Posted by on Jan 3, 2022 in Marketing Strategy, Website Strategy | 0 comments

Why Marketing is Now Responsible for SQLs Instead of MQLs

By Debra Harrsch

Lately, we’ve seen that marketing departments are now responsible not only for generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs) but also sales qualified leads (SQLs). While every company is different, there are certainly growing trends redefining the relationship between marketing and sales.

Although it does happen occasionally, it’s exceptionally rare for marketing to deliver a lead that’s ready to buy without interaction from sales teams. However, as companies move towards digital marketing and sales, many have started to blur the lines between roles.

It can be a challenge.

The Traditional Role of Marketing

Typically, leads come in two flavors: junk leads and MQLs. Junk leads have no value and can be quickly eliminated. MQLs, however, usually require a fair degree of nurturing to get them until the point they turn into SQLs. That’s the traditional function of marketing teams.

Once a prospect sends a buying signal, such as asking for a demo or a quote, they’re ready to talk to somebody. As a potential customer moves through the buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration to buy, it takes a different skill set to close deals.

In life science industries, there’s a heavier lift, however. Tech and pharma companies are buying big-ticket items and often have questions or need specific information to move forward. Skilled sales teams are best equipped to answer these questions, provide the information, and even customize deals.

The New Sales & Marketing Alignment

In practice, marketing and sales need to be aligned. Here are two statistics that show the power of alignment:

  • 87% of marketing and sales leaders say it’s collaboration that fuels critical business growth.
  • Conversely, 60% of sales and marketing teams believe misalignment causes financial damage.

Alignment is not a given. Nine in ten marketing and sales teams say there is a disconnect across strategy, process, content, or culture when it comes to alignment.

Think about the way a typical prospect comes to your company and advances through the buyer’s journey. There are several steps and it is marketing’s job to get them to move to each new stage until they are ready to convert.

For example:

  • Prospects come to your website or landing page.
  • They might provide their email to access a whitepaper or register for a webinar.
  • Prospects become MQLs.
  • Marketing automation kicks in to keep track of all of the prospect’s touchpoints and deliver relevant content designed to drive them through the buyer’s journey as part of your lead nurturing program.
  • As prospects continue to interact with you, you are constantly monitoring for buying signals that say it’s time to involve sales.
  • When prospects send the right signals, such as asking for a demo, it becomes a SQL.

However, marketing’s job isn’t done at this stage. Besides letting potential customers know, “Thanks for signing up for the demo,” additional new nurturing sequences are launched. There are reminders and new messaging trees that queue up relevant information based on their behavior.

You might program your automation platform to send out a whitepaper based on the demo, for example, or to follow up. Because you are tracking behavior, you know whether they opened the email and engaged with the content. If not, you might send another message with a different subject line. This sequence continues until you decide there’s no further benefit.

Even while prospects are waiting for a demo, you don’t want them to stop thinking about your products or solutions. Your nurturing sequence may have branched off because of their demo request, but it shouldn’t stop. Maybe you’ll send a case study or a thought leadership piece at this point to keep them engaged and keep your company top of mind – and keep them moving towards the end goal.

Marketing Doesn’t Stop at the Purchase Stage

Even after a prospect buys, marketing continues. The salesperson will try to maintain and build the relationship for future sales, but marketing needs to continue to nurture your current customers. You might create a newsletter or send out links to blog posts or press releases.

Newsletters are a great way to keep your company top of mind. It’s fairly simple to do since you can aggregate much of the content you’ve already developed. For example, you can pull together your press releases, most current blog posts, product information, videos, and bundle them into an email to get additional exposure.

When customers remain engaged, it keeps awareness high. The marketing focus shifts to making them aware of other products and services and driving them right back to the consideration phase and then, ultimately, into the buying stage.

That’s why the sales funnel is outdated. In the sales funnel, leads go in at the top and come out as customers at the bottom. In today’s B2B environment, the customer journey is more like a circle where you drive customers through the buyer’s journey and then bring them right back to the start to encourage future sales.

Success is about managing the entire customer lifecycle

This new iteration of the lifecycle continues to blur the lines between marketing and sales, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Alignment is key to success, and the lifecycle has forced sales and marketing to work together to create more seamless and targeted results.

The goal for marketing and sales is to keep your customers engaged and satisfied. You need to make sure they know what’s coming out and why it’s important, such as what problems you’re solving by updating their software or a new asset for their instrument in the case of the clinical market.

While finding new prospects is always essential, making sure you’re taking care of your existing customers is crucial.

Higher Quality SQLs

There was a time when marketers threw everything over the fence and delivered lists of leads for sales, regardless of the quality. Sales teams were forced to spend time evaluating leads. As we’ve become more sophisticated about our marketing, we all realize this is a waste of time for sales reps. New marketing tools have helped us sort the leads and provide the highest-value leads and SQLs for sales.

These tools and new processes create a more efficient marketing system. Is marketing now responsible for SQLs? In essence, they always have been.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Dec 1, 2021 in Advertising, Integrated Marketing, Lead Generation, Marketing Content, Marketing Strategy, Social Media, Website Strategy | 0 comments

Growing Marketing Leads Quarter-Over-Quarter: Challenges and Opportunities

Brandwidth Solutions Growing Marketing Leads Quarter-Over-Quarter

By Debra Harrsch

In most companies. marketing is seen as an expense item. And, when something’s a line-item expense on the P&L, there needs to be accountability. To support the marketing budget, your efforts need to generate enough leads to justify the expense.

At the same time, those leads need to be nurtured and turned into conversions.

Smart companies are monitoring how they are doing each month against their goals. But, there’s another important thing to measure: momentum.

When you think about momentum, we often think about examples in sports. In baseball, batters go on streaks where their batting average jumps by a hundred points or more. When a basketball player hits four or five shots in a row, he’s got the “hot hand” and can’t seem to miss. It gives them more confidence to take even more shots.

The same thing happens in business. Sales teams get on a roll and build revenue month-to-month. When you have momentum, you are bringing in more marketing qualified leads (MQLs), nurturing them until they become sales qualified leads (SQLs), and then closing deals.

Here’s an example. We work with one of our clients as their marketing department. We pay close attention to the month-to-month lead generation. One metric we track is quarter-over-quarter growth in leads.

We saw very clearly the results of the marketing strategy and momentum. Leads in one quarter went from 1,000 to 1,300 in the next quarter. The following quarter grew to 1,500. The more the momentum grew, the more effective the efforts became. By the end of the year, the momentum generated more than 4,600 leads and 168 demo requests — a dramatic improvement.

When there’s momentum, people are seeing your advertising, your content marketing, and your social media. You are building campaigns that drive awareness and demand. Buyers are seeing your marketing efforts more often and in more places. The result is you see momentum and growth.

As you are growing leads, the impact gets magnified. Those Q1 leads get nurtured in Q2, Q3, and Q4. As you drive more leads into your sales funnel, you’re turning more and more MQLs into SQLs while continuing to deliver new leads at the top of the funnel.

Challenges to Building Momentum

One of the challenges most marketers face, however, is when the new fiscal year begins. It often seems to take forever to get budget approval for an ad buy. In many cases, the whole marketing plan may still be waiting for approval in the first quarter as companies wrestle with expenses and margins.

This makes the marketing department late for the dance. And it may become almost impossible to make an ad buy, for instance.

When the fiscal year has started, but marketing doesn’t get the OK for an ad buy until the end of Q1 (or even into Q2), we’ve seen this delay in decision-making bring marketing efforts to a screeching halt. It makes it increasingly difficult to deliver the leads needed to feed the sales machine.

You see, momentum works both ways — especially when it comes to marketing. Content marketing, advertising, and social media all have a cumulative effect, a combination of reach, frequency, relevancy, and recency. When marketing stops, your momentum can stop dead in its tracks — and it can be more expensive to rebuild it.

With a strong plan and the funding to market consistently, we see positive momentum. When inconsistency is applied to a marketing plan, however, it can create negative momentum and it snowballs. You’ll see fewer MQLs lead to fewer SQLs, which results in fewer sales.

Momentum is…Monumental

When you cut back on marketing, you not only lose your share of mind, but also put new and existing accounts at risk. Once you lose that momentum, it takes time — and money — to rebuild it.

For B2B buyers, there needs to be enough visibility in the right places to drive buyers quarter-to-quarter.

Thomas Smith, in his book Successful Advertising, said consistency and frequency are essential. He suggested it takes five times before consumers even notice and pay attention to your ad. It’s not until the 12th time they see your brand that they actually start to think your product or service has some value, and 20 times before they get serious about buying.

Here’s the kicker. Smith wrote that in 1885 — before radio, TV, social media, and the internet. Can you imagine how many times it takes to cut through the clutter and noise today?

You need to get exposure to the right buyer at the right time on the right platform consistently to build momentum, to drive people to your landing pages and generate a lead.

Hopefully, you’re using a marketing automation platform to continue nurturing leads and feeding your CRM — building momentum to fill your funnel quarter-to-quarter. It’s definitely a year-over-year, quarter-over-quarter challenge to build momentum as you’re scaling and maintaining that share of mind.

Marketing Momentum Takes Planning

When you map out your year, recognize that there might be a delay in getting your budget approved. To avoid stopping that momentum, one little marketing trick we might suggest would be to hold back some of your budget dollars to the end of the year. Why?

You can use some of December’s budget for first quarter ad insertions and other marketing channels to keep the momentum building.

Tracking momentum also helps make the case in the budget process. You need to show ROI and value and tie your lead generation to results.

As a marketer, your goal is to build those leads quarter-over-quarter. Nurture them all the way through, so you’re bringing a marketing lead or marketing qualified lead into your CRM, scaling it up to a sales qualified lead, and then prepping for sales engagement to create conversions.

Be Digitally Agile and Know What Works

Digital marketing provides multiple ways to reach your buyers: podcasts, video, interactive, blogs and social, print, and more. It all has a cumulative effect that can reinforce and magnify your messaging and help build momentum.

The key to effective spending, of course, is knowing what works. Fortunately, in today’s digital marketing environment, we have access to a wealth of data. For instance, when you pick the right places for your ad placements, you can see what works and adjust to optimize your effectiveness.

COVID taught us the need to be agile and aware and quickly pivot when needed. Another strategy we recommend is to keep enough budget in reserve to jump on opportunities when they arise. When something’s working, you can pour fuel on the fire.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Nov 1, 2021 in Marketing Strategy, Website Strategy | 0 comments

How to Implement UX Research & The Keys to a Great User Experience

by Debra Harrsch

Last month we talked about what UX is and why you need to incorporate user experience in your website design work. This month we’re covering how to apply what you learned from your UX research, and the keys to a great user experience.

Implementing UX Research

We’ve spent a lot of time on research creating empathy and customer journey maps, but what exactly do we do with all of that information? How do we turn it into a great user experience?

Website design doesn’t start with design!

No prospect is going to visit your website just to see your logo. They are there to get their questions answered. They are there for your content. Web design starts with content, information architecture, and wireframes – and only then do you address the site’s aesthetics.

Are you surprised?

We typically see companies spend a huge amount of time and money on the design of a website and then get bogged down and never launch due to delays in supplying content. Another scenario we see because of content bottlenecks, is when companies will try to shoehorn old content into a new site. Obviously, neither of these provides a good user experience.

You need to know the content before you head into design.

UX Drives Content

It’s your users’ needs and their process that should drive the content on your site, as well as what the information architecture of your website looks like.

Who the customer is will impact the language you use – your word choices, your diction, and at what grade level you need to write your content. It will also influence your visual choices. For instance, if you want to convey calm, trust, or excitement, this will impact your color choices.

Your audience impacts all of these different areas, so if you don’t have a solid grasp of who they are at the very beginning, you risk getting it wrong. And since UX is the foundation of your website, you absolutely need to get it right.

Content Maps

The first step in transforming your UX research into a website that converts is creating a content map out of the information you’ve gathered.

If you think about it, every question needs an answer. Every answer is a piece of content that should be on your site. From the two research frameworks – the empathy map and the customer journey map – you’ll extract all of the pieces of content that need answers and then put those into a content map.

In the content map you’ll develop a list of all the content that should be on the site. This list shows you what you need to provide at each stage of the prospect’s decision-making process.

For example, if the user is worried, and asking “what if this doesn’t fit me properly?” Then the content you need to provide is a sizing chart or a return policy. You need to ensure that your content aligns with their needs at that stage of their journey.

You’ll then compare the list of what should be there with what your company has on the current website. This comparison allows you to see where the gaps are – and there are always gaps! (There is also always excess content, as well. Frequently we find that websites have lots of content that the user never looks at, had never asked for, and doesn’t need.)

When you finish the comparison, you’ll have a final list of content that you need to work towards producing.

The second step in the process is to organize that content – which leads us to the information architecture of the site.

Information Architecture & Navigation

From the content map, you’ll create the information architecture for the sitemap. This determines where all of these pages will live on your website and how they will relate to each other.

Within information architecture there are two structures. You have your hierarchical structure, which is your navigation, and you have your internal link structure, which forms your conversion flow or conversion path.

It’s not just the navigation which needs to match your customer’s journey, but also the internal page link structure.

For example, if you have a blog post on ‘5 Reasons Why Research Labs Need Informatics,’ the information addresses a prospect’s research stage. At this point in their decision-making journey, a user won’t know which brand of informatics best suits their lab’s needs. They only want to know whether they need laboratory informatics in the first place.

On that blog post’s page, however, you want to make sure you have internal links that push the user to content in the next stage of the journey – the evaluation phase. You don’t want them to have to go back to the navigation menus and figure out where to go next.

A good user experience will guide them without interruption. In this case, you are telling the reader “If you’re interested in this, you’ll want to read this other piece of content next.” In this way, you move them along the conversion path.

Wireframes

The next step is site wireframes. Think about wireframes like a blueprint of what a certain type of page will look like.

Typically, when we create wireframes we don’t do every single page on a site. We work on every page that has a unique type of content. For instance, the homepage, a service or product page, or a blog page. You wouldn’t need to wireframe each product page because each of those will use a similar look and feel. Similarly, your blog posts will all have a similar look, so you’ll only need to develop a single wireframe for posts.

To design the wireframe, you use the information that you learned about your prospects and customers. You must figure out the priority message that needs to be communicated on each page, as well as the supplementary information that you’ll need to link to. This is what drives how the wireframe is structured.

These blueprints define the information containers that the designers and developers use to create the website design.

It’s important to note that the wireframes are guidelines and recommendations. If the designer wants to move a couple of boxes around or change the size of something, that’s okay. It’s possible that if you’re using a particular WordPress template there might be some restrictions your designer needs to work within.

As long as the relative priorities of the content are maintained, then that’s really what’s important, because the goal is getting the right content to the right person at the right time in their decision-making process.

Keys to a Good User Experience

There are four key areas that define a good user experience. These are:

Ease of Use: Can your site visitor do everything they need to without any fuss? Yes or no? You need to ensure that a prospect can move through any stage of their journey on your website without any friction.

Useful: Your content must be relevant to your website visitor. It can’t be only what the marketing or product departments want. It must be focused on your prospect’s needs at all times.

Accessibility:  Did you know that one in five people identifies with having some form of disability? It may be that they are visually impaired, or hearing impaired, or they have issues with cognitive motor skills.

Incorporating accessibility could include whether color contrast is adequate – so visitors can tell where links are and easily identify headings – or whether text is large enough, or whether the site will work with a screen reader.

Credibility: People buy from those they know, like, and trust. The smallest thing can break a user’s trust, such as a broken link in your content. Another common mistake that can create credibility gaps is to list an upcoming event…that happened 3 months (or 3 years!) ago. Typos have the same negative impact. None of us are perfect, but something as small as a misspelled or nonsensical word can stop a buyer in their tracks and break trust.

All of these different areas have an impact on whether the user experience is good.

Why UX Is Never Finished

UX is an ongoing process. Think about this: How often have you looked at a competitor’s site (usually a couple of months after you finish your own) and said, “hmmm, my site looks a little dated?”

Yes, I know. It happens more than anyone wants to admit! The web moves fast. Digital trends change and suddenly ‘fresh’ looks ‘old’ and new user behaviors need to be addressed.

So no, UX isn’t something you do once just when creating the site and then forget it. User experiences degrade over time.

If you launch your site and don’t do anything more for six months, what happens? During that six-month period, three new browser versions will be released, the new iPhone will come out, and eight WordPress updates will occur. It’s inevitable, so yes – the user experience will be different from when you went live with your site 6 short months ago.

The analogy I always use is that your website is a puppy, not a microwave, as borrowed from UX Strategist Stephanie Lummis. Your site needs regular care and feeding. It needs checkups to stay healthy. A microwave, on the other hand, sits on a shelf where it’s used every day. It only gets cleaned when somebody yells loud enough, right? And when it breaks, you throw it out and get a new one. Nobody repairs the microwave. And that’s how people treat their websites – like a microwave. Every three years you end up throwing it out and starting over.

But, if you are investing regularly, there are certain activities you do every month, every quarter, or every year to maintain a good user experience and avoid falling to the bottom of the trough. Instead of investing a huge chunk of budget every three years, you can invest a little bit of budget into maintenance to ensure your UX remains consistently functional. This is why a new version of Amazon’s website doesn’t appear every 3 years. Instead, tweaks are made constantly to address always-changing conditions – and keep them on top.

Your website needs to work as hard as your marketing and sales teams, and in some cases as hard as customer service. Because of its outsized role, you need to invest in it. Don’t skimp. Do the upfront research, know your prospect, and keep investing in it to avoid losing a good user experience – and never forget that the reason prospects visit your website is your content.

As you’re putting together your marketing budget for next year, take a quick look at your current website. Are you sure you are delivering the best user experience you can? If not, give us a call and let’s talk.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Oct 1, 2021 in Marketing Strategy, Website Strategy | 0 comments

Why UX is the Key to a Website That Converts

User Experience Image

by Debra Harrsch

In today’s world, your digital presence is even more important than ever before. Looking into the future, your website and other digital channels will remain critical to your ability to win business – even as in-person events come back online. In fact, in-person events and meetings now play a supporting role instead of a leading role as 57–70% of prospects research their purchase decisions online before engaging with your sales team.

Now that you see how vital your website is to your business’s success, take a look at it and see whether it’s time for a refresh or redo. In the past, we’ve talked about how to build a B2B website: Who Owns Your Website?, Should You Build a Website in Phases? and How to Redo Your B2B Website. This article will help you understand why user experience (UX) is critical to a website that converts, and how to begin the process.

What is User Experience?

User experience, at its core, is how someone feels about your website – at the time they’re using it. As they move through your website they encounter your words, your images and the functionality of the site. All of those things are either going to relate to the site visitor’s needs…or they won’t. Website elements can be easy or be hard to use – or they may be frustrating for the visitor.

What you want as a website owner is to make it easy to do whatever it is you want a prospect to do. This is what creates a satisfying user experience.

User experience is not a discipline, like coding a website. UX is an all-encompassing understanding of what a customer needs, what they want, and how they think. It includes:

  • Findability – by search engines, and search within the site itself
  • Usability – how easy and intuitive it is to use
  • Usefulness – how relevant the content is

Why You Should Prioritize UX

Think about the last time you visited a website. You were there for a reason, weren’t you? You were focused on a task, and you wanted answers as quickly as possible, didn’t you?

Well, your prospect is visiting your website for the same reason. From the user’s perspective, they’re very task-focused. They want to get in and out and not have to think about process. So, as you can imagine, if there’s any kind of hesitation in flow or even a broken link, then that is going to degrade the user’s experience.

Why does it matter?

People are very loyal to a good user experience. In fact, after a bad user experience, 88% of visitors are not likely to return to a website. Further, 75% of a website’s credibility is judged on aesthetics alone!

The point is, while you could be the absolute best at what you do, if your website serves up a terrible user experience, people aren’t going to stick around to find out how wonderful your product is – and their experience will translate to your brand.

For example, you could make the best widget on the planet, but because of a negative experience on your website prospects will think your widgets are substandard. I’m not making this up: 67% of users say that a poor website experience negatively affects their opinion of a brand.

While it’s not often that your website’s UX alone will win new business, it can definitely cause you to lose business. If you’re in a competitive situation (and who isn’t?), a bad user experience will knock you off somebody’s shortlist.

It may not seem fair, but this is why website UX matters so much.

When Do You Start the UX Process?

Very simply, you start the UX process right after you think, “Oh, I need to redo my website.”

As I’ve mentioned, your website is for your customers – not your sales department or your marketing department or your product departments. UX is a practice that starts with research about your user, and it fits in perfectly with the messaging process.

It’s all about digging into what is unique about the users for your products or services. You want to make sure that the content and the functionality that you’re providing on your website aligns with your users, with how they specifically want to interact with you, and with their decision-making process.

Crafting an effective UX starts with doing customer research upfront. It’s necessary to talk directly to your audience (really – they don’t mind and are frequently happy someone asked!). It’s also important to talk with stakeholders in your organization – particularly those who are on the front lines, like your customer support people or salespeople. The people that are answering the phone are your front-line workers – they’re getting all the questions and the complaints.

At Brandwidth Solutions, we start with customer personas. From there we dive more deeply into UX research using a unique framework called an empathy map, and then we create a customer journey map.

How to Do User Experience Research

An empathy map is a little bit different from the customer personas that everyone is used to because it focuses more on how your customers and prospects are behaving and feeling at the time they realize a problem. It lays out their motivations, their expectations and what influences their decisions, as opposed to their demographics such as how old they are, what their salary is and whether they have 2.6 kids.

You might think about the empathy map as a set of life stages. For example, if I tell you that the target audience is a new mom, you automatically apply all the experiences that go with that, right? Sleepless nights, doing everything with only one arm because there’s a child in the other, not being able to wash their hair for a week, and so forth.

BUT…what if I were to tell you that the new mom is 14? Or if I told you that the new mom is 50?

You immediately have very different thoughts about that person. Your bias kicks in and you assign things that don’t matter to the situation. What is important is that they still need sleep and they still need to shower. The basic issues a new mother has don’t change.

We focus the empathy map on the point in time when the prospect realizes they have a need or an issue that your company can solve.

Once we have completed our empathy map, the second framework that we apply is a customer journey map.

We explore every stage of the customer journey. We typically talk about the customer journey in the

abbreviated terms of awareness, consider and buy. But, a customer’s journey is more complex than these 3 steps.

The decision-making journey map starts at the point where the prospect has awareness of an issue. Then they decide to take action and begin researching solutions. In their information gathering stage they might find 20 different solutions. After that, they enter an evaluation stage in which they edit those 20 options down to three or two.

Once they’ve streamlined their possible solutions, they are in the decision phase. This is the time where they make the decision to do business with your organization. After that, there’s a review or validation phase where they review what they think about the product they purchased and what the experience was like. They examine if they have issues and how they can follow-up with your company.

For every stage in this customer journey, we work to identify all of the questions that your prospect has during the process.

Keep in mind that at every stage this prospect is likely sharing their user experience with colleagues and their external network. They may be sharing whether their experience is good or bad, and how that colors their view of your product or solution.

With this clearer understanding of UX, next month we’ll talk through how to implement what we’ve discovered through our research – and the keys to a good user experience. Stay tuned!

If you’ve got a website refresh in your future plans and want to explore UX further, give us a call!

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Sep 1, 2021 in Brand Strategy and Design, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Content, Marketing Strategy, Social Media | 0 comments

KOL: When to Use a Key Opinion Leader in Healthcare Marketing

KOL: When to Use a Key Opinion Leader in Healthcare Marketing

by Debra Harrsch

Before we start looking at when you should use a key opinion leader (KOL) in your marketing, let’s first explore exactly what a KOL is.

Key opinion leaders are industry leaders who are experts on their topics. They are well-known and viewed as highly trustworthy and credible resources in their field. KOLs are particularly important in the healthcare space and life science technologies. These individuals are experts who promote the science associated with your product, create indirect awareness about your product, and lend credibility to your company among the target community. They have a significant impact on how their peers think and what they purchase.

As Steven Arless states:

A KOL is either a clinician and/or scientist that has developed and earned visionary leadership in their medical field. They typically have earned peer respect and admiration, and can influence future treatment solutions. KOLss are typically prominent at regional and medical conferences, and often dominate the scientific programs, panel discussions and debates. Most KOLs are excellent speakers, and present their work in a very clear and compelling manner. Publications in peer-reviewed journals are regularly written by KOLs.

While KOLs tend to be physicians or academics, there are many other roles which can produce a persuasive and talented influencer. We’ve seen nurses, social workers, patient advocates, lab directors, PharmDs, and researchers all provide exceptional KOL value.

When to Use a KOL

From a marketing viewpoint they are ambassadors for your product. What I mean by this is they are very device-, diagnostic- and treatment-agnostic, so they are ambassadors in terms of educating an audience about why a test or product is important in the treatment of a disease. They don’t mention your specific product. In fact, they likely also work with your competitors!

Your KOL’s job is to educate the market as to why they need a product. For example, they can support or confirm why the market should do a certain test, or why they should use a particular therapy. It’s then your job to promote your product, show how well it matches the ‘why’ the KOL explained and show how it delivers results.

Because these individuals are able to reach and influence a specific audience niche in the market, they are a valuable resource for any healthcare or life science company. You want to use a key opinion leader to educate your market space through:

  • webinars your company is sponsoring on the disease state
  • speaking engagements at conferences or events
  • user meetings
  • social media
  • podcasts on related topics
  • educational videos
  • article authorship

A KOL educates the people you’re selling to with real facts and data. There is no hearsay, no so-called Facebook ‘expertise’ and no marketing fluff. It’s the facts and only the facts. KOLs are not part of your sales team, but they do help to educate your sales team.

Key opinion leaders aren’t just for clinician education. They can also be valuable resources for patient-facing markets. If you are marketing a medical device or software device, your KOL can educate patients on why this type of device is important.

Where to Start Once You’ve Identified a KOL

It starts with building a KOL slide deck. A slide deck for a healthcare KOL is a deep scientific conversation, usually around 60–90 slides in length. When we build a deck, it’s comprised of reference materials, it is entirely non-promotional data – the Holy Grail of thought leadership.

What you want to do is provide your thought leader with all of the data and all of the prep work that went into the creation of your test or product. In addition, you’ll include all of the outside research – every single relevant journal article should be included in this deck – along with the results doctors are looking for. A doctor no longer needs to go out and track down every article, you’ve already centralized it all conveniently in one place.

What you won’t include is why your test or product is important. In fact, you’re not going to mention your product at all. The science around why it’s needed is what is important here. Think of it as a subtle sale.

The Value Beyond the KOL

When you develop a slide deck for your KOL strategy, you may think that it’s only good for webinar education or some of the other activities mentioned above.

But, you’d be wrong.

A KOL deck is what I call ‘marketing rich.’ It’s rich for the sales team. It’s rich for the marketing team and it’s rich for your customers. Not only do you educate your customers and sales team, but by having all of this information, the marketing department gains a real understanding of the product’s background. Because of this, marketing is able to build out webinars, white papers, blog posts, social media content, email campaigns, landing pages and web copy – all of which can help drive leads. The initial investment in a slide deck continues to pay dividends beyond your direct work with the KOL.

For example, for one of our clients, an in vitro diagnostics testing solutions pioneer, we developed a lead generating webinar using noted KOLs to discuss a disease state and the importance of testing. This webinar ultimately produced more than 1,100 high quality leads.

A KOL Strategy Keeps You Top of Mind

Incorporating a key opinion leader strategy in your overall marketing can be a very smart decision for healthcare, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. Think about it – who do you think will be top of mind when your target audience is ready to buy? It’s going to be the company that educated that audience.

If you need assistance planning and implementing a KOL strategy, reach out to us.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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