Consumers are looking for more out of their interactions with the healthcare industry — which means pharma marketers are now tasked with positioning their brands accordingly.

The pandemic accelerated consumer expectations around what they should be receiving from healthcare organizations, with services being delivered in a timelier, more convenient and more transparent manner like in other industries. What this means for medical marketers: There’s a more profound need for more comprehensive advertising campaigns driven by data and focused on boosting engagement. 

Healthcare marketing budgets are up 15%, according to MM+M’s annual Healthcare Marketers Survey, though they still lag pre-pandemic levels. In order to complement the increased funding, marketers need to be deliberate in terms of goals and operation. 

Stacey Deziel, executive sales director of health and pharma at AcuityAds, highlighted three key components of refining a marketing campaign for the modern healthcare consumer: Create and distribute relevant content, use the right channels to reach the target audience and share the right sequence.

There is plenty of data available for medical marketers, Deziel said, but analyzing that information and making an actionable plan out of it remains a considerable challenge. 

As for the ROI for ad spend in the pharma sector, Deziel noted that there is always going to be a lag – because the goal isn’t for consumers to purchase the brand but rather to have a dialogue with their physician. 

“Pharmaceutical marketers need to begin to think more holistically about the symbiotic nature of that relationship when they are thinking about their marketing plans and programs,” she explained. “It’s that connective tissue in terms of messaging, timing and preceding the marketplace with physicians so that they are prepared and informed when that dialogue manifests.”

Some larger pharmaceutical companies are getting more sophisticated about the omnichannel approach to marketing, Deziel said, incorporating both personal and non-personal promotion on the HCP side. Still, she said it’s a difficult issue to solve because of the limits on modern technology, though pharma companies are working to deliver solutions. 

Going forward, Deziel said “agility” and “data-driven marketing” will be paramount. However, she noted that if organizations don’t have a way to measure and validate their practices, then they won’t be able to extract the maximum amount of learning and insights possible.

Deziel added that due to the pandemic, there’s a greater focus on the social determinants of health as well as health equity, which can help make HCP and medical marketing more nuanced in the future. 

“I’d love to see pharmaceutical companies take that next leap so that they are thinking more discreetly about different patient needs based on their availability to quality care and medications in their marketing programs,” Deziel said.

Data analytics will continue to have an influential role in healthcare marketing, but each organization is moving at different speeds to make the most of it, according to Mateusz Krempa, Chief Revenue Office at Piwik PRO.

While the overall digitalization of the patient experience is not new, Krempa noted that some healthcare organizations were surprised by the pace at which the digital change occurred due to the pandemic and are currently catching up. 

Two key issues facing healthcare companies trying to scale the mountain of data are collecting this information, which is complicated by concerns of violating HIPAA, as well as breaking down subsequent data silos.

“We are moving in the right direction; the change is rapid, but there’s still a lot of challenges that teams are facing,” Krempa said. 

Data collection and technological changes enacted as a response to consumerism will ultimately lead to more opportunities for healthcare organizations and a more efficient industry, Krempa said, because innovative companies will seek greater advantages in the market. 

“This will increase the competition and in the end, we as consumers will be much happier with that because increased competition means lower prices and better customer service,” Krempa said.