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7 Pharmaceutical Industry Trends for your 2021 Marketing Strategy

By 11.11.20 Pharmaceutical Industry Trends to know for 2021
Reading time: 7 minutes

As we all look to 2021, what are the pharmaceutical industry trends to build into your life sciences marketing strategy?

Pharmaceutical, biotech, and life sciences companies bring life-changing medicines to a highly regulated market. But today, the need to satisfy patients, providers, payers, regulatory agencies, and shareholders alike — while staying ahead of the competition — takes the right technologies at the right time. 

The top pharmaceutical industry trends we’re seeing from our clients aren’t necessarily new. But as we move forward into the next decade, they’ve gone from “nice to have” options to requirements to stay competitive.

2021 pharmaceutical industry trends — and how you can implement them

But understanding these pharmaceutical industry trends is one thing. Implementing them is quite another, especially for an individual executive or contributor. Here are the top trends — and how you can get started with each:

1. Data integration

The foundation of the next six trends? Data integration.

Luckily, pharmaceutical companies have access to mountains of data. Insurance coverage, HCP prior authorization, IMS script data, pharmacy fill/delivery status…the challenge is being able to access this kind of data easily and in one place. 

In order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals, health information systems must work together within and across organizational boundaries. Internally, this means updating legacy systems and combining multiple data sources like ERP and marketing/sales systems needed to be effective.

One example of this is social listening. This goes beyond providing canned responses on social channels. It’s about really listening to what your customers are saying, and marrying those insights with what your market research has already told you. 

Take a copay card, for example. Someone in a focus group could say, “No, I’d never use that.” But when you put it out there, 90% of people that opted in use it. If you only had data from that one nay-sayer in a focus group, you wouldn’t have known to create value like a copay card. Behavioral insights, research, and activity are all different pieces of data that must be combined to get a full, 360-degree picture of client needs.

Which goes along with…

2. Effective measurement 

Once you have all the data in one place, you need to understand what to use it for. There’s a lot of talk in pharma about creating the desired customer experience, and mapping that out with what interactions make up a customer journey, like doctor-patient conversations. But being able to demonstrate synergistic ROI of marketing channel efforts and effectiveness measures of patient engagement to justify spend can be challenging, if impossible. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Please, not another PowerPoint or spreadsheet.”

What you need is a consolidated dashboard.

If you’re going to invest, you need to prove the value. What data integration and effective measurement looks like in action is a consolidated dashboard outlining marketing efforts so you can see your ROI in real-time. Things like:

  • Media spend
  • Prescription lift
  • Web or email conversion
  • Brand tracking
  • Market research insights
  • Panel data
  • Medical outcomes

That way everyone can be on the same page, accessing the same data, from every point in the customer journey to understand how things are performing across channels. Also, it importantly provides data to back up your strategic choices. Salesforce provides analytic tools and dashboards to help you know in real time the effectiveness of your marketing and engagement activities.

3. Consumerization of the patient

Pharma marketers today are under plenty of pressure to deliver what customers want, when they want it. Today’s increasingly customer-centric focus for pharma means that organizations can’t continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. Every touchpoint matters, especially with patients having more power in what medications they choose to take.

Creating a patient experience means understanding your data (see trends 1 and 2) and putting it into action. Rather than your desired customer experience, you need to meet your customers where they are. 

Let’s take an oncology example. A cancer diagnosis is a scary, life-changing event to happen in a person’s life. Treatment is invasive and challenging to navigate. With every next scan, a patient waits to find out whether or not they’re winning or losing a battle that takes every ounce of energy.

It’s easy as marketers to forget that this is the day-to-day reality of your patients. Looking at your customer journey with an empathetic, consumer-focused perspective means re-evaluating what it looks like to check-in. Maybe your customers want a phone call just to ask how they’re feeling and if they need any help. Maybe they’d prefer a text message reminder for a refill. What the consumerization of the patient means in action is:

  • Map out exactly what it looks like for a patient to go from symptoms to testing to prescription and beyond. 
  • Using technology to provide empathetic touchpoints when patients want to hear from you
  • Understanding customer communication preferences and honoring them
  • Partnering with pharmacies and other healthcare organizations to create a holistic experience

Patients demand and expect a more personalized experience with their treatments — and with the Salesforce platform, engaging patients with a 360-degree view is easy. We work with you to determine the desired customer experience and build corresponding journeys that can be automated and flexible. The results are an empowered and adherent patient. 

4. Finding pharma’s role in the healthcare experience 

Now, biotech companies aren’t the only ones looking to tap into the supporting the patient experience. You’re competing with:

  • Doctors and hospitals, who want to make sure patients are healing 
  • Specialists and technicians, which may be in or out of network
  • Insurance companies 
  • Specialty pharmacies coordinating prescriptions, refills, and shipments

Many clients I talk to are struggling to figure out their role in patient services they should own versus what insurers, specialty pharmacies and HCPs should own. But here’s the truth: your job is to make sure patients are getting your products for the best possible insurance coverage and price. Where you come in is making sure that every question is answered so patients stay adherent and compliant — and get better.

One way to do this is with prior authorizations. It’s annoying for everyone involved (except perhaps the insurance companies) so your organization has an opportunity to jump in by providing a simple form and multiple submission channels (phone, fax, web portal). This is one way to make a challenging process to navigate easier for the patient and the doctor, building equity with both. 

Another is managing side effects. Marketers can use research about what days on treatment create which side effects or challenges and proactively communicate, either through partners like specialty pharmacies or directly with patients. If you know that on day five your patients will have gastro-intestinal symptoms, make sure you trigger some form of outreach to both the doctor and the patient to check in. 

5. FDA/FTC/HIPAA compliance

This is less of a trend and more of a requirement. Every healthcare company needs to balance the demands of the customer with increased regulations around privacy and reporting. Marketers understandably fear making missteps when it comes to strict privacy and compliance laws. 

It’s the first question that always comes up. Marketers have good intentions, but requirements are often gray and confusing. They rely on their internal counterparts to help them in identifying risks. Any new technology you invest in must comply with these regulations. You already know that to get internal buy-in for a new tool or process, you need to be able to verify it’s compliant. 

The best part about new technology is that it can actually help facilitate compliance, rather than create a security hole. With Salesforce, you can easily perform consent management tasks all in one place, in a platform you know is protected. Salesforce technologies already have certified pre-built safeguards functionality in place.

What’s important is to have a plan in place for your communications, especially social media. If you’re going to listen to your customers, you need to have a place to record those interactions (with consent!) especially if they’re reporting adverse events or side effects like headaches, upset stomach, or other adverse reactions. 

6. Traditional and non-traditional sales channel synergies 

If marketing and sales teams can collaborate seamlessly on what, when, and how to deliver a message, perceived value can easily be created, and transformed over time into known quality. But first, marketing teams and sales teams need to be seen as collaborative rather than combative forces. Marketers must consider sales teams as an extension of their marketing team. Coordinating between marketing and sales allows you to personalize interactions via marketing tools and campaigns. 

With a strategically customized Marketing Cloud instance, a 360-degree view of the HCP interaction history and preferences will allow marketers and salespeople alike to create better experiences leading to better relationships with the HCPs. By leveraging a platform like Marketing Cloud and its Distributed Marketing extension, both the marketing and sales teams can learn of an individual HCP’s engagement with the brand and respond to HCP requests. So, when a sales rep goes into an HCP visit, they will already know if that particular HCP has seen the information or even asked for more information. This allows the rep to better prepare for the in-person sales call. 

Additional functionality provides the ability to create campaigns for the reps, arming them with pre-approved templates and content that allows for a small degree of personalization when sent directly from the rep. The rep chooses which campaign to send based on the interaction. It could be as simple as a post sales call “Thank you,” a follow up with requested information sent electronically via the rep, or something more complex like a personal invitation to a dinner program or web event. 

And of course, all the information is easily analyzed and reported to both marketing and sales so they can both understand effectiveness and where the HCP may be on the journey. 

7. Optimizing performance through internal and external training 

With any complex  treatment, training is key to success. Multiple external stakeholders and customers, along with the sales field, need to be trained and have access to information quickly, easily, and effectively. 

Education levels vary greatly, so organizations must provide robust training tools not just for patients, but for the various medical professionals that will interact with them. That can be arranging in-house visits, phone calls, educational materials, or video calls for injections or more complex treatments. How can this be done smarter and more efficiently? 

External stakeholders (e.g., nurses, Group Purchasing Organizations, doctors, lab technicians, patients) and internal functions (e.g., call center operators, salespeople) need quick, intuitive access to information. We’ve developed learning experiences for clients via the Salesforce platform that allow for accuracy, real-time access, and quick updates.

Silverline can help you get started with these trends

There is no doubt that many factors contribute to life sciences’ low adoption rates with new technology, for example: lack of enterprise agility, fear of being tied to a technology, organizational change management (historical in-person models, and regulatory restrictions of promotion), and lack of internal expertise. 

But taking your pharmaceutical and biotech marketing to the next level is possible, with one step at a time. Our team at Silverline has deep expertise in what it takes to create a patient-centric marketing model with technology that empowers your team to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

Whether you have a Salesforce solution in place and are looking to optimize, or you’re still determining how to improve your organization’s approach to personalized marketing for HCPs and beyond, Silverline is poised to help. 

We understand the biotech and pharma ecosystem with hundreds of successful, custom implementations solving problems just like these.

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