Ubiquitous internet, affordable smartphones and barrage of free information have irreversibly changed the shape of customer buying funnel. It is no long linear and in fact, it is so dynamic that companies should not assume anything other than the fact that it has a customer at the centre of it. The characteristic digital density for every industry is different along the funnel. Some industries like ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) have become highly digitalized while others like Pharmaceutical industry are just getting started.
Though Pharma companies have started to explore digital avenues to support their offline marketing efforts, a number of them are still struggling to get it right. According to a PMLIVE report (2014), the biggest challenge that pharma industry face is the lack of a clear & coherent digital marketing strategy. Since it is just a starting of digital adoption phase, there are a lot of low hanging fruits to be plucked. Let’s take all the stages of e-marketing life cycle one-by-one and look at the steps that can be taken to boost digital marketing results.
Until very recently, traditional marketing channels such as television, radio and print media used to carry out the entire direct-to-customer (DTC) marketing for pharma companies. But many marketers are realizing the enormous potential of online DTC marketing. Some of the studies conducted by firms like Ogilvy Healthworld indicate that Pharma companies have started to reach out to potential customers by frequently posting relevant content online. Majority of the online content is consistent with the FDA definition of help-seeking DTCA. A content analysis of drug information on social media suggests that 40.7% of pharmaceutical companies’ social media posts contain information that can be viewed as help seeking DTCA. In this crowded space of online DTCA, below are some of the steps to make your efforts stand out.
- The search engine is still the biggest referral system that delivers majority of the traffic to online health and pharmaceutical content. On more than 60% of the occasions, people go to search engines to find answers to their health related queries. Pharma marketers should make sure that their websites are well optimized for the search engine results. Web sites should contain keyword-rich content, a clear hierarchy, proper text links and easily reachable pages among other things to become relevant and popular on search engines.
- Pharma is known to have social anxiety but companies like Lilly and Novartis have started to make themselves visible on Facebook and Twitter. Social Media should be used to make customer connect, share press releases, spread social awareness and listen to unmet needs.
- Email is a good medium to reach out to Health Care Practitioners (HCPs). Companies need to make sure that emails are designed for different email providers and are mobile compatible. Content should be short, engaging and as much personalized as possible. Split testing should be done with subject lines, time of the day and different call-to-actions.
- Given the popularity of search engines pay-per-click (PPC) becomes an immediate choice of online marketers. But getting a SEM campaign off the ground is not easy. FDA has a comprehensive set of rules and Google has its own elaborate guidelines for Pharma companies. After reviewing these guidelines marketers should decide whether they need PPC in the starting or should it be a step to be taken further down the journey.
Pharma industry has been brand-centric since the time immemorial. But in this world of Omni-Channel marketing, they need to create a customer-centric experience by engaging with them using digital mediums. Across health reports that Pharma companies still use their own sites as the main digital medium to share information. But a growing body of research shows that both HCPs and patients prefer to seek information from other trusted sources. A study conducted by Ohio University shows that people are using social media to connect with Pharma companies and to share personal testimonials. Below points can be used to make engagement more effective.
- Marketers need to understand the target persona as per their brand and TA. A research report by PwC shows that 18 to 24 years target group is more likely to trust medical information shared by others on social media.
- Relevant content is the key to getting better engagement results. If content is not very relevant to your target persona then just posting online will not yield effective returns… One study confirms that Lilly posted 7 times more on social media than Novo Nordisk, but could not score better on engagement ranking.
- Engage with the social community instead of marketing to them. Have a healthy balance between Social Content, Category Information and Brand Content.
- Make sure all the digital channels are monitored properly. A well-trained cross-functional team could lead meaningful participation and cultivate user generated content.
Conversion process in Pharma industry is a bit indirect. The ultimate Major Conversion, the prescription choice, is controlled by the practitioner. But since almost everyone who has access to the internet is searching online before going to a doctor, there are a lot of Minor Conversions to be aimed for. Minor conversions can range from information download to medication reminder form response. Below are the tips to maximize these conversion opportunities.
- Create a very clear conversion path with an engaging landing page and effective call-to-action item. Woerwag Pharma did this beautifully for a campaign they ran for Diabetic Neuropathy.
- Provide an opportunity for visitors to engage with your website at different care-flow stages. Coxapane provides emotional support to visiting patients by sharing experiences from other patients. It also provides an external link to MS watch website and gives out travel tips among other things.
- Get visitors to talk about your product. Pillcam accomplishes this by providing visitors with a doctor discussion guide.
Customer Delight is a very interesting point to ponder for pharma marketers because a patient doesn’t want to be a customer. Nobody wants to remain on medication if they don’t have to. Still, there are some valid & valuable goals that can be achieved using digital marketing.
- Websites like ‘Ask Patient’ are providing patients with a platform to rate medicines as per their experiences. In a world where half of the patients are expecting Amazon level service delivery from health care providers, online reviews can mean a lot to a brand. Marketers need to pay attention to these post-purchase touch points.
- Involve digital channels in patient adherence programs. Patients’ intimate relationship with their phones can be used to develop personalized adherence programs.
- Use technology to make your end product interactive. Other industries have used NFC to make the end product interact with mobile phones. Japanese Giant Otsuka Pharma is working with Proteus on the first smart pill. All these measures are aimed to increase customer retention.
These are some of the small steps that can help Pharma Companies start their digital journey in the right directions. Do you have experiences with Digital Marketing use cases in Pharama Industry? Do share with us in the comments below.