Digital Marketing Strategies Changing Pharma Sales Models

As patients continue to grow more comfortable in a digital world and more savvy about their health care options, pharmaceutical manufacturers are changing their sales models, according to a recent study.

Best Practices, LLC, surveyed 39 digital marketers at 30 large and small pharmaceutical companies to examine the most effective marketing strategies, identify innovative approaches and look for trends. “Key Trends & Innovative Activities in Biopharma Digital Marketing” included use of mobile and social media, wearable devices, electronic records and digital customer service models. 

“Pharmaceutical companies have to meet the growing number of educated patients who are out in the digital world,” said Cameron Tew, who heads research services and business operations for Best Practices, a North Carolina-based research firm. “What we’re seeing is the business model has changed quite a bit. They’re not sending in a single sales rep with that one product. Now, it’s a much broader group of people who are working at the provider level or educator level and talking more about the science of their products.”

The survey included 13 companies with 2014 revenue of more than $10 billion, such as AstraZeneca, Merck and Novartis. The balance of the companies surveyed had less than $10 million in revenue for 2014, including Biogen, Abbott and Baxter.

The study showed that the top three marketing channels for healthcare providers are e-marketing, e-presentations and point-of-care apps that allow health care providers to use mobile devices to check medical history or develop treatment plans based on patient needs.

“There are a lot more health care providers and health educators using iPads and other mobile devices to show presentations and collect health information,” Tew said. “Many of these apps are not branded, but they’re developed by pharmaceutical company grants and funds.”

The survey also found that high-performing mobile campaigns deliver a 17% return on investment, much higher than the median return of 7%.

Social media has been effective when it is used for listening and data collection or for facilitated discussions. Currently, 76% of small and medium companies surveyed and 89% of large companies conduct some form of data gathering through social media listening. Traditional “push” approaches to branding, such as a highly visible Twitter account, are less common.

“We live in a digital world and patients are learning more and more about their health online,” Tew said.

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