Explore our Digital Marketing Strategy and Planning Toolkit

How to create an effective pharmaceutical marketing strategy in 2022

Author's avatar By Gavin Llewellyn 01 Oct, 2021
Advanced Advanced topic

Combine opportunity, strategy and action to identify the right approach for your pharma brand

The last 18 months has been a rollercoaster ride for many of us, not least those within the pharmaceutical sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the way pharma brands communicate and deliver their products: consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and proactive, whilst businesses are having to adapt to an increasingly digital-first world.

And this has all happened alongside broader trends which KPMG believe will have a significant impact on revenues and business and operating models:

“The pharmaceutical sector is at a crossroads. In a heavily disrupted marketplace, characterized by shifting payer attitudes and patient empowerment, neither incremental adjustments nor steady evolution are likely to halt the decline of the traditional pharmaceutical business model.”

As a result of these different trends, it’s important for businesses to evaluate their digital communications and value delivery. Within the pharma sector, brands need to continue innovating and make their online experiences and customer engagement communications more effective. Moving into 2022, it will be crucial to have a clear, coherent and joined-up marketing strategy to compete. 

But why is it important to have a marketing strategy? I’ve highlighted below some of the key elements from Smart Insights’ marketing strategy definition to help explain why?

“A proactive, data-driven approach to marketing and communication activity across all channels and touchpoints. The marketing strategy informs all marketing activity taking place for the business since all marketing plans stem from this overarching structure and vision. Once the strategy is set and communicated, marketers use tactics to put into place their actions that drive to the result.”

Smart Insights has a wide range of strategic marketing guides, resources, and templates for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies looking to develop their marketing strategies. As we know, to succeed in pharma marketing today, marketers and managers must apply a data-driven, customer-focused approach to their strategy and planning, such as our popular RACE Framework lifecycle.

RACE framework lifecycle

Take steps to optimize your marketing by joining as a Business Member today and gain instant access to a wealth of pharma marketing tools, some of which are mentioned in the article below, designed to help you convert more healthcare and pharma customers.

Can your Pharma or Healthcare business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get started now
Build your personal brand

Within this post, we’re going to look at some of the key steps you can take to create a pharma marketing strategy that will set you up for success in 2022. 

Key trends in the pharmaceutical sector

Although many strategic marketing models, frameworks, and plans can be applied to companies across different sectors, we need to first acknowledge the key trends in the pharma sector that will underpin your marketing strategy.

1. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on content marketing

Whilst the pandemic is no doubt the major trend impacting the pharmaceuticals sector, it’s worth exploring how it has influenced marketing. The pandemic has forced many pharma operations to move online and provided new options to communicate with customers. This has given pharma brands an opportunity to create content for both healthcare professionals (HCP) and patients, and distribute this across different channels. It’s become more important than ever to have a clear idea of the customer/ patient information journey and how to communicate with them at different stages:

patient information journey

2. The consumerization of healthcare

Pharmaceutical consumers want to have the same experience in healthcare that they have from other businesses. The presence of tech brands like Amazon, Netflix and Facebook has exposed us to new information and levels of service that weren’t present 10-15 years ago. This has influenced what we expect from other brands, meaning marketers must take a customer-first approach to their marketing planning.

Healthcare marketing experience

3. Enhancing consumer engagement

Competitiveness within the pharma sector and the consumerization of healthcare mean that engaging and retaining healthcare customers is crucial. This trend requires pharma companies to review and invest in platforms that they can use to create a consistent view of the customer across many touchpoints, including targeting, segmentation, and performance management:


Pharma marketing stakeholders

Create a winning pharmaceutical marketing strategy

One of the best tools for developing a marketing strategy is PR Smith’s SOSTAC® planning framework:


A primary barrier to the creation of an effective marketing strategy is often knowing where to start. SOSTAC® (which stands for Situation, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action and Control) gives marketers six clear steps and it provides a structure that is easy to remember and explain to others, plus covers all the stages needed to create and implement a marketing plan.

However, despite its popularity, Smart Insights has found weaknesses with SOSTAC® . These limitations led to the creation of a simpler version of SOSTAC®: Opportunity > Strategy > Action (OSA):

  1. Opportunity: Define online demand through Situation analysis and Objective setting
  2. Strategy: Define priorities and resourcing to achieve objectives through Strategy and Tactics
  3. Action: Manage implementation and agile optimization through Actions and Control


By using this framework, marketers can focus on just three steps and communicate their marketing strategy more easily with colleagues and clients. It also helps marketers to combine with the RACE Framework:

Omnichannel Marketing funnel

Find out more about how your company can benefit from utilizing the RACE Framework to strategize each component of your marketing funnel. From strategy and planning to reaching customers and getting known, from encouraging interaction to increasing conversions, and keeping hold of loyal customers and advocates, the RACE Framework has everything your pharmaceutical marketing team needs to achieve your goals.

What's more, all our marketing tools, training, and templates are integrated across RACE, meaning you can adapt and prioritize key customer journeys to target high-value customers, using data and insights to confidently make decisions about your marketing strategy.

Can your Pharma or Healthcare business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get started now
Build your personal brand

Creating your marketing strategy using the Opportunity > Strategy > Action framework

Opportunity, Strategy, Action is a perfect starting point for pharmaceutical marketing leaders looking to audit and reinforce their marketing strategies. This simple 3-step approach empowers marketers to adapt and react to internal and external factors influencing their customers' lifecycles.

To help bring this further to life, let’s look at each section of the OSA framework with some examples as to how it can be used to create an effective pharmaceutical marketing strategy.


This stage is about evaluating the current contribution of marketing channels by reviewing your data and setting future objectives.

The consumerization of healthcare will give you a macro view of the current situation and where to explore further. The trend of people influencing and controlling their medical and wellness care is here to stay and is only likely to grow:

Consumeration of healthcare


The consumerization of healthcare means that there is an opportunity for providers to develop strategies and market offerings that fulfill customer needs and preferences while fully engaging them in an end-to-end customer experience. 

With this background insight in mind consider the following:

  • Your current performance and business contribution from digital channels
  • The digital maturity of your organization - are you currently set up to tackle the new challenges?
  • Review employees marketing skill-set to ensure they have the right tools and capabilities 
  • Benchmark your company vs. the competition 
  • Set SMART objectives informed by your audience and marketplace analysis


Once you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve (objectives), you must define a strategy for how you will get there and which tactics you will use for customer acquisition (Reach), conversion (Act and Convert), and customer retention/loyalty (Engage).

The objective you’ve set in the first stage will help you shape your strategy. For example, if you are developing a new product offering, you may need to focus on Reach to build awareness of your brand and grow your audience. But if you are already established you may instead want to focus on Act to prompt interaction, subscribers, and leads.

The key steps to consider at this stage include:

  • Review new business model options
  • Update your brand positioning, including your value proposition
  • Ensure you have a content marketing strategy 
  • Brand governance, including new planning processes or new controls on communications
  • A long-term roadmap - it’s likely that your strategic initiatives won’t be achieved within 6 months or even a year 


Finally, you will need to define how your team will execute the strategy and the methods you will use to measure and track success.

In this stage, you will take your objectives and strategy and translate them into an action plan. If your pharma strategy is going to take a very content-oriented approach to inform and engage consumers, for example, Smart Insights’ Content Marketing Blueprint provides a structure and workflow for planning a content marketing program:

inbound marketing

Once you’ve established the key actions, the next step is to define the metrics and KPIs to determine success.

pharma kpis

The key steps to consider at this stage include:

  • Create 90-day action plans for each quarter that show the focus on different techniques across paid, owned, and earned media
  • Structure different strategic initiatives and improvements for 90-day plans across RACE (Reach, Act, Convert, Engage)
  • Create a detailed budget for prioritized activities across paid, owned, and earned media
  • Define dashboards and KPIs to review progress against your targets
  • Create a resourcing and development plan to ensure your team has the right skills 

Pharmaceutical marketing bottom line

Pharmaceutical marketing leaders looking for pharma/healthcare marketing solutions need to consider their marketing strategies in the context of the RACE Framework and OSA. By applying a practical, data-driven approach, you can streamline your marketing activities and focus on your patients' customer journeys.

Interested? Discover new opportunities for your company and implement quick changes that will optimize your funnel and accelerate your ROI. Find out more

Can your Pharma or Healthcare business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get started now
Build your personal brand

Author's avatar

By Gavin Llewellyn

Gavin Llewellyn (LinkedIn) is an independent consultant. He is a Chartered Marketer who specialises in digital marketing, specifically in social media, SEO and online strategy. Gavin blogs at One Too Many Mornings where he offers advice, guidance and ideas on how individuals and companies can use digital marketing effectively to get found online, build engagement and generate conversion. You can Follow Gavin on Twitter.

This blog post has been tagged with:

Digital marketing for the Pharma and Healthcare sector

Recommended Blog Posts