Inbound marketing in healthcare

The lessons we can learn from the world’s biggest brands

Traditional marketing, we are reliably – and regularly – informed, is dead.

So, for any brand wanting to make their voice heard above the commercial hubbub, a standard sales pitch won’t cut it.

This has led to some of the world’s most powerful brands acting more like media companies than advertisers. (Think Red Bull and Coca Cola’s content work as perfect examples.)

Why does the analogy to media companies fit?

Simply, a media company’s key skill is in pulling together – sometimes creating — and distributing content intended to build a strong, engaged audience.

This is exactly the model these megabrands are following; publishing content which develops communities of like-minded individuals who relate to their brand on an emotional, rather than rational, level.

But, where do pharma companies fit into this story? And what can their potentially niche B2B products and services learn from the most mass market B2C brands.

It’s all about mind set.

The trick is to flick that mental switch and stop thinking of content as a way of satisfying online search demand, but as a way to actually grow demand.

As well as exploring this in more detail, this article will look at some of the more obvious pitfalls to avoid, and describe a few easy wins available without investing significant resource.

Getting it wrong more than getting it right

There are crucial and fundamental problems in successfully implementing an inbound marketing programme which aren’t experienced exclusively by pharma companies.

Across the board, companies may embrace the idea of content marketing – and understand its value – but just don’t have the systems and structures in place to adequately support it.

That’s why research from the CMI tell us that 32% of marketers rate their content creation workflow as, at best, Fair to Poor.

More figures from Zazzle Media highlight that 60% say they don’t have the resource or infrastructure to produce content consistently…

…and 65% find it a challenge to produce content which could be honestly described as engaging.

Which leads us to a key question:

What should content contain?

You can only effectively grow demand with content that’s unique, focused on a specific and defined audience and which delivers real value.

So, if you want to position your company as the experts in a particular field, your content should reflect this. It should be fascinating and stimulating.

Which means you need to be ruthlessly self-critical.

Is your content really interesting? Is it genuinely useful, thought-provoking or educational?

Or is it a non-too-subtly disguised sales message?

(There’s no point in kidding yourself that content you admit is so-so will be viewed any differently by your clients or prospects.)

It’s always worth thinking about how you’re going to deliver your content too.

If you are presenting some truly ground-breaking science, you can be forgiven for digging deep into the detail.

In other cases, it’s more important to present a fresh and distinct opinion; so you need to make sure you have created your own angle or provocative point of view.

Don’t necessarily stick to one strict corporate point of view either.

Try bringing your backroom teams to the fore and let R&D or Research tell their story with their unique enthusiasm and commitment.

Powering the content engine

Now it’s time to look at the possibly the most difficult aspect of inbound marketing…

You’ll recognise this phenomena from different blogs or news feeds which you’ve visited yourself.

Nine posts in month 1. Four posts in month 2. One post in month 8. And that’s that.

And nothing post-2013…

The content engine is running on empty.

However, you don’t need to commit a massive amount of money or time to keep everything running smoothly.

Here’s a simple five-point plan to follow:

  • Start with a defined content strategy. What are you ultimately trying to achieve with your content? What story are you wanting to tell? Does it perfectly align with the interests of your audiences and highlight your competencies as an organisation?
  • Split your whole story up into more manageable topic areas. Now it’s time to create a content plan to define how these topics will be brought to life. There are plenty of tools out there to help you develop content ideas – is actually quite fun to use!
  • Create an editorial calendar. Define realistic publishing dates, authors and distribution channels for each piece of content. Hubspot offer a free calendar template to help get you started.
  • Agree an approval process. This is critical – make sure all your internal stakeholders, including regulatory if applicable, understand their role in ensuring timely content publication. There are tools which can help with this, but ultimately it’s about good collaboration and open communication with each other.
  • Commit to it! Content marketing is a long-term investment – don’t expect overnight results. Nevertheless, it’s vital to establish the KPIs you’ll use to measure the effectiveness of your content. So you need a plan in place for gathering and reporting this data. Then, it’s a case of refine, refine, refine to get the best results.

Of course, it’s worth noting that companies don’t have to shoulder all the responsibility of producing content themselves.

‘Yes’, successful content teams can be in-house. (However, returning to the megabrands we began talking about, Red Bull Media House employs over 1000 content marketers. Quite an investment.)

Alternatively, Coca Cola is the biggest purchaser of marketing services in the world, yet their agencies generate a consistent, valued brand voice which genuinely entertains their audiences.

“ignore the scale of the brands we’ve been talking about and think about the lessons. Define your audience. Decide what would work best for you. What would you feel comfortable committing to?”

Lee Wales Director, Ashfield Digital & Creative