Updated on 23/01/2023

Introduction to digital marketing for the pharma industry

The importance of Digital Marketing for the Pharma industry is constantly growing, especially today. In this post, we’ll look at the key points for building an effective strategy.

Today, there is a sector that everyone is watching: the pharmaceutical sector. We are talking about a sector that, according to the Iqvia report “The Global Use of Medicine in 2019 and Outlook to 2023”, will exceed a total market value of $1.5 trillion in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 3% and 6%.

We must preface this by saying that these are estimates produced before the outbreak and the dramatic spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Today, we are still in the midst of this emergency, both nationally and worldwide: it is very difficult to predict when and how we will come out of it, and how our lives, our societies, and our production systems will change because of it.

However, there are two certainties: 

  1. the first is that the Pharma Industry will be more and more important and strategic, and will have to take on more and more responsibilities. Such responsibilities can be transformed into opportunities, both for companies in the sector and for all of us citizens;
  2. the second is that the pharmaceutical sector will undergo a powerful acceleration of its Digital Transformation. This turning point is already defined as Pharma 4.0“.

This post will focus on Digital Marketing in the Pharma Industry, and we think it is essential to start from the “Pharma 4.0” label.


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What is Pharma 4.0?

Pharma 4.0 refers to the application of the logic of Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation to the pharmaceutical sector.

All of this translates into a radical overhaul of production processes, commercial processes, and distribution mechanisms. It also includes a radical overhaul of the relations with the Public Administration.

The digital revolution, therefore, starts from the same production mechanisms, which become smarter with the implementation of an increasingly advanced sensor technology, the Internet of Things, but also with the adoption of predictive analysis systems based on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Of course, these new dynamics are also based on the optimization of distribution. But that’s not all: today, digital is the first ally also for research and development, which are tremendously important in this industry, especially in the unprecedented phase where we find ourselves today.  Then, above all, there is the patient, who has become the real center of the business. The final goal of the digital revolution, in fact, is a new relationship between companies and individuals. 

So, we are talking about a new type of dialog that is more tailored, more personalized, and a new way of approaching marketing. At the same time, it’s about the centrality of Customer Care.

6 most important drivers of the future of Digital Marketing in the Pharma Industry

In this post, we will identify our take on the 6 most important drivers of the future of Digital Marketing in the Pharma Industry. To put it another way: they are the 6 pillars on which companies in the sector can build their new strategies.

1. Be guided by data

It is said that data is “the new oil of the digital age”: a perhaps overused expression but one that is still very effective.

The enormous amount of information made available by the internet is the fuel behind digital transformation. It is what allows the continuous (and automatic) innovation of all business processes. And, above all, unlike oil, it is not an exhausted resource…quite the opposite. Just think of the pharmaceutical sector: there is no longer just the data that each of us leave behind on search engine searches, with the preferences expressed on social networks, with geolocation, with the use of apps (and much more).

Today, in fact, even the objects themselves are more and more interconnected in the network. Just think of the already mentioned IoT (Internet of Things), which, in the field of health, is playing a decisive role, so much so that a new acronym has been coined: IoMT (“Internet of Medical Things”). Here, we are talking about mostly wearable devices that are used to monitor our state of health and well-being in real time

All of this results in a huge amount of data (the so-called “Big Data”) that is available to companies. The challenge is to learn how to collect and interpret this information in a profound and intelligent way. On this basis, companies can use it to redesign your business, and above all, to get to know your target. Knowing your audience, in fact, is the starting point for any marketing strategy; today you can do it with unprecedented precision, going as far as individuals.

Before getting to the next point, which is dedicated to personalization, we should specify that players in the pharmaceutical sector must bear in mind some very delicate aspects: security and strict regulations regarding privacy and the use of sensitive data.

2. From “precision medicine” to personalized marketing

There is no doubt that the frontier of health is personalization. 

In fact, the concept of “Precision Medicine”, where the therapies, treatments, and even drugs themselves will be increasingly tailored to specific patients, going beyond the “one-fits-all” model.

This will be the future. But, if we move to Digital Marketing for the pharmaceutical industry, personalization is already the present. It is about going beyond Big Data analysis and dividing your target into segments. It is about aiming at the single person, building a one-to-one dialog based on the characteristics of each one.

That’s exactly what Doxee does, with its personalized marketing and Customer Relationship Manager systems.

Health is the most precious commodity we have; and no one, when it comes to health, wants to feel treated “like a number”. That’s why all Pharma industry players are taking decisive steps in the direction of “getting closer” to patients.

3. Social networks: another way to “get closer”

Digital Marketing today can only move from social media, and this is also true for the Pharma Industry.

In this regard, let’s start with some data:

  • According to a Mediabistro survey, more than 40% of people are influenced by social networks in their health choices (pointsgroup.com).
  • In particular, people aged 18-24 tend to discuss health and wellness issues on social networks twice as much as people aged 45-54 (getpushing.com).
  • In addition: 90% of people between 18 and 24 years of age say they trust medical information shared on social networks(searchenginewatch.com).

These are very significant statistics, especially when you consider that the vast majority of people spend a lot of time every day on social networks, and there they inform themselves, compare information, and form ideas and opinions. The task of the Pharma companies, therefore, is to be found on those channels, and with the right tone of voice, combining simplicity, closeness, but also authority.

4. The role of influencers and KOLs

Let’s start again with other data: 

  • 70% of millennials are addressed by “influencers” when making a purchase (collectivebias.com).
  • on average, influencer marketing has a ROI of $6.50 for every $1 spent (adweek.com).

Influencer marketing has enjoyed great success and it is in turn very connected to the world of social networks (with significant growth, especially on Instagram). It is natural, therefore, that companies that deal with health must also learn to take advantage of its dynamics.

But that’s not all. Among the most effective weapons that the Pharma Industry has at its disposal today to reach and retain its public, there are Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs. KOLs are experts in their field who have a recognized professionalism and expertise. Therefore, they are authoritative voices, which are fundamental for communicating in sensitive areas such as the Pharma industry. This is important especially in an environment like online which is often infested with fake news and misleading information, which can backfire on players in the sector.

And what is the most effective means by which influencers and Key Opinion Leaders can spread their messages? There is no doubt about it: the video.


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5. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: the future of Digital Marketing is already here

According to most observers, the future of the digital world will increasingly pass through VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) systems. Again, we are supported by data: according to the most updated studies, by 2023 VR software market is expected to reach $4.6 billion, nearly doubling from the current $2.6 billion (statista.com).

The most innovative companies have already identified this trend in time and are moving decisively to gain a competitive advantage. This is also true in the Pharma sector. Just think of Novartis, for example, who recently partnered with Microsoft to produce Virtual Reality systems. Here, the goal is to explain to patients how medicines work in an incisive and engaging way.

This is only the beginning of a possible further revolution and one that will only strengthen the assumption from which the best Digital Marketing strategies for the pharmaceutical industry must begin: everything must revolve around a new relationship with patients, with individuals.

Especially in this time of crucial and unprecedented challenges that affects us all.

6. Content marketing

Content marketing in the pharmaceutical sector is taking on an increasingly strategic role. But how can companies calibrate it according to your objectives and targets? What are the most effective channels and tools? That’s what we’ll focus on in this post.

Individual and collective health issues have never been as central and decisive as they are now. Consequently, all of this translates into an enormous responsibility that companies in the pharmaceutical sector are called upon to assume. There are the fields of research, clinical trials, and laboratory trials; and then — of course — those of production and distribution.

But be careful! Today the Pharma industry is called to a new challenge: that of reinventing its relationship with consumers, of setting up a dialog with patients in a new way, which goes from digitization to personalization.

In this post, we will examine a specific side, one which is really central for this historical period. We are talking about content marketing strategies for the pharmaceutical sector. They are decisive because they combine the responsibility to educate and inform their audience, while also providing opportunities for companies in the sector to get closer and closer to customers and build customer loyalty.

But let’s start from the beginning. In the next paragraph we will see what is meant by content marketing and why it is so effective. 

What is content marketing? 

Content marketing is an approach focused on the creation, sharing, and distribution of valuable content, with two very simple objectives: 

  1. win new customers;
  2. retain existing customers.

The forms through which content marketing is put into practice are many: from written articles to interactive videos, from seminars and webinars, to social media strategies (and we’ll come back to some of these types later). What all these forms of content marketing have in common is that the primary objective is not to sell immediately and directly.

Now, let’s consider some statistics to help us define the current landscape and future trends. First of all, what are the objectives for which a content marketing strategy is being put in place? The answers come from an infographic by Mashable (webinfermenti.it).

  • In 69% of cases, the objective is brand awareness.
  • In 68% of cases, the goal is acquiring new customers.
  • In 67% of cases, the goal is lead generation.
  • In 62% of cases, the goal is improving customer loyalty.

Let’s look at some other numbers. 

According to CMI, more than half of marketers plan to use content marketing for their strategies. And 72% say it is a great way to increase engagement (contentmarketinginstitute.com). Not surprisingly, 78% of companies have a team specifically dedicated to content production (hubspot.com). According to the Havas Groups’ Meaningful Brands report, 84% of consumers expect brands to create valuable content (insights.newscred.com).

These are significant numbers, which alone say a lot about the effectiveness of this type of strategy, and how valuable it is to companies.

At the same time, 64% of marketers said they would like to learn how to build a better, more elastic, and scalable content marketing strategy (marketingcharts.com). It is on this point, then, that you need to focus.

Let’s say it now: there is no universal recipe that is valid for all types of business and for all types of companies.

However, in all cases you have to go through a 4-step process:

  1. define your goals;
  2. identify your target (or, better, your targets, plural);
  3. choose the channels to reach your target;
  4. use the right tools (in relation to your objectives, targets, and channels).

Keeping this awareness firmly in mind, in the continuation of this post, we will try to bring all this down in the context of the Pharma Industry, retracing these 4 steps, and getting more specific.

4 steps of content marketing in the Pharma Industry

1. Objectives: a foundation of  information and education 

Of course, every pharmaceutical company has its own specific objectives in terms of marketing and communication. Its content production must be based on those.

However, there is a challenge that, with the advent of digital, has become common to all players in the industry. Let’s talk about the challenge of education. Today, every user connected to the Internet can have access to a huge amount of information, news, and opinions. It is a positive fact in itself, but it also has its downside: in the midst of all this, fake news are hidden theories without any scientific basis, even real disinformation campaigns that can be very diffused. The challenge (and the responsibility) for Pharma companies is first of all to put themselves in the digital world with confidence (without this turning into a source of inspiration, which is always counterproductive), but also with the right “proximity” to people.

Put another way, it is a matter of putting education at the base of one’s own strategies, of presiding over the “places” of online debate, with the right “tone of voice”, with the right tools, and through the right channels (and we will come back to this in a moment).

For companies in the sector, all of this translates into a marked improvement in brand awareness and reputation. And this is where it all starts, today more than ever.

2. Target – From big numbers to personalization

There is no such thing as the perfect content for everyone, but there are different types of content that are suitable and effective for different audiences. Here is a summary of its fundamental importance to the target audience.

Attention: the challenges of communication, today more than ever, are played out here and the digital world has provided marketing and communication professionals with the real tool they need: data analysis.

Today, in fact, brands can actually “know” their audience, collecting the digital traces that each of us leaves online. Personal, geographical, behavioral data, and how all of this varies in real time. This is the revolution of Big Data. But beyond Big Data there are people, and pharmaceutical companies today can really address individuals and establish a one-to-one communication, a personalized dialog that is tailored to individual patients.

The systems to put it on track exist: they are those of personalized marketing that specialized companies such as Doxee deal with.

Important: it’s not just a question of marketing. The entire Pharma sector, in fact, is moving more and more towards “personalized medicine” (or “precision medicine”), which can only start from an intimate and personalized relationship between company and patient.

3. Channels – The imperative is to be omnichannel

The right message, as we have seen, is the one that reaches the right recipient. But that’s not all: it has to go through the right channel. And, once again, Digital Transformation has changed all the cards on the table, even in the pharmaceutical sector.

Alongside the traditional “physical channels” (from pharmacy to seminars and academia), the digital channels through which to publish their content marketing campaigns have multiplied. There are company websites, where it’s important to utilize tools like blogs or newsletters. Here, it is essential to put an efficient and targeted SEO strategy on track. There are specialized forums and platforms, to be screened and overseen with care; the whole ecosystem of apps dedicated to health and the fundamental side of social networks.

Above all, there is an imperative to follow: manage your communication in an omnichannel way, optimizing and personalizing it according to the characteristics of each channel, and always with an eye toward the mobile environment. More and more, it is through smartphones that people connect to the internet (mobile traffic, only in the last 7 years, has increased by 222% worldwide; broadbandsearch.net)


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4. Tools – The power of video

The objectives for content marketing in the pharmaceutical sector have diversified. Targets are increasingly specific, and the individual patient is increasingly at the center of the business. Likewise, the number of possible communication channels is constantly expanding. All of this is happening in the wake of Digital Transformation.

As a result, the tools for creating valuable and effective content have also multiplied.

There is the creation and management of well-organized corporate blogs. There are whitepapers, case studies, ebooks, and infographics. An increasingly interesting and exploited tool is the podcast (see “La grande incertezza”, a podcast by Angelini to spread knowledge on mental health issues in these difficult times of the pandemic).

Also in this case, it is important to underline that the perfect tool does not exist: it all depends on circumstances, strategies, objectives, and targets. Yet there is a medium that surpasses all others for power and effectiveness of communication, especially when it comes to content marketing: we are talking about video and the motivations are well expressed by the data itself. Here we propose two very significant data points:

  • 55% of people pay more attention when approaching videos than any other type of content (omnikick.com).
  • when viewing a video, the average user retains 95% of the message contained in it; if we talk about text, this drops to 10% (wirebuzz.com).

In conclusion: any content marketing strategy for the pharmaceutical sector must pass the numbers test. You need to carefully measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, understand what worked best and what worked least, to set in motion a process of continuous improvement.

Again, it’s all about data, to be used to get “closer” and closer to people, and to establish fruitful and lasting relationships with them.


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