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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Top tips for “digitally cautious” pharma

Some practical ways to enter this new era of customer and patient-centricity

The current environment: in my experience, the pharma industry in general is still focusing its energies in the wrong direction:

  • Doing what has always been done
  • Focusing on features and benefits of products
  • Regulatory concerns are limiting innovation
  • There is no long-term commercial strategy grounded in marketing and business objectives, no iterative testing, no learning from insights, no regular audit of digital assets to determine their success rate.

All of the above leads to creation of digital assets that underperform, don’t provide value to their target audience, and ultimately stagnate, unused, due to the lack of regular review, maintenance and updating based upon research into what the customer - the healthcare professional (HCP) and/or the patient - actually want.

Doing things better
All is not lost. There are ways to leverage the online space within the pharma sector. Here are my recommendations:

  • Adapt to the evolving landscape of digitally savvy HCPs and patients
  • Create a customer-centric, overarching commercial strategy and integrate activities across departments
  • Change focus to outcomes, not outputs
  • Perform iterative testing of online activities and implement learning from insights
  • Think multi-channel first
  • There is no wrong in digital: it allows fast, easy, inexpensive opportunities to test, learn and pivot, resulting in more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Adapt
First, accept that access to HCPs is declining, and adapt to maintain share of voice. The “hard sell” approach is less effective in this new world of peer-based advocacy, so focus on creating value for the end-user and the patient who can become spokespeople for your product or brand. Look to the consumer world online for inspiration, and the culture of customer reviews. Would you ever buy something with a no-star rating or a poor review?

In terms of traditional publishers, yes, they can help you reach certain pockets of your target audience, but integrate with other online channels to broaden your reach. And consider implementing more customer-centric, less product-focused messaging. Promoting features and benefits to HCPs will not help them help their patients.

Customer-centric strategy
There should be one commercial strategy which integrates multiple digital marketing activities: websites, apps, media planning and buying and other marketing services. Remember that all the teams in the company are trying to communicate to the same audiences, so all the messages need to be co-ordinated. Take a collaborative approach to defining and delivering an effective strategy, both within the company and with outside stakeholders.

Begin with identifying medium-to-long-term commercial and marketing objectives that your tactical activities should help you achieve, then establish KPIs that you can measure against. To be effective, you need to be able to measure Marketing’s impact; more than ever, marketers are under increasing pressure to justify investment in marketing activities. And this is where digital shines! It provides fast, easy, inexpensive opportunities to test, learn and pivot - to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Before you put the strategy together, research, listen online and use social media to find out which topics customers and other stakeholders are talking about. If you don’t know what they do or want online, ask them! Unite the goals of the business with the needs of your customers.

Commit to creating a content marketing strategy at the outset which will enable you to develop content to position your brand/product effectively at all the pertinent stages of your sales funnel. Involve user experience experts to help develop online tools like websites and apps with the real-life customer journeys in mind, and plan to maintain and review them on a regular basis, constantly testing to see where improvement can be made. They should be mission-critical tools for helping HCPs improve patients’ well-being. They should help build trust in your brand, and this requires commitment and an on-going approach to testing and reiterating success while discontinuing those things that just don’t work.

Websites, apps, campaigns, content, etc. are all easy to build; it’s your intention and the role they play in helping you to provide real user value that is key. So, address users’ needs step by step and you will improve satisfaction, engagement and, ultimately, advocacy.

Regulations
Regulations should not stop you using digital to do what is right for you and the customer. Focusing on the needs of stakeholders to provide effective education, for instance, should guide you, and help mitigate against any potential risk. The effective use of social media offers a huge opportunity to earn trust and create a win-win situation. It allows pharma to present a more personable face to stakeholders, build relationships that suggest legitimacy and genuine care for their needs, thereby bringing huge returns in the long term. Increased share of voice leads to an increased share of market.

There is no "bad" in digital
As long as it’s approached with the right mindset, the online world presents a truly unrivalled opportunity for pharma companies to continually learn and iterate their offerings around the customer. Test, learn, iterate: be curious and adopt an ongoing quantitative and qualitative approach to finding out what works. Nobody gets it right the first time, but those that are committed to getting it right eventually do.

Article by
Andy Stafford

Commercial Director at Nitro Digital, and has worked in the healthcare sector for more than 10 years

18th April 2017

From: Marketing

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