If stats could kill, here’s some that would: in Europe, about 57% doctors say they have better online experience with Amazon than with content provided by pharma. Comparing professional digital resources with retail CX? Is this even justifiable? Who cares, as long as that’s what’s happening. If you are a digital agency, you can’t complain – this development means there are still more pharma-related projects to be expected.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”#digitalcontent @viseven_CLM”]As the digital content landscape is becoming more integrated, and the audience more demanding, it becomes habitual to compare the experiences across industries and sectors.[/inlinetweet] If the user is accustomed to impeccable functionality at, say, some clothing website, they will inevitable expect the same from, say, a pharma HCP portal, email or eDetailing presentation – not speaking of apps. At the very core of these expectations lies personalization – something that is already very keenly felt by life sciences marketers. For example, 72% physicians wish the information in pharma emails were specific to their specialty; at the same time, the content actually provided is still lagging behind. A specific index called “omnichannel UX score” has been recently calculated for EU businesses – and it only reached 23% with regards to personalization (for comparison, it’s estimated at 54% for product-related info on websites).

brand marketers' top priorities

More personalization means more content – and more projects. At the same time, naturally, this is going to be a challenge for agencies. When demand rises in digital, it hardly ever falls out of supply – and not everyone is prepared to face it when competition grows all of a sudden. So how does an agency make sure everyone’s ready for the storm?

Here, we will have to leave the analysis of pharma content trends and plunge into the issues that should always stay internal to the agency’s work: inspiration and management, management and inspiration.

1Find ways to reduce the boring, repetitive tasks

What can be more frustrating than having to do primitive-sounding things all based on attentiveness? Granted, content development can be up to 90% such work – just think of establishing browser compatibilities, responsive layouts, maybe (for pharma, definitely), setting KPI schemes –not speaking of writing the same bits of very basic functionality over and over again for each piece of content. For example, having the input amount displayed right next to a slider element and updated dynamically is just a few lines of code – but when repeated, these few lines consume enough time to kill all creativity – and motivation to boot. Neither do marketers value that additional mechanistic effort – once the prices go up, 90% of them start complaining of “redundant content creation”. Because of budget.

To motivate the team, one has to find ways to reduce these pointless activities. This was the thing that summoned things like NPM and ES modules into existence. Are they enough? Ask the team! Apart from functionality packages, there are loads of other things that can and should be used pre-cooked and built upon. Careful selection of libraries and frameworks to use is a priority in motivation, then. And, if you are working for pharma, it makes sense to make sure these frameworks suit the specific industry requirements.

2Deadlines are supposed to instigate, not paralyze

If you are the one who manages the team, maybe don’t say it aloud. Deadlines are loathed by many, yet psychologists say they can be motivating. Is this because psychologists normally don’t have them in their work?

It turns out, deadlines really can make work more interesting, provided they stay controllably “meetable”. Being aware of the “big day” ahead – and really able to comply – gives a sense of achievement, and we all like those little victories. It’s not difficult to find information on how the trick works – in brief, strategically set deadlines:

  • Increase confidence;
  • Foster innovative thinking;
  • Maintain momentum (presumably the team thinks more of completing the tasks at hand, less of accusing each other of delays).

The key notion here is, “strategically set”. In other words, you somehow need to be able to set the deadlines yourself, at least partially. This, in turn, is only possible when the deadlines required by the customers are easily attainable by your agency, so you can deliberately raise the plank – but not to such an extent that the team starts to suffocate. On the one hand, this can be solved by using predesigned components in a well-suited framework. There is, however, yet another factor in play: communication.

the percentage of firms that miss deadlines because of multiple reasons

This aspect – namely, how you arrange for in-between reviews by the customer and how well you can absorb the materials they can provide you to start with – is a bit trickier, since it involves both parties. You can consider using a specialized content creation platform with in-built communication functionalities to tackle the issue. Once you get to control the deadlines and the stress that comes with unrealistic expectations is eliminated, the team will actually enjoy being challenged.

3Intensify communication (and maybe competition)

Ever wondered why the IT crowd like those hackathons so much? Hackathons were one of the top 5 non-formal education sources for developers in 2017, with prevalence of 23.6% – and the participants don’t even get significant reimbursement! The secret is, first of all, communication and ability to share experience: admit it, the whole sphere is mostly people building on top of each other’s ideas. Another aspect is competition and peer review. Arguably developers are among the most self-critical people ever to exist.

This provides an excellent idea. If applied correctly, the approach of boosted competitiveness, communication, experience sharing and ongoing code review can work miracles. Of course, you can’t just “hackathonize” the working processes to the hilt – but you can emulate the essential aspects, for example, by practicing pair programming to inspire junior developers (and promote the seniors).

producing clean, well-designed code

Of course, this will mean establishing communications, e.g. a common platform to work on – and definitely, a common framework to keep everybody on the same page – but this might be exactly the thing in surprisingly many cases.

4Protect the team from petty organizational issues

This, that, phone calls at inconvenient times, nervous email checks, aaaand… that’s not what was meant, and the whole fuss has nothing to do with the functionality/design/performance itself but rather with timeframes and who you should have called and… Sensing hectic kills motivation unless you are a manager specially trained (and naturally gifted) to handle it. Team members can be ingenious content creators and they don’t need that particular skill.

And they often don’t like being distracted. Practically all Agile manifesto-based working paradigms recognize this, and at least try to lift the burden from the developers’ shoulders (to let apt people manage it). For example, that’s what we’d all expect from a good Scrum Master: protect the team, and let them do what they’re actually good at.

5Allow them to amaze the customers

Which is more rewarding psychologically – to deliver only what’s expected, and recognize you’re one in many – or suggesting, with a confident smile, something so awesome it hasn’t even been hoping for? This component of feeling a wizard capable of surprising feats is, for many, a chief source of motivation. In dynamically developing world of content, it’s even more vital.

The customer wanted, say, a “regular” email template – and here’s your team suggesting, “we can make it even better in this, this, and that”. This is not just a show-off of tech prowess or confidence-gaining exercise for team members. Pharmas themselves are becoming more sophisticated in tech, so times are approaching were just doing the regular jobs will have them yawning. Across B2B, about 54% marketers are already reporting their content production process as “quite” or “very advanced”, so if agencies don’t keep up…

Again, there is a very considerable reason not to overspecialize as an agency. About 17% brands actually feel like switching to a “full-service” model of collaboration with agencies, where a single vendor can be asked for creative, media, CX – and different kinds of content. Seventeen percent is not many but symptomatic enough of the more holistic view. Becoming universalists? Hardly worth it. Delivering several types of content and not being afraid to experiment? Vital. Thus – allow the team to deliver their ambitions.

Of course, this should only come together with very firm compliance with the customer’s guidelines. The last thing a respectable pharma would want is an agency failing to observe their branding rules and regulations, but suggesting a bold UX solution or VR/AR app instead. If you choose this way, you will inevitably have to ensure that your agency has the access to all the existing assets from the customers themselves – e.g. Something they have already approved and are stored in a system like Veeva Vault.

Being realistic…

You will hardly want to try out all of the above. For some agencies, one way works best, and for others, a combination of several of these. The main thing here is being realistic and not playing hardcore. We’re dealing with human emotions here, not with simplistic if…else statements. It is easy to notice that each of these approaches suggests not just demanding something from the team but actually giving them something in return. You can’t say, “Okay, so we’re all being positive about deadlines from now on” without a good way to actually speed up the work. You can only demand strict adherence to the customer’s branding when the team has access to relevant examples.

In many cases, this is easily solved by working with a unified content development platform like eWizard – which is based on a unified framework, universally compatible and globalized. For a more practical insight, you can check out the possibilities that this platform provides with a free demo – and consider a full certification to apply them in practice, motivating the team to work with global brands.