The new emerging role of medical marketing

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What it means to manage medical marketing has evolved, especially within the life sciences industries.

Engaging customers and patients have taken on a renewed focus. Content and storytelling have moved to the forefront for strategically building connections. And CMOs are expected to wear many hats in order to exceed all these new expectations.


The medical marketing CMO of today must first figure out the appropriate strategy to maximize customer engagement, followed by how to best interact with target audiences with compelling content and storytelling. 

Abeel states, “Marketing has been evolving quite rapidly in the last couple of years. It had a boost from the pandemic where we see the role of the chief marketing officer becoming a lot more important. This was not only from a strategic perspective but also seen in building a diverse team, which allowed us to engage in this new reality in a meaningful manner.”


The diverse role of the life sciences CMO

CMOs within the life sciences industries have moved well beyond a sole marketing focus. They must now possess strong knowledge and a vast multi-disciplinary skill set of not only marketing but also the therapeutic areas they are overseeing. CMOs should understand the medical and the commercial sides of their business and bring these two parts into alignment to market their brands. 

Abeel said, “It is really having these two heads for how you commercialize oftentimes difficult scientific content and making it meaningful for sales forces to engage with the outside world. These skills have really become critical considering the complexity of the customers in our life sciences ecosystem.”

Customers may include patients, payers, physicians, and other partners for drug and device manufacturers, consumer health, biotech organizations, and related businesses. Medical marketing CMOs targeting these customers should focus on making human connections to build relationships with them.


This customer-centric approach requires CMOs to combine their marketing and therapeutic expertise to deliver messaging through both on and offline channels, with the main concentration on content marketing. 

Customer engagement starts with the right strategy

Medical marketing bridges the gap between brand strategies and their execution in close collaboration with Medical & Scientific Affairs (MSA) and regulatory bodies.

An effective medical marketing customer engagement strategy is based on the development of six key areas:

  • Create a brand plan.
  • Put the strategy into action.
  • Find the conversation points.
  • Use the tactics and tools.
  • Align and prioritize.
  • Define success metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Start with the brand plan. The brand must be clearly understood and is used as the foundation for all the other strategic areas. Then move to mapping out what the strategy looks like in action. 

“Imagine you want to drive advocacy and prescribe your brands or your products above those of your competitor. So if you have a group, which is non-believing of your solution, how are you going to drive them? How are you bringing them from non-believing to neutral, from neutral to becoming a true advocate? The associated messages will be different for each of these groups of customers.”

Next, look at your conversion points and identify what is needed to move the customer from one level of advocacy to another and the tactics and tools you will leverage to move them along that journey. Ensure you have aligned and prioritized your channels and teams to convey your strengths to your customer base. Finally, define your success metrics and KPIs, because as Abeel says:


“You cannot manage what you cannot measure.”

At each stage, think about these questions:

Brand plan:

  • What are the brand objectives?
  • What is its positioning versus competitors?
  • Where do the biggest opportunities lie?
  • Do you understand your customer and/or patient journey?
  • Have customers been segmented (for example, potential, persona, advocacy, channel preference, specialty, etc.), and were different strategies developed for each?
  • Have other stakeholders been considered (nurses, pharmacists, patients, payers)?

Strategy in action:

  • What are the leverage points?
  • What are the behavioral objectives?
  • Which messages are associated with these?
  • What is the contact frequency you need to generate impact?

Conversion points:

  • Which content items and services are needed to achieve the behavioral objectives and messages?
  • Which content/services may already exist and will need to be repurposed for digital while others may have to be created?
  • Is this aligned with your target audience’s segmentation?

Tactics and tools:

  • Are relevant channels identified based on reach, impact, cost, and estimated frequency? Is all of this fully aligned with the customer and patient journey?
  • Which technology and infrastructure are in place?

Align and prioritize:

  • Can you support all relevant identified channels?
  • Have your teams been properly up-skilled and equipped?
  • Do you understand the possible difference in maturity across your markets and its impact on the execution of the set strategies?

Success metrics and KPIs:

  • Have overall success metrics been set and are they aligned with your objectives and strategies?
  • Has this been done for each target segment and individual channel interaction?
  • Has this been done for each target segment across all channels?
  • Have you defined the equivalent score between the different channel interactions as they might have a different impact on driving advocacy and net revenue?

Make content the king and storytelling the queen

Take a closer look at your brand’s content and storytelling before you begin executing your customer engagement strategy. 

Abeel related the analogy of the royal couple of medical marketing. This is where content is the king and storytelling is the queen. The royal relationship only works with both the king and queen. Content without storytelling will not make a lot of sense and vice versa.

Abeel suggested, “Let the content work for you in better servicing your customer base by putting the right qualification behind each kind of digital asset you are presenting. Start looking at which content is driving the behavioral changes you want to inflict.” 

Compelling content should be impactful, engaging, and consistent. Your customer segments and their patients need to be able to relate to it. It should be interesting enough to draw your audience in and get them to want to know more.

Different life sciences specialties require certain content, messages, and evidence. It is imperative to adapt your content approach to the specifics of your target audience. For example, your audience personas may be performance-focused or patient-focused.

A factual person wants to see facts versus an emotional person who numbers would turn off. A non-believer needs separate content from an advocate for your brand. 

Consider these points when creating your content:

  • Try to awake and arouse emotions: Know your customer and how they think, come to decisions, and what moves them. Put a focus on strengthening the positive emotions that will resonate with them.
  • Be visual and interactive: Have a good mix between text and related visual anchor points. Allow your customers to be part of the story by giving them the opportunity to record their opinion, experience, or doubts.
  • Use concise, attractive, and compelling headers: Incorporate catchy and powerful adjectives, strong action verbs for calls to action, and popular search quotes.

Storytelling is part of the royal content family

Content is the enabler that gets your story across. Think of it as the climax in a good book or on a favorite television show. The story should revolve around what is triggering the audience’s interest. The ownership sits with the customer to decide if the story is meaningful and whether they will act on it.

Your brand’s story needs to be enticing and adapted to your customer’s persona and level of advocacy. Set a proper background with clear and easy-to-understand language. Emphasize the action points related to solving and satisfying the identified issue and need. Build up to a climax by focusing on the mutual conclusions and agreements reached. End with an open probe or pull that allows the customer to express agreement or disagreement with the conclusions reached.

Use metadata tagging to assign tags to your digital content assets. Analyze the generated data to obtain relevant insights about your target audience segment, such as geography, channel, company division, specialty, or level of advocacy. Use the data to see which content may be preferred by your target segments and adjust the content offering based on your findings.  


Achieving excellence in medical marketing

Your goal is to ensure that every piece of content consumed by your audience segments provides a seamless, coherent, and value-adding experience across your omnichannel engagement spectrum. Once you achieve this, your customer-facing engagement teams can be properly trained to interact in a meaningful manner with their target customer base.

Strategic and execution excellence is doable in the emerging world of medical marketing. Target the right customer at the right time and frequency, through the right channel, for the right purpose, supported by the right content, skills, and platforms.

Use a CMO’s mix of marketing and therapeutic knowledge to maintain customer-centric relationships that drive advocacy, and ultimately business growth for your life sciences organization.

This article was adapted from a webinar by Dirk Abeel, see the full webinar here.