How pharmaceutical and healthcare companies create a winning digital marketing strategy, Part 1

Michael Leander thinking about pharma and healthcare marketingThe internet and social media has created new opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. In the first of three articles Michael Leander – an international marketing expert, speaker and trainer – gives his viewpoints on what pharmaceutical and healthcare companies need to consider when developing a digital marketing strategy.

The pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing landscape was much more straightforward a few years ago. Taking a simple view, splashy TV and print campaigns raised awareness of major conditions and increased demand for big name drugs. But the consumer shift to new media and technology, especially for health and pharmaceutical information, is transforming the game.

And while there are plenty of examples of innovative digital campaigns in pharma, the reality is that pharmaceutical marketing is struggling to keep up with the media preferences of today’s healthcare consumer

There’s a learning curve associated with the evolution of any marketing model, and pharmaceutical marketers have the added challenge of complying with strict regulatory guidelines and managing public and media scrutiny of advertising.  The leaders will understand that it is important to get their feet wet as early as possible and get experience that will allow them to understand the opportunities and threats presented with the new times.

And where there are opportunities, there are also threats. And so is the case for digital marketing in the pharma and healthcare industries. But opportunities in digital marketing for pharma companies outweigh the threats. In fact if you leverage the channel properly, you might be able to entirely wipe out the threats.

I was asked by  Pharma Conferences to provide my two cents on how a marketer in a pharmaceutical or healthcare business should approach the digital marketing opportunities.   My experience from the industry stems from implementing patient programs for Pfizer, promotional activities for Novo Nordisk, email marketing programs for many and training marketers in the pharmaceutical industry in more than 15 countries.

The shift is real – the evolving consumer media behavior

If one thing is clear in the ever-changing media landscape, it’s that the consumer is in control. Emerging channels provide individuals with more options for obtaining news, entertainment and information, and traditional TV, print and radio sources no longer dominate the consumer media mix the way they did just a few years ago.  And the online health resources consumers find online are impacting the healthcare decisions they are making for themselves and their families

In this article let me give you 4 trends that should be or become obvious for the marketing professional in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, yet important to keep in mind when you formulate your digital marketing strategy;

Michael Leander pointing to marketing issues1) the pharmaceutical marketing game is a multi-channel marketing challenge. In any given market there are bound to be a large proportion of your audience whom are not interested in your digital marketing initiatives. They retain their old habits of interacting at the physical point of interaction they always have. Many will change their behavior over time. But there will likely always be a large proportion of people whom prefer to interact with people in the physical and not the digital sense.  The point is that your digital marketing initiatives must be closely aligned with all other vehicles in a multi-channel push and pull strategy. Do not make the mistake of belittling the channel with siloed or one-shot digital campaigns.

2) consumer behavior is changing rapidly. In markets with an internet penetration of 30% or more, consumers are likely to first search for information online before they interact with a doctor, a pharmacist, a medical specialist.  Such is the thirst for information that the average patient is more than adequately equipped with information about their disease, its potential consequences and treatment.  For better or worse this change the game as easily understood information becomes a competitive weapon. If a pharmaceutical or healthcare brand is able to articulate the information a consumer might be looking for in a clear and easily understood way, consumers may in fact take preference for that brand. Trust and  transparency are huge issues in that respect.  Both for blockbuster drugs and niche therapies.

3) transparency is at play like never before. With social media platforms consumers – and your industry peers – have access to the information shared by others. Patients share information about their situation, the effects of treatments and discuss good and bad experience with doctors, hospitals, treatments and so on.  Marketers in the pharmaceutical industry need to understand how to leverage the conversation taking place in social media with transparency and openness. This will in turn change the day-to-day operation of a typical marketing & communication department in the industry as constant attention and engagement is required to participate in and encourage the online conversation.

4) healthcare is a serious matter.  Regardless of the nature and seriousness of a disease or illness, healthcare is a serious matter.  Hence family and friends to a patient take a great interest in understanding exactly what is wrong, how the situation is treated medically and in other ways, and what the ultimate consequences could be. For that reason in the digital sense, your target audience is not just your patient, but also everyone whom takes an interest in that person. *

As you know the external factors are contributing to changing the game as well. Depending on the market, lots of new initiatives have been implemented or are planned to make the digital experience better and more complete for the patients. And regulations and legislation is changing. Some of these changes represent significant challenges for the industry.

Before closing this article, let me share with you two examples from my own life:

Michael Leander- When my 67 years old father recently had a heart attack (coronary thrombosis), members of the family and myself took to the internet to get the information we needed to fully understand what happened, what should be done and what the future circumstances may be.

- When I encountered a vicious virus some 5 years ago, I found myself in a situation where I had to get an ocular prosthetics (artificial eye). Naturally concerned about the operation, side effects and – not the least – the final look and feel of the product, if you will, I took to the internet. Spending hours and hours searching for information, learning from other patients and even reading research papers, comforted me enormously and prepared me for it. Even surgeons instructional videos helped me (see this example: http://www.ioi.com/bioeyevideo.html)

Footnote: If you are attending the E-marketing and online strategies for Pharma in Poland, be sure you engage with strategic thinkers. People with an opinion about where the pharma and healthcare industries are going and what consumers, distributors, doctors, hospitals will be expecting of you in the future. There are far too many siloed tactical initiatives in the pharma industry – most of them a sad excuse for not really addressing the issues with a solid future-proof strategy for emarketing and online.

A mini guide to getting started on a successful digital marketing plan
In my next article for Pharma Conferences I am going to share with you 5 things you can do to start or improve your digital marketing presence.

My tips will include;
- how to use mobile marketing for the pharma and healthcare industries
- why educational sequential auto-responders are relevant to the pharma industry

Be sure you sign-up to Pharma Conferences Pharma Marketing Newsletter here

About Michael Leander
Michael Leander is an international marketing expert, trainer, speaker and moderator. Having presented in more than 35 countries for thousands of people, he is known for his deep marketing and CRM knowledge. Michael Leander Company is an international marketing consultancy helping clients in Europe, the Middle East and Asia develop and implement winning marketing programs.

You can get Michael Leander Company’s Newsletter 360 Degree Dialogue Brief here

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