Jeffrey Whitford C&EN Q&A

5 Ways MilliporeSigma Connects With Customers

Jeffrey Whitford, Head of Global Corporate Responsibility and Life Science at Millipore Sigma, shares his brand insights with our readers.

By C&EN Media Group

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It goes without saying that the quality of a brand’s products is vital to its reputation and success. But as important as quality is, it is not the only factor that determines a company’s ability to grow and thrive. 

Working with researchers, the American Chemical Society and its custom content studio, C&EN BrandLab, partnered up for a ground-breaking survey of over 750 scientists to find out what really mattered to them at the decision point for purchasing products and services. The survey takers were asked to rate more than 20 of the industry’s biggest chemical brands on a wide variety of factors, including ease of purchase and helpfulness of customer support, to give visibility into where these brands are providing value and where they have opportunities to grow. The full results have been analyzed in an informative on-demand webinar, and an online Brand Health Checklist helps you score your own company against the survey results.

In our industry survey, world-class lab materials and tech supplier MilliporeSigma received high grades across the board, putting it in the upper tier of those businesses surveyed. So what separates the company, which has existed in various forms for over 100 years, from its competitors? Jeffrey Whitford, Head of Global Corporate Responsibility and Life Science at MilliporeSigma, shared his insights into the specific strategies and tactics that have sustained the company over a century of change and innovation.

Customers want consistency

The ability to order a brand’s products quickly and easily is one of the key drivers for repeat purchasers, according to the study’s findings. And it is an area where MilliporeSigma stood out, despite many mergers and acquisitions that could have easily caused confusion for buyers.

When MilliporeSigma dissolved their companies into six brands that sit under the hierarchy of the parent brand, they took great lengths to explain these changes to their customers. Whitford says that the company invested time and energy into making sure that customers were educated about organizational changes, explaining, “There was a multichannel effort in digital and physical forms.”

And those efforts paid off. “Our customers were very accepting of the changes,” he notes. “They consistently told us, ‘As long as I can still get my product, that’s what I’m concerned about.’”

Talk to your customers — and listen to them 

Jeffrey Whitford at a C&EN Media Group marketing event

Before the company locked into its reorganization, they conducted extensive market testing to understand how these new brands would resonate with customers.

“The results of that testing were used to inform the strategy of creating that product portfolio hierarchy,” says Whitford. “It has helped us enhance the approach by using data and a little bit of gut feeling. We were able to take our learnings and create an awareness campaign and refreshed marketing so that customers really do know who we are and understand what our offering is.” 

And a point of pride for the company —  their high-quality of customer service — went uninterrupted during the entire process. “Customers still can call us, they can still get online and find all of the different people that they had previously interacted with for purchases or questions.”  

Outside views are great for perspective

Being involved with surveys like C&EN’s 2019 Audience Research Study can be eye-opening in ways you wouldn’t predict, says Whitford.

“I will say I personally take a more pessimistic view about our company’s awareness progress, so it was refreshing to see another study come out that showed we had such high brand recognition. I am always of the mindset, ‘We can always just do better. There’s more to do.’ So it was a bit reassuring to see how our efforts are paying off.”

Give your customers more than products to buy

Back when he worked with printed catalogs, Whitford had an “aha moment”: He realized that customers weren’t just using the catalogs to order from, but as a scientific resource.

“It made me understand that we’re not just selling products to people. We are a wealth of scientific data,” he says.

To that end, MilliporeSigma provides an incredible amount of technical information for customers on their site and have also brought in other information from publications so customers can see how other people are using their products.

“This is where I think we have really excelled,” says Whitford. “Providing a powerful combination of education and information.”

Always innovate, and always listen

When C&EN BrandLab’s survey takers were to rate whether or not MilliporeSigma develops new products that they were excited to try, once again the company came out with exceptionally high scores. It speaks to their culture of taking in feedback and striving to fill customer needs, says Whitford.

“I think it’s important that when we hear from customers, we take the time to understand what their perspective is,” he explains. “It gives us an opportunity to calibrate and make changes if we need to in order to continue to advance and make sure we’re going in the right direction.”

To learn more about your brand’s strengths and areas of opportunity, check out our online Brand Health Checklist.

And take a deeper dive into what separates great companies in the eyes of consumers by watching this informative on-demand webinar for science marketers.

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