March 20, 2020
I feel like I’m stuck in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day.
Every phone call I’m on with a client or prospect is focused on one question. Thankfully it’s not, “Where can I buy toilet paper?” It’s “Now that my two biggest growth strategies (deploying sales reps and exhibiting at medical conferences) have been eliminated virtually overnight, what can we do?”
The truth is these have been “crutch” strategies for companies for decades. They are very expensive and oftentimes ineffective in driving meaningful behavior change, which is at the heart of company sales and market adoption. If there is any silver-lining to the COVID-19 situation it’s that it will force companies to rethink and retool how to effectively intersect, educate and drive action among their target audience.
But the first lesson to understand is that the people you’re targeting haven’t changed. This pandemic hasn’t changed the underlying methods people use to process information and make decisions. All decisions are based in brain science—during a pandemic and outside of one. The quicker companies understand that, the quicker they can pivot and accelerate their performance.
The human brain uses a shortcut method to narrow and speed up decision making using 50+ cognitive biases based on instincts—NOT facts and logic. A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make. Market adoption is determined by how fast our brains can change in an uncertain world. How quickly you can convince someone to use this or buy that is the determinant of how fast a company will grow.
When you understand the brain science behind decisions, you can see why market conditioning should be the number one priority for company leaders and marketers. The term conditioning comes from behavioral theories of psychology, which means eliciting a specific response when the specific stimulus is present. Behaviorists established that human responses to different situations are conditioned through the process of reinforcement.
The most cost effective and efficient way to do this is through content marketing.
Content marketing is the process of creating valuable, relevant content to attract, acquire, and engage your audience. If you think about this in the context of market conditioning, how do you help your audience understand their problem and more importantly understand your solution and its value? It’s easier to achieve a healthy share of the market if you first obtain a healthy share of the mind. When done well, the target is aware of the offering and value proposition before the sales rep walks in the door—or doesn’t in today’s market landscape. It primes your audience and creates trust, brand affinity and loyalty.
I don’t know about you but it’s becoming abundantly clear the sheer magnitude of companies who have my email address and feel compelled to send me blow-by-blow updates of how they’re handling or responding to COVID-19 when there isn’t much value being added. They are not the CDC. They are not my local, state or federal officials who are providing helpful news and guidance. They are just noise and borderline nuisance. This creates an environment of attention scarcity, challenging companies with the task of producing engaging content that won’t get lost in the static.
But in order to get some mind space with your target audience, you need to understand what’s important to them, what pain points they have, and how you can uniquely solve them. They are still trying to take care of patients, improve the delivery of healthcare, and find personal satisfaction in their job. If anything, their challenges have only intensified. Now may not be the time to continue routine branded content in light of what is going on. Offering something different, engaging, and educational is what people might be thirsty for.
A well-crafted content marketing strategy places your business in the position of a thought leader, building brand preference as you inform and educate buyers and users—often better than a direct (and usually brief) conversation can. Providing insightful and helpful content can form a strong bond between your brand and customers and prospects that continues to grow and strengthen over time. Content marketing should help your customers, not sell to them. When you freely give your audience something valuable, you build trust, which, ultimately, is your most powerful selling tool.
There are tons of different formats your content can take. You can read more here. And if you’re not sure how you can add value through content marketing, ask your existing customers what kind of content you can produce that would be helpful to them now, or would have been helpful to them when they were looking for your product or service. They’ll tell you.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy and requires some careful planning and time to build your program and see the results. Early-stage metrics don’t tie directly to revenue but are still valuable to your company. The purpose of your early-stage content is to evangelize the problem you’re solving; build brand awareness around the solution you provide; create preference for your brand; and educate, entertain, and engage your audience. If executed correctly, over time the ROI can be phenomenal by shortening the sales cycle, allowing your sales reps to spend time with more qualified prospects, and building greater customer lifetime value. It also supports other digital marketing initiatives like providing additional content for social media marketing and contributing to SEO efforts by generating organic inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engine results.
COVID-19 is forcing a paradigm shift in how we conduct business. Let’s embrace it. You’ve likely got more time on your hands than you normally would since you’re working remotely and your travel plans have been cancelled, so this is the perfect time to start or ramp up your content marketing efforts. But it definitely shouldn’t be abandoned as soon as you can go back to the office, or the conference or the clinician’s office.
Need Content Marketing Help?
Grey Matter Marketing is a full-service, award-winning PR and marketing agency working exclusively with healthcare companies. With a knack for storytelling and content marketing that engages and drives action, we can help map out a content marketing plan to increase market adoption and solidify your company as a thought-leader. Because what you do (or don’t do) matters. For more information, contact us.