The evolution of marketing from print to digital was greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media is a powerful tool for reaching existing and potential customers if the messaging is done right. One way to cut through all the online noise is to offer easy-to-understand messages in the form of consistent, high-quality content.
Evolution in Communication
The challenge for all marketers is how to communicate to the right people — and get them to listen. In the past, that communication was largely attempted via the printed word, mostly through magazine ads with massive circulations.
With websites, email marketing, social media platforms — the advent of technology platforms and the growing importance of personal electronic devices, businesses have adopted digital marketing approaches. These solutions allow companies to connect with existing and potential customers regardless of their locations, including people they would not have reached in the past.
Social media enables companies — whether a one-person start-up or an international conglomerate — to communicate with potential customers and build relationships. Sharing information and helping people stay informed is a tremendous way to build both a brand and customer relationships. The more valuable information you provide, the greater your following will be.
The challenge, of course, is the variety of available digital tools. Just as it isn’t possible to rely on one exhibition to reach all customers, it is necessary to leverage all of the digital communications mechanisms available: LinkedIn, web advertising, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and so on. Although it may be the same overall message, it needs to be presented in different formats using different ways of communicating to reach the full range of people engaged with all of these different platforms, and in a way that resonates with each group and keeps them engaged.
The lockdowns and forced remote working have really changed the dynamics and the market, with companies truly embracing and using digital technologies, some even for the first time.
Resonating with people requires communication in a language they can understand. Often, marketing folks get overly locked into their own vernacular; they may focus on slogans and miss the main point of what they are trying to accomplish. The key is to communicate a simple message and target your demographic.
First, that requires understanding the perspective of your audience along with the problems they have. Next, it is necessary to understand the solutions currently offered. Highlighting the issues first attracts the people you want to reach because they can relate to them; talking about the solutions further maintains their interest. Sometimes the correct path requires reinterpretation of the marketing language into a form that will reach both scientists and nonscientists alike so they can both engage with the content.
There is a lot of noise out there, and it can be difficult to stand out and differentiate yourself. Often, there is too much focus, for instance, on special branding around video interviews. In my view, if the content is relevant, people will genuinely want to listen. They care far less, if at all, about a lovely logo or beautiful background.
COVID-19 and the Impact of Lockdowns
The lockdowns that occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the acceptance of digital marketing within the typically conservative pharmaceutical industry. The minds of senior managers within the life sciences have been opened, and they are allowing their thinking to broaden in new directions. The lockdowns and forced remote working have really changed the dynamics and the market, with companies truly embracing and using digital technologies, some even for the first time.
Overall, this tragic situation has created novel opportunities for many people. The companies that will survive and thrive are those that are willing to change, while companies that are waiting for things to return to normal may suffer.
Things will never go back to the “normal” we knew before the pandemic. To be successful going forward, companies must think about the future and find ways to solve the problems created by the need for remote operations, social distancing, and limited travel in new ways — both for themselves and for their customers.
One of the key drivers for holding in-person sales meetings and for attending conferences and exhibitions is to observe people’s reactions during conversations. Face-to-face meetings provide an opportunity to get to know individuals as personalities. However, online visual meeting platforms provide the benefits of in-person meetings without the need for travel. Now that months have passed with people working virtually, casual dress has replaced traditional business attire and people are giving others actual views into their homes around them rather than using virtual backgrounds. As a result, they are providing a much greater window into their personalities, and as such allowing themselves to be seen as individuals rather than anonymous businesspeople. This also increases the opportunity to obtain getting more honest answers and opinions rather than the general company line, which can lead to deeper interactions and new and innovative ways of thinking.
Some of these elements that might have been considered “unprofessional” in the past are helping to make involved parties more believable, whatever positions they hold. This pays dividends in trust and is essential for effective communication. Particularly for people that aren’t comfortable with online meetings, it helps to realize that the others don’t mind looking somewhat silly and are relaxed while taking part in this new type of conversation.
The common thread connecting all the people I interview is that they are passionate about helping people have a better life.
Consistent Quality Content
With that trust established, it is possible to develop, for instance, relevant video content. Successful online messaging and communication cannot be achieved without consistent quality content. The right content is essential, and providing that content regularly is equally important. If the two go hand-in-hand, effective content delivered on a regular basis will grow and the appropriate audience will continue to expand. Add in appropriate marketing and sales cycle optimization (and other modern tools), and interest increases — that is when social media marketing is most powerful.
A Bit about RSK-Solutions
I started my business to help companies and event organizers, predominately within the life sciences industries, to leverage the power of social media, specifically on LinkedIn. My original vision was to work with people and companies who share the same values as I do; for instance, those who are honest and trustworthy, have integrity, are open to new ideas, are committed to helping others, have a sense of humor, and don’t take themselves too seriously.
I have a large LinkedIn following of more than 8,000 industry members that was first established when I started working at European Pharmaceutical Review. Back then, I would attend shows and post pictures of the people I spoke with and describe the products and services they were offering or the trends and issues they felt were important on LinkedIn. When those pictures progressed to videos, my following on LinkedIn started to grow exponentially. And people — even those I wouldn’t normally have otherwise spoken to — started to see me as a unique and reliable source of information.
When people started contacting me and asking what show I would be attending next and who I might be talking to, I realized that, while people love to go to shows, they can’t go to all of them. They would like to know what is going on, but they are too busy to attend them all. There was an opportunity for me to be a conduit for them.
At RSK, I help them get that information. Between early September 2019 when I started the company and early March when travel became limited and shows were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I attended at least one event per week. At those shows, I conducted more than 80 video interviews with clients. This content was posted on LinkedIn and immediately made available to the industry at large.
I knew in January that COVID-19 could become a serious health threat and that trade shows would be canceled and the traditional in-person approach to sales and marketing would be totally upended, so I began focusing on helping clients with their digital marketing. While most people have experience with mobile phones, email, and the Internet, many do not have much experience reaching customers through social media and other digital platforms.
Since lockdown, my LinkedIn posts have evolved from news stories and articles to also publishing a weekly list of all the events running in life science across Europe and North America for this year and next year. This is very important, as events have been pivoting on a daily basis from live to virtual. I am also running ad hoc polls around issues related to life sciences and launching and producing my own interview series “#ChatsWithChaudhrey.” I also have an RSK YouTube channel.
With my large LinkedIn following and experience creating consistent, high-quality content, I am in a great position to help companies. One of the most important things about my approach is that I always aim to keep things simple. There is so much noise out there, and it is critical for businesses to cut through that noise to reach their audience. Users are less interested in the branding and more focused on real content — how can the information help them meet their challenges? I (hopefully) help clients by giving them an honest perspective on their LinkedIn marketing.
I’ve proven that, by conducting interviews without fancy virtual backgrounds or branding around them but with good speakers that provide worthwhile content, people are genuinely interested and engaged. I help companies get their message out in a straightforward and trustworthy manner. I work hard to understand the problems my clients are addressing with their products and services and the solutions they are offering, and then find a way to communicate those concepts in a simple message so that the people they want to reach will want to listen to what they have to say.
I also have the advantage of being able to cover any topic related to the life science industry. My followers work in all stages of drug development, from discovery, to formulation and development, and to manufacturing and distribution, which means that I cover a wide range of topics. The common thread connecting all the people I interview is that they are passionate about helping people have a better life. Whether their companies focus on the early development stage or packaging, they are all trying to provide solutions so that people ultimately have better health and better lifestyles. Whichever part of pharma they are involved in, they’ve got passion behind their efforts, which is inspiring. I see that, not only in the interviews I conduct but also in the presentations and discussions that take place in virtual conferences and trade shows.
I am really proud to be working in an industry and with people, companies, and organizations who are at the forefront of not only finding a safe and viable vaccine for COVID-19, but also working on therapies and solutions for the many other diseases and illnesses humanity faces.