Monday, April 4, 2011

Pharma Marketers: Smiling Through the Pain

Pharma marketers, it’s little wonder that you aren't happy people these days. The feds have yet again pushed off making decisions about how to regulate social media interaction; your DTC spend has dropped; the Sunshine Act will, indirectly, shift who your customer base is; and your end-users are spending lots of time checking out the goods on the Web before buying. Forgive us for reminding you that patients no longer just blindly take their doctor’s advice on a script.

Your mood is understandable. You need to account for every cent in your marketing budget. We get it.

But may we look at this from another angle? You may not have to recreate your wheel. You can take out a few spokes and replace them.

In other words: Have some fun while you’re miserable.

How? By learning about the game from others in the game. A Medical Marketing and Media article – an oldie but a goodie -- points out that while Pharma companies are learning from other industries’ marketing strategies, they haven’t yet caught on to the value of their own ROI experiences. The article suggests pharma needs “a clear optimization plan…. so that when results come in, everyone can deal with them as opposed to having an academic debate” about what mix works the best.

And then of course, there is keeping track of those Web searches –- not only the searches that patients make, but also those that physicians make. More than 70% of physicians search the Web for drug information, and 30% change the script or treatment course because of information they find on it, according to ThomsonHealthcare.

And more and more, those searches will lead pharma marketing pros to other social media sites like Facebook. For two years in a row, the word Facebook was the top search term on the Web, according to Experian Hitwise.

But waiting for the FDA to make a ruling before industry members are allowed to play the game will lead to many different challenges, not the least of which is disintermediation of their own products. When the FDA finally figures out how it wants industry to conduct itself in the social media world, marketers may not be able to create new spokes for that wheel. We suggest you do some scenario planning to get to those answers.

And hopefully, smile again.

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