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How to choose the right email strategy in Pharma

How many times have you checked your email today? Honestly, I do it several times a day. Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) are no different to the rest of us, in fact 86% of HCPs find time to check their emails 2-3 times a day*.

However, when it comes to the way Pharma companies send emails to HCPs, the TruExperts Email Benchmarking Study shows that three different strategies are adopted:

  • 29% of companies are using only rep-triggered emails

  • 29% are using both rep-triggered and mass emails combined

  • The remaining 42% are using a combination of rep-triggered, mass & third-party emails

But who is correct and has the decision been informed by data, or is it simply a lack of expertise & resource?

Before we explore further, let's be clear. on what each of these are and what benefits they offer.


Often referred to as 1:1 email, this is pre-approved blocks of content, with some elements of personalisation for the rep. This is built up quickly and easily on the iPad to create a unique email in real-time, that can be scheduled to send when the rep wishes to.

It is the leading performer when looked at in isolation, with an open-rate (OR) of 1.15X vs. mass emails (TruExperts Study).

Key benefits:

  • It is often perceived to be less promotional purely because the senders name is a person that the HCP is familiar with, as opposed to the company name

  • These emails tend to be more relevant to the HCP because they are expecting it to come, usually because it is sent following a conversation where the HCP has expressed their desire to receive something; more information about a topic, a specific resource, or an invite to an upcoming event


  • Reps adoption & capacity of coverage can limit the scale of engagement and the timeliness of important information


This is centrally driven communication by the marketing team sent to all consented HCPs, with the opportunity to segment audiences to ensure message relevance.

It is the second-best performer in isolation, with an open-rate (OR) of 1.6X vs. third parties (TruExperts Study).

Key benefits:

  • It is a quick way to disseminate news and information on scale

  • You can automate based on pre-set user journeys, so that emails get triggered automatically when an HCP does something across any channel. This will take your message relevance and timing up a notch, meaning higher engagement, a quicker route down the customer funnel, meaning faster business results. Once set up, the long-term internal efficiencies will be clear to see


  • A lack of human touch, although this can be worked around depending on how clean your customer data is and how good your content writing skills are

  • There is a high perception of 'selling' in this type of communication and so engagement tends to be lower


This is managed by the marketing team in collaboration with media partners. It is essentially paying to leverage email databases of other relevant service providers to try and reach those. beyond the company-owned data.

It is the third-best performer in isolation, with a lower average open-rate than both mass and rep-triggered, although it depends on the media partner.

Key benefits:

  • A quick way to disseminate news and information on scale, like mass, with the addition of being able to reach those target HCPs beyond the first party data

  • The reputation halo effect is transferred


  • Engagement is the lowest out of the three types here because there is competition for airtime with other companies

  • There is a cost encountered, the structure of which depends on the media partner; it could be based on the audience size or number of email sends agreed as part of a campaign

So, what is the right strategy?

While rep-triggered and mass can easily form a strong business case for most pharma companies, the final answer to this is very specific to you, driven by data about your customers and by your digital maturity.

Like with most marketing activities, you should never review impact fully in isolation, but rather as a holistic approach to determine the best combination of activities.


This article was written in collaboration with the TruExperts Digital, a European network of experts, academics & agencies all with a strong data-driven approach.


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