Pharma: Is Your Marketing Designed To Engage And Educate Or Sell?

As Marketers, we’ve long been conditioned to “sell”, also known as the fourth Marketing P: Promotion.  Increasingly, however, the world of Marketing is shifting from a model of selling and shouting to one of listening, engagement, dialogue and education. Pharma is no exception to this change.  A recent study by about.com outlined in eMarketer points to success with current pharma advertising, but also highlights opportunities for improvement that are consistent with the continued shift in consumer mindset.

Key Takeaways

Following diagnosis from their Physician, most consumers use the web to find more information about their condition, a smaller percent use search engines to better understand treatment options or the particular medication that they’ve been prescribed.  Only 35% trust what the doctor says and fill the prescription without further search or education.

Currently, more than four in 10 Internet users told About.com that pharma ads made them aware of treatment options and educated them about symptom and conditions; 17% felt like they could speak more knowledgeably with their doctor because of pharmaceutical advertising. 

After seeing healthcare ads, 38% of respondents said they talked with their doctor and 36% researched the advertised drug online. In addition, 13% of Internet users visited the pharmaceutical company’s Website.

When surveyed about what would catch their attention, Internet users were most likely to say info about specific conditions (29%) and medication side effects (28%); also information about how to cope with the condition (20%), followed by free trial offers (18%).

How Can Pharma Continue to Improve Engagement and Communication?

  1. Combine ‘relevant’ education into every communication; surround the target consumer/patient with a mix of branded and unbranded communications, and branded and educational messaging.
  2. Consider where the patient is along the treatment pathway and customize engagement to reflect information and education needs. Adding a personalized touch can dramatically help improve trial or web sign-ups. (See more on Personalization in my next blog)
  3. Don’t be afraid to speak to the potential side effects; balanced benefit and risk information is what consumers (and FDA) want.  Most consumers recognize that along with the benefits of a particular treatment comes some side effect(s)–why not provide the information upfront, including potential ways to deal with the side effects…This might also begin to instill a bond of trust and authenticity…Moving forward, pharma companies will do well by providing easy to understand risk-benefit comparisons for consumers…
  4. Shout the condition that your medication treats to increase stopping power. While this might sound obvious, many online and off line DTC ads continue to overlook the need to scream the condition they are treating. With the onslaught of messages that a typical consumer sees each day, this is a costly mistake, but one that is relatively easy to fix. (Marketers and Advertising Creatives alike often hate to shout out the condition thinking its redundant or isn’t visually elegant, but its often the single best way to immediately grab your patients’ attention. It usually takes one round of qualitative for marketers and their agencies to be convinced…)
  5. Don’t just focus on your medication–Help patients and their families treat and cope with the ‘whole’ condition and the ‘whole’ person.  This goes beyond providing a few tips or tools or links to third parties…and goes beyond any one advertisement.
  6. Listen First-Sell Later.  Everyday consumers are telling  us that they don’t want to be sold to or shouted at, but engaged in a meaningful conversation, to hear from others like themselves. How best to understand someone’s needs and wants if not by listening first?

Bob Poole has written a great book with many, thoughtful nuggets to consider:

Customers and prospects know their problems much better than you do.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you already have the solutions. To assume you know the solution before you really understand the problem, is like a physician writing a prescription before making a diagnosis. 

Learn to listen -really listen. It’s how you establish trust, rapport, and relationships.

Listen. Create value. Follow through. Keep your word. Maintain the relationship. Listen more.

Stop being a salesperson. Become a solutions provider. You’ll be much more productive. It’s more fun. And, it’s the right thing to do.

People have to buy YOU before they buy anything FROM you.

Burn your story into the hearts and minds of the people who want-who need-to hear it. We can all create and tell stories that are entertaining, educational, and emotional.

What kind of fun are you building into your business? When is the last time you did something fun with your customers?                                                                                                                                                                  

Pharma: Which do you do first, Listen or Sell?  As an industry, isn’t it time we made listening a greater priority? If we listen first, won’t engagement and increased sales follow? Thoughts?

One thought on “Pharma: Is Your Marketing Designed To Engage And Educate Or Sell?

  1. Thank you so much for your kind words about Listen First – Sell Later. If your readers would like a copy they can get a free ebook fromwww.listenfirstselllater.com using the secret code LFSL2009.

    Again, thank you.

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