Social marketing and insights for the pharmaceutical industry – the opportunity is now!

The BHBIA Annual Conference 2016, held in London on May 9 and 10, attracted around 300 delegates from a range of disciplines in healthcare, business intelligence and allied fields. The conference theme this year was ‘Red Alert – The Challenge is Now,’ addressing the challenges affecting the healthcare industry.Legend Engage was invited along to talk about our experience of working with pharma and healthcare industries from a digital and social insights perspective.

Challenges of social research: For the pharmaceutical industry, posting or responding on social media is challenging given the strict compliance and adverse events reporting requirements. As a highly regulated industry with stringent rules, it’s not difficult to see why many pharmaceutical companies eschew social media entirely, thereby completely avoiding the risk of posting, responding or monitoring in ways that could potentially infringe regulations. The challenges of social media faced by the pharmaceutical industry are holding back what could be a great opportunity to engage with healthcare consumers and HCPs alike.

Regulations are constantly changing, making compliance a seemingly overwhelming task. Pharma has shown an increased reliance on automation, self-service and makeshift research from non-market research professionals. At the BHBIA Conference in 2015, the problem of declining respondent rates was addressed. Add that to pressure on budgets and the need to deliver in less time for less money and you’ve got to bring to question the quality and veracity of market research.

Lack of audience engagement as well as costly, traditional market research practice does not bode well for the industry in a time when they are looking to reduce costs and learn more quickly. This must be a sign that things need to change.

In 2014 we worked with a leading pharmaceutical company to demonstrate that these pressures are not a cause for alarm but rather a call to action for the healthcare industry to design research in a smarter way.

Case study: Missed appointments cost the NHS millions of pounds every year. We collaborated with Customer Faithful on a social insights project to understand why so many appointments were being missed. We knew the what, where and whens but needed to work harder to find the whys. To gather this information we had to engage an audience that was notoriously hard to reach.

Challenge: Over 12 million GP appointments and 7 million hospital appointments are missed annually, costing the NHS circa £950million every year. To tackle the problem and reduce DNAs (Did Not Attends) we worked with partner agency Customer Faithful to find the cause.

Unfortunately, those who generally respond to surveys are not necessarily the same people who miss appointments.

Insight: To get people to take part we needed to activate them as well engage them.

Strategy: We encouraged the hard-to-reach audience to take part in the survey through a visually-engaging infographic that delivered an important message in a fun and simplified way, and importantly sparked a debate. We then used this to connect with people via Twitter and a custom-built microsite. We redesigned the more traditional research model to allow fewer focus groups instead diverting budget to online surveys, social listening and social marketing, allowing us to pay attention to attitude sentiments and opinion about missed appointments from a broader range of patient types.

Results: We surpassed the estimated response rate by 1300% obtaining a sample that included an impressive proportion of traditionally hard-to-reach groups. The cost per response was less than £4 – very difficult to achieve under more traditional research methods.

Main achievements and learnings: All in all, the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry needn’t be a red alarm, simply a sign that there is a need to find smarter ways of working that are both cost effective and efficient. Rethinking traditional methods of engagement and embracing the compliance demand as part of a richer dataset could be just what the pharmaceutical industry needs.

To find out more about the work we do in pharmaceutical and healthcare get in touch; rachel@legendengage.com

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