February 25, 2015
Case Study

B2B Marketing: Wake Forest Innovations doubles revenue with Web launch of 5 unique domains

SUMMARY: The newly created Wake Forest Innovations — the commercialization arm of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest University — needed innovative digital marketing to command the attention of potential investors, academics, researchers and companies seeking laboratory outsourcing.

Learn how Wake Forest Innovations launched an online Web presence spanning five unique domains, developed content to speak to the many offerings the organization provides and reaped in a 100% increase in revenue coupled with a 600% lift in Web-based Marketing-qualified leads from 2013 to 2014.
by Erin Hogg, Reporter

Created in 2012, Wake Forest Innovations is the commercialization arm for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest University. As one of the leading academic medical centers with core focuses in cancer, aging and Alzheimer's disease, regenerative medicine, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease, the Wake Forest Medical Center has a long history of breakthroughs in science.

At Wake Forest Innovations, the organization has two focuses for its scientists, clinicians and staff:
  • Provide entrepreneurship capabilities to transform ideas, discoveries and inventions into commercialized products. This is done through obtaining intellectual property, patenting and licensing.

  • Provide services to pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies. This includes drug development and testing for safety and effectiveness through the Wake Forest contract research organization.


The core buyers Wake Forest Innovations target are pharmaceutical companies as well as biotech companies, ranging from startups to big pharma.

Another group the organization targets are medical device companies, which produce products such as stents or devices a surgeon would use in surgery.

Finally, with the intellectual property aspects of its business, Wake Forest Innovations targets venture capitalists and investment groups as well.

"We speak to pharmaceutical and medical device businesses and investment groups interested in investing in a technology that has great potential for not only revenue but also to improve health because ultimately, as part of an academic medical center, our final goal is to improve health of people worldwide," explained Vishal Khanna, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Wake Forest Innovations.


While Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was in the process of launching its Innovations arm, it brought on an agency to build out a digital strategy and Web presence for the company.

"Wake Forest Innovations was taking a pretty large step forward, especially for an academic institution that's not necessarily versed in B2B marketing. So what we did was develop a B2B marketing enterprise inside of a university," Khanna said.

At the time of the organization's launch, Khanna noted that there were not many models similar to what Wake Forest Innovations was doing and that so much of what the teams strategized was from scratch.

"Our websites, our presence, our content, our strategy — all this originated by looking at other industries and translating over their strategies into our academic B2B enterprise," Khanna explained.


The teams at Wake Forest Innovations and its agency partner were under a tight deadline — 90 days — to launch a Web presence as well as a unified content strategy.

Also, the websites for Wake Forest Innovations were to be responsive, which, in 2012, was an initiative to set up the organization to provide a solid foundation for future growth.

Step #1. Launch Web presence

The first step in launching Wake Forest Innovations was to create distinct websites for each of the core business initiatives.

This included five websites, beginning with the flagship WakeForestInnovations.com. This site's goals were to establish the brand and define who they were and to also promote the technologies the organization had available for licensing, which ranges from alternative energy to cancer therapeutics.

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The second site was for Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, a research and IT hub in downtown Winston-Salem. This is one of the fastest growing research parks in the world, with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center as the anchor tenant, along with other companies, including big data company Inmar as well as startups like Clinical Inc.

The third site focused on the preclinical service line, which is a medical device and therapeutic testing service. For Khanna, this site was of particular interest to leverage SEO, PPC and content marketing to generate leads.

WakeCoreLabs.com, the fourth site, was launched to promote the core laboratories at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The fifth and final site was for Wake Forest ultrasound education. As Khanna explained, Wake Forest provides physician education, and this site was for a specific group that teaches ultrasound education for physicians and sonographers.

A key goal across all of the sites was ensuring that the content was valid, useful and optimized for search engines across the board.

Finding a content management system was a challenge for the teams, as they needed something that would provide a consistent look and feel across all lines of business. It would also have to be easily manageable with the small internal team at Wake Forest Innovations.

Step #2. Establish content strategy

With a specialty industry of drug development and discovery, Khanna saw the importance of partnering with a firm as well as having an in-house marketing team working together.

The agency aided in Wake Forest Innovation's development of a core content strategy, coming up with a plan based on best practices in digital marketing. However, Wake Forest Innovations marketing team would provide the content as they are the experts in the field.

"Our in-house marketing group is able to check the pulse of the institution. We know who our researchers are, we understand the latest in findings that are happening at the institution and have intimate relationships with the people and the resources we promote and utilize — something that no outside firm could do," Khanna said.

Content for the Wake Forest Innovations websites is created in-house by a team of writers that Khanna manages and edits.

The team strives to keep content succinct and specialized by speaking to scientists at Wake Forest for content.

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Lead nurturing was new for Wake Forest, and since its launch, the marketing team has learned more about their clients and how they function.

With content, Wake Forest Innovations needs to be known and available, conveying to prospects that they provide specific resources and can get them access to leading experts in the field in which their drug is being developed.

The marketing team has found their clients have specific queries when they come to the organization, such as, "We are testing this drug and we need to test it in this specific scenario. Can you help?"

In knowing this, Khanna aims to provide specific content that will show the prospect in their first engagement of what services Wake Forest Innovations can provide.

In addition to content on the site, responsively designed email campaigns are also sent to subscribers sharing the latest news and research from the Wake Forest Innovations experts.

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Step #3. Leverage website SEO

In keeping with that aim for specificity, Khanna's strategy for keywords lies within long-tail phrases.

For example, a phrase such as "diabetes research" is high in competition, and Wake Forest's efforts would be diluted.

Through their agency partnership, the marketing team needed to think more granularly about phrases to purchase, achieving the most out of their spend.

The team started thinking about long-tail phrases and specifics of what potential clients would be looking for and then matching the site content to those specific phrases.

Wake Forest Innovations conducted competitive landscape research and used various tools to analyze competitors and how they are implementing SEO strategies.

Then, Wake Forest connected key phrases to actual services offered, so the strategy is grounded in Wake Forest Innovations service lines.

Step #4. Keep brand identity unified

Established at the onset of Wake Forest Innovation's business life, multiple variables were set forth, including logos, colors and fonts.

In addition, boilerplate content and descriptions of Wake Forest Innovations were created to live across all of its sites.

The launch has been a learning experience for the agency and the marketing team at Wake Forest Innovations, according to Khanna. Through data and analysis, a new initiative will be to bring the main domain, WakeForestInnovations.com, to the top of the hierarchy of the five sites, with the four other sites below. This will be done to help with brand hierarchy and recognition.

Step #5. Attend industry trade shows

"Something rather novel for academic medical centers is having a sales team. That in itself is rather new; it's not something that is a standard. But here at Wake Forest, it has become a standard. Our sales team works in-house as well as travelling across the country promoting the services of Wake Forest to our industry partners," Khanna explained.

The marketing team works very closely with Sales, which facilitates conversations between Wake Forest scientists and partners' scientist.

Marketing aids Sales in terms of collateral development as well as in terms of developing the Wake Forest Innovations booth, arranging the shows and conducting email marketing in advance of a trade show to generate traffic to the booth. In addition, the marketing team aids Sales with follow-up management and makes sure that the new leads are nurtured into contracts.

Trade shows that Wake Forest Innovations attends include large industry events such as BIO International, Southeast Bio, North American Spine Society and Orthopedic Research Society.

"In addition, our faculty regularly attend conferences worldwide presenting their findings, and for us, that's a new opportunity that we will be looking into as well — how to leverage our faculty's presence at conferences to our advantage," Khanna said.


When looking at data from 2013 to 2014, Wake Forest Innovations has achieved:
  • A 600% increase in Web-based Marketing-qualified leads

  • A 183% increase in interactions as a result to the responsive email design and marketing efforts

  • A 100% increase in revenue

  • Trade show traffic doubled

"What we have seen is that in our industry, our goal is not necessarily to keep users engaged within our website, but instead to try to move them from the Web to email or phone because that's where the sale is going to happen. A lot of our strategies focus on 'How can we funnel this person from digital engagement to some more traditional form — email, phone or a meeting,' and that's where our success happens," Khanna said.

The faster Wake Forest Innovations can get a prospect to those stages, the more effective the conversion will be, he added. This relies on understanding the buyer journey and matching a strategy to that journey.

For Khanna, the experience of launching the Web presence and marketing strategies for Wake Forest Innovations has been a challenge but is also extremely rewarding on a professional level.

"It's exciting to know that every day you will be involved in creating something new, something that has never been created before and being truly innovative in a field. That in itself, beyond everything else, makes this job very exciting," he explained.

In 2015, it's time to get innovating again, and the team will make various changes to the sites based on the data they have seen since launching in 2013. There will be more micro targeting, more video content, as well as a new open innovation engagement portal, which will provide direct and open access to the experts at Wake Forest.

Creative Samples

  1. Wake Forest Innovations website

  2. Research feature

  3. Wake Forest Innovations email


Wake Forest Innovations

AIS Media

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