The data are in. Content works. As the internet matured, buyers in all industries began educating themselves before making a buying decision. When prospects get in touch with you, they’ve likely made up their mind already. How, then, can you affect their decision?
“Publish or perish” has been standard advice for scientists since the early 1900s. Today, the same advice applies to life science companies.
Your potential prospects have an indefinite pool of sources to choose from. There is more content online in almost any niche than one can consume. The market is flooded with content.
Trusted content, on the other hand, is still at a high premium. The low barrier to publishing that the internet created means people are skeptical of any new source of information they find.
If you prove yourself as both useful and trustworthy then you are no longer playing in a saturated market. Become trusted, and you can attract crowds of prospects to your business.
How does content marketing work for life science companies?
Other industries say you only buy from those you know, like, and trust. In the life science industries, you buy from those you know, respect, and trust. In the sciences, potential buyers want to respect your expertise before making the leap.
Content marketing achieves this end perfectly. Publishing anything helps you be known. Publishing useful, interesting content that demonstrates expertise earns you respect. Consistency and familiarity build trust.
The goal of a winning strategy
Build your email list.
Nothing builds familiarity and trust more reliably than continuously showing up in your prospects inbox and being welcome there.
Before designing your strategy, adopt the “funnel mindset”: Every piece of content you produce is a tangible asset for your company. Articles aren’t just articles. They’re landing pages that should produce results for you over time. A white paper isn’t just some PDF. It’s a product your visitors can buy with their email address.
Give people a reason to trust you enough to be in their inbox. Once there, maintain consistency and continue to demonstrate your technical prowess and expertise. That’s how you stay in their mind and position yourself as the first place your potential buyers will look to when it’s time to make a decision.
The “minimum effective dose” content strategy
To create a winning content marketing strategy, start with a stable foundation you can build on over time as you gain more experience and data about the behaviors and preferences of your particular market. You won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution, but you can employ a framework of principles that, like the scientific method, will produce clarity and data.
A minimum effective dose (MED) strategy breaks down into three primary phases. Plan, produce, and promote.
1. How to plan your content for maximum ROI
Planning ahead stops your content from being sporadic, confusingly off-brand or off-timing, or worse yet, from accidentally violating regulatory requirements.
To plan effectively, follow the dictum: On time is late, early is on time.
Schedule your content as far in advance as you can and you’ll find it much easier to maintain consistency and quality over time.
Maintain an editorial calendar
Commonly in the form of a spreadsheet, an editorial calendar is a repository for future content ideas and a publishing schedule. Useful columns include the scheduled publishing date, working titles, and the assigned writer and editor. Keep your pipeline filled with edited, proofed, ready-to-publish content.
While industry news would need to be more timely, other types of content, such as tutorials or deep-dives into industry trends can be scheduled well ahead of the publishing date. If you fancy collaborative tools, you can also have a look at online programs like Trello to create your editorial calendar.
Research your audience
Who is your ideal prospect? Where do they meet, and what do they want? Mine topic ideas from the questions your current customers ask you, popular topics in industry publications and online discussion groups (Quora and Reddit are great places for that), or from keyword and competitor research.
Once you know your target audience, build a list of keywords to target. SEO is a long-term play, but do it right and people might still be finding your content years from now.
Create a list of both broad and narrow keywords. Good narrow terms are underserved and imply an intent to buy. For example, “gene editing” might be searched by any curious layperson who read an article about the potential of gene manipulation. On the other hand, “CRISPR Cas9 protein” is a keyword that implies the searcher is involved in the industry and may be looking for information to research a purchase.
Bonus tip: Use the plugin Keywords Everywhere to help generate new ideas about related keywords any time you search Google.
Research your competitors
Build an understanding of your competitors’ quantity and frequency of content, and their diversity of topics and medium.
For example, you might find that one large competitor publishes a short blog post every day but doesn’t have a podcast. There may be a gap in the market for a daily podcast. The popularity of podcasts is rising because people can consume them during “found time”. They can listen on their commute or while completing mundane tasks. Even if the topic is similar to the competitor’s daily blog, you may capture a large portion of their audience by offering an alternative medium. Who knows what other gaps you might find in your competitors’ strategies.
Audit your capacity
Determine your capacity for content production and management. How many man-hours can you and your company spare? We’ll talk about how to increase that in the next section. What skills do you have access to? Ask your team if anyone has a hidden talent for writing, a head for analytics, or a secret artistic hobby? What level of expertise do you have internally? Do you have any old content you can reuse or repurpose for your next campaign?
2. How to produce consistent content your market loves with minimal cost
You have several methods you can use to multiply your baseline capacity of content production. The three most effective methods are batching, repurposing, and outsourcing.
By clumping tasks together you can significantly increase your output. If you were to create a daily 10-minute podcast for your audience to consume with their morning coffee, you could record all the episodes for the following week each Monday morning. After that, assign someone in your team or a freelancer to edit the week’s episodes and prepare them for publication in one sitting.
It’s more efficient, more stable, and far better for creative “flow” to carve out blocks of time and get a lot of content done in one go, versus trying to dip in here and there to add things to an almost-empty pipeline.
Flesh out your content repertoire. By repurposing your content you can create a presence on more platforms and get in front of more people without investing much extra time. Take a core piece of content and reuse it in different formats and mediums.
If you create a long, in-depth article you can clip sentences to use as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts along with an attractive graphic. You can take the topic of your article and create a podcast episode, a video, or even an email series. Some companies publish “audio blogs”, which is simply a recording of a blog post being read verbatim. That may seem redundant, but it gets results. It turns out some people prefer to read, and some prefer to listen. If you only create articles without using them to do anything else, you’re leaving a lot of attention (and therefore money) on the table.
If your current capacity does not exceed what you consider your MED, you might consider outsourcing. Dealing with freelancers can be its own job, but if you get it right, it can save you a lot of time.
You can go one of two routes. Either divide specific jobs among individual freelancers while keeping management in-house or find a good agency who can deliver the kind of content you want. Finding individual freelancers can work out cheaper, though it takes more time to find and manage them. An agency is likely to cost more, but can take a tremendous amount of hassle off your plate.
One last option is to ask help from a publisher. At Labiotech, for example, we create content in collaboration with your team and then promote it on our own channels, ensuring that your message gets in front of the Biotech community.
3. How to promote your content assets for high reach
The foundation of getting your content attention is quality and consistency. If your audience can predict when they’ll see your next piece, they’ll begin to anticipate it. Achieve that and you’ll be a part of your audience’s routine, giving you a “fan base” that you can add to with your other promotional efforts.
The psychology of sharing
You’ll find countless tactics to increase shares for your content online, but if you get the psychology wrong, none of that will work.
Remember the #1 reason you share content. Regardless of industry or profession, we share things that make us look good to our friends and colleagues. Create content that selflessly provides value to the reader without any sense of bais self-promotion and you’ll maximize your shareability.
Everyone in the content marketing world talks about engagement, but few seem to mention that it’s up to you to initiate it.
Open up Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and Quora for starters. Search for your keywords and make a note of the groups and individuals that are most active. Look for recency, quantity, and engagement of content.
Find out where the topics related to your business are being discussed, and join in. Make a note of individuals who are particularly active and have a following. Medium-sized followings are still very useful as it’s easier to get in touch with them.
If you treat your content as assets (and part of a larger strategy), paying to bring people to your articles or videos should be a sound investment. Wherever your audience is most active, look into how “promoted content” works, and how much it will cost for your chosen keywords or your particular audience. Remember to define your audience well so you’re not paying to show an article about encephalography to every random passerby on the web.
Your Greatest Content Marketing Asset – Your Email List
The best time to start building your email list is yesterday. The second best time is today.
Focus on building and pleasing your email subscribers and you will be able to develop a consistent baseline of readers (or viewers/listeners) that will grow over time.
3 fatal errors you can make in life science content marketing
1. Insincere tone
In the life sciences, you might assume that your content should sound like a peer-reviewed paper. This is simply not the case. Be informal. Use idioms. Write how you talk, or if someone in your team is writing, encourage them to write how they talk.
2. Lack of focus
Write for a specific person. By researching your audience, you should have a good idea about who you’re writing for. Don’t write for anyone else. Writing for a broad audience leads to writing for no one in particular, whereas writing that’s directed at a specific type of person often has broader appeal than the specific target audience.
Just as bad as a lack of focus on an audience is a lack of focus on metrics. Don’t measure everything. It doesn’t matter how many people liked your last post. What matters is how many people are subscribing to your email list. Don’t take your eye off the prize. Measure what matters.
3. Keeping it too safe
If you create content all about you, you will fade into the background. One temptation when analyzing competitors is to fall in line with the kind of thing they’re doing. Push the boat out. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to be too unusual.
Another way life science marketers trip themselves up is worrying so much about regulatory requirements that they don’t move forward at all. It’s a legitimate concern, but not one that should halt your progress. Study the regulations and create a list of things that you can’t say. Make sure this document is easily accessible and everyone on your team (especially editors and proofreaders) are well aware of it. Every time the regulations change, update your document and notify everyone who needs to know.
Your MED content strategy does not have to be perfect. More is lost by hesitation than by haste. Throw together a content calendar and begin sketching out your production schedule when you next have the chance. If you want to ensure the consistency and quality of your content, you can add Labiotech’s expertise, experience, and production resources to your arsenal. Check out our media overview to learn more.
This article has been updated. It was originally published on 30th July 2018.