In our latest interview, we delve into the world of biotechnology marketing with Eric Vennemeyer, senior director of corporate marketing at PacBio.
Vennemeyer provides insights into his innovative marketing strategies in biotechnology, focusing on attracting investors, enhancing customer engagement, and clearly communicating the complexities of long-read sequencing at PacBio.
Join us as we explore the digital marketing tactics that have proven successful for PacBio, and gain valuable insights into the impact of strategic partnerships and global marketing efforts.
Eric Vennemeyer has over 20 years of experience in life sciences marketing. His career includes roles in product and channel marketing, strategy and event management, with prior experience in software and consulting sales for life sciences and healthcare. His diverse background enriches his approach to corporate marketing at PacBio, where he oversees omnichannel marketing, media, internal communications and brand development
DesignRush: What key messages and strategies do you use to attract and retain investors, particularly those unfamiliar with biotechnology?
Vennemeyer: We prioritize customer and investor engagement through a multi-faceted approach, deeply integrating ourselves into the experiences and needs of our users. This commitment is reflected in routine practices of gathering feedback, including regular interviews, annual surveys and remote fleet monitoring.
We also engage in co-marketing and co-development activities, fostering a partnership that extends beyond mere transactions. Our marketing team plays a crucial role in this process, demonstrating genuine care and advocacy for our customers.
In 2023, our customer satisfaction survey measured a Net Promoter score of over 60 — admirable in any industry. We feel this represents the overwhelming excitement for our product offerings, satisfaction with our product performance and overall long-read sequencing potential.
How does customer feedback shape your marketing strategies and product development?
Customer feedback is the cornerstone of our marketing strategies and product development at PacBio that encapsulates one of our core values, which is to “delight our customers.”
Our planning process is fundamentally rooted in the Voice of the Customer (VoC), ensuring that every decision is guided by their insights and needs.
Once a product or campaign is launched, we closely monitor customer responses. This feedback serves as a critical context for evaluating our performance and determining the success of our initiatives.
In essence, our customers' voices are the measure of our success, shaping every stage of our strategy from inception to completion.
How has PacBio's branding strategy evolved to effectively communicate the importance of long-read sequencing to a diverse audience, including investors and the general public?
PacBio's branding strategy has evolved to highlight the critical role of long-read sequencing in biology and genomics, addressing audiences across multiple applications. This evolution is anchored in the principle that what's missing in research is often what matters most.
Historically, researchers have been constrained by the limitations of available technology. Our goal is to bridge this gap by developing technology that can see the true state of native biology as closely as possible.
Our focus is on communicating the transformative impact of accurate sequencing in making previously unattainable insights accessible. We also understand that our communications need to be engaging and targeted to our audience.
We made a concerted effort to rebrand our company from Pacific Biosciences of California, Inc. to PacBio, a shortened name that’s easier to remember. We also adopted a bright, bold brand color to stand apart from other life science companies.
We strategically made these changes just before the introduction of PacBio’s game-changing sequencing systems – the Revio and the Onso sequencing systems.
What are the main challenges you face in marketing complex biotechnology products like long-read sequencing systems, and how do you overcome them?
Marketing complex biotechnology products presents unique challenges, primarily due to the intricate and revolutionary nature of the technology involved.
The key lies in how we convey our message. Our focus is on highlighting the incredible discoveries made by our customers enabled by our technology, essentially letting their breakthroughs speak for the value of our products.
To effectively communicate these achievements, we've assembled a diverse and cross-functional marketing team comprised of professionals from various backgrounds, including engineers, biologists, social media experts, designers, and even individuals with experience in consumer tech.
This diversity ensures that our messaging resonates with our customers and the broader audience, making our complex technology relatable and understandable, especially when it is showcased in conferences and networking events.
Can you share insights into the digital marketing tactics that have been most effective for PacBio in reaching your target audiences?
PacBio has employed a synergistic approach in our digital marketing tactics, creating a "flywheel effect" where each element supports and enhances the others. For instance, we have effectively intertwined our large event marketing, such as customer celebration events, with social media engagement strategies.
This integration has resulted in a reciprocal boost: our social media presence increases interest and participation in our large events, while these events, in turn, generate more social media engagement.
This approach has proven to be extremely effective in reaching our target audiences, as evidenced by the visible excitement and engagement of our customers with both the science and our products. The success of this strategy lies in its ability to foster a dynamic, interactive community around our brand and offerings.
Do you have any interesting data or metrics to share surrounding tactics that have been most successful?
Participating in large conferences like the American Society of Human Genetics and the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology is a key tactic for companies like PacBio. In our last three major conferences, PacBio's social media impressions outnumbered any other vendor by five-fold.
We have held a few customer appreciation events where, for the first time, we hosted award-winning musical artists to entertain and engage our customers.
In one instance, we captured over 20% of the conference attendees for more than three hours, which helped develop deeper relationships with potential customers and a basis of trust in sharing information.
We also ran a social media follower growth campaign in February of 2023 and increased our Twitter/X followers by 176% and can boast 530,000 unique views and more than a million impressions.
Why do you think it was such a success?
This was a great combination of diversity in expertise for the various members of the marketing team.
For example, our graphic designers combined with content marketers, and social media experts generated pre-event excitement that carried through post-event engagement by event attendees.
How do strategic partnerships and collaborations influence your branding and market presence?
Our customers’ research projects require more than just a DNA sequencing instrument. We want to help our customers as much as possible to make their research possible, so we created the PacBio Compatible program to partner with companies that do DNA extraction, shearing, size selection, automation, library preparation, analysis, etc.
All our products are compatible with their products, and we co-promote to help the partners and our customers. We created this program to build an ecosystem to reduce the time our customers spend doing experimental design by providing tested methods combining leading products.
Customer feedback also helps guide us to the best partner, and these partners help find the best customers. We promote our partners through joint webinars, media announcements, events and our corporate website.
What challenges have you found when marketing globally?
Global marketing inherently presents challenges due to diversity, with each region having its own unique preferences for tactics, channels, messages, and treatments. We don't view these differences as obstacles, but rather as opportunities to enhance the versatility of our campaigns and plans.
A key aspect of our global marketing strategy is the ability to regionalize our campaigns. A notable example of this approach was at the ICG conference in Australia, where we transformed our standard "Say hello to Revio" campaign into a more locally tailored "Say G’day to Revio."
This adaptation even extended to branding a local tram, a simple yet highly engaging and effective tactic. This initiative was not only fun, but also created a lasting impact, as evidenced by the continued buzz and texts about the tram in Melbourne.
These experiences underlie the importance of flexibility and creativity in global marketing. By tailoring our approach to each region and testing concepts, we can connect more deeply with different audiences, making our global campaigns both more relevant and memorable.
How crucial is the role of educational content in your marketing strategy to explain the significance and applications of your technology?
Educational content is key to differentiating from competitors, especially in a complicated industry like ours.
Successfully penetrating the market requires educating non-customers about how they can make groundbreaking discoveries using our technologies.
We’ve realized that educational content through our blog really resonated with our customers and those who want to learn about how to better understand genomics. Our recent Sequencing 101 educational blog received more engagement than most blogs we wrote in 2023.
This content is evergreen because you’ll get new graduate students or postdocs researching DNA or RNA sequencing in the future, and this educational material will be valuable in furthering their understanding.
We also offer webinars where current customers talk about the discoveries they are making with our technologies. It offers a glimpse into the many applications that can be enabled by PacBio technologies.
What methods do you employ to engage with your customer base, including researchers and institutions, to ensure they are well-informed about your latest offerings?
We engage with our customers through a variety of different groups that all sit within the Commercial Organization, including Sales, Marketing and Customer Support. All these different groups work together to ensure that our customers are well-informed.
Our sales teams help the marketing department understand proposed projects researchers wish to perform. Our support teams help our customers understand how to use the technology to reach research goals, and our service engineers ensure the products are working optimally at every customer site.
To engage with our customer base, we have also developed newsletters that are specific to the type of research being done. For example, a human genomics newsletter, and a plant and animal genomes newsletter that is specific for those groups.
Our blogs also highlight our products and or recent research papers where our products were used. We also employ emails to inform about product launches and/or new offerings, and scientific meetings so researchers can learn from each other.
Looking ahead, what emerging marketing trends do you foresee as being pivotal for biotechnology companies like PacBio, and how are you preparing to adapt to these trends?
We have found that our potential customers have done a tremendous amount of research before they even talk to us, so we are using more sophisticated tools to build our marketing pipeline, leveraging the right message at the right time.
We want to meet prospects where they are in their buying journey with valuable information to help educate, inform and consider PacBio.