Pharma marketing is complex. Stringent regulatory requirements, rapid medical advances, and ever-changing needs and expectations make building relationships with HCPs almost impossible.
Are you making the most of digital-first events as part of your pharmaceutical marketing strategy? As one of the few remaining sources of first-party data, it’s easy to gather real-time insights and create fully personalized experiences to engage HCPs on their own terms.
We’ve spent 750+ hours analyzing how our life science customers are using digital-first events as a powerful channel in their pharmaceutical marketing strategy.
Read on to discover how to overcome the biggest pharma marketing challenges with events and how to create a successful pharma marketing plan.
What is pharma marketing?
Pharmaceutical marketing, or pharma marketing, involves promoting prescription drugs and medical devices to healthcare professionals (HCPs), patients, and consumers. For pharmaceutical companies, effective marketing is crucial to educating the market about new treatments, connecting with healthcare providers, and building brand awareness.
How much do companies spend on pharma marketing?
Pharmaceutical companies invest heavily in marketing to promote their products and connect with HCPs. According to recent estimates, the top 15 pharma companies spend over $50 billion annually on marketing in the US alone.
- The majority (over 60%) of pharma marketing budgets are allocated to sales representatives who directly market to physicians and specialists. Pharma reps provide information about new drugs, answer questions, and build relationships.
- Pharmaceutical companies also spend significantly on marketing events like conferences, symposiums, and meetings. By sponsoring healthcare events, pharma companies can raise awareness of their drugs through presentations, distribute samples and marketing materials, and network with professionals.
- Digital marketing channels are the fastest-growing area of pharma marketing. Pharma companies use social media, search engine marketing, and their own websites to connect with both professionals and patients. Digital ads, email campaigns, and sponsored content are all part of the paid pharma marketing strategy.
With huge investments and regulatory constraints, pharmaceutical marketing is a complex but crucial endeavor. An integrated strategy encompassing personal engagement, events, and digital marketing is key to building a successful campaign. By fostering meaningful connections and providing value to professionals and patients, pharma companies can achieve their marketing goals in a responsible, ethical way.
4 challenges with pharma marketing
Pharma marketing has changed a lot over the past few years. And with the ever-evolving digital world, some new challenges have emerged.
HCPs want personalized experiences
HCPs are fed up with being bombarded with promotional digital content that is not relevant to them.
“70% of HCPs said that pharma representatives do not understand their requirements completely. Further, 62% of HCPs said that the most significant area where pharma representatives can add value is by understanding the needs of HCPs and sharing only relevant content with them to make the interactions more insightful. The one-size-fits-all approach will no longer work, and pharma companies will have to invest in greater personalization at scale and build better content development and operations capabilities.” – Source
HCPs want more personalized experiences that take them on a journey. They don’t have enough time to receive content and communications about something that irrelevant to them and their field.
By targeting your pharma marketing efforts using life science event technology as a channel, you can send specific content, emails and notifications to groups of or individual HCPs to create a fully customized journey.
Gathering HCP data is not easy
With the death of third-party cookies, it is almost impossible to get clear insights into what HCPs want and need. How can you be expected to personalize your pharma marketing efforts without this information?
Events are one of the only remaining sources of first-party data. And with fully compliant event platforms that collect data and feed it automatically into your pharma CRM for you, gathering HCP data to analyze and drive your next best actions is easy.
HCPs prefer digital engagement
“With 68% of HCPs indicating webinars or webcasts as their most preferred channel to receive information, it is evident that HCPs are extremely time constraint and prefer to engage with pharma organizations on their own terms when it comes to channel, content, and type of devices.” – Source
After having a taste of digital engagement during COVID-19, HCPs have seen how much time and effort virtual experiences can save them. They want to have a choice about whether they attend an event remotely or in-person, for example.
To face this challenge, it’s important to look for an event platform you can use for any type of event – webinars, virtual, in-person, hybrid, or on-demand – and that has a wide range of interactive features to keep HCPs engaged.
Pharma marketing compliance and regulations
The pharma industry is one of the most heavily regulated. Strict laws govern how pharmaceutical companies can market their products to ensure ethical practices.
This poses significant challenges for pharma marketers when promoting products across different pharma marketing channels, like events.
- Pharma companies must follow strict regulations on marketing to ensure their messages are accurate, balanced, and supported by scientific evidence. All marketing materials require approval to ensure compliance with FDA and FTC guidelines.
- All marketing collateral, ads, and communications must be pre-approved to confirm claims are substantiated, risks are outlined, and messaging is balanced.
- Regulations limit how products can be discussed, demonstrated, or distributed at events. Marketers must ensure all event activities and materials are fully compliant to avoid legal consequences.
- Certain promotional activities, like giving away expensive gifts, are prohibited. This restricts options for attracting HCPs to events and encouraging product adoption.
- When sponsoring or attending conferences, symposiums, and other live engagements, companies must follow rules around giveaways, presentations, booth activities, and speaker programs. All events should have a legitimate scientific purpose.
- Regulations vary between countries, so international events require extensive planning to accommodate different rules in each market. This can be difficult to achieve while also tailoring events to local HCPs’ needs and interests in each region.
- Strict regulations apply to social platforms as well. Companies must monitor user-generated content on owned social channels and ensure any engagement from brand handles follows the rules.
- Companies must disclose any financial relationships with physicians, researchers or organizations. All payments and transfers of value should be properly tracked and reported.
- Personal information, health data, and other sensitive details collected from customers and healthcare professionals must be kept private and secure according to privacy laws.
- Staying up-to-date with the latest regulations and ensuring all staff are properly trained requires considerable time, money, and resources that could otherwise be spent on other marketing initiatives.
- Regulatory compliance is non-negotiable. Pharma companies must make it a priority to build a culture of ethics and establish strict internal controls to guide event strategies and tactics. With stringent self-regulation and by working closely with legal and compliance teams, marketers can develop impactful events that also meet all regulatory requirements.
To summarize, regulations significantly impact how pharma companies can market their products, particularly through events. But by making compliance a key part of their event strategies from the initial planning stages, maintaining a strong ethical culture, and keeping a close eye on regulatory changes, marketers can overcome these challenges and accomplish their goals.
Find out how to run digital-first events that fully adhere to pharma compliance standards in our joint article we wrote with Caroline Petit (International Advertising and Promotions Lead, Associate Director, Global Regulatory Affairs at Takeda).
How to develop a comprehensive pharma marketing strategy using digital-first events
To develop a comprehensive pharmaceutical marketing strategy using digital-first events, consider the following steps:
#1 Define your goals and objectives
What do you want to achieve with your pharma marketing efforts? Do you want to increase brand awareness, boost sales of a new drug, or gain more market share? Establish concrete goals to guide your strategy and measure its effectiveness.
#2 Choose compliant event technology to help you achieve your goals
Not all event technology is suited for high-touch industries. Make sure you look for one that has experience in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries, meets all compliance and security requirements, and has all the interactive features you need to run hundreds of engaging mixed event types per year.
Plus, we recommend getting event technology that fits perfectly with your life science event tech stack. That way you can have a single source of truth for that all-important event data in your pharma CRM, such as Veeva.
#3 Identify your target audiences
Determine which customer groups you want to reach, such as physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, or policymakers. Tailor your messaging and outreach to address the needs and interests of each audience.
#4 Choose the right pharma marketing channels
Select from options like social media, content marketing, advertising, targeted email marketing, and partnerships to achieve your goals. Events and content are effective for educating physicians and raising brand awareness. Social media and advertising help reach patients. Partnerships provide credibility.
Meet customers where they are. Employ multichannel marketing across platforms like email, social media, mobile apps, and more. An omnichannel approach boosts brand consistency and reach.
#5 Craft your messaging
Develop messaging that highlights the clinical benefits and value of your products. Focus on how they can improve health outcomes, reduce costs, increase quality of life, and more. Use a mix of logical reasoning, emotional appeal, success stories, and facts from clinical studies to build a compelling case.
#6 Evaluate and optimize
Track key metrics like website traffic, content downloads, event attendance, and sales to determine what’s working and not working. Make changes to your strategy and messaging to optimize results. Continually improve your approach through testing and learning.
Following these steps will help you build an integrated pharma marketing strategy focused on achieving your most important business goals through digital-first events. With a strategic approach, you can raise brand visibility, strengthen relationships, and boost sales. But remember – your marketing efforts should always put patient well-being first.
For detailed steps on how to organize a successful pharma event, check out our pharmaceutical meeting planning guide.
How to leverage digital pharma marketing channels
In today’s digital age, pharma companies must have an online presence to reach customers. Some of the main digital pharma marketing channels to leverage include:
- Social media: Build a social media strategy across platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Post updates, engage with followers, and promote your products and services.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads: Use PPC ads on search engines like Google to drive traffic to your website. Target keywords related to your products and services.
- Content marketing: Publish blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks and more to educate your audience and boost your search ranking.
- Email marketing: Send regular emails to your contacts with news, resources, events, and product updates.
To succeed with digital pharma marketing:
- Optimize your website for search engines and mobile devices. This will improve your search ranking and user experience.
- Post new content regularly to keep people engaged. Aim for 2-3 blog posts per month and 2-3 social media posts per week.
- Use tracking and analytics to monitor the performance of your campaigns. See which content and channels drive the most traffic and conversions.
- Stay up to date with digital pharma marketing trends, platforms, and strategies. The pharma industry is constantly evolving, so your pharma marketing needs to as well.
With the right digital pharma marketing mix, pharma companies can build brand awareness, nurture leads and drive more sales. An integrated strategy across channels will help you reach customers wherever they are online. Carefully track your results over time to see what’s working and make changes to improve your return on investment.
How to host engaging events as part of your pharmaceutical marketing strategy
To successfully market pharmaceuticals, hosting engaging industry events is key. Events allow you to connect with HCPs and showcase your products.
Choose relevant event types
Select event types that align with your target audience and products. Options include:
- Medical conferences: Reach physicians and specialists. Sponsor talks or exhibits.
- Advisory board meetings: Convene key opinion leaders to discuss new therapies.
- Investigator meetings: Bring professionals together to ensure the successful running of clinical trials.
- Product launches: Unveil new treatments through interactive experiences.
- Continuing medical education: Educate physicians on the latest advances. Provide CME credits.
Create an immersive experience
Design your event to actively engage attendees. Some ideas include:
- Moderated Q&A sessions: Host sessions where physicians can ask questions about your treatments.
- 1:1 meet the expert sessions: Allow participants to meet your speaking KOL in individual sessions. They can book a time and a room using your event app’s meeting scheduler.
- On-demand content hubs: Upload sessions recordings to a gated content hub with just a few clicks, so that HCPs can access them whenever and wherever they wish.
For more ideas on how to engage your HCPs, read our latest article on HCP engagement.
Follow up effectively
Connect with event attendees after the fact to stay top of mind. Execute follow-up like:
- Personalized emails: Thank attendees for visiting your exhibit or attending your session. Provide more details on products of interest.
- Phone calls: For high-value attendees, call to address any remaining questions and reiterate your key messages.
- Mailing product samples: For new drug launches, mail samples and marketing materials to help physicians experience your treatment firsthand.
Hosting well-designed pharmaceutical events, following up proactively, and educating HCPs about the benefits of your products and therapies are key parts of an effective marketing strategy. Engaging with your audience in memorable ways can help build brand recognition and increase prescription rates.
How to measure pharma marketing success
To determine if your pharma marketing strategy is achieving its goals, establish concrete Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure its success.
Some life science event technology automatically collects event engagement data for you and feeds it into your pharma CRM, so you can easily measure the success of specific sessions and follow up accordingly with individual HCPs.
Here are some examples of other metrics to track:
- Number of attendees at events: A higher turnout indicates your messaging and outreach are resonating.
- Social media engagement: Look at likes, shares, comments and click-throughs on your social platforms. Increased engagement shows your content is capturing interest.
- Website traffic: Monitor traffic sources, time on site, and bounce rate. More visitors arriving from social media and staying longer on your site means your marketing is driving the right audiences to learn more.
- Lead generation: The number of leads, like email signups or contact requests, provides a quantifiable way to see if your marketing is prompting the target audience to take action.
- Sales: For pharma companies, the ultimate measure of marketing success is sales of products and services. Correlate sales numbers with your marketing campaigns and events to determine their impact.
These KPIs, tracked over the duration of your pharma marketing strategy and events, will clearly show whether your efforts are building the necessary momentum and interest. Be prepared to make adjustments to underperforming areas to better achieve your key pharma marketing and business goals.
With an integrated marketing plan using both online and in-person touchpoints, you can create multiple opportunities to engage your target customers and move them along the buyer’s journey.
To find the right HCP engagement platform for you, check out our list.
Make pharma marketing a success by hosting digital-first events with SpotMe, the life science event platform
With the right approach, you can achieve great success in pharma marketing through events. The key to building a winning pharma marketing strategy through digital-first events is to create personalized experiences that HCPs love.
SpotMe is the enterprise event platform tailored to life sciences. With 10 out of the top 20 life science and pharma companies in its customer database, it is the first choice for data-driven healthcare events.
Keep HCP engagement sky-high with an interactive activity feed, networking, breakout rooms, Q&A, polls, live applause, gamification, and more. Make events more accessible and inclusive with live captioning, translations, and on-demand content. Get data insights that flow into yout pharma CRM as well as 24/7 instant support and white-glove professional event services to ensure your pharma events run smoothly.
Request a demo now and build the pharma marketing strategy that will help you achieve your business goals.
SpotMe was named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: B2B Event Management Technology, Q1 2023 report. Find out more.