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Digital Healthcare Marketing

Phygital: The Holy Grail of Next-gen Pharma Marketing

By 8 October 2019May 19th, 2022No Comments

As digitization altered how doctors consumed medical information, Pharma marketers continued to rely on large field forces for in-clinic visits. This changed when they realized that doctors are less welcoming of MRs and more in favor of online information resources. Today, most marketers have added (or are thinking of adding) digital touchpoints with doctors. And All are trying to arrive at the right channel mix to engage doctors in future.   

Recently, a senior Pharma executive asked us – “Do Doctors Still Find Value in MR Visits?” Well! The answer is both, Yes and No!

We conducted a study on 534 doctors to understand the relevance of MR meetings and assess the best ways of connecting pharma and physicians in future.

The results of the survey are below:


It is evident that conventional marketing approach is due for a rehaul and must be accompanied with strong digital support. Offline marketing is no longer the holy grail for effective physician engagement.

Let’s explore the scenario in detail.

Problems with Traditional Marketing

• Huge field force failing to gain doctors’ adequate attention: A Docplexus survey shows 90% doctors spend only 2 to 5 minutes with an MR and 79% cannot acquire detailed information on molecules due to their busy schedules.
• Stringent regulations curtailing conventional marketing practices: The introduction of the Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) in 2008 has rendered previously acceptable promotional practices unethical. Pharma marketers are compelled to move away from a transactional approach to a relationship-based one.
• Offline marketing events not cutting the mark: Paucity of time is a major hurdle in Pharma’s attempts to leverage KOL seminars and conferences for physician engagement. Also, it is cumbersome for Pharma to organize such events.
• Beyond the pill initiatives missing from overall strategy: Stiff competition in off-patent space makes its crucial for marketers to retain brand recall among their customers. So, what can be the new talking points for these brands? Physicians like to hear about information Beyond the Pill. Sadly, companies restrict themselves to sales pitches, eventually leading to physicians losing interest in the brand.

Benefits of Digital Engagement

Digital not only helps you connect with doctors through various touchpoints but also helps improve their overall experience with your brand. It enables pull marketing in which doctors choose to connect with pharma in a manner they deem fit. It facilitates Beyond the Pill initiatives that are of value to physicians. Digital data helps marketers understand doctors’ mindset better and devise pertinent marketing plans.  Digital marketing promotes agility, allowing real-time tweaks to strategies based on doctors’ behaviors. Content is King in the digital world as it plays a huge role in creating physicians’ buy-in. If executed well, content-based digital strategies can successfully bridge the gap between physicians’ needs and pharma’s offerings.

Relevance of Physical Connect

People often associate faces with brands. And when you put a face to a brand, it increases credibility. Physical meetings have the personal touch which digital mediums do not offer. MR visits build a strong rapport with the doctor and when done right, create customers for life accurately.

Phygital – The Future of Pharma Marketing

Going back to the question “Do Doctors Find Value in MR Visits?”, we may conclude that while doctors definitely want to see MRs, they do demand more value from these meetings. It is, therefore, necessary for Pharma to tweak its conventional marketing ways and combine them with the best of what digital has to offer. In short, Phygital is the way ahead.

A great Phygital strategy would involve integrating the best of both worlds to offer one seamless customer experience. Following are the pillars of a successful Phygital approach to pharma marketing:

1.Mindset of the management: The survey reveals that Pharma is still focussed on physical marketing while digital is an afterthought. While digital initiatives are acquiring center space in the marketing strategy in the West, Indian Pharma is still terming it as “new initiatives”. Changing intent of the management towards digital marketing is the key here. The management’s support to digital marketing will percolate through the entire organization and will instill belief among MRs
2.Sufficient budget allocation for digital: Despite statistics proving the importance of Digital, Indian Pharma continues to be lackadaisical about investing in it. It is appalling that most Indian companies only allocate a mere 1% of their marketing budget towards this, while MNCs earmark 15%.
3.Choosing digital initiatives wisely: Not everything that is digital is right for you. Most pharma apps and websites that began with a bang a few years ago are now lying unattended and inactive. Developing useful online resources that keep a large number of physicians engaged over a period of time is a laborious task. Only the right online media can deliver the best of what digital has to offer.
4.Blending insights from offline and online behaviors: Content-based marketing can provide you with qualitative insights into physician perception about the therapy area, your molecule and your competition. These combined with your offline research will empower you to come up with a fool-proof communications strategy for your brand.
5.Nailing omnichannel: Creating holistic engagement with your audience through various channels is crucial to succeed with Phygital. An integrated approach will improve the overall experience of the consumer into a seamless journey. Studies show that good omnichannel engagement results in up to 90% retention of customers.

If you are following a unique Phygital strategy to engage doctors, share it below.

Docplexus – Pharma’s Trusted Marketing Partner