Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has faced significant challenges in unlocking the full potential of digital marketing. Heavy regulations stood in its way, nudging companies toward more traditional advertising methods and media buys. But, in a sense, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the industry’s hand. With much of the country vacillating between the various phases of lockdown, digital marketing has emerged as a clear winner for reaching consumers while in-person touchpoints remain limited.
Early estimates put pharma’s digital spend for 2020 around 14% higher than the previous year, with future growth predicted. Now that the focus has shifted to digital, the question on every marketer’s mind is, how do you get it right?
This historic and unprecedented year is winding down, and pharma companies may find themselves with leftover budget — and bandwidth. As 2021 looms on the horizon, it is imperative to get the framework in place for a strong Q1 that sets the tone for the rest of the year. Follow digital marketing’s top three strategies to close out 2020 with a bang and position your brand for maximum success in the new year.
1. Publish value-driven content.
To say that pharmaceutical marketing is complex would be an understatement, as the government scrutinizes the industry’s every move. What you can and cannot say is strictly regulated, forcing marketing collateral to be heavy on the disclaimer front. Another consideration is your audience and taking into account patient and/or caretaker sensitivities. Depending on your product, you might even be barred from marketing or selling directly to the consumer — adopting a more B2B2C mentality in your communications.
These are just some of the unique challenges pharmaceutical and life sciences marketers face in their day-to-day job functions. But providing education-based content is one way around these barriers. Instead of focusing on the “hard sell,” the aim is to inform consumers of conditions, identify potential candidates, and explain possible treatments and outcomes.
Take Novartis, for example. Last year, the pharmaceutical brand launched a campaign for its Cosentyx treatment of ankylosing spondylitis — or “AS,” as it’s also known. One primary component of the cheekily named “Monster Pain in the AS” campaign was an online quiz, which took consumers through a self-assessment that would reveal if AS were something they could be suffering from. Then, consumers had the opportunity to read up on the inflammatory disease as well as find a rheumatologist and schedule an appointment online, enabling rapid diagnosis and treatment. And the results were staggering. In just a few months, this campaign and dynamic physician finder helped approximately 35,000 AS patients connect with a rheumatologist. Employing education-led marketing and self-assessment techniques like this is a more effective approach to pharmaceutical marketing.
2. Connect the dots between patients and providers.
Despite the advantages of the modern era, finding the right doctor is still a major challenge for patients. Many don’t even know where to start! The internet seems like a logical place (and where 61% kick off their search), but that quickly becomes content overload — from competitors’ advertisements to conflicting physician information to broken links and disconnected phone numbers when they try to make an appointment.
Pharmaceutical brands can help bridge this gap in care by embedding physician directories directly on their websites so patients can find doctors when they are actively engaging with the brand — and treatment is top of mind. Outside of providing a valuable service, directories help you earn patient trust, convert “shoppers” into consumers, and build brand loyalty. According to a study by Doctor.com, 88% of patients want pharma brands to help them connect with the right specialist via physician directories on their websites, 81% would be more likely to use a website if it did, and 56% say they’d be more loyal to a pharma brand if its site helped them find physicians. Simply put, patients and caregivers are ready to receive care when they’re on a pharma brand website, and helping them find and connect with the right provider will bridge that gap between researching and receiving treatment.
Considering that 73% of patients have researched a prescription medication or medical device online in the past year alone — and over half did so on the brand’s own website — embedding this kind of directory is a logical step toward attracting consumers. But what kind of directory would be most helpful? According to patients, there are four key characteristics:
- Accurate data, including correct specialties, contact information, and location
- Ratings from real, verified patients that they can use to evaluate physicians and make their decisions
- Online appointment scheduling — over 64% of consumers want the option to book directly from a pharmaceutical website
- Telehealth so patients can safely and conveniently receive care, from the comfort of their own homes
3. Be the last touchpoint so your brand is top of mind when the patient talks to their doctor.
A lot can happen between scheduling an appointment and actually receiving a diagnosis. Days, weeks, or even months might pass before a patient finally sees a doctor. But there are ways to get your pharmaceutical brand top of mind when a patient is prepping for a telehealth or in-office visit. Engage patients by integrating brand messaging and educational content in both the physical and virtual spaces, depending on the appointment type, to make sure your brand becomes part of the conversation with their doctor.
Waiting for the appointment is the most stressful part of a doctor’s visit — even a virtual one. During this period, over half of patients are captivated by messages displayed in a brick-and-mortar waiting room, according to PatientPoint research, while providing relevant information in a virtual space is much more engaging than “please wait” on an otherwise-empty screen. Well-timed, information-driven content has shown to be quite successful in not just educating patients about preventive care, but it also has a direct impact on patient behavior, empowering them to initiate these important conversations with their providers. This type of content is also an asset for physicians. 81% say that digital in-office engagement tools help them more easily inform patients about their condition and treatment options, and 73% agree that these tools improve patients’ medication adherence.
PatientPoint and Doctor.com have partnered to bring the in-office educational experience to the virtual space, integrating brand messaging into the virtual waiting and exam rooms. Instead of patients staring at a blank screen, anxiously awaiting the doctor’s arrival, they can view materials directly related to their condition or the reason for the appointment to prime their conversations. During the virtual visit, you can also offer relevant information in the exact moments they’re having important discussions about treatment options. When it comes to in-office care, PatientPoint can give your brand a presence across all touchpoints, from the waiting room to the exam room — and even to the back office to reach HCPs.
Whether it be for a virtual visit or a physical one, PatientPoint research proves that having brand presence at the point of care delivers maximum impact — and results. On average, PatientPoint sponsor partners see a 20% NRx lift and 4:1 return on their point-of-care investment.
If you’re in the throes of Q1 planning, with a renewed commitment to innovative patient engagement strategies and digital marketing, partnering with tech companies can help you put your best foot forward and set your company up for its most profitable year yet. Doctor.com, a Press Ganey solution, helps leading brands in the life sciences industry strengthen patient loyalty through robust physician directories and appointment scheduling platforms. And we’ve joined forces with PatientPoint to help brands like yours engage, educate, and convert patients at the point of care. For more information, reach out here.