As competition among brands intensifies in the pharma landscape, so does the search for a competitive edge beyond conventional features and benefits. Against this backdrop, an increasing number of savvy brand marketers have added content marketing to their toolkits.
At Klick, we think of content marketing as the creation of helpful, relevant content that is contextually distributed to a clearly-defined audience in order to drive a business outcome. That is to say, the content aims to engage the target audience (e.g., physicians and patients), by providing a useful resource of knowledge, information, inspiration, or even entertainment.
To be sure, content marketing has been a staple in marketers’ toolbox across many industries for years – used extensively and with great success when done right. With respect to ROI, it has often proven to be less expensive than many other outbound marketing efforts, and tends to attract significantly more attention in turn.
This should come as no surprise in a world where customers with ever-shortening attention spans increasingly filter out messages that are not valuable. After all, customers don’t spend their time thinking about brands; they spend time thinking about ways to solve their problems (this is especially true in healthcare). To this end, useful, relevant content attracts plenty of readers, and the way to earn their attention is to stop selling and start being helpful, which is the essence of good content marketing.
Pharma marketers face additional hurdles in the form of heavy regulatory and compliance constraints. So where to start? We recommend asking the right questions, which we’ve arranged in the 5Ws (and 1H) below.
The 5Ws and 1H of Pharma Content Marketing
As you get started, it is worth noting that there is no single framework to follow for creating a successful content marketing strategy. Each brand must craft their approach around specific marketing goals, distribution ecosystems, and consumer needs. That said, there are key questions that must be answered on the path to a great content marketing strategy.
Why are we creating and distributing the content?
The first question should always be why.
Why are we creating and distributing the content? This question is tied directly to the business challenges are we trying to solve and the audience objectives that we want to achieve (e.g., raise brand awareness, generate leads, motivate adherence). The answers should be aligned with the brand strategic imperatives, and it’s important to think ahead to the measurability of these objectives. It is also important to discuss risks at this stage, and to think about the cost of whether there is a good reason why this hasn’t been done yet in the category.
Who is our target audience?
The ‘who’ question focuses us in on our target:
- Who is the audience for our content?
- What do we know about them?
- What is their knowledge level?
- How technologically savvy are they?
When it comes to knowing our audience, broad cohorts are not enough – we need to drill down to defined personas and understand our target as a real live person with real questions and problems. Remember that great content marketing isn’t about simply creating a broad array of content about your brand and distributing it across channels.
Rather, it’s about creating quality content that enables you to be the best answer available to whatever issue your audience is trying to solve. With this goal in mind, a deep understanding of your customer and the questions they are seeking to answer will be paramount to your content marketing success.
What type of content will be most effective?
Start with an internal content audit and gauge what you have to work with already – odds are that you don’t have to start from square one. Then, put yourself in the shoes of your customers and conduct various keyword searches in your favorite search engine to reveal external content that has already been created on the topic as well. While quality will likely vary, there is a chance you might find some gems that capture your attention and imagination.
Use this baseline of content as your springboard. Your goal from here should be to create content that is better than the best content you can find in the search results today – or what search guru Rand Fishkin refers to as “10x content”.
10x content refers to content that is 10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in the search results for a given keyword phrase or topic. It really is a beautifully simple concept, both a mindset and strategic roadmap. While you might think it difficult to quantify something as subjective as content quality, Rand does point to a number of qualitative factors you can use to identify the attributes of 10x content.
- It should provide a uniquely positive user experience – being high-quality, trustworthy, interesting, and/or visually remarkable in its presentation.
- It should evoke an immediate emotional response, filling you with a sense of awe, surprise, joy and/or admiration.
- It should load quickly on any device or browser.
- It is likely to have achieved a significant amount of amplification from others via shares on social networks or blogs.
- And perhaps most importantly, it should solve the problem or answer questions by providing comprehensive and accurate information.
These high standards will help you to understand the delta between what is available today and what is necessary to maximize the value of a strategic content marketing approach.
Finally, a clear best practice is to seize every opportunity to create atomizable content to maximize efficiency. That is, create a comprehensive, long-form content asset that can be chapterized into modules to be parceled out into multiple distribution formats at different times (e.g., an eBook with content that can be extracted for interactive infographics, blog posts, etc.). This is the smart play for busy content marketers who want to do more with less.
When along their journey will our audience find our content most useful?
The most generous gift any audience can give a brand is their time – and it’s crucial to think about the timing of their time. That is, understanding when they are choosing to engage is critical to delivering the right content, at the right time and place.
To do this, begin with asking yourself questions such as:
- When will they find the content most useful? (e.g., awareness, consideration)
- What time of day are they likely to be consuming this content?
- What device type will this content likely be consumed on?
- What is our audience’s mindset and needs during this critical time?
As you develop a clearer understanding of audience context, you will be able to deliver truly customer-centric content.
Where will our audience find our content (distribution)?
After you have thoughtfully answered the first four Ws, the last is your channel distribution strategy. If great content isn’t being seen, it is a wasted opportunity. Consider the following questions about where:
- Where will our audience find our content?
- Where would they be most receptive to the content (e.g., third-party endemic sites, pharma unbranded website)?
- Which channels have the proper authority to deliver on trustworthiness?
- Which channels do we already have, and are they effective?
Mapping the content to the appropriate location in your ecosystem should also align with your audience’s engagement cycle or customer journey. Content creation is meaningless without proper distribution strategy.
How will we measure the success of our content marketing initiatives?
The last step is understanding how your content is performing, and then optimizing your content and channel mix accordingly. This exercise should ladder directly to the Why (your objectives).
Another important consideration is the cadence of measurement. Although monthly reporting is a good rule of thumb, the cadence may be influenced by the realistic frequency of adjustment/optimization opportunities (given the workload involved).
It’s also important to set the right performance expectations. For example, in cases where the expected horizon of return on investment is not overnight – it is critical to communicate to stakeholders that the initiative may take some time to realize the full benefit.
With all this in mind, consider these KPIs for your content marketing initiatives:
- Awareness measures: web traffic, page views, video views, downloads, social chatter, etc.
- Engagement measures: likes, shares, forwards, comments, inbound links, pins etc.
- Lead generation measures: opt-ins, form completions, subscriptions etc.
- Sales metrics: Tying actual sales – both offline and online – to determine the return on your investment
A thoughtful measurement plan will help you understand where the opportunities for improvement exist, both in terms of optimizing your content, as well as your channel mix. The data will also help you adjust to any changes in behavior exhibited by your audience.
Finally, it is always important to monitor any changes in the competitive landscape, and optimize accordingly.
An Ever-Evolving Process
As you embark on your Content Marketing journey, consider this a starting point. Once you have walked through the steps of planning the 5W and 1H and have some solid content, it’s time to start again from the top.
All content has a shelf life, so it is important to consistently revisit your strategy to make sure it is still delivering on your objectives. As Jodi Harris of the Content Marketing Institute aptly states: “Only by treating content marketing as a cyclical and ever-evolving process can you truly keep your program running at peak levels of performance over the long term.”
To be sure, executing all the steps outlined above can require a significant time investment. Making sure you are doing it for the right reasons is essential. But as we at Klick know from our extensive experience with developing strategies and assets for our life sciences clients – content marketing can serve as a helpful tactic in your arsenal to drive profitable brand performance.