New Year Resolutions for the Head of Digital Number 4: Get the Right Partner

This is my fourth and final resolution.  Full list is in my first post.

When I first became digital leader in a pharma company many years ago, I wanted to appoint a global agency to work with all our brands and affiliates.  My vision was to have a partner that could help formulate strategy and digital platforms, capabilities and assets, and roll them out across the world, customising for brands and markets.

I soon discovered that I had a choice: I could find a good pharma agency and train them in digital or find a good digital agency and train them in pharma.  At that time, the combination did not exist, certainly not at an international level.  Clients hadn’t been demanding digital, and many agencies therefore hadn’t seen the need to develop capability in the space.

Happily things have evolved since then, led by some brave agencies that invested in digital and took it upon themselves to help lead the industry into the 21st century.  There is now a growing cohort of excellent digital healthcare agencies.

Unfortunately there is still a much bigger group of agencies that hired a web designer and now ‘do digital’ but have not transformed their platforms, people and processes (see Resolutions 1-3) to truly embed digital excellence, so you need to know what to look out for.

Here are some watch outs:

Tactics without understanding the customer and landscape

If any agency listens to your brand plan and says ‘we can provide an app for that’ I suggest you show them the door.  As with all marketing, insight is key.  The environment is complex and in some therapy areas, crowded (in others, sparse).  It is vital to conduct an analysis of the digital landscape, the needs, habits and preferences of your customers and the activities of competitors and other players in the space.  Only then can you decide where the leadership opportunities are and make good channel and engagement choices.  

Smart reuse

If you’re in a global or regional role you almost certainly want to develop programs, platforms and assets and reuse themHas the agency provided ready-built programs including content and templates for international use and the support to localise them?  Ask how they achieved this.  Is all e-learning and e-detailing content built in a way that separates objects like text from graphics, for ease of adaptation? (Is it SCORM-compliant?)

I recently saw a ‘regional e-learning’ that had been built by an agency and I asked them why they had chosen to have video of a person talking to camera as part of the creative – very difficult to localise (dubbing looks silly, subtitles are ugly, etc…).  They commented that the client hadn’t asked for it to be easy to localise (!).  I later learned that this agency had done very well at this company, building the same content over and over again for multiple affiliates.  I can imagine.

Responsive content

The primary use of smartphones by physicians is to check email and number 2 is web browsing.  So it is shocking that so many services targeting HCPs are still not responsive and render badly or not at all on mobile platforms.  Check out some of the online assets your agency has provided; ask to be sent one of their emails and open it on your phone.  Is the edetail built only in Flash so it won’t work on iPhone and iPad?  Is it built only in HTML5 so it won’t work on older versions of Internet Explorer?  Does the website automatically respond and render differently on your phone?

Other warning signs:

  • Talk about the ‘number of hits’ (digital experts don’t call them ‘hits’)
  • Talk of ‘delivering messages’, ‘bought versus earned media’ and any attempt to put promotional messages into a social media conversation – these are indicative of an old-model ‘push’ mentality, whereas we should be thinking in terms of ‘engagement’
  • A website without plan to drive customers to it including a Google strategy (unless for a specific reason e.g. a small ad board site)
  • Any case study evaluated only on ‘metrics’ (views, clicks etc.) and not customer measures
  • Anyone that thinks ‘iPad/tablet detailing’ is a ‘digital strategy’
  • Any agency not active on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook as a minimum.  If they don’t understand the value of it for their business, how can they use it to deliver value for yours?

So that’s it.  Happy agency-hunting and I hope you’ve enjoyed my New Year Resolutions.

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Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Kanga, a digital transformation agency. I help global companies with their digital strategy and projects. Most of my clients are pharmaceutical companies.

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Posted in CRM, Marketing, pharma, Websites
3 comments on “New Year Resolutions for the Head of Digital Number 4: Get the Right Partner
  1. Haider Alleg says:

    Hi there, I have read all your post and I can only say I agree totally! Hope this mindset will change but I still face either digital agency not thinking on our constraints or health agency putting “web” as a cherry on the cake in their sales story. Thanks for sharing those thoughts and long life to your blog.

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by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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