Inbound marketing turns ten years old this year. In that ten-year period, inbound marketing has altered dramatically. Let's evaluate the implications.
The fundamentals of inbound marketing, the key underlying factors that meant that inbound marketing was truly “inbound,” has changed. No longer can an organisation publish a remarkable piece of content and expect it to generate a large amount of organic traffic, at least not immediately.
Stay informed on key topics.
We’re often advised that SEO, content and, generally speaking, most marketing initiatives take time to flourish and produce the results required. (Like anything in life, like going to the gym where you won’t expect to see any real gains in the first few weeks.) Things take time; patience is a requirement.
Content is the internet
But even though search engine results pages are getting smaller, and at the same time more competitive to feature on, more and more digital channels, platforms and therefore browsing behaviours are emerging to compensate which are open for exploration. Chances are, your prospects will find the content you are creating.
And content as such is forever being consumed; content is what the internet is all about. Without content, there is no need for the internet in today's capacity. Perhaps content isn’t king anymore in the same way it was 10-15 years ago but without content – ranging from websites to voice search results – those conversations won’t happen to the extent they are now.
Inbound marketing is perfect for the pharmaceutical and life sciences marketer
This makes inbound marketing, in the sense of creating content to educate a target audience on a given topic, highly suited for most marketers. Because educating prospects instead of hard-selling them will always paint the seller/organisation in a more positive light.
Especially in the scientific and technical industries we operate within. Our target audiences are used to conducting independent research and staying updated on key topics. They are also sceptical by nature and find questioning hypothesis (collaborating and taking part in discussions) part of everyday life of being a science professional.
Let’s look at some key areas that could be considered for that pharma marketer 2019 inbound marketing agenda.
sales funnel mentality is no longer appropriate
For years, visualising the buyer’s journey as a funnel was the standard approach. Prospects would work their way down a predetermined sequence of interactions that would look to make a sale at the end. If that sale wouldn’t happen, the prospect is usually abandoned.
Now we’ve found ourselves moving away from this mentality and sales and marketing’s role within the funnel model. Trust is low, and choice is high. Within the B2B pharma, decision making happens over varying periods of time and can consist of a number of individuals, making word of mouth and continuity an influential factor.
Traditional sales funnels cannot accommodate for this which means it’s more relevant to treat the customer journey as an ongoing process, or as HubSpot would coin, a “flywheel” that’s always turning in a circular motion and generating momentum. In other words, always generating content to engage with that prospect.
Don’t be fixated on data (at least not at the beginning)
Sales funnels provide data throughout all stages of the buyer’s journey. They give marketing and sales teams statistics to be able to report on campaigns, which are then used as a base for making decisions for future campaigns. But this is data that isn’t always accurate or representative of what has or hasn’t happened within that buyer’s journey phase.
An inbound marketing program, unlike a pay-per-click campaign, does not have a definitive time period to showcase results. The inbound marketing methodology focuses on the relationship between the organisation and its prospects or customers over a period of time, but how do you measure relationships?
Of course, once web pages have ranked, distribution channels have grown, relationships have been built and leads have been generated from voluntary action taken, then it is possible to report on activity. But until a high number of content is created, the data will mean nothing.
Avoid categorisation: Inbound and outbound channels now work hand-in-hand
A common misconception of inbound marketing now is that outbound tactics, such as pay-per-click, email marketing and outbound calls, aren’t relevant and don’t fit the methodology. Maybe this was the case ten years ago. But inbound marketing concerns providing an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, regardless of how it is provided.
A follow-up call to enquire whether a download was useful or a text ad on Google Search to an optimised blog post is considered as best practice for inbound marketing, as opposed to cold calling or product-focused pop-up ads. Interruption is what inbound marketing avoids, rather than direct marketing methods because some prospects may wish to be contacted on those “traditional” channels.
Curation, syndication and guest contributions
Whilst it is true that inbound marketing, specifically content creation, is time-consuming, it is possible (recommended, even) that inbound professionals harness the power of others and their content. A great area to start an inbound strategy is to look at your current content and then build.
Guest posting is an effective method of content creation. A brand will receive content to publish from an external contributor who will request something in return, usually a link to a website or a mention of their product/service. It’s a win-win for both parties, and it also demonstrates real authority on the subject and the organisation’s credibility within the industry. Similar benefits are also realised by curating or syndicating (with permission) others’ content and should also be considered within a content/inbound marketing strategy.
Get into the habit of varying content forms (on varying platforms)
The most common method of generating content is in the form of written blog posts. But with search engines becoming increasingly abundant with blog posts and other articles, the time to start out using varying content forms for differentiation is now.
Pharmaceutical marketing methods are mostly traditional by nature, but organisations can successfully differentiate from one and other by altering the content it publishes. Webinars, live videos, interactive demos or even content geared around quizzes and competitions can be used to alternate with written and long-form content, for example.
Of course, content forms are dependent on the prospect and where that prospect is situated on the buyer’s journey but there is a clear opportunity here with content in this industry. It is highly recommended to assess your customer profile through personas to understand what content is relevant.
Stimulate conversation, and make the conversation happen on owned platforms
Conversational marketing involves real-time interaction with those who come into contact with an organisation’s digital presences. Live chat features and chatbots are increasingly becoming more popular as users favour approaching organisations this way rather than calling (only to be put on hold) or emailing (and waiting days for a reply). They can also build subscribers faster than other methods.
As a pharma marketer, the key is to realise where your target audiences are spending their time. But generally, within B2B markets, live chat has proved immensely valuable on owned channels and websites as prospects look to engage with organisations for information without delay. The more personalised through human touch, the better.
Inbound marketing isn’t a win-win marketing solution. For some industries and sectors, it isn’t relevant. Within the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, medical technology, life sciences and all its related industries, however, inbound marketing is highly relevant because of the profile of the audiences. And even Beethoven approves of inbound marketing!
The main concern within this industry is whether the pharmaceutical marketer can commit to the resource and cost, but more so, time to conduct those campaigns internally due to its complexity. It also takes some internal convincing to receive the senior backing to peruse an inbound mindset which may take well over a year to see the desired results.
But as we move forward through 2019 and beyond, and as senior decision makers become more internet savvy and aware of the marketing methods available to them, more and more science and technical organisations may take the leap and begin to realise the benefits of a new strategic inbound marketing drive.