As the fields of life science and healthcare converge, deliberate strategy becomes an even more significant backbone of marketing efforts. We sat down with Jeremiah Worth, Vice President of Client Strategy at CG Life, to discuss the changing industry landscape—and how life science and healthcare companies can be best prepared.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background in marketing?
I’ve been involved in marketing and communications for over 17 years now.
My original career plan was to go into engineering because I gravitated toward math and science. When I was in the engineering program at Purdue, though, it felt like there wasn’t enough creativity or personal connection involved, and I just didn’t have the same passion for it that my classmates did. It wasn’t for me.
Not to date myself, but when I was looking at new directions, it was becoming clear that the Internet was going to be a long-term thing. It was the end of the 90’s bubble, where anyone who knew anything about the Internet or design was just throwing money at it, so there were jobs and opportunities available everywhere. I thought it made a lot of sense to go into digital marketing, even though there wasn’t really a clearly defined career path at the time. It was a pretty new area, but that’s where I started and I’m glad I did.
Over the last 17 years, I’ve inhabited a lot of roles for a lot of different sized organizations. I’ve done everything from running the communications team at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to being a designer and programmer at small digital marketing agencies to working at large corporations and even running an agency myself. All that experience collectively gave me a chance to know a little about a lot and to get a really good sense of how marketing is best applied in different contexts and for different objectives.
I feel fortunate that I got into this profession when I did, because I’ve gotten to see a lot of how we’ve been able to better understand the audiences and use data to drive a lot of the things that we do. It’s been amazing to see the evolution of marketing, and digital marketing specifically, first-hand through these roles.
The majority of my jobs are positions that didn’t even exist when I first applied to college. It’s an exciting world to be a part of.
How did you find your way to CG Life?
I’ve known these guys a long time.
When I was working at the National MS Society, I had a mutual friend who also knew CG Life founders Jeff Bergau and Murad Sabzali. They had just started the agency and needed a web guy, a Flash guy, and a design guy. Since I did all of that to some degree, our friend made the connection.
One meal later at the Greek Islands, just down the street from where our office is now, and we were not only working together, but fast friends.
I worked with them in a consulting capacity on and off for years, but more importantly, we stayed friends, grabbing drinks every six months or so to figure out how we were going to take over the world.
We knew that we all wanted to work together at some point, and finally, the timing and need just fit, and it just made sense from all sides.
You’ve worn a few different hats here. You were Director of Digital, the Creative Director, now you’re VP of Client Strategy. What’s your role at CG Life right now?
My job is to understand our clients and help build a strategy that can support their goals.
We always approach our projects from a strategic perspective. Whether we hear “hey, we’ve got a new product or brand to launch” or “we think we need some brochures,” we always want to make sure that we are using our tactics to reinforce a larger strategic plan so that we can be sure we are making the best use of our clients’ time and budgets; and, even more importantly, that we get results for everyone involved.
We don’t have generic “marketing-in-a-box” options, so a huge part of what I do is getting to know, understand and, honestly, become really strong partners with our clients. Forming a relationship is so important because it allows both sides to be honest with each other, and from that comes a trust that both sides are working together to accomplish what needs to be done.
You can take that trust and apply it to the audiences our clients serve to help them achieve what they want. When we are able to work with our clients that way, you begin to see how the benefits just cascade down through their audience.
My job is to help foster that relationship, and building a strategy based on understanding the needs and goals of a client is the best way to develop a strong foundation for it.
How do you think marketing in healthcare and the life sciences is different from other marketing?
It’s a constant evolution of not only how we are marketing, but what we are marketing. The life sciences and healthcare used to be two very distinct markets, but there’s a huge overlap there now in how they’re defined. It’s exciting to see what used to be classified as “life sciences” technologies, products, processes, and solutions get implemented on a clinical level.
There used to be a very defined communication flow going from researchers to providers to patients. Now, those lines of communication are going both ways. Patients are coming in with questions. They’re wildly more informed and have so much information available to them. Clinicians are walking in and getting questions like, “hey, I saw this article in Wired, or I saw this on Facebook about this new technology that just happened. Hey, can you edit my DNA and make sure my eyes work better now because I saw this thing about CRISPR.”
And the clinician is then looking to the researchers who came up with these discoveries and technology breakthroughs for answers. The community is growing.
That means we need to create marketing materials and campaigns that can meet each of those audiences at the right level. The patients want high-level information. The researchers, they want more information on a technical side. The clinicians in the middle need to quickly understand if a product is something they are interested in or need, and then easily dig into specifics if the answer is yes.
I think the other differentiator of what we’re marketing, what we’re involved in, is that it literally can change people’s lives. Our clients and the things they do—just mind-blowingly brilliant science.
In other jobs I’ve had, you think “oh, I’m going to go put together a marketing campaign for butter, or umbrellas, or something,” and that’s the job. Here we can say “cool, if you guys sell this product, it could lead to curing diseases.” That makes it easy to get up in the morning and feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.
How do you stay up to date with the latest in science and marketing?
Commuting here in the city on the CTA, headphones are a must, so I’m following a lot of scientific news through podcasts. I listen to the Science Friday, Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar, and a few others.
Additionally, from a marketing standpoint, I use Twitter to follow a number of sites and influencers, throw a bunch of articles into Instapaper and read them over the weekend.
Honestly, the most important resource I use are the industry friends I’ve made throughout my career. We are really good at finding excuses to grab drinks to catch up, talk about challenges, and give each other new ideas.
And that includes our team here, too. We have a lot of people with a scientific background in the office every day, and they share a lot of great information internally. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into conversations with some clients and realize I have just relayed two stories that I heard while getting a cup of coffee or having lunch.
The fact that we are all proudly a bunch of scientific geeks, it really helps you stay on top of a lot of things.
What scientific advance are you most excited about right now?
Seeing how we will manage the opportunity for technology to provide us greater insight into how we live our lives and how we can leverage technological advances to improve them.
There is really no limitation to what we’ll be able to do with the new information technology provides, and that’s both exhilarating and terrifying (which may as well be our slogan for the future).
I’m really interested to see where we’re going to put the collective moral line in the sand. To figure out how we can use these tools to enhance what we can be instead of seeing them govern the way we live. It’s going to be a fine line and we’re all going to have a say in it. That’s a huge deal.