There was an interesting interview with David Meerman Scott on Conversation Agent this week, in which they were discussing thought leadership and David noted:
"Thought leadership is when you know your marketplace (I call them your buyer personas) really, really well and you create information especially for them.
When you know what problems your buyer personas have that you can help solve, then you can create some interesting content that brands you as a thought leader. There is no better marketing out there."
It crossed my mind that this can be very true in the Pharma world too, or at least some of my experiences have been. Sometimes things fall into place and you become very tuned into your marketplace, by which I mean the doctors and patients in the disease area you are focused on. When that occurs, something magical happens. Instead of push channel marketing, you stop, listen and start to engage more deeply by creating programs with rather than for them that really matter and make a difference.
For me, thought leadership is truly about understanding your customer needs and then working with them to create something together.
Unfortunately, it doesn't happen every time, sometimes people's attention is engaged elsewhere, the personalities are different, there is a disparate and often disinterested groundswell or people become overly focused on the negatives, the problem the market has is not something you can solve etc etc, so nothing ever takes on traction.
A critical part of success is also how you choose to interact.
For example, old style 'interruption' methods of communication such as DTC newspaper, TV, radio ads etc will ultimately have less impact compared to 'permission' marketing methods of engagement, where visitors ask to be kept informed and willingly share information about themselves and their needs is much easier via newer more modern methods such as social media and community platforms or online forums. These can run from consumers to patients to physicians, where discussions and debates take place about numerous topics on a daily basis with engaged and interested people who could be your customers.
Let's take a look at some real life programs in Pharma and how they have evolved over time.
Back in 2001, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society began a interactive tool called Life Mosaic, which began life as an online tool for collecting personal stories about hope online from patients and caregivers interested in leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma. It was sponsored by Novartis, who manufactured brands for leukemia and myeloma. Over time, thousands of people have contributed their inpsiring stories, photos and snippets about their lives as they have undergone treatment for such cancers.
Fast forward to 2009, and we see that the company has sponsored a new online tool for CML patients called CML Earth, which takes the concept further and connects the location of patients around the world to their stories, as well as share hugs, smiles, high fives and general support through exchanging personal messages with others, thus enabling deeper connections and discussions to take place.
In the future, I can envision patients and caregivers sharing videos about their treatment progress now that inbuilt computer cameras are ubiquitous and pocket Flip cameras are available for $200 or less, thus bringing the era human connectivity and engagement even closer and more personable. The tools are available now, all it takes is a little imagination and planning.
Of course, the smart marketers might be thinking about data mining all these sentiments and ideas to help them learn and understand more about patient insights, after all, that's what thought leadership is all about – understanding your marketplace.