Market Focus: Bioscientists
A Market Worth Further Analysis
Just as scientific research is an exacting process, so is selling to scientists. Even when you narrow the field to bioscientists—scientists who study living organisms—the sector can be further defined into several categories:
• government, academia or private industry;
• title, such as lab technician, researcher and university department head; and
• field of study, such as microbiology, zoology, ecology and biochemistry.
Key to selling to bioscientists is knowing these details and understanding how they influence the products and services needed, budgets, purchasing authority and buying habits.
But reaching out to this market doesn’t require a microscope for every marketing activity. Some common traits exist to help you create successful direct response campaigns without the need for one-to-one marketing.
The Overall Market
According to Alexander Grimwade, publisher of The Scientist, a journal that covers news and issues of interest to life scientists, the life science research market numbers about 400,000 professionals.
By B-to-C standards, this is a niche market. But when you consider that the spending power of this market is roughly $60 billion annually, Grimwade estimates, it’s a business sector with tremendous purchasing needs.
Of this $60 billion, $22 billion is government money dedicated to grants and research projects, says Grimwade.
As this financial breakdown suggests, almost half of all biological scientists in the United States held federal, state or local government positions in 2002, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. The remainder were employed by scientific research and testing laboratories, the pharmaceutical and medicine-manufacturing industry, hospitals, or colleges and universities.
This market is comprised of people who spend a tremendous amount of time and money on education and their careers, says Pam Mulligan, vice president of list management at MKTG Services, which manages The Scientist files. Many hold doctorate degrees.
With higher education levels come high average salaries. U.S. Department of Labor statistics for 2002 show that bioscientists working for the government earned a median annual income between $55,000 and $90,000. In the private sector, bioscientists earned median annual incomes between $48,000 and $64,000. In the top echelons of this field, bioscientists earn average annual incomes in excess of $100,000.
Narrow the Field
This market is small but diverse. There are well-defined differences between numerous fields of life science, says Mulligan. Pharmacology and drug discovery, for example, are not the same and should be treated as distinct segments. Scientists studying different organisms require information, products and technologies specifically created for their area of research.
This makes it important for list sources to be selectable by area of study. In addition, job title also is a strong variable to use to refine a bioscience list. Since job function can greatly affect the prospect’s purchasing authority and needs, you want to pull the exact titles that fit your products.
Steve Ernst, editor of BioScience Technology, a magazine that details new products, tools and techniques in the field of life science, explains that scientists who work on grant-funded projects have very specific product needs on a specific timeline; this makes it hard to predict the buying patterns of these prospects. Plus, grant-funded scientists are very price sensitive, given that their grant money is a set amount and that they might not be able to secure additional funding.
Scientists at large biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, can be treated more like regular B-to-B prospects, where drip marketing and a communication stream keeps marketers current on their audience’s research activities and priorities.
A continuing trend reported by the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that bioscientists increasingly are working in team environments, which means more group decisions on purchasing; this trend suggests that marketers might do well with promotions that allow recipients to share comprehensive information with team members.
Primary and Secondary Offers
Bioscientists’ spending, says Grimwade, follows three paths:
1. Supporting their own research, which includes lab equipment and services, books and publications, and travel.
2. Administrative and business interests, which involves all typical business expenses, even for scientists who work at universities.
3. Personal needs, which offer considerable opportunity, since these individuals command wealth due to their advanced education and careers, which are similar to those of doctors; scientists will continue to invest in their education with books, journals, seminars, software and more.
Mulligan reports that list usage shows the best-performing offers to this market are those for continuing education, seminars, books, association memberships and products like lab coats and testing equipment.
Bill Kamberis, account executive at MeritDirect, agrees, adding that usage history on the Biotechnology Professionals Network file shows continuations from lab equipment companies, seminar firms, test and measurement solutions companies, and safety equipment businesses.
Offers to business executives work well to scientist association member lists, Kamberis adds. This secondary market includes offers for standard business supplies, such as software, computers, printers and more, says Mulligan.
Keep in mind, says Ernst, that scientists who work for the government or universities might not make general business supplies purchasing decisions.
Plan Out Your Approach
“Our readership studies indicate that technology is very important to the work this market does,” Ernst explains. Scientists always are looking for the best equipment and information solutions available to support their research goals.
Grimwade concurs, noting that for this reason, offers that are informational in nature work best in this market. And while highly promotional phrasing can be viewed as circumspect, Grimwade advises marketers to remember that scientists are regular consumers, too; they respond to a good deal just like the next person.
Since scientists are well educated and are used to absorbing vast quantities of information in their daily work, this market likes to read. Long copy will not bother this audience, Grimwade says, provided the content is targeted to the recipient’s interests.
Mulligan offers an interesting fact of interest to marketers who want to sell their products and services globally: English is the primary language of bioscientists worldwide, so all information products are written in English and all products and services are promoted in English.
E-mail Tops the Channels
Direct mail, space advertising in journals, banner ads and search engine listings are all viable methods for communicating with scientists. But none offer versatility at a low cost as well as e-mail does.
When you recognize that many scientists are involved in academia and the government, it makes sense that they were some of the early adopters and users of Internet technology and e-mail, Grimwade points out. Thus, they are very receptive to e-mail communication.
In fact, he says, about one third of those professionals who sign up to receive The Scientist via the publication’s Web site also agree to receive promotional e-mail from the organization.
But how well does this channel perform? Grimwade reports that he has seen renters of his firm’s e-mail list pull response rates of 5 percent to 8 percent, as well as witnessed e-mail campaigns pay for themselves in two to three hours, reaching profitability in 24 hours.
At MKTG Services, list renters have conducted second and third e-mail campaigns right after the first, says Mulligan. And, she points out, the size of The Scientist’s e-mail file is double that of its postal list. Since the audience doesn’t change much—this is not a profession you jump in and out of—marketers easily can negotiate remail rates and hit the same prospects, says Mulligan.
Kamberis proclaims, “This is one market that can make e-mail work for acquisition.”