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Driven by the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry had to embrace the ‘new normal’ radically. A shift appeared from making face-to-face connections with Health Care Professionals (HCPs) to a completely virtual world. But will this last, even after the pandemic? At Reuters Events’ Pharma Marketing Europe we were looking for answers together with marketing leaders from across the globe.

In an engaging session with 61 marketing leaders we discussed how online will affect the industry, after its use has accelerated due to the pandemic. We looked at how the industry can best connect, engage and measure the results. One thing became crystal clear from the discussion: the pandemic will have a lasting effect. ‘Most likely we will move to blended or mixed forms, combining online conferences with physical meetings’, says Online Seminar Business Development Manager Rico Hoeboer. ‘The sheer size and frequency of large conferences will probably belong to the past.’

Connect: relevant content is key

Rico’s statement is backed up by research executed by consultancy firm Accenture in August 2020. It states that 87 percent of HCPs want either all virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings even after the pandemic ends. ‘Approved email turns out to be the preferred way to reach them’, says Rico. ‘However, the marketing leaders stressed the importance of relevant content. HCPs are receiving high volumes of digital content that is less relevant and missing the mark. It is better to share less content that is spot on than to send large amounts just because it says so on the calendar.’

Engage: how to avoid “digital fatigue”

When it comes to engaging the audience, research shows that HCPs would like to receive more information but simply are lacking time. ‘That is why, according to the marketing leaders, it is important to keep content relevant and easily accessible. That is probably why remote meetings have a 133% higher engagement duration than face-to-face meetings. HCPs can watch it when it suits them’, says Rico. ‘However, too many platforms and channels are confusing and create a sense of “digital fatigue” with the audience. Choosing the right ones is essential. The saying “less is more” is very true in pharma.’

Measure: creating customer profiles

The marketing leaders indicate that ROI is not the driving force behind their activities. Creating strategic and worthwhile relationships is much more important. ‘What they also recognize, however, is that it is a smart thing to build proper profiles of their customer base. Online allows a far more detailed analysis than physical meetings. What do people click on? How long do they watch?

McKinsey research indicates that companies that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform their peers in sales by 85%. It is what we at Online Seminar also see in the webinars and virtual events that we provide to our customers: they give them a lot of valuable data which they can use throughout the business. That alone ensures us that online is there to stay in pharma, also after the pandemic.’