Audience Segmentation Best Practices for Pharma Marketers
Introduction: Segmentation, or effectively addressing subsets of your core audience with dynamic content and messaging, is your greatest asset as a pharma marketer—especially for hard-to-find patients and hard-to-access HCPs. But with great power comes great responsibility, as separating and addressing these subsets takes research, testing and monitoring. Here we’ll review the value of segmentation and personalized content to better reach and engage your precisely targeted audiences.
Detail 1: Precision Targeting of Patients and Caregivers
When segmenting your core patient audience, consider these variables:
• Treatment Journey Milestones: Localize the patient based on status across Symptomatic > Diagnosed > Treatment Decision > Compliant > Non-compliant > Advocate.
• Competitive landscape: Identify your drug’s key differentiators as they position you in the market, such as superior efficacy and/or safety, administrative convenience, market access, support programs, etc.
• Audience behaviors: Examine research revealing statistically notable differences between patients segments; for example, some may rely on their doctor’s advice while others search online and make treatments decisions independently (possibility correlated with demographic or geographic characteristics).
• Audience demographics: Measure significant differences that can occur by region, local market, ethnic group, and country, especially when cultural differences result in different beliefs about disease state relevance, motivation to treat, and adherence; location also plays the determinant role in reimbursement and market access.
Targeting caregivers segments may also be necessary for certain conditions that affect significantly older or younger populations, such as Alzheimer’s and childhood diseases, respectively; particularly debilitating diseases that effect cognitive ability, mobility, and eyesight also place the healthcare burden on caregivers, making them your target.
So how to best identify these segments, reach and engage them? Primary research like focus groups, panels, and message/design stimulus testing are traditionally used, but can take several months and be costly while leaving many unknowns about what will happen in the real world.
Instead, digital media offers tremendous opportunities for actual in-market testing of a range of message triggers. A pilot campaign – using paid search and social media – can be a highly effective, economical, and rapid real-world laboratory to fast-track a campaign and get more reliable performance data. Such an active approach also ensures your insight is gained out “in the wild,” where your brand interacts with real patients and caregivers on their own terms, not yours or your market researcher’s.
Detail 2: Precision Targeting of HCPs
Similar to patient and caregiver segmentation, precisely targeting subsets of healthcare providers based on known and addressable differences is powerful, and may be based on:
• Prescribing deciles: Target a subset of HCP “believers” who already understand and embrace the drug’s key differentiators and benefits provide the “low-hanging fruit” for campaign efforts, since moving the needle for those professionals who already prescribe is often more impactful than struggling to convince those who are either unaware or resistant.
• Switcher targets: Target those HCPs who nonetheless favor another drug due to it being the longstanding standard of care; here the focus is on overcoming prescribing habits with a strong message that shakes up entrenched behaviors—a harder lift, but possibly worthwhile if the audience can be expanded.
• Premier practices: Focus on specific providers – i.e. those at top national academic centers – who see far more orphan disease patients and are more up to date on the latest research. These are in stark contrast to treaters/prescribers dispersed between community hospitals who can go years at a time without seeing a patient with such a rare condition.
• Expanded healthcare team: Some disease states have various types of HCP specialists and/or PCPs who can diagnose and/or prescribe treatment. Additionally, some chronic diseases are managed by allied health professionals, including nurse practitioners (NPs) and physicians assistants (PAs).
Key difference across segments like these call for custom messaging and media approaches. Those with higher propensity to prescribe can be seen as “conversion ready” and targeted with in-depth content about clinical results, access programs, and prescribing information to facilitate writing an Rx.
The others may need a “reason to believe,” and perhaps have lower awareness of the brand and its product benefits. For these segments, a combination of disease education highlighting new findings and high frequency branding allows the marketer to cast a wider net and gradually shift the market. Media tactics can include programmatic targeting across non-endemic sites and social platforms, as well as persistent paid search in top positions for condition terms and competitive brand names.
Conclusion: Analyzing and precisely targeting your patient and HCP segments shouldn’t feel like an extra step – rather a best practice to better serve your community, disease area, and brand. That’s especially important when trying to get noticed and make an impact within today’s increasingly crowded and noisy media landscape—and arguably the only way to reach increasingly hard-to-find patients, and hard-to-access HCPs.