How to create the content your life science brand’s audience is hungry for.
Creating Compelling Content
The basic premise of content marketing is that giving away information that an audience finds useful and relevant will encourage them to respond with trust and give you the opportunity to engage them in dialog. All this enhances your reputation; you’ll become known as a thought leader.
This is especially relevant in the life sciences, which responds well to content marketing initiatives. For many life science companies content marketing is currently an open opportunity because many life science sectors have little evidence of thought leadership. But this opportunity won’t remain open forever. As more companies realize the necessity for life science content marketing, finding a position that is not yet occupied will become more difficult. If you don’t stake out your position now, a competitor might well beat you to it.
You can’t achieve the benefits of content marketing for your life science brand unless you create content with real value. This value depends upon the needs of your audience and the specifics of your individual situation. If you are reading this newsletter expecting a list of topics to start blogging about (or a thought leadership position to adopt) you’re out of luck – you’ll have to create your own. I’ll give you some help in getting started, though: to create valuable content you need to start with the right focus, the right form, the right filters and the right frequency.
To create compelling content in the life sciences, focus on what’s important
Effective life science content marketing requires a clear and steady focus on your audience. Put aside your sales pitches and establish a dialog centered on issues and topics that are important to them.
How do you identify these topics? First, listen to what your audience has to say. They may not be saying it to you, particularly if your typical communications with prospects are centered on you, your company and your offerings. The antidote to this type of self-centered monolog is to develop “big ears.” Social media can help here. Identify where your prospects are showing up on the web; these are their “watering holes,” and you need to develop an active presence at these locations. For example, there may be groups on LinkedIn or other social networks that you can join or there may be discussion groups related to individual conferences or seminars. Once you have identified these locations, pay attention to what your potential customers are saying and the questions they are asking. But don’t stop at listening; join the discussion and support the community rather than just being a parasite. The goal is to find and support discussion and questions about the problems, challenges, opportunities and issues your audience is facing. This will give you a sense of the topics that draw attention, and get you in the habit of being a source of information, knowledge and answers, in other words, a thought leader.
There are other ways to identify topics that might be useful and interesting to your potential buyers:
Identify your expertise. Make a list of those topics that you know quite a bit about. What topics do you discuss with your prospects frequently? I’m not talking about issues such as “Why our product/service is better than the competition’s!” but neutral topics on which you supply helpful, relevant advice or information. If the content is impartial and not sales oriented, this is an excellent place to start.
Ask your salespeople. They are on the front line and are in the closest contact with prospects. They should be familiar with your prospects’ concerns.
Ask your prospects. Each time you touch base with a prospect provides an excellent opportunity to ask about his or her concerns. There are many ways to do this, including sending out surveys, e.g., “Which of the topics shown here would you most like to know more about?”
Keep your ear to the ground. Pay attention to topics under discussion in your life science sector right now. Follow bloggers and other editorial commentators. Read the print and online versions of the top publications.
Listen to competitors. Keep in touch with what your competition is saying. You don’t want to copy them, but remember that you want to approach this endeavor from the point of view of your prospects, and they will likely be listening to your life science competitors with filters that are less biased than yours.
Track the response to your current content marketing. For example, are you getting lots of comments on a particular blog topic? That is a sure sign that there is interest in that area.
Once you have a group of topics, organize them into an editorial list. This list will be constantly changing; topics of interest in your sector will change, inquiries and curiosity will add new topics to the list, and you’ll remove individual items as you create thought leadership content about these topics.
To create compelling content for the life sciences, choose the most appropriate form
To drive effective life science content marketing, the form your content takes should match the needs of your life science audience and the specifics of the content itself. There are many possible forms for your content, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, including:
- white papers
- peer-reviewed articles
- ebooks (e.g., a white paper made graphic)
- speaking engagements (recorded lectures)
- research reports
- flash demos
I’m sure this list is incomplete. Even so, there are lots of options, aren’t there? Your choice of form should be dictated first by the needs of the audience and second by the need to communicate the information clearly and concisely.
In general, you’ll get strong results by starting with the written word. There are several reasons for this. First, the scientific community is most familiar with the peer-reviewed article (words, words, words). Second, search engines can index the written word more easily than video and audio, though technology is changing this rapidly. (Remember, one of the reasons you are doing this is to be found, so optimizing for search engines is important.) Third, words are the most amenable to reuse and recycling. These reasons are all compelling, but they should not deter you from considering other forms for your content. For example, web video is a growing trend, particularly in the B2B life science marketplace.
As you become sensitized to the need to develop a continuing stream of content, you’ll begin to understand that there are many opportunities to tap into content that already exists, such as creating a video recording of a conference presentation, recording a webinar, or taping an address. These forms will not always be words on paper, and this should not deter you from grabbing these opportunities.
Whatever form you choose, make sure that the length is appropriate to your life science brand’s audience. Concise is better than long-winded. Unfortunately, it often takes more effort to create a shorter message than it does to create a longer one. This has been remarked upon by many notables, including Carl Friedrich Gauss, (his Gaussian distribution is a familiar tool in the biological sciences) who said, “You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.”
Active filters can help you create compelling content for the life sciences
To create effective content marketing in the life sciences, it is important to filter your choice of topic. The goal of establishing a meaningful dialog with your prospects won’t be supported by topics that are redundant, outdated or trivial. When it comes to filters, here are several you can use to increase the relevance of your content.
Is there a theme? Your audience will pay less attention to your content than you will. Therefore you may need to focus on a single topic or on a narrow range of topics to reinforce your message enough to grab your prospects’ attention.
Is this topic novel? The topics you choose determine whether your life science brand is seen as a thought leader or a follower, so choose your topics carefully. Let’s face it: the world does not need another white paper on the importance of recruiting patients into clinical trials. Don’t rehash topics that have already been covered by your competitors, by editors or by other commentators. Rather than competing with every other supplier, choosing a topic with some “white space” around it will give you some room to maneuver.
Will this make you stand out? If you have to cover a well-known issue, can you take a big-picture view to give it some context – or conversely, focus in and provide a new perspective through examination of the details? Can you provide a new viewpoint by connecting previously unrelated trends in your life science sector? Can you invent and publicize a new metric? Can you develop and publish proprietary research, such as a web survey or a series of phone interviews?
Will they pass it on? Filter topics by imagining which one would be most likely to be passed on from one person to another. This is a good indication of real value. Here are three areas that might be useful:
- What’s New – new regulations, new resources, new trends
- Tips and Tricks – some “how to” ideas that only an expert would know
- Insight – intelligence or connections (possibly from a completely different field) that your sector has not seen before.
Can you educate the educated? Don’t aim your content too low. You want to be known as an expert and your thought leadership should supply proof of your expertise. Thought leaders elevate the dialog in their sector, so don’t hesitate to aim your content at more experienced members of your audience.
Will you annoy some audience members? Thought leaders often take strong positions and actively defend those positions. You don’t have to be obnoxious, but don’t be shy about taking a stand. Taking this type of polarizing position can help you get noticed. Remember, the people who stand in the middle of the road are the ones that get run over.
Can you involve someone else? Interviews are great sources of content. Interview your customers, your suppliers or other notables in your sector. Often they have more pull than you do, and will attract notice in ways that you cannot.
Can you make a prediction? Predictions are always interesting, particularly when they are bolstered by an explanation of the rationale behind the prediction. Thought leaders have deep insight into a particular topic, and many have enough that they can notice and extrapolate trends and thereby “predict” the future.
Can you offer more than just opinion? Can you tell your story with images? After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. For added impact, support your story with data. Can you prove your point?
The frequency of publishing is an important element in your success in life science content marketing
To create effective life sciences content marketing, content quality is more important than the frequency or overall quantity of your content. However, there are some rules of thumb for frequency and length: newsletters should be published no less than four times per year and blog posts should be published no less than once per week. Anything less will give the impression that there is a lack of commitment to a position of thought leadership.
Newsletters are typically 800 words or more; blog posts are 300 words or more. These are only suggestions; both frequency and length should be chosen based upon the specifics of your goals, your content and your audiences.
While publishing more frequently is almost always better, it is best if you pick a frequency and stick to it. When an audience sees that material is being published on an inconsistent schedule, it breaks down trust. It is better to be slow and steady than prolific one week and invisible the next six.
Tips for effective life science content marketing
The right focus, the right form, the right filters and the right frequency are just the starting point. Though I can’t provide a compelling list of topics or a surefire viewpoint, I can offer some tips for creating compelling content.
Tone of voice. The personality of your content should be congruent with your overall positioning. This does not mean that the tone of voice for your blog should be identical to that in your brochures – in fact there are good reasons for them to be distinct. But both should support the overall positioning of your brand. If your brand’s character is supportive rather than challenging, or active rather than calm, or surprising rather than predictable, your thought leadership should echo this. The tone inherent in your life science content marketing initiative should reinforce that of the rest of your life science brand.
Keep it simple. Keep it simple, keep it short, keep it compelling. Enough said.
Pick a good title. Good headlines help invite the reader into the piece. A dry description may be accurate, but may be less effective at encouraging someone to read further.
Share some doubts. Sharing some of the negatives about a particular situation can increase the perception that you understand the entire situation. It will increase the believability of the positive points you are making.
Include your targeted keywords. Make a list of the keywords that your prospects will use when searching for the information that you are providing. If you incorporate these keywords into your content on a routine basis, you can raise your search engine results very effectively.
Unlock your content. Every discrete action you require of your readers to obtain benefit from your content will lower your conversion rate. Some web sites require almost as much information to get a “free” whitepaper as to apply for a credit card, and most users simply won’t go to all the trouble. Requiring this much information will definitely decrease trust. Be generous with your thought leadership.
Solicit assistance. You personally don’t have to be the subject matter expert. Find the writers and the teachers in your organization, and harness their expertise. Look for content you already have and re-purpose this.
Just do it. Develop an editorial plan and schedule. Assign responsibilities and get moving.
With life science content marketing, as in most of life, you’ll reap large benefits only if you are willing to make a commitment. One of the benefits is that life science content marketing can “level the playing field.” You don’t have to be the biggest company to develop insight that is valuable to your audience. And while being big may convey a few advantages when it comes to resources for getting material published, technological changes have simplified the process, so almost anyone can now publish original material. You can make it easy for new customers to find you and communicate with you.
This will only happen if you make content marketing a strategic priority for your life science brand. This means assigning resources and responsibilities, developing a plan, creating the content and then publishing. This entire initiative will be hamstrung if you don’t publish your content with the right focus, in the right form, with the right filters and at the right frequency. In the end, you must publish, publish, publish. Publishing is the way to begin attracting customers, and a commitment to publishing should be baked into your plan from the beginning.
Another one of the many benefits of life science content marketing is that the material can be repurposed, reused and recycled. In the next issue, we’ll cover some ways to maximize your exposure from your compelling content.
To create compelling content, remember:
- Focus on topics that are important to your audience.
- Discover these topics by getting curious and by listening.
- Choose a form that your audience relates to. If in doubt about which form to choose, stick to words.
- Filter your material: choose a theme that will help you stand out.
- Publish on a consistent schedule.
- Don’t lock your content by requiring your readers to register to gain access.