DTC marketing is an oxymoron

QUICK READ: More TV DTC spots are airing, but DTC marketers are losing the battle between awareness and conversion because of all the noise online. Product websites are stagnant, and online health seekers are going elsewhere to learn about your medication’s side effects and cost.

I’ve spent the last six months analyzing clients’ DTC marketing campaigns and they are, for most ineffective. A website and TV commercials are not enough to get patients to ask for a prescription medication especially when fair balance lists side effects like cancer.

In the CPG sector there is a new emphasis on omnichannel marketing, but, the FDA is still stuck in the past and won’t allow pharma to get more personal with prescription drug marketing. DTC marketers need to understand the patient journey a lot better with specific recommendations to silence the “noise” around their medications.

Your digital marketing people should be providing you with a decision treemap that shows the noise between your brand and patients asking for an Rx. They should also be recommending specific tactics to turn down the noise.

One of the most underused tactics is your product website. For most a content strategy is unheard of and even though email marketing is still a very viable tactic pharma sees it as too complicated to measure the ROI. An email campaign, with helpful tips and recommendations of living with a chronic health condition, would be widely accepted by patients but one email doesn’t fit all segments, and developing content is too time-consuming for pharma.

Pharma pretty much stays away from social media, although they dabble in it here and there; a quick search of Twitter can pretty much demonstrate how patients are talking to each other about your drug. DTC marketers should be listening to social media and quantifying opportunities to develop content around concerns or comments. The downside is that it has to be done on Internet time, not according to internal processes.

One thing that continually puzzles me is why pharma doesn’t ask though leaders to write content for websites or brochures. People trust doctors and having an established though leader write a monthly column, for example, could drive traffic back to your website.

The other huge issue that I continually see is that DTC marketers pretty much ignore website bounce rates, time on site and page views. To leave pages, that have almost no traffic, up on a website makes absolutely no sense unless they are an M L R requirement.

There is SO much that can be online to win patients over, but agencies and digital marketers often find that it takes weeks or months of meeting to get more money, and then the discussion inevitably turns towards ROI. How do you measure the ROI of helping a caregiver or a patient who wants to know how your medication works?

In all fairness, one of the key frustrations for CPG marketers is measuring tactics. In fact, over 60% say that’s their biggest challenge, but DTC marketers need to get out of the mindset of “sales” and think more about helping online health seekers through the complicated world of health information online. Until they really understand that DTC marketing will continue to be an oxymoron.