Content – A Marketing and Digital Effectiveness Challenge

08.21.19   |   Strategy & Innovation

Originally published at PharmaLive

Over the last 15 years healthcare professionals and patients have rapidly adopted digital and social channels. Like most of society, they expect to be able to find the information they need, in a format they want, and in the channels they prefer. They won’t tolerate poor customer experiences, as there are always alternatives available to them.

Pharma’s historical focus – channel set-up
To address the changing behavior of health care providers and patients, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies around the world have invested heavily in transforming their sales and marketing approach. The primary focus has been activating new digital channels and digitizing existing ones in an attempt to better reach customers and offer them a better experience.

This focus on channel enablement, which is aptly reflected in the term “multi-channel,” is relevant given the evolution of customer channel behavior. However, the focus on channels has not been properly matched by a focus on the other critical ingredient of superior customer experiences – content.

The gap – brand content excellence 
Marketing teams are now challenged to create content for a growing array of new channels but unfortunately the content flowing through these channels is not fulfilling its primary purpose in driving some sort of behavior change.

Based on our work evaluating pharmaceutical and life sciences content using behavior science principles, we have found that up to 40 percent of brand content is not effective in driving behavior change, and worse, may cause negative behaviors.

Simply put, this suggests that the money being invested in channel-set up may actually be making it easier for customers to access content that is neutral or negative to the brand.

There are three primary reasons for this:
1. Brand-centric topics. The content fails to grab attention or generate engagement because it is narrowly focused on brand messaging without being framed in the context of a customer problem, need, or pain point. Remember, your customers care about themselves more than your products. Your job is to be relevant, useful, and of value to them.

2. Static formats, lacking sufficient variety. The content fails to engage because it is flat. Formats are not carefully selected for their ability to drive behavior change. This lack of variety means message repetition leads the customer to tune out versus deepening consideration of the message over time.

3. Failure to optimize content execution for specific channels. Typically this results from content being created for one channel like a paper sales aid and then being inadequately modified for a new medium like an interactive visual aid. But the problem runs deeper than that and often reflects a poor understanding of the distinct role each channel plays and what good looks like for that channel.

For example, a common mistake is creating a heavily branded version of a rep-triggered email, which misses the intimacy of rep-triggered emails as an extension of the personal connection a rep has with a customer. Another example is failing to design the content on website landing pages that logically extend the messaging on a traffic-driving channel, such as an ad unit.

Inadequate content distribution is another factor leading to sub-optimal content engagement but the most pressing issue is the content itself (the topics, formats and in-channel execution).
In short, the phrase “Content is king” has never been more true for the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry.

The solution – the path to content excellence 
Addressing the content excellence gap requires concerted effort on behalf of brand teams and centers of excellence to ensure a process is followed that consistently produces high quality content. We offer here a few of the more important actions that must be taken.

Define a balanced vision for content
Most brands implicitly define content success based on a narrow set of brand-centric criteria. For instance: 
• Is it clinically accurate? 
• Is it aligned to our brand messages? 
• Was it deployed?

These criteria are important but incomplete. What’s missing is the customer perspective. A more effective set of criteria would include:
• Does it grab attention?
• Does it align to a clear customer insight or need?
• Is it valuable? 
• Is it easily consumed? 
• Is it findable? 
• Does it generate a desired behavioral change?

Put in place a content planning process
The default approach taken by most pharmaceutical and life sciences companies is to share a high-level brand plan with agencies and ask them to come back with tactics. This approach results in disconnected tactics rather than a cohesive content plan supporting each stage of a customer’s journey.

A defined content planning process will ensure that content created aligns both the brand and customer perspectives, is focused on behavior change and supports a cohesive brand narrative.

The key features of a best practice content planning process include:
1. Defining target segments
2. Profiling segments in terms of motivators, goals, pain points, barriers, and customer objectives 
3. Defining current and desired beliefs
4. Mapping barriers, behavioral and communications objective to the relevant stages of a customer’s decision process and adoption ladder
5. Developing an overarching brand story flow that addresses the communication objectives and barriers
6. Aligning on content topics to support each stage of the brand narrative
7. Selecting optimal formats
8. Defining content tactics
9. Planning for content distribution and sequencing

With this process in place the strategic alignment of content and the cohesion of the brand narrative dramatically improves.

Codify content excellence standards
A proper excellence guideline will ensure your brand team or organization is consistently focused on what good looks like. An ideal guideline will define:
• The role/purpose of content in each channel 
• What good looks like for each channel through best-practice examples
• Simple check-list criteria for judging whether content will create desired behavior change
These standards should be made a part of marketing excellence curriculum and developed with Regulatory personnel so a careful balance between customer engagement and compliance can be struck.

Re-think the role of the brand-team versus the agency
Pharma typically pays a higher premium for content compared to other sectors. Regulatory requirements account for much of the additional cost, but despite this premium, content is consistently lower in quality, customer engagement and impact.

Progressive pharmaceutical and life sciences companies have begun to realize that content planning should be a marketing core competence, and that brand teams should lead that step in house, or with the help of specialist consultancies. Brand teams can then create very precise briefs and organize co-creation sessions to ensure key learnings are adequately transferred to creative agencies or specialist content creation partners with concept and production skills. This focuses agencies on their core competence and increases the probability of creating content that drives behavior change.

Measure content effectiveness 
Most brand teams measure multi-channel effectiveness based on activity-based measures such as visitors, email opens, likes. This approach has serious limitations because it is divorced from content, and therefore the brand’s communication objectives. A better approach directly links priority content elements to brand goals and measures how each piece of content is being consumed versus a defined performance goal.

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step
The content excellence gap may seem like a monumental challenge, but pharmaceutical and life sciences companies can make rapid progress. Brands can start by investing in systematic content planning and auditing current content to ensure that poorly performing content is retired. This process can start right away, during this year’s brand planning process. Centers of excellence can start by defining a vision for content and putting in place a first set of content excellence standards.

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