Article contributed to PharmaLeaders by Rachel Murray, Head of Partnerships, Fountain Partnership
The last year has seen the Pharma industry propelled into the digital world in order to deliver clear communication to healthcare professionals and customers. Traditionally reliant on face-to-face communication, including selling, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated online migration leading to the Pharma industry having to adopt a digital presence. Whilst it has not been an easy or natural shift, it is a trend which is set to continue.
According to a recent report, the US pharmacy industry is currently worth $319.3 billion and is expected to grow by 3.3% this year. The UK pharmacy market is estimated at $15.52billion and growing steadily at 2% each year. This rapid growth on a global scale highlights why it is so important for the Pharma industry to embrace digital – if all of your customers are online then you need to be online too.
Yet whilst traditional offline methods of sales growth and reaching new markets are no longer the driving force, sales reps still lie at the heart of pharmaceutical B2B. Utilising digital as a way to support sales reps provides them with a new armoury of tools to reach new audiences and acquire new sales. It’s about integrating digital into the sales process, not replacing it altogether.
How to comply in your online advertising
For Pharma marketers, improving online visibility is key to driving sales with online advertising the most obvious solution. Yet it is often wrongly perceived that to do so is tricky due to the regulations governing this. And whilst the penalties are high if rules are breached, there is certainly no reason not to utilise this very important method of communication with potential and existing customers.
To advertise on Google, it is vital to understand each individual country’s advertising regulations in relation to healthcare-related content – bearing in mind some medications cannot be advertised at all. These include prohibited pharmaceuticals and supplements relating to weight-loss or steroids, or prescription opioid painkillers unless for medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
The promotion of prescription drugs, and prescription drug terms in ad text, is only allowed in Canada, New Zealand and the US. Promotion of over-the-counter medicines is allowed in 25 countries including Australia, Canada, US, parts of Europe and the UK. However, pharmaceutical manufacturers must have the appropriate Google certification when targeting only approved countries.
Whilst the promotion of online pharmacies is allowed in 20 countries worldwide, including the US and the UK, the content of ads and the products on offer must meet strict criteria. Online pharmacies must be certified by Google, and registered with the relevant pharmaceutical authorities in the countries that their ad campaign targets.
Don’t overlook digital platforms in your marketing strategy
There is a fantastic opportunity to use a multitude of digital marketing platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, YouTube and Microsoft Ads. Depending on what area of Pharma you’re in, you can target healthcare professionals and consumers with paid advertising campaigns on all of these platforms. The aim is to lead these audiences down the funnel to the conversion action that you want them to take, whether that be an online purchase or to raise awareness with healthcare professionals via various micro conversions with the ultimate aim of them becoming a repeat prescriber.
There are a number of ways in which healthcare professionals can be advertised to directly on LinkedIn. However, care must be taken with the language used in adverts, content and landing pages – being explicitly clear that this is not for the public.
The regulations for LinkedIn are that ads relating to prescription and over-the-counter drugs are prohibited. The key to success is keeping your ads and landing pages informational and ensuring that only relevant parties are targeted. To do so you can:
- Create a group on LinkedIn to encourage healthcare professionals to join and share information. A great way of doing this is to run a paid media campaign encouraging them to join. You can also share clinical trial data within these groups.
- Use LinkedIn to promote webinars on relevant topics to who you are trying to target. By sending them directly to your landing page to sign up, you can also add them to a remarketing list which will allow you to target them for up to 540 days.
- For this remarketing strategy to work, they should be shown ads encouraging them to read clinical data and other useful information to keep your brand front of mind in a positive way.
- You can set up remarketing on LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft Ads, YouTube and Twitter. It’s a useful way to build trust with your target audience over time for all areas of Pharma.
Google Ads and YouTube are also great ways to generate brand awareness and revenue using highly targeted keywords, audiences and placements. On Google Ads, there are between 100m to 500m weekly impressions for people interested in the health and medical industry making it an opportunity too good to miss!
The main guidelines for these platforms are:
- Advertisers must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council & approved by Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
- There should also be no promotion of prescription or specific drugs within ads or landing pages.
- Where a marketing company might own and manage a domain on behalf of a Pharma brand, written proof from the brand is needed to confirm collaboration with the marketing company.
The most effective way of using Google Ads is by using target keywords including medical terminology; informational keywords providing solutions and information on the ailment that your user is researching; and through informational display ads in relevant publications which support the Google Display Network.
The importance of getting your digital content right
With digital content becoming the new norm, implementing a SaaS solution such as Veeva is vital both for now and in the future. From its use as a data management system, to its capabilities in regulation and quality control, it allows pharmaceutical companies to stay in-touch with their agencies and produce blockbuster content that is accurate and useful to their customers, B2B or B2C.
Whilst sales reps need to become multichannel in their approach to provide effective customer engagement, there is the potential for healthcare professionals to become overwhelmed, and even underwhelmed, with digital overload. Pharma marketers need to ensure that they are creating compelling and educational online content to ensure effective customer engagement in the digital world.
Digital is here to stay
For the Pharma industry, embracing digitalisation is certainly a smart move. For those who don’t, there is the risk of being left behind. If your customers are online, and there are proven, effective ways of targeting them online, then this should certainly play a part in your marketing strategy.
Whilst the issue of compliance and what products and services can and can’t be advertised may raise concern, this should not be viewed as a barrier. Do your research, make sure you know what is allowed in your targeted country, and abide by the regulations. After all, you would in the physical world, so why not in the digital world.
About Fountain Partnership:
Fountain Partnership is an award-winning digital agency, specialising in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay-per-click (PPC) Search Advertising and Conversion Rate Optimisation. Their mission is to take the risk out of marketing and deliver exponential ROI through accurate forecasting and data-driven decisions.
Fountain Partnership is the only agency worldwide to have achieved Google’s Global Growing Businesses Online Award.