Real-world results: content marketing in the life sciences
Life science content marketing works. It can accomplish many goals, including starting a dialog with your prospects, acquiring leads and (ultimately) generating revenue.“80% of our sales leads and 50% of our bookings are generated from our (educational marketing) program.” VP of Marketing for leading CRO
Let me cite just one example. VP of Marketing for leading CRO* (a major CRO), reports that they invest 30% of their marketing resources in creating and promoting content – consisting of 1-2 educational webcasts and 2 whitepapers per quarter, among other things. As a result, Mr. Levin states, “80% of our sales leads and 50% of our bookings are generated from our (educational marketing) program.”
These are impressive results.* If you are just starting a life science content marketing initiative, recognize that achieving similar results is possible, but will not happen overnight. Proper planning and consistent execution are key. Careful planning allows you to outline the path you’ll follow, and then you’ll be able to chart your progress along the path. When undertaking a marketing initiative that is new to your organization, it is as important to manage internal expectations as it is to manage the project itself, and a well-written, well-reasoned plan will support both.
Before you begin your life science content marketing initiative
There are two things you must understand about life science content marketing before you start planning.Content marketing is a process, not a single event.
First, content marketing is a process, not a single event. Whatever the form you choose for your content (white paper, blog, newsletter, video, podcast, etc) creating the first one will only take you so far. The real benefits of content marketing will only be realized as an ongoing stream of high-quality content relevant to your life science prospects continues to be developed and promoted.
Second, to develop this ongoing stream of content, your organization will need to take the content marketing effort seriously. Resources (time and money) will need to be allocated. You will need ongoing support from the appropriate individuals and functions within the organization. In return, the organization will be developing effective assets with real worth, as the results from Clinipace make clear.
If an accountant were to evaluate all the assets of the business, a (growing) collection of exclusive content would have value – either genuine monetary value (in the example of a book of original content authored and published by the organization) or goodwill value. Greater than this accounting value, however, will be the importance of attracting new prospects and starting dialogs with them through the use of content marketing.
Planning for a steady S-T-R-E-A-M of content
There are six factors that your life science content marketing plan must address. For success you will need a steady S-T-R-E-A-M of content and so your plan must address these factors: Strategy, Topics, Resources, Environment, Audiences and Measurement.
Identify your life science content marketing Strategy
The goals of your content initiative must align with the overall marketing strategy of your life science organization. Failure to integrate these two will make it much more difficult to produce positive results.There are two ultimate goals for all marketing activities: a) establish or reinforce your company’s desired positioning in the minds of the audience and b) facilitate action of some sort by individual audience members.
There are two ultimate goals for all marketing activities: a) establish or reinforce your company’s desired positioning in the minds of the audience and b) facilitate action of some sort by individual audience members. Your plan should specify how you expect your life science content marketing initiative to accomplish these – and this specificity will drive many of your subsequent decisions.
At a tactical level, what outcomes do you want to encourage? Be realistic – you won’t get a contract for a flow cytometer or a phase 1 study solely on the basis of a couple of blog posts. But you can certainly help your audience along the path to purchase through your content initiative, getting them to “raise their hand” to start a dialog with you or building awareness and credibility.The issues surrounding your choice of topics are crucial in determining the effectiveness of your life science content marketing initiative.
Identify your life science content marketing Topics
There are many issues that must be addressed in the Topics section of your content marketing plan, including: choosing your topics, developing an editorial calendar, deciding upon the form in which your content will appear, and determining the frequency of publication. These issues are crucial in determining the effectiveness of your life science content marketing initiative. Due to the significance of these questions, we’ll devote the entire next issue of this newsletter to this subject. For now, begin by considering the following:
- The issues you discuss with your customers frequently
- The topics your competitors cover in the content they publish
- Current subjects of interest in your sector.
Allocate your life science content marketing Resources
Content marketing initiatives require resources to address both expertise and execution. Begin by determining what resources you need and then follow up with an audit to determine what you already have.Content marketing initiatives require resources to address both expertise and execution.
Expertise: First, what expertise will it take to generate relevant content? Who will be the SME (subject matter experts)? Will this expertise come from internal resources, or will you need to hire this from outside? In an ideal world many people within your biotech or life science organization will contribute to the content.
Then, what content (the evidence of your expertise) do you already have? Content marketing is unlike peer-reviewed publishing in that you can reuse, repurpose and recycle content. In fact, doing so will yield many benefits, so look for content you may have already authored, published, distributed or promoted.
Execution: There should be one person who is assigned the overall responsibility and authority to ensure that the content is actually produced and then published. This person may need assistance in day-to-day activities; will this assistance come from inside or outside your organization?Your content will face lots of competition for the attention of your audiences.
Understand your life science content marketing Environment
Your content will face lots of competition for the attention of your audiences. The environment is changing drastically due to content inflation. This era of exploding information brings with it certain corollaries:
- As the amount of information increases, attention spans seem to be decreasing. Whether or not this relationship is causal or casual is immaterial. The important point is that there is ample evidence that both information overload and scarcity of attention are two growing trends.
- Information overload and decreasing attention spans are forcing publishers (those who distribute content in any form) to focus their messages clearly and concisely. As evidence of this, we need to look no farther than the rising number of one-page web sites.
- At the same time, there is a growing demand for content. In 1999 Google handled approximately one half million searches a day; this grew to greater than 300 million by the end of 2009. Not only has the amount of information increased but the number of channels for disseminating and promoting this information has increased as well. Each of these channels needs to be filled and so there is significant growth in the amount of mediocre content.
- Information is ubiquitous, but insight is rare. In the flood of data, there is a scarcity of clear-eyed understanding, both synthetic and analytic.
- Buyer attention will get even more elusive as low-value content becomes omnipresent.
- Changes in technology have enabled anyone to begin “publishing” content. This democratization of the publishing process means that small life science companies can target their audiences as effectively as the large ones.
- Audiences are fragmenting. There is no “mass market” any more.
- Google and other search engines are now necessary for audiences to handle the increasing content load. The search engine channel is crucial for reaching your audience, and any content marketing initiative must accommodate the unique aspects of the search engine ecosystem.
- Information overload means that trust becomes even more valuable in relationships. Buyers trust peers, and the effect of recommendations and social networks is increasing.
In addition to content inflation, your competitors also influence the environment for your content. If your positioning is truly unique, you should be able to avoid a “me-too” appearance when implementing a life science content marketing initiative. However, it is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the content marketing your competitors are undertaking. A quick web search will give you most of the answers you seek. As you search, pay attention to whether or not these sites require visitors to trade personal information (contact information) for content they have generated. Such barriers tend to impede the distribution of content.
The net result of all these factors is that the clear, unwavering focus of your content marketing efforts must be your audience. The nature of the people you want to reach should drive your planning.
Audiences – the focus of your life science content marketing initiative
It is important to identify your audiences as specifically as possible. Not just companies (e.g., biotech companies with greater than $3 million in revenue) or titles (e.g., Director of Drug Discovery), but roles, education, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, motivations, etc. If you don’t understand these specifics, how can you help your audience with their issues? Many publishers embody the specific characteristics of different audiences into one or more representative “personas” – think of these as composite biographies for your buyers or your corporate customers – for whom they then create content.Many publishers embody the specific characteristics of different audiences into one or more representative “personas” – think of these as composite biographies for your buyers or your corporate customers – for whom they then create content.
If your audience is homogeneous, you might have to create only one buyer persona, but for most life science organizations, you’ll develop several, e.g., decision influencers, decision makers, users, etc. Each will have separate information needs.
How do you know what these information needs are? The best way to find out is to ask. Life science content marketing should allow you to create a dialog (not a monolog) with your customers, so you need to get in the habit of listening. There are many ways to do this. Send out surveys. Join groups on LinkedIn and look for trends in their discussions. Ask your customers. Poll your salespeople.
Remember that search engines are the channels through which most audience members will first discover your content. In this sense, search engines should be treated as a separate audience group. Optimizing your content for searchability will provide several benefits, including raising your search engine rankings.To measure the overall effects of your life science content marketing initiative, it is best to identify and track conversions – specific actions you want your audience members to take.
Tracking your life science content marketing initiative through Measurement
The consultative sales environment confronting life sciences firms can make it difficult to identify all the factors that influence any one specific sale. To measure the overall effects of your life science content marketing initiative, it is best to identify and track conversions – specific actions you want your audience members to take – that can then be linked to your content marketing initiative. One example of a conversion would be a “click-through” from your email newsletter to your web site. This type of conversion is simple to measure and tracking these conversions over time will enable you to develop a trend analysis.
There are many other ways to think about measuring the impact of your content marketing initiative. Here are a few:
- Track the behavior of those who receive your content versus those who do not. This could involve sales, or some other step of engagement along the sales process (e.g., requesting a meeting, or dropping by a trade show booth).
- Track the number of subscriptions to your online content with the FastSpring service (e.g., enewsletter).
- Track the number of times people repost your content.
- Track your search engine rank. Properly done, content marketing will raise your rankings.
- Embed surveys into your content and track the results. For an example of this, see the survey at the end of this newsletter.
- Use web-based tools (such as Google.com/Analytics, Alexa.com, Compete.com, or Quantcast.com) to track the relevant metrics for your web site, such as the amount of time on your site, the number of page views, the length of time spent on on specific pages, etc.
- Conduct pre- and post-awareness studies. There are many ways to do this, but all involve gathering information from audience members. You can do this directly (e.g., handing out surveys at trade shows) or online (e.g., using tools like SurveyMonkey.com, Zoomerang.com or SurveyGizmo.com).
- Track responses through the use of unique 1-800 numbers, specific landing pages, individual URLs, customized email addresses, etc.
When considering what metrics to track, how to measure them and what to do with the results, remember that marketing has two primary goals: establishing/reinforcing your positioning and facilitating action. Don’t be so focused on requiring hard data that you overemphasize the goal of facilitating action (because it is easy to measure) and downplay the value of reinforcing your positioning (which is harder). Even though it might be hard to measure changes in your firm’s image, content marketing is well suited to helping you establish/reinforce your positioning.Don’t be so focused on requiring hard data that you overemphasize the goal of facilitating action (because it is easy to measure) and downplay the value of reinforcing your positioning (which is harder).
Great life science content marketing starts with a S-T-R-E-A-M of relevant content
By clearly identifying your Strategy, your Topics, your Resources, your Environment, your Audience and your Measurement, you will have a succinct plan for your content marketing initiative.
With your plan firmly established, we can now turn our attention to the next steps: creating and promoting your content. In the next issue, we’ll cover the development of the content itself, including such issues as choosing topics, the form for your content, the tone of voice to use and the frequency for publishing.
* Clinipace achieved these results independent of Forma.