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Paper – scissors – digital!

Just because everyone is talking about it, doesn't mean that digital is the be all and end all

A fist clenched to resemble a stoneFor a long time in the consumer market, digital marketing has replaced many of the more traditional marketing channels. We are now so used to seeing adverts on the TV, hearing them on the radio, receiving emails trying to sell us all manner of things, shopping on websites that seem to know what we want before we do – it's the norm.

In pharmaceutical marketing however, you could argue we are only just getting started and it's often not as straightforward as you might think. I'm going to share some top tips and basic principles to help try to guide you in implementing a good digital marketing strategy without tying yourself up in knots.

Given the current popularity of digital media we could all be guilty of starting digital projects just to tick the proverbial 'digital tactical' box. It's important that before starting you identify clearly your objectives and evaluate how digital marketing will be able to support them. If it's not clear how a digital project is going to help you hit your objectives, it is possible that you have either the wrong project or you just don't need to be considering digital at this stage.

If your objective is to increase the coverage of your promotional messages to your target customers, you could do this using a number of digital and non-digital projects, but how do you choose the right one.

You may find that a number of projects will fulfil your objectives, but to decide on the best option you also need to ask:
• How much time do I have?
• How much money do I have?
• What am I already doing within my promotional marketing mix?
• How confident am I that I can achieve internal buy-in for this project? (If you or your organisation does not have much experience with digital, starting off with a small project such as a micro-site may help to build confidence before moving to larger projects.)

I am confident that if you have a clear objective and are able to filter your options based on the criteria above, you will go some way to identifying the best solution, or combination of solutions for any project, digital or otherwise. A good supplier or media specialist will also help you filter your options and aid you in coming up with the best solution for you and your brand if you choose digital.

Internal relationships
Implementing a good digital strategy is often as much about your internal relationships as those with your suppliers. You can create the best digital or online resources, but if your copy approval team isn't prepared to sign it off, it is, in effect, useless. In my opinion the best way to deal with this is to tackle it head on. As soon as you have a supplier for your digital project, sit down with them and your copy approval team to make sure you all understand why this project is in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Code of Practice.

It will be much easier to demonstrate early on why something does not breach the Code than it will be to change their minds later. If your supplier is not able to support you confidently with this, then it may be that you don't have the right supplier or that your digital project is in danger of breaching the Code.

The specialists
If you or your company lacks digital experience, it is worth considering working with a digital media specialist who will help identify the correct project in order that you meet your objectives, help you to select the best agency to deliver the project and work with you to manage your internal stakeholders.

One of the key elements to consider with online marketing is that it often requires marketing in its own right. Historically reps have been given a sales aid and a target list, and off they go. You wouldn't take out a series of ads in the press to tell your customers how they can contact the representative! With online media that's exactly what (in most cases) you need to do either directly, or using a third party, otherwise how are patients going to know about your social media site; how are they going to find your promotional website? If you do not have an extensive campaign to "push" your target audience or "pull" them to your online resource it will almost certainly fall short of your expectations.

I would suggest trying to work to a 80/20 split, with 80 per cent of the cost going towards the promotion (push/pull) and 20 per cent allocated to development. If you are unable to do this and to the standard you want, I would suggest looking at alternative projects, as a great online resource with no visitors has no value.

Some suppliers are able to offer the whole package of promotion for a single price, either by working with other suppliers on your behalf or through their own publishing network. Make sure that if you enter into a full package that both sides of the project are balanced correctly and clear agreements are in place.

Existing alternatives
Another way of marketing your online resource is to look at the equity you can use from within the marketing mix. If you have a salesforce you may want to take the opportunity when updating materials to include information on your online resource.

Make sure that any print advertising clearly carries the URL of any website you have created. Take a laptop along to meetings and demonstrate the online resource (if you do not have 3G or WiFi access you might want to ask your agency to make offline files available).

I find it useful to plot the marketing activities (or launch of activities) over a daily graph of traffic to the site. This way any spikes that correspond to specific marketing activities will help you understand the best channels of promotion for your resource. You may be surprised at what you find!


Top tips

• Make sure that your project (digital or otherwise) hits your objectives, which need to be achievable in terms of time, money, experience, and must complement other elements of your marketing mix
• If you are creating an online resource for healthcare professionals make sure you add information for patients, that way (Clause 24.1) you won't need to password-protect the site, making it easier for HCPs to have access
• If you or your organisation is not confident with digital media then start off with a small digital project to build confidence before trying to take the world on using Facebook
• With online resources try to work to a 80/20 split, with 80 per cent of the cost going to wards the promotion (push/pull) and 20 per cent on the development
• Use the equity in your current marketing mix to help promote your online resources
• Plot traffic-driving campaigns against daily traffic numbers for your online resource to understand which part of the marketing mix is most effective at driving traffic
• The success of your digital campaign can be based on a number of definable metrics, but make sure you measure them regularly and act quickly if they fall below expectations
• Digital media specialists can help you select the correct digital project to meet your objectives and help manage internal stakeholders.


Real benefits
One of the most notable benefits of online campaigns is the ability to measure RoI in more detail than ever before. Once you have selected an online campaign that you believe will hit your objective, it is vital to evaluate this regularly, allowing you to make changes to keep the project on track.

Again it is important to set out early on exactly what it is you want to measure. If you choose to measure unique visitors or time spent (often the most common measures), you also need to be mindful of the user journey. What are they spending most time on (and is it where you want them to?) and where on the site are you losing them, are just examples you may want to consider. That way you can evaluate interaction and traffic to the site regularly and make adjustments if the metrics are falling below expectations.

If you are working with a supplier that guarantees a minimal level of interaction with your online campaign, I would suggest setting up a service level agreement (SLA) whereby you hold a percentage of the final fee on the basis that the agreed minimal level of interaction is achieved. If a supplier is confident in its abilities to deliver the interaction it has claimed, this should not be an issue.

Complex process
Implementing a successful digital strategy to build online activities effectively is a complex process that should involve good relationships with key internal stakeholders, as well as clear objectives and an understanding of project limitations. Digital for digital's sake or a lack of measureable objectives is only likely to lead to large expenses for little return. As with all things, experience can only be gained over time, so start small to build confidence. Above all remember that digital is now a vital part of the marketing mix, but it is not the only part.

The Author
Mark Prince is product manager for Cipralex at Lundbeck

To comment on this article, email

4th May 2010


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