Sales & Multichannel Canada

Jun 17, 2015 - Jun 18, 2015, Toronto

Think multichannel: Be a part of Canada's new business model for pharma marketing

Valuable Content: Less Marketing, More Business Philosophy

Valuable content could spell digital success for pharma.

Sonja Jefferson, Founder Valuable Content, co-author Valuable Content Marketing

Pharma may not be as sexy a product or service to market as luxury consumer goods. However, this doesn’t mean that the marketing techniques exploited in a range of other industries and sectors can’t be highly useful to pharma companies as well. The trick, however, doesn’t involve using traditional means such as cold calls and email blasts. Instead, the secret may lie in the intelligent use of content. As Sonja Jefferson, Founder Valuable Content, and co-author of Valuable Content Marketing says,“It’s not how you say it, but what you have to say to the world that counts in 2015.”

Your customers will become your social sharing marketing tribe, who will do the job of promoting your ideas for you".

Content: The New Connection

Jefferson defines valuable content as "supercharged content", explaining that, “Content is the new connection between your customers and your company.” It is content with a bigger purpose - useful information that hits the mark every time. It is designed with a clear mission. “Your customers will become your social sharing marketing tribe, who will do the job of promoting your ideas for you,” says Jefferson.

Intelligent content has a perfect mixture that content designers should aim to achieve every single time, which balances content that is valuable to the business by being in line with business goals, and at the same time valuable to the customer by being personally useful. Jefferson shares five key insights and some examples that illustrate how valuable content techniques can engage customers and take a business forward.

1.      Content that is written from an expert’s heart draws people in, while hard sell pitches are inauthentic.

Motives matter and, as such, valuable content is genuine and sincere. Customers are able to discern if the information being shared with them is fabricated and insincere. According to Jefferson, “Saying that you ‘care about your customers’ has become so much part of the corporate furniture we don’t even notice it, let alone really believe it.”

A company from the technical engineering product industry, Indium Corporation, sets a good example for pharma. Indium’s Director of Marketing Communications, Rick Short, explained in an interview with Jefferson that he had to remove himself personally from the process of writing the company’s online content. He now hires people who can come up with more genuine ideas for content. Most importantly, this involves recruiting research and development engineers, who are consumed with content topics that solve problems for customers.

Indium also found that sponsored content and stories engage customers much better than mere advertising. It is this content that draws potential customers in and leads them to spend time on the Indium website.

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A good example of this comes in the form of EU Disease LensJanssen Health Policy Centre, part of the Flemish drug company Janssen Pharmaceutica, has launched a “digital dashboard” to accurately inform journalists, policymakers, health-care workers and any interested member of the public about the most common diseases found in Europe.

The goal of the EU Disease Lens is to provide clear and accurate information about disease statistics, history and latest treatments in an age where there is so much online information available, it can be very difficult to make sense of or to corroborate findings and figures.

The site covers 28 diseases, including diabetes, HIV, schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. The information is gathered from reliable and publicly available sources such as the World Health Organization and the European Commission.

2.      Content that is specific and relevant to patient needs gains readership while generic and product-centered information is overlooked.

Many companies still fill their websites and blogs with information that they want customers to find important, rather than what customers actually find important. This can be a common pitfall for pharma companies, because at times they develop and promote drugs that don’t necessarily give the greatest value for patients. Although valuable content should involve striking a balance between business goals and customer’s personal goals, the design and creation process of content should put the benefits to patients first. Short says, “To differentiate your company from the competition you need to know more about your customers’ pain, needs, opportunities, processes, and challenges than anyone else.”

Relevant content is laser-focused to customer needs and is meaningful to the intended niche audience. A pharma company can win in the digital age once it understands the specific patient market segment it is operating in and successfully reaches actual patients by effectively solving their particular challenges.

According to Jefferson, “If you want to get heard above the roar, rethink the traditional approach to sales and marketing communication. The valuable attitude is not ‘look how great we are,’ but ‘see how useful and interesting we are; we have the answers to your problems.’” For a business to gain more attention and readership, its content shouldn’t center around the company and the product, but on the market segment.

3.      Content that answers patients’ questions is helpful, while hard selling has become tiresome.

The more you help and the less you try to sell, the more you will sell".

Jefferson teaches that valuable content should be focused on helping patients and not simply on selling to them. “Remember the web is where we go for answers, and we’re all sick and tired of being sold to. If you help, people will like you more; that’s the long and short of it. The more you help and the less you try to sell, the more you will sell,” adds Jefferson.

Business and generosity might not seem natural partners, but when it comes to creating content, the more you give, the more you will receive".

Ideas and meaningful insights should also be given away for free and in generous quantities. Whether a patient or their family member decides to make a purchase of a medical drug or not, the information they receive should be valuable nonetheless. “Business and generosity might not seem natural partners, but when it comes to creating content, the more you give, the more you will receive,” says Jefferson. Pharma companies can share their hard-earned knowledge, such as published studies, statistics, experiment results and patient experiences, to improve patient awareness and engagement.

HSBC Expat may be a bank, but pharma companies can learn an important lesson from it about giving helpful and free content to customers. HSBC Expat Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager, Richard Fray, said in an interview with Jefferson that their business knows how much guidance and assistance expats need when they move to a new location. It is a major life decision that affects the person, their career, and their family. Their online presence is “a thriving hub of content,” as Jefferson describes it. It provides surveys, guides, videos, hints, tips, an excellent blog, interactive tools and social updates for the benefit of expats who are facing the challenges of relocation.

Much in the same way, patients have several challenges to face when it comes to managing their disease, including challenges involving family, finances and work-life balance. Pharma companies who generously provide advice to patients on how to manage those challenges will ultimately gain sales and marketing benefit from resources expended in this area.

To illustrate, the Copaxone website does a great job in guiding patients to places where they can find further information about multiple sclerosis, such as providing a link to, a tool that provides information about managing the condition.The Copaxone website also has an online chat room where patients can exchange experiences with others who have similar conditions and are already taking Copaxone.

Another good example is that of, which has recognized that when talking to a busy doctor, many patients forget all the questions they wanted to ask. The Lipitor website offers a printable list of questions that patients can take to their doctor if they are considering using this drug.

4.      Content that is entertaining and inspiring gets shared, while sites that can’t tell a good story are ignored.

Good marketing has always been about telling great stories, and marketing in the digital age is no different. Good stories and great ideas get spread".

The stories of patients can be very emotional, and valuable content can evoke those emotions successfully. Content design is all about telling a bigger story. “Good marketing has always been about telling great stories, and marketing in the digital age is no different. Good stories and great ideas get spread,” says Jefferson.

A good story has commitment to quality as its backbone. Jefferson cites the example of the Sands Beach Resort in Spain, which provides first class quality content. “The photos, videos and blogs they share on Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter feeds are stunning – you can’t help but wish you were there. The production value has gone up, but it still feels real and personal,” says Jefferson. Much in the same way, hospital and care facilities have to make use of high quality images and videos to give patients a glimpse of the quality of care and amenities they will be provided with.

Indeed, patients don’t want to be reminded all over their Facebook and Instagram of how grave their conditions are. A better way pharma can capitalize on social media and gain maximum exposure is by creating light-hearted, humorous content on their websites and social media profiles. did exactly this — they came up with a Monthly Caption Contest, where the readers get to think of a funny pharma-related caption to follow the illustrations of a famous cartoonist, Jerry King. The winner wins a coffee mug with a print of the cartoon and the caption. A simple yet effective idea.

5.      Content that is timely hits the spot, while information released as the sole prerogative of business leaders appears force-fed.

Valuable content maximizes the magic of timing and hits the spot just at the right moment, not too soon and definitely not too late. It isn’t static or antiquated. Customers get the content that they need when they need it.

The first priority is to keep the benefit of the patients or customers in mind. The next priority is to tie meaningful stories and insights into business goals. There should be a beautiful consensus between the two. After combining them, pharma should ask the following question: Why are we creating this certain piece of content and should it be released now?

Jefferson says that businesses which provide timely content can achieve their objectives without the use of expensive marketing techniques such as cold calling, expensive print or media advertisement or mass email blasts that go to spam and only succeed at annoying customers. Valuable content that is timely can have a transformative affect on sales outcomes. “Customers are calling you,” says Jefferson.

Jefferson emphasizes that seeing valuable content as a whole business challenge, and not solely as a marketing challenge, is 2015’s major hurdle. “It’s less about marketing and more about a change in business philosophy,” she says. Pharma need to know how to entertain buyers, show care providers and patients what to look out for, give patients best practices and valuable tips, share patient success stories, and answer patient questions.

Companies that don’t re-evaluate their marketing content to be valuable, strategic and patient-oriented will get left out of the game. Jefferson puts it perfectly when she says, “The companies that will win our attention, trust and business this year use their content to communicate a bigger mission. They know what they stand for and their purpose in the world is abundant and clear.”

Sonja Jefferson is Founder of Valuable Content.

To order a copy of her book, Valuable Content Marketing, click here.


Sales & Multichannel Canada

Jun 17, 2015 - Jun 18, 2015, Toronto

Think multichannel: Be a part of Canada's new business model for pharma marketing