Marketing effectiveness is about changing behaviour. Only by understanding customer behaviour can we begin to change it. Millennial healthcare professionals (HCPs) exhibit very different behaviour to previous generations, and a very different approach is required to influence their behaviour - something that has shaken up the industry.
Fundamentally, the relationship between pharma and HCPs remains the same. For a long time it has been about imparting scientific information around products, data, clinical trial information and the role that these play in improving patient care and outcomes. What has changed is the means by which this information is acquired and therefore needs to be supplied.
EPG Health Media's research study 'Pharmaceutical industry: HCP engagement (2015)'* uncovered gaps between HCP demand and pharma supply of medical information, with industry participants indicating a good awareness of this imbalance. In the meantime however, we are witnessing a notable shift in focus towards catering to the needs and behaviour of today's HCPs. Putting customer needs at the forefront of strategies is becoming less of a compromising concept for pharma.
Four indications that pharma's approach is changing
1. Increase in cross-functional collaboration
Our most successful projects (disease-focused 'Learning Zones') are often those that involve pharma collaborating internally and with their partnering agencies to coordinate the programme. Increasingly we are required to facilitate cross-functional collaboration between medical affairs, marketing, digital teams and partnering vendors. Those organisations that take this more joined-up and less siloed approach feed an ecosystem that drives competitive advantage, overcomes internal obstacles and drives change.
We are witnessing a notable shift in focus towards catering to the needs and behaviour of today's HCPs
2. Increase in focus on education versus promotion
An increase in the proportion of unbranded independent medical content is encouraging. One of the insights from our 2015 research study was that HCPs don't want to see pharma promotion and advertising - 55% reported never or rarely accessing it*. Although advertising provides a significant revenue stream, we believe that customers need to heard in order to remain customers and therefore epgonline.org (our website for healthcare professionals) does not carry any advertising. Working with independent platforms to support HCPs through education rather than promotion fosters the credibility and trust needed to increase engagement with target audiences and change behaviour.
3. Increase in content optimisation
Our industry partners usually understand that it is no longer sufficient to simply re-use the same content in a 'one-size fits all' approach across different audiences and touchpoints. Content needs to be rethought, redesigned and repackaged to make it easily consumable and digestible for a specific audience within a specific environment. A global programme can achieve increased reach and engagement with the introduction of local experts and languages. Simply recording a live event and putting it online cannot deliver the same value as the event itself, but creating a more personalised and engaging digital experience can. Content optimisation takes thought, planning and resources but when it's done right it achieves significantly greater engagement and value, driving measurable behaviour change.
4. Increase in channel integration
While the practicalities of 'digital' and 'multichannel' often remain a challenge, the concept is something that our industry clients generally aspire to. They know all too well that doctors don't need to wait for their reps or a monthly journal publication to obtain data. HCPs can conveniently access most information online, 24-7, via multiple devices and they often prefer to. Effective education and marketing will come from a strategy that is multichannel, with content designed, developed and optimised for each. The support for this exists within pharma organisations and with their vendors, so this brings us back to point 1 above - collaboration is key.
Keeping pace with innovation
While our industry is gradually stepping up to the changing demands of HCPs, the changing tide isn't slowing. The initial strategic and logistical challenges of a digital age are giving way to a range of equally complex ones appearing on the horizon.
Customer-centricity, crowd sourcing, artificial intelligence and big data may be today's buzzwords but they are already a reality. The future of effective marketing (and behaviour change) in healthcare will rely on the sector's ability to keep pace with innovation around data-driven, personalised engagement. Having undertaken a huge redevelopment of epgonline.org, our focus is very much on supporting this future with the introduction of new behaviour-driven technologies and architecture.
* Download the report at