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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Mar 2, 2016 12 min read

How Big Pharma Should Be Using Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing Might Limit The Amount Of Annoying Commercials

Inbound Marketing For PharmaMy son and I love to watch Jeopardy. We watch it most nights. It’s the only show that I don’t record and then fast-forward through the commercials. The reason I mention this is because I don’t watch a lot of live broadcast television, and I was shocked at the number and length of the pharmaceutical commercials.

Viagra, Stelara, Restasis, Lunesta – the list goes on and on. Commercial after commercial, all showing happy people who’ve kicked their disorders. But, we have to listen to every single potential side effect until the commercial is over.  It’s certainly not winning me over or making me feel safe to use these medications.

So, what’s going on? Do you remember life before pharma advertising?

Big pharma had tons of salespeople who spent their days visiting doctors’ offices, sharing information and buying them stuff. This New York Times article describes the details around paying doctors to prescribe medications. As part of the new Affordable Care Act, the government has required that pharma companies now document every single dollar provided to doctors in order to limit the pay-for-prescriptions culture.

The result is that much less money is flowing into the doctors’ offices. But, that money has to go somewhere. Since it was influencing buyer behavior previously, it makes sense to try and influence buyer behavior again – this time with TV and print advertising. Instead of getting the doctors to prescribe their drugs, they’ll get the patients to ask for the drugs.   

You know I hate being interrupted with TV ads, so as a service to the pharma marketing community, here are six ways you could be more efficiently targeting your potential customers, better spending your precious marketing dollars and more effectively building your brand.

People Are Searching, So Work Harder To Get Found

You’re still practicing reach and frequency: Tell as many people as possible as many times as possible about your medication, and if they ever need it, they’re going to remember you. WRONG! It’s not how people buy today, and it’s becoming more and more challenging to actually get through to the people you’re supposed to be pestering with your ads. The old reach and frequency marketing model is over.

Instead, work harder to be found when people are searching for the conditions your drugs help solve. I did a quick search for ED and found ONLY paid ads from drug companies. No pharma companies were anywhere in the natural listings. What did come up in the organic listings were, info from the Mayo Clinic, and info from Wikipedia. These information sites are beating you out for organic rankings.

By diverting even a small part of your TV ad budget to getting found for keywords, keyword phrases and questions related to specific conditions, you can drive very targeted, highly interested visitors to your website. This is very low-hanging fruit, and these are highly targeted potential customers – so much different than what you’re targeted with TV ads.

Publish Educational Content

I took the time to visit a few of your sites. Wow. So much information, so little time. Who’s going to wade through all that? I know there are a ton of compliance issues that you have to include, so I’m not even talking about that stuff. But, the general web experience was very academic and not very human.

The people on your sites have real issues, and they want to be treated like people. Once I skipped off the Cialis home page, there wasn’t a single picture of a human being – strange for a site that is supposed to be there to help people. Even the home page was running one of those silly ads with the older couple kissing. We get it.

You have so much great information that people with this condition could benefit from, yet all you offer is a $200 off coupon. Where’s the whitepaper, e-book, video, podcast with doctors, patient stories, tip sheet, comparison charts? People need information that they can take away so they feel safer about considering your medications.

Create Offers For People At All Stages Of Their Buying Journey

While you consider this, consider that people visiting the site are at all stages of being ready to ask a doctor for medication. There are people in the awareness stage. They’re doing research and looking at options. They’re trying to understand their condition and the various treatment options available to them. They need a lot of information, written for them, by people like them.

There are others who are in the consideration stage. They’ve already decided medication is the answer, but which medication is right for them? They need different information. Perhaps a podcast with a doctor would be helpful. Perhaps a video with a patient would be good. What about that comparison chart I mentioned earlier so people can see the differences between medications?

Finally, you are going to have people who’ve decided they’re ready to see a doctor and talk to them about their condition and their interest in a specific medication. You need different content for this group. Some of this content is on the site, and right now, it’s all ungated – meaning anyone can get it. I think in some of these cases, it makes total sense to keep content ungated. But in others, people would be willing to provide their contact information, especially if it means they’re going to get ongoing, helpful information or even access to trials, focus groups or informational sessions.

Target One-To-One Instead Of One-To-Many

I’m sure you already have a list of email addresses, probably purchased or acquired through some joint partnership. Instead of renting the attention of people through the purchase of lists, start earning their attention by providing more valuable and creative educational information.

Once you get access to people interested in what you have to share, you can create a one-to-one marketing relationship with these people, as opposed to the one-to-many programs you are running on TV today.

You can personalize all aspects of the one-to-one marketing campaigns, including offers, intros to doctors, information sessions, support groups and other content that would make the people taking your medications feel more like a part of a community, not just one of your millions of customers. If you create a better experience for your customers, they’ll feel better about your business and your brand, and they’ll be more likely to suggest you to others.

Include The Docs In Your Inbound Marketing

The brilliant aspect of inbound marketing is that it works for everyone in very similar ways. So, we’ve been talking a lot about targeting potential customers. We could just as easily be talking about targeting potential doctors. Without having to visit them, buy them lunch or pay for their office parties (which I know is not allowed now), you can offer them educational information and start a one-to-one conversation with them, too.

Doctors want to do right by their patients. They want to be smart, and they want to feel safe in their recommendations. They need a different kind of content, but they need educational content all the same. Giving them the $200 savings card is nice, but not really targeted to their challenges. Perhaps you have a database of email addresses for all your docs, and maybe you even email them regularly to share new and interesting educational information. If that’s true, you’re on the right track. If not, you need to consider inbound marketing to stay in front of the docs, just like you want to stay in front of your potential customers.

Create Some Analytics To Efficiently Deploy Marketing Dollars

Today, marketing demands an ROI. If you can tell me the direct impact that all the TV money has on sales of individual pharma products, you’re a better marketer than I am. I imagine it’s all about impressions, brand equity, recognition and those other soft stats that advertising agencies love.

Instead, you should be looking at website visitors, conversion rate, new email addresses collected, engagement rate on communication, content downloads, blog views, shares and other key performance metrics that give you an indication as to whether your story is connecting with people or not. I guarantee you could spend half as much and get twice the results, and by results, I mean sales of your products.

Right now, you’re paying big money, and people aren’t even listening. They’re tuning out these ads, they’re skipping right over them and they’re changing the channel. The long list of side effects alone is enough to make you want to change the channel. Consider some other options – for your sake and ours.

How To Crack The Code To Inbound Marketing Start Today Tip – Run a test: Take one single product, and in addition to the massive ad budget, try some inbound tactics, too. Rework your website pages, add more educational content, collect some new email addresses, personalize and target ongoing messages and share more content. Let’s see if we can drive revenue up. In comparison to the cost of advertising, the ROI is going to be massive. It will work because it works in every other application. If you let a smart inbound agency do what they do, they always get results.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.