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Why pharma marketing must begin with benefits

11/10/16 07:30
Katie Rishi



Facts, evidence and content. There’s so much of it around nowadays that you’d be right to think you can’t do without it – at least if you want people to listen to your pharma marketing messages.

There’s such a glut of information and false claims that most of us, naturally, want to see evidence of how good a particular product is before we part with cash. And nowadays, it’s so much easier to find this evidence too.

Yet in reality, it is not ‘evidence’ that wins the day. It’s a combination of both evidence and appealing to gut instinct; of both convincing the intellect with reasoning and reaching out to the heart with emotion. All marketers know this, and apply the knowledge with the features and benefits technique.

What separates successful marketers from unsuccessful marketers, however, is getting features and benefits the wrong way round. Knowing that evidence is important, the unsuccessful marketers think that it is what customers want most – when actually, what customers ‘want most’ goes way beyond rational thought.

WHY-HOW-WHAT, as opposed to What-How-Why

In the 1960s, Martin Luther King was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement because, quite simply, he stirred the masses into action. Let’s imagine, however, that his method was What-How-Why. History would have gone a bit like this:

1) WHAT: King proposes the march on Washington.

2) HOW: King details how people from all over the US can make their way to one place, where he and others will make inspirational speeches. Everyone’s help will be needed to provide transport and prepare for a big event.

3) WHY: To show unity and put pressure on the government to make changes for equality.

Now just think: how many supporters would have instantly been turned off by the proposal of a march on Washington? In itself, is it an appealing prospect?

What King did, as any great persuader does, was start with the ‘WHY’. In his case, his ‘why’ was the equality of black people in America, and therefore an infinitely better starting point than ‘a march on Washington’ because, before he even began, this ‘why’ was the ‘why’ of the millions he was addressing. He tapped into the deepest desires of his public, and made that desire his priority rather than the ‘nitty gritty’ of how that desire could be achieved.

The nitty gritty, however, still has to be dealt with. Once the people had been roused, they needed to know the finer details of how to mobilise, what to do on the day, etcetera. In product terms, this would be the ‘how’. Once you’ve aroused basic desire for your product, you need to assure your customers that it actually works, and how it works.

In other words, the ‘why’ is benefits and the ‘how’ is features. Both are essential, but benefits must always come first if you want to truly put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Blinded by the light

Here in the digital age, scientific digital content lights the way. Bold claims about how effective a product or treatment is can be backed up with cold, hard facts which are easily assembled with all the technology at our fingertips.

And this technology, also, can make presentations far more interesting. Evidence can be presented with an unprecedented style and panache, and digital content can be as visually dazzling as you want it to be. The ‘how’, therefore, can be as stirring as the ‘why’, not merely for the proof a product appealing to one’s logic – but just as much for how it attracts the senses.

It is incredibly easy, however, to become blinded by the light of a feature driven pharma marketing campaign. In other words, it’s easy to get distracted by the data and bombard customers with it – who in turn will be distracted and forget the main point (the ‘why’) of your product or treatment. Remember to use data as support, rather than the leader of your argument, and the art of persuasion will be infinitely easier to master.


Pharma Content Marketing

Topics: Customer Experience, Multichannel Marketing, Brand Strategy, Content Marketing

Katie Rishi

Katie is one of the co-founders of COUCH and is also the Managing Director. Katie is dedicated to providing exceptional client service, team leadership, strategic insights and quality control across all accounts. Katie has developed multichannel training programs for biopharma in addition to educational programs for healthcare professionals.

See more posts by Katie Rishi