The stakes are rising ever higher in pharmaceutical digital content production industry. The global pharma giants, having been somewhat “re-tossed” in ranks following the digital disruption that started several years ago, are now gaining firm footholds in local markets. The whole industry is becoming increasingly globalized – and this has direct consequences for their brand strategy: something that digital agencies cannot afford to overlook.

On the first glimpse, it seems only logical that the big global pharma companies wish to tighten their hold on their affiliates’ activities in the fields. There has been much talk recently about “centralized governance, de-centralized execution” – so pharma is clearly more comfortable with content vendors who can provide a reasonable level of brand consistency throughout the channels and are as globally oriented as themselves. Giants collaborate with giants, right?

Agencies are trying to react to this trend by inflating their own enterprises at times; there are instances of content providers who coalesce into larger business entities with consultancies or acquire smaller agencies. In this way, they adjust the sheer scale of their activities to the desired global way of thinking and generous investments into cutting-edge digital infrastructures.

However, this does not mean that in the nearest future the pharma content landscape is going to be dominated by a handful of huge “global” agencies. If you look at the lists of “agencies to hire” that medical marketing websites provide, you’ll find that most of these are still quite modest in size, with several dozens to several hundred employees at most. The trick is, being global does not mean the same thing for pharma and agencies – for the former, it is the scale; for the latter, the approach. A truly global agency is one that behaves like one, adopting the technology that facilitates communication with global pharma customers.

So what does the global pharma client want from an agency? What makes the global corporate office decide to contract a particular content agency for transmitting their key messages on their various markets? Here’s what every content provider is expected to understand when dealing with this sort of customer.

1. They want you to see the “big picture”

Brand consistency is a big concern now for global enterprises, since the growing amount of content AND available channels for distribution make it more difficult to maintain the constant message. And exactly this is what needs to be controlled. Even in direct-to-consumer marketing, it has been shown by Interactive Advertising Bureau that purchase intent is increased by staggering 90% when a constant message is present across the various channels. Areas like pharma and biotech, on the other hand, deal with huge responsibility, so consistent stance also serves to establish trust. This is demonstrated by recent surveys: 65% of leaders believe internationalization of content is crucial to building a working global strategy, whereas only 13% of “mainstream” share this concept.

And this is where things get crazy: 89% of pharma enterprises are still in need for more alignment for content marketing with IT and communications. An agency, therefore, can gain success with global pharma by proving it can truly understand the broad strategy and work using global content assets – utilizing the internationally approved bits of content. The most reasonable way to do this organizationally is to make sure you can interact and communicate via a unified platform, where the agency becomes part of the whole infrastructure and a working link in content supply chain.

2. They want you to provide them extra time

The rise of patient centricity that life sciences enterprises have witnessed is a noble trend, and before long, we’ll probably find it an obligation all pharmas will eventually impose on themselves. However, this comes at a price for those same healthcare companies, since this will mean bigger amounts of content to be produced – apart from providing the “feed” for HCP audiences, there will be more tension in dealing with the various patient support groups and rapidly changing market realities. This, in turn, means that time-to-market becomes a priority, but the quality of content will, as usually, be inspected by anyone willing. Even now, 78% of pharma / biotech marketers report to be producing “moderate to enormous” amount of assets, and 93% agree the bulk of materials and aids has grown significantly over the last 2 years.

What an agency can do to win a global pharma’s sympathy is just providing that valuable time before launch – which means the working processes should become faster in both creation and localization. This may sound like working 20 hours a day, but in reality, the whole problem can be solved in an unexpected way. Since global customers are willing to provide some previously approved assets for keeping their message consistent, why not extend this practice to the agency’s inner organization? Templating approach is a good way to reduce production time; by providing and using customizable components and a single development standard, an agency can make the whole process become even 4 times faster.

3. They want to be more involved. And less involved, too

Of course, when message consistency is given proper attention (which is exactly the situation in the global offices now), centralized control becomes very important. In fact, pharma companies are using entire digital platforms to ensure that all content is approved / reviewed / validated by a chain of executives hundreds of miles apart from each other. The local affiliate that an agency may deal with is, in its turn, controlled “from above” – and that’s where content approval enters the picture.

The paradox here is that, on the one hand, the central office – and all the other responsible executives further along the chain – will naturally want to hold firm control. On the other hand, however, there is a very thin line between “letting them know” what the agency is creating, and making them review and approve all the time, disrupting their other activities.

The solution is not to make the pharma brand manager inspect the agency’s proceedings, but rather to reduce rounds of review. 58% of marketing decision-makers in a survey report they have to go through review about 5 times; 13% say it’s 10 times or more. The agency can address this issue by making the review procedure itself more productive, so that all issues can be notices and fixed at early stages. For example, you can support a platform where review is quick enough and supports instant comments in live mode. In this way, the customer becomes more involved in the development – and less busy with it, at the same time.

4. They want thoroughly professional content

When pharma executives are looking at those lists of “best agencies of this quarter”, their decisions are still pretty much based on the fundamental question: Can they provide the content quality that corresponds our level? In life sciences, the quality of content is something closely linked to reputation – there is no such thing as viral but obviously underdeveloped content. Everything should look and feel professional in the most literal sense of the word. Minor flaws in design, CX or functionality are huge put-offs. A quick fact: as few as 13% of pharma marketers are satisfied with how they leverage their assets.

Earlier, we have analyzed what makes an eDetailing presentation look “neat” enough to attract the Big Customer. The trick here is make sure the quality does not interfere with production time.

Again, using templates makes a great change. Many advanced functionalities can be used and reused as customizable components, and sometimes the customer’s central offices even provide globally approved master templates, so the agency has to support the platform they use to distribute these assets. Of course, it makes sense to adhere to universally supported development standards – and in case with CLM-oriented content, to make sure it is CLM-agnostic and cross-device.

5. They do want to address you again

There need to be solid reasons why pharma wants to collaborate with a particular agency. However, there also need to be quite substantial reasons as to why a company would want to stop collaboration. After all, they are in need for reliable environments that allow for consistency in brand strategy. Handling the multivendor content supply chain is an organizational problem all on its own. Searching for another one is inevitable, too, seeing as the amount of content is growing. That is why a company will tend to retain the existing collaborations unless their production is unacceptable by their standards.

These standards are something to be observed. We have already covered the questions of global assets and communications, integrity and quality concerns; the most reassuring thing is, the more an agency has worked with a certain pharma customer, the more likely they are to remain a trusted partner – and the more likely they are to integrate into that company’s content supply. This means full understanding of global strategy, access to global assets and functioning chain of approval at different stages. By demonstrating right at the beginning that these values are respected in your agency’s organization, you are more likely to enter that company’s infrastructure. Again, the ability to reuse and repurpose content is something much looked after.

Step towards the global client

As we have seen, the various expectations that global pharmas have concerning their ideal agency partners revolve around the notion of centralization. This level of global thinking – and correspondingly powerful performance – can only be achieved in collaboration with these clients themselves. This is why the industry is now favoring unified working environments and platforms that support: a) communication; b) content reuse; c) distribution of global assets. Upon these three “pillars” it is possible to build a content supply chain that suits the strategic goals of the global office.

Make the first (and most important) step towards your Global Pharma customer – show that you share their values by adopting a solid content creation platform. This should be compatible with what systems your customers use for managing their assets; things like publishing, access, transportation should be well thought of. See how this approach works by ordering a free demo – and start to win clients with your profound understanding of your needs.