Xpectives News

Data-Driven Everything

April 26, 2019 by Martha Maranzani0

In today’s world, consumers expect personalized, relevant communications tailored to their specific needs. The consumer goods, retail, fashion, and travel industries all reach these levels of personalization, but how can pharma marketers reach consumers on such an individualized level in such a regulated space? Enter data-driven marketing.

The promise of big data has largely remained unfulfilled for pharmaceutical marketers. Many pharma marketers treat data as an afterthought, using analytics only to see how their campaigns and tactics have performed after the fact and for ROI analysis. But data has the potential to help pharma marketers transform their communication streams. There needs to be a mindset shift that moves data analysis up in the thought process, using it to inform overarching strategies, channels, and creative campaigns from the outset. By using data in this way, brands can get the right messages to the right consumers at the right times, in channel-appropriate formats so they can consume the content in ways that make sense to them. In doing so, pharma content will become more relevant and authentic, gaining the credibility that is currently lacking in the existing “one size fits all” pharma advertising climate.

Read on to see how using data at each step in the strategy process can lead to the ultimate goal of creating long-term customer relationships.

Audience-first approach

Taking the time to understand a target audience is an important first step in creating a strategy, but many pharma marketers stop at researching the demographics of their potential patient population. But in this day and age, that is simply not enough data on which to base an entire patient communications strategy. Not only should demographics be considered, further information such as their likes and dislikes, their wants and fears, their device habits and usage, and where they are in their patient journey will give a much fuller picture of who they are and what content will resonate with them. Using this data will allow marketers to drill down to further levels of segmentation and deliver more personalized and meaningful content to their targets.

Social listening, surveys, and first- and third-party data can give these direct insights into consumer targets so that marketers can better understand them better on a basic level. Brands often assume social listening alone provides an accurate and complete assessment of consumer sentiment, but conversations online about healthcare are vastly different than what happens offline. Combining social listening data with other third-party data can fully capture an audience’s needs.

Further, digital media provides a tremendous opportunity to observe consumers’ engagement habits, their media consumption, and their device habits. Tie this data in with AI and machine learning, and pharma marketers have a powerful backbone of data on which to drive their consumer communications.

Insights that can be mined from this data are vast. Brands can understand why consumers are asking their doctors about certain drugs. They can see how target consumers engage with content, when they are engaging, and on which devices. They can track engagement over time, and see which content is valuable to consumers and which isn’t. Data can help uncover key decision points, actions, and perceptions that drive consumer behavior across the patient journey at any given time.

Segmenting audiences using such data is a basic first step in drilling down into a target audience. Segments can include criteria such as whether they are a patient or caregiver, where the consumers are in their individual patient journeys, and whether they are on your product or a competitive brand. Each of these segments of the audience will have distinct content needs, and using data to inform these needs, marketers can create content that speaks to each one of them at each point.

To understand an audience even more fully, more granular data can be used to create personas. Personas go beyond segments, giving a face and a name to individuals who represent these target segments. It is easier and more meaningful to create content for Susan, a stay-at-home mom of three with type 2 diabetes who doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare her treatment regimen than it is to create content for a female aged 35-45 with the same characteristics. Personas use data to give further insight into the target audience’s lives and give creatives something on which to build their creative campaigns.

Once brands have fully identified their targets, they can choose the channels on which they will execute using their targets’ preferred channels. Different channels might be appropriate for different journey stages, based on the target personas. Different tactics and creative formats might be appropriate for different stages of the journey as well. By leveraging these data insights, pharma marketers can map the most effective opportunities to provide content to consumers at times they are most receptive to receiving messaging across the patient journey. Personalizing the content to each stage can drive engagement and customer satisfaction to help brands form long-term relationships with their consumers.

Using data in the execution

Using real-time data to serve up ads isn’t new. For years pharma marketers have been using programmatic ads based on audience segmentation data to better target ads, optimize spend, and drive greater value because they knew the ads would reach the audience that they were intended to reach. Then came retargeting: serving consumers ads that highlight products they’ve recently viewed on a brand site or searched for on Google.

Retargeting can be even more powerful with more data: if brands know that a consumer is early in their patient journey, they can serve ads for awareness and consideration (real-world data for instance) rather than conversion (driving consumers to talk to their doctor about their product). They can treat visitors to their website’s homepage differently than those who have looked at financial support information by driving the former to ask their doctors about the treatment and driving the latter to a patient assistance program. In this way, using data about consumers can lead to more meaningful patient communications.

Additionally, using data to serve sequenced ads can be full-funnel experience by leading a consumer from awareness through consideration to purchase. As mentioned before, different channels and content formats can play different roles in each stage of the patient journey. By serving up a series of ads in sequence based on the target’s specific journey, the message stays relevant and increases the chances of the consumer interacting with a brand’s content.

Data can also be used for real-time optimization of assets in market. A/B testing of creative, messages, and CTAs can show which assets are performing best with each target segment, allowing brands to optimize to only the best performing creative and focus the ad spend where it will have the greatest ROI.

Beyond banners

Using data is not just for buying and serving banners or other media. Data can be used to enrich CRM programs as well. Most pharma brands treat CRM programs as a “set it and forget it” tactic – all consumers that sign up for the program gets the same sequence of emails in the same order, regardless of whether or not they even open the email and regardless of where they are in their patient journey. CRM programs can be tailored to multiple audience segments, and brands can further target each individual consumer based on his/her response to each item in the CRM stream using the previous engagement data. The use of CRM data can be extended to the social media space as well. Based on the user interaction with the email, brands can retarget the user on social with different ads based on that behavior.

And of course data can be used to track the success of all of a brand’s in-market tactics: media, websites, and CRM programs. Bringing all of this data together in one integrated dashboard can give brands insights into which tactics and channels are working well for which consumers at which stages of their patient journeys, and it can show a brand where it needs to optimize for its next campaign.

Looking to the future

While pharma marketers have access to a wide array of data about their target consumers, some challenges do exist. Consumers are increasingly wary of giving up their data online, and the highly visible data security breaches in the past few years haven’t helped. With regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) expanding globally, marketers will have to be increasingly transparent when collecting consumer data. That said, consumers are willing to exchange their data for content that provides value, so we as pharma marketers need to ensure that the content we are creating solves a need that our consumers have.

The benefits of data-driven marketing are vast and include efficiency, real-time optimization of messaging, improved creative, and extremely quantifiable ROI. When properly implemented throughout the entire strategy and content creation process, it can save pharma marketers time and money and allow brands to create relationships with its targeted consumers, not just advertise and market to them. By leveraging data, brands can glean insights into their target consumers so they can deliver the individualized content that will achieve the as-yet unfulfilled promise of big data for pharma marketers.


Martha Maranzani

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