Successful Integration of First- and Third-Party HCP Promotion

November 30, 2019

Pharma and biotech marketers are facing more challenges than ever in communicating brand messages to target healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Pharma and biotech marketers are facing more challenges than ever in communicating brand messages to target healthcare professionals (HCPs). Promotional tactics that have been very effective historically, such as personal selling and speaker events, have seen reduced effectiveness due to decreased access in HCP offices and regulatory issues affecting speaker programs. As a result, marketers have significantly increased their use of non-personal promotion, especially digital channels, to communicate key brand messages to HCPs. Consequently, pharma companies are increasing the number of digital promotions to HCPs, and they are starting to push back.

At the same time, a new set of challenges for pharma marketers is emerging, as their HCP customers are working longer hours, feeling overextended, and are burned out. Decision Resources Group “Taking the Pulse” surveys conducted over the past couple years indicate that nearly half of US-based HCPs have opted out of a professional email during the past six months, nine of 10 HCPs are either interested in using the ad-blocking feature on their smartphone or have already done so, and half of HCPs feel that pharma websites are overly promotional.

Most pharma brands use several different first-party promotional vehicles to deliver brand messages to target HCPs. This includes personal selling and non-personal promotional tools such as branded emails, branded display ads, brand.com websites, SEO/SEM, and organic/paid social. While all these channels have promotional impact, the survey indicates that two thirds of HCPs don’t care whether they use a pharma website, only that they get the information they need.

Third-party promotion comes from partners that often have high levels of awareness and credibility with HCPs. Examples of these include Medscape, Epocrates, Doximity, and BioPharm Communications. Most marketers believe that the optimal strategy leverages both first- and third-party tools, including email, direct mail, journal advertising, banners, microsites, and videos. Effective integration of first- and third-party communications requires careful coordination, using marketing automation technology in developing omnichannel rather than multichannel campaigns. With the latter, channels are not integrated and operate individually in silos, resulting in poor user experience. By contrast, omnichannel campaigns integrate promotional tools across all channels and partners and achieve greater promotional success.

At BioPharm Communications, through the successful implementation of over 1,500 HCP campaigns, we have found that there are six important keys to effective integration of first- and third-party promotion. The first is the use of robust data successfully shared and integrated between first- and third-party providers. Second, it is important to include all members of the first- and third-party groups in this process early in the planning cycle. Another key factor is the development of modular content. In today’s medical, legal, and regulatory environment, there are often significant challenges in approval of promotional content. Consequently, there is a huge advantage in creating modular content that can be used across multiple channels within these integrated campaigns. Marketing automation is also critical to implementing these campaigns effectively at scale, and this requires connected partners.

Another factor of paramount importance is to ensure that campaign reporting be completely integrated. This allows us to get a clear picture of which campaign elements are overperforming or underperforming. We can then make in-campaign adjustments accordingly to improve performance.

Unquestionably, there is an increased level of complexity in delivering effectively integrated first- and third-party omnichannel campaigns, but there are also significant benefits to be achieved. Reach of targets is extended by accessing HCPs who may be resistant to pharma websites or other types of pharma promotion. Second, an important study from the Journal of Advertising indicated that at least 10 exposures to a promotional message are required to achieve maximum recall and positive impact on brand attitude-showing the value of repetition. In addition, the credibility of trusted third-party content results in higher impact for brand messages. Finally, many third-party partners have important additional HCP data regarding channel preference, message preference, and other key factors that can be added to existing pharma data.­­­­