Marketing Scientific Products
Randy Byrne is the CEO of Transformational Scientific Marketing, a highly focused, B2B marketing consultancy specialising in scientific products and services. Below is the adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast recording.
Welcome to another edition of the marketing science podcast. The podcast for sales and marketing professionals working within science, engineering and health care don't forget to subscribe on Spotify iTunes or wherever you normally listen to a podcast. My name is Frank Barker the head of marketing at AZoNetwork, where you can also subscribe.
I'm joined by my guest this week who is a sales and marketing leader and an expert in a subject matter today having worked in analytical instrumentation and selling scientific equipment for over twenty-five years. He's currently the CEO of transformational scientific marketing, it’s Mr Randy Byrne.
FRANKY: Randy how are you doing today?
RANDY: I’m well Franky how are you?
FRANKY: I'm excellent thanks Randy - I'm currently held up in a makeshift recording studio in my basement, so I can't complain. How is the mood currently in the US? Is it business as usual, or are we still getting over the shock of social isolation?
RANDY: I think many people are still frankly, in the state of shock given the current circumstances. But I've always said we know when we're getting past some of the difficult times we start seeing more encouraging and uplifting stories and we're starting to see that now. I think people are you know they batten down the hatches and making the most of the circumstances that we're currently under show well and everybody believes are certainly much better days ahead hopefully sooner rather than later
FRANKY: Great to stay optimistic and keep a positive mindset. Now, you've been around sales and marketing for a long time and have years’ of experience, so how would you compare this current pandemic to any previous crises that you have worked through.
RANDY: Well unlike anything that I've seen, and I've been around a long time right when I joined the workforce although I didn't really realize it at the time was a it was last century and was in the middle of a rip recession, a rather bad one, I didn't really understand it - for me it was normal when I joined the work force.
But we got through that and then there was a boom time and then we have been through a couple of other ones change then of course the unanimous even there the difficult times of two thousand eight. I think 2008-2009 telling was very difficult for the scientific industry; this is much more different because it just came on much more sudden.
I think people were much more prepared a number the company I was in the timing two thousand eight was budgeting under the assumption that there would be hard times and nine and two thousand eight two thousand nine that was correct so this should be much more shocking dramatic and impactful and we're still frankly in the in the middle of it
So it remains to be seen how we will get through it, but it's been quite disruptive in many ways, everybody having to work from home to business and closing down which didn't happen in the last major recession so this one has been much more dramatic with workers being affected pressure boil dropping stock markets plummeting and then of course the desire to stay healthy so that this one has been circling the worst I've experienced
FRANKY: So I certainly think there's been a shock of people not knowing necessarily what to do but you are brought in to help companies so what advice would you give right now it's a company faced with the challenges that lie ahead
RANDY: It may take a while before industries and companies recover but there will be great days ahead and some companies take the tractor cutting the marketing as a first approach.
For me it's a matter of planning for the future having a little bit more about a long term horizon and the same is true on them the marketing side to continue planning for when we come out of this so that they're in more top of mind in in potential customers mind and they found a way to well no benefit the most early on coming out of the year the tough times
FRANKY: Yes, indeed the knee jerk reaction we see many companies make is an awful mistake - but we've also seen the flip side of that where companies are taking advantage of the downtime looking for opportunities within virtual events, webinars, podcasts and other online digital content. We've even seen our neighbours just down the road today in Manchester at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, the GEIC.
They have academics working from home but now they're actually able to say right well let's create some content and let us run a series of webinars and run a program that people from all over the world can take advantage of and learn about this wonderful material. So, this is something that would have been a nice to do just two or three months ago, but now people are being forced to put more eggs in this online digital basket.
Now Randy, you mentioned before that you consume a lot of content online with us webinars virtual events, podcasts etc. but where do you see the future or the importance of online content especially during such testing times?
RANDY: Back when the last recession happened the company was with at the time had a number of well we have we had a marketing budget cuts as well and some of the activities were kept they do weren't going to be done with the one thing we were left with.
We were fortunate enough to really have a weapon our program in place we can a doubled and tripled down on webinars and it we just did something like I think was about ninety one of ninety webinars in the English language let alone non English language ones that where eight and it had a very important unintended benefit.
We were into them at the time with the scientific staff and the scientific staff had more time on their hands to jump into them became a little bit of a friendly competition. So they started volunteering more. I'm subjective to it but the so that was great on the one hand but on the other hand our company the appearance of being much more active in the market place because we were promoting these primarily by email marketing as you mentioned they were directed towards a country they were in the English language, they were essentially global and we came out of that year after doing it was almost a crushing workload from a weapon are standpoint what will all of this information was good valuable scientific information it was all recorded for use for years to come party time ledge and but again the unintended consequence was we came through it with many companies you know potential customers looking at us as an instrument wishing well, these guys are even more active during an incredibly tough time, the truth was we have our own pain but we did get through it. So, it’s the next area where it's just becoming so convenient to take in new information that I see it exploding in in popularity in many different industries.
FRANKY: Yes, for me it’s the same on the train every day just like yourself in the car on the daily commute it's so easy to access content on your chosen topic without sports or finance so news entertainment or marketing even. With services like Spotify and aCast on iTunes, it's never been easier to download and listen to your favorite shows on the go. As a podcast producer right now we are seeing the flip side of that and how easy it is for people to create audio content for podcasts.
I think it’s something like a million podcasts out there now so it's never been easier to get your content out in audio format.
So the next question is about resistance to change; now bearing in mind that people don't usually change unless they're forced to - a case in point working from home and collaborating online following covid nineteen but how resistant to change our sales and marketing leaders within Science companies.
RANDY: Long-tenured leaders in Science companies especially smaller companies tend to have come from either the scientific or engineering or product development upbringing - just in these types of companies which often based on product innovation but these days it's much harder of a you know there's a lot more competition the same products are more often in the minds of customers they're separated by inches not miles anymore.
I've run into a number of people that have MBAs but the troubling thing with an MBA from twenty thirty years ago is it hardly prepares one for the market in marketing realities of today.
Sure it's certainly not a question of intelligence in our industry it's more a matter of relevance. I've heard people say frankly that marketing is change more in the last five years under previous fifty and I would say I think it's perhaps even more than that and it's even accelerating.
You know for many hard-working people in this industry, they often focus on their core strengths are always mentioning the product is in line in the next great product feature. Scientific Instruments and applications and to a large degree the modern marketing world has just progressed too fast for them to keep up with. So resistance to change for those reasons is certainly it holds back some companies in terms of the what's available to them in in terms of marketing.
FRANKY: Excellent so I've got a quote from your good self when we were both at the INBOUND 2016 Hubspot conference over in Boston Massachusetts a quote in which you said: The customer is in charge of the buying process.
A quote that has aged very well over the last four years you also mention that companies are now separated by inches which moves me on to my next question – In 2020 just how do companies differentiate themselves and how have scientific manufacturers evolved over time given such a competitive landscape
It’s moved through the customer satisfaction, customer support phase and then focus on applications but it is moving in the direction of customer experience and you know how is the customer using this equipment?
Plus one of the most important things that influence your skills in marketing is being able to communicate the problems are solved by using apparatus in the laboratory in the science field focusing on the customer needs as opposed to I mean when I grew up in this industry was all about features and benefits and talking about our product midway we show good and but these days Frank the if customers if companies are surviving product rule pretty good quality.
It's the companies that are orienting themselves to what the problems are that the customer is looking to solve and talking to those issues that they are getting. I hate mentioning to be well placed for the for the future, because clearly it's not just about the product it's much more about the customer and what is going to help the customers are working life in investing in these kinds of products
FRANKY: Absolutely so I couldn't agree more that the customer experience is paramount is absolutely everything which is going to change tack now. We’re gonna discuss sales and marketing so what when recruiting your new marketing department what skills do now recruit for in 2020.
RANDY: first before looking for candidates what are the company challenges and how they best solved. I use a pressure shifting through kind of a myriad of digital marketing channels and capabilities and then agree on one of their ideal skill sets is it we need more competence in terms of email marketing is it or is it content marketing research social media and I think you
If a company selling an established relatively mature technology that's a market leader in that space and if they have an external field sales team that model lends itself. You mentioned earlier HubSpot the inbound marketing approach is ideal for companies like that so I would look for somebody strong with everything surrounding the inbound marketing concept: search engine optimization, website optimization and lead generation is going to be important for them - so somebody with a background in those areas would be more preferable.
I've heard the phrase used by I didn't quite get but they refer to as a transient market and that is that the shape of the team consists of all the the digital marketing disciplines I was mentioning before kind of across the top of the T - but then it's the depth of knowledge she really kind of like what's been wrestled with in sales in this industry for years basically what are you looking for mission when companies say they want to recruit a digital marketing person.
It's understanding the balance between looking for a generalist, a Jack of all trades but a master of none versus do we want to specialise towards a narrower set of capabilities. I'm knowledgeable in those areas and I think that people are not terribly familiar with what's happening in digital marketing these days. I see too many companies make the mistake of just hiring somebody but not really understanding the need to match the skill set to the needs of the business.
FRANKY: Interesting what you mention about generalists v specialists, certainly how I see it working within an agency where we have a huge range of specialists – I draw on our in-house experience of our SEO Team, the Video team, Google Ads, Content Team etc. I sit in the middle as a central midfielder or a quarter back for you guys across the pond, just coordinating things and project managing.
OK so now moving on, applying that theme but in a sales context what do you look for when hiring a modern-day sales professional
RANDY: I read a quote recently from the CEO of Microsoft I think it put things in perspective he said in much more eloquent words than I could but it really hit home in terms of what I look for I think it's someone that has a recorded a growth mindset for versus fixed mindset and the simplest way to explain it would be people that are learn-it-alls versus know-it-alls meaning no matter what stage of your career these days the people that are intellectually curious are striving to learn and certainly in sales that's critical as well…
Because it's no longer just about the product. Those lifetime learners certainly if its good enough for the CEO of Microsoft, I think it's just as applicable in in our industry as well there's so much to learn to be super successful these days, so much about the customer there's no way somebody can not be in this industry and just walk into it and be great at it they have to work at it over a long period of time and continue working at it so that those would be what I would look for in a modern sales professional.
FRANKY: Excellent so interesting that you mention characteristics and we echo that when we hire for salespeople. We actively seek for coachability and empathy so they can just put themselves in people's shoes and understand their feelings and their emotions - also of course recruiting for learning and hunger and having that sort of fight of the dog inside of them.
So, moving on to our next question how important is outsourcing for the modern marketing department?
RANDY: Actually, critical in in a world changing this fast there's just no way that the typically resourced marketing department can stay up to date with taking care of the short term needs of the business as well as keeping up with all of the changes going on. We talk search engine optimization or marketing automation and social media it's just changing too fast for the small staff to be experts in all these different areas. The really successful marketers have very good networks to tap into to supplement their own resources which usually are never enough to take care of all the expectations that people have for them for the business so they need to work with companies that are strong and have depth of knowledge in many of these different areas is absolutely critical to a marketing team success
FRANKY: I couldn't agree more it's the skilled generalist versus specialist all over again except this time they're outsourcing to an external company or agency.
So moving swiftly on we're gonna talk shop - bit of a key question but I won't apologize for that because we are talking about marketing and specifically what is your favorite martech piece of software
RANDY: For me it's Webex, Brain Shark and Survey Monkey and these are three tech tools that I was lucky enough to be involved with in the early days to these organizations so they have the staying power and they've grown into people that get involved with the right technologies if they do stand the test of time in a long somebody's cloud technologies. They just keep getting better and better features and become much more powerful and so that's one way to work on this job involves being able in to intervene in marketing not necessarily from our own great ideas but just the start the good technology tools cheaper vomiting and suddenly you have capabilities that you didn't even know about when you invest in the technology.
In the time we're going through now with web conferencing there's a lot of suppliers out there Webex just happens to be one that I will use, but there's plenty of other choices out there for you you know whether it's even remote demos of equipment to companies that have the root of the field resources in place. That technology is just getting better and better and I think will become even more popular in a lasting way after current circumstances. Brain Shark is a sales enablement tool but it can be used for so much more than that it.
I can say Frank you have never been in an organization where anybody said yeah communication is great there but I I've been able to use brain shark as a tool to drastically help communication around the world. When the CEO wants to send out a message, a tool like brain shark can help do that but it can be used in many functions within the company.
And finally, Survey Monkey went from a free sample survey tools through which not necessarily free now there might still be a free version but the ability to find out what customers are thinking as opposed to guessing and it is incredibly important as we move more and more into a customer experience with the world show those are the three of my favorite tools.
FRANKY: Great stuff! so I'm gonna move on now to talk about alignment specifically between sales and marketing so allow me to paint a brief picture - Marketing puts on a webinar or a trade show or an eBook which generates lots and lots of downloads, engagement, marketing qualified leads and then passes them all over to sales. Sales then turns around and says yeah these leads are a load of crap. When in reality well I think we know that marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads are completely different. I think anyone passing more than 10-20% tops of the leads across and calling them sales qualified needs to re-examine the sort lead scoring strategy. But what does it mean to you the alignment between sales and marketing.
RANDY: For me as well the word alignment means an awful lot,I think it's marketing organizations moving away from and I think most have that I've seen in B2B the danger well it's all about you know kind of subjective aesthetics its market is being much better with being data driven but a lot of the KPI metrics have to be in line with driving the success of sales.
That's not their only responsibility but when marketing people can talk about the sales process and quality of leads and actually measure these things in an agreed way with sales and this is what I find missing in a lot of organizations: they haven't done the basic groundwork or planning for what sales and marketing really means.
It’s a shame we still have two groups blaming each other that - fortunately the companies I work with in recent years have just haven't been like that and are evolving as I said the consulting part of me more often than not in in the small to midsize companies will still operate in that way.
I'm a bit shocked frankly in this day and age that companies are still sending all their leads to field salespeople as qualified because the cost of sales in this business is quite high. I don't know who any generation social scientific companies that are still throwing everything on your responsibility often already overloaded field sales team.
It is a subject for another podcast about how to go about lead qualifying - it takes four telephone calls actually to reach somebody. What's really happening is that I actually listened some companies it can't be easily generate leads strange quantities but if there are no so called passive leads like into wells when you throw them to a field sales organization the reality is from full sales organizations are calling people once at most and not changing after the rest - You'll never get will never solve that by not having measurements in place and they're still work for me a surprising amount of companies that are still doing it what I would change is in a very out of date way.
FRANKY: We're always advising clients to put the necessary tracking software on the website so they can see where the initial touchpoint was from the initial referral campaign all the way through to marketing and sales qualified leads all the way as it becomes a more and more qualified opportunity eventually to becoming… the end game is a closed won piece of business, a revenue generating opportunity that all gets tracked within the CRM.
It is a thing of beauty when you get things set up - you're able to automate the small processes which enables you to scale and grow but you know equally as important in fact is to put the lead scoring in place. Just think if you pass 100% of your leads through to the sales team as opposed to maybe only the top ten or twenty percent of really qualified sales leads then you’re going to get a lot of friction between the two sales and marketing camps.
Okay so just before we wrap up last question - how is the role of the trade show evolved over the last five years how does that compare against virtual events the virtual webinars and things which are becoming more prominent. There's a lot of talk around how they're going to replace them but surely there's no substitute for meeting somebody and shaking their hand seeing the whites of their eyes and developing that relationship that you can only get in person.
RANDY: absolutely sure I think it's a good it's going to be a rebalancing and and you mentioned Wednesday night I I think in in some respects sales will be I'm home as affected or perhaps you were affected by exactly what you said that watching the sales process depending on what the sales process is will be conducted remotely and you know whether it's presentations or perhaps more companies will give a shot to trying product demos if their products lend themselves to that kind of thing.
I think we will see more of that to me it's it's clear that they will be more of a transition to digital types of activities but it's not going to go in off from zero percent to a hundred percent you know there's just gonna push more people in that direction but as you said you still need the people interaction is everybody should people buy from people and they're still important roles for sales and down so I to me we’re going to have to see how it all plays out.
FRANKY: Excellent, a great note on which to end the show. Randy thank you very much for your time, your expertise and your insights
RANDY: My pleasure Frank, a pleasure to speak with you as always - have a great day.
OUTRO: Thank you Randy for sharing your insights and a big thank you to you the listener for tuning in and don't forget to subscribe in iTunes Spotify or Deezer and AZoNetwork dot com, or where you usually listen to podcasts.
Join us next week where we will be joined by Alex Cairns the M.D. of Move Marketing and Dr Ian book who is the CEO of AZoNetwork. We'll see you then - thanks for listening.
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