Pharmaceutical marketing in the digital age: Inside the "walled garden"
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Stop competitors from stealing your leads: What the “walled garden” means for pharmaceutical marketers

Pharmaceutical brands are largely shut out of the digital patient journey. The government heavily regulates the space, preventing companies from influencing patients with marketing techniques readily deployed across other industries. The most common call to action — i.e., “talk to your doctor” — remains hard to quantify, and ROI truly challenging to measure.

Today, there’s no denying the importance of digital marketing for the life sciences. Brands pour a lot of money and resources into attracting consumers online and driving traffic to landing pages where they can learn more about conditions and treatments. But even once you’ve done the legwork of getting someone to your website, once they click out again, they’re immediately targeted by competitive brands trying to steal them away.

Pharmaceutical marketers face an enormous challenge: How do you protect the end-to-end patient experience, guiding them from the initial research phase to prescription? Well, good news: By building a “walled garden,” managing every step of the patient’s path to treatment can be a reality.

Hold on. What’s the “walled garden”?

Though pharma’s challenges are both unique and complex, the “walled garden” itself is a fairly simple concept. But first, let’s take a quick look at the patient journey and how they encounter your brand.

Patients are more engaged than ever. They’re proactive about their healthcare, researching everything from conditions to physicians to treatment options. Nearly three-fourths of patients use the web to learn about prescriptions, according to research by, and over half look for this information on the brand’s website itself.

Whether the entry point is a digital ad, broadcast or print media, or even a passing comment from someone they know, a pharmaceutical brand’s website is a valuable resource for patients seeking to learn about conditions, medications, and medical devices. But where you lose many consumers is once they decide to find a physician who can prescribe treatment. In taking this critical next step, a patient is forced to jump from your domain to a third-party site — which is precisely the moment competitors pounce.

Instead of leaving so much up to chance, pharma brands can create what we call the “walled garden.” It’s a controlled environment on your website that guides patients through a series of actions leading up to scheduling that pivotal appointment, which can then translate into a prescription. After deciding to pursue treatment, they can browse relevant physicians or specialists via a directory embedded on the brand site, evaluate their options based on robust profiles and objective ratings, and book an appointment — either in person or virtual — as soon as they’re ready to move forward. This strategy shields consumers from competitor advertising and enables them to follow through with scheduling their appointment. And it can help keep your brand top of mind when they’re ready to have these important conversations with their doctor.

With the digital space crowded by advertisements clamoring for attention, savvy pharmaceutical marketers are taking a holistic approach to attracting consumers — surrounding them with appropriate content and assets and ensuring competitive brand exposure is kept at bay. For a step-by-step analysis of the “walled garden,” download our ebook here. You’ll not only gain a deeper understanding of the marketing landscape today, but you’ll also walk away with actionable insights for applying this strategy at your brand.

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