It’s hardly a secret – the importance of online marketing is ever increasing. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have sparked new ways of reaching target audiences 24/7 and tailored to their very needs. Despite the obvious advantages of constant availability, relatively low marketing costs and complete traceability, the digitalisation of marketing as a whole evokes worries and doubts among some industries in particular.
With tight regulations on how information on medication is supposed to be marketed, the pharma industry has traditionally been on the print side of advertising. However, the MM&M’s 2016 Healthcare Marketers Trend Report has discovered some interesting shifts in pharma marketing budgets.
Marketing audiences change
While the overall marketing budget did not undergo major changes, the shifts in budget allocations is surprising. Top execs were asked about the perceived importance of key audiences and ranked patients/consumers second (46 % increase) with physicians in first place (52 % increase). With a decrease of 63 % and 69 % respectively, nurse practitioners and pharmacists plummeted to fourth and sixth place.
According to Guidemark Health CEO Matt Brown, “Doctors like digital”. Something which is backed by the MM&M’s findings. 86 % of pharma marketers targeted the so-called digital doctor. In order to reach their preferred audience, they turned to websites, digital sales materials, social media and digital ads. However, non-digital approaches are still deemed valuable – 69 % of the pharma marketers invested in printed sales materials while 48 % also went with journal print ads. However, according to InteloMed president and CEO Jill Schiaparelli, “Journal advertising has never been cost-effective. I've been doing this 20 years. Never once has a clinician told me that they were compelled to do something because they read it in a journal. For something like ‘visit us at trade show X,' it's fine. But by and large, journal ads aren't compelling.”
Targeting the consumer
As the perceived importance of consumers as an audience has surged, so has digital advertising to reach them. 76 % of marketers used digital means of marketing such as websites (66 %), social media (49 %) and earned media (41 %). Traditional advertising like print ads, radio and TV were used by merely 40 % of marketers.
The future of pharma marketing
Similar to many other industries, pharma marketers cannot and will not do without the possibilities of digital marketing – and rightly so. With the shift in key marketing audiences towards the consumer side, pharma marketing budgets are increasingly spent on digital channels – since that is where the average consumer can be found and targeted. According to Think with Google’s The Digital Journey to Wellness: Hospital Selection, patients heavily research their symptoms and conditions online before scheduling an appointment with a physicist. Hence, content marketing is another key online strategy to get in touch with consumers before the point of sale. High-quality website content like blogs by senior pharma staff can establish trust among the users and create a platform for strategically placed digital advertising. Whether the pharma industry will make use of the many possibilities digital marketing has to offer remains to be seen.
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