Sure Shot Way for Pharma SMEs to Race Past Larger Rivals

Like in every sector, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in pharma industry also face an uphill task of beating all odds to grab market share from larger, more established rivals. This is especially true in India, where the highly-fragmented pharmaceutical industry is home to about 10,000 registered SMEs producing over 64,000 formulations and 90% of the market belonging to branded generics. It is estimated that at any given time, anywhere between 10-150 brands of the same molecule vie for physicians’ attention.

In this marketing war-zone, can the Davids of Indian Pharma ever triumph over Goliaths?

The answer is a resounding YES! And the marketing tool that can lead them to victory is ‘DIGITAL CONTENT’.

Digital Content and Pharma SMEs – A Perfect Match

Due to their small scale, SMEs are inherently suited for digital initiatives.  They do not operate in silos and are not stuck in a time warp. They are agile, swiftly responding to changes in the external environment. Most recognize the value in moving first and look for creative ways of getting things done. Many employ young, digitally-native minds, ready to think outside the box and experiment with different media.

Resources Constraints – The Biggest Challenge of SME Marketing Managers

As per Marketing Week, funds, time and expertise are the chief hurdles in effective execution of marketing plans of pharma SMEs. More often than not, Marketing Managers in small pharma companies find themselves fighting (and mostly losing) for a decent share of the total budget. While Big Pharma arms itself with a huge sales force and frequently hosts seminars, conferences, sponsored CMEs, etc., smaller enterprises run a tight ship, having to let go of one initiative for the other. SMEs constantly strive to drive favorable marketing outcomes in the least possible time. Young enterprises often struggle with forming a multi-functional team of experts that are well-versed in conventional as well as newer, tech-enabled marketing methods.

Given these constraints, it is tough for marketers to optimally execute critical functional responsibilities like understanding market needs, creating product awareness, differentiation and positioning, and branding and relationship management. Digital Content Marketing can help them achieve all of these and more. When done correctly, a digital strategy can deliver exceptional marketing outcomes to SMEs, without giving their CFOs sleepless nights.

Digital Content Marketing – A Boon for Pharma SMEs 

  • Understanding Market Needs: Through specific content like surveys and polls, digital marketers can find out the sweet spot between doctors’ needs and pharma’s offerings. When marketers know the common considerations while making a prescription decision, they can align their communication accordingly. In a recently concluded survey to assess the level of connect between pharma and doctors, Docplexus found that the medical community expects pharma communication to involve more scientific information on drugs, prompting several pharma marketers to revisit their messaging. Conventional route to decoding the doctors’ mindset (via in-person surveys by pharma’s own field-force or 3rd party agencies) is time-consuming, has limited reach and may not depict the true picture. On the other hand, a digital connect makes gaining such insights easy and fast.  The fact that doctors choose to and are not pushed to provide their inputs lends more credibility to the results. Also, since there is no time lag, this information is very current and therefore more accurate.
  • Raising Product Awareness: Launching a new product can be a daunting task for SMEs. While nothing beats the allure of glitzy events, a tactfully designed content strategy provides the much-needed support to physical launches and keeps the momentum going long after the initial buzz has died down. Moreover, digital content marketing takes the new product further than the cities (where launch events are held) to the smaller towns and rural areas, a great plus for doctors in these regions. A distinct pre-launch content strategy can prep the target audience by subtly raising awareness about the disease that the product intends to treat along with failings of the existing treatments. Post-launch content can be more in number, aggressive and direct and also alleviate all doubts and concerns (Click To Know 5 Proven Ways For Pharma To Succeed At New Product Launch).
  • Differentiation and Positioning: SMEs in India typically aim to penetrate large market segments with niche products. However, they lack the bandwidth to create a differential identity for these products and find themselves struggling to match the marketing prowess of their much-larger competitors. An innovative content strategy can help them overcome this challenge. When content is carefully crafted to amplify those product strengths that have great perceived value for customers but are lacking in rival products, and marketed through the right channels to the right audience, it brings SME marketers one step closer toward establishing a unique place for their product in the physicians’ minds. Once marketers have successfully grabbed attention away from rivals, they can focus their content on securing a long-lasting bond with physicians.
  • Branding and PR: The Indian pharma sector is highly competitive and SMEs have a tough time growing their brand. They only way they can get physicians to prescribe their drug is to convince doctors of its quality, efficacy and unique value proposition. Digital content can be an excellent medium to showcase an enterprise’s commitment to highest quality standards and best practices. A company’s content represents all that the brand stands for. It conveys the company’s understanding of doctors’ problems and how its offerings help resolve them. Branding through content marketing is an excellent pull initiative to drive the growth of small players. Deloitte’s econometric analysis reveals that the ROI on digital branding and advertising is eight times higher for SMEs than large firms. Also, the fact that an SME is using latest media for marketing communications creates the perception of it being adoptive of latest technological trends, capable of rising to the same league as the large players. An active online presence extends a brand’s reach beyond geographical borders to gain widespread visibility.

Content creation and marketing resolves most challenges that SME marketers face. However devising and executing an effective content strategy is a long-drawn, arduous process. For an SME’s Content Marketing Strategy to deliver exponential growth, marketers should follow these guidelines:

7 Tips to Ace Your Content Marketing Strategy

  • Be where Your Customers are: While this seems like a no-brainer, it is also where many marketers go wrong. No matter how good your content is, it will not translate into the best outcomes unless it reaches the right audience. It is essential to know your customers’ digital choices and be on platforms where they are most active. Also, target online communities that boast of a wide pool of doctors belonging to various specialties.
  • Don’t Forget to Measure: The importance of regular impact analysis and content modification cannot be stressed enough. This is especially critical if SMEs are to avoid wasted efforts and resources. Marketers should put in place a structured feedback loop that measures key engagement metrics based on which, better and more relevant content can be created and marketed.
  • Explore Varied Content Formats and Types: Establishing a unique identity is a priority for SMEs. In this age of information overload, marketers must ensure that their content stands out from the crowd. This may be achieved through a right mix of informative articles, clinical case studies, surgical videos and KOL webinars. This will drive engagement and ensure top-of-mind recall of your drug while writing a prescription.
  • Never Sell, Always Facilitate: When Docplexus surveyed Indian doctors about the top problems in pharma marketing, a majority stated ‘excessive focus on incentives’. Medical professionals want communication from pharma to equip them with a thorough understanding of drugs so as to result in the best prescription decision and improve treatment outcomes. This should be imbibed into every aspect of your content creation strategy.
  • Stay Persistent, yet Patient: Docplexus has observed that it takes at least 6 months of consistent content marketing to make a significant impact on the target audience. For best results develop a well-thought editorial plan enlisting the right quantity and type of content at each stage of marketing. Regular, quality content will drive visibility and build a lasting relationship with your audience.
  • Be Open to Sourcing Services from Experts: Digital Content Marketing requires long-term commitment, consistency and expertise. Developing the technology and a team of professionals to strategize, plan, execute, measure and analyze the entire activity, in-house, is not feasible for SMEs. Moreover, it makes more sense to focus on your core competency – making quality drugs that cure. It would be better to outsource content marketing to experienced service providers with proven track record.
  • Integrate with Offline Initiatives: Lastly, always ensure that Digital Content Marketing is aligned to your broader marketing plan. Successful SMEs view digital content as an indispensable value addition to the existing off-line marketing initiatives. When a doctor is already primed with digital content on a drug, the in-person interactions between him/her and MRs turn more productive.

To conclude, although many pharma SMEs marketers consider it merely wishful thinking to gain the kind of brand recognition and physician engagement that larger companies enjoy, quite early in their business’ life cycle, they can now turn this dream into reality through Digital Content Marketing.


Docplexus – Pharma’s Trusted Marketing Partner
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