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Solving the Problem of Targeting Healthcare Providers in Life Sciences Marketing

Though many doors are closed to reps, a targeted, omnichannel media strategy can break through

Key Takeaways:

  • The perception is reality – face-to-face interactions with HCPs are becoming a rarity
  • A gap in engagement and relationship-building exists
  • A personalized, omnichannel data-driven approach can fill the gap
  • Data informs both audience understanding and precise targeting.

With rep access at extremely low levels, targeting healthcare providers (HCPs) in life sciences marketing has become truly challenging. In-person one-to-one selling has always been hugely successful, so how do we replicate that personalized interaction in a digital world using non-personal promotion? 

We cannot downplay the need for life science companies to reach HCPs – they are the informers, the educators, and ultimately the prescribers. Equally obvious is that a scattershot approach won’t work. When you deploy HCP-focused media, no matter the channel, there must be a one-to-one match and precise targets informed by data. 

Marketing life sciences products to HCPs today takes a sophisticated, hyper-targeted and personalized approach that gets the right message to the right providers on the right channels. Done correctly, you’ll foster engagement, build relationships, and move the dial on prescribing behavior. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of understanding your audience and some impactful strategies to reach them.

Understand your audience

An HCP’s first request will always be, “Show me how my patient population will be helped by this,” spurred by outcome-based measurements and incentives. Because the emphasis is on outcomes, the bottom line is: what can be done for patients?

And while access is low, when reps do get into a doctor’s office, the conversations need to be deep and educational. Replicating that digitally requires an awareness of the needs and preferences of HCPs. Where do they get their information, and how do they like it served up?

Best practices say that when deploying HCP-focused media, a one-to-one match is the optimal approach. NPI numbers are useful here, providing clues on which healthcare providers to target. Using a huge dataset and algorithms, it’s possible to target doctors with specific NPI numbers – those associated with the condition your product – drug, or device – treats. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say there are 100,000 urologists in the country. Now, you don’t want to target all of them because some may specialize in conditions your product doesn’t treat. The audience you want to reach is the HCPs you think will prescribe your product based on whether they prescribe competitive products, among other factors.

You might have a list of 10,000 at this point, but the question remains: how many of these practitioners can you effectively reach? How many are likely to meet with a rep versus those who aren’t? But reach is just part of the equation.

The goal, after all, is engagement. So, how do you get your message out? Is a banner ad enough to change prescribing behavior? Probably not. But what does work? How do you duplicate the deep conversations between the rep and the HCP?

Strategies for life sciences marketing to HCPs

At the end of the day, you’re trying to change behavior in a targeted fashion. NPI numbers can find your audience, but how do you motivate them? It takes data that informs a personalized omnichannel media strategy, a strategic go-to-market plan, campaigns optimized by applied analytics, and informed by experience.

It’s about the right balance and unique engagement. Media partnerships can boost awareness with display ads, and outlets offer audio, programmatic digital, custom content, and social media opportunities, as well as provide channels for two-way communication at different levels of engagement.

Utilizing technology is crucial to maximizing your marketing budget, and no stone should remain unturned when it comes to channels. All options should be explored:

  • Programmatic media buying. This method uses algorithms to automate targeted ad delivery.
  • Online search. Since 88.5% of HCPs use online search to answer questions, you should not only leverage it but strategically align your organic and paid search using precise targeting informed by data.
  • Social media. How is your audience talking about your brand? It’s here that you can make connections with those who will become your brand ambassadors. 
  • Traditional media. Rumors of the demise of traditional marketing have been greatly exaggerated. For example, direct mail still works. While stats on mail directed toward HCPs are not available, it drove 92% of customers to learn more and 87% to make purchases. And don’t forget about TV, other print mediums, and billboards. 

Data analytics and targeting are crucial, as is the right format in the right frequency, turning numbers into a narrative that shows you understand your target. Real-time data can also ensure your campaigns are optimized and maximized, and no opportunities are missed. You are integrating your sales force with your marketing efforts, leveraging every tool in the battle for the attention of your targeted HCPs. 

Data drives life sciences marketing

Reaching, engaging, and forming relationships with HCPs is more difficult than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic did much to alter the paradigm. Fortunately, technology, data science, and expertly curated omnichannel media have risen to fill the gap. 

Product development requires mountains of data. Developing a deep understanding of a targeted audience’s motivation, concerns, needs, and preferences also takes data to create marketing messages that resonate. Advanced analytics are required to create understanding and apply insights.

While data analysis during product development is a mainstay of the pharma industry, marketing that product requires a different skill set. At Underscore Marketing, we’re 100% health-media focused, using data-driven media solutions your audiences won’t ignore to launch and grow your brand. We’re partners in your success with service offerings that include strategic media planning, data analytics, and measurement.

Our research skills and audience insights are unparalleled, and we have the people and the industry-leading technology tools to achieve your strategic imperatives. Reach out today, and let’s get started. Fill out our contact form or send us an email at

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