buyer's journey

The ultimate guide to understanding the buyer's journey in healthcare marketing

Having a solid healthcare marketing strategy is paramount to the success of any pharmaceutical business. To successfully empathise with doctors and to properly tailor solutions to their needs, you need to understand their buyer's journey. A buyer's journey is usually broken down into five key stages: awareness, interest, consideration, decision and retention. Each stage requires a different marketing approach. In this blog post, we will present all five stages and match them with the most appropriate marketing channels and explain how to market to doctors. It’s not just about the message itself, it also needs to be presented in the right place and time. In this way, you can maximise your marketing efforts! 

What is a buyer’s journey in healthcare marketing? 

The buyer’s journey is the process a doctor goes through before prescribing your drug. By understanding their journey, the pains and problems they experience along the way, and the influencing factors that shape their thinking, you can better empathise with them and position your solution along that path1

Although the journey’s stages may vary depending on the industry or product, it typically comprises five primary stages, from awareness to retention, and is often depicted as a funnel.

When you market to doctors, you must consider where in the buyer’s journey they sit. 

  • Do they already know your product?
  • Have they tried it before?
  • Have they ever prescribed drugs from your competitors?
  • How do they perceive your brand and product?
  • What are the pain points that would prevent this audience from purchasing your product?

To simplify the decision-making process that doctors go through in healthcare marketing, we can reduce it down to three main consumer touchpoints: awareness, consideration and decision2.Asset 2

Every stage of the journey presents distinct objectives and challenges that shape the healthcare marketing approach. To better market to doctors and achieve more accurate targeting, you can expand this three-stage journey into a five-stage funnel3.

Asset 3


The awareness stage is when a doctor realises a problem they want to solve and views your drug advertisement as a viable solution. During this stage, marketers should prioritise generating visibility and establishing recognition. This phase is particularly important for new drugs, brands or supplementary benefits for existing drugs. Doctors deal with diseases and conditions on a daily basis that don’t have proper treatment. The objective here is to introduce your drug into the market and integrate it as part of a comprehensive range of solutions for a particular problem.


The interest stage is when a doctor is actively seeking options to resolve their problem. During this stage, they may have a few ideas in mind but require additional information and experience to make a decision. This stage involves searching for information, which in the digital marketing realm, entails reading reviews, blog posts, social media content and product websites to gather as much information as possible.


The consideration stage is when a doctor is aware of your drug or brand and considers it a potential fit for their needs or goals. While they may have other brands in mind, your drug is in the mix. During this stage, inbound strategies can be highly effective as they increase the likelihood of the brand or drug appearing more frequently in search results and social media feeds, if used correctly.


The decision stage represents the moment when the doctor is ready to prescribe or buy your drug or take action on your site. They have done their research and, based on their needs and motivations, have decided on a specific drug as the best solution for their problem. During this stage, they have yet to prescribe the drug, and the marketer's goal is to establish a point of contact to encourage conversions. Typically, this is accomplished through targeting and retargeting, promotional offers and creating a sense of urgency.


The retention stage is often neglected, yet it is a critical stage for ensuring recurring revenue and cultivating a group of enthusiastic brand advocates. Once the doctor has prescribed the drug and the patient is satisfied, it is crucial to provide added value and create a genuine relationship. During this stage, you are engaging with a doctor who is already convinced that your drug is ideal for their patient, but you still need to maintain their satisfaction and motivate them to return to your brand. The more you understand them, the better equipped you will be to deliver added value to them and exceed their expectations not only with your drug but with your brand experience and personality as well.

Integrated Healthcare Marketing Strategy 

The key to moving doctors through the stages of the buyer’s journey is working in collaboration of using multiple channels for each function. Using the full circle of marketing tactics is called a 360 or an integrated marketing strategy, as it aims to engage doctors at all touchpoints throughout their day. The mainstream definition of a 360 marketing strategy is that it is a marketing plan that is both online and offline, across all digital channels, on social media and anywhere that doctors spend time.

Passing on the message for various drugs across multiple digital marketing channels is something that the big pharma industry players have been focused on intensively over the past decade. GlobalData believes that the ability to promote a brand’s story or raise awareness of a disease will evolve further into a more personalised form, where doctors can be fully engaged by a customised experience via the media format that is most suitable for them4.

An integrated marketing approach has several benefits such as:

  • Covers the entire buying cycle
  • Uses every point of contact
  • Maximises both scope and relevance
  • Implements both traditional and digital marketing
  • Enables results to be effectively measured 

Aligning the buyer's journey with channels

Working in collaboration and using multiple components for each function is key to moving leads through the stages of their journey. Let’s see which channel brings the best results in each stage5,6,7.

funnel graphics

Email and automation marketing: Email marketing and automation play a vital role in driving conversions and customer loyalty. They are used to reach doctors at the appropriate time and guide them towards a desired destination, such as a landing page. Marketing emails typically aim to increase interest, convert sales and retain customers by providing added value to the brand and its products.

Paid search (PPC): This channel will help you get high value traffic and clicks from interested doctors. When they are actively searching for keywords related to their issue, using paid search helps to bring you top of the list when they are searching and ready to prescribe, buy or take action.

Organic search (SEO): Optimising for organic search is a key tactic in digital marketing because it leads to discovery, awareness, interest and conversion without paid effort. SEO makes your content visible to doctors and easily searchable on Google and other search engines without the need to pay for clicks.

Website optimisation: Optimising your website is essential to create an environment where doctors can engage with your brand content and easily take valuable actions on your site such as buying a drug or contacting your team with minimal fuss. Optimising speed, navigation, responsiveness, content and conversion processes will help drive more of those valuable actions and lead to better performance.

Display advertising: Thanks to the targeting capabilities of online display, pharmaceutical companies can target doctors' interests, problems, keywords, and more. This means that the ads shown to them are highly relevant, which drives higher awareness and consideration as well as traffic.

Content marketing: Content marketing is key to the inbound strategy, which in turn is
central to a digital marketing strategy. Well-developed and targeted content increases brand personality and likability. Through content, doctors can learn about a brand's values, experience and perspective, and also understand how a certain drug can address their issues and treat diseases. A content strategy impacts all stages of the buyer's journey, as it is present at all touchpoints and often serves as the final destination for various marketing tactics. In addition, content can drive virality and word-of-mouth by inspiring users to share impactful or surprising content.

Social media marketing: Social media platforms are primary channels for creating
awareness and interest through content and social engagement. Advertising can be
targeted and re-targeted to appeal to the conversion objective. Moreover, social media channels play a significant role in the retention stage of the buyer's journey by serving as the primary platform for doctors to receive company updates and information.

In conclusion, having a solid healthcare marketing strategy is essential for the success of any pharmaceutical business. To be effective in marketing to doctors, marketers need to understand the buyer's journey and tailor their solutions to meet the specific needs and challenges of each stage. The buyer's journey typically comprises five stages: awareness, interest, consideration, decision and retention. Each stage requires a different marketing approach and can be addressed through various channels, such as content marketing, display and video advertising, social media marketing, email marketing and search engine marketing. By using an integrated marketing strategy that covers the entire buying cycle, uses every point of contact, and combines traditional and digital marketing tactics, marketers can maximise their scope and relevance and effectively measure their results.

It’s true that some channels work best in one of the stages, but they can mostly be used in more than one stage to help us achieve your goals. Click to find out more about our highly targeted advertising options and find your perfect fit.

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  1. Hubspot. What Is the Buyer's Journey?
  2. Zendesk. What is the buyer's journey? Definition, stages, and examples
  3. SMM Advertising. Understanding the 5 stages of buyer's journey
  4. Pharmaceutical Technology. Pharma digital marketing looks to take a personalised approach
  5. J. Rachel West. Understanding the 5 stages of buyer's journey
  6. Indeed. 5 Stages of Sales Funnel (Plus Steps and Examples)
  7. Growth Marketing Genie. The 5 Stages You Must Know For a Successful Marketing Funnel
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