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Effective Science-Based Content Marketing for Food, Life Science and Healthcare Companies


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Inbound marketing is increasingly replacing traditional, direct marketing in the food, life science and healthcare sectors. HubSpot has already identified inbound marketing as the most effective marketing method for online businesses since 2006.  Quality content, designed to attract and retain the attention of potential customers, is an integral component of each inbound marketing campaign. It can be delivered in the form of blogs, long-form articles, e-books, videos and website pages, just to name a few examples. Because content lies at the heart of inbound marketing, responsible and effective use of scientific information in content marketing campaigns has become increasingly important for all players on the market.

With the advent of Internet, scientific information has become accessible to virtually everyone with a simple click of a mouse. This means that customers are more equipped and motivated to research a product or healthcare service before making a purchase. A recent Pew Research Center report, Health Online 2013, found that 72% of internet users researched health information online within the past year. The 2016 MM&M /Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report analyzed marketing strategies of pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies and found that digital channels are increasingly replacing traditional marketing channels. In consumer marketing, the greatest growth was observed in the use of social media, mobile and tablet apps, and digital ads.

However, many businesses in the food, life science and healthcare space, especially small start-ups, are still not fully integrating science-based content marketing in their digital marketing strategy. In turn, they are missing out on important benefits that this approach can secure for their business, such as increased credibility, trust, and, ultimately, sales. Customers are compelled to buy from companies that they identify as credible sources of relevant information. However, they often have a hard time differentiating between sound science-backed marketing statements and simple marketing tricks designed to simply drive sales.

So, what should the customers look for in marketing content and how should the food, life science and healthcare companies ensure responsible and effective use of scientific information in content marketing?

This article will provide practical suggestions for marketing experts aiming to develop successful science-based, content marketing strategies for their brands. General advice provided below is relevant to marketing content delivered both in print and digital format, and targeting an audience with a limited scientific background. SEO optimization will not be discussed, as other valuable resources on this topic are already available.

Use plain language. Because they look for answers to complicated questions, research studies, especially clinical trials, are complex by design. Results obtained from such studies can, and often do, impact human health, which is a serious matter. However, navigating scientific information can be very difficult for customers without a scientific background.  The use of plain language is essential outside of a non-scientific setting and especially relevant in science-based marketing. Effective communicators need to be able to digest complex scientific information and present it in a clear and easy-to-understand manner using plain language. Whether the target audience are customers shopping for dietary supplements or patients researching their treatment options, the science behind a product or service needs to be explained clearly. Ultimately, consumers who cannot understand how a product can benefit them will be turned away and, likely, never return.

Use images for a more effective presentation. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is especially true in science-based marketing. Scientific communicators need to convey complex information in a simple manner and this is where images and infographics can be tremendously helpful. They can help the reader follow your train of thought, while at the same time contributing to a document’s effective presentation. Including images in marketing content published on the Web, such as blogs and landing pages, is especially important. Research has shown that blogs with images receive 94% more views than those without images.

Cite credible sources. Citing reliable sources of information is essential in science-based marketing. This approach builds credibility for both the specific brand and the company in questions. Turn to PubMed/Medline, GoogleScholar, Web of Science, World Health Organization, as well as professional medical associations, for relevant peer-reviewed articles and other credible sources of scientific and medical information. In addition, in product promotion, emphasis should be placed on citing independent research studies, because they are not subject to the bias typically associated with studies funded by the manufacturer.

Get opinions from independent scientists. Most large companies have a Scientific Advisory (SA) Board in place that oversees the development of a company’s dietary supplement, functional food product,  or drug. The SA Board is also responsible for ensuring that a product’s development is in line with the latest scientific know-how and research findings. However, taking a second look at the science behind a new product by a reputable, independent scientist is always a good idea. Products and services with such objective endorsements build customer trust in the company.

Secure FDA approval for any health claims. Although this is not a direct responsibility of a content marketing strategist, it is still relevant to the topic. The Food and Drug Administration ensures that drugs and medical devices approved for use in patients have been thoroughly tested and that they’re safe and effective. Strict rules must be followed in marketing drugs and discussing them is beyond the scope of this article. However, in case of functional food products and dietary supplements, FDA differentiates between three types of claims: nutrient content claims, structure/function claims, and health claims. While nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient in a food product, structure/function claims focus on “effects derived from nutritive value” for food products, and “non-nutritive as well as nutritive effects” for dietary supplements.  Conventional food manufacturers are not required to notify FDA about their structure/function claims; in contrast, health claims are always subject to FDA’s review and approval. This regulatory process ensures that customers are protected from misleading marketing claims and products that, ultimately, do not have any beneficial health properties.

Following the above tips in science-based content marketing will ensure that a brand’s reputation is built on a strong scientific foundation and that the marketing message is communicated clearly and effectively. Such an approach to content marketing will, over the long-term, benefit both the business and its prospective customers.

Scientist Writer LLC specializes in science and medical writing services for the food, life science and healthcare companies. We’d be glad to help with your next science-based marketing campaign.

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