Stop Blasting and Start Connecting

As a marketeer, you probably spend a lot of time developing your promotional emails. You’ve carefully considered every word of the body copy. You’ve crafted a thought-provoking subject line and included a compelling call to action. After all of that work, you naturally want to send it to everyone in your database.


There is a cost to repeatedly sending to all of your email recipients and it’s measured in declining open rates. ISPs are now filtering less on email content and more on engagement metrics, which means recipients who stop opening emails influence your deliverability and increase the chance for email to land in a secondary email folder. These folders have different names; Gmail calls it “Promotions”. In Office 365, it’s “Clutter”. To you, these folders might as well be called “Spam” since they remove your email from the recipient’s primary inbox – even for those that have opted-in to your email.

How are ISPs determining deliverability? For those that use engagement data, here are the key positive metrics:

  • Message clicked through
  • Message opened
  • Message replied to
  • Message marked as “not spam”
  • Message moved to other folders or tagged
  • Message images enabled
  • Message forwarded
  • Sender/domain added to address book

And the dreaded negative metrics:

  • Unsubscribed
  • Messages marked as “spam” or a reported as a phishing attempt
  • Message deleted without opening

Not all of the above metrics are available to marketers but even tracking a few will help to estimate engagement.

Getting a Handle on Engagement

Most marketing automation systems and some email services report the following metrics: click through, open, unsubscribe and spam. Start by tracking overall engagement and scoring individual email recipients. This can be refined by including return visits to your website as well as off-website lead activities such as exhibition visits. Additional deliverability insights are available from third party email optimization vendors such as Mail Monitor and Return Path.

Easy Ways to Increase Engagement

Once you’ve established your current level of engagement, there are some easy ways to improve it independent of changing content.

  • Optimize for mobile.

55% of all emails are now read on mobile devices, so your click-through rates will suffer if you are not phone-friendly.

  • Send your broad email blasts in three batches based on decreasing engagement levels.

For ISPs that filter email based on previous engagement rates, sending to your most engaged recipients this may improve the deliverability of less engaged recipients. This is especially important if you’re sending from a new IP address (such as when you use a new marketing automation provider).

  • Develop email nurture campaigns

By sending follow-on emails on the same subject to only those recipients that have opened your previous emails will quickly enrich your list. Try this with product and event-focused emails.

Driving Engagement with Subscriptions

One of the most effective ways to maintain a high engagement level is to develop and maintain a well-curated email subscription list. . With our clients, creating a permission-based list using an email opt-in checkbox as part of the collateral download process has been highly effective. If your current subscription list has dormant members, try a re-permission campaign to ask recipient to opt-in to future emails. A re-permission campaign is also a great opportunity to ask subscribers for their desired email frequency.

Make sure your great email content gets the audience it deserves. Understand your current level of engagement and increase it through responsive email design, list segmentation and permission-based subscriptions.

Avoid These Three Mistakes Before Starting Your Marketing Automation Subscription

You’re ready for a marketing automation system to replace simple email blasts for your life science product company. You’re excited to get started with a system. Before diving in, determine how you’ll use it and what resources you’ll need to get the most out of your investment – before starting the subscription. Adopting marketing automation is more than a tool change; it takes a mind shift. Without changing your business process, your MA system will be underutilized. Fortunately, by avoiding a few common mistakes you can maximize the potential of marketing automation.

1) Not developing your company narrative in advance.

MA is most effective if used to deliver a serialized story about your company and products. Each email contributes to the narrative, helping to build credibility and eventually persuading the reader to take action. Develop a set of narratives for your company and individual products. Elements of these narratives can be mapped to individual emails in a campaign. The number and timing of your emails should take into consideration the length of the typical sales cycle. A simple drip-based email campaign may share the same content but differ in timing and complexity compared to a behavior-based nurture campaign. Remember the widely repeated marketing adage that a prospect needs to see a message seven times before responding to it.

 2) Not having enough content.

Remember producing your first newsletter? If your company was like most, the first couple of editions were easy to fill with great articles, but it got more difficult with time. Your blog may have had the same issue, with progressively more time between posts. MA takes the time out of sending emails, but it doesn’t automate content generation. Those emails need persuasive content to engage readers and compel them to take action.

Create a flow chart of your email campaigns and the kind of content and collateral needed to convey the narrative. Inventory your collateral currently available and under development with special attention to top-of-funnel collateral such as white papers that you’ll need immediately when you start your campaigns. Don’t forget content that can be derived from customer-authored journal articles and conference presentations. Your most credible advocates are your customers and their most credible statements are in peer-reviewed journals.

3) Under-resourcing your marketing automation initiative.

It’s easy to imagine that MA will free up time for your marketing organization; it actually does the opposite. Developing software expertise as well as building, testing and deploying the workflows and tasks within a MA system takes time. Integration with your CRM system takes time. As mentioned earlier, MA devours content, which takes more time to write.

Identify in-house or consulting resources to manage the system and make sure that enough time and budget are allocated.

For complex, high-value life science products, marketing automation is an essential tool to help nurture prospects over long sales cycles. With planning, you can make the most of your investment in marketing automation.




What can Life Science Companies Learn from Dana-Farber’s White Papers?

Be a contender for your customer’s attention

In my last post, we looked at Dana Farber’s “Discover, Dream, Believe” campaign, which features four technical White Papers on cancer research – they are mentioned in banner ads, print ads and even in NPR radio spots. For Dana Farber, the White Papers’ function is to build on their reputation in the research and clinical community. Let’s see how this works for Dana Farber and how it can be applied to life science tool companies.

Dana Farber has a long history on the leading edge of cancer research but in a fast-moving field it is essential to maintain mindshare to help recruit new researchers and influence physician referrals. For instance, their lung cancer white paper connects Dana Farber’s history of EGFR research with the latest trends in precision medicine. It concisely explains the need and challenge to develop new therapies, Dana Farber’s history in research and future directions. A select reference list is included.

Lessons for Life Science Companies

While white papers might not have the buzz of some the latest digital promotional tools, they are a great way to educate and market at the same time. For life science vendors entering a new market, white papers can help establish credibility by demonstrating an understanding of challenges and provide an opportunity to frame the decision-making process. When developing a white paper:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the customer’s need. Dana Farber starts each white paper with the clinical challenge such as the prevalence of lung cancer and the problem of drug resistance. Note that your customers’ challenges may extend beyond just technical issues; they can encompass financial, IT, training and organizational hurdles to achieving research goals.
  • Consider all the stakeholders. Dana Ferber’s white papers primarily are for researchers and clinicians. Capital equipment sales often involve multiple levels of purchasing authority. For your corporate customers, consider the perspective of executive readership, including Finance. For academic customers, include supporting content for grants. For instance, if your products are eligible for a Shared Instrumentation Grant (S10), don’t overlook platform-level features like scheduling software or the availability of separate software analysis seats that can be used independently of the instrument.
  • Make it durable. Think of white papers as an articulation of your brand, not your catalog. Save product-specific information for your brochures and data sheets, your white paper should focus on platform-level features. This keeps the white paper high-level and will also save you from updating it with new product models.
  • Include journal references. There are no better advocates than your current customers.

Direct links to Dana Farber’s White Papers:

The EGFR mutation and precision therapy for lung cancer

PD-L1 – Immunotherapy: Unleashing the body to fight cancer

Treating AT/RT: New hope for kids with a rare brain cancer

New DIPG Advances: Promise for kids with brain stem gliomas.

Why is PD-L1 Research Featured in a NYT Magazine Ad?

Dana Farber’s New York Times Magazine Ad Raises Awareness on Immunotherapy Research – and Helps Build Their Brand

New York Times Magazine, Feb 2015

New York Times Magazine, Feb 2015

Between the ads for Manhattan apartments and designer watches in a recent New York Times Magazine issue is a full-page ad from Dana Farber Cancer Institute. It highlights their work in developing immunotherapies, including their pioneering work in identifying the role of protein PD-L1 in cancer cells. With the recent approval of two checkpoint inhibitor therapeutics (nivolumab, pembrolizumab), interest in the development of this class of immunotherapy for cancer has spilled over into the mainstream, so it’s a natural focus for Dana Farber’s ad.

Let’s look at what works with this marketing campaign. The print ad has a link to a dedicated microsite ( that includes content for the general public (patient testimonial videos, social media posts), researchers (technical White Papers), and potential donors. The institution launched as part of a specific campaign to “to illustrate what sets Dana-Farber apart — in research discovery… in expert, compassionate care… and in our strong belief in progress for people with cancer everywhere.” With over four million readers, the New York Times Magazine is a great choice to reach multiple stakeholder groups with a single print ad.

How about the website? Dana Farber uses a microsite rather than their main site. Creating a stand-alone microsite does have some advantages over incorporating new content into existing sites:

  • It frees designers from the style and navigation constraints of the main website.
  • It’s easier to improve the PageRank of a microsite compared to a large established website.
  • Microsites can be especially effective for product launches or promotions that occur over a defined period of time.
  • It’s often easier to implement a microsite as a stand-alone project compared to a new section of a website.

The microsite’s navigation and style is similar to Dana Farber’s main site, so design constraints weren’t an issue. The PageRank is currently lower than the main site for several keywords, but potentially could be raised more easily than the main site. It seems likely Dana Farber wanted a stand-alone site with analytics that could be tied directly to the “Discover. Care. Believe” campaign. Of course, the domain name itself reinforces the campaign message, something that “” doesn’t do.