Updated: May 14
If you haven’t had the opportunity to work in healthcare, biotech or pharma, it’s hard to appreciate the challenges that arise when trying to apply modern practices and technologies. We walk a delicate balance: pushing boundaries to innovate for the benefit of human health, and remaining grounded to ensure we do not lose sight of safety and ethics.
There is an art to embracing innovation and change in this space - calculated and controlled creativity. The resulting benefit to the business, which translates to a benefit for the patient, makes embracing change paramount. Applying marketing intelligence to digital marketing in healthcare & life science is no exception.
Regulated is not the opposite of innovative!
We’ll start with two words that live at the heart of every healthcare business: compliance and regulation. To be respected, but not feared. Navigating regulations is the reality we face. It does not, however, have to stand in the way of advancing the techniques and practices of how we work.
Let's focus on the world of pharma. It’s well-known that drug development is regulated by the FDA in the United States (and similar agencies in other parts of the world). Yet, many people don’t realize that pharmaceutical sales and marketing teams are also working with regulations set forth by the FDA.
Ensuring that all the “boxes are checked” has historically made pharma marketing rigid and slow; significantly so when compared to non-regulated industries. It is possible to embrace more advanced digital marketing practices to modernize the process, without the risk of being non-compliant.
Optimize Cycles of Medical Legal & Regulatory (MLR) Review
The name of the game for MLR teams is risk mitigation as they are responsible for ensuring all marketing material is accurate and compliant with regulations. Many marketers will describe this process as painful or challenging - however, will not contest the importance of it. Here are a few tips on how to embrace iterative and agile digital marketing development within your MLR review process.
Shorten the distance between creative and implementation - the MLR process can be timely, take ahold of the timeline you can control
Preview concepts - get early feedback and allow the implementation to begin with reduced risk of an overhaul
Iterate in implementation instead of designs - in many cases it will take the same amount of time to modify the designs as to make the actual change
Use the resulting finished product for MLR review - you’ve finished it quickly, remove risks by having them approve the real thing
Avoid bespoke systems to make changes and iterations quick and easy - plus it reduces your risk of errors
Stay nimble and embrace change - plan and optimize for the reality of change
Ensure Compliant Digital Marketing
Equally as important, albeit much more tech-y, is ensuring your digital marketing technology is as compliant as your marketing material. This typically falls outside of the purview of MLR teams. In this industry, we love TLAs. PII (personally identifiable information) and PHI (protected health information) are at the center of this next checklist. Ensure Data Privacy and Security Across your Marketing Ecosystem - PII, PHI, HIPAA:
Use a distributed database architecture allowing you to deal with sensitive data appropriately and separately
Keep all sensitive data in a purposefully designed database that is encrypted
Be sure all data is encrypted when transported outside of the database
Ensure all transactions are logged
Limit access to sensitive data to only trained staff
De-identify data in views when applying Marketing Intelligence
It’s a journey: Roadmap for success
Pharmaceutical marketing is a journey: for HCPs, patients, and caregivers who are experiencing it, as well as, for marketers who are creating and optimizing it. The goal, the destination, is to get treatment in the hands of patients who need it. Of course, this translates to driving pharmaceutical sales - our business-centric objective, but also to improving the lives of patients - the close-to-home motivation that makes many of us passionate to work in this space.
Stay Focused on the Goal
After making it through clinical trials, it’s easy to think the biggest hurdles have been overcome - they’ve beaten the odds, after all, where about 87% have failed. But the commercial side of the pharmaceutical business is quickly faced with the next challenge: one-third of drug launches fail to meet market expectations in the first year and most continue to underperform from there. Research shows that it is not enough to have a stellar clinical profile - and marketing plays a critical role. It is essential for marketers and brand managers to use tools that provide them with the visibility to know when their marketing strategy is working and, more importantly, when it isn’t - so they can start making adjustments. And let’s not overlook the added benefit: These same tools make it quick and easy to share and celebrate wins with key stakeholders.
Engineer a Marketing Ecosystem
Traditionally, HCPs have been the primary target for pharmaceutical marketing. But more and more marketers are putting equal, if not more, emphasis on the patient as people continue to take a more active role in their healthcare with an understanding that the target population plays a big role in selecting which digital marketing tactics to employ. And even when the target - HCP or patient - is understood, there is no one-size-fits-all channel, medium, or platform in today’s digitally savvy world. Enter omnichannel marketing.
The role of digital continues to grow in marketing strategies and planning. As it does, it is easy to end up with a laundry list of marketing technologies and vendors. While the collective expertise may be intriguing, when pieced together, the result tends to fall short - or in-between the cracks. Here are some tips in order to avoid the pitfalls of using disparate marketing technologies:
Minimize the number of technologies and/or players when possible - it will also allow you to embrace change quicker and at a lower cost
Focus on the journey - the journey will take HCPs and patients across different digital channels, platforms, and vendors, yet it should feel cohesive
Engineer a marketing ecosystem - a complex ecosystem of multiple digital (and non-digital) pieces must work in harmony with minimal operational overhead in order to reduce the risk of errors
Architect analytics from the start - with multiple systems at play, it’s critical to design and coordinate the implementation of an end-to-end analytics strategy, which will result in the best marketing intelligence and insights possible
Embrace the need for change and prepare for it operationally - anticipate likely areas for optimization and understand how all parties manage changes to avoid surprises during crunch time
Get the Most from Marketing Intelligence
Embracing change is key to marketing success in any industry. However, it can be cumbersome, slower, and more costly in a regulated industry, making it even more important than the changes we make move the needle. Almost every digital marketing technology provides or has the ability to provide, analytics supplying marketers with piles of siloed data. Even Google Analytics, while powerful, is not enough to reach the end-to-end experience. Siloed data makes it difficult, time-consuming, and labor-intensive to determine what is working and what needs to be fine-tuned. Marketing intelligence turns the piles of data into invaluable, data-driven insights across the entire marketing journey. It helps pharmaceutical marketing teams embrace and navigate change more efficiently.
The faster you know a change is needed, the faster you can initiate the change process. Marketing intelligence guides change and help marketers maximize the power of their budget, using the dollars towards the changes that will have the most impact. Here’s how to engineer your marketing intelligence and digital marketing:
Go beyond architecture - Engineering the people, process, and data is equally as critical
Avoid bespoke solutions - Leverage industry-proven solutions augmented to support healthcare needs
Identify an operational strategy that works for you - It takes a village of skills and an army of data. Invest in the skills if you have the volume. Otherwise, find a reliable vendor who has the skills when you need them.
Prepare for data integration from many sources - The marketing journey will cut across your digital tactics, your marketing intelligence should too
Measure as you go with real-time dashboards - With today’s technology, no marketer should be in the dark about how their campaigns are performing at any point in time
Be sure to select vendors with reliable channels and data quality - Do not let bad data put a damper on the power of your marketing intelligence
Taking it to the next level - Detection and Prediction
With Marketing Intelligence in place, the door is open for applying cutting-edge AI for next-level insights. What if you could see the future? With Marketing intelligence, you can look at the performance of your campaigns and predict when you will reach your targets. What if a warning alarm sounded? Marketing intelligence can provide an early warning when your campaigns are underperforming and require intervention.
Embrace smarter change in pharmaceutical marketing with marketing intelligence.
American Council on Science and Health
Originally Written by: Alex Berezow, PhD
Originally Written by: Jeff Ford, Tom Fezza, Natasha Elsner, Ankit Arora