Post-COVID, healthcare companies are becoming more strategic about reaching their target audiences. In this TrendTalks session, 2024 Healthcare Marketing Outlook: Priorities and Opportunities, sponsored by Swoop, pharma marketers discussed how they are increasingly segmenting their target audiences and which channels they’re prioritizing to reach them.
Peter Kane, director of growth marketing at Swoop, stressed how identifying a target audience is critical to the overall success of a marketing plan. “The higher the audience quality, the more confident you can be that you’re reaching your ideal target,” he said. The goal is to “be as refined as possible while ensuring the ability to scale.”
Although MM+M’s 2023 Healthcare Marketers Trends Report indicates that marketing budgets fell 8% last year, attendees felt that using sophisticated targeting tools still allows them to get a significant return on their marketing investment.
MM+M’s research also shows that marketers are devoting more of their budgets to reaching HCPs. Direct to consumer broadcast has become less of an overall focus, while more specialized platforms, such as Connected TV, are gaining favor because they allow marketers to connect with their target audience in more efficient ways. In fact, digital and video (which includes programmatic and CTV) were some of the fastest growing channels, according to MM+M’s research.
Social media is expected to become an even more prominent channel for pharma marketing as a new generation of physicians entering the workforce are digital natives. In a market that has changed dramatically, pharma marketers are finding new ways to deliver messaging to audiences accustomed to encountering and processing information through less traditional means.
“One of the best channels to crossover consumer and HCP is social media,” noted Stephanie Garrison, former head, U.S. digital marketing at Idorsia. “We even had an HCP contact our sales team referencing a paid consumer ad they saw on Instagram.”
Optimize reach with specialized platforms
Shifting to more specialized platforms with messaging “gives marketers the opportunity to better understand and optimize their reach,” explained Kane. “Efficiencies and the shift from broadcast to digital, whether it’s online video or connected TV, enable us to spend more efficiently,” noted Lars Merk, senior director, commercial digital customer engagement at AstraZeneca. “Having a focused target audience certainly helps smaller biotech brands point their funds more efficiently,” added Helen Chang, former VP of marketing, brand commercial lead at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.
For pharma companies focused on oncology or rare diseases, those tools help us “be more efficient in determining the right audience and providing the best experience for that audience,” said Stephen Calabrese, former pharma CX leader at Novartis Oncology.
Marketers are increasingly using ML/AI to predict target audiences at specific, critical points of their diagnosis and treatment journey. “With this technology, we can predict, typically with 90%-plus accuracy, which patients are likely to become nonadherent in the next 30 days,” said Kane. This availability of accurate, forward-looking information can significantly improve patient care.
The use of ML/AI can also help marketers get drugs to the right patients more quickly. Considering that an HCP’s interaction with a brand can start four or five years before the brand ever comes to market, companies are looking for ways to engage HCPs and consumers as quickly and precisely as possible to ensure the biggest impact once a product is ready to launch. The ability to integrate HCP and DTC audiences together and focus on the customer journeys is even more important for smaller pharma companies.
“For a new product launch, the ability to target those most likely to prescribe a new treatment, is where ML and AI can be game-changing. Once you’re able to connect the de-identified patients you want to reach with their physicians, you get more optimized insights,” said Kane. For example, ML/AI can uncover relevant data correlations, such as which HCPs would be most likely to switch medications for patients with specific conditions.
Data application to zero-in on precise audiences
Many companies in the industry are considering how their investments in marketing technology can be better applied across different customer touchpoints. “Information we gain from a commercial or promotional perspective can lead to a better understanding of how to use resources more efficiently and deliver better customer experience and better customer value,” said Merk.
Participants gave a nod to the in-house data infrastructure that Bayer U.S.’ pharma media team created to collect data internally, which then used that data to determine which channels to employ. The move has been a major asset for the marketing function. Hard data “help prove to all stakeholders that you’ve seen lift in the engagement segments you’re targeting,” said Amy McCann, former director, customer marketing and HCP experience at Sunovion. Using accurate predictors is even more important for companies focused on the rare and specialty disease segments.
More companies are experimenting with creating their own internal marketing tech stacks from proprietary AI systems to measure the impact of marketing activities and drive more efficient spending. “The tools are getting better and easier to use, but to truly take advantage of the power of those capabilities, you have to build it into the fabric of the organization,” said Merk. “The challenge is everything has to work together across the different silos we’ve created internally.”
A willingness of different departments to share data is critical to making this data-driven approach successful. “Med tech is super important for the long haul. Knowing how to get different channels to talk to each and different departments to integrate the data is key,” said Chang.
“We’re just getting to that next layer of organizational transformation,” added Calabrese.