Escaping Digital Saturation: The Rebound of Print in HCP Marketing

Omnichannel Strategy Team, BioPharm Communications

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers needed to make dramatic and immediate shifts in how they communicated with healthcare providers. As HCPs became more reliant on digital tools and resources, survey data from SSCG’s MAPMD studies indicate that they “associated the influx of digital information with a feeling of being inundated.”

Four years out, we have shifted our attention to omnichannel. However, it’s important to note that omnichannel isn’t purely a digital strategy. In fact, the SSCG study mentioned above indicates that print materials are making a comeback, showing the value of incorporating more traditional media into marketing plans. During face-to-face meetings with HCPs, sales reps could use print assets as leave-behind materials or print could be used as promotional direct mailers. Now that offices have opened back up, print becomes increasingly more relevant as marketers need to break through the digital over saturation.

Let’s be honest, print is more expensive than email. On the other hand, it may be less expensive on a cost-per-engagement basis than some endemic digital ad buys. Regardless, print has longevity as a tangible asset and catches the attention of more than just the target HCP audiences; other HCPs working in the same office, nurses, and staff are also exposed. Furthermore, print makes an impact well beyond the time span of a single digital impression, generating multiple engagements over time to keep brand messaging top of mind and indirectly improving costs per engagement.

HCPs don’t all behave the same way. In the digital age, only 70% of HCPs are digitally native, for example. These HCPs are being reached with the right channel too frequently. In other words, these HCPs are being inundated with emails and print can cut through the clutter, complimenting digital efforts for the individuals that are harder to reach. This is what true omnichannel is about.

Print is only limited by our ability to create a vision for it in our marketing plans. Using direct integrations with USPS, BioPharm embeds print into our campaigns and can track within ~2 days of when the direct mailer arrives in the recipient’s mailbox. This allows the triggering of other channels in proximity to the arrival of the direct mailer, creating synergy between the channels versus relying on a time-based cadence. Emphasizing timely, relevant messaging is a key differentiator of triggered omnichannel campaigns, and a print mailer that reaches the HCP when the brand is still top of mind reinforces messaging in a way that digital clutter cannot.

Likewise, print ads within medical journals capture HCP attention while they are actively engaging with clinically relevant content. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine notes that 87% of their subscribers receive print copies at their home addresses, and a strong majority of respondents reported spending significantly more time reading NEJM in print within the last two months, indicating that HCPs are continuing to educate themselves despite the disruption to their in-office workflows by COVID-19.

A major point of hesitation for HCP marketers is tracking print performance. It’s clear that key performance indicators and metrics developed to measure digital campaigns cannot be directly applied to print campaigns, but tracking print performance is being improved. The resurgence of QR codes for consumers with digital menus has increased adoption on the HCP side as well. QR codes are an opportunity to track print in a measurable way and help build a better picture of what media is working to change HCPs’ attitudes and behaviors across omnichannel campaigns.

Keeping in mind these tracking methods, along with the many benefits of leveraging print within a broader omnichannel campaign, we strongly recommend that marketers revisit the value of print.

Individual, disconnected, or otherwise digital-only channels are often not enough to effectively reach target audiences with relevant, timely messaging as we continue to evolve toward a new media landscape.

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