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The ABC of Content Marketing for Pharma


Marketing is moving increasingly online and subsequently the pharmaceutical industry needs to review its commercial strategies. Currently, there is much hype about content marketing, which is based on the idea of delivering relevant content tailored to users’ needs rather than bombardment with polished brand messages. However, the very specific environment of the pharmaceutical industry calls for special adaptations of such strategies.

The basic principles in content marketing are quite simple. Remarkable content attracts visitors to the company’s web site, visitors are then turned into leads, and finally into customers. Content can appear in various forms, such as blog posts, videos, white papers, e-books, e-newsletters, or tweets. When done properly, content marketing can be used for successful lead generation and improved sales. As an example, one of the biggest technology providers in the field, HubSpot, presents impressive statistics on its effectiveness compared to traditional marketing strategies.

The pharmaceutical industry has quite a different viewpoint on content marketing than most other industries:


The main goals for pharma industry’s online presence are largely educational rather than just directly boosting sales.

The industry has played a major role in physicians’ education for decades and the online channels offer totally new possibilities for delivering information on the therapy area and the latest treatments.

Secondly, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated in terms of content and its availability. Content needs to be in line with the label, which can sometimes be very restrictive, even without any intentions for off-label marketing. Furthermore, in most markets the content directed to physicians cannot be freely available but needs to be protected by passwords. This restricts the use of some key content marketing tools, such as content sharing and availability through search engines. On the other hand, the relevant target audience may sometimes be very small, such as small group of specialist physicians in a very specific market.

Digital marketing is currently one of the major areas of investment for most pharmaceutical companies. It goes without saying that such approaches surely also have major commercial impacts—the effect is just much more indirect than in traditional content marketing. We propose some aspects to consider, when you plan to launch a medical content marketing campaign:

  • Technology is just the start. Investments in software and tools alone can turn out to be a major cost but that is just the start. Prepare to invest even more on frequent high quality content, which is the core of your online service.
  • Know your audience. In order to answer to the needs of your audience, it is essential to ensure that your marketing team has a broad medical understanding of the therapy area. Only in this way can you deliver original, high-quality, and up-to-date information.
  • There are no fast lanes. In content marketing, commitment and dedication will determine who is going to succeed. It will take some time and, most importantly, lots of creativity to build up a strategy, but once it is running and the content updated regularly, you can assume a constant flow of traffic and engaged customers.
  • Have your own style. The Internet is inundated with medical information for both patients and physicians. That is why you need to do things differently to find your way to the hearts of your target audience. Perhaps you can present your content in a unique way or have your very own niche audience. Whatever you do, it is important that you stand out from the crowd.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Content marketing aims at increasing the natural rather than paid online visibility, which can be enhanced using search engine optimization (SEO). There are various detailed SEO-guides available to help you to drive the right visitors to a website, but also remember to track your visitors with analytic tools. As discussed above, industry-specific rules limit the open sharing of medical material—if that is the case you need to tailor your toolbox with alternative approaches to reach your target audience.

Pharmaceutical sales, marketing, and medical affairs are all about communicating complex medical issues. Content marketing offers new and effective means to get your message through and answer to your customers’ needs for relevant and up-to-date information online.

Anna Grönholm

Anna Grönholm

Anna received her PhD in immunology from the University of Tampere in 2015. During her doctoral studies, she worked on a wide range of projects varying from basic immunology to diagnostic biomarkers, both in Finland and in the US. In addition to her biomedical training, Anna has a few extra feathers in her cap, having also studied communication, data journalism, and marketing. Anna is passionate about learning new things—whether they are related to new treatments for inflammatory diseases or innovative ways to utilize data. Apart from science, she enjoys mountain hikes, traveling and photography, or relaxing at home with her family and some good books. Anna is an honorary member of MedEngine’s rabbit owner division, although she currently doesn’t have rabbits of her own.