What I’ve learned about working with pharma

I’ve been working with various pharma and biotech companies with my consulting group for over ten years. Some things have changed, but a lot has not. Here’s what I have learned during that time.

1ne: The bottom line is still the bottom line. Pharma marketers are more focused on ROI than ever, even when research points out a need for patients for more general information. I’ve attended many meetings where that dreaded ROI word trumps any activity that may benefit patients and the brand.

2wo: The development of a product website starts to close to launch and often does not involve market research dedicated to the digital brand experience. The result is that agencies are often time-constrained to launch a site that is too generic.

3hree: Very few pharma companies have dedicated eMarketing people on brand teams. Matrix organizations have an eMarketing group that interacts with the brand but doesn’t understand their target audience.

4our: Matrix organizational meetings really slow down decision-making even when research clearly shows the way forward.

5ive: The wrong metrics are being used (visitors/impressions), and too many pharma companies rely on agencies for metric insights. CPG companies are adding eMarketing analytic people/departments but for pharma, getting the headcount for dedicated eMarketing analytic people is very difficult.

6ix: DTC marketers overestimate the impact of their product websites. They don’t have a patient journey map from awareness to Rx.

7even: Many DTC marketers try to echo what other brands are doing on and offline even though it may not be applicable to their audience. They don’t understand that each health condition is a micro-segment with its dynamics.

8ight: Going through the process of becoming a vendor, via procurement, is a real pain in the ass.

9ine: DTC does not evolve as the product move through the life-cycle.

10en: Personnel rotation within DTC is complex because many people who assume DTC roles don’t have a marketing background and have to guide through the development of digital marketing.

11even: Many are eager to try new tactics but it has to be measurable.

12: Most are aware that social media is a minefield of misinformation and FDA requirements.

13teen: The design of websites is guided too much by Regulatory and Legal not by patient needs.

At times it’s been challenging to work with some clients, but I take it as a challenge. I haven’t always gotten what I wanted for clients, but I can win minor battles for the benefit of patients. If I had to summarize the most significant point I want to communicate, it would be that consumers/patients often do not make rational decisions based on science. Understanding what drives them is too often the missing piece.