with your brand.
  • Use images. Images can add context and creativity to your email. But remember that these must be optimised to be viewed on your recipients’ devices and be compatible with their email program settings. Consider adding Alt-text to your images, and ensure your emails are still legible and actionable when they contain images that have been blocked by software tools like Outlook. For B2B emails, it is best to include only one ‘hero’ image to avoid distracting the reader from taking action.
  • Make it about them, not about you. Wherever possible, talk about your prospect at the start of your email (not your company or offer). Empathise with their challenges and situation, show them you understand them, share info they will find interesting and useful and only then begin to position your solution.
  • Consider the 'problem, solution, CTA' structure. One effective structure for compelling promotional emails is to first reference and empathise with the customer challenge, then position your solution, before including a CTA to learn more.


Use this life science email writing template to compel your reader to act


What next?

Optimizing your email marketing can help you to really grab your prospects’ attention. This will not only boost your ability to educate your prospects and enhance their perception of your brand, but also generate leads, acquire new customers, and support your evangelists to secure potentially the best ROI above all other marketing strategies.

Want to get started? Download our specialist life science email writing template here.


Download the life science email writing template