An overview of the essentials of inbound marketing and the underlying principles for the life sciences sector
It’s often the case that I find myself talking to colleagues, clients and other marketing professionals from the life sciences industries about marketing strategies.
When this happens, inbound marketing is commonly discussed. However, and surprisingly so, I find it that a lot of marketing, communications, sales and business development professionals in the industry do not have a grasp on the essentials of inbound marketing.
If they are aware of the term “inbound” then it’s rare to find someone with knowledge of the processes, principles and tactics involved.
So, this post is a refresher on inbound marketing and how it is relevant to organisations, specifically those in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector. Specifically, how inbound marketing can help organisations increase traffic, leads and customers.
Whether marketers acknowledge it or not, the digital playing field, and therefore, marketing, has already been disrupted. This is due in part to the changing nature of people’s behaviours. We as consumers, whether in a B2C or B2B context, have learned to tune out traditional marketing tactics in order to access the content we are looking to consume.
HubSpot has previously found that 94% skip TV ads, 91% unsubscribe from emails and 27% of direct mail is never opened – stating that “the old marketing playbook is broken.” When I saw these stats a while back, I did question their accuracy. But, if I consider my own behaviour and response to these mediums, I can completely agree. And I’m not alone.
THE DEFINITION OF INBOUND MARKETING
In order to attract customers, marketers must provide something the customer can take pleasure in watching or reading or listening to. If possible, something they love. This is where Inbound Marketing comes into play
Referring to HubSpot once again, who coined the term inbound marketing, inbound marketing is a "holistic, data-driven approach to marketing that attracts individuals to your brand and converts them into lasting customers."
Inbound marketing is a different strategic mindset to traditional marketing methods because it’s a more economically efficient way to create the experience that people are looking for instead of paying to interrupt one.
So rather than adopting traditional marketing methods, such as cold calling, spam emails, interruptive ads (which are all predominantly marketer-centric), inbound marketing adopts blogging, search engine marketing and social media. The latter takes a more customer-centric approach and works on attraction, essentially, allowing your customers to come to you on their terms, and not irritating those customers.
CREATING STRANGERS FROM CUSTOMERS, AND PROMOTERS FROM CUSTOMERS
This is commonly the first part of that conversation that I have with those pharma and life sciences clients. This is also commonly the part which they are already clued up on. Now to the more detailed stuff and about content.
Content allows organisations to bring strangers into a site in various forms such as blogs, photos, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations and e-books etc. Content that generally helps a target audience who are looking for answers to questions, which does not aim to sell (at least not directly and at least now right now.)
Inbound marketing is also all about context. By publishing the right content in the right place, at the right time, marketing becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive.
As we are looking to be found, rather than to be responded to; we are taking the initiative out of our hands and leaving it with our target audience. (This is now actually not a choice, as it has been clear that the power has been with the buyer for some time, but marketers are refusing to comply with this new reality). It accounts for where people are, and their terms on how they want to interact with you.
MULTI-CHANNEL IS THE NEW MARKETING
One of the reasons for this is probably that it is much more difficult, complex and time-consuming than the traditional method of mass-marketing and straightforward reporting. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, requires a number of activities, strategies and marketing specialists/capabilities to come together for a multi-channel approach. Here are the essentials:
WEBSITES, BLOG POSTS AND LANDING PAGES
Inbound requires a website designed to dazzle, that features a constant stream of blog and landing page content to feature on that website. The main aim of creating this content is to get people to learn about the topic within the content on your organisation’s website. So, the visitor can consume the content, familiarising themselves with your brand and also opening up that visitor to other related content that can be accessed on the site via a download.
Throughout the website, and specifically on the blog posts that a are created (and similar to this blog post), calls-to-action are to be situated in areas that prompt the visitor to access more content. This content is usually more in-depth and includes actionable and detailed information which the website visitor can use to help further complete related tasks. These call-to-actions are considered as signposts that help the visitor find related information, that also, helps the organisation achieve demonstrable conversions on the website.
KEYWORD RESEARCH AND SEARCH
Inbound marketing was born out of search engine optimisation, and it is still important as it ever was, as we still look to find answers to questions on Google and its companions. It's also a big part of why the content is created. Keyword research is therefore the first task to take on here to understand what people are looking for to be able to provide that content. There’s no point creating content that nobody is searching for, and, therefore, nobody wants to read. Keyword research as such would need to happen on an ongoing basis and before each post is written.
Social media – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram – are an integral part of the dissemination of the content. (It can also be used for inbound salespeople who are looking to connect with leads further down the line in the process.) An organisation can focus its efforts on the channels that produce the results for them, usually dependent on which platform the target audience prefers to use.
Email marketing, although a more traditional method, is still highly relevant for the dissemination of content. However, a subscription is a must rather than spamming email addresses. So, an organisation can look to gain consent via the website, or other channels, to be able to email subscribers with blog content updates. After all, should a user prefer email to receive notifications, then we are happy to provide it. Email also, however, plays an integral part within the lead nurturing aspect of inbound marketing.
Marketing automation refers to the automated tasks that occur later on in the process, specifically to handle the delivery of the downloadable content, as well as the follow-up sequences termed “workflow” for HubSpot, which is our marketing automation software of choice. Workflows are set up to help the marketer build relationships with the lead, who is emailed more content over a period of time dependent on the intelligence gained.
The marketing elements above all fall into a four-step process that makes combine into the inbound funnel:
Get traffic. Create blog content, optimise content for each, and promote it on social media platforms, email lists and any other owned media.
Generate leads. Place calls-to-action throughout a website to drive visitors to landing pages with forms. Visitors fill out the forms to access the offering and become leads.
Convert to customers. Send leads automated emails to drive them along a buying cycle and provide the sales team with lead intelligence, allowing them to make a more effective sales approach.
Analyse. Analyse the success of your marketing campaigns, using all of the marketing elements above, and determine which areas need further optimisations for future success.
WHY INBOUND FOR THE LIFE SCIENCES SECTORS?
Companies are three times as likely to see a higher return on investment on inbound marketing campaigns than on traditional outbound. It creates more leads and can work across several industries, specifically the life sciences sector, simply, because B2B professionals and those in procurement, research and product development roles, to name a few, are not in the business of being sold to. In fact, nobody in B2B is.
Also, inbound efforts achieve higher ROI than outbound regardless of total marketing spend which is why 3 out of 4 marketers across the globe prioritise an inbound approach to marketing. Strangely enough, the life sciences and pharma sectors are slow to catch up, perhaps due to the traditional nature of the industry as a whole.
ORIENTATION MARKETING'S ROLE
Orientation Marketing is here to help those in the life sciences, pharmaceutical and related sectors understand inbound, but more so, understand what inbound marketing can do for organisations alongside the traditional marketing approach. How do we make inbound marketing work? There are so many channels and different tools for each channel.
Trying to manage a campaign across all these different platforms takes time and resources, which in turn lowers effectiveness. And which is why we are trusted by HubSpot to teach organisations within the life sciences sector about inbound and deliver campaigns for those organisations that generate leads.