Pharmaceutical marketing strategies have shifted considerably over recent years. Rapid developments in technology and digital communication, changes in healthcare professional attitudes to salesforce visits, and the integration of digital technology into physicians’ daily lives have all played a role. There is a clear need for pharmaceutical companies to provide information that is straightforward and easy for physicians to understand. Physicians value qualities such as interactivity, personalised content and information that they do not have to seek out. These experiences come hand-in-hand with sales rep face-to-face communication. Currently, only a small minority of physicians believe digital can do all this.
At the same time, when making decisions, physicians spend twice as much time searching for information online than in print materials. Physicians are also already using digital platforms in their professional lives and to communicate with their peers. In a survey conducted by Bryter amongst 1,500 physicians across Europe, we found that 44% regularly use Whatsapp and 21% use LinkedIn to communicate with their colleagues. The foundations for direct connections with brands through digital channels already exist, but are not always being utilised: we found that overall just 14% use WhatsApp and 6% LinkedIn to communicate with pharma companies. Uptake can also vary substantially across countries: in Belgium, only 2% use WhatsApp to communicate with pharma companies, compared to 38% in Spain.
Digital cannot replace sales representatives – nor does it need to. A hybrid approach that combines sales reps with digital communication is clearly an opportunity to better connect with HCPs. If used in the right way, digital strategies can keep reps connected with physicians more closely than ever. The challenge is in proving to physicians that digital can provide them with the same support that sales reps offer.
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