As marketers, we understand that marketing is firmly rooted in the art of storytelling. We craft engaging plotlines that communicate a seamless brand narrative—all worthy of the consumer’s journey with us. And much like a captivating novel, successful content marketing programs often hide a few plot twists just to keep things interesting. The big difference here: The consumer is the catalyst.
Today’s consumer behaviors underscore our web-centric society. While some traditional communication and purchasing pathways remain, today’s consumer thrives in a world of independence and self-discovery. These new buying habits are not solely reserved for the world of retail—they apply across all markets including life sciences and healthcare. Their buying mentality may shift based on purchasing goals, but the subconscious habits of “searching” and “shopping” are ingrained. It’s these tendencies that communication teams must understand and embrace in an effort to have their story break through.
Recent universal shifts in consumer behavior have brought to the fore micro-ecosystems within the consumer universe requiring marketers to take a proactive approach to managing specific customer expectations. This philosophy goes beyond traditional messaging segmentation. We must work smarter than ever to create thoughtful, personalized brand experiences that span multiple channels—all while maintaining a strong understanding of the data that comes back to us.
Creating Personalized Brand Experiences
Every brand story begins with character development—understanding the unique personas that play a vital role in shaping your marketing initiatives. As a skilled healthcare marketer, you should lean towards a “patients first” approach when working to understand the characteristics of individual personas. Each condition presents its own unique ways of discovering useful information and medical care. Therefore, marketing teams should begin to examine personas against patient pathways; newly diagnosed patients at a crossroads; highly educated healthcare consumers; those consumers without access to today’s digital channels; and so on. To add a more dynamic layer to the persona, consider where and when appropriate caregivers, advocates, and medical care teams are part of the story.
Our always-on, data-rich industry affords us liberties to develop deeper persona profiles—ones that go beyond basic demographic insights and indexing. The right mix of data sets allows us to develop highly personalized content distributed through exacting channels—channel selections that complement each individual and their purchasing pathway. What’s more, channel selection is as vital as persona development and as crucial to the message as the content itself.
Choose Your Channels Thoughtfully
Multichannel marketing for content delivery can easily turn into a massive platform requiring dedicated amounts of time, money, and energy to maintain momentum. But multichannel does not have to be every channel. Persona development coupled with complimentary channel selection streamlines operations, allowing marketers to focus on personalized, high-quality content—not platform maintenance.
This approach requires disciplined upfront planning. Selecting fewer, more thoughtful channels—the precise mix of amplification, education, and conversion tactics—often reaps larger rewards than boasting widespread coverage. A disparate content marketing plan can lead to consumer confusion and disinterest.
All this requires a steady hand, patience, and strong listening skills. On the surface, the challenge is simple: Tell a cohesive brand story that spans both on- and off-line channels. However, the plot twist lies in understanding how your consumers are engaging in your narrative in real time. The art is the flexibility and expediency that your brand team exhibits in shaping a story that remains true to the brand while meeting consumer demand. It’s an exercise in trial and error—one that begins with a hypothesis that is tested and consistently adjusted based on results.
Leveraging Channel Personas
The majority of healthcare consumers are interested in feeling empowered and informed—from what type of care they are or are not receiving to having a better understanding of the medication prescribed. This empowerment comes from a command of information. With today’s unlimited access to massive amounts of content, the search for these insights has no boundaries. This requires a highly strategic blend of multichannel content that satisfies their needs. Content that encourages generalized awareness to information that directs patients to take action. Your content must position your company and product in a way that exemplifies your brand’s promise of care that goes beyond the pill.
Content that delivers is relative, and measuring ROI is often one of the biggest challenges. Direct response tactics deliver immediate quantifiable results and often garner most of the limelight. It’s easy to correlate an uptick in sales or a spike in inquiries, but ambient tactics are harder to identify—and often overlooked. Strategies that introduce and bring your brand message to the fore can make for a successful DTC initiative. Unfortunately, it’s these programs that are sometimes the first to be sacrificed when scrutinizing marketing expenditures. Industry projections show exponential increases in marketing budget allocations earmarked for content marketing programs across all industries, indicating that the increasing value of this method directly results in business.
Understand Each Channel’s Potential
This uptick has led to pressures from upper management on marketing teams to select high-performing channels that demonstrate value. But how do we quantify value? Each content channel serves a specific purpose in the marketing continuum—some are designed to amplify the message, some built to inform and empower, and others strictly meant to spark conversion. Their value varies and it needs to be measured collectively, by audience, not solely on a tactic-by-tactic basis.
Multichannel marketing creates a dynamic blend of paid versus earned strategies all working in concert with one another. Understanding how each channel and content persona relate to one another can help shape a more personalized experience with your brand.
But marketing channels cannot be discussed independent of brand content. Together they play a symbiotic role in brand storytelling. With the danger of oversimplifying, let’s begin to group channels and content into basic categories that serve each area of customer conversion.
Hunters: Taking a proactive approach, hunters’ techniques present themselves to the consumer unexpectedly, creating an opportunity for brand consideration and curiosity. Relying heavily on breakthrough messaging to arrest the audience and encourage action. They are most commonly paid initiatives that require carefully planned calls to action that elicit response. The goal is to engage the consumer with high level content in an effort to pique interest.
Examples: Addressable television, streaming radio, online video.
Gatherers: When the consumer is proactive, taking on the role of the hunter, gatherer techniques help guide the conversation while communicating their brand into the storyline. This approach relies on a deep understanding of how, when, and where a customer seeks resources to empower decision-making. From a messaging standpoint, the closer your story relates to the content consumers are searching for, the more likely you will see traction.
Examples: Search engine marketing and optimization.
Hybrids: A true blend of both the hunter and the gatherer techniques, hybrid techniques insert themselves into conversations by leveraging an air of higher relevancy. Taking advantage of real-time data, the benefit of this approach is optimization based on demand.
Examples: Social, programmatic digital display, retargeting.
Delivering Content that Crosses Channels
Content marketing serves as the link between brand awareness, lead generation, and customer retention. Creating a library of content that communicates your brand’s narrative is the largest expenditure of time, money, and energy so it needs to be maximized. Your consumers span multiple channels; your content should too. During the development process, marketing teams need to consider how each complete piece of content can be repurposed to cross over into secondary outlets.
When properly optimized, long-form storytelling can organically amplify your message with little to no overhead. But it should serve multiple purposes. Converting long-form into sharable bite-sized pieces of information allows for another organic pathway and satisfies the consumer’s demand for quality information.
Understanding the mindset that goes along with social content engagement is paramount to the successful exchange of your message by third-party, unbiased content ambassadors. Consumers who benefit from your content create an exchange network that exemplifies the concept of information self-discovery. Rich, relevant content turns consumers into thought leaders within their own social network, creating an additional channel for content distribution. This hybrid persona should be considered a highly coveted target audience among marketing professionals as they represent the strongest influencers in the marketplace.
Analyzing The Data with a Steady Hand
This marketing discipline will always require the right mix of defined personas, exacting content, precise channel mixes—and a steady hand. Voluminous amounts of data and advanced analytics at the fingertips of today’s marketing professional have provided greater insights about target consumers, more so than ever before. The danger of easier access to more data is falling victim to over optimizing a campaign.
Advancements in media buying platforms—programmatic and addressable techniques—have alleviated marketing teams of the manual task of optimizing spending while providing a vehicle to precisely deliver based on real-time consumer demand. To realize the benefits of data-driven delivery mechanisms, more emphasis is placed on marketing teams to develop more sophisticated strategic planning, create exacting persona development, and leverage rich third-party data sets. This practice of more intensive upfront research will contribute confidence in execution and patience in monitoring your campaign’s performance.
Content marketing is the ultimate “pull” technique. It’s one that is fueled by the behaviors of the collective target consumer, but real success can be found through deeper persona development. With such large marketing budgets on the line, it’s important to be strategic and decisive. A content marketing campaign needs close attention and should be nurtured every step of the way. Remember, the story is driven by the consumer, so take the time to understand them.