For many pharma marketers, there’s one challenge they keep struggling with – fully understanding their customer base – physicians. As sales rep access declines and physicians are burdened with more obligations than ever, communication is one of the key hurdles in pharma marketing today. Here is the current state of pharma marketing and how pharma companies can work to better connect with physicians.

Marketing spend is through the roof

There’s no denying it, pharma brands spend a lot on marketing every year. As it turns out, it simply makes more sense to invest into marketing rather than research, as the ROI is unbeatable. As a result, pharma companies spend 19x more on marketing than R&D on average.

Marketing spend in pharma

In a research by Deloitte, it was found that companies such as Johnson & Johnson spend $17.5 billion on marketing. At the same time, they spent $8.2 billion on R&D. Results vary, but on average, the returns on R&D have been a meager 4.2%. For this reason, for every $1 spent on research, pharma companies close to $19 on marketing their products.

However, despite the massive spending, many pharma companies are unsuccessful in their marketing efforts. Let’s delve into some of the reasons why this happens.

Slow move to digital

One of the reasons why pharma companies have spent such amounts on marketing is the fact they haven’t gone fully digital yet. On the other hand, physicians have fully embraced the new digital realm, using it for connecting with peers and informing themselves about latest breakthroughs in their therapeutic areas.

This creates a kind of a catch 22. As pharma companies are unwilling to try out digital marketing methods, they have no insight into how effective they are. And because they don’t have these insights, they are not willing to take a risk and try it for themselves. Of course, other pharma companies withhold their information on effectiveness of digital marketing, so it’s up to pharma companies to make the move themselves instead of waiting on role models.

What’s holding pharma companies back? Their own ranks, as it turns out. According to Docplexus, for 27% of pharma marketers, their biggest obstacle comes from top-level ranks in their companies.

Spending time and money on the wrong channels

In their effort to communicate with physicians, pharma marketers often spend time and money on the wrong digital marketing channels. For example, 44% of physicians state that having information about drugs on pharma websites helps them make better decisions about prescribing. However, there are very few pharma companies that focus their online presence on this type of information.

Of all the available channels, physicians seem to prefer those where there is no pharma involved. In fact 56% of HCPs vote for doctor-only networks as their primary method of online interaction. Conversely, only 12% of pharma marketers focus on this channel.

Different ideas of engagement for physicians and pharma

One of the key reasons why the majority of pharma marketing today is not functioning is because pharma marketers and physicians have very different ideas on what is useful. Today’s physicians want scientifically accurate information on the latest drugs, scientific publications and advancements in therapeutic areas. They want to find out about this information through websites, CME courses, journals, email and other digital means of communication.

On the other hand, pharma companies put the majority of effort into their field force. Pharma companies have high hopes in their sales representatives, which, as we have written, is not an effective strategy any more. Many physicians complain that the information provided by reps is biased and that they are already familiar with it. In this way, pharma companies do more harm than good and waste significant efforts on a channel that simply does not work.

How to connect pharma and physicians more effectively

As can be seen, there needs to be a significant shift in pharma marketing to truly connect physicians with pharma companies. Here are some of the ways to connect pharma companies and physicians in a way that benefits all key stakeholders, including patients and payers.

Give digital a try

With billions of dollars spent on marketing annually, pharma companies should allocate a portion of funds to digital instead of traditional marketing methods. Trying out digital pharma marketing on a small scale can show how effective strategies such as multichannel can be with more significant investments.

Turn off the sales mode

The average physician of today has heard so many sales pitches by reps that they practically tune them out. Instead of giving them rehearsed data from studies they’re already familiar with, physicians need value. In other words, they need to be informed on how a specific drug improves patient outcomes, with real-world evidence backed with solid data. Science should be the medium of communication, not sales.

Be present everywhere (online)

Multichannel marketing is one of the biggest buzzwords in pharma today. No wonder, as 63% of pharma marketers believe it yields the best results. However, physicians disagree. Only 20% of HCPs use online and offline channels to connect with pharma brands, with 68% of them voting for online-only methods of communication. Pharma companies need to adjust their strategies and shift their focus online instead of offline for maximum engagement and reach.

Skyrocket your marketing efforts

Do you feel like you could use a little help with your pharma marketing efforts? At BlueNovius, we work with over 50 pharma companies across the world and we know the ins and outs of a successful pharma marketing campaign. Reach out to us today to find out how you can benefit from a data-driven pharma marketing strategy.

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