Allocating DTC budgets

IN BRIEF: DTC managers usually have a tough time allocating DTC budgets, but once you layout your brand objectives and better understand your audience, the choices become clearer. Learn everything you can about your audience, such as “where are they online and what are they really looking for in treatment options?”.

The budgeting process is over, and as a DTC manager, you need to decide how much of your budget goes in each bucket. TV is great for introducing new products to a big audience, but it’s not cost-effective for smaller audiences. DTC managers are often inundated with suggestions from agencies who all want a slice of the budget, but each budget item should be measurable against qualitative and quantitative objectives. Let’s look at each channel..

1ne: TV (national & spot) – TV helps generate rapid awareness with your audience, but the key question you need to ask “is my audience large enough?”. The other issues with TV are the sometimes bigger expense of developing a TV spot which can cost well into six-figures. If you decide that TV is right for your brand, work with your market research people to measure awareness WITHIN your target audience, then work with your media agency to either increase frequency and reduce spend.

2wo: Online (paid media) – Online media can drive brand goals but if you’re using programmatic there is a good chance that up tp 40% of your ads are subjected to fraud. Research has consistently shown that when online ads have better creative the metrics improve. Can you, for example, deliver your brand’s message without the need to click through to your website? Measurement is not clicks but clicks measured against time on-site page views and bounce rates.

For search, the same thing applies. Your agency should be providing a report every two weeks that show clicks to your website against time on site and bounce rate. They should also provide cost “per targeted action.” Search is perhaps the biggest waste when it comes to Pharma digital spending.

3hree: Online (product website) – Any agency that builds your website should recommend research to learn what online health seekers want and need to make a decision. They should also suggest usability studies and a content plan. The key metrics to measure success is NOT total visitors, but time on site, pages viewed, and bounce rate.

4our: Online (partnerships) – If you’re competing in a new area with low condition awareness, patients are likely to have more questions than your website can answer. One of the most underutilized tactics is an online educational session with a thought leader to talk about the health problem and explain treatment options. Greater Than One, one of my favorite agencies, did this with a client live with regulatory and medical people to ensure that FDA guidelines were observed, and it went really well.

5ive: Online (medical practice partnerships) – Some medical practices send out newsletters to their patients. They are often willing to share good medical content, especially in conditions that have low awareness. Partnering with them could open a lot of doors.

6ix: Apps – The idea of developing an app comes up a lot, but the cost of updating and maintaining the app sets DTC managers back because it can be costly. Measurement can actually be built-in into the app, and under no circumstances should data be shared, but in an era of too much health information online, an app can help patients make better choices.

I haven’t really talked about print but it can be very effective if placed in the right magazines.

One of my strengths is that I can think like a patient and go through the decisions to ask, “is this medication right for me?”. DTC managers need to take off their marketing hats and think like a patient when researching new medications. Of course, new tactics are being tested by innovators who will learn what works and what doesn’t work. They are learning a lot and becoming huge assets to their companies.