What Really Is the Best DTC Marketing Channel?

Ongoing research continues to show that more and more people are going online for health information—yet last year more money was spent offline than online. If DTC marketing is going to make the leap from mediocre to great, they are going to have to both spend more money on digital marketing—and, of course, also hire more people who have digital marketing expertise.

Consumer Research is Done Online—All the Time

With 24/7 access to the Internet becoming more and more commonplace, today’s healthcare consumer is going online to not only research health information, but also to research available treatment options. While comScore shows that pharma websites are still relevant, click-stream analysis also shows that patients are going to a lot more online sites to help them make treatment decisions. If pharma wants to be part of that conversation, then we need a multi-platform approach within digital marketing—not just a product website.

While TV is still an important channel for raising awareness of certain health conditions and new pharmaceutical products, a strong argument can be made that—using the latest data from Manhattan Research—the number of people who view a DTC commercial without going online is declining. Today your target audience wants to know more about your product—beyond fair balance. They want to know the cost of your product, and more importantly, what other patients are saying about using your product. They also want to compare your product to other treatment options—and the Internet is the best way to do that.

DTC’s Response is Simply Too Slow

So why isn’t digital marketing emphasized more within pharma? Three reasons:

  • The belief is—which is wrong—that online marketing is less expensive than offline marketing.
  • Digital is not always fully integrated within brand teams and it is usually a lower level position.
  • Finally, while there are some very good digital agencies out there, they can’t be as good as someone who works within the brand team and has access to ongoing research.

It’s also very important to remember that digital marketing has many different components. To execute it well, we need people who can spend their time with things like content, search marketing, social media and analytics. If you have just one person developing strategy and trying to execute all your digital marketing, then you’re already at a disadvantage. Consumer product companies are adding digital marketing people in droves—yet pharma seems to be always lagging—especially in hiring senior digital marketers.

The other important aspect of digital marketing that’s very important to understand: There is no such thing as “done.” Digital marketing is ongoing because only so many components exist, but all these components have to be tightly integrated to work well. If we are going to make the leap from good to great, digital needs become a bigger share of the DTC marketing pie.

  • 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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