Check out the statements below. Familiar?
- We tried a website with brand <x>, and it didn’t work, so we’re not going to build another’.
- ‘We have got too many websites; we need to reduce the number’.
- ‘We created this website and it only had 10 visitors in the first 6 months – websites don’t work!’
- ‘Why would we build our own website – customers prefer 3rd party ones don’t they?’
Have you ever heard comments like these? Why is it, in pharma, we blame the channel for our shortcomings?
Think about it. What if you substitute another, more traditional channel for these in the sentences above:
- ‘We tried a sales rep with brand <x> and it didn’t work, so we’re not going to hire another’.
- ‘We have got too many telephones, we need to reduce the number’.
- ‘We had a stand-alone meeting and only 10 people turned up – meetings don’t work!’
- ‘Why would we have our own congress symposium – customers prefer 3rd party seminars don’t they?’
Clearly in these last examples it is silly to blame the ‘channel’ for our own poor execution in it (and questioning the ‘number’ of assets alone is meaningless) – so why do we do this for websites?
My team and I do a lot of digital landscaping to find what customers are finding in certain therapy or disease areas, and we also do a good deal of insight research into the digital habits of patients, healthcare professionals, providers and consumers. Generally-speaking, we observe this
- Customers’ behaviour is universally search-led, with Google (a website) ubiquitous in most of the world. Google penetration amongst HCPs is 100%, most of them using it several times daily.
- The most common things customers do on their smartphones is check email, text and yes – search the web and browse websites.
- The most common needs are content driven – information, education, guidelines, FAQs, expert advice.
- In almost all therapy areas the landscape is fairly barren. Customers are simply not finding the content and services about therapies and medicines that they are looking for, in formats they prefer. In other words, there is a lack of good quality websites.
If we are going to meet customer needs with compelling content in formats convenient for them, this means the cornerstone of our digital investment should be – you guessed it – good quality websites.
This will likely be a combination of a presence on 3rd-party sites (where we will reach users interested in the topic and hopefully engage them with our content – this is like going to a congress and getting them to come to our symposium) and our own websites (this is like having a stand-alone meeting and inviting customers interested specifically in our TA or brand) – there is a place for both of these.
The key phrase here is ‘good quality’. The difference online is that ‘your competitor is just a click away’ so we have to execute with excellence and deliver an outstanding user experience in order to provide what our digital-savvy customers need and expect. There is a lot to get right, and this requires work. Get it right, and you’ll be delivering what your customers want at the most crucial moment for them (when they are actively looking) and on their terms.
What could be better than that?
So our focus as pharma marketers, before we build that innovative adherence app or enjoy the excitement of crowdsourcing an awareness campaign or wow HCPs with our latest virtual-reality game – should be occupying that first page of Google with our content on our websites, serve their needs and make the most of the relationship that ensues.
That is how your own the digital landscape for your brand. Bring back the website!