Although CPhI in Frankfurt might already feel like a distant memory to some, we’ve been reflecting on what was an incredible show for us. Our tenth year at the event, it was our best yet as we supported more clients than ever before – whether it be managing media interviews, organising their drinks events or designing their stands.

Of course, with the entire pharmaceutical supply chain represented under one roof, it’s a brilliant opportunity to reconnect with existing contacts as well as make new ones. For us, we took it as a chance to catch up with pharma marketers and get an understanding of their priorities and challenges as we head into the new year, in an attempt to predict pharma marketing trends for 2020.

You see, with rapidly changing regulatory requirements to contend with, the skills and capabilities required for pharmaceutical marketers are evolving. And whilst the pharmaceutical industry has traditionally been slow to adopt digital technologies, it seems to be bucking the trend, with more and more pharma companies adopting digital techniques than ever before.

From account-based marketing and marketing automation to VR and video, here’s what the pharma marketing landscape is going to look like in 2020…

1. Content marketing will be king

Whilst content marketing is nothing new, we’re seeing more demand for it from our pharma and life sciences clients this year than ever before, and it was certainly a hot topic at CPhI.

Based around the creation, publishing and distribution of content that is valuable and relevant to your target audience, content marketing has risen in popularity in recent years. More brands have started to realise the positive impact of sharing relevant, insightful content that is not necessarily promotional in order to nurture leads through their buying journey.

Whether your buyer is a C-level contact in a company or someone on the ground in a more technical role, you’ll want to nurture them through the pipeline and ultimately get them to convert by providing them with content that demonstrates you understand their challenges (and ultimately have the solution).

Within the pharmaceutical supply chain, companies already have to demonstrate their industry insight and in-depth specialist knowledge in order to aid business-to-business buying decisions, so it makes sense that content marketing is becoming a more popular tactic.

Leads in the pharma supply chain can take several years before they convert, so helping the business development team nurture them through this journey is an important part of a marketer’s role.

2. Increased automation

Marketing automation is another tactic that seems to be on the radar for lots of pharma marketers for next year. Going hand-in-hand with content marketing, the two can work intrinsically if done right.

Many people assume that with automation in place, marketing teams don’t have to lift a finger, but that definitely isn’t the case! In fact, if you don’t put the work in to nail your content marketing strategy first and foremost, there’s no point in considering automation at all. However, if used correctly and in conjunction with a solid marketing strategy and lots of useful content, automation can be a real goldmine for your sales funnel.

Focused on moving leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads, prospects are scored (usually based on predetermined criteria or their activities) and receive targeted content accordingly. The aim is to move them from initial interest through to conversion by connecting them with content or key messages based on where they are in the cycle.

Given the longer sales cycle typical in the pharmaceutical supply chain, automation enables marketers to market on multiple channels and automate repetitive tasks. So, with more and more pharma companies considering content marketing, we’re sure more demand for automation won’t be far behind.

3. Account based marketing is back

Traditionally, business development teams have been focused on casting a wide net in the hopes of attracting as many leads as possible. After all, when it comes to value of deals in the pharmaceutical supply chain, it just takes one that sticks to make it all worthwhile.

However, at this year’s CPhI, pharmaceutical marketers seem more focused on account based marketing, namely the practise of focusing on a particular set of target accounts.

A more strategic form of marketing, account based marketing hinges on designing personalised campaigns that resonate with each account and catering to a prospect’s specific needs and challenges.

Just like content marketing, account based marketing is certainly not a new concept, but it seems to be creeping back into marketing plans for 2020, particularly in organisations where sales and marketing teams are working closely together.

4. Video-first prospecting

It’s no secret that video has become an essential tool in every marketer’s toolkit, but as with most creative media, it isn’t widely adopted amongst the pharma industry just yet. Maybe it’s the heavily regulated market. Maybe it’s the thought of being on camera. Maybe it’s the cost often associated with video. Or the fact that producing ‘creative’ content for a B2B audience can be quite difficult…

However, it seems to be popping up more and more and we suspect we’ll see a lot more of it next year. In fact, following this CPhI this year, we’ve already seen a handful of pharma companies who’ve turned to video to showcase their highlights of the show.

You see, video doesn’t need to be expensive or as part of some complex campaign. It’s amazing what you can do with a smartphone these days.

The pattern we’re seeing with, clients though, isn’t them asking for video content for their web or social efforts, but rather ways to engage with prospects through video. In fact, we’ve seen a 20% increase in response rates to our outreach efforts when we’ve used video.

These days, there are even technologies that are super simple to use, require no editing and can be completely branded. So don’t be put off by the word ‘video’ and think it means you need to come up with some amazing campaign. Be brave – get your sales team to start using video in their outreach efforts.

5. The rise of VR

In recent years virtual reality (VR) has become massively popular and has emerged as a top trend in marketing in other sectors. Of course, the pharma sector was slow to the party, but it’s certainly on the agenda for next year as pharmaceutical companies have realised the potential of using immersive technology to engage with clients and prospects and bring complicated material to life.

A look around CPhI showcases those already ahead of the curve using immersive apps and tactics to give on-stand facility tours or product demonstrations with VR headsets. Others use VR to give educational content an experiential edge or even for therapeutic uses.

For us, we’re seeing demand from clients who’d like to utilise VR technologies across their global facilities. After all, it’s much more cost effective to give a client or prospect a virtual tour than it is to fly them around the globe. But we suspect that’s just the beginning as the uses are endless…

So there you have it, our findings from Frankfurt, five pharma marketing trends we’re likely to see in 2020. What do you think are going to be the big trends in pharma marketing next year?