Life Science Content Marketing That Converts: the T.R.U.S.T. checklist

Content marketing is arguably the most effective strategy that marketing managers can use to reach a life science audience. Why? Because content marketing is all about building trust. And trust is a prerequisite for doing business—especially in the life science industry.

We scientists are a very, very skeptical bunch. After years of reading peer-reviewed publications, we develop a knee-jerk reaction to disregard anything that sounds too good to be true. But, marketing managers can use this to their advantage by positioning their products within carefully crafted scientific narratives that provide value to their future customers.

The T.R.U.S.T. Checklist for Life Science Content Marketing

So how do you build trust with a scientific audience? I’ve developed a T.R.U.S.T. checklist that you can use to screen every piece of content you produce. If your content checks all the boxes, you’re on your way to earning the trust—and the business—of your target audience.

  • TONE – Use the style of communication your audience trusts
  • REFERENCES – Cite peer-reviewed articles and trusted institutions
  • UNDERSTAND – Use words and images that resonate with their needs
  • SHOW – Provide evidence for your claims with statistics, data, and graphics
  • TELL – Position your products as solutions within your customer’s story

TONE – Use the style of communication your audience trusts

Put yourself in the shoes of your future customers. What writing style and format do they trust? Scientific journals have a very specific tone (formal, third person, heavy use of scientific terminology) and format (Abstract > Background > Methods > Results > Discussion > Conclusions) to efficiently communicate complex information. It’s the tried and true method that scientists trust.

So should your marketing content read like a scientific journal? No, although you can incorporate certain aspects to add credibility to your content. Proven marketing techniques that are successful in other industries (such as intriguing headlines, benefit-focused copy, and bold visuals) should be utilized in life science marketing as well. The difference is—and this is the most important part—all of your copy must be 100% accurate, using appropriate scientific language and supported by credible references.

Takeaway message: Choose your words carefully. Speak their language. Never overstate your benefits in an attempt to get noticed. If anything, err on the side of caution and let your data speak louder than your words.

REFERENCES – Cite peer-reviewed articles and trusted institutions

Even more than most people, when a scientist reads promotional content, their defenses go on high alert, actively looking for red flags that the information is not trustworthy. You want to make your customers feel comfortable reading your content, so that those defensive instincts fade away and they become receptive to your message.

By including citations to recent peer-reviewed journal articles and trusted institutions in your content, you are providing regular reassurance that the information is reliable. If your customers want to fact-check a claim or learn more background details, you let them know where to find it. This type of transparency is essential to building trust with your customers. It also has the added benefit of increasing the perceived authority of your content and your brand. In fact, the mere presence of a reference list of scientific articles at the end of a document can boost the perceived authority of the entire piece.

Takeaway message: Do your research. Be honest and transparent. Don’t make your audience wonder where you are getting your information from. Instead, provide reliable references clearly and consistently in all of your content.

UNDERSTAND – Use words and images that resonate with their needs

You may have heard the saying, “people don’t care what you know, until they know you care.” Guess what? Scientists are people, too. The first words and images your customer sees should be all about them, not you. Always start off by relating to your customers’ unique needs, challenges, and goals. If you show your audience that you understand their needs, your products will naturally be perceived as the right solution for them.

How do you figure out what your audience needs? I recommend developing customer profiles, or “avatars”—detailed descriptions of your target customers. Do research, conduct surveys, and use your imagination to determine what specific characteristics and motivations define your audience. Getting into the mindset of your customers in this way can reveal surprising insights.

Takeaway message: Get to know your audience. Relate to their needs first in your content. Don’t focus on your company or products. Instead, position your products as solutions to your customers’ needs.

SHOW – Provide evidence for your claims with statistics, data, and graphics

Scientists like numbers. We really do. Why? Because data give us a more complete picture than words ever can. For every benefit you offer your customer, it is important to include evidence to add weight and meaning. If you don’t have any data, then find it or create it—conduct surveys, fund a research trial, do what it takes to prove that your solutions actually work.

But, be careful. After years of interpreting data, scientists are quite good at knowing what conclusions can and cannot be drawn from a data set. If you take a statistic out of context or exaggerate positive results, all trust can be lost in an instant. So how do you prevent this? Be your biggest skeptic. Anticipate objections and address them. If you take the burden of critical thinking from your audience, it is just another way they can feel confident in your message and absorb the benefits.

Even more than numbers, scientists like pretty charts and illustrations. When data is presented visually, it attracts attention and can be understood almost instantly. Overall design is also extremely important, especially for first impressions. In a split second, your customers will decide whether or not to read your content in the first place. With professionally designed visuals, your customers can recognize instantly that your content is both valuable and trustworthy.

Takeaway message: Prove your claims. Use numbers. Don’t take any shortcuts. Invest in professional graphic design to add instant credibility to your content.

TELL – Position your products as solutions within your customer’s story

Why is storytelling important to life science marketing? Although the industry demands a formal tone, your scientific-minded customers are still people with needs, goals, and problems. I am not suggesting that you write a novel, or even adopt a narrative literary format for your content. Rather, try to connect the dots between your customers’ needs and your solutions.

How do you position your products in this way? If you’ve created customer profiles and revealed your customers’ needs, then you’re halfway there. Now, identify the outcomes—where your benefits and your customers’ needs intersect. These outcomes should be the focus of your headlines, your calls to action, and the visuals of your content.

Takeaway message: Don’t just present facts and numbers. Identify outcomes for your customers. Position your products as their means to an end by focusing your copy and visuals on these outcomes.


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3 Tips For Better Life Science Presentations

It is a difficult task to present scientific data to an audience in a relevant way. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. There is a great cognitive load involved in processing novel concepts and computing data in a short amount of time. When a presenter rattles off statistics or plasters large data sets on the screen, it is impossible to process that information and listen to what the presenter is saying at the same time.

Our job as presenters is to summarize our work into takeaway points and to guide our audience to a greater understanding of those points. Often, since we are close to our projects, we fail to include key pieces of information that would allow the audience to understand our work. We must take a step back and see the data as someone new to the project would see it.

Even the most non-artistically-inclined presenter can benefit from an understanding of basic visual communication principles. People remember information better when they’re able to picture it in a way that makes sense, and presentations that tap into this have a much bigger impact than those that rely solely on text. Getting a grasp on these basic principles will help you to bridge the communication gap, so your audience will be as excited as you are about your results!

1. Keep it simple, scientists

All too often, presenters crowd slides with text and read through each slide as they lecture. This comes across as lazy, and it’s really hard for the audience to follow. It’s much more effective to simplify your text down to just a few bullet points, ideally with a picture on each slide to reinforce information as you speak. Your audience will associate the image with the information you present and thus be better able to recall it.

If you take away nothing else, remember this: edit down your work to just a few short, simple bullet points on each slide, and include images when possible. Don’t ever crowd the slide with blocks of text or large amounts of data. You’ve probably heard the anecdote: if you can’t explain what you’re doing to a child, you don’t understand what you’re doing. Making your presentation simple doesn’t mean “dumbing it down” for a lay-audience. It actually takes a greater understanding of your work to condense it down to its essential components.

2. Use charts, not tables

Scientific presentations almost always involve data. While tables are the easiest way to get that data onto the screen, unfortunately they are the least effective way to display that data or demonstrate its meaning. Likewise, spouting large amounts of data verbally is impossible for your audience to digest, and this is the quickest way to lose their attention. Charts and diagrams are absolutely crucial for presenting data. Even the guy in the back of the room will quickly and easily see all of your data at once and can focus on listening to your explanation for what it means. Don’t forget to apply the first principle here too – make your charts simple and focused.

3. Tell a story

Begin your presentation with a simple diagram summarizing the scope of your presentation and the main points you will be making. Again, keep it simple, and use images when possible. In between sections of your presentation, remind your audience of where we are in the big picture by referencing the diagram. Briefly summarize what we’ve covered and where we are going next – this will help keep your audience engaged instead of being lost in information overload.

Throughout your presentation, create a logical flow from one set of data to another using lines, arrows, and images. Think of it as storytelling, where your job is to guide your audience from the beginning to the end, including your successes and failures along the way. For inspiration, do a google search for best infographics – you’ll see how the pros take complex information and guide the viewer through each point step by step.


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5 Tips For Better Life Science Event Displays

Developing a life science event display is a big investment – so why do so many marketing managers settle for mediocre results? Well, because it’s hard. It’s no secret that today’s decision makers are exhausted by a constant barrage of marketing messages, so how do we create a space that reaches out and draws in our target customers?

Display strategies tend to fail for one of two reasons: 1) they are too “sales pitchy”, or overly aggressive, which ends up turning away potential customers, or 2) they have poor or unfocused messaging, which leads to missed opportunities.

Trying Too Hard

Entrepreneur Pratik Dholakya reports that aggressive interruption marketing tactics are on the rise, even among the savviest brands. Biotechnology, Pharma, and Life Sciences are not immune to these negative practices, which is unfortunate since these tactics automatically create distrust and imprint a negative emotional reaction to your brand in the mind of your target customer.

Not Trying Hard Enough

Perhaps worse is an honest and tasteful display which completely fails to connect with the target audience on an emotional level. We all process information emotionally (yes, even scientists), and marketers must keep this in mind when showcasing their brand.

The Sweet Spot

Even on a budget, you can dramatically improve the productivity of your displays by gaining the attention and respect of the right customers. Create a welcoming environment by employing these data-driven recommendations:

1. Refine your visuals

Images are processed 60,000 times faster by the human brain than text. With a split-second glance, your biotechnology display needs to communicate your entire messaging. This extends beyond high-quality graphics – every small design decision affects how your brand is portrayed and received by your audience. Good use of color theory and user experience-centered design can further enhance your ability to target the right customers.

2. Be benefit-focused

Even the highest quality data and statistics are ultimately meaningless if you aren’t able to place them into an overarching story. All too often, displays in Biotechnology and Life Sciences fail to present facts in a way that is benefit-focused. How do your studies and observations illustrate a benefit to the customer? Focusing on benefits is ultimately the best way to attract your target clients.

3. Define the problem

If your customers aren’t immediately able to connect the dots between your biotechnology display and their needs, their attention will quickly fade. One of the most visible aspects of your messaging should be problem space definition. Define the issue that your decision makers struggle with, in order to capture their attention so you can begin gaining their trust.

4. Support with logical arguments

After using visual and emotional cues to draw in your target customer, now it’s time to give them the facts. Great marketing utilizes both emotional and logical persuasion, and your biotechnology display will resonate best with decision makers if you close with a logical approach. Tell your story, but focus on using well-organized data and statistics to prove your point.

5. Speak their language

The right language doesn’t just mean appropriate terminology and accurate statistics. It means speaking in the same language your ideal clients would use, including tone and complexity. Creating copy for biotechnology displays should always include thorough research and careful attention to how your target audience speaks, reads, and writes.


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