Solving the Personalization Challenge in Pharma Marketing

Marketing has been evolving at a rapid pace for over 20 years now. In that time there have been some fundamental shifts in how every business is able to find, attract and convert their target consumers. At the same time, the Pharma industry has been shifting. 90% of visitors to life sciences and pharmaceutical sites want Physician directories available and 83% are more likely to use (or recommend) a brand website that has a Doctor directory (Pharma Report 2022). No change has perhaps been as significant, however, as the recent shifts in privacy regulations and the actions that the leading tech firms have taken to deliver this consumer demand for data protection.

Following many years of data hacks, password leaks and related security concerns by names as big as Yahoo (3 billion accounts leaked), Alibaba (1.1 billion pieces of user data leaked) and LinkedIn (700 million user’s data leaked), to name just a few, consumers have become increasingly nervous about how their data is used.

When this nervousness is combined with advertising that feels intrusive and almost obsessive in following the consumer around with specific knowledge of their browsing behavior, it is understandable that consumers will be frustrated. We add to that the experimental use of data by organisations such as Meta who are known to have run psychological experiments on users by altering their Facebook feeds and it becomes more than a casual frustration and more of a need to protect yourself.

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The changing landscape

This has caused an increasing amount of regulation to arrive regarding the use of data such as GDPR in Europe and the California Privacy Act in the USA, but, whilst these are useful, they would not solve many of the issues we’ve already looked at above.

Over the last few years many internet browsers have begun to remove the option for advertisers to use third-party cookies. Safari and Firefox actually blocked third-party cookies back in 2019, but Google Chrome, which has become the dominant browser over the last ten years, has yet to block them. This is changing however, with third-party cookies in Chrome due to be blocked by 2024.

These issues combined are dramatically changing the marketing landscape.

So, what does this mean for pharma marketing?

This brings a shift in how marketers are able to target customers. Where third-party cookies have historically allowed marketers to target a user based on their behaviours on their platform with highly personalised ads on other platforms, this will no longer be the case. This, from a smart targeting perspective, may feel like a step backwards but in reality it focuses marketers on the data that really matters – first-party data.

It is essential now that users look to their own data to improve performance. This means ensuring that personalisation can be delivered through a platform that is built to suit the needs of the user. It means ensuring that the users experience your advertising and website in the manner that they expect.

The word “expect” here is the second part of the challenge. Whilst consumers are increasingly demanding data protection, they are also increasingly expecting personalisation. That wording is important – this is not a preference, it is an expectation. “Don’t waste my time with irrelevant adverts”, “Don’t make me work to find what I want”. In fact, according to McKinsey, “71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions” (McKinsey, 2021) Consumers today expect fast, direct solutions to their problems and if they don’t find them, they will go elsewhere.

What this means for SEO

Alongside these challenges, the impact on advertising means that your SEO performance needs to be very strong. Gaps may appear from your competition that you can take advantage of. You may also need to drive increased traffic from SEO as you evolve your advertising strategy. This means that SEO performance should be a focus.

In order to drive SEO, you must address the three corners of the SEO Triangle (Simon Kingsnorth 2016). These are Content, Technical and Links. You must ensure that you have content that hits your target key phrases and that is engaging and fresh. Your site must be fast, clean and easy for crawlers to understand and you must build a strong set of links from relevant authority websites.

The first two corners can be easily controlled but the link building corner is always the most time consuming and costly. Buying links is not an option and so generating them involves a value exchange.

Spending time researching destination websites, writing guest posts, working with journalists, writing PR and building partnerships are all key activities to build links, but they all take time and they cost money either through a marketing agency or an in-house marketing team. Therefore, it’s important to focus on methods of obtaining links organically and passively rather than constructing extensive link building programs. Two vital approaches here are PR and link baiting.

PR is self-explanatory and getting links from reputable news sites is a high-authority strategy whereas link baiting involves creating linkable content and attracting those links to your site. Tools and widgets are the best approach here. You will have used tax calculators, mortgage calculators, color lookups, domain searches or flight searches at some point in your internet history. These tools are fantastic in terms of delivering value for the user as they directly solve specific problems. This means that, not only is the user likely to bookmark them, but other sites are likely to link to them.

What actions do Pharma business need to take to get ahead in the changing landscape?

As the marketing industry shifts with these consumer demands and technology trends, pharma businesses must focus on opportunities to drive awareness and conversion. This means a change to advertising strategy and an increased focus on SEO. This focus on SEO will drive cost-effective traffic into the site and mitigate the risk of a drop in advertising performance.

It also means ensuring that first party, personalised solutions are critical to ensuring consumer’s expectations are met with meaningful solutions. This, in turn, means using tools and widgets to drive engagement, conversion and to generate backlinks.

An example of one such tool is the Physician Finder widget by Press Ganey. This widget can be embedded on to websites with some simple code and immediately provides a Physicians directory which a user can then interact with to get a personalised and relevant list of Physicians that meets their specific search criteria.  These criteria include Physician specialties, languages, location and  insurance plans accepted to ensure that the user can get to the right Physician quickly and easily.

50% of visitors to life sciences and pharmaceutical websites say that not being able to find the right Doctor is a barrier to treatment, so a tool such as this solves a real pain point and delivers excellent value to users. This is then more likely to encourage the user to book an appointment and access the specialized care that can connect them to novel therapeutics. This tool tackles the third-party cookie issue whilst delivering a personalised experience that drives business goals. It also drives improved user engagement and is strong in terms of linkable content therefore improving the SEO of the sites it is embedded on.

As the focus on privacy continues to grow, and the relentless drive towards delivering growth remains constant, tools like Physician finders this will be a critical part of the success of pharma marketing. For 2023, therefore, the critical marketing strategies for pharma businesses should be in quickly adopting tools that address these needs, adapting advertising strategies and delivering improved SEO performance.

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