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In a recent report by eMarketer, it is forecasted that marketers in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries will spend $1.64 billion on paid online and mobile advertising in 2015, up from $1.43 billion in 2014. Those dollars are split fairly evenly between direct response and brand awareness campaigns, with 56% of their digital advertising dollars on ads that are meant to drive a conversion event and 44% on ads that have a branding-based objective.


Content, Context, or Audience?

Regardless of what a marketer’s campaign goal is, they are focused on who, specifically, they are reaching. While content, context, and sites are important, in today’s consumer-driven world, identifying and reaching the right individuals and maintaining a consistent dialogue with them across all channels is paramount.  Through programmatic buying, companies have access to an open marketplace for buying and selling of media in real time. The auction-based, automated transactions also enable marketers to apply the data available to them and hone in on the individual most likely to help them move towards their desired goal. Campaigns are set up taking into account hundreds of parameters, sites, search terms, and more, and can be evaluated and optimized in real time. Programmatic not only adds tremendous efficiency and scale, but allows marketers to minimize budget waste and maximize the return on their investment. BIG-PHARMA.jpg


This is a challenge for pharmaceutical marketers, however, because they need to know exactly what they are buying, where their ad will appear, and what commitments can be guaranteed on their exposure levels and budgeted prices for their inventory. Pharmaceutical marketers are trying to reach their target, at scale, to make the best use of their digital investments because there’s a limited and costly health inventory.  And they must do this while creating a brand safe environment and achieving FDA, FTC, and HIPAA regulatory compliance. But with the right support, buying can occur over known and approved white list sites which will assure ads don’t show up in random locations on the web that are potentially problematic for the brand.


Brands, Agencies, and Technology

Tools like MediaMath enable organizations to optimize and activate their media buying through 1st and 3rd party data across channels like social, video, and ads. As a hub for digital media buying, MediaMath is an open, extensible  platform powered by an algorithm for which the decisioning and outputs are  is transparent to marketers.


Pharmaceutical companies, like many marketers, are also looking to balance the relationship with their agencies and technology partners.  Marketers are seeking more control and transparency over the digital media buying, but instead of posing a threat to agencies, MediaMath firmly believes there is a tremendous opportunity for agencies to fuel programmatic strategy, share visibility into campaign insights and data analytics with their advertiser clients, and work efficiently unison.


Do This Next

As pharmaceutical marketers take a more patient-centric approach, ad spend will continue to increase. But with that increase in spend comes a demand for increased understanding. Pharma has a lot of data; they just don’t know how to harness it yet. Pharma ad buyers must become more comfortable with testing. They need to look at what their audience is looking at. They must analyze current channels and create alignment. They can’t view each channel as a separate strategy. They must outline awareness and recognition, presentation and diagnosis, treatment selection, therapy selection and access, and persistency and advocacy, and then document which channels apply at each stage to create look-a-like models with this information.


And Then Ask Yourself This

Lastly, as companies evaluate programmatic digital ads, they should answer the following questions.

  1. What marketing technology are we currently using?
  2. What are our goals?  Conversion rate?  Brand awareness?  In-store purchases?  HCP requests and resulting scripts?
  3. What are our desired outcomes?
  4. What data can we currently access?
  5. How much paid media are we executing?
  6. How are we currently transacting with publishers?
  7. How are we using video?
  8. How are you using social?
  9. How are we targeting at the audience level?


As seen from the projected digital ad spends, pharmaceutical marketers will increase ad spend across digital channels. And with that increased spend pharmaceutical companies must partner with organizations that can appropriately target media buying, drive the desired awareness and conversion outcomes, and leverage all channel and technology platforms.


How are you focusing your efforts on goals, instead of guesses?

We all know that marketing's primary objective is to assist in driving revenue.  But for many life sciences companies that becomes secondary because of competing projects and constantly managing through the compliance minefield.

Many organizations are also implementing new sales processes and working with marketing and sales organizations with low tenure.  Life Sciences marketers struggle to support multiple brands and sales organizations efficiently. Marketers often become reactive to the needs of their teams and sales organizations are tied to the pace of the marketing department.  Marketing needs to become agile and proactive in the support, education, and enablement of their sales teams.

At PharmaForce 2015 I facilitated a series of roundtable discussions on prescribing alignment across pharmaceutical marketing and sales organizations.  There were several alignment challenges defined, but several organizations have begun implementing programs to reduce those hurdles.  CNVYAH1UwAASj9J.jpg


Balancing Strategy, Tactics, and Data

Marketers participating in the roundtable discussions recognized that their understanding of field sales tactics was limited. Sales raises ad hoc issues, and marketing applies band-aids to those pains, but there are still disconnects. One marketer stated “We should be concentrating on Blue Ocean Strategy, but traditionally, this industry doesn’t take that approach.”

The recommendation usually suggested in these situations is “consult the data”.  But data is often a challenge contributor.  These pharmaceutical companies have too much information today. There’s a data overload and it is paralysis by analysis.  “We can tell what a doctor is having for breakfast” said one marketer in jest. 

Several organizations have started to pull from back from what’s delivered, and are now focusing on how it’s delivered.  As marketers are discovering, sales doesn’t need every data point.  Marketers must consult with sales to understand what information is needed to conduct an onsite or virtual detail.  Marketing must also provided justification for the “why” behind the marketing programs. It’s important for sales to understand why more expensive marketing programs are allocated to those HCPs who are more engaged.  But the delivery of information needs to be more organized.

One participant said “We need to focus on the process.  The process needs to change in order for us to get content that makes sense.  We need a more cross-functional date.  We need timelines to match with product launches and we need to know the risks before we launch.”

Likewise, marketing needs to embrace the feedback of sales.  One sales executive has found success in content co-development with marketing.  “We have good collaboration with content development.  When sales needs information or new content, we give that feedback to marketing and they take it seriously.  When sales teams advise marketing on an idea, they’re good at bringing these ideas to life.  Some of our most successful campaigns have been 1 min e-detailing videos on disease stages.”


Recruitment Gaps

The pharmaceutical industry has historically promoted sales reps into marketing roles so they can get a feel for what it’s like to work on content.  Other companies only promote marketing from within. “We don’t want to have inside-the-box thinkers.  It’s not the best thinking and it doesn’t provide forward movement for our organization or for the industry.” 

Some marketing organizations are now recruiting outside of the industry.  Hiring people with no pharmaceutical experience, but with a proven marketing track record, delivers a new and fresh perspective.  Cross-industry pollination also allows for the introduction of marketing programs and tactics that have worked in retail, financial services, or even sports entertainment, but haven’t been tested in pharma.

A marketing executive volunteered that they brought an outside person in to evaluate, improve, and execute product launch marketing. This new hire had no pharmaceutical experience and, therefore, was comfortable pushing back on the plans and trying something different. 


Customer Definition

One thing that marketing and sales have in common is the customer. But as one attendee pointed out, the problem is that the customer is different for sales and marketing.  Sales people are interacting with people that marketing is not targeting.  Often the customer for sales is the HCP and the customer for marketing is the patient. Because of this, sales and marketing objectives aren’t aligned. 

To overcome this, marketing and sales are meeting together to bring the customer (both definitions of the customer) into the conversation.  They work to not just talk internally among each other, but also reach out to customers to understand what they need and what they want to see.  They solicit input from all parties to drive customer alignment from the beginning.   Marketing commits to spending time in the field for a minimum of two days each month. Sales commits to post-analysis after field engagements and at the conclusion of marketing programs.

These exercises and commitments allow teams to align objectives while putting the customer at the center.  Sales and marketing are committed to aligning with what the customer wants, not what they think is best.


Change Management

At the conclusion of the roundtables I asked; “is this an alignment issue, or a change management issue?”  The consensus was change management.  As one participant stated; “I think of inertia.  The approach is “this is the way it’s done, so we’re sticking to it.” Compliance piles on other change management challenges.  Said one person “No one wants to be the lone gunman with the great new idea that could potentially get us in legal trouble.” Fear oftentimes prohibits advancement.

It’s very difficult to influence change.  External forces are often needed to affect change. The development and implementation of these programs will only be successful if the organization buys in. And when we think of change management, we tend to think that this must come from the top.  In truth, change management starts with Human Resources. If you have an HR team that can recruit the right individuals with the right mindset, then change will occur naturally.


“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.  For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who profit by the new order.  This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries, who have law in their favor and partly from their incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it.”

  • Machieavelli


Do you find your marketing and sales alignment issues are similar, or different?  What programs have you employed to solve alignment issues?