Hotspots in Biopharma Digital Marketing Innovation
The rapid growth of digital, mobile and related technologies has transformed the global communications paradigm, and with it, changed the ways in which consumers and professionals access information. In case of the biopharmaceutical and medical device industry, the development of a balanced, multichannel marketing approach, where organizations harness new technologies, can support the work of the field force, build deeper relationships, foster brand awareness and deliver medical education.
Despite the apparent benefits, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are behind on the adoption curve when it comes to digitization, to a large extent due to the heavily regulated nature of the industry. However, given today’s tech-savvy patients and physicians, digital marketing is no longer an optional component of a go-to-market strategy. While the process of optimizing digital capabilities is iterative and the associated gains incremental, many companies can jumpstart digital engagement by emulating some of the leading practices of digital frontrunners in the biopharmaceutical sector.
According to Best Practices, LLC’s latest research on pharmaceutical digital marketing, areas which exhibit the most innovative activities are deployment of dynamic content; mobile devices, wearable technology; and effective approaches to maximize the benefits of social media listening.
Implementation of dynamic content: Implementation of dynamic content and collateral is ranked among the most impactful program types currently used by biopharma digital marketers to inform and engage key customer segments, according to Best Practices, LLC’s latest research.
To make content generation more efficient, many biopharma companies are either developing new platforms or are partnering with savvy vendors. Content pre-approval and templatization are also proving to boost efficiency and versatility in dynamic messaging, allowing companies to plug content into various digital channels for a swift launch with wide customer reach.
Mobile devices: Another digital medium that has had a significant impact on how pharma engages its stakeholders is mobile devices (e.g., iPhone, Android). An ever-growing number of HCPs are using mobile devices – more than half of all prescribers in most therapeutic areas examined. As the smartphone has cemented itself as an educational tool used by so many physicians in the course of work day, many biopharma and medical device companies have responded in good measure, with majority of bio-pharma companies (88%) using mobile engagement programs to educate HCPs and promote products.
Similarly, approximately 58% of companies also use mobile channels to engage patients. Assessments and educational content for patients range from disease management tools, physical and emotional well-being support, or links to longer-form resources for subsequent laptop consumption.
Wearable Devices: The launch of the Apple Watch in the spring of 2015 has signaled huge growth potential in wearable devices. Though these devices largely represent a still-niche market utilized by early-adopting customers (e.g., tech aficionados, athletes tracking personal health data and performance), major pharma players cannot afford to sit on the sidelines indefinitely.
Perhaps reflecting the customary reticence to bleeding-edge innovation in a regulated sector, our research found that 42% of biopharma and device digital marketers call the introduction of the Apple Watch an “over-hyped” event that won’t significantly alter the digital marketing paradigm, while only about a quarter of participants predict wearables will become a major engagement channel.
Given marketers’ lukewarm expectations from wearable devices, it’s not surprising that roughly half of the pharma companies are simply monitoring new developments, while 42% are yet to take concrete steps to facilitate engagement in this area.
In fact, only 13% of organizations are actively preparing to address this customer trend. These projections downplaying the business and market potential of wearable devices may prove well-founded in time. However, biopharma companies on the whole and their multichannel marketing leadership in particular should be prepared to be “wrong again” on the growing importance of another customer channel – and be ready to accept the competitive risks of remaining idle.
Social Media Listening
Online disease state discussion among patients, physicians, caregivers and other key customer groups is steadily growing across both established and emerging online channels. Recognizing the potential value of this online discussion, savvy healthcare companies have launched increasingly innovative Social Media Listening (SML) programs to capture critical market insights. Listening and social monitoring activities are, in fact, the most common social media activity in the industry.
Listening on external patient and health forums is generally considered to be the most valuable source of information because of a clear patient voice and lesser “white noise” than is typically found on larger social media sites. Few companies, however, restrict listening ’on Twitter or Facebook. For many actual day-to-day listening activities, most healthcare companies hire third-party vendors, who are trained rigorously on proper protocols for identifying and rapidly reporting adverse event claims which are occasionally found in the course of listening.
Pharmaceutical and medical device companies can use the innovative areas outlined above as a reference point to jumpstart their digital engagement activities.