The seven must-have principles of pharma content.
Content marketing is the building of a narrative that looks to speak to target audiences, segments and personas to achieve organisational or marketing goals. It seeks to capture attention, engage with prospects and build relationships to bring those prospects closer to the organisation and its offering.
In pharma, the sales process often starts with content, or a relationship may have started with some form of content. Great pharma content marketing follows a set of connected principles.
The 7 principles of pharma content
Scour the internet and you will find several articles that explore the principles of content marketing: that content marketing should have personality and that it is authoritative and that it should include a CTA, not to mention an informative title.
The following are seven principles specific to pharma content on a strategic level.
Principle #1: Pharma content is solution-based rather than product-based.
Pharma marketing has traditionally followed an outbound approach – advertising and trade shows – which usually involves publishing messages to promote the organisation and the organisation’s products and services. Content marketing, especially in its more contemporary “inbound” format, seeks to educate rather than sell. This inbound marketing approach brings with it a range of advantages for pharma.
A pharma content marketer will understand that – even though there will be times where organisation and product-specific content will be required, usually during the latter stages of the buyer’s journey – delivering content is focused on serving the reader and providing suggestions and solutions to problems. The key idea is to help people when they most need it, that builds trust to the point where that person develops into a prospect and later willingly learns about an organisation and what it does.
This solution-based approach to content looks to develop relationships, and just like the buyer’s journey itself, relationships take time to prosper. But at the decision-making stage, if an organisation already has relationships with those prospects, it will have more of a chance of converting them into customers because of the trust it has developed earlier on in the buyer's journey, as we will look at next...
Principle #2: Pharma content is tailored to specific buyer journey stages.
Today’s buyers embark on a journey of educating themselves long before they make a purchasing decision. The more complex and costly the product or service, more scrutiny will exist during the buyer's journey, which as a process, is therefore longer. The purchasing process within the B2B pharma supply chain is no different and there are no quick wins with pharma content marketing; you may not see direct bottom-line results in the first 6-12 months.
During this process, consumers require content to help with that purchasing decision. The purchasing process, commonly referred as the buyer’s journey for inbound and content marketers, loosely consists of three stages, which can also be considered as customer touchpoints. Here, content is required to help the consumer move from one to stage to the next, more advanced stage of the journey.
SOURCE: Content Marketing Institute
Pharma content needs to cater to each of the three journey stages, offering audiences information related to common questions asked during each of the stages. By creating content for each phase, varying the tactics, we are essentially increasing the number of prospects entering the funnel at varying stages of the journey, which we are clearly able to attribute.
Pharma content per buyer's journey stage can vary for each organisation. The content typically becomes more organisation/product-focused as the buyer progresses through the journey. It's length often increases as the journey also progresses and as the prospect displays more buying intent but this doesn't mean that content for the early stages of the journey is short...
Principle #3: Pharma content is long-form and in-depth.
Pharma marketing brings with it a range of distinct challenges. It will come as no surprise to you that the pharma professional is a highly specialised individual. He or she is educated, highly meticulous and able to make informed decisions based on independent research. Therefore, the content for which he or she seeks is in-depth and comprehensive. Content will need to be detailed to rightly inform prospects of the complex pharma supply chain solutions in question.
It is often suggested, for example, that web pages need approximately 1,600 words to have a chance of ranking highly on search engines but the average content length (according to Content Media) in pharma and healthcare is just over 600 words. Whilst this SEO observation is certainly true, especially if your top of the funnel content aims to attract organic visitors, this might not necessarily be the main reason to produce long-form content. Long-form content is also likely to provide more value and improve engagement, keeping visitors on the site longer, building trust and improving the chances of conversion in the process.
Pharma professionals require information to make informed decisions. To position your organisation as a leader and as reputable, do not fall down in the content length department as it affects many elements. Long-form content will gain higher visibility, which is more likely to be shared and generate better reader value, which in turn will increase conversions and prospects.
Principle #4: Pharma content is targeted to specific job functions and titles.
Additional complexity is added to the already complex pharma buyer’s journey as this prospecting process, on a case-by-case basis, comprises of several decision-makers, professionals and influencers. There are often a number of individuals within a business decision-making unit. It is therefore important, to realise the maximum number of lead-to-customer conversions, that pharma content penetrates each of the decision-making unit’s – each job title and/or job function - members.
SOURCE: Super Office
Account-based marketing, commonly referred to as relationship marketing and key account marketing, is a strategic approach to identifying, marketing to and building relationships with a target prospect or organisation. In B2B pharma, ABM has emerged as a highly effective marketing strategy where personalised content is created specifically for individual people or job titles/functions within targeted organisations. Pharma content that is personal - highly relevant and delivered at the right time in the right place - has a great chance of long-term success.
Principle #5: Pharma content is produced in accordance with a long-term plan.
Content marketing fails when individual content pieces do not form as part of a wider, long-term content or marketing plan. Organisations that invest in creating content for the sake of having content achieve little. Of course, specific content pieces can have smaller short-term goals, but those goals need to contribute to an overarching strategic focus.
A long-term content plan, after current or previous content has been audited, with objectives set for the content plan, is more likely to demonstrate higher ROI. In most content marketing plans, this is usually brand awareness or the number of leads generated. When setting out on a content marketing plan, after defining what you want to achieve, set out some base objectives.
SOURCE: Demand Metric
No pharma content published within the media or on corporate websites will be published on an ad hoc basis. The only exception is when an organisation shares breaking news that wasn't part of the original marketing plan, such as a consolidation or the purchase of new premises or a new hire, which can provide instant publicity to the organisation.
So if search visibility or increased inbound links or traffic is your objective, document it within the plan, and treat the content initiative as a marketing strategy and not as a tactic within the marketing strategy. There is another reason why content requires long-term planning; it takes time to realise the objectives.
Principle #6: Pharma content will take time to publish (and take effect).
The pharma industry, and industries related to it, face regulatory hurdles at all aspects of its operations (as well as ethical considerations). You will already know that it is possibly the most heavily regulated industry within business markets, and each product or solution, not to mention marketing message and communication, embarks on a formal vetting process before it is put live.
Specifically, in terms of marketing, large B2B organisations (regardless if they operate within pharma) will also have strict processes that maintain that marketing messages need to be reviewed by other departments outside of marketing. Together, both aspects slow down the delivery time for pharma and healthcare content (see this post for healthcare content examples).
A piece of pharma content might, therefore, start in the lab with the scientists as the fundamentals of the content is formed and given to the marketing team. Once the content has progressed through the marketing team members, to ensure it is suitable for the persona and is effectively structured, providing it has also gone back to the scientific departments for factual approval, might also go to the sales team to ensure it addresses key pain points and has the ability to generate marketing-qualified or sales-qualified leads. The content may then be scrutinised by the legal team, or other regulatory-based departments, to ensure the content is fully in line with regulations.
And as previously stated in principle #1 and #2, once the content is live, it will take considerably longer for B2B pharma organisations to see results from the content.
Principle #7: Pharma content is measured.
Pharma content is measured. There is no getting around this - every content project we work on for every client we have is measured. The objectives are set for a reason: To have a direction to aim for and to identify whether we are on course to reach that destination within the given time period.
This content can be measured in line with a number of criteria, and for each criteria, a set of metrics can be established to control the measurement criteria. So if web traffic is the measurement criteria, the metrics will be available from Google Analytics (or your marketing automation platform) and will come in the form of pageviews and sessions, and as you go deeper into the metrics, acquisition and channel types.
SOURCE: Neil Patel
Each aspect of your content marketing plan will require measurement, not only to signal if the plan and individual content tactics and initiatives within the plan is on track and working, but to also accurately determine the ROI for the overall plan. If it is documented it can be measured, and if it is measured only then can there be growth. To help in this measurement department, we have previously compiled a list of ROI marketing metrics.
Your pharma content plan
In this post, we have looked at the seven principles of pharma content marketing. Should any of these principles not feature within your pharma content, you should revisit your content (and your plan). They are very much essential for the science marketer when communicating to the scientific audience.