The Coronavirus pandemic is a seminal event of our lifetime that is impacting every aspect of daily life and commerce. Within the life sciences industry, manufacturers are grappling with the cancellation of medical association meetings and the curtailment of in-person conversion opportunities.
Relative to driving key marketing objectives, conference events are relied upon to drive conversions more than any other channel, according to eMarketer. Of note, the second-most relied upon channel for conversions is email, which is also a leading channel for driving engagement.
Impacts on the HCP marketing space
The healthcare industry is leading efforts to contain, test, and treat COVID-19, but in the meantime, marketers that support growth of the industry must address disruptions to their HCP-focused marketing plans.
Medical conferences scheduled for March and April have been cancelled or postponed in droves — in excess of 23 conferences have been affected as of this writing — with speculation around more cancellations in May. These conferences provide material opportunity for promotional and engagement activity that will be difficult to replace.
In-person promotion by sales reps will also be curtailed, which further limits conversion opportunities. While pharma companies are expected to launch their own virtual promotion to generate product awareness, marketers will be seeking ways to offset the overarching decline in engagement opportunities. Without alternate engagement vehicles, the impact on marketing objectives could be sobering.
Advice for the HCP marketer
As HCP marketers and agency partners navigate these challenging times, there are a few high-level points to consider:
Hold on to conference-related digital investments: Naturally, as in-person promotion has become impractical or impossible, virtual promotion has risen to the forefront. Most medical associations that recently cancelled events are now working very hard to schedule virtual events. This inventory will be in high demand — if you’ve already made digital investments, you’re in a good position and should maintain those investments.
Double down on digital engagement tactics: To offset the opportunity cost of in-person engagement and conversion opportunities, marketers will need to rely on non-personal promotion and engagement-focused tactics to stay top-of-mind with HCPs. As noted above, this includes email and e-newsletters, like the daily news briefings that BulletinHealthcare produces for more than 30 medical associations — distributed to fully authenticated, active association members, many of whom will be missed by marketers at these shows.
Select compatible content formats: We highly recommend Advertiser Supplied Content (native ad units). This format naturally lends itself to promoting educational content that, under normal circumstances, would have been distributed at conferences, e.g., abstracts, whitepapers, symposia materials, and clinical posters. This format is also popular among our physician readers, generating 100% more clicks on average than all other formats.
Watch the schedule: Several associations have already announced plans to use the conference interval to hold virtual symposia, and although details are still unfolding, most associations are working to identify alternative means of communicating vital clinical and research updates to members.
Of course, these shifts will be temporary and hopefully limited to Q2 of this year. In the short run, careful consideration of how to manage tactical shifts will help mitigate long-term impacts to marketing objectives.
We believe our daily news briefings offer a way to reach HCPs during a time when many traditional communication channels have been cut off.
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