For the latest episode of ‘Talk Life Science Marketing Analysis’ podcast, I was privileged to interview Jim Heeren, Senior Manager Marketing and Strategy at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Our conversation starts with Jim describing his role at Thermo Fisher. Great teams produce great results. He has focused on building a culture where team members trust each other, and are not afraid to disagree. They are committed to the same goals. It is about creating the right environment for creativity and not being afraid to challenge each other.
The mantra is: act with purpose and strategy. There is a tendency for marketers to jump straight to tactical decisions. They forget to step back and work out what they are trying to accomplish. Jim emphasizes that his team spends time analyzing customer needs and compiling robust and strong marketing plans. It is important to know the ‘why’ behind the tactics.
The Importance of a Marketing Strategy Plan
We expanded on how Thermo Fisher analyzes customer needs: spending time with customers in their natural workspace. Talking to them at events. However, it is more powerful to visit them where they are using the instrument and talk about their pain points. You need first hand exposure to what customers are dealing with, otherwise it is hard to answer the problems they are facing.
Jim explains how he focuses his team on a marketing strategy plan: they first have to work to determine what the business is looking to accomplish and how marketing will help them achieve that. Marketing strategy starts with ‘who” you are trying to reach, and then targeting them with the right message. You need to build out robust customer personas. Use a mix of primary and secondary research to get a 360 view of the customer from first hand experience plus research partners. Be careful to balance what you hear one to one with the broader market insights. If you only rely on one to one, you may miss broader trends, and end up focusing on a problem unique to one customer.
Which Marketing Metrics Should We Use?
We discuss the data sources Thermo Fisher use. Jim describes the abundance of marketing data that can be tested quickly. Thermo Fisher tries to have an experimentation mindset – take a small amount of time and money to test an approach, if it works, scale up. You are always going to have your failures and if you make them small and quick you can adjust and learn from it.
The challenge is identifying what data and information is meaningful. There are lots of analytics that can tell part of the story. Jim tries to spend less time on compiling the data, more on analysis. He adopts an approach that enables him to pivot based on what the data is saying in real time. This enables the team to become a lot more agile in marketing. With this constant flow of data, you can make changes to messages, channels etc to make programs much more successful. There is always leading and lagging indicators eg bookings, need to understand how reached that result. Without the earlier digital marketing indicators, it is probably too late to change course. Especially where there are longer sales cycles. You can’t just focus on measuring the impact on sales, miss signals that could say whether marketing is working or not. With data, you spend less time using opinion to decide what is working. Scientists are used to working with data all the time. With data, it changes the way marketing is perceived as a unique skill.
So, which are the best metrics? Look at the conversion points: what steps are getting customers one step closer to purchase. There are lots of stages between first touch and a conversation with a sales person. You need to look for the indication that the lead is moving from one step to the next eg driving to targeted pages that give them relevant information.
Measuring Marketing ROI
Digital marketing gives a much easier way to measure ROI, they ‘know’ there is value in the offline channels. It is challenging justifying offline channels with something that gives real clarity on ROI. Conferences and trade shows are more difficult to measure. Thermo Fisher measures brand and impact in a given space – work with third party research companies. It starts with establishing a baseline and then tracking over time. There is an obvious temptation to invest in what is ‘known’. Jim stresses the importance of balancing the predictable with the value you think you can get with offline.
Finally, we discuss Jim’s background, and his biggest marketing successes and failures. Take a listen.