For decades, the pharmaceutical industry has relied on relationship building and face-to-face meetings with physicians to communicate new treatments, resources and research. Over the past decade however, pharmaceutical reps have been slowly losing regular access to physicians due to increased patient volume, physician schedules and hospital restrictions. When the coronavirus pandemic hit over two years ago, it only exacerbated this limited access to physicians. Like so many industries, big pharma has had to pivot their approach to maintaining and creating new relationships with their target audience.
In the wake of adversity, the pharmaceutical industry took time to reflect and adapt to the virtual meeting world. In this two part blog series, we’ll explore how big pharma rose to the challenges presented by this accelerated shift toward digital. Embracing this new age is proving to be more beneficial than ever expected at reaching physicians, patients, and caregivers.
The Challenge: Retraining Employees For A Digital World
Pre-pandemic, pharmaceutical reps did most of their dealings in-person and were hired based on this notion. When Covid hit and everything went remote, their skill sets didn’t necessarily transfer.
Rob Dickerson, Director of Commercial Excellence for medical science liaison Idea2Outcome, helped many pharmaceutical clients accomplish the above. Some of the key areas they focused on for improving rep interactions included lighting and audio, dressing as if you were meeting someone in person, and more:
“Trainers taught reps how to compensate for cues they miss when meeting remotely, such as a customer looking at his watch. Voice projection, looking at the camera, facial expression and storytelling become vital to a lively interaction during remote meetings.”
Upskilling their workforce through training and resources was an essential part of retaining employees and keeping their business prosperous according to Philip Dana, VP of Human Resources at Dendreon Pharmaceuticals, “Employees were screaming for personal development as we turned to these tools,” Dana said. “This was a key addition, and we had a high adoption rate.”
The Surprising Digital Opportunity: Highly Targeted Audiences
Retraining pharmaceutical reps for remote meetings was just part of the equation. The other part was finding digital avenues that physicians actually engage with to expand existing connections. Many B2B companies, including those in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, have started to see the impact social audience data can have fueling highly targeted and thoughtful marketing campaigns.
While many pharmaceutical companies have relied on a comprehensive list of physicians to engage via traditional modes of communication, they were looking for additional ways to reach physicians. Using social audience insights, pharmaceutical companies could create audiences based on niche job titles (e.g. neurosurgeon) to view their interests, passions, preferred media channels, and medical influencers among many other attributes. This social audience data allowed marketing teams to:
- Understand the types of content physicians were actively seeking out
- Inform media placements on channels physicians were engaging on
- Identify partnerships with influential medical professionals
- Inform messaging strategy around new treatments and research
Although adoption of social audience insights among the healthcare industry is still catching on, it allows companies like those in pharmaceuticals to digitally connect with physicians in a more thoughtful way outside the walls of hospitals.