Courting the anonymous in healthcare and pharma marketing

Our Web browsers cultivate our behavior and identity as online consumers and turn that into marketing data, used by advertisers wanting to target us with meaningful ads and offers. Advertising keeps the Web free (or mostly free). Privacy advocates have built tools to help protect consumers, such as Duck Duck Go and Firefox, which provide private searching. Recently, Apple took a significant step towards a more private online experience with its iOS14 mobile operating system, giving users transparency into how they are tracked by advertisers, with tools to opt-out. This indicates that the Web is moving to protect consumer privacy, which means marketers will need to adapt and find new methods to reach anonymous consumers in a relevant and meaningful way.

Marketing new drugs or rare disease trials to anonymous patients is nothing new for healthcare and pharma brands.Targeting new patients means a mixture of proven techniques that encourage patients to step forward from HIPPA regulated anonymity. Healthcare patients are even more concerned about privacy than typical consumers when there is a fear of potentially embarrassing stigmas surrounding sexual disorders, lifestyle confessions, and sharing symptoms linked to dire conclusions. The burden of pharma and healthcare marketers is to encourage these patient candidates to abandon their anonymity and raise a hand in the hope of receiving treatment, consultation, or solution to what ails them.

Focusing on the best strategies for your pharma ad campaign means encouraging new patients to come forward and identify themselves in an environment that also respects their privacy. The campaign strategies below best accomplish this type of “conversion”:

Find-a-Doctor referral programs

When a medical condition is rare, patients may have difficulty finding a specialist with knowledge of their treatment options. Patients may learn of a rare disease trial, specialized surgical procedure, or limited access drug only available through specific channels linked to small numbers of doctors or care centers. Finding the right doctor in the patients’ local area is where marketers can help a conversion occur. Established disease advocacy organizations can be helpful for known diseases. Still, for rare diseases with emerging treatment options, drug manufacturers may run their digital marketing campaigns to attract new patients for clinical trials.

Using a broad funnel approach, symptom-based keywords and visibility on social media are used to identify patients whose symptoms relate to those featured in the campaign. This information can lead a patient to find a referral engine of doctors who are skilled in providing the specified treatment program. When selecting a local doctor, the anonymous patient converts to a known lead, typically completing a form and connecting with the desired doctor. Marketers can track attribution and measure a doctor’s prescriptions metrics.

Public awareness campaigns have effectively provided disease education to niche rare disease groups and passive audiences that come of age as disease candidates for Alzheimer’s, Osteoporosis, or Prostate Cancer. Pharmaceutical brands have aligned drug campaigns around increased public awareness, where the campaign acts to funnel patient populations to a destination website. Patient candidates often hear about the campaign on social media, in the press, or via digital and traditional advertising campaigns.

The website raises awareness in identifying symptoms, benefits of early diagnosis, and steps to take for meeting with a doctor. Embedded YouTube videos featuring patient stories have become a common approach in earning trust among new patients. A typical patient journey may “convert” with a phone call to a nurse or call center screener, who will work with the patient to understand their symptoms and determine their eligibility for a referral to a designated doctor.

Video views and site analytics are valuable to measuring the weight of your audience. Focus on time spent on site, overall traffic, and video views for a complete picture of how your audience is engaging with content on the site.

Costly procedures and brand-name drug programs – without an available generic option – may include significant out-of-pocket expenses not covered by health insurance. In these cases, pharma marketers encourage patient prospects to apply for discount savings cards (copay assistance cards). For marketers, the savings cards offer a conversion point on the drug manufacturer’s website, where prospects can be identified and converted into candidates for the treatment program when registering for the discount card. To redeem the savings, the patient can print the card or scan a QR code at a local pharmacy.

HIPAA and GDPR privacy rules provide federal protections for personal information and provide consumers with rights on how their personal information is shared and stored. Maintaining a compliant CRM is essential with all the marketing tactics listed above, as building a long-term relationship with your patient prospects means continuous, opt-in communications. Compliant CRM and email marketing tools meet high standards for security and data protection, with administrators trained in HIPPA and GDPR data handling. With various compliant email marketing and CRM tools available, it comes down to security in storing and sending emails to your CRM contacts.

In summary, adapting to a more private Web means inviting prospects to come forward, raise their hands, and identify themselves. This opting-in process may require a broad advertising campaign to fill the top of your sales funnel, where your prospects can self-identify as they move to mid-funnel. This is a long-proven strategy for healthcare and pharma marketers who have been operating under anonymous HIPPA guidelines. However, this strategy is not exclusive to healthcare and pharma. With new privacy protections being offered by search engines, these tactics can benefit a wide range of B2B and B2c marketers.

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