Open Letter to Pharma: You’re Marketing Wrong

Here’s the problem: You’re paying hundreds of thousands for a website that isn’t meeting patient needs. The solution to this isn’t simple, but it is possible. While there are myriad reasons that pharma marketing is a challenge—from regulations to privacy issues and beyond—areas of opportunity can be taken advantage of right away and will provide a positive ROI.

The number one thing to remember is this: Your brand’s marketing assets should be treated as living and breathing organisms. Don’t stop at creation—also care for them, monitor them, nurture them and help them to shape and grow.

Move Your Process from Linear to Collaborative

Too often ad creative and messaging is built prior to having an understanding of the media efforts where it will be used. At times, creative agencies will operate in a silo without consulting the media buying agency. The traditional cadence of developing creative, then bringing in media to get the creative out in the world, then involving search and analytics, is stunting. That linear process needs to be replaced with a more collaborative process in which media and creative are sharing strategy together.

Where to start: The key here is to bring all parties to the table during the planning phase and set the expectation that multiple variations of creative will be used throughout the life of the campaign. Not only will creative need to be specific to the tactic being employed, but alterations to the creative messaging will need to be optimized as performance data is collected. Yes, you look to your creative agency for strategic counsel and that’s good. But you should also bring in your media and other agencies to bring their strategic thoughts to the table. Those minds contain valuable insight that can challenge the norm to bring you better results. It is important to remember that the job of optimizing creative does not stop after the first launch. Data should be continuously analyzed and alterations to the creative should be made accordingly.

Over-Parent Your Sites

In any industry that uses paid media to drive traffic, ongoing optimizations to the web property are the norm. Creating the most optimal user experience through ongoing testing and analysis can help increase engagement rates. In the pharma industry, websites are built, launched and left alone—but we need instead to be helicopter parents with our web children, continually monitoring their every move. However, due to a wide array of factors, ongoing optimizations and multivariate testing are hardly employed.

Where to start: With proper education and expectation setting by agency partners, implementing multivariate testing is something that should be a standard operating procedure for all marketing efforts. This is something that you should instruct your agencies to do from the beginning. With media agencies most likely to have led these efforts previously, your standard procedure should allow them to guide the process.

Make Use of Media Landing Pages

Huge sums are spent each year to drive traffic to brand.coms, yet the web properties do not undergo consistent optimizations efforts. One of the best opportunities to improve on this is to create and use a media landing page. This page’s dedicated purpose is to move patients, caretakers and healthcare professionals further along their path.

Where to start: How this page is designed would be dictated by the brand goals and where the brand is during their lifecycle. As an example, if the drug being promoted is a breakthrough type of treatment that has a strong differentiator from the competition, a page could be created that leads site visitors to watch a video on the MOA, and also highlight efficacy data. Having a strong call to action and limited available navigation can guide users to view the most important content related to your brand. Right now, some of the largest marketing agencies are dumping paid search traffic directly on the homepage of a brand website—even when a user has purposely searched for a term that includes specific keyword identifiers such as “dosing,” “efficacy” or “MOA.” To prevent this from happening, ensure that your paid search agency is working with a deep linking strategy and sending searchers to the most relevant page on your website.

Use SEO from the Start

Search engine optimization should be at the heart of any new website built for a pharmaceutical drug. By building your website right the first time, you eliminate multiple rounds of revisions to fix HTML tags, sitemaps and redirects, and present search engines with an easily navigable website. This allows for proper indexing and can help increase your rankings.

Where to start: A plethora of data is available on search behavior that can help provide guidance to creative agencies regarding what content to create. By developing an understanding of this prior to developing a manuscript, the website content can be created to match with commonly searched terms. Consumers and HCPs expect more from websites than just the dosage, ISI and efficacy pages.

Leverage Social Networks

Each day, millions of health and wellness conversations occur on social media. Today, social media is proven to be beneficial and usable for pharma marketers and should be part of every brand strategy. While the FDA has provided only very high-level guidance on how social can be used, those not taking advantage are continuing to fall behind.

Where to start: Social media can be employed in multiple ways that are relatively easy to get through med/legal. Brands can begin by listening and developing an understanding of what their audience or patient pool is talking about across social channels (see Figure 1). This data can be used to optimize website content, creative messaging and media buys. Once this understanding is developed, building out and executing a social media strategy is the next logical step. With consumers and HCPs accessing and sharing information across networks such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Doximity, Sermo and more, ignoring these channels will cause your brand to miss out on a significant opportunity.


It Takes a Village

So you’re sitting at the table with all of your agencies and you’re talking not just strategy, but also about your strategy’s sustainability. How are you going to create this thing of beauty and nurture it so it continues to live? Enjoy the adventure.

  • Justin Freid

    Justin Freid is Chief Growth & Innovation Officer at CMI/Compas. Justin is focused on finding opportunities for CMI/Compas and its clients to grow, from building new tools and partnerships to leading sales and marketing efforts.


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