The State of Science Marketing 2023 – A Review

, , ,

Science marketing is going through an adjustment period. In addition to the total disruption of working conditions and in-person events, the pandemic caused a major realignment of demand throughout the science and health sector. The reversion to the “new normal” has been almost as chaotic, with the rise and fall of Web3, a wild social media landscape, and economic uncertainty. To win in 2023, science marketers and business leaders need a clear view of the state of science marketing.

Fortunately, many companies – mainly marketing agencies and technology providers – publish reports and articles based on either survey results or expert analysis. Unfortunately, it is tough to make sense of all these different sources. Where do these reports agree or disagree? What are the impactful trends? Does any of this affect my work?

I had these same questions, so I decided to do a deep dive into the state of science marketing in 2023. I read everything I could get my hands on. Since I am a broken person who can only motivate myself to research if it is tied to creating content, I decided to write about my findings. To kick off this series, I am summarizing the main takeaways from my review – each of these topics will be covered in a separate article in the coming weeks.

Want to see where I got this information? Skip to the end.

What Recession? The State of Science Marketing Budgets

The most pressing topic to investigate was how science companies are dealing with the quasi-pre-recession we are living in. We hear about layoffs in the tech world, but how are science companies faring, and are they taking it out on their marketing budgets?

Overall, there does not seem to be a reason to panic for most marketing teams from the survey results I have seen. If you work at a company that is struggling, you probably already know it – Godspeed to you – but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of massive budget cuts or layoffs for most science marketing teams.

One table from SCORR Marketing’s report has especially stuck with me: across the marketers they surveyed, there were budget increases in every single channel. Maybe this is just being driven by inflation or some selection bias effect, but these don’t look like recessionary numbers to me.

Source: SCORR Marketing

Of course, the signs are not all good. While most marketing budgets are growing, some are shrinking, and I don’t want to dimmish that. I wish there were better detail on who is most exposed (start-ups? UK-based companies?), but I don’t have that information. It is also possible that this “economic uncertainty” will take a little longer to hit science companies. The ripples from the Inflation Reduction Act may take some time to work through the system.

(Of note, the surveys and reports I read were all published before the Silicon Valley Bank crash. I don’t have any perspective on what effect that might have)

Read more about trends in science marketing budgets.

A Role for Robots in Science Marketing

One of the biggest stories of 2022 was AI going mainstream. For decades we have been hearing about the potential of this technology, but we are finally seeing what it can do in practice. Are we living in the next industrial revolution, or is this just Web3 2.0? And how will it affect science marketing (or all marketing, frankly)?

For AI writers, the consensus as of early 2023 is that these tools aren’t quite ready to handle science marketing content. Their science knowledge is too shallow and behind the curve to create quality articles. However, AI writing will probably start playing a role in this work sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Of course, AI writing is one of many places robots are showing up these days. Marketing automation technology has existed for several years and will probably adopt more AI functionality. We are also seeing HubSpot and SalesForce jump on the bandwagon, introducing tools for their CRMs.

The moral of the story is that every science marketer should become familiar with AI-based tools, even if they aren’t using them on a daily basis.

Eventful Events in Science Marketing

In-person events and trade shows have always been a critical component of B2B marketing. This is especially true of science marketing, which also inherits the tradition of academic conferences. Some suggested that events would struggle to return, saying the pandemic had taught marketers that these activities were too high effort and offered a low return on investment.

At this point, you are probably not surprised to hear that news about the death of events was premature. Love’m, or hate’m, conferences and trade shows seem to be fully operational in 2023. Attendees are excited to return, and marketers are reporting solid results.

What about virtual or hybrid events? The outlook here is less optimistic – marketers and attendees seemed less excited to participate. While many marketers still report strong performance with webinars, “virtual trade shows” need to prove they are worthwhile in a post-COVID world. This graphic from AZoNetwork’s “State of Scientific Marketing” summarizes the overall state of affairs – only a third of science marketers say they are “likely” to attend an event in 2023, compared to about two-thirds for face-to-face events.

Source: AZoNetwork

(Quality) Content is King – State of Science Content Marketing

Content marketing has been a popular tactic in many forms of B2B marketing for many years. Blogs, YouTube videos, infographics… everything is being used. Marketers think this set of tactics is highly effective, as seen in this survey result from the report by Chief Marketer and OneTrust.

Source: Chief Marketer and OneTrust

While it might be a touch surprising that content marketing is performing so well, I doubt many B2B are shocked to see it with solid results. But what kind of content marketing is best to focus on? It seems that science marketers are having a lot of success with technical documents such as application notes, case studies, and white papers. Some sources suggest video content still has room to grow, but there are questions about whether to invest in short videos like TikTok or longer content like webinars.

Podcasts consistently appeared at the bottom of the list regarding effectiveness, which leads to questions about whether these forms of content should receive less effort and investment. Perhaps they should be considered a tool for awareness and brand rather than generating leads?

Influencer Science Marketing?

One of the most contentious questions in my research was the potential of influencer marketing. A survey from TopRankMarketer said that 86% of B2B companies that use influencers were successful, and HubSpot said that B2B marketers were more successful than B2C marketers. On the pessimistic side, a survey from Chief Marketer and OneTrust found influencer marketing produced the fewest leads of the channels they tested (see graphic in the above section).

Ultimately, the role of influencer marketing will come to how the term is defined and incorporated into a marketing plan. The “Instagram Influencer” model isn’t right for science marketing, but what is the alternative? How is it different from the thought leadership work many companies have done for years (if not decades)?

Conclusion – Expecting the Unexpected (and the Expected)

While there were many expected results in this project, there were also many surprises. A lot is happening in the science marketing world, and it can be hard to get your arms around it: economic problems, disruptive technology, or new regulations to change the landscape dramatically this year. Even if there aren’t any big disruptions, it seems science marketers are still unsure what a “normal” 2023 would look like. What is clear is that expertise, vision, and creativity are just as important as ever, and there are many opportunities for talented marketers to beat their competition.

Post Script: The Best Science Marketing Reports

This project required looking at a ton of reports and articles – some were packed with fascinating insights, while others were… not. I kept coming back to a handful of resources, and I wanted to share them here. All 10 of these are worth reading!

These are in no particular order.

SCORR is a full-service marketing agency that focuses on the health science industry that has been around for 20 years. Their survey, conducted in the summer of 2022, asked science marketers what activities they prioritize.

One feature I appreciated was the focus on money – there are several questions about the total marketing budget and what is receiving more funds. It is easy for marketers to say everything is a priority, but referencing monetary investment feels more grounded in reality. This report is probably most relevant for people who work in agencies but is still helpful for people with client-side roles.

2023 State of Marketing to Engineers (TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec)

I’m a big fan of the TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec annual report. Unlike many other surveys, the respondents were customers rather than marketers. The survey is specifically about engineers rather than scientists, but I expect these groups are probably similar (and about 25% of the respondents were from science-heavy fields).

One of the big winners in the survey was YouTube – about 45% of respondents said it was “extremely useful” or “very useful.” This jumps to an impressive 65% when focusing on the 35-and-under crowd. The podcast-related questions were also fascinating – 55% of engineers want episodes that are 15 minutes or less!?

The State of Scientific Marketing 2023 (AZoNetwork)

AZoNetwork is a science marketing agency connected to a collection of trade publications on a variety of scientific topics. Their marketing work specializes in digital marketing, including SEO, CRO, and videos. This is the fourth year they have released their State of Scientific Marketing report, which is based on a survey of science marketers.

I would have liked more focus and clarity in some of their questions and analysis. For example, they ask how “challenging” various tasks are, or what is the most common CRM. What exactly is this information for? These questions may be for AZoNetwork themself, but including them in the results distracted from the more compelling findings.

The State of Scientific Purchasing 2022 (AZoNetwork)

AZoNetwork put out another survey worth looking at – the State of Scientific Purchasing. Over 140 buyers from academia and the private sector were asked what affects their buying decisions. As I said with the TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec survey, I prefer surveys directed at buyers rather than sellers.

This survey was also conducted in the summer of 2022, which feels like a long time ago. Fortunately, most of the results are unlikely to be affected by economic shifts. It does include some specific questions about the sales process that aren’t covered in other surveys, though those are probably irrelevant to most marketers.

BioStrata is a marketing agency specializing in science digital marketing. They posted on their blog about what they see as the emerging life science marketing trends of 2023. While the article was interesting, it could have gone deeper. For example, one of the trends was user-generated content, but it didn’t address the challenges of producing user-generated content in the life sciences industry, which tends to be secretive. Still, it is useful to consider ideas that might not fit neatly into a survey.

Clarkson Consulting’s report is the only one I read that was obviously not written by a marketer. Instead of discussing content creation and social media strategy, it focused on government regulation and inflation. This is not meant as a slight – it is helpful for marketing folks to come out of the coloring department and face the real world from time to time.

That being said, this analysis is considerably less actionable than other articles. This report would be most useful for executives.

State of Marketing Budgets 2022 (Integrate and Demand Metric)

How do you understand a company’s marketing priorities? You look at their budget. The State of Marketing Budgets is built on this logic, asking over 500 marketers what they spend their money on. While the title doesn’t specify this, the respondents appear to all be B2B marketers, which is helpful since most science marketing is a B2B affair. Results were also divided by industry, so I could focus on the healthcare segment.

The numbers in this report are fascinating, but the analysis is bizarre. For example, their first “key finding” was that “A majority of marketers report budgets were cut or stayed flat in 2022 compared to 2021.” What they don’t mention is that it is also true that more marketers saw an increase in their budget than a decrease. I won’t fuss about the details, but the interpretations feel unnecessarily pessimistic.  

2023 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey (Chief Marketer and OneTrust)

If you are extremely short on time and can only read one marketing trend report (other than mine), I recommend the one from Chief Marketer and OneTrust. It is compact and filled with many of the most important stats and charts you might want. While it does not focus on sciences, it helps get a sense of more general trends in B2B marketing.

State of Content Marketing 2023 (SEMRush)

Want to get extremely deep into all things content marketing? SEMRush put together a mammoth report covering anything you want to know on blogs, videos, social media, etc. Once again, the focus is not on science marketers, but content marketing is a significant component of the work at many B2B science companies, so I wanted to include it in this discussion.

The length may look intimidating – 126 pages! – but it is not particularly dense, often only having a couple of paragraphs per page. It is made for skimming.

Digital Content Report (Verblio)

Verblio’s report on digital content was a late find while working on this project, but I once I read it, I knew I needed to be included. It covers content marketing like the SEMRush report, but instead of focusing on the details of what marketers are doing, it attempts to understand the experience of content marketers. While the focus of “digital content” seems narrow, I feel this report ties together many of the most important themes of this review.

Some of their results went against the grain of other reports, which is worth discussing.

10 responses to “The State of Science Marketing 2023 – A Review”

  1. […] Marketing tips for promoting your science […]

  2. […] worth noting that this list is light on lessons in marketing practice. What are the latest trends in science marketing? How do you write a science blog? What is SEO? That is intentional. Books are not the best place to […]

  3. […] I completed a review of the reports and surveys about the state of science marketing in 2023 so I could get perspective on the direction of the field. There were many unexpected results, but […]

  4. […] part of my series on the state of science marketing, I wanted to review what I saw as trends in science marketing technology. It looks like science […]

  5. […] Read: State of Science Marketing 2023 […]

  6. […] through the roof in 2020 and is likely to remain elevated over pre-pandemic levels. Personally, science marketing is my jam, and there are often opportunities in that […]

  7. […] I completed a review of the reports and surveys about the state of science marketing in 2023 so I could get perspective on the direction of the field. There were many unexpected results, but […]

  8. […] worth noting that this list is light on lessons in marketing practice. What are the latest trends in science marketing? How do you write a science blog? What is SEO? That is intentional. Books are not the best place to […]

  9. […] Marketing tips for promoting your science […]

  10. […] part of my series on the state of science marketing, I wanted to review what I saw as trends in science marketing technology. It looks like science […]

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to my newsletter

%d bloggers like this: