Entering a new era in DTC marketing

ID-100124225OK, I get it.  DTC marketers have to show ROI to get budgets from bean counter who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing but that approach is going to lead to a decline in DTC marketing effectiveness.

Last week, in between snow storms, I sat in the conference room with a client and discussed the results of some research we did to develop a best-in-class patient centered website around MS.  We had some great insights from the research, but we were met at every turn with the dreaded “how do we measure ROI”.  Both the agency people and I argued that there was a deep emotional connection that could be benefiting the brand, but “how do you measure emotional needs and connections?”


First, let me say that I understand the current pharma business model is under a lot of stress and that budgets are being scrutinized and in some cases cut.  Some brands have set up “triggers” to release budgets at certain points and usually these triggers are “ROI” based.  The problem with that is today [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@richmeyer” suffix=””]patients could care less about your ROI[/inlinetweet].  They have too many online resources and you’re just one stop along the way. However, there are opportunities.

If we approach online health information like a patient you are immediately confused by the wealth and depth of all these websites. In a time compressed word who has the time to read all this stuff?  Pharma marketers certainly have not it made it easier to read and share content.


Today our job, as DTC marketers, is to sell the organization on the importance of getting closer to patients who are researching our products.  We can’t do this by developing the same type of website we did 5 and 10 years ago.  It requires a new way of thinking as well as an emphasis on content that people can share and helps them think your brand is right for them without the hard sell.

Then there are the negative stories about “big bad pharma”.  Pharma is responsible, if you read these articles, for everything from the bubonic plague to the last recession.  Even though these stories are not balanced we need to understand that they are having an effect on how consumers/patients think about our company and its brands.  We can’t continue to think that it doesn’t exist.

Opportunity Ahead Road Sign

DTC marketing has to change and change now.  We go to too many damn conferences to pat ourselves on the back rather than spending time thinking like patients and getting out to ask them “what’s missing in online health information?”  If we continue down the same path that DTC  marketing is on now it will continue to shrink in importance compared to other online initiatives and budgets will be deeply cut then.

The courage to change current marketing is not an easy path to take but it is the most rewarding and that is better than any job title you could ever get.