Develop your own website or connect via trusted 3rd party platforms?
This was a central theme at the recent eyeforpharma Marketing Customer Innovation Europe conference in London.
The round table I was chairing saw strong views for each ‘side’. Those representing platforms that offer third-party visibility for pharma were keen to point out the value in ‘fishing where the fish are’. On the other hand, some pharma folk felt clear that establishing leadership via owned assets was the way to go.
Really, the debate needs reframing. In most cases we should be doing both of these tactics. The balance we choose depends on our strategy: What are we trying to achieve? What does the customer need at different points in their journey, and what are the business objectives?
Why a combination? Because every strategy needs to combine reaching new customers with building sustained relationships over time.
Partnering with a third party is a great way reach new HCPs and build awareness –
A respected 3rd party platform may have a large membership and user base – check their statistics on your target audience. Partnerships enable you to offer up your content to as wide an audience as possible, demonstrating to relevant HCP groups that you are considered a trustworthy stakeholder in this area.
– but a 3rd party partnership doesn’t cultivate lasting relationships
Every time you want to communicate with each customer, it costs the same as last time. There is a lack of economy of scale: as soon as you stop paying, your audience goes away.
Your own platforms are where you and your audience can commit to each other
If you want to be a therapy area leader, an owned platform is a likely necessity. First of all, this is how you will get those all-important search rankings and ensure that customers are coming to you, instead of your competitors, to get their questions answered.
Once on your website, customers will sign up to receive high-value content – if it’s compelling enough and meets their needs. This is how longer-term relationships are forged. Some companies are embracing this approach and building sustainable relationships, for example Sanofi with diabetes.sanofi.de, Lilly with LillyOncology.co.uk and Shire with the ADHD-Institute.
Think you can’t form long-term relationships with customers in a digital-only setting? How about our relationships with Amazon, Google, or Apple – do we ever have a face-to-face meeting with them? Amazon has inspired loyalty in millions through its personalisation, effective search engine, breadth of product offering, and customer service.
Most industries take for granted that a combination is needed
If we see an emotive video about a new Apple product on one of our favourite news websites, we expect to be able to click through to the manufacturer’s website to find out the product specifications. We wouldn’t have made it to the site in the first place without the third-party video, but it is only once there that we will sign up for newsletters or register for an account, forming a relationship with Apple.
We use different types of websites for different reasons and our experience with a company in each type impacts our engagement in the others.
Proof that it works in pharma?
When developing LivingWithNets.com (Ipsen’s award-winning resource for people living with NETs, presented at the co-located eyeforpharma Patient Summit in London), we initially wondered whether a new web-based NETs resource would add any value for patients, and indeed whether patients would even visit a company-owned website. There was already the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation, a thriving US-based resource that meets patient needs on a global scale.
Ipsen’s approach? Partner with the Foundation itself as well as patient associations in other countries to gather insights. They helped us to connect with patients so we could better understand their needs. It turned out that many patients were keen on the idea of an additional NETs resource to support patients from symptoms through diagnosis and living with the condition.
Co-created with patients, LivingwithNETs.com has gone on to meet considerable unmet needs and to win an award at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2018 for Most Valuable Patient Initiative. One of the first to congratulate the team was our 3rd-party partner, the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation:
This is an approach that applies for healthcare professionals too. If you want them to get to know you, customers first need to know you are there – so you must ‘fish where the fish are’. But once they have discovered you, the connection requires a space where you can deliver lasting value to the customer and get to know each other better.
This is a sound approach to all relationships, traditional, digital or multi-channel.