What Is the Impact of Consumers of Healthcare on DTC Marketing?

DTC marketers have often referred to target audiences as “patients” or “users.” But is that really the case? Today, because of the rapidly changing healthcare environment more patients are becoming “consumers of healthcare.” What does this mean for DTC marketers?

When the FDA first approved DTC TV ads in the ’90s. The model was that consumers would see an ad for a prescription drug and ask their doctor for or about the product. However that was before the disruption of the Internet. Today, with increased Internet penetration, consumers have a wealth of health information at their fingertips. When target audiences learn of new treatments for chronic or serious health conditions they, as consumers of healthcare, are going to fact check marketers’ claims as well as check out other possible treatment options.

Know Your Consumer’s Touch Points

The key takeaway is that there are a lot of touch points these consumers of healthcare use before making treatment decisions. DTC marketers should be aware of what sources of information patients are using to make healthcare choices. For example a click stream analysis, both upstream and downstream, can help clarify patients’ decision-making sources. If, for example, they are going to WebMD, what information are they finding that validates your marketing claims? What are people saying about your product via social media and what effect is that having on your DTC message?

The other aspect of the digital age that DTC marketers need to be aware of: Information overload. Search any health condition online and you’re likely to get thousands of pages of information. However, research has indicated that there is a direct correlation between organic page ranking and page views. DTC marketers should consistently review these pages, along with Wikipedia to ensure that the information presented is accurate and does not directly challenge their marketing messages. The same is true for media reports on prescription drugs.

Update and Provide Transparency

It’s not uncommon to read a news headline or hear, via the nightly news, potential problems with currently approved prescription drugs. Patients who want to know more, however, usually have to turn to third-party sources to determine whether to keep taking their prescription. Rather than let other sources control the message, DTC marketers need to update information and be more transparent about these sources of information.

Transparency means a clear and concise summary of the latest information and what it means to customers (patients). All it takes is one headline to torpedo an effective DTC campaign especially in the age where people read headlines and don’t read reports in depth because of time constraints.

Rather than think of people taking our product as patients we should think of them as customers. Today’s customers want more from brands in their life and this holds true for prescription drugs as well. Consumers of healthcare have more choices in choosing treatments and sources of information than ever. DTC marketers need to better understand the journey from awareness to asking for your product. That’s the way to ensure DTC marketing stays relevant.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.

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