Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategies
for Lead Generation
Digital advertising is a channel often underutilized by pharmaceutical companies, a wasted opportunity, as it helps address the industry’s manifold and often unique challenges.
What is Pharmaceutical Marketing?
Pharmaceutical marketing is the practice of advertising drugs and treatments to healthcare providers (HCPs - both individuals and organizations) and consumers. The latter is strictly regulated in most countries, which presents many challenges. Currently, only two countries allow direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs: the United States and New Zealand. For example, the ability to use value claims in ads is restricted, limiting the viability of the traditional marketing style of communication.
Five Challenges of Pharmaceutical Organizations That Can Be Addressed by Adopting Digital-First Strategies
Digital marketing creates new possibilities for pharma brands. What challenges are unique to the industry, and how can digital marketing help brands overcome those challenges?
Lack of data in a crowded space
Modern digital marketing methods are becoming mainstream in pharma marketing; simply using digital channels is no longer enough.
How do you stand out from the crowd? By creating a better workflow of gathering data and using it to adjust strategy.
From audience insights to informing targeting and style to measuring results, analytics help achieve a steady return on investment, save time and effort. Many tools exist to facilitate this approach.
Complex and strict regulations
FDA regulations still apply to digital marketing for most intents and purposes. For more information, review the regulations on the FDA’s website and FDA’s FAQ.
As one of the most highly regulated industries, pharma has to maintain high ethical standards in communications. However, it is easier and cheaper to maintain standards by embedding advisors in marketing teams rather than training each sales representative to follow the guidelines.
Pharmaceutical products are often aimed at a small percentage of the population. Once confined to placements in mass communication channels, ads can now be targeted to reach patients and HCPs directly, at the right moment, and in the right context, personalized to feel like one-to-one communications.
Even one-to-one communication with healthcare practitioners (HCPs) becomes easier and less costly as companies develop more patient- and provider-focused communications and utilize new, effective formats and channels.
One of the significant trends of the digital age is that customers become increasingly distrustful towards companies without a positive image. Neutral is no longer enough. In addition, HCPs are becoming better educated and more aware of safety and ethics in areas adjacent to pharma products.
Building trust in communication means absolute honesty – making no misleading or untestable value claims. Instead, a focus on quality data and presentation, partnering with other trusted institutions, and CSR activities will see your brand inspire trust.
Digital channels let companies exert better control over their communication style and metrics, especially for a diversified portfolio of products, by embedding expert oversight in marketing teams.
Note: Digital channels make gathering feedback from HCPs and patients easier.
Dependency on sales reps meeting with HCPs
Although busy doctors are less likely to want to meet reps as it takes valuable time, digital channels have their own challenges when it comes to reaching HCPs and establishing trust.
Digital materials, no matter how well done, are less engaging than face-to-face meetings. They can, however, be more informative, easier to control, more correct, cheaper, more reliable, and consistent.
Perhaps most importantly, in a data-driven approach, how HCPs engage with digital content informs future decisions. Existing relationships with doctors can be easily managed with CRMs, opening the way for easier responding for queries, giving updates, etc. Digital campaigns can also prime HCPs for meetings with reps.
Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategies
for Lead Generation
Building trust through relationship-building
Pharmaceutical content marketing
Pharmaceutical advertising through online communities
Search engine marketing
Marketing strategies usually have a dual focus – HCPs and patients. Some high-level elements apply to both groups, but different channels and formats work for HCPs than for patients in tactical execution.
Building Trust Through Relationships
We already mentioned the challenges related to trust. Patients usually consult with their doctor before making medical decisions. This trust invested in HCPs is a significant factor, as patients are more likely to buy with a doctor’s recommendation. Doctors are more likely to prescribe pharmaceutical products or treatments from brands they know and trust.
Here are some of the most important factors or considerations for marketing to doctors:
Relevancy – marketing to doctors, must be extremely specific to achieve results. E.g., a brand might have its content strategy focused on a website with all the information a prescribing doctor or patient could need.
Targeting – Tactical placement is crucial to reach individuals who might be desensitized to traditional marketing strategies.
Research – The resources should explain the benefits of the drug, recommended dosages, clinical trial data, safety information, risks, etc., articulated in a concise and easy-to-understand way.
Pharmaceutical Content Marketing
Content marketing can help with the positioning of a new product, generate awareness and new leads. Crisp copy and high production value helps cut through the noise of communication from rival companies. Many companies produce large amounts of cheap, unremarkable content which doesn’t convert. To get through the noise, smart companies rely on a combination of storytelling, multimedia, and a modern SEO approach.
For a digital-first approach we recommend creating content and graphics designed from the ground up for your online channels. Traditional content formats tend to not perform as well in online channels, much like communication designed for HCPs, won’t convert patients to buyers. That’s not to mean there’s something wrong with reusing the visual assets between leaflets and an email campaign, or the other way – this is good for consistency.
Note: Content marketing doesn’t have to be digital. For some products, traditional methods are still the way—E.g., TV ads for products targeted at seniors.
Pharmaceutical Advertising Through Online Communities
There is excellent potential in positioning products in communities where HCPs and patients naturally converge to discuss relevant topics. Social media attracts a lot of attention when it comes to health. HCPs are always looking for new ways to connect with other professionals. Meanwhile, patients enjoy discussing health.
Social Media platforms, in particular, provide an audience of highly engaged people, who can be targeted both organically and via paid means to help achieve marketing objectives. One of the most compelling benefits is the amount of data those platforms make available to advertisers. This allows marketers to measure campaign performance precisely and gives them flexibility in targeting users on Facebook.
Note: Before advertising on Facebook, read their advertising policies here.
Note 2: LinkedIn’s advertising policies state, “Even if legal in the applicable jurisdiction, LinkedIn does not allow ads related to prescription pharmaceuticals, drugs or any related products or services. Ads that promote illegal drugs, highs, herbal medicines and treatments, psychoactive effects of substances, or aids to pass drug tests are all prohibited.”
Most patients will now use search engines to find information or solutions relating to drugs, treatment, disease, or other issues. If companies can provide precise and efficient answers to these search queries, this will inevitably impact sales and revenue.
Note: Google has a fairly specific list of guidelines for healthcare and medicine advertising. Google only allows prescription drugs to be advertised in three countries. Prescription drug ads are only eligible for display in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
In addition, pharmaceutical manufacturers must become certified with Google to be able to advertise. To advertise on Google, you’ll first need to apply for certification.
Finally, be sure to check Google’s list of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements.
This method is attractive to sellers for three reasons. It lets them reach organic target audiences, so there’s often no need to earn customers’ trust as they already trust the affiliate. Done well, affiliate marketing bypasses ad blockers and banner blindness. Finally, there’s next to no financial risk. At worst, no sales happen, and no money is spent, as affiliates are paid on a per-sale basis. The ideal choice for pharma marketing is the pay-per-lead model. It requires a more complicated action, such as signing up for a newsletter or filling in a form. It’s a great option for complex sales funnels, where the product’s value may not be immediately apparent.
Affiliate marketing can be performed on multiple platforms, which can be divided into four broad categories:
Content Sites. Bloggers, influencers, reviewers, etc., can channel their authority on private sites or social media to put products in front of target audiences.
Great for upmarket brands, brands that want to disrupt the market.
It can indirectly improve your brand image.
It might be a challenge to find the right platform for niche products.
Search Engines. An approach focused on paid advertising in search engines, large web portals, and social media.
It doesn’t require an established audience
Easily testable results,
Requires an upfront investment
Email Marketing. Still relevant thanks to automated marketing and optimization tools.
Instant access to target audiences.
Easily testable results.
Risk of becoming associated with spammers - work only with trusted vendors.
Voucher, Loyalty, and Cashback Portals. Often used for selling services.
Great for sales that care more about scale than hyper-targeting.
Portals like these usually have substantial user bases.
High chance that users will share offers with friends and family.
A note on targeting: Narrowing the focus of marketing campaigns and personalizing messages for specific customer base segments makes ads more relevant to the audience and increases conversion rates. This is especially important in pharma marketing, where products are often relevant to a small part of the population. In this case, targeting long-tail keywords to rank high is easier and only limited by direct competition for the same niche.
Blockchain Technology and Healthcare Analytics
Medical records have historically been plagued by problems related to security, accessibility, and complexity. Data leaks lead to staggering losses of money and trust. The time-consuming process of accessing medical records exhausts resources, and delays care.
An emerging field of blockchain technologies is a promising solution to these problems. Blockchain relies on a secure cryptographic database and shared ledger making it possible to keep a decentralized and transparent log with undoubtable records of origin. It makes managing data, keeping it safe, and sharing it with a select group of trusted institutions easier. Blockchain data can be easily encrypted with unique security chips and be made accessible, e.g., only by hospitals, researchers, or healthcare administrators.
Another trend accelerated by the adoption of blockchain is increased ownership of data by patients. The decentralized, transparent nature of blockchain allows patients to manage their medical data while allowing hospitals to have easy access. This opens the way for using health-related data from wearables and mobile devices – such data can be safely uploaded through the network without the risk of a malicious 3rd party being able to tamper with it, as long as the device itself is not compromised. Even if that were the case, the records can remain safe if, e.g., the hospital protects the record from being altered with their own encryption key. In such a system, the patient would only be able to alter their data with permission from the healthcare unit but would still have control over who can access it.
Critics of blockchain often note that mainstream adoption in healthcare would generate high costs. When a transaction is requested on the blockchain, one party must pay for the computation. The scale of healthcare data would make this cost of computation significant, though not necessarily more expensive. After all, the current systems generate their own costs, are difficult to search and organize, and at the same time raise safety concerns.
When it comes to analytics, modern digital tools can help decrease costs and improve patient satisfaction as healthcare services move into the digital space. By understanding how HCPs and patients interact with products or services, companies can begin the process of iterative improvement.
The first place where analytics come into play is user experience. We already touched upon the subject of content personalization and A/B testing content, which can improve the user experience and reduce costs once they’re automated through workflows. However, website analytics go beyond personalizing content. Heatmaps, usage statistics (CTRs, bounce rates, devices used to access the site, etc.), and tracking traffic sources are valuable data that can help businesses understand what part of a website or app needs improvement and how users interact with the product.
Besides user experience, SEO analytics can help determine if the website has the correct keyword density, alts on images, no duplicates and plagiarism, a logical internal structure, valuable backlinks, etc.
Finally, there are ways to gather feedback directly through built-in questionnaires, chatbots, emails surveys, focus groups, and other qualitative research tools. While response rates from such research tools are relatively low and rarely representative in statistical analysis, the feedback is still actionable. It can help eliminate blind spots in website or app design, customer journey, and more.
It’s even possible to scan the web for mentions of specific words and phrases – this is called social listening, and it’s a great way to get honest feedback “in the wild,” though it’s only an option for well-known brands which attract a lot of attention.
To sum up, website analytics of all kinds are a great source of Insights and a worthy investment. They enable businesses to refine the way they interact with customers, creating better customer experiences, improving brand image, and saving money in the long run.
Real World Pharmaceutical
Lead Generation Examples
Example marketing funnel for a patient-oriented campaign
B2B pharmaceutical lead generation case study
Example Marketing Funnel for a Patient-Oriented Campaign
Top of the Funnel: Education & Awareness
At this stage, patients do research online and talk to physicians. They read about symptoms, look for other people with the condition, search for news.
To reach TOFU customers, use help-seeking ads. FDA recommends they “describe a disease or condition but do not recommend or suggest specific drugs.” Such ads “may include a drug company's name and (...) a telephone number to call for more information.”
Middle of the Funnel: Diagnosis
At this stage, patients look for diagnosis, including second opinions, referrals, tests. They research prognosis and consider various treatment plans.
To reach MOFU customers, use either help-seeking or product claim ads. Patients’ depth of research makes this an excellent stage to rely on content and affiliate marketing.
FDA recommends product claim ads name the drug, the condition it treats, and talks about benefits and risks in a balanced fashion.
Bottom of the Funnel: Treatment
At this stage, patients attempt to access formal treatment, make plans, inform their family or other support structures.
To reach BOFU customers, use either product claims or reminder ads. FDA recommends that reminder ads give the drug's name but not the condition it treats or how the drug works. For this reason, they are not required to contain risk information unless the risks are serious. Very accurate targeting is necessary at this stage, and highly engaging channels such as newsletters and education content are effective.
Recurring Customers: Living With a Condition
At this stage, patients are aware of the drug and treatments available and often have considerable knowledge and strong opinions on the matter. If they are unhappy with their current treatment, they often actively seek out alternatives.
The social aspect of the patients’ experience makes affiliate marketing, newsletters, and social ads effective at this stage, focusing on personalization and ongoing education, as building long-term relationships with customers drives product loyalty for this segment.
What About B2B Pharmaceutical Lead Generation?
Generating B2B pharmaceutical leads can be very different compared to consumer-oriented marketing campaigns. Because nothing illustrates this better than an actual campaign, we recommend reading our B2B pharmaceutical marketing case study.
The case study outlines the challenges we met, the methodology we used to overcome them, and the results of a recent, successful marketing campaign, all in a format that’s easy to scan and learn from.
Ready to take your pharma digital
marketing efforts to the next level?
Struggling to gain quality leads, trying to kickstart your marketing efforts, or looking for strategic advice to market your pharma product or service? Save time, money, and resources by hiring Llama Lead Gen as your pharma marketing expert.