Relationships are at the heart of life. At home and at work, the myriad daily interactions we have, consciously and subconsciously, determine mood, focus, mindset, and the decisions we make. Relationships require consistent work, and this is especially true in business.
Brands compete for customer attention, so building and maintaining relationships is critical to success. Positive experiences and interactions, along with the reputation of an organization, help to build successful relationships with customers, which in turn can differentiate an organization in often highly competitive global markets, and have a healthy impact on purchasing decisions and loyalty. This is no different when it comes to science and medical marketing and communications. When people identify with and relate to an organization’s values and messages and develop trust, there is greater confidence when it comes to the decision to purchase.
“Every company is a Media Company,” wrote Tom Foremski, former Financial Times journalist and, since 2004, founder at Silicon Valley Watcher, adding that the phrase, which he refers to as EC=MC, “now drives a content marketing boom and is a transformative equation for business. It’s not easy being a media company, but it’s rapidly becoming an essential capability as journalists continue to lose jobs and publications shrink.”
Content marketing is one of the cornerstones of an organization’s digital strategy. What an organization says, the content it creates and shares are essential elements of the business. It has to be mirrored by what an organization does, but relatable content that resonates and adds value to the reader is a powerful tool to connect with customers, engage them, and build credibility, which is a critical factor in the science and medical fields. Although the channels for content continue to evolve, the ability to tell a compelling story, built on comprehensive research, proof of concept and verifiable data, and presenting that in an easily digestible way, are vital to success.
1. Getting the strategy right
This may seem obvious, but a well-thought-out, cohesive content strategy is vital. Generated content is ‘owned’ content and part of the PESO mix, that is Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media (see Figure 1). It both co-exists and can cross-pollinate with other media types.
It’s important to build the business case for content creation and get buy-in from the top down. Demonstrable value will be important, so establishing agreed objectives and showing how they ladder up to the overall business goals, and are measurable, is vital. Credibility and relevance should be at the center of everything. There needs to be an agreed protocol developed for the scheduling, creation, approval, and publishing processes before the content program is integrated into an organization’s overall marketing and communications function.
- Why is content being created?
- It could be, for example, for the purpose of seeking to build authority and share of voice, positioning the company and key executives as thought leaders, highlighting specific products or solutions, or communicating specific USPs or expertise.
- What is the potential value added to the company?
- Increased visibility amongst clients, deeper relationships, more favorable opinions, and potential to enhance sales.
- What is the organization’s personality?
- Consider tone, context, the language used for the audience, objectivity, and ensure it’s in keeping with brand guidelines.
2. Understand the audience
It goes without saying that knowing your audience is key to content strategy. Who are they? Where are they? What is their decision-making process? What factors or combination of factors influence purchasing? What are their pain points? What challenges do they face? How can an organization solve these challenges and make their lives easier? Where do they get their information from? And how do they receive that information?
The granularity of digital intelligence available to organizations means that building an audience profile can be hyper-personalized based on what customers do online. In the B2B space especially, the customer demographic is more clearly defined, and their journey is tracked comprehensively through sales channels and teams. Sales tend to be more structured and planned, and there’s no ‘impulse buying.’ The result is that marketers can really hone in on customer needs, and that understanding enables deeper, more long-term relationships.
By approaching customers based on their situational needs, there is the potential for a two-way educational dialogue around important industry issues, key trends, and to discuss products, services or solutions directly and on a deeper level with the people who actually use them. Targeted content can reinforce customer engagement, nurture that relationship and resonate with them by speaking to factors that impact their daily routines while illustrating resolution and tangible benefits.
3. Think objectively and editorially
Created content is now a legitimate channel, attracting respected journalists that made a move from publishing as news outlets moved from print to digital and shed jobs. Customers are savvy and smart, so it’s important to view created content objectively, avoid cliches, hyperbole, spin, and sensationalism, as that can ‘cheapen’ content and weaken factual messaging as you risk losing the reader’s attention. As mentioned previously, credibility is key, so a commitment to building that should drive created content. A few considerations:
- What assets do we have that can be leveraged?
- Experts, unique products, services, solutions, organizational specializations, and historical significance.
- What are our customer-facing employees reporting?
- What are customers saying?
- What are their challenges? How can we turn those into opportunities?
- What do they want/need?
- What’s going on in the industry?
- What is relevant to us, and where can we add unique value to the conversation?
- What are the key developments?
- What are the challenges and opportunities?
- What is in development with our organization that will help mitigate challenges?
It’s important to build a cross-company team of experts, and also invite experts who might not be part of the organization, to give third party viewpoints, validation and so on. When it comes to content creation itself, use a writer adept at crafting content.
Think about what type of content customers want to see. The overarching narrative should be positive. Possible macro focus areas include completely new developments (new product/platform/solution/service), problem-solving, illustrating improvements and tangible benefits (cost savings, process improvements, time savings, reduced waste, improved environmental performance, and so on), executive thought leadership, live Q&A sessions, roundtable discussions, and commentary on industry developments and new stories.
4. Sharing is caring
Content is made to be shared, or at least, it should be! Social media channels have evolved significantly since they first came on-stream. There has been a trend to more story-led content, enabled by short-form video, real-world examples, customer-driven ‘show and tell’ stories. Social media has become more visually driven, which means augmenting created content with rich interactive assets such as video, infographics, animation, and high-quality photography can pull in scrolling readers.
A key consideration should be creating interesting content that will be shared by users outside of the organization, as more dynamic content often drives consumers to more comprehensive owned content and, increasingly, paid content. Advertising, content placement and sponsorships with media partners can further extend content reach, drive traffic to an organization’s content, and help to build a credible relevant cadence.
Owned content data analytics and metrics are essential to demonstrate ROI to justify budgets and purchases. There are increasingly diverse options for content measurement, the obvious platform being Google Analytics. We could really devote an entire series of blog posts to content measurement, but 20 typical metrics are listed below, and an excellent primer from Dreamhost, which can be found here, dives in each one.
20 Google Analytics Content Measurement Metrics to Keep Track of:
- Page Views
- Traffic by Channel
- Time Spent on Page
- Bounce Rate
- Pages Per Visit
- Returning Visitors
- Top Traffic Posts
- SERP Rankings
- Average Inbound Links Per Blog Post
- Average Comments Per Blog Post
- Social Shares Per Blog Post
- Clicks from Social Platforms
- New Blog Leads and Customers
- Posts That Bring in the Most Leads and Customers
- Conversion Rates
- Lead Source Breakdown
- Total Email Subscribers
- Email Open Rates
- Email Click-Through Rates
- Number of Blog Posts Published
Owned content is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s growing in importance as executed correctly and strategically. It’s a direct platform for relaying credible, relevant information straight to customers. It’s a way to strengthen relationships, build the persona of an organization, and perhaps have a little fun at times! It is an integral part of the modern marketing mix, and opportunities to segue with paid, earned, and shared media will likely increase as more platforms gain traction, for example, augmented and virtual reality.Keywords: content marketing, Custom Content, Digital Strategies, science marketing