Pharmaceutical Marketing: The How-To Guide to Reaching Physicians and Customers

Your goal is to connect the right patients with your product, but competition is increasingly fierce, and both physicians and customers are wearier than ever before of pharmaceutical marketing strategy.

Therefore, it is increasingly difficult to raise awareness for legitimate drugs and stand out from other products.

For example, a study by JAMA shows that gifts do tend to influence doctor’s prescription decisions, making it more difficult for legitimate drug companies to stand out and develop meaningful relationships with doctors.

Fortunately, there are still ethical marketing tactics that can help pharmaceutical companies stand out from the crowd and connect the right patients with the best drugs. 

This guide will break down how you can market to both consumers and physicians with ethical and effective strategies that will improve your bottom line.

Table of Contents

Before Launching Your Marketing Strategy

Before launching your pharmaceutical marketing strategy, you need to do a few key things to ensure that it will be a success. 

The first step is positioning your product effectively. For example, if you have a drug for depression, you probably already know that there are plenty of other drugs available for depression.

So why is your drug different, and what does it do better than any other drug in the market? Is it designed for a specific age group? Does it solve a particular problem for people with specific variations of a disease?

Once you’ve identified the key reason why your target market should use your drug over anyone else’s drug, create a marketing strategy with that unique selling point as the main driver of each campaign.

Prepare plenty of research to support this unique selling point. Also present it to both doctors and consumers as a key cornerstone of your pitch.

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Marketing Your Products

Whether you’re marketing directly to consumers or to doctors and physicians, here are some of the best ways to connect with your audience and effectively communicate the value of your product.

Social Media 

Most pharmaceutical companies avoid the social media marketing strategy because the FDA regulates what companies can post regarding their products. However, this provides an excellent opportunity for legitimate drug companies.

Specifically, the FDA requires you to post both the benefits and risks of your product. You can only produce true information. 

For legitimate drug companies, this is actually great news. It levels the playing field and will allow your brand to shine through as a solution. One of the best ways to leverage social media is by doing live streaming Q&As between a doctor and social media fans or case study style interviews between a patient using the product and a product representative.

This is the approach that the drug company Lilly took. It is an excellent way for audience members living with these symptoms to hear from other people suffering from the disease.

At the end of the video, the patient reveals that they use Lilly’s drug. This creates excellent bottom of the funnel content.

While these are unique ways to improve the bottom of the funnel content and increase conversions, there are other ways to create top of the funnel content to drive more brand awareness and engagement.

For example, Novartis is a drug company with a product that developed a drug for MS. However, rather than discussing their product, they decided to create a campaign of user-generated content.

Many people suffering from MS post phrases and stories about how they are stronger than it, so Novartis leveraged it to create a campaign.

As a result, the drug name, Gilenya, was mentioned 21% more by patients to doctors, and it quickly became the company’s most successful drug with $3 billion in annual sales. 

However, Facebook isn’t the only social channel that companies can leverage to improve pharmaceutical awareness. Twitter and Instagram are also excellent DTC channels and can use similar tactics.

If you’re trying to reach a younger audience, TikTok may also be a relevant channel. For example, Mucinex is the first brand to launch a drug on TikTok, and it was a massive success. They partnered with four TikTok influencers, and each one created a video of themselves dressed as sick zombies who then became healthy with the help of Mucinex. 

The total reach at the end of the campaign totaled 400 million views and helped make the launch a massive success.

Paid Advertising

Paid advertising is another marketing strategy that will help predictably improve the visibility of your pharmaceutical brand. 

As you get started, you’ll find that many platforms regulate what pharmaceutical companies can advertise, and you will still have to abide by FTC and FDA regulations (advertising platforms don’t check the legality of your ads). 

That said, Google AdWords and Facebook are excellent advertising platforms for pharmaceutical companies. 

For example, Lactezin is a drug for acne, and they launched a Facebook ads campaign that used a video to dispel old wives’ tales regarding pimples. The campaign was very successful, increasing sales by 10% and even produced as much success as their TV ads (at a much lower cost).

Google AdWords is also very useful, though pharmaceutical advertisers must be certified by Google before running ads for their marketing strategy. This includes a Google ID, your pharmaceutical license, and contact information.

Once you’re certified, you can run ads on any of their channels. 

A great example of a drug that sold very successfully through Google Display ads is Cymbalta, a competitor to Prozac. 

They decided to attack depression from a perspective of how it affects patients physically rather than the obvious mental health effects.  Therefore, people could use the interactive map to point out where their body physically hurt. 

This was a key driver of the campaign’s success and ultimately helped the drug rake in over $4 billion.

However, display ads aren’t the only ways you can reach your ideal customers. You can also use text ads for keywords such as “best drug for (illness).”

Another great way to target your ideal customers is by running ads to content related to the symptoms you treat. For example, if you offer a drug for depression, you might create content regarding how to fight depression and then run ads to it.

SEO

While Google Ads are a great way to increase awareness and clicks to your website, it will be useless if your website isn’t optimized for Google. Not only will you pay more for your bid if your website isn’t optimized, but you will also miss out on a lot of organic search traffic. 

In fact, organic search drives about 53% of website traffic, while paid advertising only earns about 27% of website traffic.

So how can you better optimize your website?

First, ensure that you have a solid technical foundation that is safe, secure, and easy for the customer to use. 

A good technical foundation includes:

  • HTTPS rather than HTTP
  • Fast page load speed (less than 2 seconds)
  • Easy website architecture (less than 3 clicks to get to any page)
  • Solid internal linking structure
  • Eliminating dead links and 404s
  • Eliminating duplicate content

Once you have a strong technical foundation, you can start optimizing for individual keywords.

For example, if you offer a drug for acne, you can optimize for keywords like “best acne cream,” “acne cream for face,” and “acne cream for women.”

Finding the best keywords to rank for will also depend a lot on your unique selling point. For example, if your acne cream is particularly effective for back acne, be sure to optimize for keywords that target people with that problem.

To optimize for these keywords, you can create a mega page describing the unique features and benefits of the product and then include an FAQ section that answers the questions from your keyword research. For example, you might have a section that answers:

“How to get rid of back acne?”

“What causes back acne?”

“How to get rid of back acne scars?”

For the most part, Google is quite competent at understanding synonyms. There’s no need to include both “how to treat back acne” and “how to get rid of back acne.”

Once you’ve filled out the page, be sure that your title tag and meta description have your main keyword. In this example, “back acne” is in the title.

Here’s what the title tag and meta description look like in search results:

Once you’ve optimized your drug’s core pages for specific keywords, then it’s time to build links to these pages. While link building has a bad reputation, it is essential to SEO success and can be done legitimately.

Perhaps my favorite way of building links is by earning them organically (which is how Google intends it to be). For example, statistics, data studies, and case studies tend to earn a lot of links. Be sure to sprinkle these into your pages. 

However, if you still need a boost, you can build links manually by guest posting, broken link building, and more. You can find an entire list of link building tactics using this guide

Content Marketing 

However, ranking a page number one is very difficult. Even if your page has a little more information and more links than your competitors. 

Why?

Google wants to rank the most authoritative page first. Therefore, they will also look at your overall authority ranking and brand presence. So if the other website has slightly weaker content on that particular page, but a strong brand authority, it will likely still rank first. 

So how can you improve your authority and brand presence? This is where content marketing comes in. Content marketing is essentially using your blog to answer common questions related to the pain point your product solves. For example, if you have a drug for OCD, you might write several articles around OCD.

To generate these ideas, you can use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs:

Though perhaps even more useful is searching forums like Reddit. For example, these are excellent examples of blog post ideas that your target audience might search:

In addition to this, you can also generate blog post ideas from your current customers. For example, what are the most common questions that doctors ask your detailers? Or if you sell direct to consumer, what are some of the most common questions on sales calls?

Another essential aspect of your content marketing strategy is case studies. For example, if you have stories of patients that have changed their life with your drug, be sure to showcase those stories on your website. 

These are often the most powerful content pieces as your target audience loves to learn how other people with their pain have learned to manage or control it.

By approaching your audience from a place of value, it’s much easier to win them over. 

In fact, some pharmaceutical companies even created unbranded websites that have purely information to help the reader. From there, they channel the traffic to their own product and eventually convert them into a customer.

For example, the Joslin Diabetes Center has a customized disease management offering called Diabetes Health Coach. In addition, Novo Nordisk has a resource called Cornerstones4Care, which offers free help to diabetes patients and eventually converts them into customers.

Email Marketing

While it may seem like an archaic and dated approach, email marketing is still used by a wide variety of pharmaceutical companies, and many have seen great results. 

For example, emailing health care professionals (HCPs) with current research, case studies, and comparisons is a great way to keep them engaged. If you’re emailing consumers directly, you can share customer success stories and an overview of comparable products.

As you’re emailing your target audience, be sure to email no more than one time per week. This will help you prevent overwhelming your customer.

In addition, you should regularly scrub your list and remove inactive users to prevent sending your emails directly to spam.

Free Samples 

If you focus more on selling to physicians, one of the best ways to improve your brand awareness is to offer free samples. Sending a representative to explain the drug’s use and benefits, along with free samples, is the best way to both provide value to the clinic and increase brand awareness. 

In addition, most gifts (including dinners and non-monetary gestures) must be recorded due to the Physicians Payment Sunshine Act. However, free samples do not have to be recorded.

Free samples are often so persuasive that some facilities no longer accept them. However, other physicians argue that they are also the only way that some of their patients can afford treatment.

Therefore, it’s undeniable that free samples are a powerful marketing tool for pharmaceutical companies. You should take advantage of it whenever possible.

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Pharmaceutical Marketing Agency vs. In House Team

Now that you have a solid understanding of a strong pharmaceutical marketing strategy, should you have your team execute it in house or partner with a marketing agency?

In many cases, the answer is both. 

Assuming that you partner with a quality pharmaceutical marketing agency, they can provide you with an instant team of specialists that most in house teams would take years to build. In addition, they’ve already helped other companies just like yours achieve success. This shows that they can guide you towards your north star.

Combined with your team’s unparalleled knowledge of the company’s competitive advantage and overall goals, you’ll be on the fastest track to success by using a combination of agency and in house teams. 

Hiring a Pharmaceutical Marketing Agency 

Once you decide to partner with a pharmaceutical marketing agency, who should you partner with and how can you evaluate each one and their strategy? Here are a few key pillars to look for in each candidate.

Industry Experience 

The first and perhaps most important one is industry experience. The pharmaceutical industry has many rules and regulations that could land you in serious legal or trouble and large fines. Even posting to social media can be dangerous if you exaggerate a drug’s benefits or omit important warnings.

In addition, if an agency advises you to speak at a conference or pay a doctor to speak on your behalf, you could be fined if the presentation isn’t compliant with industry regulations. In fact, some drug companies have been fined billions of dollars for non-compliance. Here’s a snapshot of a few of the most costly fines.

However, compliance aside, industry experience will also ensure that they know how to bring success to your business. On the call, ask these specific questions:

  • What other pharmaceutical companies have you helped, and what kind of results did you achieve for them? (Ask for hard numbers and how it improved their bottom line)
  • How do you measure results, and how do you hold yourself accountable to them?
  • Does the actual account manager/specialists I’m working with have experience in pharmaceuticals?

Customized Action Plan 

Next, ask them to send a proposal. Take note of how the proposal is structured. Does the company incorporate your goals into the proposal, or is it just a random number?

For example, do they ask for your company goals on the sales call and then give you a realistic time frame for achieving those goals? In each proposal, do they mention how each plan will help you get to that goal?

If they don’t have a clear action plan to achieve your goal, you’ll probably see slow month-over-month growth. However, it won’t be as efficient as your company expects. 

In addition, ask if they will allow you to change the action plan each month. For example, can you pay the same retainer fee and work on different projects from month to month? This allows you to include research reports, white papers, and other items that aren’t typically be included in your monthly deliverables.

They Are Full Service

Hiring a marketing agency that is full service will give you access to an entire marketing engine. This enables you to adjust your pharmaceutical marketing strategy easily without a hassle (such as increasing ad spend and decreasing SEO spend).

In addition, working with a full service agency will ensure that all of your marketing efforts are aligned and working together. For example, if you have a content marketing agency and a Facebook ads agency, they may not have the same goal and vision for your business leading to a disjointed approach.

They Hire Specialists 

The next key to hiring a pharmaceutical marketing agency is to ensure that each person working on the account is a marketing strategy specialist. In many agencies, the people doing the marketing execution (such as writing the content and running the campaigns) are actually juniors or outsourced freelancers. To ensure they use specialists, you can ask to speak with the person running your SEO campaigns, content marketing, ad campaigns, etc. 

In addition, if the agency uses freelancers, it’s quite normal for agencies to have a high churn or for work to be late. Therefore, if the agency is cycling through freelancers, you may have a different outcome for each project, leading to a lack of clarity in branding and voice.

They Communicate Effectively

Finally, any partner you wish to work with should communicate effectively and always be easy to reach (within business hours). If you find that they don’t respond for more than 24 hours and are unresponsive during important times (such as campaign launches), you should fire them immediately.

A telltale sign that an agency will be a poor communicator is if they don’t call you back within 24-48 hours. Especially if they don’t respond to your emails within a day or two.

In addition, most agencies will include a monthly or biweekly call in the contract. Be sure to ask about their policies and if they charge extra for additional calls.

Get Your Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategy Running

If you’re struggling to produce the results your pharmaceutical needs, feel free to give us a call. We’d be happy to look over your current marketing strategy and provide recommendations. This will improve brand awareness and conversions for your pharmaceutical company. We can also help you identify where you can cut costs. In addition, we can set up tracking to ensure you accurately measure results.

Our team has decades of experience combined and can help your pharmaceutical company reach its goals. Fill out this form and start your journey to marketing success today.

Stodzy’s Approach To Pharmaceutical Marketing​

By choosing Stodzy to market your pharmaceutical company, you will know that your online efforts are in good hands. From developing your branded website and managing your SEO to keeping up with your social media and e-mail list, our specialists will be there for you every step of the way. Whether you’ve been promised quick results in the past only to see your website traffic tank or you’re opening a brand new pharmaceutical company and don’t know where to start, Stodzy knows how to help you reach more customers and grow your business. Contact us today at 800-761-1426 to get the process started with a free site audit and consultation.

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