I’ve spent the past two decades working in marketing roles within the global pharma and biotech industry. Sexy, I know. I’ve seen my fair share of successes and failures in my time, but nothing like the past 18 months. It’s been wild. What did the pandemic do to the world of life sciences? Change EVERYTHING. From vaccine development, manufacturing and approval timelines to investment in the sector and the way companies find, engage and convert new customers – the pandemic changed the way companies interact forever.

2022 is coming up fast. So, as the world catches up and discovers what the new normal looks like, what does 2022 hold for marketeers in the pharma world and how can you stay ahead of the curve – and your competitors? (Hint – you need to start planning RIGHT NOW!)

1. Plan, plan and plan some more

It may sound obvious, but planning is fundamental to your 2022 success. And because so much has changed so quickly over the past 18 months, it’s not simply a case of rinse and repeat on last year’s strategy. You’ll need to build in extra time to think and plan your assault on the new year, with plenty of lead-in time to implement changes.

Planning your new website or campaign in October is too late. Start right now. Begin by talking to your customers and understanding their current needs. Too many companies focus on their own business, rather than telling the story of how they understand and support their customers, which leads to meeting their needs every time. Know what your customers are thinking and where their businesses are heading – because it may not be in the same direction as last year. Base your 2022 plan on them, not you.

Create your strategy and ensure you leave plenty of time to get your senior management team on board. Especially if you are planning some significant changes that need solid investment and top-tier buy-in. Be clear about your strategies’ purpose and create a compelling argument for why, aligned to your company’s business strategy and your customer needs. Then go out and execute your vision with razor-sharp precision.

2. Create personal customer experiences

Pre-pandemic, virtual engagement tended to be impersonal and used as a catch-all approach. 18 months ago, you would never have imagined it possible to hear about partnerships being made completely virtually (but hasn’t the saving on travel costs been wonderful). The sector is still evolving, and work continues to improve virtual engagement to create more personal experiences.

Personalisation in marketing is tricky. You have to really understand your buyers and what’s important (like how we linked this point to point one). My advice? Experiment. Test which messages perform well and don’t be afraid to get personal.

In a digital world, it’s easy to forget the little moments. Continue to

be thoughtful to your clients and remember – sitting on the other end of that meeting is a human with their own problems, fears and challenges. Don’t be afraid to truly connect.

  1. Hero your people

Your people are the backbone of your business, no doubt. It’s time to shout louder about their expertise, the value they add to customers and their unparalleled knowledge, understanding and leadership.  Why? People buy from people. As human beings we are inherently interested in learning and developing through others, seeking new experiences and understanding. Your people can offer this to your customers – helping them to be better and attracting them to your offering.

Webinars, podcasts, features and speaker opportunities are great ways to do this. These tactics offer a platform to showcase the expertise of your people, positioning them as thought leaders. Especially when you can deliver that thought leadership by using themes and topics that will resonate with your customers. Look at their pain-points and then develop content that demonstrates you understand them and give advice on how to meet their needs. Also, think about how your content and expertise can assist buyers at different points of their purchase journey.

Personally, I started my Molecule to Market podcast at the start of the pandemic and we were overwhelmed with the response. Why did it start? Because we saw a gap in the market for professionals working within life sciences who wanted to learn and understand more about the leaders they see in the marketplace every day.

As well as showcasing your expertise, profiling your people also gives prospective employees an insight into your business. With investment into the pharma market currently riding high (with no sign of slowing down in the next five years), there is increasing competition to secure the best talent. Showcasing your people and your approach to the pharma and biotech market will help attract like-minded candidates and demonstrate why you are such an awesome business to work for.

  1. Make a date with data

Data’s dull, right? Wrong. It’s the key to your continual improvement and the digital world gives you insight like never before. It’s time to capitalize on that intel.

Your social channels, website and CRM system all give you reams of data to investigate. Take time to ensure your reporting systems are set up from the get-go and then more time to understand how your marketing is performing.

Which emails received the most click-throughs? Who is opening them again and again (a hot prospect, right?) What time is best to send them out? Which content is performing best on your social channels? It’s time to do more of that. What’s your website bounce rate and where do your customers actually come from before they land on your website?

All this information gives you opportunity to optimize your digital marketing strategy, to ditch what isn’t working and do more of what it is. Experiment. Try A/B testing on your content. Beta test new ways of engaging through Apps like Vidyard, Loom and Calendly and review their effectiveness.

Start by reviewing your channel strategy, auditing your current content and making sure it is meeting the needs of your customers (point 2, above!) Set targets and KPIs up front and remain flexible in terms of how you achieve them, then go for it. Your customers will thank you for it – and so will your business development team!

And finally…

Back to my first point. Don’t hang around – 2022 is coming for you. Act now and continue to stay ahead of the curve, learning and adapting as you go, remaining open-minded to new ways of working that are customer-centric in every way.

Employing a hybrid mix of in-person, virtual and digital tactics will allow you reach your audiences where they are – and, long-term, deliver rich rewards from a lead generation and customer retention perspective.