Short-, mid- and long-term To-Do List for pharma marketers in the wake of COVID-19

Written by
Mads Krogh Petersen
Short-, mid- and long-term To-Do List for pharma marketers in the wake of COVID-19

The lock down’s instantaneous and dramatic reduction in the access to HCPs by sales reps and via analogue events have challenged medical departments and pharma marketers. So, what to do?  

1. Short term: Low hanging fruits

First, there is a need to put together an urgent short-term digital plan for the next approximately 3-4 months (or who knows?)  for the period of the lock down and its immediate aftermath. It includes securing baseline visibility and maintain top-of-mind with HCPs and otherwise offering the convenience as regards access to support and materials hitherto offered by the sales rep mostly via face to face meetings.

This phase includes harvesting the infamous low hanging fruits and pertains mainly to activate the brand’s existing channels, content and multi-channel infrastructure.

  • Revisit existing approach to HCPs emails

- Optimizing the visual design of emails/templates according to Best Practice

- Conduct an audit of existing offline content and decide which content could be re-purposed as content for the email program 

- Clean up and check permissions available, define a simple schedule, dispatch the emails, and learn by tracking soft and hard responses

  • Optimize existing websites

- Make sure your respective websites offer all, relevant content already approved by the organization

- Update the User Experience of the content hosted on the site: e.g. lay out the content as per your knowledge of the Decision Journey, inspiring to different learning styles (e.g. visual, copy driven, audio born, interactive) and ascertain every page has specific Calls to Action

- Tag all content element as per the Decision Journey to enable business focused reporting to management

  • Assisted and Self detailing

- Create an online version of your detailer and implement a guided flow through the presentation supported by audio and/video.

- Create a playbook and train sales reps as a regard setting up, preparing, conducting, and following up on an online meeting with an HCP leveraging a Zoom, Teams, WebEx or GO2Meeting type of system leveraging the existing detailer via “sharescreen”

  • Digital Paid Media  

- Consider the opportunities of Third-Party HCP portals such as Sermo, Medscape, DocCheck,, TheLancet, etc to either engage HCPs in situ or drive traffic to your websites

- For non-branded content, start using Linkedin for targeted Thought Leader outreach to influence the HCP audience without direct product selling.

- Search remains the primary digital access point for HCP, thus leverage Adwords and diverse YouTube advertising formats for driving traffic to existing websites.

If you are uncertain whether acting amidst a crisis is the right course of action, please consider reading Vertic's POV on the topic of inaction vs action during COVID-19.

2. Mid-term: From Channel effectiveness focus to Customer Flow orientation

Second, define a mid-term digital strategy for the second half of 2020 and 2021. It comprises orchestrating and aligning activities across the digital channels. Excellence in swiftly preparing such plan, in parallel with short term executions, permits the brand in case to stand out against the competitors in a crowded digital communication space.

A selection of Out of the Box Customer Flows

This strategy needs be truly multi-channel linking different touch point and channels across time into Customer Flows. It requires more planning, management, and digital capabilities than executing in a "channel focused" marketing system so far prevalent in the pharmaceutical industry - which for example included notion of the “relative influence of a rep interaction vs receiving an email”. Today we know HCPs (and you and I) move seamlessly across channels and it is synchronizing these most efficiently which will advance the stakeholder across the journey towards prescription. At Vertic, we have defined Out of the Box Customer Flows based on our experiences outside and inside the Healthcare industry to ease the transition from a channel focus to Customer Flow orientation.

High level view of a Customer Flow for maximization of the value of conducting a "webinar"

Long Term: Road map for the Digital Transformation of Pharma Marketing

Third, there is a distinct need to put together a long-term road map for the digital transformation of the sales and marketing processes. Behavioral science tells us that action is the primary agent of long-term behavior change. Through urgency, pharma companies and HCPs have crammed the adoption of new channels and work processes into a very short time period. HCPs will have formed new preferences and habits in favor of the digital channels as well as developed digital competences throughout the lock down.

At the same time, we are moving toward the end of marketing as we know it today. Loyalty is fading as commoditization increases, ROI on R&D decreases and value-based pricing makes ground. As part of this, we have reached the inflection point where we spend more time online than in analogue interactions. We now live online rather than go online. Embedding your brand in the customer’s new mode of existence – what we describe as gaining Share-of-Life – is the paramount driver of success going forward.

In other words, as we move ahead, digital is not only a vehicle for delivering the message of the brand’s value proposition, but a core component of the value proposition itself. The process for defining the Digital Transformation Roadmap is described in Vertic's Creed framework which has applied across of number of Fortune 500 companies.

Act now, but prepare for a new era in pharmaceutical marketing  

Short-term and mid-term should be the immediate focus of the pharma marketer. This will allow the brand to flourish in a world where the decision journey and info seeking process became a little more digital in nature than it used to be month ago due to the global health crisis. And this digital progression of society at large is a part of a general trend which ultimately is going to revolutionize the way marketing is conducted within the pharmaceutical industry.

The lock down’s instantaneous and dramatic reduction in the access to HCPs by sales reps and via analogue events have challenged medical departments and pharmaceutical marketers. So, what to do - now, mid term and in the long run?  

Written by

Mads Krogh Petersen

President and Co-Founder

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