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The New Dynamics of Healthcare Marketing – Personalizing and Targeting

From RESULTS, Chapter 2, Digital Marketing

The Conservative Mentality in Pharma Marketing is Slowly Changing

The pharma industry is an example of conservative forces that are trying to protect a franchise. At a recent digital pharma conference, an executive of a major pharmaceutical company stood during the closing session to say essentially this:

My head is spinning because the speakers here have such amazing and incredible, creative ideas on leveraging technology to help us grow our brands. But let me share my point of view. I oversee several multiple billion-dollar brands. My number-one mandate is to protect the brand. I cannot have our company end up on the front page of the New York Times because we did something risky or overstepped the FDA guidelines. My number-one mandate is protect the brand. Number two is to grow the brand, but number one is to protect.

That is the mindset. Companies are cautious. Supported by a limiting belief that there is a lack of clear governmental guidance on how they can operate, pharma companies have been engaging in a conservative wait-and-see approach, with some toe-dipping trial and error to determine what they can do digitally. The FDA has actually come out with several rounds of guidelines and several warning letters, which serve as a proxy for guidelines. Granted, government could be clearer, but it has already answered a lot of questions. It is pharma that remains unwilling to take the risks that other industries are embracing with their marketing efforts and finding the competitive advantage.

The recognition today is broader than it was just a few years ago, however. Companies do realize they must invest fairly heavily in digital efforts. Their big question remains: What are we allowed to do digitally? What are the restrictions, and what are the opportunities?

In short, the opportunities are many and huge. Pharma needs to figure out how to become more comfortable with the ability to change. A company’s ability to adapt is the greatest competitive advantage it can possess in a rapidly changing market.

Digital marketing provides a clear measurement of how effectively the marketer’s message is being delivered. Every interaction – every click, hover, mouse movement, coupon download, and engagement – can be measured and logged to fine tune the marketing campaign. In that way, the marketer can see the ROI for the money spent. The data cannot be ignored.

Personalizing and targeting – the New Dynamics of Healthcare Marketing

For some time, we have been moving into the era of marketing tools that increasingly personalize and target. Pharma companies now have the ability to do more than just buy online advertising in a web journal. Now when they buy advertising, they can specify a target list of, say, 50,000 doctors they want to reach. Third-party data sources can be combined to more accurately target the message for relevance.

The ad can be personalized, such as putting the doctor’s name on it. The personalizing can be done in obvious ways, such as notifying the doctor that the area is on alert for the flu. Or it can be less obvious, such as providing comparative data to those who are researching a competitor’s brand.

The marketing effort can review the target’s past actions. If he already has looked up a product’s efficacy, for example, the ad can call his attention to something else, such as the product’s safety profile.

Though personalizing takes many forms, in general it leverages data on individuals and their experiences. It gauges their frame of mind while viewing – for example, is the target researching, or just doing a quick reference? Is the target relaxed and open to receiving information?

The ability to identify specific individuals online is really where the land grab is. The technology to do so is becoming more readily available.

Let me give you an example that illustrates the power of using digital for personal targeting. One of our clients has a relatively small sales force. The company set up a symposium in which a key opinion leader was to speak. Their sales representatives had been assigned the task of recruiting physicians to fill the seats but were failing miserably. We received a panicked call a few weeks before the event and were told their representatives had only confirmed a handful of doctors for the program. How could we help?

In a matter of days, we set up and executed a highly targeted digital campaign for them. Although the representatives had months to sign up physicians, and we had only had days, we were able to enroll over three times the number of physicians the representatives had been able to and make the meeting a success. That’s the power of nonpersonal digital promotion.