Science Marketing Masters Q&A: Kevin McLaughlin of Shimadzu Scientific Instruments

By C&EN Media Group

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Editor’s note: In this series, we talk with marketing executives from leading science companies to glean insights that you can incorporate into your marketing plan.

Kevin McLaughlin, senior marketing communications specialist for Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, is a strong believer in the power of content. As he seeks to influence a wide market of researchers and scientists for a variety of industries, he’s seen time and again that providing educational and objective content — as opposed to in-your-face, promotional content — is the surest way to win loyalty and gain trust.

C&EN: You’ve been working in the scientific marketing arena for well over a decade. What’s changed the most about how you communicate with customers? 

I’ve seen growing demand in the B2B marketplace for content. The message is no longer: “Here’s the product and this is why it’s great.” Today, customers need proof that the product will do what the vendor says it will do and they want to see how it will serve their specific application. But this content needs to be educational; if customers see it as a sales pitch, it diminishes what you’re saying. The person who’s reading it shouldn’t perceive it as a marketing piece.

C&EN: A huge part of creating valuable content is knowing your audience. How do you make sure you understand the changing needs of the people you’re targeting? 

McLaughlin: One important thing we do is go to shows and conferences. It’s easy to define your success at a trade show based on how many new leads you get. But the conversations you have with customers are just as valuable. That’s how you understand what challenges your customers are facing and what’s happening in the industry as a whole.

C&EN: You have a reputation for being an early adopter in the digital media space. Can you share any tips on making the most of a digital ad campaign? 

McLaughlin: With banner ads, we always make sure that the ad is attached to a distinct URL so that we can track its success internally — our ads usually go right to a product page. The other key is experimentation. With digital, you can see the objective numbers and adjust accordingly. By looking at the metrics for each ad, we get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. I might try one size of a digital ad one month and try a different size the next month using multiple or similar messages. If I see we’re getting 50 percent more click-throughs on one size, with the same exact messaging, we know what to use moving forward.

C&EN: Tell us about your approach to social media. 

McLaughlin: My favorites are Twitter and LinkedIn. I try to avoid being seen as using social media like a sales tool or a marketing tool. I scour industry magazines and websites to find discussions or articles that are interesting and relevant to our audience. There’s not enough time in the day to do it as well as I’d like, but I do my best to keep up with it. If we have news, we do put it out there. But if we were always posting about our company, people would tune us out.

C&EN: What strategies would you suggest for science marketers who are looking to make a big impact on a tight budget. 

McLaughlin: First and foremost, know your goals and your target audience. What do you want to convey and to whom? You have to answer those questions regardless of the size of your budget. But when the budget is tight, this becomes even more imperative. I also suggest thinking creatively. For example, print ads generally cost more than online, but maybe you can continue your presence in print by doing fractional ads instead of full-page ads. Also, leverage social media and your blog, and participate in groups on LinkedIn.

Thank you to Kevin for speaking with us and sharing his marketing insights. For more guidance on marketing to a scientific audience, read additional posts on C&EN Media Group’s blog, Marketing Elements.

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