Six Digital Marketing Trends that will Affect the Pharmaceutical Industry in 2015

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Digital Marketing Trends

The pharma sector has long trailed more consumer and tech-savvy industries in the uptake of digital media for marketing their products. Uncertainty around industry regulations and how to safely interact with patients and physicians have prevented many large pharma organizations from the type of sophisticated digital engagement approaches that are transforming other industries.

Tectonic shifts in physician and patient behavior – increasingly these groups go online to learn about medical conditions and various treatment options – has prompted to adapt or risk extinction.  As of January 2015, many leading companies are forging comprehensive digital engagement programs and earmarking a sizeable portion of promotional resources to these activities.

Here are six of the most important trends identified by Best Practices Benchmarking & Consulting, LLC that will impact how pharma and life sciences will evolve their digital offerings to better engage customers and improve product uptake.

  1. DM Service Mix Will Evolve beyond Doctors to Reach Patients and Payers: Digital marketing at most companies, especially with large pharma, has traditionally focused inordinately on the physician customer segment.  In this way, digital marketing has been used as a way to supplement the dwindling access of field sales teams.  In 2015, however, digital groups will help brand teams engage a much wider array of customers across an ever expanding number of channels.
  2. Physicians Will Continue to Remain the Key Target Group for DM: Physicians will remain the key customer target for digital marketers in 2015, especially for oncology products and other competitive therapeutic areas.   According to benchmark research, approximately 55% of digital FTEs are devoted to physician-focused promotional activities.
  3. The Line between Digital Groups and Brand Teams will Continue to Blur within High-Performing Companies: Designated digital groups have often provided strategic guidance to brand teams and business units.  By 2015, many of the highest-performing companies will have found ways of successfully fusing digital strategy into traditional brand planning cycles. Even within the same company, some brands and business units that have incorporated digital initiatives over several years will see higher business impact and oversee more tactical execution than more “traditional” brand teams.
  4. Resource Allocation to Digital will Increase by Up to 50% among Fast-Growing Companies: Given the increasing importance of Digital groups, organizations will see an overall spike in FTE and budget allocation. Best Practices, LLC’s latest research suggests that digital staffing will see an upswing of approximately 16% in 2015 from 2014, while the Digital budget will rise marginally by 4% in the coming year.  Digital investment at small- and mid-cap companies will grow by as much as 50% in the year ahead!
  5. Websites will Draw Majority of DM Resources: The website (both branded and non-branded) will remain the centerpiece of digital engagement in 2015.  Websites serve as a key intersection online whereby companies can attract new customers, retain existing customers, provide education and ongoing support, and capture analytics insights to continually refine over-arching brand strategy.  This year will see major resource allocation to website development. In fact, according to Digital Marketing Consortium research by Best Practices, LLC, companies will allocate up to one-fifth of all digital marketing dollars to enhance corporate and brand websites.
  6. Email Marketing Is Still a Key Pillar in the Pharma Digital Marketing Arena: Owing to its low cost and high leverage, email campaigns will serve as a key tool in the digital marketer’s toolbox to engage target audiences.  Moreover, measuring performance and ROI for e-marketing activities is seen as much easier by many pharma digital leaders than many other newer digital media.  Until social and other emergent media can point the way to clear returns for senior leadership, email will remain a core component of all digital efforts to engage physicians, patients, and other customer segments.

These trends emerge from benchmark research conducted by the Digital Marketing Consortium at Best Practices, LLC. The consortium is a community of practice dedicated to providing benchmarking and best practices about online and multi-channel marketing and other non-personal promotion tactics.  The consortium helps organizations chart a course to superior economic performance by studying the best business practices, operating tactics and winning strategies of world-class organizations in the field of digital marketing.

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