How should DTC evolve?

Advertising is meant to “sell” your product, but the pharma industry is unique because people don’t just see an ad for a prescription drug and run to their doctor. There is a path between awareness and asking for/receiving an Rx. It’s more than just about understanding; it’s about being relevant to the needs of online health seekers.

Last week I posted a story on how people are getting turned off by the high frequency of TV commercials. When it comes to prescription drugs, a few brands lead the high frequency because someone in the company was convinced that running the spots repeatedly was a great idea. It’s not.

It’s important to understand that the path between awareness to filling an Rx is different for every health condition and product. There isn’t one formula for all DTC marketing, but they all have in common that the number of online health seekers has increased over the last two years. That’s good news, but it’s also bad news.

Newly diagnosed patients often are overwhelmed with online health information, and it’s really up to them to determine which information is credible. Credible sites like WebMD have seen traffic increases, but health groups have on social media. Not too long ago, I analyzed AFIB groups on Facebook, and we found that up to 80% of the information was inaccurate.

There are other ways to reach patients online, but to date, pharma hasn’t made a full push into other digital tactics. For the most part, Pharma websites still read and look like medical journals with high bounce rates and few pages viewed. Sites like patients-like-me often have personal experiences that may or may not be relevant to patients.

So what’s the answer?

It’s time to change the thinking around DTC from a “sales tactic” to “helping people and caregivers.” This means that your website needs to have more content that users need to make decisions rather than information that’s trying to sell them. If you don’t know what your audience wants and needs, you’re not doing the proper research.

Some DTC people are saying, but I “need the ROI”! Yes, you do, but you shouldn’t measure your website alone; it should be measured as part of an integrated strategy. Your brand can become the “go-to” site for credible medical information by having more content centered around patient needs. That’s a huge win.

Moving from selling to being a trusted source of medical information

Online is a critical component of any good DTC strategy, but several offline tactics can also yield great results. The magazine Momentum has more than 1 million people with MS, families, caregivers.

Then there is email marketing. The impact of email marketing can do much more than just getting messages into generates $42 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 4,200% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available. However, it has to be valuable to your audience to make email marketing successful. In other words, you have to balance the needs of your brand team with the needs of your audience.

What makes email successful? Separate email campaigns segmented by your audience. Caregivers, for example, should not receive the same email as someone on therapy.

I’m excited because there are so many opportunities to help people evaluate treatment options. The critical challenge will be changing the ballpark you’re playing in and thinking like a caregiver, patient, or HCP.