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How can pharma realise the power of digital?

Firstly, by making it owned and driven by the most senior leadership team in the business

Digital marketingNew data from M3 Global Research shows that doctors want to work with pharma and they have embraced the digital revolution: 80% of doctors across the EU want to keep abreast of new drug developments and digital is one of their preferred channels for receiving professional information.

In response to this, pharma should be using the unique reach and potential of digital to engage its customers, create new experiences, add value to their professional lives and support them in their often difficult jobs.

Yet despite its efforts, pharma is disillusioned with its digital strategies and the results it's seeing, hence its spending in this area has plateaued to around 6-15% of its marketing budget (compared to 30-35% for P&G) and much of this goes on branded websites and iPad eDetails.

So, why is there such a gap between the extremely high potential for engaging customers with content they're actively seeking and interested in - and the reality of pharma's disillusionment with digital? And, furthermore, how can we fix it?

Part of the answer lies in integrating digital into the business, rather than having a standalone digital, marketing strategy that reports to marketing. In other words – digital is bigger than marketing and marketing alone cannot crack digital.

One way to decide where digital sits is to look at the KPIs: What does pharma expect digital to achieve? Ultimately, pharma wants high sales volumes and increased market share. To achieve that, it arguably needs:

  • Good reputation and trust in the parent brand, which is arguably the responsibility of corporate communications
  • Research and insight into the market, the customer and the competition, which could fit into the market research team
  • Education – so customers understand the landscape and are ready to receive the brand – this sits in medical education
  • Marketing - brand awareness of specific product sales that are being measured
  • Customer engagement and a value exchange – giving the customer something they need
  • Sales and long term loyalty - these aren't the sole responsibility of marketing.

So, part one of the answer to 'Why is pharma disillusioned with its digital strategies?' is that digital is not a stand-alone marketing channel, it needs to be owned and driven by the most senior leadership team in the business. It also needs to be part of a joined up, digital business plan as outlined above.

In next week's Digital Handbook article, I will explain what else pharma needs to do to fix its digital marketing model and ensure it hits the right customer with the right message at the right time.

For more information on M3, the global provider of technology services in healthcare, and its new European Division which includes,, and, please call Jenny Cowderoy on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email

19th November 2014

From: Marketing, Healthcare



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