Direct communication with the end-user (patients) is a recent reality in pharma, which has given rise to the adoption of B2C marketing practices as a way to respond to the digital shift occurring in the field.
The US has been precocious at the start of its direct relationship with the consumer, showing the first signs in 1997. However, this has just gained great relevance with the dissemination of the Internet and the population’s digitalization. This, in turn, is leading to a more demanding customer base that seeks meaningful connections.
Considering these changes in the industry, this article will explore the pros & cons of B2C marketing in Pharma.
B2C Marketing – What is it?
B2C marketing is a strategy adopted to establish direct communication with the end-user of a product. It further shifts the focus away from big corporations and businesses as the primary stakeholders.
This approach follows an ongoing conversational journey with the consumer. This, in the long run, intends to establish a strong link of familiarity and trust. It can be done on a daily or weekly basis. Thus, it depends on innovation and the adoption of personalized strategies. The ultimate aim is to effectively respond to an end user’s needs, preferences, and interests.
In essence, B2C marketing is about staying up to date with the latest advancements and trends in the field. Information and product consumption habits are critical to the success of these efforts.
A journey in Pharma…
B2C marketing’s journey in Pharma has been shy. Firstly, due to a reluctance to accept an imminent digital shift. And then, because of tight regulations that restrict direct communication with the consumer. Nonetheless, its path in the US pharmaceutical industry has been a fruitful one.
Already in 1997, pharma companies were gravitating towards a more B2C model of marketing. That has just been further catapulted by digitalized modern-day consumption habits. This, in turn, has placed consumers at the center of the attention of all communication efforts.
Present-day society is a hyper-connected one that contrasts with those that preceded it. In the US alone, there are over 200 million mobile internet users, and a further 90.8% of overall consumers of the same (Statista). These figures are expected to reach 94.2% by 2024. But what are the true consequences of these statistics?
With easy access to a myriad of information at the tip of their fingers, US patients are now more well-informed than ever before. Concern for wellness and health has skyrocketed. And online search engines have become the first resource for starting a treatment journey. In 2021, 39% of US adults surveyed by PatientsLikeMe declared they would use search engines to begin their online search.
Patients usually look online for:
- Treatment options; and
- Wellness and holistic alternatives.
“People have become much more proactive in deciding which medication, vitamin, or treatment that fits them.” – (Duffy Agency)
Blurring the lines…
Pharma companies’ concerns no longer lie solely with HCPs and other professionals in the field. But also in the end-users of their products, the patients. These are proactive and seek information by their means. And so, B2C has been growing in importance in the US pharmaceutical industry.
These seek to establish a transactional relationship with consumers so as to persuade them to purchase a specific product and/or service. In pharma, B2C marketing focuses, then, on:
- Targeting the consumer;
- Promoting the products and services available.
It is worth considering that many companies in the field follow a B2B marketing model. Nonetheless, these have been integrating B2C practices, blurring the lines between the two different strategies. This paves the way for a more comprehensive approach to communication. One that takes both HCP and patients as valuable consumers with whom it is vital to establish a link of trust and continuing engagement.
Pros & Cons
B2C marketing practices are a valuable consideration when defining your communication strategy. Or just remodeling it. But before you do it, it is worth thinking about its pros and cons. And if these meet your requirements and objectives.
1 – Pro: Unique relationship with the consumer
B2C marketing is all about convincing the consumer that your product is the right one that fits its needs. And for that, a close communication link, unique in its value, is essential.
To successfully market a product and/or service, companies need to:
- Forge links of communications;
- Create advertising campaigns;
- Raise brand awareness…
For this to happen, it is important to have an inclusive communication strategy. That is, in particular, focused on allowing a brand to come into direct contact with the consumer. This is now, more than ever, a possibility due to the integration of digital tools and platforms.
Through these, B2C marketers have access to:
- User feedback;
- Customer preferences and interests; and
- Response to content.
B2C marketing is, then, a model that erases the HCP as the intermediary of information. Instead, it functions as another source of information and aids in a patient’s journey into treatment and wellness. Following a customer-centric approach that puts it in touch with omnichannel marketing practices. Where a single, unified flow of communication spreads across multiple on- and offline platforms.
Omnichannel marketing is the way! However, it is important to learn more about its impact on the pharmaceutical industry.
2 – Pro: Content flexibility
Focused on targeting the consumer, B2C marketers take content creation and management as the keys to their success. And this model is just a plus when it comes to marketing material flexibility.
B2C marketing in the US gained new strength with the dissemination of the Internet. Consumers are now there the majority of the time. Either for leisure or educational purposes. And so, communication on these different platforms became an integral part of marketing strategies. Namely in the pharmaceutical industry.
So, how can one target customers online? Customers, that are now more demanding than ever? The answer lies in the content you create and where you share it.
Some pharmaceutical companies now invest mainly in:
- Newsletters; and
Video is now a growing trend in the pharmaceutical marketing field. That is just expected to gain further relevance this year. With 86% of businesses claiming to be integrating it into their strategies this year (Wyzowl).
In particular, explainers are the main format adopted by organizations to reach target audiences. These enable companies, particularly in pharma, to share with their key consumers:
- Insight into a product’s contraindications and composition;
- Communicate a product’s features;
- Share a drug’s MOA (mechanism of action); and
- Share a brand’s values and mission.
The results speak for themselves. Content creation online is more flexible than ever. The possibilities found in digital platforms and tools are endless. It just takes innovation and in-depth consumer knowledge to establish an effective marketing communication strategy that will make you stand out from the competition.
3 – Pro: Data collection & Consumer profiling
Digital communication is at the heart of B2C marketing. Consequently, one thing is sure to come from it: data and consumer profiling.
Therefore, digital platforms and tools are useful in obtaining insightful analytics. This is data that is automatically generated from online activity. And so it provides:
- Performance results & analytics;
- User feedback;
- Insight into preferred content format; and
- Detail of an audience’s demographics, interests, preferences, and needs.
This data allows companies to then profile their ideal consumer as well as their existing customer base. From there, adapt the response and communication tactics to market the intended products effectively. All this with the assurance that they are doing it at the right place and time.
Consumer profiling is a method used to provide insight into a specific target market and audience. So businesses can be properly assisted in gaining an in-depth understanding of their customer base. Some of the insights gained from data analysis and consumer profiling are as follows:
- Customers’ interests and preferences;
- Consumers’ behavior patterns and information consumption habits; and
- Products and services that are in demand.
4 – Con: Limited product exposure
Physical product display is different from that online. People believe in what they see, so product exposure on online platforms used in B2C marketing is often limited.
In B2B marketing, sales reps and brands rely on in-person interactions to promote their products near key stakeholders. This is done with persuasion, but most of all, with a physical demonstration. Yet, that is not true in B2C marketing.
B2C companies have been struggling to find ways in which to effectively sell their products online. And that has ranged from using the image as a persuasion tool to including user feedback and testimonies. These can provide a human element to advertising and marketing efforts.
This difficulty in extending product exposure has led to the rise of video as a powerful tool for marketing and communication. Especially explainers, that stand out for their capacity to communicate complex, insightful data in a simple and engaging fashion.
So, when going for a B2C marketing model, companies need to think of innovative ways to promote their products. In particular, consider strategies that will resonate with the target audience. Even though its effective display online might, at first glance, appear more difficult. Think twice. At RedNovius, we have just the thing for you.
With PatientVisuals, you target the patient at the right place and time. Hence, it ensures that its journey with your brand is as seamless and memorable as possible. It’s simple and easy! Why not start now? Schedule your free expert session.
5 – Con: Larger & segmented consumer base
One thing is sure to happen when one adopts a B2C marketing strategy. And that is the enlargement of the target audience. With a strong online presence, content reach increases dramatically. You run the risk of targeting a wider audience without truly being able to appeal to any segment of it effectively.
This can be overwhelming to pharma marketers. So, in order to make this process easier and more favorable, you must strive to know who your ideal customer is. And for that, you might ask these questions:
- Who can benefit from my product?
- What section of society is actively looking for it?
- What are their interests and preferences?
- What are the specific needs that competitors have not yet been able to satisfy?
Through this, you segment a potential consumer base into a specific target group that is a better fit for your product and what you are offering. That way, you can mitigate the disadvantages that come from having a large consumer base. And further, tailor your content and message around this audience. Then, maximize the impact of your marketing efforts. As a result, interest rates and, ultimately, sales will rise.
So, even though it might appear as a demarcated con, there are ways in which you can turn this need to segment your audience into valuable practice.
Whether your company is moving towards a transition into a B2C marketing model, or you are just beginning to adopt some of its practices, the advantages of this approach are now more valuable than ever. In particular, in the pharmaceutical industry, a blurring between the B2B and B2C models is taking place. This shows that the dissemination of the Internet and changed information consumption habits in society are leading to the valorization of the consumer as a key player in the success of the different marketing efforts adopted.