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Making the most of mobile

Mobile marketing is not just a tool to be used in B2C markets, says Simon Liss

Mobile_talkWhen you say the word 'mobile', many pharma marketers will think of next generation techniques and campaigns that add style but not necessarily substance to their marketing mix. This could not be further from the truth; at its core mobile marketing is simply using a mobile phone as a way to connect suppliers with customers and even in this purest form can drive significant return-on-investment (RoI). You only need to look at the uptake of health applications since the advent of smartphones to see the huge potential mobile offers the industry.

Mobile marketing is all about innovation, and innovation is fundamental to the pharma sector, particularly where brands are looking to stand out from the competition or communicate their point of difference. It offers an unrivalled method of interacting with a customer – be they a doctor or a patient – because mobile phones are used by almost everyone and are now an important and intimate part of our daily lives. This makes interaction with them particularly powerful and offers marketers an opportunity to initiate and track conversations far more successfully than in the past.

GPs will continue to be a crucial audience, thanks to Lansley's White Paper proposal to empower them once more: an audience that has the capability to interact via their mobile phones. While the UK has an ageing workforce of GPs, penetration of smartphones is notable among the 30–40 demographic, so use of the mobile internet and applications is increasingly relevant across the board, and no longer a youth or 'first adopter' phenomenon. Pharma companies not looking to use the mobile channel are missing a trick – and here's why...

There are many examples of mobile technology being used to target consumers, and the brands using the channel are becoming increasingly mainstream. Tesco, British Gas and Marks & Spencer are just a few examples of organisations that have developed mobile internet and applications to interact with consumers. However, few pharma companies have yet to try to reap the benefits of these tools. I believe that this is a result of a lack of knowledge of the opportunities in mobile today, and a perception among pharma marketers that mobile is for B2C activities only.

Although there are many different approaches, I want to cover briefly three key mobile marketing opportunities that I believe exist in pharma, which I hope will act as inspiration for those looking at new and better ways to engage with stakeholders and customers. These are:
• mobilising existing web assets
• using mobile devices to innovate GP communications
• leveraging mobile for internal staff and salesforce communications.

Mobilise and optimise the brand website
With the explosion of smartphones in the UK, browsing on the mobile internet is ramping up faster than any other media channel ever has. Latest figures show that 31 per cent of the UK population now own a smartphone, with 38 per cent accessing the mobile internet on a weekly basis (ComScore Mobilens Data, December 2010). Your current website is being accessed by mobile devices and, if it is not optimised or specifically developed for the mobile internet, you are potentially giving your customers a bad experience.

Nowadays, users expect the same brand experience irrespective of the type of device they use to access it and will become increasingly frustrated by websites that do not provide properly for mobile browsing.

Creating a better experience and harnessing the power of mobile as it continues to grow in popularity, can be as simple as mobilising your existing website. Working with mobile specialist brands you can easily pull together existing content feeds from your websites and package them behind new visuals for the mobile web, giving customers an enhanced experience.

With an increasing number of brands and services pushing mobile sites, it is only a matter of time before mobile destinations become the norm. New functionalities that have not been available before such as location-based technologies, measurable tracking and instant contact mechanisms, such as click to call, mean that mobile sites will inevitably provide significant RoI in the long run. And, as the technology continues to evolve, the opportunities on mobile will go far beyond what is currently possible via a standard PC website.  

Innovate to achieve cut-through
Doctors are already using smartphones and tablet computers (such as the iPad) to access healthcare-related information so it makes sense for pharma marketers to re-allocate budgets for printed materials to mobile.

Mobile marketing offers major financial benefits (as mobile marketing is considerably more cost effective over print) and offers an opportunity to deliver environmental benefits, which are increasingly important for pharma companies. Moreover, with the amount of branded print collateral a doctor would receive on a regular basis, mobile provides an unrivalled opportunity to achieve the cut-through that is of paramount importance.

Innovation in this space could see doctors downloading mobile sites and apps to access content in more audible, visual and dynamic ways, which could add significant value to your existing programmes. Visiting doctors is still essential but is an expensive part of the process. Connecting directly with physicians by providing a useful (or even entertaining) mobile destination site is a great way to create new relationships and keep the brand front of mind.

Sales presentations and demonstrations could also be developed into apps that could be downloaded on to iPads, used to engage doctors during meetings, and then sent to their phones after the meeting for future use. We've seen these innovative mobile presentation tools work in other industries, and we're confident that providing a more engaging and dynamic content sharing process has the potential to excite and engage both customers and sales staff in the industry.

Internal communication - engage and educate
Not only is mobile a great way to engage directly with your customers, it can also be used as a cost effective internal communications channel. Indeed, mobile technology is a great way to maintain a dialogue with multi-site and peripatetic staff, ensuring that they are continually up to date with the latest information.

Internal communications via mobile could range from simple text alerts to full video briefings. A corporate application or mobile site would allow staff to remain in touch with the latest developments, discuss issues, communicate with each other and provide feedback on a range of items.

All this can be done in their downtime, as they travel or whenever they are away from a desktop PC, maximising efficiency and giving a greater sense of work–life balance that is so key to the pharma industry.

Even very simple tools like staff directories, social announcements and jobs pages can aid efficient working and build company loyalty. The possibilities of internal communications via the mobile channel are exciting, firstly because they have the potential to reach everybody all the time and secondly because technology now means that these communications can be highly rich and interactive. 

Hopefully this has helped break down the perceptions that mobile marketing is a futuristic technology that is too expensive and only built to work for consumer brands. Mobile will play a crucial role in the marketing mix this year if the industry understands, embraces and invests in its future.

With mobile penetration and mobile health applications set to continue their meteoric rate of uptake over the next year, now is the time to get involved in mobile to shape future success and see valuable RoI.

What's next?
In the future, and by this I mean the next year or two, I fully expect to see advanced use of mobile across the pharma sector, including the use of video and applications to deliver interactive and timely information to both internal stakeholders and external customers.

The key is to act now. Those who leverage mobile marketing before everyone jumps on the bandwagon will be able to re-invigorate the way their brand communicates with all its stakeholders and achieve the full potential of mobile; a responsive channel that delivers the right message at the right time to the right audience.

Simon LissThe Author
Simon Liss is managing director of We Love Mobile, a UK-based mobile marketing agency. He is a former business strategy and communications consultant, analyst and journalist. He currently looks after a team of mobile specialists who are busy creating mobile marketing campaigns, applications and mobile websites for a range of clients, including Unilever, Coke and the BBC. Simon specialises in mobile strategy, which involves understanding business needs and how these can be fulfilled using mobile technology, as well as how mobile fits in with social and other digital and traditional marketing channels.


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22nd February 2011


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