As traditional marketing tactics decline in their power to influence, companies are shifting to content marketing.
Done strategically, content marketing has the capacity not only to inform but to capture prospects early in their buying journey.
Dr. Michael Tailor, Principal Consultant at Scienopsis, shares his thoughts on how life sciences B2B companies create compelling content that adds value and wins customers’ trust.
The Times They Are a-Changin
The digital era that we live in today is changing the way marketing is practiced. Thanks to the abundance of information online, customers are now more empowered, interact with brands 24/7, virtually anywhere. Their expectations of service are also higher, with a greater weight placed on being able to access engaging, value adding and timely information and responses.
This is why companies should ensure they provide the right information, using the right channel, to the right audience, and at the right time.
Enter Content Marketing
Content marketing involves the development and distribution of quality, relevant and value-adding content with the purpose of attracting, informing, and engaging a specific audience in a given niche. By embracing content marketing, a company is taking the changing dynamic head -on rather than leaving issues to vagaries of the web.
Having quality content allows sellers to capture prospects early on, and if done well, can be transformational, owing to it’s power to increase a brand’s awareness and reach, generate leads and trigger action at a much lower cost.
So how do you go about developing quality content?
Start with a content marketing plan
A content marketing plan is essentially a roadmap that charts out the company’s content creation and distribution agenda. It defines the set of actions as well as the means for achieving a specified end goal.
Successful content marketing programs are have the following set of features: they all have a set of clear goals, a target persona/audience; a problem to address; a differentiating angle; formats and publication channels adapted to audience needs; and, a publication schedule or calendar.
The development of a content market plan should start with an identification of specific customer needs and how the company intends to fulfill these needs while generating an acceptable rate of return.
The plan should also include an analysis of the current market situation (opportunities and trends) as well as ction programs and budgets to support plan’s objectives.
HAVE CLEAR GOALS
Goals bring into focus your content marketing aims and what the program needs to accomplish. Goals should clearly spell out the reasons for the content marketing program and the ideal or desired end state. Needless to say, goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and, Time limited.
DEFINE USER PERSONAS
User personas are fictional but realistic descriptions or profiles of your company’s target customers. The content marketing plan should include a definition of the user persona because this assists with understanding the type of content that your target audience will warm to as well as the style, delivery strategy and target topics to focus on.
UNDERTAKE AN AUDIT OF ASSETS
With clearly defined goals and target personas, the next step is to do a review of the content assets and resources already available. The audit takes the form of a structured assessment in order to identify existing activities, goals and results. A meaningful audit should also benchmark the company’s activities against its suppliers and competitors.
OBTAIN A CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CMS)
A Content Management System (CMS) is a program that facilitates the creation, entry, modification, publication and monitoring of digital content. Several proprietary packages are available (e.g Communigator, Hubspot, WordPress, Marketo, etc), and while it is possible to do content marketing without a a CMS, using such a system just makes life a lot easier.
GENERATE CONTENT IDEAS & SELECT GENRES
Coming up with content ideas is highly challenging even for seasoned and experienced writers. Great ideas can come from suppliers, brainstorming, a survey of your customers (particularly their pain points) as well as recent developments in your field. Popular content formats include blogs, White Papers, Case Studies, articles, and applications sheets.
PUBLISH & MONITOR CONTENT
The final element is about the routine management of content marketing activities. This covers the publication calendar as well as how the effectiveness of the created content will be measured. Monitoring ensures that any content that’s created remains engaging and appealing to your target audience while also communicating your company’s brand values.
Delivering more value to your audience requires that you broaden the types of content you create. Here are nine major genres for content creation that are commonly encountered within the life sciences sector:
- Blog posts
- Case Studies
- White Papers
What about social media?
To the uninitiated, social media might initially appear to be only of interest to B2C marketers. However, according to recent research, not only does social media represent an important tool for promoting content to your niche, it could actually be the most important channel. The particular social media chosen depends on personas and specific social media platform characteristics.
LinkedIn is particularly relevant to B2B life sciences customers, and it is not difficult to see why. Research shows that sixty-four percent of social referrals to corporate websites come from Linkedin, compared to 17% from Facebook and 14% from Twitter. Linkedin also has the highest proportion of university-educated, higher income users compared to any other social platform. This makes it of greater significance for B2B technical marketing than the other social networks.
Do not ignore Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Including SEO into your content will help make a good impression with search engines and boost your content’s ability to be discovered online. Therefore, it is a good idea to start thinking about the use of keywords early on, how to earn natural links, as well as the inclusion of videos and pictures, and above all, how the content will be informative.
“It is a good idea to start thinking about keywords early”
With a content marketing plan in place, social media and SEO fully taken care of, the next stage is to create the content itself.
In the following sections, I present four key features that make content informative, authoritative and compelling for life sciences customers:
Make your content compelling with these four essential attributes
- Tending to compel, as to force or push toward a course of action; overpowering:
- Having a powerful and irresistible effect; requiring acute admiration, attention, or respect
#1. Demonstrate expertise
Expertise is a primary element of trust. We are more inclined to comply with a suggestion from an expert than from a non-expert. This is especially so within the science fields.
If, like most life sciences companies, your company has accumulated a unique body of knowledge over the years around what you sell, you no doubt possess unique know-how of your field, and therefore the ability to authoritatively assist your customers improve their business operations.
Successful companies use their market positions to share insights, ideas, research findings, tricks of the trade, etc. with your customers, which elevates them beyond simply being sellers of things into a valuable, go-to resources. This deepens their relationships with customers and engenders trust. This is why content should foremost demonstrate mastery and thought leadership to be compelling.
A good example of this is Merck & Co, the US multinational healthcare company, which has been publishing Merck Manuals since 1899 as a service to the healthcare community. These reference manuals are highly trusted as sources of medical information the world over.
Dow Corning, another US company, provides a technical library loaded with great content, covering applications, formulation sheets, case studies, FAQs, product selection guides, and journal article reprints.
As these examples demonstrate, expertise can change a company’s fortunes, by helping cement them as the go-to authorities within their respective fields.
#2. Add Education value
Customer education is an incredibly powerful tool, and one that’ll work for just about any company. Get it right and it will do wonders for your business.
So what constitutes customer education and how does it differ from advertising, I hear you ask? Well, customer education is about providing customers knowledge, skills and competencies for them to be more knowledgeable purchasers. Advertising aims primarily to persuade buyers, often on an emotional level, to drive a purchase.
Life sciences companies have historically been cautious about educating their customers. Many believed that giving away too much information removed information asymmetry, tipping power towards customers.
Of course we now know that there are many advantages for improving customers’ knowledge, not least, the ability for a company to enhance trust in its brand and product. Customers today are looking out for genuine insights, and actually, customer education is equally as effective at influencing buying decisions as traditional marketing or advertising.
Colorcon Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of pharmaceutical excipients to the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, offers dozens of workshops and seminars, some free and some paid, to assist its customers learn about the features and capabilities of its products. As a result, it has been able to build a leadership position, carving out a market share in excess of 60% in its film coatings business.
#3. Make it Practical
If your aren’t taking the customer experience seriously, the time to take action is now. Customers today want answers yesterday, not next week, and they expect their needs to be attended to now.
Research also shows that customers want to manage their own experiences when interacting wiith organizations and do not necessarily like interacting with a human. If you company provides sub-par customer service, you will not only impact customer retention and loyalty, but also your bottom line.
The Banking industry doesn’t sit well in many people’s good books at the moment however, one thing they do very well is provision of online customer tools. Many banks now provide online loan calculators that help customers determine what repayments will be and the loans will be affordable.
Closer home, Lonza, the Swiss chemicals and biotechnology multinational, provides its online visitors product selection tools, FormulaProtect® and QC Insider™ which allow customers to easily identify preservatives that best match their specific formulation needs.
Such tools can generate a lot of goodwill for companies, and unquestionably help drive new business. They are simple, easy to use and very helpful.
Whatever tool or help you wish to provide your customers, it helps to ask these questions in order to build an understanding of your customers’ purchasing journeys:
- What are their most common pain points and how does your solution help address them?
- What are the common buying triggers that set customers off in search of solutions?
#4. Make it Newsworthy
If you are looking for ways to appeal and engage your customers, I suggest you devise a way to share stories, insights and trends about your sector that are newsworthy. This approach is a powerful way to educate, entertain, inform and inspire your customers.
In fact I go as far as saying nothing does wonders for building awareness about your business like a regular blog or newsletter or other news Feeds.
Studies show that companies that succeed with this approach are able to drive up to 50% higher conversion rates from visitors who view this type of content compared with those who view only product-centric content.
Do the same by providing up-to-date, newsworthy content to your customers via a blog, newsletter, sector report, market trends, white papers, podcast, social media feed, etc. Go further and distribute the content through multiple channels, including your own site for maximum exposure and reach.
One company that’s used this technique well is GE Healthcare, the multinational conglomerate. As both a B2B and aB2C, GE Healthcare understands that telling it’s stories to its core constituents is a fundamental aspect of building its brand, and that this helps shape how people view it.
All the captivating news items, behind the scenes pictures and content on YouTube, Instagram and other social media channels work to draw customers into your world, helping to increase awareness of the scope of what you do and showcasing positive experiences about your brand.
If this is of interest, try and find ways to weave storytelling into the content you create. Do it well and you will significantly increase the odds that your brand will be able to break into your prospect’s mind to leave an indelible but positive impression.
Aligning content to buyer needs
The final aspect in the creation of value-adding content is alignment. Aligning is important in the life sciences sector because customers go through various stages in their purchasing journey: gathering information, identifying alternatives, weighing evidence, evaluating alternatives, etc. By tailoring content – not just the types but message, you are aiding their decision-making and improving the chances of winning their trust. Here below is a guide on what content might be required when:
If you are looking to turbo-charge your content marketing campaigns and to improve user engagement, it is worthwhile putting you efforts into polishing up your content marketing plan. The content plan should pimarily focus on content preferences of your target niche. Online content that caters to your target niche can be distributed out in many different formats (infographics, e-books, brochures, videos, podcasts, etc), the choice of which depends on specific characteristics of your content and industry. Whatever you go with, make sure it is the type that gets them involved and shareable in order to boost your brand reach.
Scienopsis is a London-based, full-service technical marketing agency that assists life sciences B2B companies with sales and/or marketing implementation of complex, technical products, solutions and technologies.
We are experts at crafting winning marketing strategies, PR & content marketing, trade shows/experiential, customer events, sampling and, lead generation, contract/outsourced sales and marketing services, that unlock deep loyalty and customer acquisition.
Our core clients are manufacturers and distributors of excipients, fine ingredients, technologies and solutions for pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food sectors.
If you’d like to learn more about any of our services, please, please contact us for a confidential, no obligation consultation.