Approaching end of the year experts have two options to choose. The first and a safer one is to summarize past twelve months. The second, more dangerous but also more exciting is to predict what will happen next year. At K-message we find the latter option much more useful and interesting. Please enjoy our prediction of the Top 5 pharma marketing trends of 2014 below.
1. Integration of digital tactics within multi-channel marketing. Leveraging Closed Loop Marketing and Big Data advantages by more mature organizations.
For years digital marketing was treated as a fifth wheel in pharma business. Whatever we say, the truth is that those organizations are made of sales force. And digital marketing for sales force was just another marketing gimmick that does not add value but a workload and cost.
However, during past few years this traditional sales force thinking was challenged. Payers pressure forced companies to reduce ranks of sales representatives. Regulatory decisions have limited possibility of sales reps to meet HCPs. The result is that sales rep cannot meet his Client often enough to detail the product and maintain relationship in the same time.
Digital came to help with e-detailing and web-based self-detail solutions. CRM software supports reps with data that allow reps to have a meaningful conversation with HCPs they barely know. Combining detailing during visits with digital tactics and good old direct marketing is our new buzz word: a Multi Channel Marketing (MCM).
This Multi Channel Marketing approach allows even better results with something Pharma marketers call Closed Loop Marketing (CLM). What does it mean? It is a feedback loop that feeds every next action with the information gathered in previous touch points.
Those data combined may be used to shape the content of personalized newsletter send to the doctor X as the follow-up for the visit. When doctor X clicks on the link and goes to the self-detailing website his activities will feed any next action that company can offer (be it web conference or CME online course assignment proposal).
The concept is easy to describe, but very hard to achieve. Big Pharma usually has many different tools for each activity used by different business units at the same time. The data gathered across different channels are not only not standardized, but often they are not gathered at all.
Our prediction is that 2014 will be the year of integration of digital with other channels. Multi Channel Marketing campaigns, made better or worse will become a standard approach. Digital channels will become a core of those campaigns as they offer the most advanced and effortless data collection capabilities. When integration is done, more mature organization will start to play with Big Data, looking for the behavioral patterns, segmentation and optimized content.
2. Virtual conferences
Medical conferences are vital for pharma business. Unfortunately the cost of attending is too high for participants, and regulations are limiting possibilities of the industry to sponsor the attendance. The emerging trend is to compliment (if not replace) physical meetings with a digital, virtual presence.
Virtual conferences have many advantages that may not be obvious. They are cheap to organize, free to attend, accessible worldwide, and they do not have to be limited in time. Additionally virtual conference attendee can go to all the sessions one after another, pause and replay. While in real time of the event, there is possibility to network and perform Q and A sessions. If the event is replayed there is also possibility to maintain asynchronous communication via discussion boards or e-mail lists. Virtual event can be live for months and create a community around.
There are still some regulatory compliance objections (ie. no discussion on off-label, still researched use can be broadcasted and replayed outside of the physical event timeframe). There is still a group of attendees that strongly prefer physical meetings due to networking opportunities and informal chats. Technical solutions are not perfect and most of 3D meeting environments look like a joke in comparison with what consumer market offers for massive multiplayer online games.
Still, virtual conferences will become a common digital marketing tactic for pharma marketing in 2013. We recommend an exhaustive presentation on virtual conferences by Len Starnes below.
3. Embracing Social Media
It has to come some day: Pharma in Social Media. To be honest this trend is on the list since 2010 at least. Anyway, the time has come we believe. There are many factors that make 2014 a year when pharma should finally embrace social media.
The major one is coming from the unexpected corner. Industry was long hesitant to enter social media space due to the drug safety consideration. If you participate in Social Media it means you need to actively monitor it against any adverse events reports. The standard practice was however, to assume that if pharma is not listening it cannot be obliged to report. On the other hand such assumption may be wrong, so as soon as there is a tweet that meets all four conditions, pharma company will be probably considered obliged to find it and report. Thus, we believe that drug safety teams should push their organizations towards monitoring of social media.
Reminder: information needed for valid Adverse Event
- An identifiable patient
An identifiable reporter
A suspect drug or biological product
An adverse experience or fatal outcome suspected to be due to the suspect drug or biological product.
Another change that may increase Social Media priority on digital pharma marketing tactics list is Google’s algorithm. Social signals are more important than backlinks and Google+ or YouTube presence is a shortcut to the first page on Google Search results. If pharma wants to have their web presence visible, especially on the US market where DTC marketing is allowed, Social Media is a must have.
Third factor to consider is, well, social. The generational change in attitude towards social media affects HCPs too. They are active in Social Media, and they will talk about industry in this space regardless of pharma marketing presence there. At K-message we believe that big platforms, and especially Google+ will continue to grow in 2014 at the cost of closed niche communities like Sermo or Doctors.net.uk. To be efficient Pharma marketing should listen to the conversation, and engage whenever appropriate. Influencers of 2014 are in the social web, not in the conference room.
4. Mobile apps decline, raise of the mobile web.
This trend is not limited to pharma marketing. Mobile applications are really dead end for marketers in 2014. Due to the war of ecosystems and difference in mobile usage habits between regions and countries it is just not viable to create mobile applications. To reach your target audience you need to prepare few versions customized per OS, data usage etc. Very often such costly effort is done only to find out that the content not compliant week after launch and cannot be updated.
Still, mobile is on the rise, and you will definitely see John Doerr’s abbreviation “SoLoMo” (Social, Local, Mobile) on some slides in 2014. The answer is not the app but the mobile web. The content pharma marketing has to create should work on the small screen from the beginning. Every new website should be designed starting from mobile and tablet experience or at least have a mobile version available. And “mobile” does not mean that it fits the small screen. It is about making the content fit for mobile experience.
5. More visual content marketing
This fifth (although probably not the last trend you will see in pharma marketing 2014) trend is directly connected to Social and Mobile trends we discussed above. Content is the king for marketers in pharma for years, but in the age of social and mobile it cannot be text-only content.
On small screens and in social space image is worth more than thousands words. We will see videos, interactive infographics, images and animations. YouTube, Slideshare, Instagram, Pinterest. This is the content that is accessible on mobile, but also shared on social platforms. Of course pharma marketing cannot skip the text, but even for scientific, medical information there is a way to visualise it.