Marketing and sales in pharma is increasingly content-led. This means that HCPs initially engage with digital content — preferring to educate themselves first. Often, people do extensive research before talking to a rep. This applies to all industries, but it is critical in pharma and MedTech which have traditionally relied on the sales force for the entire sales funnel. Reps would highlight the problem (awareness), outline the treatment options (exploration), and detail the product benefits (solution). But now that HCPs prefer to review content before seeking contact, companies need to update their engagement strategies. Content needs to cover more of the process — with rep meetings sequenced to occur later when they provide the most value and HCPs are ready to engage.
People’s content format expectations are also changing. They now want to choose how they consume information, picking formats that match their personal preferences or context at that moment. For any topic, people expect to choose between reading how something works, listening to how it works, or watching how it works. To meet these new expectations, pharma and MedTech companies need to provide content in multiple formats — not just texts but also podcasts and particularly video.
Popular peer-to-peer video
Traditionally pharma used video with very high production values — creating one or two assets that explain the science in detail. This is an excellent use of video, but there are other options. One opportunity is to take a 'content marketing' approach, e.g. non-branded communication about a topic area. Because this kind of content is broader in scope, it can reach a far wider audience. While many doctors want information on new therapies, many more require information on the disease, its diagnosis, treatment factors, and patient management.
One good content marketing use for video is to enable peer-to-peer communication. In other words, you give HCPs a voice by recording them explaining different aspects of patient care. This kind of content gets high engagement. HCPs appreciate hearing from other doctors, as evidenced by the popularity of medical webinars. But the direct-to-camera 'talking head' format provides the opportunity for shorter, more focused video content that you can integrate into your marketing — and is more easily consumed during an HCP’s working day.
Direct-to-camera video is also cost-effective. In fact, if you work efficiently, you can bring five different doctors to one location and film for a whole day — spending about two hours with each person. With basic lighting and today's high-quality cameras, you can create professional-quality videos very simply. And if you enable the doctors to use presentation slides, they will feel confident because it matches what they do at conferences. If you prep all the questions in advance, you can end the day with a huge amount of content. This material can later be edited, with simple cutaways between the person speaking and presentation slide content. This way, just one day's filming can produce as many as 15-20 short videos.
Integrate into pharma marketing strategy
When thinking of how to use video in your HCP engagement, it pays to understand the different types and how to use them. A basic measure is length. Think of it as a spectrum. You have short-form content for people with a low connection to your company or brand (seconds). Longer content for people with some connection (minutes). And then you can have very long videos for people deeply connected to your product or company (an hour or more).
Categorising video in this way enables you to match assets to people's needs. For example, they will initially want something short to determine whether a topic is interesting and relevant. Once that hurdle is cleared, they will be open to learning more.
Knowing this, you can apply video strategically to the marketing funnel or adoption ladder. Very short videos are needed at the top of the funnel. "Is there a problem here? Is this something for me?" Once they understand the problem and it seems relevant to them, they can explore further. Longer videos are required to provide this information. “What are the current treatment options? What are the right interventions for different patient profiles?" And at the bottom of the funnel, HCPs need the most detail. "How do I make the best use of this product in clinical practice? What should I monitor?"
In marketing, there is a general belief that short-form video is best. Yes, shorter videos tend to have more engagement in terms of clicks, but that's because they work at the top of the funnel where there are more people. But such content wastes the time of someone more invested in a topic. In other words, the audience numbers for longer content are lower — but they have progressed on your adoption ladder and are therefore more likely to consider your product. This is why it is important to have a range of video content and understand what doctors need at each stage of their journey.
Video in omnichannel marketing
You can see how video fits well into today's omnichannel marketing strategies. In contrast to multichannel, omnichannel marketing requires more than just making content available. Instead, it provides a better customer experience by sequencing content so that it is received at the right moment. In other words, instead of just uploading content to websites (expecting HCPs to find and sort information themselves) you provide what people need — when they need it.
Once the omnichannel content strategy is established, you can brief agencies and create video content to populate your digital ecosystem. As discussed, multiple short-form videos that establish topic-relevancy work well in the awareness stage. Fewer, longer videos are required for later stages in the customer journey. In this way, you meet HCP content expectations. Remember: people now want to read, listen and watch. By delivering the right kind of video along a customer journey, you answer people’s information requirements and provide choices in how they can consume it.
Mixing content formats keeps things fresh and encourages further exploration. For example, a customer journey sequence of video–webpage–animation is obviously more engaging than three text-heavy web pages in a row. And, if you use the peer-to-peer 'talking head' format, your communication will be more relevant and authentic too.
One question that often arises with video is how best to use it with social media. A good way to think about this is 'owned' versus 'rented' media. ‘Owned’ media are your own channels, such as your website. 'Rented' media are channels you do not fully control but can use. Social media is therefore rented. YouTube is plainly the leader in consumer video, with a massive global user base. And in the healthcare professional world, services like MedScape and Doximity enable professional engagement between HCPs. Video works well in both these contexts, though obviously the content changes to ensure compliance.
Where these 'rented' channels have great utility is top-of-funnel communications. When you want to reach many people, go to where lots of people are present. As we have described, bite-sized shorter content works well in this case. But rented media, by definition, are not under your control. That makes conversion harder than it would be in wholly-owned channels. For example, YouTube wants to keep people on its site. It therefore suggests the next YouTube video and down-prioritises content that seeks to move the user off their channel. You also don’t get all the data that you would in an owned channel.
These conditions are fine for certain situations, e.g. educating people about a disease. For example, you can create a series of related videos that address a topic to which YouTube will happily connect people. In such cases, your objectives and that of the social media are aligned: you both want people to keep clicking to view multiple videos and educate themselves on a topic. It only becomes problematic when you need to build a customer experience and enable people to fully explore your content. Therefore, be wary of relying solely on rented media. It's tempting because of social media’s great reach — and it definitely has a role to play — but know that you have more options if you build your own channels too.
How do you want to deploy video?
Video is currently underused in pharma marketing. There are untapped opportunities for it to enliven your brand communications, build relationships with healthcare providers, support doctors by educating patients and their families, and meet everyone’s expectations for a greater choice of content formats. And with new technologies making video production ever faster and cheaper, you can act while keeping costs well under control. Talk to us about your opportunities.