The digital marketing of is seven years ahead of the top life science company. Why do we not innovate our marketing with the same type of tenacity that we place on the revolutionary technologies we create?

Over the past five years, I’ve been consulting life science companies and their digital marketing, SEO and SEM campaigns. The list of companies I’ve personally worked with range from small startups that have now since been acquired such as Bio-Techne’s acquisition of Advanced Cell Diagnostics to large public companies like Illumina.

One thing that I’ve learned is just how far behind this industry is in digital marketing. This year, digital advertising surpassed that of TV advertising for the first time ever. More sales are made online than ever before, month after month. But life science companies are still stuck throwing marketing budgets and money into a black hole of old channels that digital marketing absolutely crushes. You probably know some of those channels that I’m referring to — the ones that you spent a lot of money on but have no idea what your ROI is. It’s a dilemma because you can justify that it is ‘worth it’ by saying its ‘always been done that way, and will help our brand awareness.’

So, what do I mean when I say digital marketing ‘absolutely crushes?’

I mean that the ROI of online advertising and the cost that our clients are paying to acquire new traffic and qualified leads is so low that our clients are actually skeptical because it is so much cheaper than their other paid advertising channels. What kind of numbers am I talking about? How does $1/click for qualified traffic (people that you know are interested in your services/products) sound? All skepticism is removed when those leads turn into revenue.

Those are the numbers we are doing.

Now let’s top it off to being able to know exactly how many dollars you spend per purchase or per contact form submission? Can you measure that now with your current marketing efforts? If you spend $20,000 on a conference tradeshow, can you tell me how many new leads you got from that and what your cost per acquisition is? How about what the cost per acquisition is from that banner you’re running on Nature Journal’s website? Getting ‘brand awareness’ doesn’t count unless you can directly correlate that to a sale.

(Hint: I’m going to tell you right now that if you aren’t retargeting to your email lists on Facebook, AdWords and LinkedIn then you’re missing out of huge amounts of new business.)

We practice what we preach too…

My company, Supreme Optimization, the first digital marketing agency exclusively for life science companies technically targets audiences similar to some of our clients. Our ideal prospect is a life science brand that needs a full service digital marketing team and understands science.

At Supreme, we spend $500/month on paid advertising. And we pay $50/month for web hosting. We have no sales team yet somehow we generate millions of dollars of high quality leads per year from one source. Our website. I guess you could say that we have one sales rep that is always working for us 24/7 whom we pay a salary of $600/year for + no benefits.

Better yet, by the time a new prospect speaks to us, the conversation often goes like this. “I was referred by a friend to a different life science marketing agency, but when I tried to find them on Google, all I could find was you guys in the top ranking positions with every query.”

Don’t believe me? Just search for life sciences seo, biotech seo, life sciences online marketing, digital marketing biotech, etc. Not only will you find us at the top of Google, ahead of all our competition, but you’ll also now be seeing our advertisements guiding you onto a lead nurture journey on New York Times and the other websites you frequent.

Okay, what I am trying to get at?

In short, I’m a scientist, I’m a digital marketer and I’m an entrepreneur.

We work with the brightest minds in the world at the most innovative companies in the world. The technologies that our field generates deserve the most innovative and envelope pushing marketing as well. Let’s start innovating your marketing with the same urgency that you innovate your products and services.

I want our industry, the field of life sciences to get away from age old marketing tactics with no presentable ROI and stop making excuses like “our audience doesn’t use Facebook.” The greatest products and services that can change the world deserve to also have the greatest marketing teams.

One of our clients, Illumina introduced new technology that by 2013 reduced the cost of sequencing a human genome to US$4,000, down from a price of US$1 million in 2007. This is how fast the technology that is developed in our field evolves and disrupts the landscape. Why would we not assume that the ways we can market digitally is also evolving at this pace?

As scientists, we measure everything quantitatively. We know exactly the amount of time and conditions we run an experiment, the amount of reagent we put into a test tube.

For the past five years or more, you can also measure the exact number of dollars you spend to generate a qualified lead that results in a sale. If this is the case, then why are life science companies still just making assumptions on what’s working and what isn’t with their marketing? If you haven’t started getting an a clear idea of how much marketing budget you spend per lead that results in a sale, then you’re losing out. At least for now :-).

I passionately believe that the technologies the field of life science creates is more impactful to our world than selling hotels, shoes and perfume online. For example, we just launched a new website and digital marketing campaign for Trovagene, Inc, the first company to offer both urine and blood liquid biopsy tests to detect, quantify and monitor cancer mutations. This technology pretty much allows someone to monitor early stage cancer without getting a chunk of tissue removed to perform a biopsy. How cool is that?

If this is the case, then why is the digital marketing of TripAdvisor or about 7 years ahead of the top life science company? Since when did the life sciences become the ‘play it safe’ industry?

There’s good news here though. The digital space that life science marketing operates in still is not saturated. There’s plentiful room to grow and endless opportunities. I urge you to make 2017 the year of digital marketing for your life science company.