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Tara Dougal
6 Jul 2021

5 Strategies for Engaging a Pharma Audience All Year Round

For pharma manufacturers and service providers, attending face-to-face events and exhibitions has always been a crucial tool for meeting existing clients, signing contracts, and gathering leads for new business. But with events unable to trade over the course of the pandemic, connecting with clients in an online environment and evolving to become more digitally astute has become a necessity.

This shift might have come sooner than anticipated for some, but with many companies now adapting to the digital challenge and exploring new ways of reaching their target market, it also offers an indication of what the future of engagement could look like.

According to MediaRadar Insights, ‘In 2021 pharmaceutical (digital) spend in the B2B space is up 41% overall. This is heavily influenced by digital ad spend which increased 242% YoY (January-February 2020 vs 2021).’
With digital spend increasing so dramatically, how can you diversify your efforts to ensure ROI in a crowded marketplace?
Here are five strategies for engaging a pharma audience all year round, no matter what the world throws at you.

1. Be Searchable

At live events, booth traffic is a key metric of success and this is even more true in the online environment.

The article, How Leading Pharma Companies are Rising to the Digital Content Challenges of 2020, by Luke Bilton assesses search traffic and engagement for leading pharma companies and finds this is mostly eaten up by Johnson & Johnson, Merck’s Sigma Aldrich site, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Pfizer, Roche, Novartis, Eli Lily, BD, Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline. Beyond this, ‘there is an extended long tail of companies who have minimal traffic from search engines or social interaction, the majority get little to no traffic.’

Image source: How Leading Pharma Companies are Rising to the Digital Content Challenges of 2020, Luke Bilton

In such a competitive landscape, one way to ensure you get a slice of the traffic is to ensure a presence on an existing platform with a captive audience. CPHI Online is a digital marketplace for the pharma community which boasts more than 250,000 monthly page views and 136,000 unique visitors from across the global supply chain.

A Company Profile or Showcase on CPHI Online will allow you to share company and product information, host gated content and receive enquiries about pharma products and services. Linking here from your own website will also help to boost your Google ranking.

2. Use Content to Get Noticed

Pharma is driven by new discoveries, and sharing your new products, technologies and approaches with the market can help to set you aside from your competitors and bring valued clients your way.

While ad spend is great for additional visibility and traffic generation, using content and storytelling to get your message across allows you to explore topics in-depth, translate complex information into something more palatable, and showcase your expertise.

Despite the clear benefits of employing content in your marketing strategy, the article How Leading Pharma Companies are Rising to the Digital Content Challenges of 2020, by Luke Bilton, found that ‘the pharma industry is behind the curve when it comes to content marketing. In part this is due to the regulatory environment as well as to its reliance on traditional face-to-face methods of doing business.’

In his article, Bilton compares the Pharma and Biotech industry with other sectors and finds that ‘technology industries are leading the way in using content to power their marketing, with an average ratio of 15 content roles for every 100 marketers. In pharma, though, the ratio is far behind, with an average of just 4 content roles for every 100 marketers”.

Image source: How Leading Pharma Companies are Rising to the Digital Content Challenges of 2020, Luke Bilton

If you don’t have the in-house expertise, working with a trusted partner on your content strategy allows you to try different formats to see what works for you, opens up a new marketing channel and gives access to fresh data.

CPHI offers a suite of digital products, from webinars and podcasts to reports, featured articles and infographics – all come with project management and a complete marketing plan. Products can also be bundled together to give you multiple touchpoints over a defined time period, keeping your brand relevant and visible.

3. Innovate to Accumulate  

As an inherently innovative industry, trying something new for your digital marketing strategy shouldn’t raise eyebrows. Instead of waiting for prospective clients to find your website and submit a request for information, why not play around with new approaches to lead generation and engagement?

Content is a valuable tool for this, and creating assets designed to inspire and engage pharma decision makers can really set your brand apart. There are a variety of content formats to explore, allowing you to test, measure and see what works best for your brand.

In the past year, many learning opportunities previously reserved for conferences and events have shifted to the online environment, allowing participants to access a wealth of quality information without leaving home.

Webinars are a key example of this and are great vehicles for driving leads. The monthly CPHI Webinar series saw an average of 700 qualified leads generated for clients across 2020, and has the additional benefit of promoting your brand as an industry thought leader.

Podcasts are a currently undervalued tool for building relationships, promoting your subject matter experts, and engaging your community in an informal way. They are quick and easy for listeners to engage with, and if you have a particular message to share, you can break up the content halfway through with a non-intrusive ‘ad break’. Podcasts are also very effective when used in conjunction with other content pieces, acting as a ‘sign-post’ to direct your audience to related information.



If you want to tackle a subject in-depth, creating a report around the topic allows you to cover all facets of the subject matter, and break up the text with images or infographics to capture the reader’s attention. As reports are often long-form reads, these pieces are ideal to gate for lead generation.

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4. Showcase your Thought Leaders

Don’t restrict your scientists to the lab – your R&D team along with executive leadership are great assets who can bring real weight to your content creation. These guys are real Thought Leaders and can share insights on fostering innovation, emerging industry trends or disruptors and the next big market opportunities.

Once you’ve identified who your internal ‘influencers’ are, put them in the spotlight through a speaking role on a podcast or in a webinar, or through a written interview. If they've authored articles or whitepapers, ensure you share these via the right channels – your website is a safe bet, but newsletter placement is also great for exposure.

The CPHI Online newsletter is despatched weekly to 125,000 subscribers in the pharma community – a placement here guarantees you significant reach with the right crowd.

It goes without saying that a key channel through which to promote your influencers is social media. According to Kinsta, in its blog-post ‘Mind-Blowing LinkedIn Statistics and Facts (2021)’, “Facebook may be the largest social networking site in the world today, but LinkedIn has been supporting its users for a longer time period, and users know the platform as the “professional social networking site.”

Kinsta also highlights the lead-gen potential of LinkedIn, stating that “LinkedIn is 277% more effective at generating leads than Facebook and Twitter.”

This is even more relevant for B2B marketeers who find that a whopping 80% of their social media leads come from LinkedIn:

Image source: B2B LinkedIn leads (Image source: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions)

With pharma professionals increasingly turning to LinkedIn for partnering and as a source of quality information, this is an essential platform from which to share content and see conversions - according to LinkedIn Marketing Services, “75% of would-be buyers say thought leadership helps them determine which vendor to put on their short list.”

5. Don’t Ignore the Potential of Virtual Events and Online Engagement

There may be little comparison when it comes to face-to-face interactions, but outside of event cycles (and in the midst of a pandemic), virtual events and online matchmaking opportunities can offer significant ROI for pharma companies.

At the CPHI Discover event, held in May 2021 over a two-week period, around 4,000 attendees from 115 countries came together in an online environment to meet, learn and do business – with more than 16,420 connections made.


All this, without the complicated logistics of having to fly your team across the world, build and dismantle a stand and spend days on your feet in exhibition halls (as much as we secretly love it).

Virtual events offer a more flexible approach to doing business in an online environment, with structured networking opportunities, a platform for meetings and on-demand access to content. Virtual events are also valuable lead funnels – hosting a webinar, showcasing your product catalogue or adding downloadable assets to the platform in addition to your meeting schedule mean you could end up with even more leads than at a physical event.

With ways of working changing, potentially forever, it’s worth factoring virtual events into your annual marketing calendars as a powerful tool to engage with pharma stakeholders from across the globe.

For more information on how CPHI can help elevate your digital marketing strategy, take a look at our 365 Digital Solutions or contact our team for a personalised proposal.

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Tara Dougal

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