Life Sciences Technical Marketing: How Do Technical Marketing Agencies Work and Why Should You Hire One?
The digital era that we live in today has changed the way technical marketing is practiced in the life sciences fields. Information is now abundantly available online and customers are more empowered with much have higher expectations of service.
Therefore, in addition to traditional marketing tactics, life sciences marketers selling technically complex solutions must now have a grasp of digital marketing to meet ever increasing demands for the right information, delivered via the right channels, at the right time. A tall order for any company, unless of course you’re a large pharmaceutical company with unlimited resources on tap.
For the vast of life sciences companies, life is more down to earth – bare bones technical marketing capabilities and next to zero digital marketing capabilities. For these, the best option is to work with an external partner to assist with implementing all or some of these tasks.
The aim of this article is to through some insight on how technical marketing agencies work, the value they bring and how you can go about hiring such an agency?
What is a technical marketing agency?
Technical marketing is marketing focused on communicating specifications, features and benefits of technically complex products, targeted towards customers with a scientific or technical background.
Technical marketing agencies, such as Scienopsis, Techmark, Trews and Fastfloor, are highly specialised marketing partners primarily focusing on executional aspects of B2B technical sales and marketing.
By performing proficiently as outsourcing partners, technical marketing agencies are a true extension of in-house technical marketing teams, with capabilities to offer both traditional and digital marketing services, as well as value-adding solutions like lead generation and sales fulfillment.
This is what makes these agencies ideal for delivering campaigns on behalf of technical B2B clients.
The primary function of a life sciences technical marketing firm is assist clients selling complex scientific products, technologies and solutions best optimize and communicate their value propositions to prospects and help establish profitable customer relationships. The achievement of above objective requires that life sciences technical marketing firms have multiple competencies and deliver many services, including:
The life sciences market place is no longer the stable landscape we’ve always known. Technology is advancing fast, customer needs are changing and there are now more agile competitors. Staying still can be fatal. Life sciences technical marketing agencies can help firms achieve success by giving coherence to their value proposition and helping ensure firms consistently play to their true potential.
Effective Public Relations and are the linchpin of customer engagement within the life sciences. Life sciences technical marketing agency assist with creating and distributing powerful stories that resonates with target audiences, inspire and command profitable action from prospects, influencers, and customers.
Content matters in technical fields today as it has always been. But it is value-adding content that makes a difference, a difficult task to execute well. Agencies can assist firms with the development of effective, ROI-driven content marketing programs that enable acquisition, retention and engagement of target audiences in the life sciences.
Trade shows, events and experiential are a great platform for launching a new product, raising brand profiles, generating new leads or attending to relationships with existing customers. The only challenge is trade shows are expensive and RoI is highly questionable. Events are difficult to pull off while experiential marketing requires careful development. An external partner can assist clients plan, promote, design and get the most out of trade shows and events.
Digital marketing increasingly plays a central role in shaping customer behaviours in technical fields. Any modern brand wanting to stay ahead of its competition needs to embrace digital marketing as part of their overall marketing function. This doesn’t abandoning traditional tactics, however, using digital marketing tactics in combination with traditional marketing allows businesses to maximise reach. Agencies can assist clients with digital marketing, particularly when internal capabilities are limited.
B2B lead generation requires time and great effort. Most companies lack the time, resources and experience to put together a meaningful scheme to develop and nurture new business leads. Firms that employ technical B2B lead generation agencies benefit from the experience, the tools and the expertise to drive customer campaigns and achieve results; reducing time and cost of generating leads.
Every life sciences company faces sales challenges, which vary depending on size, age, location, specialisation, etc. Companies may not possess the right people, processes, tactics, culture, analytics, or enablement technologies to deliver consistent results. Outsourcing all or a portion of the sales activities to a third party allows a company is able to attract and maintain a sales force without having to make them full-time employees.
When should a company hire a technical marketing agency?
Technical marketing agencies are not for every company. Early-stage start-ups with limited budgets or large multinational companies with unlimited resources may or may not find a technical marketing agency value-adding. In our experience, firms with lean business models or small to medium sized companies needing to increase internal bandwidth without necessarily increasing headcount are the ideal candidates. Here are the most common reasons to hire a technical marketing agency:
To lower costs and risks
Engaging a life sciences technical marketing agencies allows firms to access experienced teams quickly, reducing risks of inefficient processes, while removing the uncertainties and cost impact of hiring and retaining an internal sales and marketing staff. A company’s bottom line is particularly sensitive to operational inefficiencies arising from high staff attrition, politics and complexity, lack of commitment, not forgetting staff hiring costs, training, and retention of top talent, and the costs internal staff add to overhead.
For knowledge transfer
The vast majority of life sciences technical marketing agencies have worked with other clients within the industry, and in the process, learned what works best. So while it is possible for companies to build this competence organically, it takes long. Companies that hire life sciences technical marketing agencies are able to gain access to cutting-edge expertise immediately, which is also transferable to the internal function.
To reduce time to market
Many life sciences technical marketing firms are very productive. Engaging them allows clients to significantly reduce the time to market, freeing their internal teams to focus on other pressing needs. Meanwhile, outsourcing gives the reassurance that work will be completed on time and on budget.
A proven sales and marketing platform
Marketing agencies are a proven platform – they are used by many companies in many industries. Engaging the technical marketing solution provider will build a sales and marketing platform that can be further developed and used as a basis for future sales and marketing applications or processes for the company. The benefit of this is clients will have a great scalable platform developed by experts over time and in response to the needs of customers.
To safeguard business continuity
Companies today face an unprecedented number of exposures. Rock star sales and marketing talent can easily be poached by the competition, leaving a business undermined. Subcontracting all or some of your technical marketing operations can significantly reduce the risks a company faces.
For companies using platforms like Communigator, HubSpot, Salesforce and Marketo it can be difficult to make the most of their full capabilities. By using a third party technical marketing provider, companies can access expert technical users who will ensure needs are properly assessed/understood to arrive at the most ideal solution, ensuring the best results are achieved.
To stimulate enterprise growth
Engaging a technical sales and marketing partner can facilitate rapid enterprise growth due to the fast and agile approach that outsourcing solution providers are know for. They have experience in pooling resources and delivering successful sales and marketing plans against tight time and budget constraints. Most importantly, companies will achieve the growth benefits without seeing growth in headcount.
For staffing flexibility
Transfering a number of independent tasks allows a business to maintain financial flexibility, for instance, when there is uncertainty in demand. Companies then have the flexibility to scale up or down as conditions dictate, usually at a much lower cost. Outsourcing provides additional benefit of running your business in full throttle even during off season and holiday months.
To improve customer service
A technical marketing service provider, with skilled expertise and knowhow, will produce quality deliverables faster, increasing turn around time to the customer. Outsourcing will also lead to delighted customers, allowing companies to benefit from increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
To achieve a competitive edge
The ultimate benefit of using a technical marketing organization is that it helps a company gain a competitive edge in the market. Through strategic outsourcing, a company will not only be providing your customers with best-of breed services, it will also increase productivity while managing your in-house resources smartly. This will help you surpass competitors who have not yet realized the benefits of this market access model.
Factors to consider when selecting a life sciences marketing firm
It can be difficult identifying a marketing agency for your business. This is especially the case today with several types of marketing firms, different operational models and specialisations. Some agencies simply offer a consulting service while others like to get directly involved in implementing solutions they recommend.
Doing proper research and only engaging firms that fit your needs is very important. The right marketing firm can turn a failing business around by greatly increasing its customer base. The wrong firm will be a costly mistake. Here are 12 questions to ask a candidate agency to determine its suitability to your requirements:
- Have they ever worked on a project similar to mine?
- How does the process of solution development look like at the agency?
- What technologies do they specialize in?
- How many senior consultants/solution developers do they have?
- What is the communication process like?
- What is the role of the client?
- Who are their previous customers and how satisfied are they?
- What is the level of quality to expect from the agency?
- What are the security measures in place?
- Do they offer a migration plan?
- How much would it cost and what does the price cover?
- What is the estimated length of the project?
Project life cycle of a life sciences technical marketing agency
The pace at which technical fields change varies from sector to sector (slow in pharma, fast moving in food/cosmetics) and this has a bearing on the way technical marketing agencies go about their work. So compared with traditional advertising agencies, technical agencies’ work have to be flexible in keeping with differing consumer behaviours of their clients. It’s crazy, dynamic and innovative at the same time!
A brief review of a typical project workflow at our agency is outlined below:
1. Project initiation – defining client needs
The first stage is all about getting the project started off. During this stage, the agency and client teams agree to work together. The goal here is to define the project’s scope and agree on what needs to be done and achieved. It is during this stage that the project’s stake holders will be identified and brought on board. The activities typically conducted during this phase are:
The things we typically focus during project initiation include:
- Defining the project charter – the project’s vision, objective and goals
- Identifying the project scope and deliverables
- Undertaking the feasibility study – clarifying the primary problem and possible solution
- Ascertaining high-level cost and benefits i.e a business case of the solution
- Figuring out the project’s key stakeholders – the main people the project affects
2. Project planning – prescribing what needs to be done, how and when
The next thing we do is prepare the project’s plan. This is without doubt the most important aspect of the engagement. If a plan is not done correctly it can easily wreck chances of delivering the project on time and budget. So we aim to create a well-thought through roadmap to be followed during the rest of the project.
During the planning phase we will be aiming to establish exactly how we’ll be performing the project: the job to be done, how we will do it, when we will do it as well as indicators of success.
The things we typically focus during project planning include:
- Creating a project plan – spelling out the phases, activities and constraints, as well as a project activity schedule.
- Creating other plans – budget and cost estimates, including with allocations across activities; mechanisms for managing resources, quality assurance and communications
- Creating a statement of work scope, outlining the parameters of the project
3. Project execution – making the project happen
This is the stage when we finally get to execute on clients’ projects. We aim to bring our and clients’ resources together, agree on ground rules, and get to work. During this stage, there is a real shift in emphasis – from just talking about a project and creating documentation to actually making things. We will be spending a fair amount of time in meetings and reviews to ensure the project on track.
During this phase, we pay extra attention on the following issues:
- Team Leadership – to ensure we deliver on our commitments
- Project Tasks – to clearly define what needs to be done
- Project Clarity – regular briefings to ensure the team understand the tasks before them
- Client Management – working with the client to ensure deliverables are acceptable
- Communications – ensuring clients are regularly updated on the progress of the project
4. Project monitoring – keeping the project on track
The monitoring and control step is an ongoing process once the project is flagged. It aims to oversee all the tasks and metrics and ensure that the project is within scope, on time, on budget and proceeds with minimal risk of failure. During this process, we will be comparing actual performance with planned performance and taking corrective action to arrive at the desired outcome should significant variances be found. We will therefore be collecting data to track progress and examining options to pivot the project if necessary.
The things we typically track during project monitoring include:
- Cost & time management metrics
- Deliverables indicators to ensure they meet the defined acceptance criteria
- Risk management
- User acceptance testing
- Change management and project implementation metrics to ensure client’s happy with necessary changes
5. Project closure – ending a project
This is the final phase of the project – the client’s project can been completed and our job as your marketing consultants is done. This does not however, mean the project is closed off. So we will have a project review – to discuss the strengths and weaknesses or the project and team, what went wrong and what didn’t, and how to improve in the future.
The key issues we focus on during project closing include:
- Performance analysis – assessing how well the project was managed, and whether the initial cost estimates and benefits were accurate; unforeseen risks and any other issues that arose and how well they were all managed.
- Team analysis – how well assigned tasks were carried out; whether team members were accountable and inter-team communication.
- Project closure –signing off contracts and handing over all the necessary project documents to clients or suppliers. Any supplier contracts will also be closed off during this stage.
- Post-Implementation review
Project implementation roles at a technical marketing agency
1. Business development
The business development team is responsible for identifying sales leads, pitching our services to new clients and maintaining a good working relationship with new contacts.
2. Account management
Account managers are responsible for the management of customer accounts. Their role is to provide customer relationship management, acting as a first point of contact for customers with regards to any queries, complaints or purchases.
3. Content and copywriting
The content and copywriting team are responsible for producing the promotional, informative and persuasive text used in marketing collateral; on the web and print. Being the creative juice at our agency, they will be the ones to come up with ideas for textual content, liaising with clients and the digital marketing team, researching, writing copy and proof reading.
4. Digital marketing
The digital marketing team implements digital marketing; including improving content visibility in search engine results, as well as overseeing all aspects of online marketing plans for our clients. They will plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and in conjunction with content and copy writer, design, maintain and supply online content.
5. Solutions architects
The solutions architect team design, install, test and maintain client programs, tools and software and work to ensure that they meet client requirements. They will be undertaking programming, creating websites and apps as agreed.
6. Accounts and Business Support
The accounts team provides support to the agency by preparing and examining financial records, handling the agency’s transactions.
How clients can ensure successful clients – agency engagements
Below are some practical steps that can help agencies and clients work better together.
1. Undertake thorough due diligence
Engaging a marketing agency can be a time consuming process, requiring a working knowledge of a whole range of functional specializations. A good agency will have the knowledge and experience required to take your project from conception all the way through to completion. So before signing up any agency, it is important to do your research. Contact people who have previously worked with the agency or agencies you are looking at to give you as much information as possible. How were they in the day to day working? Did they keep the project to budget and time? Was the finished result to a high quality?
2. Clarify deliverables early one
After you find the ideal agency, the next step is to agree on scope and deliverables. Be sure of what all stakeholders want and their expectations. Start early to define what is required.
3. Initiate the project formally
After you’ve thoroughly vetted the agency and defined deliverables, the next thing is to get the project started. Here, the key thing is to ensure that the project is formally launched and that everyone understands its importance. More notably, each member of the agency’s team who is working on the project should be on board and clear on the importance of executing the project with expertise and efficiency.
4. Manage the project closely
The ultimate goal of project management is to perform and complete projects successfully – on time, under budget and within expectations. Your great effort to reach successful project delivery should be focused on solving key delivery management issues such as risks, unexpected changes, poor communications, and delays. Essentially, you must be an expert in leadership, communication, and organizational skills.
Whether you have worked with hundreds of agencies or you’re just considering your first engagement, I hope that the aforementioned discussion has provided insight from an agency’s perspective about how best clients and agencies can best work together. Please feel free to provide feedback or any suggestions of your own in the comments below.