How Digital Marketing Is Becoming The New Pharma Sales Rep

The days of in-person sales calls and free lunch seminars from pharma reps have been waning for some time now. An annual study from CMI/Compas showed that primary care physicians are more likely to turn down in-person sales meetings than ever before — with more than 48% of now limiting sales rep visits. With increasingly digital-savvy doctors who are time-crunched and mobile, it’s high time for CMOs and brand marketers to reconsider what digital options are at their fingertips to reach healthcare professionals with their messages.

Let’s start with 53% of all marketing outreach to doctors happens without sales reps, the majority of which are digital communications, according to research from sales and marketing consultancy ZS Affinity Monitor. In fact, they report that for the first time in the eight years of their semiannual study, digital marketing activity actually surpassed sales force activity. The growing trend doesn’t mean that sales reps are going to disappear entirely. It means that doctors want to receive targeted and relevant communications that fit their work style, changing habits and information consumption preferences. It also means that medical and pharmaceutical marketers need to adapt accordingly, by shifting to the most effective digital channels to reach physicians.



To start, people are becoming more visual-based in their media information consumption, and physicians are no exception. Video content is an easy win for marketers, offering an advantageous way to humanize and explain complex ideas and concepts. It’s a highly engaging and palatable medium, and incredibly convenient to consume. Two quick and compelling stats to consider. First, according to Insivia, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text. Second, video will account for 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021, according to Cisco.

Video content is a no-brainer for pharma marketers as physicians are already spending an average of more than 180 minutes per week watching video content for professional purposes, according to a Google and Manhattan Research study. One provider, Switch Video, a creator of short animated videos with clients including Bayer and Abbott, uses its information-packed explainer videos to show doctors how specific medications work for particular diseases or to visually detail results of clinical trials. This stat may convince you: 90% of all healthcare providers have watched some kind of professional videos online such as videos from experts on specific conditions, drug mechanisms of action, and prescription information.

Second, doctors have long attended seminars as a way to hear from key opinion leaders and stay current in the medical field. However, traditional in-person seminars are quickly becoming far too time-consuming and expensive, yet doctors still need to educate themselves about the latest drugs, research and regulatory movements. This is driving the trend toward online conferences and presentations. 

Currently, according to my company’s internal data, more than 60% of healthcare providers have used online conferences more often than two years ago and more than 30% have watched a presentation from a key opinion leader in the past month. Marketers should note that these channels also have proven to be more effective as well — on-demand content has shown to improve viewership by an average of 40%. As an added bonus for marketers, data and analytics can be collected to gauge individual level of engagement, to help optimize and personalize future marketing efforts.

The last two critical key elements that marketers should consider when reexamining their digital marketing strategy are webinar platforms and mobile.

Webinars not only draw a captive audience who is deeply engaged (the average amount of time spent with a webinar is 57 minutes), they also work well with topics that are complex or detailed in nature. These virtual learning environments are in essence a modern, immersive educational experience that can tap vast repositories of content with custom-created elements that can be changed, updated and switched out in real time.

Last but not least, doctors are just like everyone else: glued to their smartphones. Kantar Media reports that 81% of physicians use smartphones for professional purposes. However, they’re not just checking their mobile every-once-in-a-while. Two-thirds of doctors who use mobile devices for work check them more than 10 times per day, according to a recent Merck Manuals survey. Healthcare marketers need to make certain they are optimizing their content for all mobile and tablet platforms, in order to effectively reach their targets, where they live – on-the-go.

Take advantage of these four digital tools to better reach doctors and forge new communication pathways that fit into their busy lives. Like it or not, digital is your new pharma sale rep.

2 comments about "How Digital Marketing Is Becoming The New Pharma Sales Rep".
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  1. Katie Barden from Creation Healthcare, December 5, 2017 at 5:16 a.m.

    Interesting read. Before jumping head first into digital activites though it is key to identify which channels doctors in your therapy area are using, what types of resources they are sharing, what information they are after etc. If you can do your research first then this will ensure any activities are much more likely to be effective.
    This free whitepaper on activitating your HCP digital opinion leaders may be interesting for those wanting to learn more:

  2. Sha Ali from, December 31, 2017 at 12:32 a.m.

    I have read your all dicasion it is really great news. We offer <a href="">email list for sale</a> leads for online marketing.

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