The digital era has transformed the pharmaceutical industry—from research and development tactics to sales and marketing strategies. Traditional strategies that were once successful won’t generate the same return today. 

This necessary evolution is partially attributed to new technologies making it easier and more convenient than ever for busy HCPs to research information and learn about new pharmaceutical advancements from their digital devices—no in-person sales rep necessary.

In 2017, studies showed that only 44% of HCPs were considered to be sales-rep-accessible. This is in stark contrast to 2008 data that revealed about 80% of HCPs were accessible to in-person sales reps. 

And that’s only one side of it. Pharmaceutical marketing is heavily geared toward educating HCPs about diseases and available treatment methods, but also toward patients and their caregivers. 

Patients are no longer relying solely on healthcare providers for new information. They’re taking to the internet to conduct research for themselves, reading advertisements as they scroll through social media, and connecting with other patients in their disease community through online forums. 

The way pharma target audiences are seeking and digesting information has been permanently transformed, which means the strategies pharma companies employ to reach their audiences have required a complete remodel. 

Pharmaceutical Marketing Objectives

Through pharmaceutical marketing, pharma companies aim to:

  1. Build brand awareness and enhance their brand to establish themselves as a trusted entity in the community.
  2. Educate HCPs on available treatments and the associated diseases. 
  3. Educate patient communities on disease state, associated symptoms and available treatments.
  4. Disseminate critical information during drug or treatment launches.
  5. Increase website visibility and completion of key site actions to increase return on marketing investment. 
  6. Increase sales of pharmaceutical products to maximize the return on product costs and advertising investments.

Pharmaceutical marketing ultimately centers around supporting patients throughout product launch timelines. Marketers must educate and prepare patients for new treatments before they’re launched, recruit patients and prescribers before the launch, and disseminate information and messaging during the launch. They must also retain patients and prescribers after the launch by providing the necessary support for years ahead. 

When launching new treatment, pharma companies must disseminate critical data, including drug efficacy, side effects and cost through strategic marketing campaigns. Efforts are focused on driving awareness around and education of the new treatment method in order to help patients and HCPs make an informed decision.

To fulfill these objectives, pharmaceutical companies must advertise on the channels that their target audiences are actively using. In the present day, that means a strategic mix of digital marketing and traditional marketing. An effective pharmaceutical marketing strategy incorporates a mixed approach, including: 

  • Social media campaigns
  • PPC advertising
  • Product information landing pages and campaigns
  • Print advertising
  • TV commercials
  • Conference marketing

Pharma companies must consider a number of media channels to capitalize on, new products and advancements to integrate as they emerge, and which methods are best for reaching different target audiences. All the while, they must remain consistent with effective marketing messaging on all platforms and tread the fine line between empathy and analytics. In other words, pharma marketers have a lot on their plate. 

Challenges in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Abiding by Federal Regulations

Marketing for pharmaceuticals can be rather complex for companies that aren’t well-versed in the strict rules and regulations of the industry. Pharma companies must navigate a number of strict HIPAA regulations and FDA laws, ensuring that all messaging abides by these limitations. 

In terms of measuring the effectiveness of campaigns—a critical part of successful campaign development—marketers must also ensure that all of their efforts meet privacy legislations (like GDPR and CCPA). 

Creating effective marketing messaging that stays within the confines of federal policy, is consistent with FDA-approved prescribing information, and includes only truthful information regarding drug efficacy, risks and benefits is a demanding process for pharma companies.

Targeting the Right Audiences

To target the right audiences in their marketing campaigns, marketers need access to advanced targeting technologies, tools and analytics that drive valuable insights about consumer behaviors. Access to search data and exclusive market research enables pharma companies to identify patient populations, as well as the healthcare professionals treating specific diseases, with increased efficiency. 

Marketing campaigns need to reach the right audiences on the most effective platforms, which means marketers need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in consumer targeting and behavior insights, to identify the channels most often used by the target audience. These behavior insights are critical for maximizing advertising reach and ensuring the most productive use of marketing dollars. 

Pharma companies that don’t have access to this marketing data may be using their advertising budget ineffectively, spending time and money on platforms that won’t produce optimal return. 

Remaining Flexible, Yet Cohesive

In the perpetually evolving market, pharma companies must remain flexible, adapting to recent changes in technologies, discoveries, regulations, and digital platforms—without fragmenting their brand. 

As new pharma technologies and medical devices enter the market, pharma companies must remain agile to stay ahead of the competition. Pharma companies that fail to integrate new advancements are likely to be outperformed by competing companies that integrate the most efficient, cost-effective approaches. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming the pharmaceutical market rapidly, bringing new capabilities to digital marketing. These advancements are working to streamline efforts, from research and development processes, to ad performance insights and unique targeting methods. 

We’re seeing the momentous benefit of virtual reality in the pharmaceutical market, predicting drug interactions and attesting to the efficacy of new drugs during the pre-development stages. 

As virtual reality and artificial intelligence are further integrated into the industry, pharma companies can explore the potential of these technological advancements to improve patient experiences, and therefore, cement their presence in the market. 

Navigating the Cost of Treatment

The cost of treatment remains as a challenge in the pharmaceutical industry. The budget required during the pre-development phases, clinical trials and post-development continued research can reach approximately $2.6 billion for a single pharmaceutical drug—and these drugs have less than a 12% approval rate to enter the market. 

Without insurance or a form of financial aid, product prices can be relatively impractical for the average person to afford. Pharma marketers must place emphasis on payer marketing, targeting insurers to lobby for coverage of certain treatments.

Pharma companies need to extend support to patient populations, using effective platforms and campaign messaging to spread information about available financial solutions and strengthen patients’ access to treatment. This means marketing for insurance coverage and educating patients on financial aid opportunities, through savings cards or financial assistance programs.

Key Factors in Effective Pharmaceutical Marketing

Successful pharmaceutical marketing strategies require a patient-centric approach, strategic campaigns with personalized content across multiple media channels, and effective ad performance measurement tactics. 

Pharmaceutical marketing is predominantly geared toward patients through direct-to-consumer advertising, and toward prescribing healthcare professionals. For either advertising approach to be successful, marketers need to produce high-quality, personalized content on the right platforms at the right time. 

Patient Centricity

Patients are more empowered, more informed, and more involved in their healthcare than ever before. People have access to a wealth of information, and all it takes is a simple Google search on a laptop, phone, or other mobile device. 

Most patients now have electronic access to their medical health information, and they’re taking to search engines to understand their symptoms and discover available treatments. 

This presents an opportunity for pharma companies to reach patients directly. Effective marketing will gently push patients to contact their healthcare provider and request a treatment or therapy. 

HCPs were once at the center of pharmaceutical marketing, as patients were receiving all healthcare information directly from their provider. Now that patients are cross-referencing information given by their providers, accessing information from the same sources, it’s critical that pharma companies accommodate this shift. 

Building trust with potential patients and remaining one step ahead of the public perception is one of the keys to successful pharma branding. The patients’ needs and wants must be the center focus of the campaign strategy. 

Pharma companies need to tap in to patients’ media consumption habits to understand how these patients prefer to receive their information, which platforms they’re frequently using, and what specific information or data they’re seeking. This requires advanced media targeting technology and access to valuable insights, data and analytics that speak to online user behaviors. 

A patient-centric approach goes hand-in-hand with an empathetic approach. Any pharma brand that doesn’t show support for patient communities or remain consistent in their messaging is going to have a difficult time when they’re recruiting patients for clinical trials and preparing to launch new products or drugs. 

Patients need support—from start to end. To build and maintain patient engagement, pharma companies must provide the necessary support for patient populations and maintain an ongoing conversation in the community. Developing the strategies that secure patient engagement generally takes place during the pre-launch, research and development phase.

Marketers need to identify where these patients are seeking information about available treatments, and disease signs and symptoms, and where they’re sharing their experiences with other patients. 

With so many mobile devices and social platforms available, there isn’t one single channel best used in patient-centric pharma marketing. Marketing efforts should be spread across a number of platforms to comprise an effective multichannel strategy.  

Multichannel Approach

Where is the target audience most active? Which devices are they using to find the type of information you’re providing? This market research is essential for effective targeting. Today, mobile-first campaigns are dominating the advertising scene. Patients and HCPs are using handheld devices, laptops and phones to access healthcare information. 

An effective pharmaceutical marketing strategy utilizes a strategic mix of digital marketing to educate HCPs and provide valuable resources in an easily-digestible format for convenient consumption. Reaching HCPs through the right platforms can lead to better treatment outcomes, as HCPs have the resources they need to support patients throughout their treatment journey. 

Through a multimedia approach, pharma companies can also provide sales representatives with the support they need to make sales and improve marketing ROI.

When developing messaging across multiple channels, all platforms should be intuitively integrated. Landing pages, social media campaigns, search ads—they should seamlessly connect with consistent messaging, across-the-board. Spreading a unified message across multiple channels promotes brand name awareness and effectively carries patients and HCPs alike throughout the marketing funnel.  

Personalized Content

Though all marketing efforts need to communicate a consistent message, content should be strategically personalized for each audience. The techniques pharma companies use to convert HCPs won’t necessarily translate for patients. 

HCP audiences and patient audiences aren’t always researching the same information, using the same platforms, or looking for the same benefits from pharma companies. Campaign messaging needs to reflect these differences. 

While an empathic approach may resonate best with patients, a more analytical, data-based approach is likely to resonate with healthcare professionals. Pharma marketers must have a genuine understanding of the nuances between patient-centric communications and HCP-centric communications to deploy an effective campaign.

Digital platforms are key to personalization, and they’re enabling greater personalization capabilities than ever before. Personalizing your messaging based on certain demographics, geographics and behaviors can significantly improve engagement and conversions through campaigns. 

With the right marketing tools and technologies, pharma companies can use incredibly accurate, compliant targeting features to market to the right audiences, on the right platforms, at the most effective times. 

Measuring Ad Performance

Determine the success of your advertisements. If you don’t develop a strategy that measures the success of your advertising campaigns, how will you know what is working and what isn’t

Identifying the key metrics and KPIs that support individual marketing objectives is essential for improving future strategies. Without this data, marketing dollars may be allocated ineffectually, on platforms that aren’t producing an ideal return. 

From the research and development phase to the post-launch phase, marketers must be persistent in analyzing data and using these insights to adjust their future strategies accordingly. Set strict KPIs & deadlines to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign, from start to finish.

Analyzing data from each campaign is valuable for identifying the most effective platforms, messaging, audiences, and devices for advertising. But that doesn’t mean it’s productive to monitor any KPIs or metrics. Pharma marketers must choose their metrics carefully to avoid redundancies and dead-end performance measurements that don’t contribute to their overarching goal. 

Identify the metrics that align closest with each marketing objective to determine the true success of a campaign. General metrics (such as reach or impressions) that don’t produce a clear picture of the consumer journey or speak to conversions and transactions are generally inapplicable to the overall goal, and consequently, an unproductive approach to measurement. To measure ad performance appropriately, connect each KPI with the end ROI.

How Good Apple Can Help

The pharma industry is inarguably one of the most difficult industries for advertising. But we understand that better than anyone else. 

We have experience navigating strict federal regulations and limitations, and developing human-centric campaigns, without compromising on the quality or effectiveness of advertisements. 

Over the years, we’ve established a strong network of successful pharmaceutical companies that have enabled us to fine-tune our approach. We know what works, because we do it daily. 

We have access to exclusive market data and advanced media targeting technology that enables us to narrow your audience through a uniquely targeted lens—and in pharmaceutical marketing, this lens is critical.

Through extensive market research, using advanced, third-party data tools, we draw media consumption insights that enable us to develop unique targeting methods. 

An effective pharmaceutical marketing strategy uses those consumption insights to develop a strategic mix of paid advertisements on search engines and social media platforms, as well as programmatic buying, conference targeting, EMR and OOH. We draw from our past successes to help you maximize the reach of your advertising budget. 

Our Good Apple team of experts has the cost-effective solutions you need to identify exactly who your audience is and discover where they’re already looking for you. 
If you’re ready to achieve measurable results through a personalized marketing plan, we’re ready too. Let’s work together.

Let’s Talk Media

Ask how we can amplify your brand, deliver results, or how you can become an Apple