Marketing is one of the biggest pharma commercial challenges in the industry, but it’s still a pivotal step in any drug launch strategy. The pharmaceutical industry is a competitive, highly saturated space. Couple that with the COVID-19 market shock, rapidly shifting payer sentiments, and patient empowerment trends, and it’s little wonder why many life science companies struggle to attract attention in this new epoch of pharma.
In the past two decades, the national marketing spend has nearly doubled, totaling approximately $30 billion. To address the issues of the modern digital age, life science companies can implement effective pharma marketing strategies to increase brand awareness, acquire new customers, and establish authority within the industry.
Here’s what you need to know about pharma marketing.
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The challenge of pharmaceutical marketing
While there is often a crossover between marketing strategies from one industry to another, pharma marketing stands alone.
That’s because the underlying purpose is different. Instead of comprehensively addressing all aspects of the sales funnel, pharma marketing is more concerned with down-funnel activities.
Dr. Richard Levy wrote in the Archives of Family Medicine that it represents the final information continuum: “Pharmaceutical marketing is presently the most organized and comprehensive information system for updating physicians about the availability, safety, efficacy, hazards, and techniques of using medicines.”
But that’s not the only aspect that differentiates pharmaceutical marketing. Other complicating factors include:
Regulatory landscape – Stringent pharmaceutical marketing rules don’t exist for traditional goods and services. That’s because there’s a much greater underlying risk for advertising a drug than an article of clothing. As a result, there are boards, processes, laws, and other regulatory aspects a life science brand must consider before putting out a single piece of marketing material.
Information complexity – Effective marketing often conveys a simple, straightforward message. That’s incredibly difficult to accomplish when discussing a complex medical problem or underlying health condition, especially if you want the messaging to address medical professionals and patients. You must tread the line between informativeness and widespread appeal in such cases.
The shift to value-based healthcare – Healthcare market demands have changed dramatically over the last decade. And marketing messaging has had to shift accordingly. As the Pharmacy Times notes, companies need to focus their exhortation on what providers, payers, and patients now want: “More cost efficiency, proven patient outcomes, and greater contribution to the overall health care experience throughout the value chain.”
Pharmaceutical companies must learn how to operate under compliance and adhere to strict guidelines in the pharma industry when developing their products.
Building an effective pharma marketing strategy
With those industry challenges in mind, how can you create a pharma strategy that resonates? Here are some actionable steps you can take.
Step 1: engage key opinion leaders (KOLs)
KOLs can have significant sway over general opinions and attitudes.
With their input and insights, they can shape the product and perceptions about the product. If you manage to get KOLs in your corner, you make it easier to reach stakeholders and assure them of the veracity of your medical service or product.
But, as we’ve noted, COVID-19 disrupted business as usual. KOL engagement once relied heavily on relationship building with face-to-face interactions. With in-person networking suddenly on hold, pharma companies needed new avenues to strengthen KOL relationships.
Fortunately, insight management platforms make it possible to engage KOLs throughout every aspect of the pharmaceutical lifecycle and leverage thought leaders around the globe.
Equipped with digital technologies, you can enlist the right KOL to give you a competitive edge. You can leverage their expertise to:
- Design and conduct effective clinical trials
- Reach stated endpoints
- Build product awareness (both pre-and post- launch)
- Aid decisions surrounding product acceptance
- Break into new markets
- Increase treatment access
- Plan a commercialization and marketing strategy
Step 2: establish a target audience
While the ultimate recipient of your products would be consumers and patients, there’s a significant gray area surrounding who exactly you should be marketing to.
Is it direct-to-consumer marketing or direct-to-provider/payer marketing?
More often than not, the primary target for pharma marketing would be healthcare organizations, pharmacies, and clinicians, who then refer these products to their patients.
But, today, you can no longer afford to ignore the end-user—the patient consumer.
Patient-centricity has become an industry buzzword for a good reason. The movement toward value-based care has made healthcare more consumer-driven. They have greater access to healthcare information than ever before. And they want to be more involved in their healthcare decisions.
Give them what they want.
Today, your target audience will be determined by your end goals of a specific aspect of your overall marketing strategy. That said, if you want that campaign to be as successful as possible, you need to perform your due diligence to understand who they are by asking questions like:
- Where do they live?
- What are their demographics?
- What is their health concern?
- Where do they get their information?
- What is their RX behavior?
- What are their health habits?
The more information you can gather about your target market, the easier it will be to communicate and engage them with your marketing materials. Similar to KOLs, digitally engaging potential customers throughout the entire product lifecycle is an invaluable step you can take to enhance your overall marketing efforts.
Step 3: consider the potential obstacles to purchase
What are the reasons why a consumer or a healthcare entity may shy away from your product? Are there concerns your marketing materials could address before those issues hinder sales?
For instance, consider the following concerns that may affect the reception of your product:
- Is the drug affordable or priced in a manner that will be acceptable to payers?
- Is the condition or disease widespread enough for there to be high demand?
- Are there changing public sentiments?
- Are there supply chain factors that could impact your products’ manufacture, transport, and dissemination?
- Could new technologies render the product obsolete?
As Matthew Dickinson, managing director of Dice Communications, notes, prospective customers will typically cite one of five reasons not to procure a pharmaceutical product:
You can significantly strengthen your case by proactively addressing these issues with your marketing materials. To increase trust in your product, your marketing materials can highlight safety information, provide patient resources, and emphasize patient testimonials and stories.
Step 4: go omnichannel
Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has operated on a multichannel marketing track. But that created problems since it was often based on siloed strategies that rarely, if ever, had coordination across stakeholders.
But that’s quickly being replaced by an omnichannel strategy, which allows for increased orchestration and personalization across all channels. As Biopharma Dive notes:
“Instead of the fragmented and siloed multichannel approach, omnichannel marketing employs the simultaneous orchestration and optimization of channels across personal, non-personal, and media, and addresses the integrated needs of multiple stakeholders – consumers/patients, healthcare professionals, and payers.”
An omnichannel strategy aims to create a sense of cohesion across all facets of your marketing. That makes it possible to:
- Amplify or taper promotional activities
- Create a continuous optimization cycle across all channels and stakeholders
- Increase personalization and targeting
- Leverage data to inform all aspects of your marketing strategy
Step 5: leverage social media
Social media platforms have become the ultimate marketing tool for brands. And in this regard, the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. A pharma company that fails to leverage socials as a central component of its marketing strategy will inevitably flounder.
Social media gives you a free and direct channel to a target group. That reduces your digital marketing costs and helps you foster organic relationships with prospective customers. These tools can help you start a dialogue, foster a positive brand image, and communicate all the necessary information about the product.
So, how do you enhance your social media marketing strategies? Consider the following tips:
- Focus messaging on safety and health outcomes to help consumers feel secure and confident.
- Invest in employee advocacy by featuring employees in your content.
- Engage your pharma KOLs as influencers that can educate your audience and promote your products.
- Leverage video wherever possible since it has a higher click-through rate and viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it on video, compared to 10% when reading it in a text.
- Optimize your website since interested prospects will likely go from your socials to your website if they want to discover more about your product.
- Provide customer support and Q&A through your social media channels.
- Leverage your social channels’ data and consumer insights to enhance your marketing strategy.
Technology designed for life science engagement
At its essence, pharmaceutical marketing campaigns are all about engagement. In today’s healthcare landscape, patients are more aware of their health and wish to participate actively in their care decisions. As you build your marketing strategy, you must take a data-driven approach that focuses on the customer journey of providers and patients.
An insights management platform answers your marketing questions throughout every phase of the product life cycle, which is why reviewing data from the clinical trial while developing a prescription drug or healthcare device is crucial.
Whether engaging KOLs or potential patients or gathering answers to your most pressing questions, insights management technology can close the life science insight gap, often leading to a marketing and messaging disconnect.
Request a demo to understand how insight management can help you overcome pharma marketing challenges.