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Customer Profiling Is a Critical Marketing Skill. Here's How to Get Started.

December 11, 2014

This article originally appeared in the blog of the Pacific Biomarketing website.

Creating stable and accurate customer profiles, often called "personas," is a crucial part of any successful marketing campaign. But once you sit down to create your profile or profiles, you may find yourself staring blankly at your computer, wondering how to get started.

You don't have to plunge into expensive, time-consuming research right away. While research is helpful, sometimes essential, there are a number of basic questions you can ask that can get you going quickly without spending a lot of time and money.

Here are a few.

Basic questions to ask when developing customer profiles

What is their demographic information?
Demographics form a crude but often important foundation for the life science customer profile. Scientists in a specific discipline tend to be fairly homogeneous as to their practical needs, but there can be very large differences among scientists from different types of institutions and from different countries. Be sure to take these demographics into account in your profile development.

What is their scientific area?
Any scientific marketing campaign should avoid generalities in defining the scientific area. "Stem cell research" seems like a good descriptor, but is likely to be too general. "Induced pluripotent stem cell research" would be better, but you can take it farther, if you can specifically target researchers working on neural stem cells, for example. Remember that the power of a profile lies in its specificity. Go as granular as you can without compromising your market size.

What is their job function and seniority?
In the life science community, job function and seniority affect a very large number of factors in the scientist persona. A lab director, a PI, a core facility manager, a senior scientist or postdoc all have radically different priorities, concerns, goals, interests, and work flows.

Seniority within the job function is clearly an important element of the profile. It affects not only the customer's ability to make a decision, but their understanding of the consequences of the decision—risk or reward—as well.

What does a day in their life look like?
This is often a tough category because it requires detailed knowledge of the customer's work flow. Many life science marketers come from a research background and can apply their own experiences. This can be a good beginning, but should not be taken as a final answer, since no single person's experience can be applied universally.

In describing the work flow, think about where the customer is spending time that they would rather not, and where they would like to be spending more time. What parts of their work flow drive them crazy, and what parts do they look forward to? Do they often have to stay late? Do they spend too much time prepping and not enough doing? Do they spend a lot of time on tedious data analysis?

As you know more and more about your customer's work flow, you will be better prepared to communicate with them in ways they want to hear.

Going through this exercise will help you to clarify an image of your target audience in your entire organization's mind that will keep your messaging consistent.

What are their pain points?
You're in business because you're solving a problem for your target audience. How does that problem affect their day-to-day life? Go into detail and focus on the nuances that illustrate how that problem makes them feel. For example, let's say your company sells cell culture media and consumables. One of your personas may be a molecular biologist or biochemist doing cell culture for the first time. What are this person's pain points? They're probably frustrated or angry by frequent failures, contamination or unpredictable cell behavior. They aren't aware of all the techniques required for success. They don't feel competent, confident or productive. These pain points offer a remarkably rich basis for communication and engagement with the new cell biologist, and they are very different from those of the more experienced cell biologist, or the director of a cell culture core facility.

What do they value most? What are their goals?
On the flip side, everyone has goals, hopes, and aspirations. Some of these are tangible and quantifiable—such as better performance, fewer errors, greater productivity, or new data types. And some are intangible, but can be just as powerful—like being on the leading edge, respect from colleagues, or curiosity. Ask yourself what would make your target customer get really, really excited about your product or service. For example, a "Guide to Becoming a Cell Culture Ninja" might be just the thing for the newbie cell biologist.

Where do they go for information?
If you're going to influence scientists, you need to understand how they consume information. In addition to reading professional journals, do they go online (and to what sites), do they prefer to learn in person, or do they attend webinars? Do they only network by email and at meetings or do they use social media? Which sources do they trust the most? If you know how they prefer to gather information, you can make yourself present in those spots and work on establishing credibility in those communities.

What experience are they looking for when considering your products or services?
The experience of purchasing your product should align with your customer's expectation. What kind of features do they expect your product to have? What should their sales experience feel like? Is it consultative? How much time do they expect to spend with a salesperson? Do they anticipate an in-person meeting, or would they rather conduct the sales process online or over the phone? The nature of your business and the personality and needs of your persona will dictate their buying experience.

What are their most common objections to your product or service?
If you can anticipate the objections your customer will have, you can be prepared for them in the sales process and perhaps even educate them in your marketing collateral to help allay fears right away. What might make them reticent to buy from you or any of your competitors? Is this their first time purchasing a product or service of your kind? If not, what caused them to switch products or services?

How do I identify this particular customer?
As you gather and distill your information about your target customer, you will develop a great understanding of what makes them tick. But still, you have to be able to identify them so you can tailor your communications. How will you know when you're talking to this persona? Is it their job title? Something about the way they talk or carry a conversation? Their pain points? How they found your company? Once you've established not only who your persona is, but also how you can identify them when you encounter one or another, your organization will be able to maintain a consistent voice that is still customized to each person they talk to.

Have you developed personas for your company yet? What helpful questions did you ask yourself in the process that weren't included on this list?


Guy Page

Guy PageGuy Page has a long history in the science and the business of Life Sciences. After an extensive research career, including post-doctoral appointments at UCSF, Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT, he entered the Life Science business world. Beginning his career at Promega, he has created and led Marketing and Sales programs at diverse companies, including Gelman Sciences (now part of Pall Corporation), Genisphere, BD Biosciences, Amnis Corporation, AMG, Adaptive Biotechnologies and IntegenX.
 
Most recently, Guy created the Pacific Biomarketing Group to serve the Life Science marketing and sales community with a suite of strategic and tactical marketing and sales support services. Pacific Biomarketing has helped numerous clients with strategic marketing planning, messaging and branding, web site design and implementation, communications planning, content management, marketing automation, tactical marketing marketing/sales integration and more.
SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
 
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
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