‘COVID-19 is driving lasting changes in what HCPs need and value,’ found the Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020, named – ‘Reinventing Relevance.’ Several physicians from the US, Europe and Asia were found to have experienced a significant change taking place in many pharma companies’ communication with them – going much beyond just product information.
The study observed, right from the early days of Covid-19 pandemic, daily operations of many health care providers (HCPs) shifted to more virtual interactions with both patients and pharma companies. The participating doctors also felt, the services that pharma companies are now offering deliver higher value than the pre-pandemic period.
Accenture’s follow-up study in August 2020 reiterated, ‘pharma companies have improved how they engage with healthcare providers during Covid-19.’ It, therefore, appears that the new value expectations of many physicians are being met with a newer value delivery model, significantly deviating from pre-Covid practices.
For example, in the above August 2020 survey, most HCPs said pharma players are increasingly providing education on how to better treat patients remotely and help them manage their conditions in light of COVID-19. Besides, some of these companies are also helping patients understand various contemporary health and care related issues.
Against this backdrop, as the study underscored: ‘Now is the time for pharma companies to redefine their relevance.’ Picking up from here – in this article, I shall focus on the relevance of ‘Content Marketing’ in pharma to effectively deliver the new value expectations of physicians with a new value delivery model.
Pharma marketing can’t be ‘an outdated and uncoordinated analogue’ any longer:
Since quite some time, technological innovation has started opening new vistas of opportunities with new tools, multi-channels, and platforms for personalized and more effective customer engagement in pharma. But, majority of tradition-bound pharma players, unlike their counterparts in other industries, preferred to stick to the single channel marketing model, that has been offering golden eggs, till Covid-19 struck.
It’s not that no one in pharma knew at that time about the usefulness of content marketing. This is vindicated even in the article on the future of pharma marketing, published in the Pharmaphorum, on May 23, 2017. It wrote: ‘Where others have taken marketing innovation in their stride, pharma retains an outdated and uncoordinated analogue perspective of how to communicate its business.’
Citing examples of some pharma marketers, such as, Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly, it wrote, ‘while moves have been made to embrace new marketing methods, such as the integration of digital technologies for multichannel marketing (MCM) strategies, the way forward for pharma marketing is far from clear.’ It was – then.
It is different now;
Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged many pharma marketers to expand marketing focus much beyond just product information to meet their customers new value expectations. These encompass some critical areas, as the May and August 2020 surveys of Accenture have brought out.
For many companies, content marketing strategy with an omnichannel presence will help build long-term relationships with customers. That said, for all to be on the same page, let me recap – what exactly is content marketing, and its difference from the traditional single channel marketing in the pharma industry.
Content marketing in pharma:
According to the Content Marketing Institute: ‘Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.’
Instead of pitching the products or services, content marketing provides contemporary, relevant, and useful content to customers to help them solve their contemporary issues in the given space. Since quite some time, content marketing is being practiced in many industries, including -by a selected few in pharma, as indicated above.
The key difference from traditional marketing:
The value of content marketing lies in the quality of personalized engagement between the customer and the company with personalized content through different channels. From this perspective, while traditional marketing is akin to ‘shouts’ at the customers – generally, for a brand prescription, whereas content marketing is akin to ‘talking’ with them for a solution. Content marketing in pharma is, therefore, about a grand strategy for effective participation in meaningful conversations for development stronger stakeholder relationships.
Content marketing usually includes educational articles – on the company website or in the form of e-books, videos, infographics, white papers, magazines, podcasts, or webinars. The content for all these need to be tailor made to credibly answer specific questions that customers have and provide them with something they can’t get elsewhere. This process of creating a deeper and a sustainable bond with stakeholders, often pays a rich commercial dividend, even in trying times.
Increasing use of content marketing, especially, in a fast-changing scenario, as we witness today, can help a pharma company to change and enhance its customer’s behavior toward the company, in a win-win manner.
Some recent examples of content marketing in pharma:
For more clarity, let me give below a few examples of good content marketing in the pharma industry, as available in the cyberspace – some of them capturing Covid related issues too:
- Speak Your Migraine, developed by Novartis, was created to support people living with migraine. The website carries an impact assessment tool for the visitors to feel how migraine affects people’s lives, enabling them to openly share their experiences with doctors and family.
- Lilly Pad is Eli Lilly’s official blog, consisting of articles on the company, its research to cure diseases and improve the quality of lives. The blog also provides details of the health and public policy, along with corporate social responsibility of the organization in various areas of the society.
- Takeda Pharmaceutical launched its campaign IBD Unmasked to support and create increased awareness of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The campaign aims to help IBD sufferers find their inner super-strength and become superheroes like the characters featured in the graphic novels within the campaign.
- Bayer’s content marketing initiatives span across print and digital media with a large following. The organization publishes two well-appreciated publications as a carrier of its content: The Bayer Scientific Magazine and the Bayer Magazine.
Overall, pharma and biotech industries don’t seem to be doing as well in this area. According to ‘The State of Content Survey for Life Sciences’ by Accenture, only very few of them think that they are doing well. For example:
- Just 13% of pharma and biotech marketers and 17% of med tech marketers think they leverage content well.
- Only 4% in med tech and 11% in pharma/biotech report they have a clearly documented content strategy that meets their current and future needs (compared to 42% across all industries).
- Only 6% of med tech marketers and 9% of pharma/biotech marketers feel objectives are clearly laid out (versus 19% across all industries).
It is quite possible that more than a year since Covid disruptions, this situation has somewhat improved for some companies. Nevertheless, amid this complex environment, most of the pharma and biotech players still require defining a robust ‘content marketing strategy’ for them. Establishing clear objectives of the content strategy based on well-researched data, along with its measurement criteria, will demand a quality thought process. Depending on the strategic requirements, the leadership will need to put in place an organizational structure for content marketing, including people, processes, technology, and tools that can deliver the stated content marketing goals – both during, as well as after the pandemic period.
Thus, I reckon, to effectively augment pharma customers’ new value expectations, content marketing needs to occupy an important place in today’s pharma marketing playbook.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.