Insider’s guide

How to choose a pharma digital marketing agency

Finding the right pharma marketing agency

This article explains what to look for when selecting a pharma digital marketing agency. We describe the services you should expect to receive and what the very best pharma digital agencies can provide. We also explore what kind of agency is required to fully deliver on the possibilities that digital communication technologies can provide pharma. Companies can now connect and build relationships with healthcare professionals (HCPs) in a myriad of ways. Finding the right way requires a new kind of healthcare marketing agency.

What isn’t covered below are the intangible factors that make for a great client / agency working relationship. Personal chemistry matters as much now as it has always done. If you'd like to get to know Anthill and meet some of our people, do get in touch.

Understanding pharma marketing agency services

Person working on an iPad
F2F engagement


High value, one-to-one presentations for in-depth HCPs discussions on your product

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Teamwork on content ideas
Personalised marketing

Approved email

Personalised communication with far higher open rates than standard marketing emails

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Modular content: hand touching the glass
Flexible HCP engagement

Remote detailing

Flexible, personal engagements available on-demand and increasingly preferred by HCPs

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Remote engagement via laptop
On-demand content

Self-service content

Marketing and educational content available online 24/7 in a fully compliant way

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A man is looking at the screen
Connected communications


Customer-centric marketing delivered through orchestrated channels and content

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A girl is working with emails using her laptop
Marketing efficiency

Content excellence

More efficient, cheaper and faster creation and approval of digital content

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A team working on unification process

Modular content

Reusable content that is cheaper to produce, faster to create, and easier to approve

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Workplace: laptop, coffee and phone

Website unification

One system for all brand websites for more control and far greater efficiency

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Best pharma digital agencies — selection factors

What’s the best way to structure your agency support for digital marketing? One agency for strategy? Another for creativity? And yet another for technology? That can work, but you'll be missing out on the synergies. To get the most from digital marketing in the life sciences, today’s pharma marketing agency need all three — strategic brilliance, technological knowhow and creative flair.

Ask a good technologist what marketing technology can do, and they will say, "Anything you want! What precisely do you want to do?” This illustrates why strategy is so crucial in pharmaceutical marketing. The potential is there for pharma to use digital technologies to provide outstanding customer experiences. But realising these opportunities requires a pharma marketing agency with a strategic mindset. For example, interactions in an eDetailer aren’t just there to look cool (though they should) but rather to involve HCPs in key moments of your product story, measure understanding, and improve information retention. The right strategy produces great creative work that technology brings to life.

All three factors — strategy, creativity and technology — are required for excellence in digital healthcare communication. The best pharma digital agencies will have these competencies ‘under one roof’ with multiple specialist teams that work closely together.

Another characteristic of a leading pharma marketing agency is the ability to think ‘big and small’. You want to be challenged with a big idea or a breakthrough technology. For example, there are opportunities now to deliver automated and on-demand HCP communications that utilise ‘chatbot’ technologies. These can reuse eDetailing and other marketing content, making it very cost-effective to put in place.

These big ideas matter, but you also want the agency to 'think small' — in the sense that they obsess over the details. All these little details matter. The copy has to be just right. The images must display clearly on any device. The solution needs to be easy for reps with speedy and simple workflows. Emails should to designed to avoid spam catchers. Great pharma agencies will have the practical knowhow and take the time to check that everything works properly.

Lastly, it should go without saying that pharma experience is critical. An agency that doesn't understand how pharma marketing works will need to be educated — on your time. That means they aren't thinking about your business challenge but are just getting up to speed. You might hope for a fresh perspective, but you will probably get a proposal that fails to account for pharma’s regulatory environment. This is why most companies only consider a pharma digital marketing agency with proven healthcare experience. Instead of looking for originality through lack of experience, look for creativity matched by experience. Specialist agencies that fully understand the sector can apply their creativity to deliver exceptional work within the industry's constraints.

Key points:

• Digital communications benefit from synergies between disciplines
• Look for pharma agencies with strategic, creative and technological expertise
• Seek agencies excited about big ideas but are equally detail orientated
• Request creative examples within the pharma environment

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Pharma marketing agency competencies — what you should expect

Pharma marketing agencies today need to provide a range of services to meet the growing communication requirements of life science companies. This is a sliding scale: there are essential requirements for communication tools, more strategic capabilities and — at the highest level — a deep understanding of how pharma marketing works and the ability to make it easier and more efficient.

At a minimum, a pharma digital marketing agency must be able to deliver excellent marketing communication and digital sales materials such as eDetailing presentations, approved email content, and remote detailing systems. This is the essential requirement of a creative pharma agency. Great content is what all life science companies are seeking. Marketing materials must repay the time and investment — effectively engaging HCPs in your product story while providing the usability and flexibility that reps and MSLs demand.

While this should be a requirement of any pharma marketing agency, it pays to be demanding. Look for creative excellence in the storytelling strategy and smart use of interactivity for HCP engagement and marketing analytics. But, equally, be confident that you're getting a 'battle proof’ solution. Sales aids need to work in multiple situations, not just optimal conditions. An experienced pharma marketing agency will know how to guarantee this while leveraging the full creative possibilities of pharma marketing solutions like Veeva CRM.

The best pharma agencies will go further and be able to partner with you and advise on how to best implement these digital channels. For example, an experienced life science marketing agency will be able to guide you on the best approach to omnichannel HCP engagement. This should include both the overarching customer journey strategy and detailed tactical planning for channel selection and content — and how this engagement will be orchestrated and sequenced to meet your business objectives. Where possible, also look for pharma digital agency experience in practical implementation and change management. The ability to move from the perfect strategy to the market realities that affiliates face is essential. The best pharma marketing agency will understand how to engage affiliates and ensure that global brand strategies are enacted locally

At the highest level, a pharma digital marketing agency will provide the experience, vision and technological knowhow to make global pharma marketing easier. For example, the very best pharma marketing agencies will be able to implement a ‘content excellence’ programme that meets your specific needs. This might be a website unification project to bring your entire web presence into a single system — bringing brand uniformity, faster web content creation and an easier process for affiliates. Or you may require a modular content system to realise the opportunities of omnichannel engagement fully. Modular content enables increased content production while simplifying MLR approvals and speeding up time-to-market.

Key points:

• Experience in pharma marketing channel content is the minimum requirement
• A clear strategy should be apparent in every marketing asset
• Inquire about implementation, change management and affiliate support
• Look for strategic marketing expertise, e.g. omnichannel HCP engagement
• The very best agencies will make marketing easier for you, e.g. modular content provision

Why finding the right pharma digital marketing agency matters

There’s never been a more exciting time for pharma marketing. The kind of relationships that pharma is now building with HCPs through the intelligent use of digital communications were unimaginable a decade ago. And even a few years ago, these technologies were rarely implemented. But that has changed.

Today, advanced digital engagements are an everyday reality for many companies. Communications are more connected and more personalised. There are new channels like remote detailing that have proven popular with HCPs. Self-service systems are making information readily available on-demand. Medical education initiatives reach more HCPs through the popular webinar format. And channels and content are being fashioned into digital ecosystems that enable customer-centric omnichannel services and communications.

Technology makes it possible, but it’s forward-thinking marketers who are making it happen. With the help of their pharma marketing agency partners, brand managers are implementing entirely new ways of engaging HCPs. Finding the right agency is critical. They need to match your ambition and have the skills, competencies and vision to turn digital possibilities into reality. If you’d like to learn more about how Anthill thinks and works, do get in contact.

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