Whether you’re in the pharmaceutical, medical device or biotech industry, engaging with healthcare professionals should be seen an essential part of your business strategy.
In this blog post, we explore some of the digital channels available to engage with healthcare professionals and a few tips on how to get started.
Let’s start by stating the obvious – whatever interaction with healthcare professionals takes place, there is a clear need to operate within relevant regulatory frameworks such as the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry and the ABHI Code of Business Practice: Guidelines on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals etc . To promote authenticity in your relationships with healthcare professionals, digital or otherwise, you need to be transparent, ethical and socially responsible.
Why engage with healthcare professionals?
Having a digital strategy in place to communicate to healthcare professionals has many benefits and if it leads to two way engagement then it becomes a much more valuable and worthwhile endeavour. You can:
- Tap into their knowledge base to ensure your strategy is aligned to the needs of healthcare professional’s
- Create a better understanding of NHS priority areas
- Improve the healthcare professional’s knowledge base which in turn can enhance their personal reputation and promote brand affinity
- Influence a purchasing decision – the healthcare professional you’re engaging with may or may not be the procurement decision maker but either way, their influence on purchasing decisions should not be underestimated
The life of a healthcare professional can be demanding and these time-poor individuals are increasingly seeking out online resources to improve their knowledge, discover advances in technology and science and communicate with patients – and they want to do this across a multitude of devices to absorb information in bite-size chunks as and when they have the time.
Despite this, only 15% of current pharmaceutical marketing activity is digital1 so it’s clear there are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of in this space.
What channels are available?
The level of engagement you’re looking to achieve will depend on the nature of opportunities you choose to take advantage of but broadly, these can be split into four categories:
Inbound marketing opportunities – this is all about how you attract the attention of your audience in an organic way. What can you provide that will be valuable to healthcare professionals? This might include content such as blogs, videos, podcasts, eBooks, newsletters or whitepapers, all optimised for search engines so that they can be easily found.
Outbound marketing opportunities – this is more about pushing content out to your audience and can include activities such as email marketing, direct mail and pay per click advertising
Engagement opportunities – if we class engagement as ‘anything that involves two-way communication’, social media is the obvious digital tool to fall into this category
Solutions – if healthcare professionals have an unmet need then can you provide a solution? For example, CPD is a mandatory requirement for healthcare professionals to ensure they maintain their skills and knowledge throughout their career and operate safely, legally and effectively in line with best practice standards. By providing access to online verifiable CPD courses, you can start to elevate your brand profile with this audience, encourage referrals and develop the opportunity to feed your sales funnel. We’ll focus more on this in next month’s blog post.
So where do you start?
Know your audience.
It’s important to get into the mindset of the target audience. The creation of personas can really help to understand their needs and wants, ensuring that the digital user journey is tailored accordingly.
As well as documenting their demographic, job title and seniority, you might like to ask questions such as:
- What does a day in their life look like?
- What are their pain points and what can you help solve them?
- What do they value most?
- Where do they ‘hang out’ online?
- What are their most common objections to engaging with you?
You may need to put several personas together, for instance, you might like to consider what sort of information a dental nurse would be seeking in comparison to a dentist.
Top tip: Always give your personas a name – it helps humanise them and gives you a reference point when you have multiple personas to work from.
Segment your audience
It’s important to understand the relevance of communication to different audiences and the creation of personas will help with this.
By segmenting your data and creating your communication and engagement strategy around this, you will deliver a much more targeted approach.
Segmentation will help you identify what activity to carry out and when – rather than going for mass reach in a ‘hope for the best’ strategy, you will be able to more accurately pinpoint the digital spaces in which you will glean the most return on your investment.
Your personas are likely to be created based on actual interactions with healthcare professionals and if you already have a relationship with these individuals then why not tap into their knowledge? By asking them to contribute to your engagement strategy, you are solidifying your relationship with these individuals which helps on the quest to generate advocates or ambassadors for your brand.
Social media is also a great place to listen and will help to establish where your target audience ‘hangs out’ in the digital space as well as the conversations they’re having. You are also able to assess the level of engagement your competitors are achieving which can act as a benchmark to measure your success.
When creating your strategy, it’s useful to understand what each persona might see as valuable enough to part with their personal details. Once you have contact details for a healthcare professional, you are able to tailor their engagement journey more effectively ensuring that they associate a high level of value add by interacting with your brand.
Measure the effectiveness of your communication and engagement
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) objectives should be set at the beginning of any campaign to ensure you are able to measure and report on effectiveness throughout.
Be prepared to adapt what you’re doing based on its success or otherwise.
If you’d like to discuss how HMA can help you engage with healthcare professionals then please feel free to get in touch on 07540 823219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
1 ‘Pharmaceutical industry: HCP engagement’ report, EPG Health Media, 2015