Nowadays healthcare companies have more than doctors to win over—patient satisfaction is now tied directly to compensation, there’s a growing number of decision makers in the C-suite, and there are also providers and payers to consider. The pressure is not on the companies to perform—it’s on the brands. Because of this shift, when our clients come to us wanting a go-to-market strategy or decide they want to drive awareness by setting up a direct to patient (DTP) campaign, our main focus is on creating a strategy that empowers their patients. When you can inform, educate, and ultimately empower patients to take charge of their own health, your chances of motivating them to create a dialogue with their healthcare provider increases substantially. With over 72% of U.S. internet users online in the past year specifically looking for health-related information, DTP marketers must cater to their patients’ growing online healthcare needs by creating intelligent multi-channel campaigns focused on both the patient and the healthcare provider.
Difference between direct to consumer (DTC) and direct to patient (DTP) campaigns:
Though they seem similar in name, it is crucial to understand the differences between these two campaigns. This will help clarify who your target market is exactly, what messaging is appropriate, and what means of media or platforms to use—which can drastically increase or decrease your overall budget.
Direct to consumer (DTC) is used to reach and inform consumers who might not know they have a certain condition and eventually should help inform them that there are specific treatment options available to them.
Direct to patient (DTP) is used to reach patients who are already aware of their condition and are currently being treated for it. Ultimately when setting up a DTP campaign, your end goal is to influence your patients to either continue using your product or to switch to the product you are marketing.
What An Effective DTP Awareness Campaign Includes:
From medical devices, emerging e–health technologies, to healthy lifestyle consumer products—we know that the ultimate objective of your DTP awareness campaign is to drive awareness for your product or device and increase overall product sales. With that as a starting point we begin to map out the tools necessary in implementing a successful campaign.
- Patient Website – The Hub of your digital strategy. All of your marketing efforts should help drive traffic back to your website. This is where patients can get support as well as valuable resources to help aid them in either preparation for what to expect when using your product or to further assist in their decision to move forward with your product. Take this opportunity (if you can) to implement real stories and testimonials from other patients—this helps to humanize your brand and breaks down barriers to product adoption. The core idea behind the majority of our campaigns are ultimately to empower patients to become more knowledgeable about what treatment options they have, to be proactive about discussing their particular needs with their doctor, and to feel comfortable asking their doctor for the solution that is right for them.
- Messaging – How do patients refer to your product? How do they refer to the product category? How do they describe their symptoms or condition? In order to resonate with patients, you need to be able to speak their language. Your messaging is going to set the tone for your entire campaign, so make sure your research has been thorough. Being able to prove the company understands the patient and is capable of reaching them regardless of what words they use to describe your product or category is paramount. For example, during our research for Kimberly-Clark Health Care’s I-FLOW* product, a medical device for non-narcotic post-op pain relief, we found that the company was calling it a “Post-Op Pain Relief System” on their website. However, social listening data shined light on other words patients were using to describe the product, such as, “pain pump,” a “pain ball,” and a “pain buster.” If their messaging only referred to the product as a pain relief system, it might have missed out on a large group of patients who were searching for any of these other keywords.
- Blog – If your website is the hub, your blog is most certainly its anchor. This is where your brand needs to feed patients who are hungry for more information. From interviewing healthcare professionals to helping educate patients on what to expect when using your product or service, your blog helps establish authority. When executed correctly, your blog can help position your brand as the go-to source about information regarding your industry while helping to build brand awareness, drive website traffic, and create brand loyalists.
- Social communities – From social listening to understanding what content is being consumed and what content might be lacking, social communities provide some of the most valuable information regarding the target audience you are trying to capture as well as the influencers in that segment. Social integration provides more access to peer testimonials and an active community where patients can participate in conversations with each other as well as your brand. There is a trove of knowledge waiting to be discovered in social communities and tapping into that data helps reveal valuable insights about your patients. With that data in hand, you’re able to understand your patient personas better—which helps contribute to your messaging and the development of an authentic voice for your brand.
- Native ads – The growing use of ad blockers across every digital platform has posed an increasing challenge for brands seeking to reach online audiences. While native advertising is a good way to keep readers’ attention, it’s important to match content with context, maximize engagement, and ultimately to create a mutually beneficial value exchange between the advertiser and consumer. Selecting the right platforms ensures you’re reaching your consumers where they hang out. Personalize the content and optimize for multiple devices all while being overly transparent. Make sure your viewer knows this ad is sponsored content. Transparency will always lead to better results. Finally, context and content must always be aligned for the ad and ensuing landing page. The average individual is exposed to over 5,000 messages a day. The modern consumer has become savvier at tuning out your brand’s message. Native ads are a direct response to this clutter, and when done right, allow your messages to go from pushing content onto your consumers, to pulling them in.
- Print education materials – Communication tactics that deliver the greatest impact are ones that can be used at the point of care when and where the patient is most likely to take action i.e. in the doctor’s office. Beyond waiting room literature, some of the most compelling tactics in increasing product adoption is providing patient education tools for healthcare providers to use in their practices. Without the proper tools in the hands of their physicians, your DTP campaign is bound to fall short. Consistent and ongoing educational efforts are crucial in motivating patients.
- Analytics – Marketing as a whole has evolved from a creative process into a highly data-driven medium. To effectively create a winning DTP campaign you need to be able to show what is driving results and ultimately what is not. Before launching any campaign, company goals and KPI’s need to be laid out so that measuring ROI is a possibility. Whether you’re trying to get a lead, a sale, convert a customer, etc, you need to understand your marketing metrics to see if you’re meeting expected company goals. Patient campaigns are about driving long-term strategic objectives for sustained market growth, requiring constant monitoring and adjustment, continuous measurement and feedback must be used to optimize the campaign for best results.
We believe in DTP campaigns that create an emotional connection with consumers. Healthcare and medical device companies provide products and services to satisfy some of the most important human needs: health, safety, and wellbeing. In today’s healthcare economy, with life science companies increasingly pressured to satisfy the patient, making these emotional connections is absolutely essential for long-term success. When implemented correctly, everything listed above helps to satisfy not only your patients’ basic needs but also their emotional needs. Ultimately, it’s about connecting with patients to help elevate your product above the competing alternatives.