Let me start the year not with a retrospective, but with a call out to what we want to build at Nitro.
First off, it’s worth stating what we believe, or rather hypothesise:
- That a fundamental shift must occur in the way the life sciences industry approaches marketing.
- That this is necessary in order to make healthcare sustainable. Life sciences companies are major contributors to R&D, and their participation in society is not only necessary, but vital.
- That the companies that are best placed to contribute will not be just those with the right drug at the right price, but those which, having got that mix right, are then able to combine it with collaborative HCPs and a layer of digital and communication services that support either real work outcomes, professional collaboration or patient care.
- That the way to achieve this goal is not simply using sales reps as glorified delivery men and women. I’d go further, and say that few doctors want to see reps anymore for product information alone.
- That creating a new promotional and educational distribution model for the pharma industry is not easy, nor is there a single silver bullet. Healthcare is, so far, reluctant to see the rise of an Alibaba or Uber in its sector; perhaps it will come, but perhaps the system is too fragmented, complex and non-commoditised for that. (although, if you continue the Alibaba analogy, that would make it ideal for a bit of disruption. . .which brings me to my next point nearly).
- That everyone wins if a more efficient, digitally enabled, two-sided market emerges in healthcare.
- That technology is essentially borderless and has the power to effect global change in our industry as much as it has in others.
We started Nitro 15 years ago based on these beliefs. We believe them now. Achieving a solution to the issues created by the challenges above has proved elusive, but I genuinely believe we have developed the scale and expertise in what is an ever moving tech and process stack that means we can take major steps forward in 2017 towards helping our clients find more efficient, tech-enabled ways of engaging with HCPS, patients and other stakeholders for better healthcare overall.
Of course, the journey will not be competed this year, or the next, or perhaps ever. But maybe that’s part of the fun of it.
So, all that being said, we think we have—through some deep and testing experience—a clearer idea of what the makings of a two-sided marketplace for life sciences looks like and what this means for the sales and marketing model for the sector. We refer to this as life sciences social closed loop marketing (CLM), and at the heart of it is a powerful combination of a BuzzFeed-esque content marketing model, a tech stack configured to cope with the regulatory and global nuances of our industry, and a data-driven understanding of customer experience and the means and modes of acquisition and retention. Ultimately, to us it’s about helping life sciences companies build up their own proprietary distribution channels.
Here’s what it could look like:
In our opinion, life sciences companies need to work iteratively (emphasis on iterative collaborative working) to build the following business processes and tech stack to compete effectively in the world that awaits us.
- A Content Engine that contains the people, processes and tools to deliver high quality, targeted, relevant (to the audience’s needs) and consistent content in a variety of media types. It should produce creative and ethical content backed by science, and conforming to modern internet content marketing techniques: think Buzz Feed meets the BMJ! Notably, the resulting items should be incredibly timely and published more frequently. There should be a mix of interactive, service-based and information communication, most of which will be curated and created by KOLs. This content engine is not just about production, but also technologies that facilitate the creation, curation and publishing of content, like Nitro’s own proprietary ULTRA Buzz system, the Veeva Vault or web services like Grammarly.
- A Multichannel Publishing System, whether it’s an owned media one using a CMS-like Drupal or Adobe’s Creative Cloud, or using earned platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.
- An Acquisition Strategy, since we know from having built thousands of sites that ‘build it and they will come’ just doesn’t work in the life sciences sector. Marketers, therefore, must (in our humble opinion) have an effective user acquisition strategy in place using a mix of media tailored specifically to their target audience’s needs, to be able to reach them where and when they want to be reached. Nitro’s media effectiveness database assembled using over a decade of data-driven experience allows for easy budget optimisation across a range of disparate media channels and across a full range of therapy areas.
All of the above creates visibility for your online assets, but as the cost of media in our industry is relatively high, it’s critical to provide an engaging interaction and to extend the ROI beyond the first visit. To encourage this ‘stickiness’ you’ll need:
- A Measurement/Analytics plan, as well as a Customer Experience and Data Management strategy, whether it’s gathering feedback through net promoter score usage or other surveys; data from interactive services,; creating cookie-dropped user tag lists; email capture or sign up; or analytic services such as Google or Adobe using their respective tag managers. This activity is primarily to ensure you deliver and can measure the value you are providing but also about allowing you to segment and augment data so that you can:
- Pull data back into and sync with your CRM (Veeva, Agnito, Salesforce) (data extension strategy) and enable your KAMs and other colleagues to leverage it, and;
- Critically—and so far largely absent in our industry—a retargeting strategy utilising not just valuable and relevant high frequency content (see 1 above!) and email, but also cookie and data-driven and programmatic retargeting marketplaces. Talk to me any day about the relative ROI of buying media in this way compared to the cost of initial acquisition. This is the realisation of a core internet economy principle, the development by brands of their own proprietary distribution channel.
- Finally, the output of all these efforts can’t be directly about shifting ‘drug product’ through share of voice (through that last point plays an import role in acquisition). It’s about (again, in our opinion) building genuine advocacy through listening, responding and partnering. This builds trust and will at scale be reflected in content creation which if you follow the logic through will create a virtuous circle fuelling the company’s content engine (see the diagram above!). Beautiful!
So that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not a simple vision, way more complex than just content and communications but, if successful, way more valuable for all concerned. It would be amazing to build a company that delivered on this.
That’s our plan. 2017 and beyond.