Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Update on crappy graphs

Seth Godin, one of my favorite writers, essentially echoed my post from a few days back about crappy graphs in marketing material.

Check it out! Click Here

Its seems bad graphs are everywhere!  Please dont use them, tell your marketing team they make you look bad too.

Holiday Short Blog

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Search Engines on Life Science Websites

For the past  6 months, I have been building my new website gatcat.com.  During that process, I have surfed and analyzed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Life Science Vendors' websites looking for product information.  Some are great, but the sad truth is most are ridiculously bad.  As a part of this column, I plan to review some specific sites on a regular basis and to try and offer some suggestions for those looking to improve things.

For this article, I want to focus on your internal search engine.  The internal search engine is a critical tool for your company and you as a sales person.  Why?  Because when you get a scientist to your website, you want them to easily find the right product for the right experiment. The one you just worked so hard to tell them a story about.

Its such a simple tool.  You might get a minute or less of our attention span at a conference or in the lab.  If you can say, "We have a great deal going on this kit, just go to our website and type this in the search box."  Then you have a good chance that a week or month later, I might do so.

It must work though!  It must return exactly the results needed to go to the product page or sale information.

So I challenge you, stop reading this article and go to your companies' website.  Search for 5 products you sell, not the exact product name of course. Search like a customer, the way you do on Amazon.com or other product websites. Better still, ask a colleague or your significant other to perform the same search.

Are the returned results correct?  Is it easy to figure out what is returned?  Is there way to much clutter to easily see where to click through to the product?

If not, change it.  You are losing business. The vast majority of sites have searched fail this test.

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Offers from Life Science Companies

Yesterday a rep came through the lab from a rather large antibody company. I was pretty surprised since campus was closed and, the lab was a ghost town (its Christmas Week after all).  We chatted for a bit about this and that, which was good start.  Friendly, good story about working through the holidays when he was in the lab. I'm engaged.

The deal his company is running is a 4 for the price of 3 on antibodies from now until the New Year. I almost laughed in his face.  Seriously? What marketing person drew that idea up. As far as I know, I have never bought 4 antibodies at one time.  I seriously doubt many life scientists have. In fact, after he left, I looked through our online ordering system and only once in our lab's history has anyone ordered 4 antibodies at one time. ONCE. 

Opportunity lost. Know your customer.  Sure there are some labs that do a lot of FACS and IFA that might buy multiple antibodies at once.  The vast majority of us buy 3-4 a year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scientists believe they are changing the world. Are you listening?

At one of my talks recently, the head of marketing for a major Life Science Company asked me in the most serious of tones, "What do scientists do for fun?"  I've gotten similar questions in the past, so it is clear to me that you might not know.

Scientists are like everyone else. Despite what the movies tell you, we are normal people with normal lives.  We play soccer, drink beer, take the kids on vacation, and play fantasy football.  I play in rock band and my best lab mate is married to an actress.  We are just like you.....

...the only difference is there is no one in our lives that can or wants to understand what we do for a living.  

This includes for the most part our colleagues and co-workers and you Mr. Rep.

Neither my mom or my wife could tell you one thing I have researched and why it is important.  It could be that they don't love me, but I doubt it.  What we work on is really difficult to understand. Each scientist even the first year graduate student or technician is arguably the world expert in their tiny realm.  The ideas we struggle with are too elusive to even make a textbook.

You can exploit this to sell me products.  We want to believe you care.  If you can show us you do, we will buy your products and tell our friends how great it is.

We are buying you, not your kit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


No reason to belabor the point. Take a walk through any lab in world and find me 5 scientists that have read an article directly from the pages of a bound Scientific Journal in the last week, month, year, or ever for that matter.

There is now way your cost per lead from a print ad can justify what you spent, but the model you hired to be in it sure looks fine. It is your hard earned marketing dollars that are lining their pockets to print journals that sit on shelves in libraries unvisited by scientists.

Scientists do read a lot of journal articles, though. I can't argue that point. I read thousands of them myself after I downloaded the pdfs from Journal's websites.

I know you don't want to believe me... you just know I'm wrong... but admit it to yourself... you know I'm right.

Repeat after me - PRINT IS DEAD!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Female Models Selling Flow Cytometers - I Love America!

Thanks Applied Biosyst... errr, Invitrog.....uhhhh.....Life Technologies! You provided the funniest moment of ASCB 2009.

For those that did attend this year's ASCB in San Diego and those that didn't make it into the exhibit all on Sunday, Applied Biosystems debuted its new acoustic flow cytometer, the Attune Acoustic Focusing Cytometer. I suppose this is a major break through in the world of flow cytometery. You can learn more about it here. Or you can read all the "press releases" about it on sites like Genome Web. I have no idea whether it is a break through or not. The best part about the whole thing was the "intrigue" in their booth on Sunday.

Let me paint the scene for you...... In the far back corner of the Exhibit Hall, there was a gigantic LED TV screen like you might see in Vegas or in Times Square with words like CHAOS and ORDER flowing across it. This thing is probably two stories tall and 20 yards wide. The booth is filled with exactly nothing except 5 white leather stools and long white satin drapes hanging from the ceiling. The real eye popper was the troop of absolutely BEAUTIFUL people in white shirts and pants. Now, I've been to a few science conferences in my day and, I'm here to tell you these were not the usual reps and scientists. Models in no uncertain terms were in the house.

Of course, they got me, along with every other guy in the building. When I entered the club... errr booth, I met two lovely blond women bearing name tags that listed To Be Determined as the company. Ok now Im hooked. So I asked one of the models what they were selling, she replied she couldn't tell me and then asked me if I wanted to join them for a reception with free cocktails and food to hear about their product. I heard, "Do you wanna have a drink with me?" Of course! Sign me up!

With that I got a R.S.V.P. to their party at the Hilton next door and they got my "email".

The party turned out to be a full on press release for the cytometer including a latin band, camera crews, Life Technologies logo flashing across the wall, sushi, liquor bar, and of course one lonely flow cytometer sitting on stage surrounded by Invitrog... Life Technologies folks all cooing to one another. I felt like Steve Jobs had just introduced the iphone. However, not one person even asked who I was or whether I was interested in a flow cytometer. At least the models were still around to look at. Oh yeah I did meet a few scientists that were completely baffled by the whole affair, yet appreciate of the free drinks none the less. One was a physicist that was extremely curious about what exactly flow even is!

Thank you Life Technologies for the booze, sushi, and models. Good luck with the flow cytometer!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Please no crappy graphs!

Almost every piece of product literature I picked up at the American Society for Cell Biology Meeting this year has a graph on it. Inevitably, the graph shows how much better the product performed against "random competitor A and B's" product. Not one of them has error bars.

Hello, in case you didn't notice? I'm a scientist. Every graph in every science paper has error bars because that means the scientists performed the experiment enough times to achieve statistical significance.

Life Science Marketers - you are selling products to scientists, go down to the basement where they are building new products and ask them why they buy the product vs. your competition.

Answers may include

1. My buddy in another lab/company told me it works great.

2. I saw it in a manuscript that other scientists were successfully using the product for my...experiment, cell line, organism, technique, gene, etc.

3. I talked with a scientist at a meeting/seminar about the product and they said it worked.

I seriously doubt the graph with no error bars will make the list.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Myth #1 - The Lab Manager

Note: this article is intended for those selling lab consumables to life scientists; I'll get to capital equipment another day

At many of my talks to Life Science Marketers, I have tried to dispel the myth of the lab manager. It goes something like this....

You (the rep) walk into the lab and ask, "What lab is this?" The scientists all look up and tell you the lab name, but few look you in the eye. You then ask for the "lab manager". Sometimes you were even clever enough to figure out the lab manager's name beforehand. Every scientist in the lab breathes a sigh of relief, points you to the lab manager, or the lab manager's desk/office, or sometimes an empty desk that last quarter's rotation student vacated for greener pastures. You then leave some fliers/literature/catalog/candy, or you talk with the lab manager and ask dumb questions (At the bottom, you can read my list of dumb questions to ask life scientists). Then you move on to the next lab glad to be out of there without getting radioactivity all over your shoes. Heck, perhaps even you make a sale or two.

Here's the opportunity you missed. Those scientists that tried so hard to ignore you, they are the ones that use your products as well as your competitors' products. They are struggling to isolate proteins, clone genes, create knockout mice, silence genes, get Western blots to work, etc. Many of them are quite desperate for a better kit, a better probe, or just some help. Here's the strange thing, most of them see your products as a necessary evil, not a shining light. That makes you an even less desirable person to talk with.

Most important - The postdocs, grad students, and technicians use your products therefore they buy your products either directly with a credit card or indirectly through the lab manager. Never forget that!

What should you do? Simple, talk to the scientists. Give them value, give them help, give them free kits, take them out for beer! Gain their trust and they will buy your products.

Furthermore, at least in the US, many of the scientists you see in the labs are not native English speakers. Imagine what it would feel like to be working in a foreign country and have someone you have never seen in different clothes (tie, business suit) walk into the lab and start asking you questions. Hint - Learn a little Chinese

Rusty's list of dumb questions to ask life scientists (and lab managers) and why they are dumb

1. Does your lab do...? (cell culture,cloning, pcr, mouse work, pipeting, western blotting)
Here's a clue modern life science laboratories do every conceivable type of experiment all the time. Just because, we are located in a Biochemistry Department doesn't mean we only do Biochemistry. Furthermore, the lab manager has no clue that Bob the Post-Doc is planning on isolating a new protein in a week or that Cindy the graduate student can't get her Western blots working.

2. Where do you buy your...? The answer tells you nothing. Either we buy it from your company or the competition. 85 percent of the time, we just use whatever someone else in the lab bought 3 years ago.

3. How much are you paying...? Since the lab manager or scientist you are talking with likely didn't purchase 85% of the consumables in the lab, they don't have a clue. Furthermore, no scientist except the PI cares about a 10% savings on a kit. They just want it to work, give consistent results, and for the guy in the bench next to them to stop taking the last widget and not order more.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Welcome to How to Sell to Scientists

Welcome! If you're reading this you want to know to more about how to sell and market products to scientists. I created this blog to write about the things I've learned by watching you all try to sell me kits, reagents, equipment, animals, and services for the last 17 years and about the techniques I've learned running my websites Scientist Solutions.com and the soon to be laucnhed Gatcat.com.

Many of you, like me, spent some time in the lab either as an undergrad, a technician, a graduate student, and beyond. Then one day you woke up and said to yourself, "Lab work kinda sucks, I need to get a job and a life." Now you find yourself as a salesperson for Life Sciences Product Vendor, or something to that effect, and suddenly You are that person wandering through the labs "looking for the lab manager", trying to meet the PI, or just trying to bribe anyone to actually talk to you with some doughnuts and pizza.

Ask yourself (and be honest)

"Did that work on me?"

"Did I ever buy anything because of a pizza party?"

"Did I really talk to vendors at MegaConferences or just try to win the ipods and get T-shirts?"

I bet the answer is you bought the products that the post-doc next to you or your buddy in another lab was using or, you bought the product described in the methods section of your competitors' recent manuscript (the one that scooped you).

So now ask yourself as a salesperson, why would a scientist buy this kit, antibody, reagent, microscope? What would FORCE me to buy it if I was still in the lab?

Check back for more ideas regularly and of course comment all you like. I have thick skin after all those paper rejections and grant denials.