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What's the best way to sell to Scientists?

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Laura Haldane

x min read

Jul 13, 2023

One of the most unique and popular sessions we have at each SAMPS conference is our “Ask the Customer anything” panel, where scientists kindly take time out of their day to give us an insight on how they would like to be marketed to!

At our European meeting in June, Andy Bertera from SAMPS and the audience had the privilege of speaking to Dr. Ed Roberts, Amy Shergold and Dr. Chiara Perillo from The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, Scotland. Thankfully the guys at Altitude Marketing filmed the entire thing, so we're able to bring you a summary of some of the questions and what we learned!

How do you prefer to hear about new products and technologies? 

  • Twitter!!
  • Conferences (sponsored talks can be truly thought-provoking. The ones that really stand out are the talks where they’ve built a good network throughout their industry, and showcase data that is relevant and impactful. It’s even more interesting when we are able to recognise labs we know in their network.
  • Seeing updates from our colleagues and scientific networks and the products they are using
  • Our own search on Google or on Pubmed
  • Well written targeted emails

How do you prefer to learn about the details of those new products and technologies? 

We prefer having detailed documentation available on the company's website. We like to understand the product, its workings, and any other pertinent details before we engage with a representative. This way, when we do have a conversation, weI can ask specific, informed questions.

Regarding the format of the information, we tend to favor 'boring' data sheets over slick advertising videos. While the videos might be more engaging to some, we find data sheets more informative and less biased, making them a more valuable resource. The apparent lack of 'spin' in data sheets gives them a sense of credibility, making us more likely to trust the information they contain.

Can you rank the most important aspect in choosing a product?

  • Quality and performance
  • Reputation
  • Can we try it first?
  • Price
  • Supplier’s support
  • Sustainability

How do you determine reputation and quality?

Direct communication with colleagues or other researchers is the most effective way to learn about new products and methods. The experience of others who have used the product or method is invaluable and can save a lot of time and effort in the long run. We can ask about their experiences, get their opinion on the effectiveness of the product, and also get any tips or tricks they might have for using it. This way, we have a better idea of what we’re getting into before we decide to try something new.

How do you like to communicate with suppliers?

It’s typically through emails and phone calls. Having a direct line of communication with a supplier can really help solve issues quickly and efficiently. But we also appreciate when suppliers are proactive in reaching out to us, especially when they have new products or technologies that might be relevant to our work. At the end of the day, a good relationship with a supplier can greatly benefit both sides.

How important is the Sales Rep?

In our experience, genuine and transparent discussions with product representatives have been incredibly helpful. We've encountered reps who have honestly advised us on what would be the best product for our needs, sometimes even suggesting alternatives to their own products. This kind of openness cultivates trust and encourages future discussions. It doesn't feel like they are trying to aggressively sell their product. That way, when they do have a product that fits our needs, they're the first ones we'd consider due to the trusting relationship we've developed.

What kind of marketing catches your attention?

Email:  It largely depends on the nature of the email. If it's a generic, impersonal email, we’re more likely to overlook it. However, if it's a tailored message, where you're asking us questions or offering something that we could potentially benefit from, like a free sample, then we’re likely to be more receptive. After all, as researchers, we're always looking for innovative ways to answer our scientific questions.

Conferences: In-person interactions at conferences also work well as marketing strategies. Sales reps approaching us at poster sessions, engaging in a conversation about our work, and then suggesting how their products could facilitate our research feels much more personalized. This often leads to us keeping their contact details for future reference.

References: It's not about simply telling us how their product will revolutionize our work; instead, we want to see it in action. Seeing tangible results from other researchers who've used the product can convince us of its potential utility. If we recognise the lab it’s even better. Seeing evidence of other researchers successfully using the products, either through papers or posts on Twitter, can also motivate us to give it a go.

Free samples: When it comes to trying out new things, samples can be incredibly useful. As a general rule, we seldom purchase equipment without having seen it in operation first. For high-end equipment like light sheet microscopes, which can't be easily transported for demos due to their cost and complexity, potential buyers are usually directed to a few selected sites where these devices are already installed. There, we can test the equipment with our samples and see the results.

What makes you stop by a booth at a tradeshow?

We appreciate when a booth at a conference is well organized and offers clear, detailed information about their products. Visual aids like posters, flyers, or infographics can be very helpful in this regard, particularly if they provide a good overview of the product, its features, and how it could be implemented in a lab or research setting. Interactions with the staff at the booth also play a crucial role in shaping our perceptions of the product and company. It's important that they are knowledgeable about their products and able to effectively communicate their features, benefits, and potential applications. Moreover, the availability of tangible resources, such as product samples, brochures, or even little goodies, can often make a difference in attracting potential customers. These give us something to take back with us and peruse at our leisure, further considering the product and its potential utility for our research.

How does a new company go about breaking into the market?

Generally, if a company is unknown, they're a bit of a last resort because you prefer to go with a company that you've had a good experience with or that has been recommended to you by your network. Reputation does matter. However, we must mention, there are some companies that are well-known but have a reputation for not delivering on their promises, so I'd avoid them. It's not only about being known but being known for the right reasons.

Offering discount is a good way to break into an established market. We've seen that startups, which have managed to grab our attention, usually have a strong emphasis on collaborations.

Do you have a preference of buying from distributors or the manufacturer?

With the manufacturer, there's an opportunity to discuss the nuances of the product, its functionalities, and how it could potentially be adapted to fit our specific needs. Such discussions are more in-depth and targeted. The conversation often revolves around optimizing the product's use and performance, or troubleshooting any issues that arise during usage. On the other hand, interactions with distributors like VWR or Fisher Scientific tend to be more about logistics and cost. These companies handle a wide range of products, and their focus is often on ensuring the timely delivery of products, offering competitive pricing, and coordinating with various suppliers.  So it depends on what we’re buying really.

A lot to think about there! Thanks again to the guys for giving up their afternoon to speak to us and to Altitude Marketing for filming the event so we could use our AI tools to get the transcription! And of course, it wouldn't be an AI event if we didn't use GPT to do a lot of the heavy lifting of summarizing it! The beauty of these session is we get new insights every time we do it, so you’ll be able to see another one during our US Meeting in Boston in December.

Altitude Marketing: The Life Sciences Marketing Agency

Find out more about the Boston Event

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