B2B Marketing Thought Leadership: James Smith on Marketing in Life Sciences

Written by Fes Askari

Apr 6 2018

In this video interview series, we speak to marketing thought leaders across a number of industries to find out how marketing is changing in their space. 

Here, we speak to James Smith, Director of Strategic Account Marketing at Envigo, to find out how Envigo are responding to marketing changes, and where marketing in Life Sciences may be heading next.

Interview Transcript

Who are you, and what do you do?

Envigo are a contract research organisation and a supplier of research models and services. We help leading drug developers ensure that their products are fit for human trials. So we do pre-clinical or non-clinical safety work and safety assessment; that is a very large part of our business. That allows Envigo customers to run human clinical trials, which has an impact on the medicines that we all take each and every day. We are located across 50 sites across 16 countries.

Over the last 5 years have you seen much of a shift/change in the way your buyer’s purchase?

It used to be the analogy that the science [itself] sells, so, it was a shock for culture that sales were even deemed necessary. The thinking in the past, was along the lines of “well we don’t really need sales people”. So it has been a shift to have that element. Then to plug in marketing in at the back end, which is seen as an even more extravagant luxury to have in the marketplace, has been another great shift. [So over the last five years], Envigo essentially needed to start to carve something [marketing and sales processes] out.

I’m lucky enough to be in a role now where I’ve carved out a strategic account marketing team... We know who we want to go after, we know what we want to do from an ideal customer profile; setting that direction is something in my role that's really exciting, that change of focus.

What we were seeing [in the past], was very much that ‘scientist-to-scientist’ would lead the sale. But as [a result of] more and more scrutiny from our customers, especially in our larger customers, this has changed; procurement powers are one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen over the last five years. They [our customers] want to ensure that they are getting strategic deals with long-term value and leading the conversation. Whereas before, the scientists would be the lead [on the sale]. Today, our customers are very much more that economic buyer, very much entrenched with getting value to the business. And with those companies that have got a long pipeline (which to us is an attractive customer) they want to be purchasing in bulk - they want that strategic partnership, and they don’t want to necessarily be distracted and have a heavy cost on trying to place individual studies.

So in the last five years I think the focus has moved from the science [itself] ‘leading the sale’, to procurement being, if not the lead, but a very strong pressure on that sales cycle. Whereas over the last twelve years, I’ve seen such a dramatic change in terms of marketing in some of the techniques we are using, and some of the sophistication that we’ve now got. And I’m lucky enough to be in a role now where I’ve carved out a strategic account marketing team, who are starting to create a world of looking at our big fish, rather than chasing all the little fish. We know who we want to go after, we know what we want to do from an ideal customer profile; setting that direction is something in my role that's really exciting, that change of focus.

Related: What is Account-Based Marketing?

How have you responded to these changes as an organisation?

It’s around putting discreet focus onto that procurement element. It’s ring-fencing them [our targets], knowing that they’re in the decision making unit, and making provisions for those decision makers to answer their questions. It's about looking at it [marketing] in a way by which we've got assets that help them [our customers] understand total cost of ownership rather than just single buying relationships. 

[We are] very much aligning sales and marketing to understand the decision making unit as a whole rather than to the specialities that we probably would have done five, ten years ago.

[One way of achieving this is that] we bring our procurement people to the meetings with our strategic partners, alongside pricing. And [as a result] those two are far more involved, we put them forefront of our discussions because then they [our customers] get the answers that they need along with the scientific insight. [We are] very much aligning sales and marketing to understand the decision making unit as a whole; rather than to the specialities that we probably would have done five, ten years ago.

What industry specific sales and marketing challenges are you seeing?

Envigo as a brand is two years old. But the brand itself is trying to be positioned by which we are a credible alternative to some of the players with a bigger footprint. And so to do that we did quite a bit of research in the background to understand what differentiation could and should look like in terms of our customer’s wants and desires.

And so the brand is approachable. We make sure we give a more personalised experience from the sale right through to the operational output and then to the aftersale. So trying to align our brand as approachable - I’m going to use the corny phrase, “big enough to cope, small enough to care”. Glocal, whatever you want to call it, we sit in that realm. We find or we think, that our scientists are more personable than the competition. They are more accessible, they can be more flexible because of our size. We can have that agility, whereas some of our larger competitors may be a little bit more constrained by their corporate structures or their processes, so they have to be more regimented.

In your opinion, what sales and marketing tactics do you see delivering highest value for your organisation over the next 12 months?

The position I now have, is strategic account marketing. It’s the ABM model, but we very much need an inbound model to support that. We still need a funnel, we still need to find the prospects of tomorrow and we need to identify digital body language. We need to understand what their pain points are from a persona perspective. We need to understand the platforms and the content that they use, to be able to communicate to them with that brand personality; [highlighting] that we understand them as a person, we understand their role and we understand the challenges that they are going to have. 

The position I now have, is strategic account marketing. It’s the ABM model, but we very much need an inbound model to support that. We still need a funnel, we still need to find the prospects of tomorrow and we need to identify digital body language. We need to understand what their pain points are from a persona perspective. 

The Envigo brand has to, hand-in-hand with that person, undertake a game of snakes and ladders as you will. [Understanding] that you’ll go up two spaces - and we are there to catch you if you go down the ladder. Because maybe the compound has a difficulty, and we need to find some extra information or data on that. But we’ve got the skills and expertise to do that. We’re agile enough and flexible enough to then help them to the next level, where the compound doesn’t fail.

So understanding that whole development journey and then being able to put content out there that matches those pain points; what’s keeping those people up at night. Is it budget? Is it if you get negative readings? Does that mean the end of your compound? And that could mean someone's career. But just understanding that so we are not over-marketing we’re not messaging them, we’re not selling to them when it’s the wrong time to do so. So understanding personas, understanding buyer journeys and understanding that whole front-to-end buyer process helps us align what we need to do as a company to talk to them. 

The strategic account side is very much around - not always our biggest customer on paper - but it could be that they [that customer] have the potential to be the biggest customer, or a partner, or a strategic partner. And we need to step towards understanding what that looks like; a personalised marketing plan for each company. Inbound is filling the funnel but on the other end we’re looking at marketing plans for one [individuals] - and everything in between.

Understanding personas, understanding buyer journeys and understanding that whole front-to-end buyer process, helps us align what we need to do as a company to talk to them [our customers]. 

Getting the balance right, putting our budgets where they need to go, understanding if its a new shiny technique, or it’s actually going to work - they’re the challenges we’re currently facing in the marketing department. All with their own benefit, all with their own learnings - because you can get distracted by software, you can distracted by techniques. And you really sometimes have to hone down on one or two, to do a few things simply and do them well.

Related: 5 Account-Based Marketing Challenges (And How To Solve Them)

How has technology impacted the way you go to market?

I suppose I’m going to come back with a cliché of the big data scenario. Now I’m not saying we have big data processes and things, but with data you gain a robust level of decision making. It takes away the assumptive element of any decision that’s made. You can base it on - why should we be looking at these channels, more than these channels from a marketing perspective. Why should we be investing less in events and more on sponsored LinkedIn InMail and all the other great display networks, and all those attractive platforms that we get sold everyday.

With data you can start to see patterns, you can see a synergy. You can see insights that would have been siloed before - where there’s no shared information from sales. Now I can go into HubSpot and see some backend reports that give me an insight into where we are making some in-roads with certain campaigns. 

I think that the way that we utilise our CRM, that link to marketing automation platforms, and then link out to APIs for other channels that we use; for event registrations or webinar registrations, has changed. With that data you can then start to see patterns, you can see a synergy. You can see insights that would have been siloed before - where there’s no shared information from sales. Now I can go into HubSpot and see some backend reports that give me an insight into where we are making some in-roads with certain campaigns. 

Compared to with before, we would act on something, then push it out, fingers crossed. Then we'd look to sales, and if they’re happy, everybody's happy. Whereas now it’s about connecting the dots. I think for marketing and sales alignment, theoretically, joining the dots is only going to bring benefits.

I think where we are as a company, is that we are starting to join some of those dots and come up with practical outcomes that lead us to cost reduction, or maybe increased volume as an output, or cost-per-acquisition being reduced; because we know this channel works better than another one. Or third-party advertising online - it’s so full for our industry and so distracting that we were seeing a decline in that type of channel. Whereas I can go to HubSpot, and now I can start to see that social selling and social platforms, and investment in that area is proving to be far more fruitful; with higher footfall, with higher conversion rates. It’s kind of leading direction, so going back to the question; data is key and if you haven’t got the data joined up it’s dangerous because you can start to analyse it in its own silo. But if you start to put those things together it creates a picture.

We are certainly on our path to that, it’s very exciting to see that but i think it’s fundamental now. Gone are the days where it was 100% gut feel of a marketing guy or a sales person - it needs to be robustly based on data. 

I can go to HubSpot and now I can start to see that social selling and social platforms and investment in that area is proving to be far more fruitful; with higher footfall, with higher conversion rates... Data is key and if you haven’t got the data joined up it’s dangerous because you can start to analyse it in its own silo. But if you start putting those things together it creates a picture.

What are you looking forward to most this year (personal and work related)?

I’m excited to see where, and what we can create with the strategic account marketing team, which is then joined up with the other elements of marketing - the digital brand, and also our field marketing team that looks toward strategic messaging and proposition. And tying them all together into a more cohesive marketing department, within a far more cohesive commercial department. Whereas sales may have been seen to be ‘the enemy’, they are now our friends and they can see the benefits of joining up with marketing. [Marketing] is not just highlighters, lattes and bean bags. We can certainly bring more value to the discussion, they [sales] can see the data we can generate, they can see that we are viewing and trying to help hit the bottom-line not just - ‘that’s a pretty picture’. 

We’ve got digital looking to be not just a functionality, but a differentiator.

So if we can get to there by the end of the year - I’ve got inbound working through one element of the department, which a colleague of mine is running. We’ve got digital looking to be not just a functionality, but a differentiator. We can be in a position where our audience understands our brand again far better; what we do and why we do it. And then on the other end, the strategic accounts, putting all those other bits together, putting together a proposition and winning business based on a joined-up approach rather than a siloed, pre-commercial team approach.

B2B Marketing Zone