At the recently held PharmaForce 2014 conference, which gathered over 200 senior-level pharma marketing executives, it quickly became evident that the pharmaceutical industry is currently facing considerable challenges pertaining to multichannel digital and social media initiatives.
The combination of the FDA’s sometimes vague guidance on how to use digital/social platforms and the pharma regulatory/legal teams’ anxiety regarding how they interpret these guidelines has many times prevented digital strategies from being developed to their full capacity. Moreover, social media requires relatively quick interactions with the customer—pharma’s regulatory/legal infrastructure is not designed for such fast response times. Meanwhile, healthcare practitioners, as well as patients, have become much more reliant on the digital interface to get information, and new HCPs entering the field are very tech savvy and expect to connect with products and services primarily online.
So how can the pharma industry address this gap between their limitations of expanding into the digital/social spectrum and their customers’ desire to engage through these channels?
Talks and discussions at the conference yielded 3 key recommendations:
- Establish effective leadership throughout the different levels of a corporation
- Disseminate the right content, with the right channel, at the right time
- Proactively seek creative approaches to circumvent limitations
First and foremost, like in any industry that is going through substantial change, effective leadership is essential. Leadership needs to be practiced on a personal, team, and company level. A clear, common purpose statement needs to be instilled throughout the company to reflect its conviction in pushing forth with digital marketing programs and social media.
Furthermore, it is not enough to merely pinpoint a suitable digital marketing channel—instead it is crucial to have the right content (message), with the right digital channel, at the right time to address true customer needs. These 3 elements can be captured through customer journey mapping, which is basically a framework that maps out all the stages of the customer’s life cycle with your brand. By knowing how the customer feels at specific time points, you can better engage with them by providing the specific content they are seeking at a particular moment.
Finally, the executives recognized that a creative “outside-of-the-box” mindset needs to be nurtured in pharma companies, and in their respective agencies, to deal with the current digital marketing limitations. In essence, we need to explore different, and sometimes indirect, ways in which we can still navigate and utilize the digital landscape to meet marketing objectives.
It becomes clear that by collectively pushing the envelope and challenging conventional beliefs/approaches on how digital initiatives can be created and used, new and innovative solutions will emerge.
Check back with us soon to get more insights on the latest news/conferences on pharma, marketing, and digital innovation.