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How much effort do you dedicate to digital?

Keeping a relevant message when engaging in a digital environment

A laptop spilling out online toolsWe work in an evidence-based industry, where decisions are based on hard facts: rational analysis, RoI, and relevance. The key word for me is relevance, yet when it comes to digital marketing, relevance seems to take a holiday.

I sat in a meeting the other day and the client asked for a Facebook page. Yes, we could create a Facebook page, build it, show how you engage people and what content you should put up. But I refused the request (my MD wasn't very happy) because a Facebook page was not relevant for the brand or, most importantly, for the customer.

Many marketers today are moving into digital simply because everyone else is doing it. Before you even start a digital project, you should think about the end user first. Buy yourself a Mac, iPad, Playbook or PC, and play around. Try a Blackberry, iPhone, Android and Windows phone, see how different the experience is on each device, and start building from there. Get away from that paper detail aid — burn it, chuck it in the bin — and start from scratch when you need an e-detail aid.

We've put a video together from statistics on the internet, using Pew and Manhattan research. This was in response to numerous meetings where people have said "Oh, let's do an iPhone app" or "Let's do an iPad detail." Great, but where's the research? What are your users doing, and how will they want to interact with your brand? Being relevant is what marketing is all about, but somewhere along the line in digital we've forgotten that.


Digital in Healthcare video

The video was also put together because users' habits are changing. The first thing we do when we're ill is go to the web and search "There's a rash on my arm" (or wherever it may be). We then go to the doctor and mention what we've found, we tell our friends and family what we've found, the doctor then prescribes us a medicine and, before heading to the chemist, we Google the medicine to find out what the drug is.

There are some really remarkable stats that show what an important role digital plays within healthcare now, but the digital budget is still on average under 10 per cent of the overall marketing budget in healthcare. Google says that it has two billion searches a day, with healthcare the second biggest search topic, and the Pew internet survey showed that across all generations, healthcare is the third biggest activity on the web. Why then are digital marketing budgets still low?

More and more doctors are using Wikipedia as a resource now, but we are hesitant to embrace it. Doctors have less and less time to see sales reps, so why are we investing so much in that area instead of a tool that allows them to access drug information at any time?

European physicians spend seven hours each week using the internet or email for professional purposes. In a survey of 4,000 doctors, 88 per cent admitted to using the internet for professional information — so does 88 per cent of your marketing budget go to digital? Over half of physicians recommend health websites to their patients – how much time and budget do you spend on your website?

Over 44 per cent of patients are prescribed a requested drug; this could be from information they've found on the web or from what they heard from friends and family. There are more than 150 million people in Europe searching regularly for healthcare information online. Around 100 million of that population tell their friends and family what they've found, 50 per cent tell their GP what they've found, and the internet is still growing so fast that these figures just keep rising.

So when embarking on a digital project, please make it relevant. Invest time and budget on getting some stats from Manhattan Research, invest in buying digital technologies and testing them, and most importantly (because digital is beta), build, launch, test, get feedback, amend and continue to improve the experience.

The Author
Faisal Ahmed
is head of digital at Life Healthcare Communuications. Ahmed was previously part of the start-up team at Amazon, and was later responsible for digital strategies at 90 football clubs, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the World Rally Championship. Faisal was also previously head of digital at Langland, winning over 30 awards for his digital work.

9th August 2011


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