Trust versus results. Why should brands have to choose?
At WEGO Health, we’re no stranger to partnering with patient influencers. Over the last 13 years, we’ve built the world’s largest network of Patient Leaders.
Patient Leaders are patients or caregivers who are also influencers, advocates, and activists that are transforming healthcare by providing education, empowerment, and support to the communities they lead.
Over the past decade, WEGO Health has been connecting members of our Patient Leader Network with global pharmaceutical companies to provide insight, to co-create genuine content, and to power authentic social media marketing campaigns.
The Influencer Marketing Opportunity – and Pharma’s Challenges
Influencer marketing focuses on collaborating with key leaders to drive brand messages to the larger market. Different from marketing directly to a large group of consumers, influencer marketing engages influencers to get out the word for the brand. Because social proof is an important way for people to trust a brand, companies rely on influencer marketing to increase customer participation and target a new audience.
The State of Influencer Marketing report by Linqia shows that 40% of all marketers ran six or more influencer campaigns in 2019, and 57% say they’re increasing their budgets in 2020. That same study also shows that 43% of marketers plan to spend 11-25% of their marketing budget on influencer marketing.
And in its 2019 Influencer Marketing Survey, MediaKix shows why influencer marketing is growing so fast:
• 80% of marketers find influencer marketing effective.
• 71% of marketers rate the quality of customers and traffic from influencer marketing as better than other marketing sources.
• 89% of marketers say influencer marketing ROI is as good or better than other marketing channels.
But as they have ramped up their understanding of social media marketing, WEGO Health has seen pharmaceutical companies struggle to take their influencer marketing beyond TV-ad celebrities or one-off relationships with only PR value.
That’s why we’ve been testing and fine-tuning what we’re calling Pharmaceutical Grade Influencer MarketingSM – a new business offering for our pharma partners seeking to cultivate strong patient community relationships and drive measurable DTC-scale business results.
We’ve designed our offering to tackle four very real challenges that are holding pharma back.
1. Will influencers work with pharma? The well-documented trust gap between patients and pharma is a chasm to cross when recruiting patient influencers. That gap translates to a lot of time spent cultivating new relationships and setting out terms of engagement that assure influencers of their independence and objectivity. Even the best agencies hired to help need to start from scratch.
2. Is there any hope of getting this through MLR? The second, very much related issue is legal and regulatory – a pharma constant that throws up walls to influencer marketing must-haves like authentic content and real-time interaction between influencers and their followers.
3. Can influencer marketing scale to be a foundational DTC initiative? Trust and regulatory gauntlets have made even the best pharma influencer marketing programs one-offs, with nominal reach. And reams of research shows that nano- and micro-influencers – those with the smallest followings – are many times more likely to generate real engagement with their followers than macro- and celebrity influencers.
4. What can marketers expect for real business results? Make no mistake, trusting relationships with influencers and their communities are invaluable – and core to WEGO Health’s mission. But influencer marketing won’t flourish without a clear connection between investment and business results – results that can be assessed alongside other investments, like visitors to a brand web site or patients who engaged with key content.
“Influencer marketing for pharmaceuticals and serious diseases is completely different. Patient influencers are not for sale at any price, and it’s been a long process for pharma to build trust one influencer at a time,” says Richelle Horn, Sr. Director of Marketing, WEGO Health. “This trust barrier has pigeon-holed influencer marketing as a feel-good initiative – not a scalable, accountable digital marketing program.”
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Pharmaceutical Grade Influencer Marketing
At WEGO Health, we’ve committed to evolve influencer marketing by offering scalable, authentic influencer marketing to our pharmaceutical partners as our core social media program. We believe that no pharma marketer nor agency should have to choose between building trust among patient communities and producing results – influencer marketing can achieve both when executed correctly.
“We start with our member network of over 100,000 patient influencers to quickly find the right group of collaborators. We’ll co-create content crafted to meet the authentic needs of the patient community as well as pharma business and regulatory requirements,” says WEGO Health Chief Client Officer, Kristen Hartman. “But the real excitement is in how we can scale reach using our proprietary audiences – how we can engage the most impactful micro-influencers and still touch millions. The combination allows us to deliver DTC-scale influencer marketing in a performance model with solid guarantees.”
We know from behavioral intent research that patients listen to other patients. When specific medication information is shared by an influencer on behalf of a pharmaceutical company, 87% of patients are likely to ask their healthcare professional about the information.
And with something as personal as healthcare, that trust and engagement is critical.
Fueling the Mission
We’re excited about the additional opportunities that this will bring to our vast network of members who are dedicated to transforming the healthcare industry.
Our 13 years of experience have taught us that Patient Leaders want a seat at the table with companies that are trying to reach them. In recent research conducted by WEGO Health, we found that not only did Patient Leaders want to partner with the pharmaceutical industry, but influencer marketing was one of the top three desired partnership opportunities.
In fact, another recent survey with WEGO Health & the Digital Health Coalition showed that Patient Leaders actually recommended that pharmaceutical marketers spend more on patient influencer marketing over more traditional forms of advertising such as display and search.
“Patient Leaders don’t just want to hear from pharma companies, they want to be a part of the message. Influencer marketing allows them to make pharma’s communication more authentic, while it amplifies their voice and fuels their mission,” says Julie Croner, VP of Patient Leader Network.
The value a Patient Leader brings to their community has never been greater in this era of uncertainty. WEGO Health aims to leverage that value to address the needs of the pharma industry and to encourage and facilitate a patient-centric future where pharma can rebuild the trust of the patients they serve.