Innovation and change in pharmaceutical marketing
When new innovations arrive in business, some sectors adopt them quickly, others more slowly – and when it comes to digital channels, pharmaceutical firms among the slowest of all. We’ve been tracking the growth of digital marketing since 1995 and the pharmaceutical industry is a curious anomaly.
The combination of big management structures, global frameworks, understandable conservatism and unclear regulation has left pharma marketing five to seven years behind more innovative sectors in the use of the web. From clinicians to administrators, those involved in the purchase process switched to the web, but few pharma brands properly followed. Many rarely reach out beyond their own websites, and most websites remain simple Web 1.0 brochureware pages that play only a marginal role in the sales conversion process.
The result is a massive missed opportunity. Now that budgets have become tight, innovation will force its way through because the smart use of integrated digital marketing is preventing most firms from making the cost savings they need to. While every brand has a website, few had the vision and strategy to turn them into high traffic hubs their customers and influencers would regularly use. Most pharma brands only dipped their toes into web advertising, failing to realise the role online journals play in bringing together audiences and why they’re a sure-fire way to reach the right people. Most brands still fail to approach search engine marketing with a meaningful strategy so they don’t make it easy for potential customers to find them. Just as significant is the role of talking with existing customers or prospects and the potential that relationship marketing can play in transforming the attitudes and brand preference people have.
Email is one of the most under-rated tools in the pharma industry. It can achieve cut-through in a crowded media market, deliver precisely segmented and targeted messaging, and fit so neatly with the sales process that it fuels meeting appointments, conference attendance and re-ordering. It can also deliver thought leadership and insight right to the people who matter and do this at times and places to suit them, rather than the brand.
Now the financial climate is forcing firms to innovate, the pharmaceutical sector is in for the biggest shake up in a decade. Change is coming, and for the marketers bold enough to innovate, there’s a competitive wave they and their brands can ride for the next five years.