Experts from top life sciences companies discussed strategies for more effectively engaging oncologists at the Pharma Marketing Network’s 2022 Future Forecast on January 25th. Here are the top three things to know about engaging oncologists in 2022:
1. Lead with clinical education.
It’s no longer enough to build brand awareness, according to the panelists. Pharma marketers need to educate oncologists on available treatment options that keep up with the constant updates to standards of care. “In the oncology space, specifically… we experienced this boom in revolutionary care and approved indications and treatment types…. From my perspective, the real generator of change is the sudden need to communicate,” according to Heath Morlok, Associate Director of Oncology Integrated Customer Management at Merck.
Communicating the vast array of treatment options to oncologists requires a renewed focus on education and personalization, Morlok said. Anton Yarovoy, Director of Precision Medicine and Lung at Novartis, agreed, saying, “Definitely, educational initiatives are becoming key at a time when [oncologists] keep getting a similar type of targeting. Things that are differentiated, things that can really add a lot of value to their practice, are becoming the highest elevated pieces that they’re reaching out for.”
2. Get comfortable with digital engagement.
Physical access to oncologists has been challenged by pandemic control measures. According to Deb Nevins, Senior Associate Director of Specialty Marketing at Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the chief differences between engaging primary care providers and specialists like oncologists is the ease of access. For many reasons, “It’s not so easy to get back in the door with oncologists, so even though you think you have the right content, the question always is and always will be: what’s new?” Your customer’s needs must come first.
Creating the targeted and personalized content required to get your foot back in the door demands the right mix of in-person, print, and digital communications, but Yarovoy warned against “innovation for the sake of innovation.” Instead, he said that “innovation for the sake of utility” can help pharma companies maximize the impact of their digital marketing activities. One easy way to start is by including QR codes on marketing materials that can bridge the gap between print and digital and connect oncologists with useful—and memorable—interactive tools.
3. Make the most of every customer interaction.
Sales reps’ interactions with oncologists have become less frequent due to pandemic-related restrictions. These changes look like they’re here to stay, so pharma marketers need to maximize the utility of the touchpoints they do have. One question Nevins asks herself is, “Are you sending out emails appropriately instead of just bombarding your customers with emails?” If the answer is the latter, you might want to rethink your strategy. Monthly meetings with customers have, in some cases become quarterly, and pharma marketers need to adapt their communication strategies to avoid overwhelming providers as they try to stay top of mind.
Overwhelming communications or communications that don’t feature new information can be seen as timewasters and negatively impact brand perception. “Now coming in with your standard awareness content is seen as tone-deaf. Not only are you irrelevant, but you’re angering me,” Morlok said. Filling oncologist communications with novel, noteworthy, and educational content can set your brands up for success.