Use Personalisation to Reach HCPs in Digital Marketing

Using personalisation in healthcare digital marketing is a step towards the future. Many big pharma companies are already there – rethinking processes, teams, and engagement models for personalisation to get ahead of the competition.

BCG recently found that sending a personalised email to a physician after a face-to-face call can lead to a 6x-8x better response for pharma companies.

But where do you start?

From gathering data to sending meaningful communications, personalisation can totally re-shift the foundations of pharma marketing.

And if that sounds expensive, you’d be right.

Integrating CRM systems, websites, and field forces to create personalised journeys is no simple task. There can be some sizable structural and financial barriers in your way if you don’t plan ahead.

So, let’s break down what personalisation is, what to expect, and how you can achieve it in simple steps.

Key Takeaways

You can start personalisation in three simple steps. Don’t overcomplicate it. Slow and steady wins the race!
Consider the 3 C´s of personalisation when choosing what to personalise: Content – Channels – Cadence
Both technology and human skills are needed to implement personalisation efficiently
An efficient personalisation takes time but it will result in much higher engagement and better HCP education

What is Personalisation in Pharma Marketing?

To make personalisation easy to grasp, think about Netflix.

netflix on screen

Your Netflix home screen is customised based on:

  • Explicit choices: shows and movies you have marked as liked or simply added to your watch list.
  • Behaviour: what you’ve watched, how much of it you’ve watched, what you’ve searched for, and other actions.

As a result, Netflix personalises your results to show you programs and films that you are likely to enjoy. 

When we take this concept and use it in pharma marketing, personalisation can be applied in all types of communications. Emails, websites, and even banner advertisements can be personalised. 

The huge increase in competition, as well as digital fatigue, has made this personalisation necessary. 

But don’t be intimidated.

Although it sounds complex to achieve, the goal is actually to personalise content, channel, and cadence without increasing complexity. 

How to Start Personalisation in Three Steps

The key is to “think big, start small, and scale quickly.”

We have noticed that the companies that jump into the deep end are more likely to fail. Slow and steady wins this race!

Choose data you can easily attain, that could allow for a meaningful segmentation and that you have enough content for.

Let’s break it down into three steps.

1. Collect Data

Gathering data is a continuous process. All customer interactions can become opportunities to gather info – don’t rely on a single questionnaire from 5 years past.

When gathering data, start simple and keep your goal in mind: why do you need this data and how will you use it? What can be made actionable?

Data to start gathering:

Explicit data

HCPs may tell you about their likes and dislikes, make sure you record this data. There are various ways to gather such data:

  • Face-to-face encounters
  • Virtual encounters
  • Questionnaires

Implicit data

Attain this data by analysing HCPs’ behaviour and engagements. You can begin to understand which topics, therapy areas, types of content, or formats interest them by analysing activities such as:

  • Which email did they open or click on?
  • Which articles did they read on your website (available only if they register)?
  • Which webinars did they participate in?
  • What did they share on their social profiles?

For implicit data, you can also explore:

  • The channels they prefer, by tracking where they came from (the traffic source) whenever they sign up or log in to one of your web properties.
  • The level of engagement is another important type of implicit data. A physician participating regularly in webinars and opening emails is more open to receiving more information than somebody who never interacts, for example. And it doesn’t need to be a yes or no situation. You can adapt the frequency of interaction to the level of engagement.

Learn more about data collection in our article on explicit and implicit data

Assigning this data to physicians

You can assign data in an anonymised way – simply segment (see below) based on usage and look at segments rather than individuals. 

If you needed to associate information with a specific user, encourage physicians to register to use your platform with an email address. The more that user interacts with your platform while logged in, the more data you receive.

Just bear in mind that the costs of getting a physician to engage with your platform are higher than reaching out to them on platforms they already use (e.g., medical journals or social media).

2. Segment and Microsegment

Once you have your data, separate it into segments. Simply divide the healthcare professionals (HCPs) into clusters based on shared attributes and prepare a customised strategy to meet the needs of each cluster.

Let’s use the example of a webinar on the hidden impacts of iron on the heart. 

You may split users based on their attendance at that webinar.

Those who participated will receive more advanced content on the topic of cardiology and iron. They may also receive more invites for webinars. 

Those who didn’t participate will receive a simple visual summary. If they engage with it, you could infer that webinars are not the right format, but the topic is of interest to them. If they fail to engage further, they are probably uninterested in the topic.

Other examples of segmentation include: 

  • Physicians who signed up to our web properties over the last 3 months versus those who didn’t
  • Physicians who engaged with our brand versus those who only engaged with our DSE content
  • Physicians who engaged with video content or declared they liked video content versus those who chose other formats
  • Physicians who prefer real-world evidence data versus those who rarely engage with it

If you only have 2 to 3 pieces of content, there is no need to create 10 different segments – make it simpler.

Furthermore, starting with one-to-one communication (microsegments) may be too complex for most organisations. Instead, start with a few general segments and grow over time. 

🔑 Always keep in mind that all segmentation should make sense for the content you have. Don’t create one-to-one segments until you have the content and capacity to do so. Start with one-to-many.

Pharma companies can increase adoption and build satisfaction among HCPs simply by customising engagement into increasingly smaller segments as time goes by. Inform downstream activities until you reach the level of the individual physician.

3. Personalise Communications

To personalise, you need data (check ✅) and segmentation (check ✅).

Next, we need modular content to drive engagement.

When creating modular content that can be swapped and moved based on each segment’s needs, refer back to your data to optimise the content. Check the behaviours of HCPs and encourage constant feedback and content engagement.

Creating customised, modular communication without costs spiralling is now within reach. With the right tools and the “slow and steady” approach, this can be done with simplicity rather than complexity.

For assistance working out how to approach personalisation, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

What to Personalise

When it comes to choosing what to personalise, we recommend considering the three C’s

The 3 C's of personalisation


In our opinion, this is the most impactful part of personalisation. Content refers to choosing what to show to your audience, which information (topic and type) and how it should look (format):

– Topic #1 (eg. breast cancer treatments)
– Topic #2 (eg. pain management)
– Topic #3 (eg. secondary effects of breast cancer)
Content types
– Real-world evidence
– New scientific findings
– Peer lectures
– And more
– Videos
– Publications
– Face-to-face meetings
Social media
– And more

A library of repurposed content allows you to present the right piece of content to the right person while keeping the cost low. You don’t always need to create a new publication to increase engagement!


Consider the channels and platforms you use.

For example, you may learn from a face-to-face meeting that a certain HCP prefers WhatsApp to emails. Make a note in your CRM.

Using segments, you could focus your social media on a younger group of physicians and leave symposia for the older generation, for example. 

See where the data takes you! ⛵


Ideally, the speed and frequency at which you engage should be adapted to individual physicians.

Let’s use email communication as an example.

Gather data on email open rates and use this to adjust the frequency of emails sent. Increase emails for physicians who regularly open and engage with them and reduce emails for physicians who don’t.

The end result is a much higher engagement with emails overall, and happier physicians who feel comfortable communicating at the cadence they are comfortable with.

How to Enable Personalisation

The tools (or enablers) you need to implement personalisation fall into two categories:

Data and Tech Enablers

New technology enables personalisation swiftly and easily.

You can utilise:

  • Data and digital platforms
  • Analytics engines and solutions
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning 

These tools help to gather and integrate data together, analyse and segment that data, and then use machine learning to make informed decisions.

Human Skills and Capabilities

Technology is key, but human organisation is just as important. Tackling both human and tech enablers simultaneously enables you to create a model that operates smoothly.

Consider using:

  • Multi-skilled and cross-functional teams
  • Training for employees to engage HCPs in remote one-to-one channels
  • Eventually hiring data scientists, data engineers and software engineers once you are ready to have a more complex system
  • Getting a project manager to orchestrate the collaboration of tech and human enablers

Why You Should Start Now

AI and enhanced data analytics are making personalisation more accessible. Hyper-personalising products and using data to enrich profiles has a lot of potential – if you aren’t doing it, your competitors certainly are.

Pharma companies are already piloting more sophisticated methods to personalise and enrich their processes. The key, however, is that any new model should be both practical and simple. Companies that attempt micro-segments too soon are unlikely to succeed.

As we’ve mentioned several times in this guide – slow and steady is the way forward. And this takes time! But you’ll see rewards in your campaigns: higher engagement and better HCP education will naturally flow from better communication. End-to-end transformation is a multi-year journey, and it may take longer before a measurable impact is created.

So, the time to start is now!

About the author

Photo of author

David Douek

David is phamax Digital's Chief Digital Officer. He makes digital easy for pharma companies. With 20+ years of experience in digital marketing and product development, he's tried and tested everything to recommend the best strategies

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