Eureka! Selling the Thrill of Discovery (Not the Software)

Picture this classic scene from the annals of scientific discovery. The diligent scientist finally figures out a new DNA sequence — and suddenly a disease is on the verge of being cured.

This is the “eureka moment” copywriter Julie Brooks Noble seeks to capture when writing email to sell life scientists on bioinformatics software.

It’s not an easy sell. And I mean internally — to the software engineers who created the product. As she tells it, “They want to tell the scientists how many modules the software has or how many megahertz of data it manages.”

So what has Julie found to work?

Selling Value, Not Discounts

Traditionally in the software field, product is sold by hyping discounts. Scientists may find four or five email messages in their inboxes on a typical day with subject lines touting 20, 30, or 40 percent discounts. Yet, this is not really an effective value proposition for a scientist who is not buying the software on an individual basis. More likely, an influential scientist in a biotech firm will champion the purchase for a group sale — and the actual price will be negotiated based on the number of users, the type of institution, and so forth.

Yet offers do have their appeal. And so Julie came up with an innovative one — offering a free bioinformatics curriculum as a premium. It worked, leading to a 30 percent response on a mailing to 3,000 scientists and a 6 percent response rate on an email to 10,000 scientists. These and other offers also increased site registration from 27 percent to 48 percent.

As Julie says, every company has its own “buried treasure” to offer as a premium. She will often uncover it by sitting down with a salesperson and asking, “What do you show people during the sale?” She’ll also scan the office with her eagle eye — looking for other possible premium prospects.

Selling Personal and Emotional Benefits — As Well As Business Productivity

The sad truth is most software is not developed with the end user in mind. Yet, to sell it, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person using it — and communicate how the product will help him deal with his day-to-day challenges and meet his unspoken emotional needs.

The benefits that appeal most to scientists are the ones related to that elusive eureka moment, such as the prestige of:

  • Being able to beat the other scientist to cracking a genetic code

  • Creating beautiful graphics of a molecule or DNA string for grant renewal proposals or lab notebooks
  • Having the very best bioinformatics software on the market br>
  • Maintaining your own desktop database of all your molecule types

  • Analyzing data 10 times faster
  • Saving time on tedious data reformatting with freeware
  • Collaborating with more flexibility

The key point to keep in mind is very few people get a thrill out of buying and learning new software. The thrill is seeing what the software can do to make their lives better, easier, and more rewarding.

As Julie tells it, once scientists download the free trial software — and import their own data into it — they are knocked out by the high-impact graphics as well as the ease and speed of the program.

But before they get to that point, they often have to be “rescued” by a salesperson who will immediately shoot them an email to help them through the complex downloading process. This is where the sales relationship begins, so before the 30-day trial ends and the trial software self-destructs the sale is often a done deal.

Including Tried-and-True Direct Marketing Tactics

Deconstructing one of the actual email messages Julie wrote unearthed a number of masterful tactics we never got to cover in the interview:

  • A Johnson box (a line or two of copy displayed in a box-shaped outline of asterisks or in a box with a colored background) features the offer and includes a deadline.

  • Credibility for the product is established with lines such as, “It’s used in 24 of the top 25 pharmaceutical companies.”
  • Links to sample graphics are included after descriptive paragraphs where the most exciting features are explained as a way to solve everyday challenges.
  • Bullet points keep the copy snappy and easy to scan.
  • A personal tone is present rather than the standard institutional text.
  • A call to action clearly delineates what steps to take now to download a free trial and take advantage of a free curriculum offer.

Some people will undoubtedly send feedback to this column saying, “This is basic Marketing 101.” Yet it’s amazing how many times the basics of direct marketing and selling are overlooked in email. Luckily, when a seasoned professional covers the basics in an intelligent, persuasive way, you can generally expect high response rates — as this case study shows.

Keep those business-to-business (B2B) case studies coming. Send them to Karen today.

Also, a reader recently asked for recommendations on using email to drive customers to use an enterprise software tool. If you have any experience or tactics to share, send them in.

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