At the start of 2018. I joined a panel of experts to share key trends set to impact the upcoming year and beyond. My prediction?
Effective point of care alignment of patient/physician communication, enabled through multichannel synchronization across the pharma marketing spectrum.
So, how did we do? Which trends thrived, which ones flopped, and how can pharma marketers apply these learnings to drive impact in 2019?
Let’s dive in!
1. Meaningless Campaign KPIs
As marketers, campaign performance is routinely measured in standard KPIs, or key performance indicators. These include CTRs (click through rates), CPCs (cost per conversion), CPMs (cost per thousand impressions). The good news is these metrics are simple and easy to understand; the bad news is these success indicators are usually considered in isolation, and fail to tell the whole story of campaign performance and brand benefit.
In practice, what drives standout performance is attaining strategic alignment between these leading indicators and metrics that actually matter to brands, such as NRx (new script) lift, increase in adherence rates, and physician “honor rates” associated with specific patient medication requests, such as sampling, reimbursement and access information, and engagement with patient support materials.
Pharma marketers must instead start with the end in mind to drive meaningful engagement with the brand’s core story and goals. When every channel and tool align with the larger story, meaningful conversions result.
2. One-dimensional Media Plans
For the more than 350 million men, woman, and children living globally with a rare disease, 2018 was a year of hope: record-breaking numbers of new clinical trials, applications for orphan drug treatments, and many successful approvals. Yet, too often, I see pharma marketers approaching rare disease audiences with a narrow media mindset. Small budgets – and audiences – are no excuse for a one-dimensional plan.
We have worked on numerous orphan disease launches and campaigns targeting 2-3,000 patient and professional audiences. No media planning challenge quite compares with effectively finding and influencing a rare disease audience. Understandably, budgets don’t rival those of blockbuster treatments for larger patient populations, but it’s a mistake to triage your planning at the channel level.
Naturally, a rare disease is one that professional audiences usually encounter very infrequently; patient audiences are also challenged, rarely able to find reliable information online. Despite tight budgets and tiny segments, a “surround-sound” approach that broadly fills the funnel is first necessary. After building frequency to drive awareness, an effective campaign deeply engages increasingly qualified segments with relevant educational content. A well-strategized campaign ultimately engenders a specific action tied to brand goals.
3. Telling Your Story – Not Your Patient or HCPs
It’s easy to resort to highly clinical messaging to ensure compliancy or, on the other extreme, falling back on Pharma 101’s talk to your doctor about… In reality, both patients and HCPs place healthy outcomes at the forefront of their treatment efforts and crave content which, first and foremost, informs and empowers them towards their best therapy.
Taking the time to thoroughly understand and speak to your unique audience segments through precision targeting is therefore a key starting point and one in which digital media thrives. A pilot campaign using paid search and social media can serve as a rapid real-world laboratory to fast-track a campaign and get more reliable performance data. Equally illuminating is listening to your community, and echoing their concerns, fears, and personalized language in your campaign.
4. Diving into the Point of Care
Be present where the big decisions are made! EMR platforms reach physicians in the real-time context of actual patient consultations that spawn treatment decisions and can generate double, even triple digit lift.
The bedrock of effective EMR advertising remains choosing an optimal partner and program, creating appropriate and impactful content, and substantiating your metrics of success. Keep in mind that click-throughs are far less likely for EMR placements – reach and frequency will be the leading performance indicators.
After all, you want point of care HCP impressions to convert as an actual script, not necessarily a website visit. Ensure your placements are compliant, effective, and drive your brand. Not all EMRs are the same, and the market is fragmented.
5. Creativity Counts
In a recent unbranded consumer campaign, our challenge wasn’t necessarily competing against a crowded market or an established blockbuster. Rather, we needed to condition the market by building an implicit need for a health consultation with a local HCP through targeted patient education.
Knowing our target audience’s media habits and demographics, we settled on creating an exclusive series of interactive virtual reality videos to convey our message in a highly-engaging, novel way. By month two of the campaign, our results spoke for themselves: The first VR episode alone drove 60% of link clicks to site with CTRs as high as 6% – more than double the industry bench. But we not only measurably boosted reach and engagement – while lowering costs – we most importantly built the implicit need for our audiences, and presented a precise treatment solution.
Patients and HCPs are inundated with information on a near-constant basis. Grab their attention by investing in your creative, and continue the conversation with highly personalized, deeply relevant content that drives brand actions.
6. Branded or Unbranded? Choose Both
Pharma marketers can view disease education and making claims as an either/or scenario but, in practice, a combination of unbranded initiatives and branded information will best reach and convert your patient, caregiver, and HCP audiences.
Unbranded efforts, such as a Facebook group, builds trust and engagement within a community for patients to voice their questions and concerns in a supportive environment. By first building engagement and trust with content and community, these patients are then more comfortable seeking solutions, for which your branded content provides the perfect answer.
Branded Rx campaigns help educate and empower HCPs to determine the right treatment for the right patient at the right time, and never has there been such a powerful range of digital options. By understanding HCPs media habits and behaviors, marketers can target them at every touch point of the treatment journey.
7. Empower Patients with Technology
Just as precision targeting to page-level whitelisting have digitally transformed pharma marketing, patient communities deserve the same level of prioritization and focus to support the healthcare journey. We know that smart watches, telehealth, and EHR use is on the rise, and marketers must remain nimble to deliver sophisticated technology to digitally savvy patients.
What tools and media will best empower and also simplify treatment decisions? Did you know 72% of individuals* would rather use video to learn about a product than text? Is your content optimized for voice searches? From interactive questionnaires to streamlined sign-up forms, patient-centric marketing demands keeping up with the latest innovations.
8. Hyper-Personalization is Here to Stay
We live in a data-rich age which, as marketers, enables an unprecedented degree of personalization, which has already become the normative benchmark in reaching patients and HCPs.
With nearly unlimited programmatic access, retargeting by profile or custom behavioral triggers, cross-device consumer profiles, social media monitoring, page-level whitelisting, and multichannel lead scoring, the power of customer relationship marketing now extends across the entire digital ecosystem.
Welcome to the world of “inside-Out CRM,” where the personalization and immediacy of traditional CRM marketing is now pushed to the top of the funnel. The result is an omnichannel continuum and brands’ lifeline to efficiency, hyper-engagement, and long-term audience relationships.
9. Synchronize Patient and HCP Strategies
As in 2018, synchronizing consumer and professional strategies in 2019 will inspire better conversations when it matters most – at the point of care. Take the time to employ the right combination of messaging tactics, data platforms, and communications technology to build cross-audience considerations into your marketing plan.
Central to success is partnering with an experienced, dedicated pharma marketing expert who understands the technology, the creative and content and, most importantly, your unique brand goals and audience needs.
10. Social Still Matters
As of March 2018, the Pew Research Center’s survey* of U.S. adults found that the social media landscape “is defined by a mix of long-standing trends and newly emerging narratives.” Or, said another way, different age groups use certain platforms more than others — but this year’s privacy violations and data breaches left the social mammoth and daily use largely unharmed.
Social will remain key to your media mix in the new year, with data-driven targeting, immersive content, and volume of daily use continuing to increase awareness and drive conversions for your brand.
What tactics do you plan to implement in the new year? Which tactic has no longer served your goals? Does your media partner have the chops to propel your success in 2019? I’m eager to talk to you. Reach me here.