Episode One: The Four Keys to an Effective Digital Marketing Campaign

Life science marketing can be overwhelming if you don’t have a good plan. Between trade shows, conferences, compliance, paid advertising channels, email marketing, SEO, and everything in between, it’s hard to know where you should start.

In our first ever life science marketing podcast, we take a peek behind the curtain and share with you our four keys to an effective digital marketing strategy.

This episode includes:

  • How to know where to start
  • Why you should never assume (and a time we did and we were wrong)
  • Advertising versus direct response marketing
  • The four most important elements of an effective digital marketing campaign
  • Why live user UX testing is extremely valuable

Resources mentioned in this episode:

What’s coming next:

  • Actionable Tips to Optimize Your Life Science Website for Conversions

Transcription:

Sheldon:

Hey everyone. Welcome to the “Life Science Marketing Lab”. This is a new podcast that we decided to put together because so often after working in the life sciences industry talking to clients pretty much every single day trying to understand the problems and then providing solutions for them, we decided we really wanted to open it up to a bigger community so people can listen in and learn, so we’re not just giving help to just a few people at a time but really a greater community because we’re always getting so many questions. Anyways, that’s the main goal of this podcast just to dive a little bit deeper into just effective marking strategies for life sciences and the pharmaceutical industry in general.

My name’s Sheldon Zhai. I’m the founder and CEO of Supreme Optimization. We’re the first digital marketing agency that’s exclusively for life science companies. My background was as a molecular biologist, but I really grew up, when I was 12 years old actually, I was already putting together computers, ordering computer parts on the internet from websites like Newegg.com, assembling them, and then launching my own e-commerce stores selling them on eBay. I’ve always been very much a techie person, and someone that’s always been selling stuff online even though, after when I went to university, I worked as a molecular biologist in a lab.

Then we have Leigh on here as well, who’s our Chief Marketing Officer. Leigh, I’ll let you introduce yourself.

Leigh:

Hey, what’s up guys? It’s Leigh Wasson, Chief Marketing Officer here at Supreme. I guess, in a way, I’ve kind of had selling in my blood since I was kid as well. I’ve always been interested in creative projects and organizing events from back in high school. I’d say after college, I got introduced, actually by Sheldon, to this whole world of digital marketing. I’ve never turned back since. It’s a really exciting place. There’s stuff that’s changing every single day, but I think one of the things that we want to highlight in this podcast too are what are those universal principles that don’t change? There’s new techniques, new tactics that come out every day, new pieces of software, and it can get very overwhelming, right? It’s like, “What are the universal principles that don’t change no matter what software you’re using, not matter what traffic source you’re going after? What are the things that we can always go back to and say, ‘Does it have this? Yes or no? Okay, start there’?” It’s kind of what we want to tackle in this podcast. I’m really excited to be here.

Sheldon:

Thanks for that Leigh. Also, Leigh, so you also had some background just working. You’re just beginning to get some exposure at some design agencies and some UX firms right?

Leigh:

Yeah.

Sheldon:

How did you actually learn all about digital marketing?

Leigh:

How did I learn about digital marketing? It started out-

Sheldon:

Did you get a degree or something?

Leigh:

No. No. I’m actually glad that I didn’t, because I can always joke that it took me four years to unlearn everything I learned in four years of college. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way at all, but I think there’s things that you learn through digital marketing that just simply aren’t taught in college. Even the concept of what marketing is with online … It’s not just online. This is stuff that’s been around for years, especially with direct response mail. That’s where the principles of good direct response marketing come from, because it’s based on results. You know you can track every down to the penny what you’re spending, and you can track your results.

With online, it’s easier. Well, I’ll tell you it’s easier and more complex because of the sophistication of software and analytics and the nature of how people use online. Anyways, going back to the question. I got introduced to the digital sphere with a user experience agency. I’m really glad that I did, because the whole philosophy of UX is literally user experience. You’re starting with the user and thinking through what are the steps that they’re going through when using your software, your website, and even offline? It’s not just a screen, but it’s the experience where and when they’re using your website as well too, or software or anything. That was where I first got into that.

The first thing they always did was they, surprising, they’d go and talk to actual users. That sounds so common sense, but it’s amazing how little that actually gets done because it’s so easy to assume, “Oh, we need to do this. We need to do that.” At the same time, it’s so easy just to ask, but oftentimes we don’t do that. That’s really what is the thing that’s really carried over the most into what we do at Supreme is start by understanding the user. Start by assuming that talking to someone in a way in which you are curious to learn what they have to say. Not having pre-assumptions of what they think they want, but asking and listening to what they actually want.

Sheldon:

Actually, Leigh, that just made me think of something. Just like about a week ago, we’re drawing up a new wireframe, and this is for a pretty big life science e-commerce company. As we were drawing up that wireframe, we already had a good idea. This is something that we do every single day, day in and day out, working on these e-commerce websites. Every single one’s just a little bit different, so what we did is we spent a ton of time drawing up a new homepage wireframe for it, and then we realized that, “Okay, we have actually a few customers that our client provided to us.”

We decided to … Part of us, we had those customers, but we weren’t sure if we wanted to interview them yet, because the website that we were redoing was such an old website that intuitively we’re like, “We should probably just interview people after we’ve already drawn up some initial wireframes and share that with them, because this old website just seems like it’s so crap. It looks like it was built 30 years ago.” What came out of that conversation, essentially Leigh … I wasn’t the one that had that interview, but I know Leigh talked to the guy for about 30 minutes or so. I think he was a guy at IDT, and essentially we ended up redrawing the entire wireframe from scratch after hearing that input.

Leigh:

Exactly. That’s a perfect example, personally, of making an assumption and having it not be validated. It’s important to be able to make good assumptions, but, as with anything in science, you test, you validate your assumptions. Exactly. That’s such a good example of pausing and just having a quick interview and just asking questions like, “What do you like about this website? What don’t you like about this website? What frustrates about you? How do other people on your team use this website that use it differently from you?” We just learned so much. I was like, “Oh wow.” Some of the organization of this website, that intuitively I had just assumed was super confusing and nobody would ever use, was actually incorrect. A certain page, a certain organization structure, something that they used very frequently on a daily basis. Just having that kind of insight is like, “Okay. I need to readdress how this homepage structure is going to be so we can prioritize the segmentation of where people need to go first.”

You can get those kind of insights so easily by just asking questions.

Sheldon:

Did you, after working at some UX agencies, how did you get into some of these other … I guess, how did you learn a lot more about other things you can do in digital, because it moves so fast? I know a lot of stuff just gets outdated, especially anything you learn in a university or something. It just all gets outdated.

Leigh:

I kind of had an interesting path. I started working at this UX or in the UX world, and then I got into this world of digital marketing, which comes down to numbers. I went from this world of making very … It was user-driven, and it was making very elaborate, very beautiful products, and it was amazing. I’m glad I got that perspective, but then I kind of went into this world of direct response internet marketing, where it’s literally you’re tracking down to the cent what you’re spending and what you’re getting in return. It’s much more analytics driven, and I’m glad that I had my foot in both worlds, because it’s important. You have to know exactly what you’re spending, exactly what your return is, and optimize based on that.

At the end of the day, they’re actually at their core principle very similar. You’re making hypotheses and testing those validations with the market. Whether it’s from a qualitative perspective, just talking to somebody one on one, or a quantitative perspective looking at the numbers. What does the overall data say about this? It’s really when you can bridge those two worlds together that you can get incredibly effective results very quickly.

Sheldon:

Got you. Cool. Anyways, that’s a brief introduction of just about Leigh and myself. With this podcast we really want to dive into just helping our clients, but just other people in the industry, in the life science industry in particular, just help grow their business online doing effective digital marketing campaign. I know a lot of times, just after talking to so many people, it’s not really about what to do. It’s not really about … I guess the most important thing is that there’s so many different options, and it’s just about which thing to start with that’s going to give you the highest return. There’s never a shortage of things that you can do.

I know, Leigh, you have a really great way of breaking down the keys to an effective digital marketing campaign. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Leigh:

Yeah. For sure. The universal principles, or the universal ingredients I guess you could say, of any effective digital marketing campaign are four things. That’s traffic, conversion, list building, and followup. You can start with any one of those, but you have to break them down and understand what is your metric for each one of those categories?

Traffic is pretty self-explanatory. What’s the amount of traffic, daily, weekly, monthly, traffic that you’re getting to your sites? Specifically, your sales pages, whether it’s product or services, what is the amount of traffic that you’re getting to those key pages?

Conversion rate. What’s the traffic, or what’s the leads or the customers? How many of those people that come to your website convert to whatever the specific objective of that page is? We’ll break that down more because there’s a lot more to that.

List building. How are you actively building your e-mail list? Buying a list doesn’t count. That’s a good place to start, but it’s not your list yet. We can talk about ways to turn that into your list.

Then the followup is just how often? What is the frequency in which you’re communicating with your list? When we say list, we usually mean e-mail list. It can mean which is the best? E-mail will always be the best quality list because, a, you don’t have to pay to get in front of them, b, it’s where business is conducted, so you’re the closest place to that mode of working, which is good. Usually with social media ads, things like that, you want to move people from social to the e-mail list as quick as possible. However, it can be other things like LinkedIn groups, things like that. The followup is always will be the most cost-effective and highest return on any amount of time put in.

Sheldon:

Leigh, actually just there’s one thing to chime in. A really great book that you recommended to me that I read a couple years back. It’s called “Dot Com Secrets”. He really broke down the types of traffic that you can get and how valuable it is. It was kind of an eye-opener for me when he said, “Of coures, organic traffic is extremely powerful, because even just ranking really high on Google or other search engines, so you’re not really paying per click, then it’s highly valuable.” Right? That’s really important. The other thing is obviously just paid traffic. The problem with that is every time you want to get traffic, you got to pay for it. That can be extremely costly.

Then the way he described e-mail lists is that that’s traffic that you own, meaning you can send whatever you want, hopefully good stuff so people don’t opt out, but you can send traffic. You can literally just get traffic from your e-mail list, because you own that traffic. That’s so powerful. With organic, you have to maintain that. You can’t just send info or content marketing, because you don’t own that traffic. You don’t have the e-mails of the people that are seeing you on Google search. That’s why it’s so powerful. It’s just a direct channel into your customers.

Leigh:

Absolutely. I want to challenge you on one thing that you said there though. The idea of the unsubscribe rate. A lot of people are scared of getting unsubscribes. I get it. You don’t want to be rejected or whatever, but I forget who said it. I think it was Ben [inaudible 00:13:57], who’s a great e-mail marketer. He said, “If you’re not getting whatever …” You can set your own metrics for this. “If you’re not getting a certain amount of unsubscribes, it means you’re not e-mailing enough.” In fact, you actually want e-mail unsubscribes, because, a, it’s cleaning out your list. People who unsubscribe most likely aren’t going to buyers anyways, and that’s a good thing. You want to get them off your list for other technical reasons too. It’s just going to help your open rate. It’s going to help your deliverability and things like that. Just more on a practical marketing level, if you’re not getting any negative response whatsoever to your marketing, it’s not …

Negative might not be the right word, but it means that you’re not marketing enough. Which it literally is probably the number one problem that we always see. We’ll ask those four questions of the elements, the traffic, conversion, list building, and e-mail, and most people do have an e-mail list. I ask, “Oh. How often are you e-mailing them?” They’re like, “What?”

Sheldon:

The answer’s never. It’s like never.

Leigh:

It’s never. Often more times than not it’s literally never. They’ll go through the effort of getting traffic, of even having some kind of an e-book or some kind of a reason to opt into the list, that’s great, they’ll get the e-mail list, and then that’s it. It’s like, “You’ve done 90% of the work, and then you just don’t want to go the last mile to actually get the value.”

Sheldon:

I think it’s also a balance of some of the e-mail campaigns that I see they’re just spam. It’s like, “This thing. $279. Buy this.” The funny thing is, the results from that is actually pretty good still. I know from some clients where I look at the e-mails, and it just looks like spam. I ask them, “What’s the most profitable channel?” They’re like, “E-mail.” I think ultimately more and more companies, we’re seeing companies like Abcam. They’re sending out an e-mail every single day I’m pretty sure last time I checked a couple months ago. A lot of people are wondering, “How can they afford to just send e-mails out every single day and not deal with people getting annoyed?” I don’t know. I think it comes down to the content obviously.

Leigh:

Unsubscribe rate is another good example of looking at the wrong metrics. Even with e-mail specifically, a lot of people will talk about open rate, click through rate, unsubscribe rate. I mean, they’re important, but at the end of the day, all that matters is return. If you got a low open rate and a high unsubscribe rate but you’ve got a fantastic return, well, there’s something that’s working there. I’m not advocating for being a spammer by any means. You want to build trust, build loyalty in your marketplace, but it’s more the principle of looking at the wrong metrics or getting hung up on what’s called “vanity metrics” instead of having the scoreboard be defined by the return.

Sheldon:

Totally makes sense. One last question I have just about … You talked a little bit about what the keys of an effective digital marketing campaign is. It’s traffic, conversion, list building, and the followup sale. Just one last question I have. What we’re trying to do in these podcasts, we’re trying to keep them short like 30 minutes or so, so you can just be listening to them during your commute or whenever you have some down time to try to give you guys some good ideas. With each consecutive episode, we’ll dive a little bit deeper into each one of these segments. More about traffic, specifically organic, paid, channels of paid traffic, LinkedIn, Facebook, what works, what doesn’t, best practices. We’re talking about conversion, conversion optimization, et cetera, all those things. With each podcast we’ll get deeper into it. Also, we’ll be hearing a bit about your guys’ responses, questions that you may have.

Just to wrap up this first introductory podcast, Leigh, there’s so many different options. I mean, how do you know where to start? What’s just the most simplest way of figuring out what a good starting point is, I guess?

Leigh:

It depends on what problem you’re trying to solve for. If we’re saying how to … Obviously, the overall goal for everybody is to increase the bottom line. You’ve got to break down, “Well, what’s already working in my marketing campaigns?” It’s like the 80/20 principle. A lot of people want to start with something new. That’s fine. That’s good. It’s good to have that open mindset, but what’s even more important is to look at what’s already working in your marketing campaigns. Look at your traffic numbers. Look at your conversion numbers. Look at how many people are opting into your e-mail list and how frequently you’re contacting them, and see what is already working.

The simplest thing is just to look at what’s already working and do more of it and stop doing everything that’s not working. That’s literally the first place to start, but then, beyond that, once you kind of have … Say you’re tackling your lowest hanging fruit and stopped doing what’s not working, it’s kind of an open-ended question, but if you think about … Let me say it this way. Most people that will talk to you usually want to start on the opposite side, meaning, “Okay, how do I get more people to my website? How do I increase traffic?” That’s where all of the sexy, cool, fun stuff is like introducing dynamic product ads and Facebook and doing all kinds of traffic stuff upfront, which is really fun. Don’t get me wrong. I love traffic. That’s kind of like the battleground, but what’s best is to actually start on the opposite end, which is the followup.

If you’re only e-mailing or contacting your audience once every six months, well, try and do that more. There’s no limit to how often you can contact your audience if you’re providing them value. That’s the stipulation. If you’re providing them value, there’s no limit to how frequently you can contact your audience. If you think about your best friends, you contact them every day, and it’s not a pushy thing. You want to interact with people. You love to hear from people who are helping you. It’s not marketing. It’s just talking, right?

I’d just work backwards from there. What’s the frequency in which you’re contacting your owned media channels? From there, how effectively are you turning cold traffic into warm traffic, basically whether that’s through e-mail lists? That’s the primary one, but what’s working, what’s not working there? How can we put a more effective piece of bait out there that really helps people sell their challenge? Providing value to them before you ask for money basically. Then the conversion rate. How can we start by actually looking at our conversion rate per page, per important page, and overall site, and figure out what can we test? What can we test to increase traffic? Next time, we’ll get into how we define the conversion optimization formula, and basically we’ll go over the four elements of the conversion optimization formula.

You can ask yourself, “Does my sales page, my product page, my most important page, have these four elements on it?” If not, start there. Start with the traffic that you’re already getting. You think about it, if you’re talking about traffic conversion, then you’ve got two ways to double your sales. You either double your traffic, assuming that your conversion rate holds consistent with doubling your traffic, or you can double the conversion rate. Which one’s going to be more cost-effective? Nine times out of 10, it’s infinitely more expensive to buy twice as much traffic as it is to improve the conversion rate of your website.

Then you also have the long-term value of an increased conversion rate. As soon as you stop buying traffic, your traffic stops, but your conversion rate, that’s consistent. That’s a lifetime investment. It’s only once you’ve gone through that progression and really seen where are holes, where are gaps, in those three pieces, then we can start talking about traffic. What are the best ways to get new traffic to the site? That’s kind how you tackle that one.

Sheldon:

It seems what you’re saying, just to recap, is you want to start with just doing more of what’s already working.

Leigh:

Absolutely.

Sheldon:

I think obviously, I think sometimes that can actually be a hard question to answer. I think when it comes to digital, especially in just our industry, in the life sciences, it seems like tracking is just nonexistent. Whenever I’m asking new partners that we work with, like, “Hey, how are you determining success? What are you tracking?” People say, “Well, we have analytics set up.”

Leigh:

And that’s it.

Sheldon:

But that’s it. They’re like, “We have analytics set up. We always see traffic.” I think people aren’t away just to how much detail you can track conversation. We’re so far past that age of TV advertising or just throwing a giant banner on the side of the highway or something. Today, you really can track everything. You can track exactly which channels users are coming in from, how long they’re spending, what pages they visit before they make a conversion, if they’re repeat customers, demographics. You can find exactly the age demographics from what regions they’re coming from. There’s so much stuff, and I think that’s part of the problem is that there’s so much stuff where it’s like, “What do you start with?”

Leigh:

For sure. That’s a great point. With those metrics specifically, and this is specifically to e-commerce store, but the top three metrics that you always want to look for are CPA, which is cost per acquisition, how much does it cost to get a sale, average order value, so how much are people spending on the initial purchase on average because then you can balance that with your traffic cost basically, and then the LTV. What’s the lifetime value of a customer? If you know, and you know that say the average order value is $50 but the average lifetime is $1,000, it helps you forecast how much you can actually spend. The companies that win are the companies that are able to spend the most on marketing. That sounds kind of counterintuitive. It’s like, “Oh, don’t you want to spend the least and make the most?” It’s like, “Well, yes, but you want to be reinvesting. You want to be reinvesting into your marketing so you can grow faster than anybody else.”

In order to do that, you have to know what your benchmarks are. You have to know, what is your CPA? What can you afford? What is the lifetime value? What’s the real value of a new customer? Once you know those, then you have your benchmarks, your compass, to navigate the seas.

Sheldon:

Makes sense. This is just a message for all you life science marketers out there. Obviously, there’s so many opportunities. There’s so many areas of what to do and what to start with. I think the main goal here is that we’re going to dive a little bit deeper. I know when we start throwing out terms like, “What’s your LTV?”, and then talking about these robust conversion tracking it can kind of feel overwhelming. I know I feel overwhelmed sometimes in our own marketing when there’s so many different things to track. I think what we’re trying to do is just cut out a lot of the noise just so we can figure out what the most important metrics are. That always makes me have less anxiety of trying to look at too many different things, too many different KPIs. Just looking at the ones that really matter, that really make a difference to the bottom line.

In our next episode, we’ll talk more on traffic and conversion specifically, and some of the different channels that we can market on and how to attract conversions. Leigh, is there any other final thoughts before we wrap this one up?

Leigh:

No. I mean, that’s it. Just to reiterate, the best place to start is with what’s already working.

Sheldon:

Cool. All right. Let us know. Feel free to e-mail us. We’ll have an e-mail. You can e-mail me directly actually. [email protected] Leigh’s e-mail is [email protected] If there are any other questions that you have, topics that you want to us to cover. Otherwise, we have plenty to talk about. It’s not shortage. It’s just a matter of time and giving you guys the most clear and concise and valuable information possible to you. That’s it, and we’ll catch you on our next podcast.

Sheldon Zhai

Sheldon Zhai

Sheldon Zhai is the founder and CEO of Supreme Optimization. He's an expert digital marketing and technical web development specialist. Previously he was a molecular biologist and researcher at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. You can find Sheldon Zhai on LinkedIn.

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