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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What do you think?

Leave a comment and let us know how we can improve this article. If you’d like to hear more about content marketing in the life sciences, leave a comment and we’ll be sure to address the subject in future articles.


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.


Need help with your event displays?

Our graphic design and copywriting experts can bring your content to life to help you engage with your target customers. Get in touch with us to learn how we can help you maximize your resources and achieve your marketing goals faster.


Life Science Christmas Cards

The holiday season is a perfect time to make a personal connection with your customers and clients. Don’t get left out in the cold — celebrate in style this year with life science-themed Christmas & holiday cards designed by JP Science Marketing!

Life Science Christmas Cards for Biotech & Pharma Companies

Fill out the form at the bottom of the page to inquire about pricing and usage information for high-resolution images of our life science Christmas cards for printing. We can also customize and print cards for an additional fee (price depends on your needs). Happy Holidays!



Customize a life science Christmas card for your company

A Tough Pill to Swallow – Drug Discovery INFOGRAPHIC

Pharmaceutical drugs have become a part of our everyday lives, and we don’t often stop to think about how amazing they are. These molecules must affect the targeted biochemical mechanism while not detrimentally interfering with other normal biological functions. It seems impossible that such molecules would exist, but they can be found.

Finding those “magic” molecules and determining how to utilize them is far more complicated than the cliche “needle in a haystack” analogy and far more costly than many people realize. Historically, random trial and error has led mankind to discover some of the more easily obtainable therapeutics that occur in nature. Today, pharmaceutical and biotechnology research has opened the door for the discovery of obscure molecules (synthesized via chemical or biological processes) that are highly specified to interfere with unique biological targets in known disease mechanisms.

The Drug Discovery Infographic

To demonstrate the mega-investments necessary to develop a new drug (or biologic, biopharmaceutical, therapeutic, etc), this infographic “A Tough Pill to Swallow: illustrated guide to drug discovery” visually explains each step in the process while giving the viewer a sense of the staggering amounts of time and money spent along the way.

Disclaimer: time & money invested in each step are not drawn to scale… it’s merely a visual representation of average overall estimates.

Enjoy! and please feel free to share…


[ Note to Mobile/Tablet Users ]

Image may be downsampled on some devices. If it looks bad, try this instead: Drug Discovery Infographic – Mobile

A Tough Pill to Swallow - illustrated guide to drug discovery


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7 Undeniable Reasons to Hire a Freelancer

Independent contractors (or freelancers) are a perfect fit for product managers and marketing directors in charge of developing promotional content and technical communications for their brand.

Let’s straighten one thing out first – what do I mean when I say “freelancer” or “independent contractor”? The term has bad connotations for some marketing managers. I’m not talking about the guy in India who designs logos for $1 an hour, or the college student who takes part-time jobs for some extra income. The “freelancers” I am referring to in this article are the tried and true professionals, the full-time independent contractors and small business owners who consistently provide top-quality work – and who also choose to enjoy the many advantages of working on their own terms.


Your Most Valuable Business Asset

The value of these professional contractors to a marketing manager cannot be overstated. In fact, I would argue that a quality freelancer is a marketing manager’s most valuable business asset, being that your freelancer works for YOU, not your current employer.

Think about it – who else comes with you when (not if) you change jobs? An independent contractor who works for you is part of your personal “brand” as an executive, your means for consistently getting things done. They increase your production, they multiply your budget, they bend over backwards to please you – freelancers are the “ace up your sleeve”, the well-kept secret of successful marketing managers who always seem to do more with less.


They increase your production, they multiply your budget, they bend over backwards to please you – freelancers are the “ace up your sleeve”, the well-kept secret of successful marketing managers who always seem to do more with less.


A Real-World Example

An even greater value to marketing managers is supplied by “niche” freelancers who serve industries that require specialized skills, such as [shameless self-promotional plug] a biologist/artist who writes and designs technical marketing materials for biotech and pharmaceutical companies on an individual contract basis [me].

I learned the craft of professional freelancing by working for my father, himself an independent contractor of 20+ years serving the animal health industry. I saw marketing executives at all levels of business utilize him as their “go to” guy, a sort of “secret weapon” they called when they needed a boost in production or simply needed more than their company’s marketing agency or in-house writers and designers could handle.

After trying him out, many hired him exclusively for all of their marketing communications, preferring his superior quality, price, and efficiency over larger design agencies. And guess what – when these clients inevitably changed companies, my father was always their first call, enabling them to hit the ground running and make a big splash in their new position.


7 Undeniable Reasons to Hire a Freelancer

Now that we have defined the basic terms and seen a real-world example, here are my top 7 reasons why a professional freelance graphic designer is the marketing manager’s most valuable business asset. This first reason may surprise you, but hear me out, it may just be true…



It could be your longest-lasting professional relationship

By developing a relationship with an independent contractor who works for YOU (not your company or your company’s marketing agency), you can keep your content production consistent when you inevitably change jobs. Your independent contractor is reliable, knows your preferences, and will work tirelessly to help you succeed, since their success is dependent on yours. This may be the only asset you can take with you throughout your entire career.

Think long-term. Search for a lifelong partner, not a one-night-stand.

From my personal experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, I have seen my fair share of mergers, buyouts, and personnel transfers that have directly affected my clients. Corporate marketing talent tends to move around a lot, especially in volatile scientific industries.

My advice: Think long-term. Search for a lifelong partner, not a one-night-stand. Your company or your company’s marketing agency may have great talent now, but the best talent often moves on to better things (like working independently as a freelancer).



Reduced cost = increased return on investment

Reduced cost to a product marketing manager simply means one thing: you get more production for your budget. It demonstrates your value to your company, showing that you are efficient and resourceful, doing as much as possible with what you have been given.

Independent contractors generally have greatly reduced overhead costs and fewer employees than large marketing agencies, allowing them to do comparable work for considerably less money. Large marketing agencies employ many people who do not contribute to your project and are inherently inefficient. By hiring an independent contractor, you pay only for the services you need, when you need them.

Did I mention freelancers are not salaried employees? This cuts down on taxes in addition to there being no vacation time or benefits to pay. In this way, you can afford to do all of the little things that set your products apart from the competition, as well as set YOU as an employee apart from YOUR competition.



Quality – the greatest talent is shifting to freelance

As businesses become increasingly decentralized, the most talented individuals are opting to work for themselves rather than being tied down to a single company or location. Even your marketing agency hires freelancers as needed or when specialized skills are required. Cut out the middle man by hiring them directly and reap the benefits.

A large marketing agency cannot match the level of care and diligence that a freelancer provides.

In addition, freelancers have an obligation to provide nothing but the best quality work. A freelancer’s work is a direct reflection on them, and if their work is substandard, they do not get more job offers. This is a powerful motivating force that you can harness to obtain outstanding work on your projects. A large marketing agency cannot match the level of care and diligence that a freelancer provides when their future depends on it.

When you decide to hire an independent contractor, you are not limited to the talent employed by your company or even the geographic region. You open up your talent options to the entire country or even the entire world.



Priority – YOU are the flagship client

Marketing agencies measure themselves by the budgets of their clients. Think Mad Men – even when things were going well, Don Draper is always wanting a chance to win the next “flagship” client – the Coca Cola, Ford, McDonalds type big-budget client. This is who they bend over backwards to please, and to whom they assign their top talent to serve. The rest of their clients, coincidentally, get their projects rushed out the door to get a paycheck.

When you decide to hire an independent contractor, YOU are the flagship client. Your projects get top-priority treatment, your questions get answered immediately, your edits are implemented quickly. A good freelancer listens carefully and delivers consistently, because when you succeed, they succeed.



Efficiency – simple & direct communication

Large marketing agencies hire account managers to keep clients (you) happy and smooth over mistakes and miscommunications. Your desires and edits must be filtered through multiple levels of authority before reaching the heads and hands actually creating the material. This is especially difficult if you are not one of the agency’s flagship clients.

Communicate directly with the actual creators of your projects.

With an independent contractor, the entire operation is simple and efficient. Communication is direct with the actual creators of your projects. This saves time, money, and frustration for each and every project you need developed. Plus, you gain more control over your materials to fine-tune your message and achieve your marketing objectives.



Flexibility – they work how & when you need them

Remember when I said freelancers will bend over backwards to please you? What this means for you is that they will be more willing to do rush jobs to get your materials ready for that looming tradeshow, convention, or meeting.

Since there are no contractual obligations, you can work freelancers as much or little as you need. You can also collaborate with them as much or as little as you want. Do you need regular progress updates, or just a notification when the job is done? Once your freelancer knows your preferences, your job becomes much easier and your production will increase.

For growing companies, hiring independent contractors is a great way to transition into hiring full-time writers and designers. They are also perfect when your workforce is not fully equipped to provide all that is required to market your products successfully. Big or small jobs, it doesn’t matter to a freelancer.



The intangibles

Maintain your sanity – working with someone “outside” the corporate world can give you a much-needed breath of fresh air once in a while. Call them up for a chat while they are completing your projects on an overseas vacation. We aim to live life to the fullest, and work is only a small part of what we do.

I dedicate a portion of my time and income to helping charitable organizations.

Contribute to the greater good – small businesses are good for the economy and good for everyone. By supporting freelance laborers, your corporate budget will help to build a family who will give to its community. Also, like many freelancers, I dedicate a portion of my time and income to helping charitable organizations. To learn more about who I am excited about helping, see my About page.



Counter-point: don’t you get a better product from the “team” environment of a large marketing agency?

This may be true if you are one of the agency’s flagship clients. But for most clients, the time and attention devoted to projects by independent contractors cannot be matched by large marketing agencies, simply because large agencies have quotas to fill in order to pay salaries, benefits, and countless overhead costs. They have an obligation to get projects done efficiently and mechanistically so they can pay the bills on time.

Plus, freelancers don’t work in isolation either. We are connected in wide networks of other professionals with varying styles and skill sets. Many freelancers reach out to the community to add variety to their work or for help with problems that arise. For larger projects, you get the benefits of an extended network of professionals who are the best at what they do.

Any other thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know how I can improve this.