Part 2: Five Tactical Errors.

Tactical marketing errors

It is easy to spot marketing errors, once you know what to look for. Last month, we reviewed common strategic errors. This month, we will cover the five most common tactical errors.

If you think of your life science marketing as a journey, then your strategy gives you a clear idea of the direction you will be taking. In contrast, tactics are the motive force that powers your journey – the tools and techniques you use to implement your strategy. When you make strategic errors, you end up aiming at the wrong destination. When you make tactical errors, you reduce your velocity, slowing down your ability to reach your strategic goals.

While tactical errors may at first seem insignificant, the total effect can be significant. Here are five common tactical errors.

Trying to say it all – or trying to say it all at once

The error: Believing that “saying more” is more effective at encouraging people to buy. If you choose the right words, saying less is typically more effective at supporting buying behavior. But people with scientific backgrounds often want to tell the entire story – to say “everything.” Saying too much can be counterproductive; the scientific evidence clearly shows that early stage buyers need inspiration, not complete description.

How to spot this error: This error is not hard to spot. If you can’t read your entire home page in 15 seconds or the entire back wall of your trade-show booth in 5 seconds then you are probably trying to communicate too much. One result: the bounce rate for your home page will be excessively high.

How to address this error: Distill your marketing messages by paring them down to the purest expression of your desired positioning. The complexity of typical life science products and services means that your marketing efforts alone will never close a sale; a salesperson will always be involved. Your marketing efforts should not try to replace your sales force. These efforts should inspire prospects to “raise their hands,” giving the salesperson permission to tell your whole story.

Create inspiring messages: Shorter is typically more inspiring (and therefore more effective marketing) than longer.

Making ineffective marketing claims

The error: Making ineffective marketing claims. Your marketing claims must meet several criteria. If they don’t, you are wasting your breath and your prospect’s valuable attention.

Effective marketing claims must be:

  • Clear – unambiguous
  • Unique – differentiated from the competition
  • Authentic – matching who you are or are committed to becoming
  • Sustainable – capable of supporting ongoing efforts
  • Important – relevant to your audiences
  • Believable – credible, or better yet, verifiable before purchase
  • Compelling – convincing enough to change attitudes, belief or behavior.

I have written elsewhere  about the importance of differentiating your offering through unique marketing claims. Making claims that are clear is just as important. For example, just what does “We partner with our clients” really mean? Very few clients actually desire a partner; the word “partner” implies shared-risk and shared-reward. So do you mean partner in this sense, or in some other? Another example: What does “We maintain a commitment to high quality services” really mean? Without a measurable definition of quality, this claim is unclear.

How to spot this error: Examine your home page, your brochure, your email blasts, and the “about us” section of your press releases (just to name a few locations). Identify your marketing claims. Your viewers should be able to clearly determine what your claims are, and your claims should meet each of the criteria listed above.

How to address this error: Create an effective positioning. Getting your positioning right is among the hardest work in marketing, but once your position is clearly defined, all subsequent marketing activities will become much easier.

Ignoring your digital audience.

The error: Not paying attention to the search engines – a key audience segment.  You must pay attention to every meaningful subset of your audience, including the search engines. Search engines have a clear role to play in marketing, and they have a clearly defined set of interests that your marketing should address.

How to spot this error: Is your organization monitoring its position in search engine results? Does it have an active SEO initiative? When you type your industry segment keywords (e.g., LC/MS/MS labs or oncology CROs) into Google, does your organization show up on the first page? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then you need help.

How to address this error: Search engine optimization is a complex subject – too complex to be covered here. But in general, search engines rank pages by relevance. Your site’s relevance is determined through many algorithms, and the one used by Google is both constantly changing and a closely guarded secret.

To increase your ranking you must increase your relevance. Pay close attention to keywords (those words that your audiences will type into the search engine box) and integrate them into your site’s content. One excellent way to do this is to establish a content marketing program, developing and freely distributing important information to your audiences.  This will ensure that your web site’s content grows steadily, helping the search engines see the (growing) relevance of your web site.

Inconsistency in brand and message

The error: Communicating your brand and your messages inconsistently. Estimates vary widely, but some reports put the number of marketing messages seen in one day by the average consumer as high as 3000. Faced with this barrage, consumers have developed thick “mental calluses” to shield themselves.

One tool to help your messages cut through the clutter is consistency. Consistency helps each message reinforce every other, making it easy for your audiences to recognize both the messages and the source.

How to spot this error: Perform a “brand audit.” While a complete brand audit involves significant effort, it is easy to perform a summary version. To check for consistency, examine your web site, your tradeshow booth, your advertising, your email blasts and your printed material, collecting images of your corporate identity and any key messages (taglines, headlines) from each. Then compare these carefully, looking for differences. The differences may be subtle (a slightly darker blue in one instance than in another) or they may be more obvious (the symbol is above the name on the trade show booth, and to the left of the name on the web site).

If your website says one thing and uses one logo, and your email blasts say something else with a different logo, then your usage is likely inconsistent.

How to address this error: Consistency is mostly a matter of will, not budget. Start by agreeing on what the standards are, and then stick to the standards.

Using Social Media inappropriately

The error: Not having a Social Media strategy. Social media span a broad range, from blogs and Twitter to Facebook and wikis. A common error is to ignore social media.

How to spot this error: Ask three of your colleagues the following question: What is our company’s social media strategy? If they give you different answers, then you should be more deliberate about developing a plan to harness the power of social media.

How to address this error: No single social media strategy can work for every company, so you must develop your own strategy. Start by listening online. Visit blogs and determine which ones have the most significance for your audiences. If you are not already doing so, use LinkedIn on a frequent basis to connect with others. Above all, remember that social media are rapidly changing; what works today may not work in six months.

Fixing Tactical Errors

Tactical errors are easier to identify, diagnose and usually easier to correct than strategic errors. There can be many benefits to fixing tactical errors, but unless your marketing is starting from the lowest possible level, an overnight surge in marketing effectiveness is not often the result. Nevertheless, getting your tactics right is extremely important, and no long-term marketing effort can be effective without them.

The current situation – a marketplace full of undifferentiated, commoditized firms – represents a large opportunity. The bioscience firms that get their marketing right will have a huge advantage, if only because so few others seem to be able to avoid the errors covered in this issue, and the strategic errors that we covered in the last issue.


  • Your marketing strategy is your marketing map and compass. It outlines where you will be going, and the advantages of arriving. Your marketing tactics are the tools and techniques you use to make the journey – to execute your strategy.
  • Tactical marketing errors are common in the life sciences. They are easy to make and often easy to recognize.
  • We discussed 5 common tactical marketing errors.
  • Many firms want to tell prospects everything at once, because they do not understand how buyers behave. To fix this, simplify and clarify your marketing messages.
  • Many organizations make ineffective marketing claims. Ensure that your claims are clear, unique, authentic, sustainable, important, believable and compelling. This is not easy, but the rewards are significant.
  • Many firms ignore the importance of search engine marketing. Begin with a clear set of keywords and an optimization plan.
  • Many firms allow inconsistencies in their brand and messages to creep into their marketing tactics. Ensuring consistency is more a matter of will than of resources.
  • Many firms use social media inappropriately. A well-defined social media policy will help you address the rapidly changing world of social media.
  • Fixing tactical errors will seldom deliver an overnight surge in marketing effectiveness, but no long term marketing effort can succeed without getting these issues right.