A recent study found that the majority of young people between 18 and 24 years choose the internet over GP visits when they feel ill. Another study found that nearly three quarters of consumers of all age groups go online to research more information about their diagnosis after they have visited their doctor. Furthermore, physicians are notably spending more and more time in front of their computers.
Do you see a trend emerging? Digital marketing can no longer be ignored by the pharma sector.
The Pharma Sector – Traditionally
Compared to other sectors, the pharmaceutical industry has been notoriously slow to adopt and develop digital marketing strategies, preferring instead traditional media such as direct mail, journal articles, television adverts and of course a vast investment of time and effort in face to face meetings with physicians.
These traditional channels have grown to prominence and remained popular through a process of natural selection based upon the specific rigours of the pharma sector.
This stagnation which has occurred also contributes to the slow uptake of digital initiatives and is especially caused by progressively tighter government and regional regulations which restrict how far pharma organisations can ‘push’ their communication with consumers via social media, for example.
In fact, over three-quarters of pharma marketers interviewed, stated that industry regulations were their top concern when using digital and social media campaigns.
Innovation and Change
Nonetheless, pharma professionals tend to agree that digital channels are important and will play an ever increasing role in future sales and marketing efforts.
On one hand, pharma marketers need to understand the priorities of their physicians, which often requires a holistic approach rather than focusing, as marketers traditionally do, upon a particular individual product. But now that medical professionals are spending more and more time online, it makes sense to exploit digital opportunities.
The consumer audience is already targeted by a lot of marketing but digital channels are still under-utilised, especially where they can provide more personalised communication.
There is no doubt that to achieve such ‘digital success’ requires that your organisation play a delicate balancing act.
For example, a popular anti-histamine brand plots national pollen counts on their website and delivers messages to visitors thereby generating genuine value for their audience while at the same time building valuable relationships.
Another organisation has brought transplant patients together via social media and yet another organisation has created its own social community for epilepsy sufferers.
Digital Marketing Strategies for Pharma
All of the above examples, and many more besides, use digital channels to great effect by playing on their strengths and using them to create value through often interactive communication rather than one-way – which attracts an audience.
Big on the list is dissemination of genuinely useful and often sales-unrelated information and of course a focus upon the emotional aspects of the conditions which the brands target.
Pharma marketers should consider the following to enable a successful digital campaign:
Make It Work
What’s holding some organisation’s back? Why hasn’t pharma marketing raced forwards like other industries? After all digital channels are more cost effective than traditional versions.
To make it work, pharma organisations need to hire ‘digital natives’ and build their knowledge of the pharma industry so that they can unleash their creativity and their innate understanding of the digital environment in a way which will work within the industry’s strict policies.
Alternatively, focus upon the many individuals with deep pharma industry knowledge and train them in the complexities of digital marketing, most importantly:
Lastly, the message is that consumers want to know more about their condition, so nowadays, they use so called ‘alternative’ information channels. These channels will not be categorised as being ‘alternative’ for much longer.
If the pharma industry fails to understand this, consumers, patients and medical professionals will eventually side-step them and go online as standard. This is already happening and is solid evidence of the need to adapt pharma marketing – which starts with training the right people with the best digital marketing knowledge.
|Read more about digital marketing in health care and learn how TTM associates is helping pharma organisations to develop bring life to their pharma brands through ditigal marketing strategies.|