As marketing professionals, we understand that creating meaningful connections is firmly rooted in the art of storytelling. We craft engaging plot lines that communicate a seamless brand narrative – all worthy of the patient’s journey with us. And much like a captivating novel, the more successful content marketing programs often hide a few anticipated plot twists – just to keep things interesting. The big difference here is – the patient is the catalyst.
Independent of persona or demographic, today’s consumer behaviors underscore our always-on, digital-first society. While some traditional communication and purchasing pathways remain, today’s self-guided consumer thrives in a world of independence and self-discovery. These new buying habits are not solely reserved for the world of retail – they strongly apply across all markets including life sciences and health care. Their buying mentality may shift based on purchasing goals, but the subconscious habits and rituals of “searching” and “shopping” are ingrained. It’s these tendencies that communication teams must deeply understand and embrace in an effort to have their story break through.
Recent universal shifts in consumer behavior have brought to the fore micro-ecosystems within the consumer universe requiring marketers to take a proactive approach to manage very specific customer expectations. This philosophy goes beyond traditional messaging segmentation – realizing true success in customized brand stories tailored for today’s dynamic consumer. But how?
Creating Personalized Brand Experiences
Every brand story begins with character development; understanding the unique groups of personas that play a vital role in shaping your marketing initiatives. As a skilled healthcare marketer, your mindset should lean towards a “patients first” approach when developing the characteristics of your individualized personas. Each condition presents its own unique ways of discovering useful information and medical care. Therefore, marketing teams should begin to examine personas against patient pathways; newly diagnosed, patients at a crossroads; highly educated healthcare consumers, and so on. To add a more dynamic layer to the persona, consider when appropriate caregivers, advocates, and medical care teams as part of the story.
Our data-rich industry allows us liberties to develop deeper persona profiles – ones that go beyond basic demographic insights, indexing, and IOAs. The right mix of data sets allows for the development of highly personalized content distributed through exacting channels – channel selection that complements each individual and their purchasing pathway.
Channel selection is as vital as persona development. The medium is as crucial to the message as the content itself. Multichannel marketing for content delivery can easily develop into a massive platform requiring dedicated amounts of time, money, and energy resources to maintain momentum. But multichannel does not have to be every channel. Persona development coupled with complimentary channel selection streamlines operations and allows communications team head space to focus on personalized, high-quality content – not platform maintenance.
This approach requires discipline and extensive upfront planning. Selecting just a few thoughtful channels – the precise mix of amplification, education, and conversion tactics – oftentimes reaps larger rewards than the ability to boast widespread coverage. A disparate content marketing plan can distill your brand story leading to consumer confusion and disinterest – the ultimate black mark against your brand.
Multichannel marketing requires a steady hand, patience, and above all strong listening skills. On the surface, the challenge remains simple: tell a cohesive brand story that spans both on- and offline channels. However, the plot twist lies in how your consumers are reacting and engaging in your narrative in real-time. The denouement is the flexibility and expediency your brand team exhibits in shaping a story that remains true to the brand while meeting consumer demand. It’s an exercise in trial and error – one that begins with an educated hypothesis that is tested and consistently adjusted based on real-world results.
Leveraging Channel Personas
Independent of how “experienced” a patient is with his or her condition, the majority of healthcare consumers are on a mission to feel empowered and informed – taking on a more informed position in what type of care they receive or the medication they are prescribed. This empowerment comes from a command of information. With today’s unlimited access to content, the search for these insights has no boundaries or tactical category. This calls for a highly strategic blend of multichannel content that satisfies their needs. Content that encourages generalized awareness of content to information that directs patients to take action – your content must span that continuum and position your company and product in a way that exemplifies your brand’s promise of care that goes beyond the pill.
Content that delivers is relative and sometimes quantifying its return on investment can be rather difficult. Direct response tactics deliver immediate gratification – quantifiable results –and oftentimes garner most of the limelight. Easy to measure. Easy to correlate to an uptick in sales or a spike in inquiries. But, often overlooked are those ambient tactics. Strategies that introduce and bring to the fore your brand message can make for a successful DTC initiative. Unfortunately, it’s these programs that are sometimes the first to be sacrificed when scrutinizing marketing expenditures. Industry projections show exponential increases in marketing budget allocations earmarked for content marketing programs across all industries indicating that the increasing value of this method directly results in business.
This uptick has led to heightened awareness of its efficacy from upper management putting pressure on marketing teams to select high-performing channels that demonstrate value. But how do we quantify “value?” Each content channel serves a specific purpose in the marketing continuum – some are designed to amplify the message; some are built to inform and empower and others strictly to spark conversion. Their value varies and it needs to be measured collectively, by the audience, not solely on a tactic-by-tactic basis because a highly effective content marketing strategy takes a holistic view, not a myopic one.
Multichannel marketing creates a dynamic blend of paid versus earned strategies all working in concert with one another. Understanding each channel and content persona as well as how they relate to one another can help shape a more personalized experience with your brand.
But marketing channels cannot be discussed independently of brand content. Together they play a symbiotic role in brand storytelling. With the danger of oversimplifying, let’s begin to group channels and content into basic categories that serve each area of the customer conversion funnel.
Hunters: Taking a proactive approach, “Hunters” techniques present themselves to the consumer unexpectedly creating an opportunity for brand consideration and curiosity. Relying heavily on breakthrough messaging to arrest the audience and encourage action. They are most commonly paid initiatives that require carefully planned calls to action that elicit responses. The goal is to engage the consumer with high-level content in an effort to pique interest and spur further self-discovery.
Examples: Television, streaming radio, streaming video
Gatherers: When the consumer is proactive, taking on the role of the “Hunter,” the “Gatherer” techniques are there when needed. They help guide the conversation while communicating their brand into the storyline. This approach relies on a deep understanding of the purchasing journey. How, when, and where a customer seeks resources to empower decision-making, and who are their influencers? From a messaging standpoint, the more exacting your story relates to the content consumers are searching for the more likely you will see traction.
Examples: Search engine marketing and search engine optimization
Hybrids: A true blend of both “Hunter” and “Gatherer”, “Hybrid” techniques insert themselves into conversations and leverage existing displaying an air of higher relevancy. Taking advantage of real-time data – not solely reserved for “Hybrid” channels – the benefit of this approach is real-time optimization based on demand.
Examples: Social media, programmatic digital display, retargeting
Delivering Content that Crosses Channels
Content marketing serves as the link between brand awareness, lead generation, and customer retention. Creating a library of high-impact content that communicates your brand’s narrative is the largest expenditure of time, money, and energy so it needs to be maximized. Just as consumers span multiple channels, your content should as well. During the development process, marketing teams need to be considering how each “complete” piece of content can be abridged or repurposed to cross over into secondary outlets.
Long-form storytelling has extreme value. When properly optimized and made to be SEO-friendly, rich content can organically amplify your message with little to no overhead. But it should serve multiple purposes. Converting long form into sharable bite-sized pieces of information allows for another dynamic and organic pathway to great reach and supplying the consumer’s demand for quality information.
Understanding the medium and mindset that goes along with social content engagement is paramount to the successful exchange of your message by third-party, unbiased content ambassadors. Consumers who benefit from your content create an exchange network that – while out of your immediate control – exemplifies the concept of information self-discovery. Rich and relevant content turns the consumer into a thought leader within their own social network creating an additional channel for content distribution. This hybrid persona should be considered a highly coveted target audience among marketing professionals as they represent the strongest influencers in the marketplace.
Analyzing Data with a Steady Hand
This marketing discipline will always require the right mix of defined personas, exacting content, and precise channel mixes. But most importantly – a steady hand. Voluminous amounts of data and advanced analytics at the fingertips of today’s marketing professionals have provided greater insights about target consumers – more so than ever before. But there is a real danger present with so much access that can quickly present itself: the practice of “over-optimizing” a campaign.
Advancements in media buying platforms – programmatic and addressable techniques – have alleviated marketing teams of the manual task of optimizing spending while providing a vehicle to precisely deliver based on real-time consumer demand. To realize the benefits of data-driven delivery mechanisms more emphasis is placed on marketing teams to develop more sophisticated strategic planning, create exacting persona development and leverage rich third-party data sets. This practice of more intensive upfront research will contribute to confidence in execution and patience in monitoring your campaign’s performance.
Content marketing is the ultimate “pull” technique. It’s one that is fueled and fed by the behaviors of the “collective” target consumer but success can be found through deeper persona development. It is important to be decisive with large marketing budgets at stake, but much like consumers, a content marketing campaign needs close attention and nurturing. Let your customer help develop your brand story – which can take some time. Remember, the story is driven by the consumer so follow their lead.