I’ve Moved!

Finally, I’ve moved!

Please feel free to visit me at my new pad, but bear with me while I unpack fully over there!

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Image credit @MorgueFile

Is it Time to Shred the White Paper?

I recently talked about white papers as a good market for medical writers to tap into. And I additionally wrote this guest post on writing white papers for the medical industry.

But not everyone is a fan of this old favorite!
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What’s the Problem?
They tend to get a bad rap. Painful, dull, and overlong are just a few adjectives that I’ve seen used to describe these important documents. Yet they’ve been around for some time, and their academic voice remains a high-impact asset in marketing.

Not all white papers are created equally though. Their quality varies widely, depending on the author. When written properly, they can be extremely effective marketing tools, even in simple PDF format. The flip side, however, is that when written poorly, they merely come across as a big old sales pitch in disguise (and sometimes not even in disguise!). A small bias is expected (it’s a document that aims to grab a sale, after all), but if the overwhelming message to the reader is a forceful sales pitch, it may just fall on deaf ears.

One problem with a white paper is its short half-life – once sent out, that’s it, it’s gone. And the reader may not even finish reading it. Another problem is inflexibility of content delivery – even if the reader likes it, he still may not be motivated to contact a sales representative.

Interestingly, many people believe that white papers may be on the way out due to the advent of new 2.0 technologies. Our ever-increasing immersion into the fast-paced digital era has, for better or worse, reduced our attention span. As a result, some feel that traditional white papers are less appealing, whereas digital information delivery allows the reader to become more involved in researching a product, thus enhancing product curiosity.
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What Alternatives are There?
Consequently many feel that the traditional, thesis-like white paper may be outdated amidst today’s technology. Some businesses are therefore now reaching out to their audience via different platforms, and building client relationships in a more interactive way. A few of these include:

  • Microsites: These can be used to create a marketing message for lead generation. Information that would typically go into a white paper can be placed on the site, but in a more readable and interactive format. Information can be shared there in various formats (such as via a blog, surveys, webinars, and discussion forums to name but a few), and can also be updated as necessary.
  • Twitter: Social networking is becoming another useful method for reaching a target audience.  Twitter is a growing platform for this, with Twitter chats being increasingly used for marketing.
  • eBooks: Their landscape format is favored by some, supposedly because it makes for easier reading. Throw in some embedded links too, or interactive media “bells and whistles” such as video or animation. The finished product may then better engage the reader, increasing his interest, and making him more likely to finish reading it.

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Where Does the Future Lie?
Having said all this, however, white papers have stood the test of time. After all, companies are still using them, and often still in their very traditional, bland form. Some critics argue that our reduced attention spans actually allow a paper document to function better than digital material. For instance, many people visit many websites, but how long do they stay to read them? Additionally, the viral “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of much digital material these days could work against its effectiveness as a delivery platform for product information.

Personally, despite seeing the value of new technology, I feel that white papers will remain steadfast. I think most of us would agree that attention-grabbing content remains king, regardless of format.  And likely the customer, not the marketer, will have the final say on whether white papers should be axed. At the moment though, there is enough evidence that they remain a valued marketing tool. So although change is always good as a process evolves, I suspect most companies will retain a special place in their heart for these documents. After all, marketing is still marketing, and the factors that drive sales haven’t really changed.

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So what do you think? Is creativity the new white paper?

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Image credit Photostock at Free Digital Photos

Zoonoses in the Bedroom

Many pet owners were not too happy with the release of a manuscript by veterinarians Bruno B. Chomel and Ben Sun in the February 2011 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases from the Centers for Disease Control. Their article “Zoonoses in the Bedroom” discussed the fact that sleeping with pets has the potential for serious health risks. 

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As our pets become more integrated into family life, they increasingly tend to share our lifestyles – including our beds! Surveys have estimated that up to 62% of owners allow their pets on their beds. Despite the fact that pet ownership brings us many benefits, including emotional support and stress reduction, we should not forget that our furry friends also bring along a whole host of their own “friends” in addition. Namely in the form of a wide range of zoonotic pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

The authors searched PubMed for peer-reviewed publications that clearly detailed human exposure to zoonotic disease in association with sharing a bed or sleeping with pets, and kissing or being licked by them. A selection of their findings included:

  • Numerous cases of plaque in Arizona and New Mexico, from 1974 to 2008, in people who reported sleeping with or handling sick or flea-infested cats or dogs.
  • Septicemia and multi-organ failure in a 48 year old woman in Australia. Her fox terrier pup had been licking a minor burn wound on her foot.
  • A 48 year old man with diabetes mellitus, and his wife, suffered recurrent MRSA infections. The couple regularly slept with their dog, and allowed him to lick their faces. Culture of nares samples from both people and their dog, as well as from a wound on the wife, grew an identical strain of MRSA.
  • Paranasal sinusitis in a 39 year old woman from Japan with rhinorrhea and headaches. Her cat would awaken her each day by licking her. Identical Pasteurella multocida isolates were grown from the patient’s nasal discharge and the cat’s saliva.
  • Another from Japan, and one of my favorites: Meningitis due to Pasteurella multocida in a 44 year old woman from Japan who admitted to regularly kissing her dog, as well as feeding it by transferring food mouth to mouth.

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Whilst zoonotic disease transmission is uncommon with healthy pets, these cases clearly document that close contact between pets and owners presents a real risk when it comes to spread of infection. And this is especially worrying when we consider potentially fatal diseases such as plague.

Many people will likely not refrain from smooching their pets. Nevertheless, children, the elderly, and patients who are immunocompromised should at least be discouraged from kissing their pets or sharing a bed with them. And areas of skin, especially in the case of open wounds, that are licked by pets should be immediately washed. Bacterial infections with no obvious origin, or recurrent MRSA infections in patients, should also be cues for physicians to ask questions about contact with pets.

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How Köhler Illumination Can Help You See The Light

Time for another fun microscopy update! If you’re working in a lab and use a microscope occasionally, you may have heard about Köhler illumination. It’s certainly worth knowing about if you want to get the most out of your microscope.

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My article  at BitesizeBio will not only help to clue you in to its value, but will take you through the steps to achieve it.

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Image Credit ardelfin at Morguefile

January Updates

It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of the second week in January already. How is it that time went by at a snail’s pace when I was a school kid, but these days I just blink and I’ve lost a couple of months!?

Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks since I returned to work in the new year. I took the remainder of my vacation leave at the end of last year, so ended up with almost two weeks off. It was wonderful, especially as I enjoyed a fabulous trip to Yosemite National Park. Can’t wait to go back there!

So what else is new here?

  • Identity Crisis: Over the recent months, I’ve been trying to focus my mind (always difficult!) on my blog – specifically its name. When I first started out doing some freelancing, I had envisaged it being focused mostly on editing; however, it’s really morph’ed into more writing and less editing. So right now, since I’d like to buy a domain for this site (eventually, when I stop procrastinating!), I’m trying to come up with a new business name.  One that doesn’t completely focus on one aspect. Currently I’m pondering on “The Boston Microscope”. What do you think? The other option is just to use my own name…..
  • Blogging for Medical Writers: Last week I received an email from the Program Director of our local AMWA-New England Chapter. Our next regional meeting is coming up in mid-February, it’s a roundtable session, where multiple medical writers host discussions on different topics at separate tables. I’ve been asked if I’d be willing to participate by hosting a session on blogging for medical writers. So I’m really excited about this opportunity! 

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So that’s where I am right now…….otherwise, I’m just trying to keep my head above water at work, it’s a little crazy at the moment!

I hope the new year is getting off to a good start for you all.

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Image credit jscreationzs @FreeDigitalPhotos

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Here’s hoping 2012 is a prosperous one for you all.

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Marketing by Warm Email Prospecting: Part II

Last week I mentioned that I’ve been listening to some webinars by Ed Gandia on warm email prospecting. I shared some of his thoughts about why he feels it is a useful marketing tool.

This past week I listened to the remaining one in which he discusses what warm email prospecting actually involves. So here goes with more of his thoughts…….

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In Order To Do It Right

  • Avoid the email blast
  • Don’t just talk about yourself
  • Don’t send the same message to everyone
  • Don’t use it to send out your newsletter to non-subscribers
  • Don’t use it to announce a new service to non-subscribers

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So What Does It Involve?

It involves sending out customized, personalized, and properly timed emails to a carefully picked list of prospects – emails with custom messages, not a mass email blast. It avoids the “all about me” approach. One example that Ed shared, goes something like this:

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Hi Randy,

I’ve been reading about your company in the Atlanta Business chronicle and the work you’ve done at Emory Hospital. based on the work I’ve done with ACME Medical, I may be able to help you get “X” accomplished faster and cheaper.

Here’s a short article on how I’ve helped ACME.

Would it make sense for us to chat briefly sometime in the next couple of weeks?

Regards,

John

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Ed’s Warm Email Prospecting Blueprint

  • First, figure out what is your ideal client profile: It is important to get the kind of clients that are best-suited to what you want to do in your business – this is a key to success and satisfaction in any business.
  • Create a targeted list: Identify the organization, and even specific individuals within it, that you are looking for. Then do your research to find their email addresses.
  • Establish a meaningful connection for each prospect: You need a good reason for why the prospect should respond, and you need to introduce this early in the email. Maybe you both have a mutual business contact, or you heard of them via a conference. Or it could be something like a business accomplishment, award or recognition of yours that would be useful for your prospect to know about. Some “connection” with the prospect is always good.
  • Make a relevant and quick pitch: This is where it all comes together, but where many make mistakes. Need to keep it short – 120 words or less!
  • Prepare for conversation: You’ve done the hard work – now be prepared to field and respond to any emails or calls that you might receive. Have a set of talking points and questions ready in case you get a call. And also some stock email text to use as the basis for a response to anyone who replies looking for more information.
  • Do smart follow-up: Success with email prospecting requires a long term commitment, but tends to return a higher success rate than other methods when done correctly. No matter how well you do, however, most prospects will not respond, so you have to be prepared for that – it’s true with any method. Ed recommends sending a 2nd email two weeks later to non-responders – but do this correctly too. Don’t come across as if you’re reprimanding – he suggests re-sending your original email with an additional link, maybe to an article you wrote that they might find useful as an addendum, or with some additional information about your work that they might find useful.
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Powerful Email Subject Lines

Ed discusses how getting the subject line right in your email is crucial to it being opened. Firstly, keep it short – he advises less than 50 total characters. And secondly, it’s also important to lead with your connection in the subject line:

  • Congratulations on the new publication
  • I wrote ACME’s white paper for their new product
  • Dr John Smith referred me to you

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I really enjoyed listening to what Ed has to say about warm email prospecting. He’s a great speaker anyway, and is very easy to listen to, and he raised some very valid points about how you should go about your email prospecting for optimum results – and although they seem intuitive on some level, it’s always good to have someone fortify them for you, and provide some solid examples of what to do, and what not to do!

Since I’m not a fan of cold-calling, I certainly use email as my number one marketing tool. It’s been useful having some clear pointers from someone who uses it successfully.

How about you – are you a fan of email marketing?

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to You All!

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I hope the holiday is a peaceful and festive one for all of you and your families.

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Marketing by Warm Email Prospecting: Part I

Right now I’m listening to some short webinars on Warm Email Prospecting by Ed Gandia of the International Freelancers Academy. I’m a big fan of email as a business communication tool, so I thought I’d share some of his thoughts here – they might appeal to some of you too.

In a world where we’re constantly being told about some new and interesting way to market our business services, Ed discusses how email prospecting, when done right, may be the fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to find and land quality clients – and it will enhance your success rate.

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In particular, it by passes the main reasons so many self-employed people hate marketing:

  • Fear of rejection
  • The unwillingness to sell yourself
  • The time-consuming nature of marketing your business by traditional means – never-ending
  • The “Tool du Jour” confusion: These days there are so many articles about some latest and greatest new social media tool or must-have plugin etc, that you just can’t keep up!
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So Why Does Email Prospecting Work (When Done Right)?

  • Less intrusive: Sits there in the inbox until the recipient can get to it, so it’s more convenient. Compare this with a phone call that has to be picked up, maybe disturbing the busy recipient, for your message to be received.
  • Prospects are usually more receptive to a strong email message than a cold-call: When done correctly, short email messages get read. When cold-calling, you get 3-5 seconds to make an impression, as opposed to 10-20 seconds in writing.
  • Email is a better medium to deliver a relevant and personalized message: It’s easier to digest a marketing message in writing, than by phone call or in person.
  • Can use key psychological triggers: They appeal to core human emotions.
  • Helps you stay more motivated, energized, and creative: You’ll no longer feel like a pest to potential new clients!
  • Inexpensive: No postage required, and you don’t even have to leave the office!
  • Quick and immediate: Your message is delivered immediately. It involves some advance research and time to compose a customized message, but it is still less time-consuming than other more traditional methods.
  • You get to choose who you go after: You don’t need to simply wait until prospects come to you. It’s important to implement your own proactive marketing strategies, allowing you to control who you target, according to your business needs.
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He raised some interesting points, such as the one about how a strong email subject line is more likely to get a positive response than a random cold call. I know I’m much more inclined to use email than a phone call to contact someone who I do not know. And the more marketing webinars that I listen to about how we should all be making 100 cold calls each week, the less likely I am to ever use cold calling!

The next webinar on my list is Ed’s discussion of some pointers on “how to get it right” by email. I’ll keep you tuned!

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Conference Musings

I’ve been away from home for 10 days on a road trip of sorts. A 2,478 mile road trip to be exact, to Nashville and back. Last week I was attending the annual conference of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists there, and I’d been pondering ahead of time about driving instead of flying.

I live in Massachusetts, so it’s not a quick drive, but I thought it might be a great chance to see some places en-route that I’d not seen before. And I know it’s not for everyone, but I really love driving. I could quite enjoy being a trucker, I think! Just cruising long distances, listening to my in-car (or truck!) satellite radio……

Anyway, I’d kept an eye on the weather situation – it can be touch and go this time of year in New England, you just never know when the snow is going to make its appearance. And since we had that early snowfall at Halloween, it was anyone’s guess as to what might happen. I decided I could book a last minute flight if necessary, but it turned out that luck was on my side, and I had great weather on both ends of the journey.
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The conference turned out to be very productive for a few reasons:

  • Great opportunities for continuing education: There were so many interesting sessions this year, and one in particular turned out great. It was a non-scientific session on the theme of entrepreneurship for veterinary pathologists. Once I get my act together and catch up at work, I’m hoping to piece together some of the major points covered in some of the sessions as a blog post here, because most of the points were applicable to anyone setting up a small business of their own. So some of you may find them share-worthy!
  • Committee meetings: I also had to attend the conference because I’m a member of the ACVP Examination Committee, and we meet up a few times at the annual conference. These were productive and useful sessions too, as we head toward the 2012 board certification exam. Amazing that we’ve only just finished up with the 2011 exam which was held late September, and now we’re preparing for the next one already.
  • Post-meeting workshop: There are always great continuing education workshops held both before and after the conference. This year I attended one on evaluation of bone marrow specimens, and it was great. An MD pathologist was an invited speaker for the sessions, and he gave some great insight into bone marrow cancers and other diseases in people. Plus he was a very articulate speaker in general, so was just very interesting to listen to.
  • Vendor Networking: We’ve been having problems at work with our diagnostic software – to the degree that we’re looking into getting a completely new system. Expensive! After a fair bit of networking with other pathologists, and doing some online research, I finally came up with a good referral. I’d contacted them before the conference and received a follow-up package by mail, and am awaiting an appointment with them. And as it happened, when I was at the conference, I discovered that they had a vendor booth in the exhibit hall. Their first time at our conference. So I was very lucky to be able to get a first hand demonstration of their software. The representatives were extremely helpful.
  • Socially: I really enjoyed catching up with my colleagues and friends, some of whom I really only get to see at this time of year at the conference. I was especially pleased to see a friend from Scotland who attended too – we haven’t seen each other since 2005, so it was lovely to spend some time with her. We managed to get to see some live music in Nashville on the first evening. I’m not much of a live music fan – mostly because when I go out with friends, I like to be able to chat to them, and I find that music obviously prevents this happening! But regardless, this may be the only time I ever visit Nashville, so seeing some live music was kind of a “bucket list” item. And I’m glad I did it, even if it kept me up until after midnight, leaving me over-tired the following morning.

So as is typical for most conferences, the days were long and exhausting!

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And On Another Note…..Some Eco-Friendly Thoughts

I’m always conscious about being as “green” as possible, regardless of my whereabouts, but when I’m traveling, I do my best to pay some extra thoughts. Nine days in hotels reminded me of this:

  • Towels: You know how most hotels give you the option to be eco-friendly and not have your towels replaced every day if you either hang them on the rack, or display the relevant tag to alert the housekeeping staff to this? During this trip I was once again frustrated in our Nashville hotel because despite hanging my towel as requested, so it wouldn’t be replaced, I’d constantly find it gone when I returned to the room, only to be replaced by a fresh one.
  • Bathroom accessories: You know the wee travel-sized soaps, shampoos etc that hotels provide? I try to avoid using them at all costs. When I was in New Zealand in January, I discovered that the NZers are massively green, and most of their hotels offer pump-action dispensers of shampoo, soap etc, which I liked a lot. But anyway, when I travel, I take my own stuff with me so I don’t have to use up small containers of the hotel supplies. The only thing I don’t tend to take is soap, because I don’t use bars of soap at home. If I’m only at a hotel for a day or so, I avoid opening the small bars, and instead make do with using my shampoo as soap. And if I’m traveling for a long time, like in this trip, I’ll open a small bar at my first hotel and carry it with me for the remainder of the trip, wrapped in its original package.
  • Linens: I always opt for “no fresh linens” each day when I’m at a hotel for a few nights. Thankfully on this trip, they granted my wish, despite giving me fresh towels daily!

And is anybody as weird as I am? I consistently only ever use one trash can in the room! I tend to only use the one in the bathroom for all my trash. I always like to try and minimize the work that other people have to do in my wake, and I feel that keeping my rubbish confined to one place is a bit of a help here!

I know, I’m quirky!

Do you have any travel rituals?

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