Friday, February 26, 2010

My new motivator

 I have a new sign on the wall behind my computer that says

Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?

 Can't believe how much it helps. Print one for yourself!

All credit to 'The 4 hour Work Week' by Tim Ferris for the above quote and the important concept behind it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scientists are immune to advertising

Question everything, trust no one is the rule scientists live by.

Scientists by nature are the most skeptical people on the planet.  Its our job to be that way!

How does this affect you? Check this out.

I recently asked a group of academic scientists on simple question. 

"What information do you rely on to make a purchasing decision on reagents, equipment, consumables, etc?"

Here is a summary of the results (I distilled the responses to these simple methods)

94% - Word of mouth (labmates, PIs, collaborators, blogs, forums, etc)

76% - Materials and Methods or publication data

53% - Free sample or in lab trial for equipment

29% - Information on company websites

05% -  Advertising in magazines, email, online, and at conferences

These numbers pretty much mirror the results of a recent study for all advertising shown pictorially in Marta Kagan's brilliant two-part slideshow called What the F**K is Social Media? You can watch both slideshows by following this link.   Summary - 78% trust peers 14% trust advertising

Of the top two results, the first one (Word of Mouth) you can do some thing about; the second takes  good products (i.e., not marketing or selling)

So what can you do to spread your product information by word of mouth positively?

Pick a cause that Scientists Champion and loudly publicly support it.

Example - Lobby Congress to spend more on Research

Another possibility - Open Source Publication

Scientists will begin to associate your company with positive action in their best interest not some evil creature bent on bending them over for a buck.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Generating leads at a scientific conference

A friend of mine recently complained that her company was upset with her because she didn't generate enough leads at a major scientific conference held here in San Diego.  Her company had spent "10s of thousands of dollars" for a large booth display, print materials, and travel expenses. She's pretty outgoing and is an experienced saleswoman, so I don't believe it was she was shy or not good at her job. 

So why the lack of leads?

Do scientists at the meeting not need her products?

Was her rival giving away more ipods? Better gift bags?

In short her answer was no, as far as she knew their house was in order.

So, I asked what she did at the conference. The displays were setup along side the scientific poster presentations as usual and she talked with scientists that walked by or into the booth just like all the other sales staff for hundreds of other companies.  RED FLAG!

Scientists for the most part are extremely shy and guarded.  Sure there are outgoing ones that stand out in your mind, who ask questions and engage salespeople.  Those are the ones that know what they want!  Its the shy ones, the scientists at their first conference, nervous about presenting their work, speaking in English, speaking intelligently, worried about finding a postdoc position, or THEIR BROKEN EXPERIMENTS that you want to engage.

The question is how?  They are not the type to waltz into your booth or come to your cocktail hour (if so they are the one in corner sipping a coke). 

My answer as always is HELP THEM!  Seek them out, leave the friendly confines of your booth and you will start to see them all over the conference.  Many of them came to the conference alone from all over the globe.  They need you and you need them. 

I'll save my actual suggestions for my friend for another day, she's trying them out at her next big conference.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life Science Spam is Out of Control- Please Stop!

Yesterday I returned to work from vacation and like everybody else in the world the first thing I did was check my email.  228 new emails!  Man, I'm popular! 

Here's the breakdown

3 "real" emails - the relevant stuff that drives my science

24 - University or Department emails (minor spam)

17 - posts/replies to answer

39 - random spam (Dear Sir. Im from insert African country...)

145 - Scientific Product Spam emails

That is absolutely out of control.  There were six from one company all advertising different products.  I felt like Tom Cruise in Minority Report when he's running through the mall, "Do you need a new Western blot apparatus John Anderton?"

Regardless, this cannot be the best way to reach scientists to tell them about your products.  In fact it was infuriating! 

I'm considering making a list of the rampant spammers and posting a daily count.  You are wasting my time and taxpayers dollars as I spend time deleting them.  I can only imagine every scientist at every university is getting the same spam. 

Some of these companies make billions and have enormous marketing budgets, I know you smart enough to do better than random spam. The whole world of Social Media is out there for Science Companies to take advantage to spread the word about your products.  If you are looking for a Life Science Social Media Primer, read Mary Canady's blog on BioMarketing at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Myth #2 - The PI buys your product

Postdocs, grad students, and technicians use your products not the PI.  This is true whether you sell $400 antibodies or $300,000 microscopes. The PI might pay for it and approve it, but the end users will ultimately get you the sale.

Earlier I wrote about the myth of the lab manager, today I will attempt to dispel the myth of the PI.

Let me give a you a real life example from my lab that happened recently.  We have an extremely talented post-doc Ding Xu that realized we desperately needed a new HPLC to add some critical newly published techniques in our field. HPLCs are not cheap and would probably qualify as a capital purchase for most labs.  At the very least they would garner their own line item in a RO1 grant.  Ding talked about HPLCs incessantly at lab meeting and cornered our PI often to discuss.  He researched HPLCs, contacted companies to bring in demos, and showed the lab and our PI how powerful these new techniques could be.

We ultimately purchased a new HPLC from Biorad, which our PI signed off on, but it was Ding that made the sale for the rep.  The post-doc that actually used the product.

Thus the myth of the PI buying products. In very few incidences will the PI be the linchpin that gets you the sale even for capital products.  Convince the postdocs, grad students, and technicians and you win.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gaining the trust of scientists - Your Job Description is an Entry Point

Do you like your job Mr. Antibody Sales Guy that just rolled by my bench with your 2 for 1 fliers and doughnuts?  Did you know that just sharing that job information might be enough to get you a sale?

A constant theme of this blog is that you the salesperson needs to lend a helping hand to your customers the scientists.  By doing so, you will become a trusted advisor and are much more likely to get sales. 

Laboratory scientists are struggling with larger questions than why their PCR reaction isn't working such as "what am I doing this for?", "is research worth it?", and importantly "what am I going to do when I leave the hallowed halls of academia?" 

For the person in life science sales this is an entry point to gain the trust of a scientist.  On several occasions I have asked sales people passing through the lab how they got their jobs.  I'm especially interested in those that were former bench scientists.  On occasion I hear great stories from individuals that clearly love their job in sales.  Most of the time though my question put them on the defensive and, they begin to back peddle and try to find the lab manager.  (I believe this stems from the massive peer pressure that PIs put on their underlings to follow in their footsteps, which causes those that do leave academia to feel of less worth.)

What they didn't realize was that I was crying out for help!  I am leaving academia.  I don't know what I want to do.  I want to know if selling antibodies to scientists is a good job. 

Now you're asking, "Rusty, how in the world does describing my job to a scientist get me more sales?"

My answer is become the trusted advisor.  That is your opportunity to get to know your potential client in an extremely intimate way.  If you can do that, they will lead you to the decision makers, they will suggest your company's products to their peers when a need arises, and they will say good things about your brand to other scientists.  All those things equal more sales.

Here's today's challenge - Come up with a 30 second elevator pitch to get a scientist talking to you about your job.  Practice it in the mirror, run it by some scientists in your company, and then try it out on some random scientists.  I bet it works like a charm.

Im going back to my Western blot for the third time this week. Wish I had some quality antibodies!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why Life Technologies is Sponsoring the Olympics on San Diego Television

A few days back I wrote about seeing a Life Technologies advertisement on television for sponsoring local coverage of the Olympics here in San Diego.  After some digging today, I think I guessed the why of it. 

Turns out that the Vancouver Winter Olympics will be aired while the AAAS Annual Meeting is held this year in San Diego!  Wow that is some kinda marketing forethought!  Thousands of scientists converging on this city from all over the world anxious to flip on the tele to catch the Olympics seeing Life Technologies Ads!  Now that is branding to the max. Take that Thermo-Fisher.

And you thought you knew how to sell to scientists!

 I wonder if they will roll out the models again.