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Mobile marketing for pharma

How to execute digital: A guide to the best ways pharma companies can make use of smartphone technology

How to execute digital - mobile marketingIn the fourth of our series discussing the practical steps pharma companies can take to establish themselves in a digital environment, we look at mobile marketing and adapting to the growth of the smartphone.

My mobile phone is typically the first and the last thing I see every day. Sad but true! Don't you double-check to see if you have your mobile before you leave the house?

The UK has on average 1.5 phones per person - a bit scary! So why is a tool that is always on and always in reaching distance of us one of the last things we think about in our marketing.

In 2010, I read that Google planned to make sure that all their products would be designed for mobile first. And now something I say to everyone I meet in pharma and consumer advertising is “How will this idea or campaign look and work on mobile and how will it enhance the user's life”?

With connection speeds getting faster, and more and more people switching to smartphones, this is a great opportunity to be relevant to your targeted customer.

Just imagine the possibilities of a doctor, nurse or HCP having the ability to quickly check the efficacy of your drug whilst on the move.

Conferences have great potential for mobile too – just think of having the ability to drive users to your conference stand with tailored messages via Bluetooth.

Or how about an app that gives details of the event; speaker schedules; local area information; hotel information; directions; a place to write notes; and then, after the event, the chance to send speaker videos and follow up information to keep engaging with your target audience.

That's why you shouldn't forget about the possibilities of mobile in your digital planning cycle.

So where do we start?

Mobile website

When thinking about your mobile website, please think about the end user first. They are mostly accessing your site whilst on the move, with limited reception so keep content to a minimum.

Using a fluid design will help you with all the screen sizes for tablet, make sure you design to 768 pixels wide and for mobile 320 pixels wide.

Keep the landing page simple; make sure you have key sections in simple lists so users can get to the information fast.

Make sure the size (weight) of the page is as small as possible as mobiles have various memory sizes.

There are no special coding restrictions for your mobile site, although flash will not work on an iPhone or iPad. Use either XML or XHTML instead, with HTML5 allowing you to be more creative for the iPhone.


Mobile SEO

As people search differently on mobile, the need for keywords is less.

Instead, a focus should be made to submit a site to all of the most relevant portals, directories and business listings services, as these places are also extremely important sources of mobile traffic.

Also ensure that your site is crawlable at the code level. Use the correct headers, don't block IP ranges unnecessarily, use the correct robots.txt file instructions, and ensure that all of the pages you want to be indexed are situated in the public domain and not restricted by things like registration or login.

Once this is done and you've created your site, make sure you test it at


Bluetooth marketing

When used at conferences, Bluetooth marketing has the potential to lure people into your conference stand if you can deliver the appropriate message.

Purchase a Bluetooth marketing tool such as Blue 2, which usually start from £100. These simple devices usually come in the form of USB sticks that users can plug into a computer, download the software and get ready to start marketing.

Bluetooth marketing is very intrusive, however, so make sure you send a message that will be beneficial to the user. This can include games, images and short video clips.

SMS Marketing

We've all seen how this can help in quiz shows on TV, and it's something companies can add to any marketing material or use at conferences for voting.

Setting up and building your own SMS tool can be very expensive, so the simplest solution is to use bulk messaging companies, with many just charging the cost of the message.

To set up a SMS campaign, simply:

  • Find an SMS provider who you can set up an account with, and make sure they offer the ability for MMS (multi media messaging) so you can send images or video clips.
  • Your SMS provider will then provide you with a short code for marketing material and a management desk that allows you to set up a campaign and send messages.
  • Add your short code to relevant material and explain what the end user will be getting. You should add an extra benefit for the user as they are paying for this communication.
  • If you know the habits of the end user you're sending an SMS or MMS to, it is best to personally tailor your message for them.


QR Codes

A Quick Response (QR) code is a fast and easy way to send data, such as video, email, text, games and images, to a smartphone.

Anyone with a smartphone can scan and read QR codes, and anyone with a computer can generate a QR code (use a service like Just choose your data method, enter data info, choose background colour, click on "download this image", and you can start using your QR code on campaign materials.

But make sure you have an added benefit - maybe send a MOA or KOL video if you're adding it to detail aids or print campaigns.

And always explain what the user will get and how to scan the code next to the QR code.

PMLiVE has a guide on how to use QR codes.


Leave your desk and ask IT/procurement/the boss for a budget to invest in mobile hardware.

Buy a Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Windows phone, iPad, Galaxy tablet and download some apps see how they work.

You really don't have to create from scratch. VW GTi Racing had over 8m downloads in a few months, but was a re-design of an existing app.

Don't forget we're entering the fourth year of app development so costs are coming down. And don't just develop for the iPhone - ask your agency to create an app for all platforms.

Each type of device has a development kit and the common languages that you use for programming are PHP, Java, HTML etc.

Information on building mobile apps is available for each platform:

Tips for marketing apps:

  • Get a lot of reviews
  • Promote the app for free
  • Use the latest features the provider has, Apple like to promote apps that have the latest features of their product on the app
  • All app marketing is about word-of-mouth, do develop your app around this
  • Use social media channels
  • Get a press release out there
  • Ask all your colleagues to download the app and get feedback
  • Advertise on the journals where your targeted audience spend time.

Recently, "Super Hero Me”, an app that was for teenage cancer patients won the eyeforpharma mobile competition. More details can be found on PMLiVE's Digital Intelligence Blog.

Some other great apps out there are:

DK: Human Body app (My favourite app)

Epiduo – Acne apps for teenagers

Psoriasis 360

Clarityn app

Game app for Haemophilia sufferers

NHS mobile app

Clinical trials app

As always please comment or tweet us if you have any questions.

Faisal Ahmed - Life Healthcare CommunicationsThe Author
Faisal Ahmed is head of digital at Life Healthcare Communications. 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. He was also previously head of digital at Langland, winning over 30 awards for his digital work.



Other articles in the series:

Get stuck into digital - the right way!
Website build and usability
How to use SEO correctly

17th February 2012


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