A byproduct of our increasingly connected world is that many of us are drowning in content, and healthcare professionals (HCPs) are no exception. This is due in part to the increase in content marketing by pharma manufacturers, medical device makers, medical publishers, and others. According to marketing automation leader Marketo, “Content marketing is a digital, inbound marketing strategy that uses educational, entertaining, or informative content to attract, engage, and grow a target audience. It’s becoming increasingly competitive, which means marketers need to produce valuable content, not just more content.”

In response to increased competition for attention, clients increasingly ask us to help create and distribute valuable and relevant content that cuts through the noise and reaches their target HCP audiences with clarity and impact. Drawing on more than 250 million data-rich HCP interactions for insights about customer behaviors, channel preferences, and other broad trends, I want to mine this experience and share some best practices with PM360 readers.

Start with Customer Needs

As in any relationship, both parties want to feel heard and understood. That’s the basis of an audience-centric approach as opposed to a brand-centric one traditionally used by pharma sales and marketing teams. According to Manhattan Research, “Pharma can help address physician distrust and frustration with its digital offerings by understanding their needs and challenges—and then providing content and services that go beyond promotion to provide value, especially on dedicated HCP customer service portals.”

One of the ways we addressed this need was to create a platform to support brands and sales teams to help HCPs select highly relevant content delivered through their preferred channels and at times of the day most convenient to them. In our experience, customers like to feel that the brand is curating the experience, enabling HCPs to discover immersive, current, and dynamic content based on their needs and interests, as opposed to forced choices among limited, static options that are all-too-common for life sciences brands.

Our brand team customers tell us that this approach creates a high-quality, enduring brand destination that increases frequency with valuable prescribers. Input from sales reps, who also have access to the solution, helps to further personalize an HCP’s experience and extends their relationships with HCPs. Customers also report that this helps a sales rep to seemingly be everywhere, filling in gaps before and after office visits, and fulfilling many customer requests digitally—which is another customer need we hear about frequently.

Trust is a Must

While traditional marketing focuses on selling brands, content marketing works best when it positions companies and brands as trustworthy and worth doing business with. Once you free yourself from the narrow constraints of repetitive, similar-sounding brand messages, it opens up huge opportunities to be more conversational and educational, answering questions and solving problems. Healthcare professionals experience this in other parts of their lives and have come to expect it in their interactions with pharma companies. When they trust a company representative like a sales rep, we find that they are several times more likely to open and engage with rep-delivered communications (like an email) from that person.

Also, alignment between marketing and sales is critical to building and maintaining trust. Sometimes a credibility gap is caused when communications to the same customer from the home office brand team and field-based sales team appear to the customer as if they’re coming from two different companies. At worst, ignoring this allows customers to be bombarded with redundant, irrelevant, and ill-timed messages driven only by calendar dates. In orchestrating the type, timing, and triggers for content delivery, we find it important for clients to overcome organizational habits and hurdles to put the customer first and provide just-in-time, data-driven, and preference-based content and tools to busy HCPs.

Think Multidimensionally

Medical content today needs to shape-shift to accommodate our multichannel, multimedia, and multidevice world. For many companies, centralizing the editorial planning, creation, distribution, and measurement of content is the best way to modularize, amortize, and personalize their content. Modularization means breaking content into “chunks” that can be more easily approved, stored, and assembled based on a viewer and her context. Modularization is a core concept underlying most content management systems.

Amortization in this case is a fancy word for reuse. For example, as pharma companies continue to move beyond product content, they will find more opportunities to reuse unbranded content across customer segments and channels, which makes for more efficient marketing. Personalization considers an HCP customer’s specialty, geography, demographics, behaviors, and preferences when dynamically assembling content chunks and enables relevant, timely, and actionable content.

Finally, you need to help customers find your valuable content: “Brands should ensure that content is discoverable in the right channels and is easily accessible for busy, fast-moving physicians who don’t have time to spare fumbling around a poorly organized website,” says Manhattan Research. That’s good advice. The fundamentals still apply in optimizing your content for search across channels, but the real trick is in creating content worth finding.

  • Robyn Garrett

    Robyn Garrett is VP, Content Strategy at MNG Health. Robyn has worked with more than 500 brands, helping them create high-impact work while seamlessly navigating the MLR process. She particularly enjoys digital strategy, content marketing, and crafting small, valuable touchpoints that surprise and satisfy. 

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