eyeforpharma London – Marketing 101

Here are my takeaways from the recent eyeforpharma Multichannel Marketing Summit in London. It was an interesting and stimulating discussion, yet a lot of the points made came down to Marketing 101:

  1. Start with the Customer
  2. Develop a Marketing Strategy
  3. Ensure you have the right Skills and Tools
  4. Lead from the front

1. Start with the Customer

If you are a non-pharma marketer you will probably be shouting – ‘where else do you start?’ but in fact in the pharma industry the tradition has been to start with the science, then move to the ‘data’, then develop the ‘brand’, followed by the ‘key messages’ and somewhere down the line we start thinking about the doctor and the government/insurance company and then eventually, if we are lucky or especially perceptive, we finally get to the person putting the drug in their body, who we refer to as ‘the patient’.

The Customer is, for most companies, the health professional as the person who has most influence over what drug is used, and we (grudgingly) recognise the importance of the patient as ‘the Customer’ too, but we struggle with this as in most countries ‘we can’t communicate with patients’ (we believe).

robbie Forums

Forums offered engagement and customer loyalty long before Facebook

On a positive note, putting the customer first really works.  There were a couple of shining examples of this at eyeforpharma.  The stand-out for me was the final non-pharma presentation of the conference from the inspiring Robbie Hearn (@Robsticks).  He described the online forum provided by Telco company GiffGaff.  Not new technology, not ‘social media’ as we think of it today, but as social as it gets, with a vibrant forum of over 10,000 posts a month (compared with 100 on their Facebook page), 99% of which are from customers.  Customers supporting customers, waxing detailed about their service, their hot tips, their experiences.  Solving each others’ problems.

This is the sort of community we should be able to create in health care – such a peer-driven environment.  Why don’t we? GiffGaff has a Net Promoter Score of around +60, similar to Google and Apple.  Other Telcos are at around -20.  It works, this customer-centricity stuff.


Univadis – customer service from MSD

The pharma example was the ever-impressive Univadis, presented by Shona Davies. With 2.1 million HCPs registered and 70% of them willing to accept promotional messages from MSD, this is a long-term customer relationship strategy that other companies can only look on with envy.  How do they do it?  By continually asking customers what they want and delivering it.  Simple, really.

The sentiment was echoed by some other speakers.  Seleen Ong of Pfizer (@DigitalMedical) said we should learn from Amazon – be totally customer focused, be frugal, innovate.  If you ONLY do what customers want, you’ll spend less and succeed.

Seleen, together with John Gordon (@DigiHealthGems) presented a HCP meetings app to help doctors find their way around a cardiology congress. There was no Pfizer promotion in the app – it was provided purely as a service and beat all its targets in terms of customer engagement. A nice step towards customer-centric business.

‘Push marketing makes push-back customers’ said John Gerow of AstraZeneca. I agree.

Jenny Cowdery, Head of Healthcare at Google said their rule was ‘start with the customer/user, then everything else will fall into place’.  (Then immediately after her talk on the morning of day one Jenny left the conference – obviously not that interested in her customers then!)

2.      Develop a Marketing Strategy

Henry Anderson from Novartis made the point that the pharma marketer’s objective is so often still about ‘doing stuff’ rather than having a real strategy to engage the customer. He shared with us the Burberry video showing how they have changed their business completely by having a great customer marketing strategy.

One problem is evidence. We have 50 years of evidence that the traditional F2F-selling led model works, where is the evidence for a multichannel approach?

As Liz Murray pointed out, we must challenge the paradigm. To find the ROI we must experiment and deliver it.  She quoted Einstein ‘the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant’. Her point – that we must adopt a learning mentality, be ready and willing to learn constantly, not stick with what ‘we know’.  What we know is already obsolete.

Tim White of Lundbeck pointed out we must break down silos, walk the talk, get everyone to step into customers’ shoes.  Ask customers what they want – at the moment we are not really delivering it:

tim white

@DavePinnington gave an interesting presentation about the behavioural psychology of marketing and influence models, with particular reference to gamification – which as he pointed out, does not mean making a game. Digital channels give us opportunities to do things very differently and our customers will engage with us if we do – what would you rather do, said Dave, work or play? He referred us to the TED Talk from Jane McGonigal – how Gaming can Make a Better World, where she describes harnessing the commitment and creativity of millions of gamers to solve real-world problems:

Silja Chouquet (@whydotpharma) focused on the patient and urged us to ‘legalise’ non-adherence as a normal part of human behaviour. We need to work hard to ensure there is supportive information online – the majority is negative simply because we are not delivering the information and motivation that patients need.

AZ’s Flumist product launch was cited by @JohnPugh as  a strategic customer-led approach – a launch without a sales team – yes, really.


Flumist – launched without a sales force

3. Ensure you have the right skills and tools

Cap Gemini said recently in a their Accerating Digital Transformation report that pharma are still ‘digital beginners’. This lack of multichannel marketing skill was a theme throughout the event.

We have a tendency to also ‘put unqualified people in digital roles and then have to rely on agencies to tell us what to do’ said John Gerow of AstraZeneca. There were nods of agreement around the room.

Another problem is we spot a good sales rep and make them a brand manager. Then if they deliver ‘what the sales force wants’ we promote them through the marketing ranks. But this isn’t good enough any more.

Don’t rotate people into digital roles to give them experience, or put your graduate trainee into the role because they are a ‘digital native’ or assume sales reps can become marketers without training. Multichannel marketing and digital channels require a high level of skill and expertise.

Would you have unqualified chemists developing your drugs? Then why is it OK to have novices trying to drive the most important customer engagement transformation the industry has seen?

Our customers are digital natives but we are not. Example: we were 4 speakers into eyeforpharma before we had one with a Twitter handle – at a digital conference! That speaker was @KaiGait  who pointed out that we think we’ve ‘gone digital’ because we gave our reps iPads. Choose the right channels and interactions.

happy fork

The Happy Fork – tells you when to stop eating

Kai showed some great examples of digital as part of the fabric of healthcare, from the Misfit Shine he had on his wrist to the ‘happy fork’ that tells you how many calories you’ve eaten to smart asthma inhalers that use GPS to track asthma triggers. 

What is your company doing to deliver real value through participatory healthcare?

4. Lead from the front

Cap Gemini also said in their report that in other industries, where a Chief Digital Officer has been appointed, the business has transformed more quickly and those that transform the quickest, win in their industry.

When will we have a Chief Digital Officer in the pharmaceutical industry?

Can we make the ‘pharmasaurus’ evolve? asked Dina Rey from Roche. Dina suggested treating your senior management like a venture capitalist and ‘provide a rock solid business case’.  I wondered when will the leaders themselves be driving the business case? Why do we have to ‘sell’ it to them?

Google spoke of ‘big crazy, audacious goals – moonshot thinking’ not ‘1% more on digital’. Change accelerates – mobile searches are set to outstrip desktop in 2014 – we look at our phones 150 times a day. Kai pointed out that more people have smartphones in the world than clean drinking water, yet many pharma companies still do not have a mobile strategy.  Why?

What’s the ROI?  The way to find out is to DO it and deliver the ROI, said Liz Murray of Quintiles. Get it 80% right and iterate, she advised, the pursuit of perfection is futile and stifling. It reminded me of a Marketing Leadership Council study showing that those brands that change the channel mix most often, learn the quickest and are the winners in their respective markets.

Our opportunity is summed up by the Life Healthcare video:

Posted in Marketing, mobile, pharma, Uncategorized

DigiPharm 2013: Sex, Drugs and Rolls Royces

This year’s DigiPharm in London had a different vibe to previous meetings.  People have stopped talking about digital as ‘the future’ (finally!) and are getting down to business, looking at the detail of how we should be executing in these channels, using these tools and the practical organisational changes we need to make.  Consequently it was an odd cocktail of change management, customer service and content optimisation.

The ‘Sex’ is about breeding. Brian Smith @DrBrianDSmith (of the Open University) opened the first day by holding up a mirror to the industry and pointing out that we need out-of-industry ideas in order to change.  ‘As an industry we are very good at having sex with our cousins’ he said, but to evolve, species need to acquire new genes and they do this ‘by promiscuity, not incest’. (Some tweets suggested immediate action on this, since from the regular loud and raucous laughter there was apparently a Comedy Convention going on in the room next door)

Brian was echoed later by Yannik di Mondo (Mylan) who told us to ‘quit your job – or at least, your office ‘ – and meet our customers. He decried the ‘we need an app’ mentality and insisted the channel is last – ‘only when you have a customer, a strategy and a plan should you choose channels’.

Ragnar Gaseby (Merck) provided the news that the pharma industry declined by 1% in 2012 – the first time ever, due to the pressures that have been with us for 10 years – declining access, price pressure, shifting decision-making power.

Tim Ringose’s diagnosis on the industry was loss of moral virtue, obesity and lack of fitness.  He reminded us that next year is the ‘digital tipping point’ when more than 50% of doctors will be digital natives, i.e have all their careers in the post-digital age.  Sady, as someone pointed out on Twitter, this is not the case for pharma executives.


Michel Baes (Janssen) can always be relied upon to bring a strategic vision with practical steps to achieve it, and he described his 7-step change management program, starting with a sense of urgency, then creating a vision and ambition, through customer insights to creating a coalition for change.

Michel also pointed out we have to get the basics right first before we will be ready for the mhealth revolution.  I agree.

The most fascinating presentations for me were those that made it clear that our industry is no longer just about ‘Drugs’.

The first was from Peter Villadsen of Leo Pharma who gave an inspiring account of that organisation’s QualityCare program.  ‘At Leo we have one customer – the patient’ he declared, and pointed out that only 1% of patients succeed on medicine alone – we need to provide healthcare solutions.  Hence QualityCare – an online service to help patients process information and take control of their lifestyle.

The service is ‘above brand’ and provides services to all patients with the skin conditions that Leo provides for.  They are very clear about the KPIs:-

Enrolment -> satisfaction -> adherence -> outcomes -> sales

…in that order.  Here we have a pharma company recognising what the software industry has known for years – that great service really drives sales, and that keeping existing customers is much more profitable than acquiring new ones.

Further, the QualityCare program provides superior insight with around 100 data points being collected in an ongoing manner, and enhances relationships because they co-create the solutions with the patients themselves.   Hats off to Leo for living their mission:

In a more traditional example of customer service Gizem Bickakci (BI) described the doctors ‘In-Club’ in Turkey, offering a range of services to HCPs to access information, professional development and connections with colleagues.  A nice initiative but KPIs were not clear.

Shona Davies @ShonaLDavies (MSD) blew us away again with Univadis, a successful service for doctors because ‘it is part of our corporate culture, the drive comes from the top’. (Back to Michel’s ‘Vision’). As usual the awe in the room was palpable as Shona described the 2.1 million signed-up HCPs, 70% of whom have agreed to receive promotional messages – a 1.5 million email permission list. Using this list costs about half that of 3rd party lists. Shona was clear about the KPIs.  They measure user retention, engagement level (light, deep, extensive), customer satisfaction and NPS (net promoter score).

It is not just about Drugs any more, folks.

The final big theme of the conference was optimising a ‘traditional’ channel – the sales rep – by providing outstanding content and services.  @MartynGlanville recommended letting reps play with their iPads for 6 months before giving them the content so that they know their way around and love the tool first. Stefan Wieman (Merz) reminded us that ‘digital’ selling is a different skill set and needs training.

Philippe Kirby pointed out that sales force automation is not the same thing as CRM and we should look at the customer’s preferred channels – citing a doctor who asked to receive emails but it wasn’t in the brand plan. Deni Baschiera of BMS gave a great example of providing email clinical reports and recognising the HCP drivers of trust, value and time – getting the content in the right format and place is key: ‘Content is King but Content Curation is Queen’.

Rene Neubach @newstream advocated making your reps ‘amazing storytellers’ – this is where the personal relationship really adds value.  He also pointed out that ‘interactivity’ is not the same thing as ‘animation’.

Sebastien Koelsch @SebKoelsch gave us a startling statistic – of 100 rep visits initiated, only 20 see the doctor and only 8 are remembered. (My first reaction to this was – what’s the ROI of THAT channel?)  Seb’s point was that you need an outstanding, individualised interaction with the doctor. This is where technology can really add value.  I liked his ‘shoe analogy’ (see picture) showing that technology allows us to cost-effectively deliver an individual product or experience.


In our rep-doctor interaction we can ask a question and show how the customer’s answers compare to the population – and bring that same answer back into the conversation later. If we do this well ‘the sales rep can be the best pull channel we will ever have’.

Several presenters used the transport analogy: Traditional detailing is like the bus – get on it and get taken where the driver wishes – whereas interactive detailing should be like a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce – the ultimate travelling experience to a destination of your choice.

So there you have it, Sex, (not just)Drugs, and Rolls Royces.



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The 5 ‘C’s of Social Media Engagement

With Facebook topping a billion members and every news story having a hashtag, social media is embedded in everyday life.  Pharmaceutical companies are already using these channels but enthusiasm for them, the quality of execution and success rates are varied.

Assuming you’ve done your insight work and you know that social networks and other social media channels are a good way to engage your customers, how do you go about executing well in this space?

  • Why do HCPs and patients join a conversation?  What motivates or deters them?
  • What is the behaviour pharma needs to adopt? Are you a service organisation, marketer, content-provider, colleague?
  • Are there parallels we can draw from other channels we operate in or other industries?

Follow The 5 ‘C’s of Social Engagement and you will not go far wrong.  They are:

  1. Content
  2. Credibility
  3. Colleagues
  4. Conversation
  5. Commitment

1. Content

5Cs no content

Content is still King

In a user-generated content environment you might think that companies do not need, or perhaps should not, be providing content.  The first editor of FT.com, the Financial Times online, is famously quoted as saying “We publishers are just throwing the party.  We have to hope people will turn up and chat”.

Maybe so, but you have to give people a reason to turn up.  A pharmaceutical company’s scientific meeting without any presentations would not be very successful.  The FT itself is still renowned as a provider of quality content by expert journalists.  But they do it differently online.  Every article or news story is the start of a conversation or debate.  Readers can rate, comment, add their own blog posts, and join in.  The FT reports the conversation too, as word-clouds and sentiment analyses.  It uses the conversational aspects of social media to enrich its own content.

Many industries have recognised that to engage customers you have to have great content.  Red Bull, who you might think is a drinks company, spends more money on producing content than on the beverage.  The company produces award-winning movies; it has its own sports magazine and radio station, and a whole content business all supporting the brand values of adventure and extreme sport.

In healthcare, content is even more important.  As medicines become more commoditised and companies under more pressure to add value, content is a key deliverable from your company to your customers.

5Cs Sanofi

Sanofi TV

It is important to recognise the opportunities for using content socially and to remember content is video, sound, games, animations, interactive tools, as well as text.  Sanofi TV on YouTube is a great resource for patients and their healthcare professionals with some fine educational videos.

Some global organisations develop their higher-cost content elements like video and gaming once and re-use them many times in different markets.

5 Cs backinplay

Pfizer’s Back in Play

Pfizer, in seeking to engage young men with symptoms of ankylosing spondolitis, produced the award-winning Back-In-Play social football game that was deployed across 12 countries and showed significant impact on diagnosis of the condition.

Content is certainly vital to engage your stakeholders.  But how can we convince them to come to our industry for content?  This brings us on to the second ‘C’.

2.  Credibility

Trust is a major issue and the fact that our industry, for very good reasons, carefully controls every communication that it delivers to the general public is not necessarily a strategy for appearing transparent and building trust.   Yet social channels give us an opportunity to really engage with people in a new way and break down some of the barriers between the industry and the public.

In social media, you gain credibility in two ways: by borrowing someone else’s or building your own.  Using an expert editorial board or steering committee as in the Academy for Complement Inhibition from Alexion, partnering with a professional association or patient advocacy group, or working with an international congress, can all help build credibility.

5 Cs shout

How not to build credibility

Good behaviour is important to build credibility.  It is vital that you are not promotional in tone.  This is a hyperlinked world and other content is only a click away.  Your users won’t stick around to be ‘sold to’. You should be ‘listening’ at least as much as you ‘talk’.  More on this later.

3.  Colleagues

It is self-evident that a party is no fun with only one person in it.

Physicians want colleagues and patients and consumers want ‘comrades’ – people they recognise as peers  and can relate to.  Thought leaders are important for credibility, but ‘people like me’ is crucial for ongoing success.  Often we think social media is a low-cost option – provided our content is interesting,customers will just flock to it and it will ‘go viral’.

This is generally not true.  Even if your content is great and you are highly credible, you still must work to get people to engage with you.  Your customer will leave quickly if there is no-one else in a community.

One way to reach an audience is to borrow someone else’s by placing your content and engaging customers in existing communities.  I recently wrote an article about the merits of ‘buying versus building’ physician communities.

Assuming you have your own platform, you need to have a promotional strategy to drive traffic and advertising still plays an important role, even in social media.

St John’s Ambulance in the UK offered a variety of multichannel services (apps, elearning, workshops) to help people learn how to perform simple First Aid.  They promoted these with a moving video depicting a man surviving cancer only to die from choking.  The quality of the content and the story it told meant that it did indeed go viral, but they kick-started it with commercial slots on TV and in cinemas.

5 Cs backpain

The Spinal Foundation Facebook ad

The Spinal Foundation ran a small ad campaign to drive patients with chronic back pain to a Facebook group to share their experiences.  As expected, click through was very low (they targeted ‘all adults’) at 0.03%, but they found click-to-conversion – those who joined the group after clicking the ad – was extremely high, at 25%, and the Foundation quickly recovered the cost of the campaign.

As expected, people are quite ‘banner-blind’ in Facebook, but if they do notice and click on your ad, they are highly engaged with its message. Since Facebook offers pay-per-click advertising, this can be a cost effective way to build awareness and drive people to your community.

4.  Conversation

Can pharma companies engage in open online debate with customers?  Yes. There are risks, as with all communications, but they are not insurmountable. The clue is in the name – ‘social’ networking.  If you are serious about it, then be sociable, and network.

Here we return to the need for good behaviour.  Think about the ‘4 Rs’.  You should be:

  • Real – a person, not a brand or corporation.  Even on your brand or company page, ensure you give the name of ‘who’s on duty today’ to give it a human face.
  • Respectful – treat customers as you would like to be treated.  Respect their time, intelligence, opinions.
  • Relevant – don’t add irrelevant content into a conversation, especially about  your brand.  This is spam and will harm your reputation.
  • Responsive.  If I ask you a question, answer me. You need to plan how to do this –have a set of responses prepared if need be, but people expect a response in almost real time.

Companies are starting to have conversations.  AstraZeneca does a good job of responding to comments on Twitter in the US via @AZHelps, mainly helping with questions on side effects or access to medicines.   Lilly has managed Diabete a colori, a Facebook page encouraging people to discuss diabetes, since 2007.

Companies are concerned about inappropriate content in a user-generated content environment, and they should be. Teva Canada experienced this problem with their MSWatch community.  Patients were using it to discuss off-label and even illegal drug use to manage their MS.  The company regretfully chose to remove this popular discussion forum rather than edit or delete these posts.

As the Teva example shows, it is important to think about all the ‘what-ifs’  – how are you going to  handle inappropriate posts? – and have a plan in place to mitigate risk.

Some controversial subjects have been addressed successfully by companies.  MSD in Denmark gathered some insights showing that among young people unwanted pregnancies was rising because of a lack of education about contraception.

5 Cs MSD

P-Skolen from MSD

So they did a brave thing for a pharmaceutical company – launched a Facebook page all about sex and contraception.

The page features polls and quizzes, amusing videos and surprisingly frank and open discussions about sex and pregnancy.  MSD monitors the page and it has to be fair balanced, but apart from that anything goes.  The Danish health authorities have approved of the initiative and it is helping to build the company’s credibility and reputation.

More than 70% of physicians use social networks and an estimated 2 million in Europe are members of physician online communities.  There are 8000 groups of healthcare professionals on LinkedIn and thousands of doctors are using Twitter to become ‘self-made’ thought leaders.

5 Cs asco

ASCO on Twitter

Some congresses are capitalising on this, for example ASCO has a very active social media presence and encourages companies and individuals to tweet and share news from the event.  Pharma companies are also joining the conversation.

Social media buzz around your own meeting might be achieved by training delegates to tweet and having a meeting Twitter handle and hashtag, with a set of pre-prepared ‘response tweets’ to deal with any potential issues.

5.  Commitment

This is the most difficult of our ‘C’s for pharmaceutical companies. The problem stems from our commercial model.  Although drug development is a very long-term business, drug marketing is very short-term.  Medicines have a few years of patent life and after that the drug’s revenues will go off a cliff – and so does its marketing budget.

You cannot start these conversations with valued customers, deliver great content, build credibility and establish a thriving community, then abandon it all when your circumstances change.  You have to be in this for the long term.

This is one area that is quite unique to our industry – the fact that our products have such a short life cycle – and it presents particular problems that other industries don’t face.

AstraZeneca launched the Academy for Infection Management in 2002 and it became a thriving online and offline community with face-to-face meetings, workshops, and advisory boards and an online community where content, opinions and meeting details were shared.  In 2009 with Merrem going off patent, AZ stopped AIM and took down the website.

AstraZeneca now has a significant infection pipeline but its claim to be at “the forefront of research into new ways to treat infectious diseases” is not backed up by its online behaviour.

Think hard before engaging in a social space if you think your company will not be interested in that space in 5 or 10 years’ time.  If you have a significant commitment to a therapy area but no drugs coming to market soon, how will you support the community going forward?

5 cs mot

Pfizer Man MOT

If you know you will not fund it in the long term make sure you have an exit strategy.  Pfizer did this with the popular Man MOT service – an online clinic in the UK for men to discuss their health issues, including ED.  When Viagra went off patent Pfizer handed the service over to the Men’s Health Forum.

In summary, to be successful in social media you should provide valuable content, build credibility, bring colleagues, engage customers in conversation and show commitment.  Social media relationships, therefore, are just like any long-term mutually-profitable customer relationship.

And remember that in social media, as in life, good behaviour is vital.

I originally presented this at the GLC Pharma Social Media Conference on 7th June 2013.

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Posted in Marketing, pharma, Social Media

Pharma Social Media & eMarketing Forum take-aways

Last week (6-7 June) was GLC’s Social Media and eMarketing in Pharma Forum in Frankfurt. It brought together 60 pharma industry professionals for an engaging and interactive session. Here are my own personal take-aways:

Medicine is a majority digital-native community

creative destructionEmma D’Arcy (@darcyemma) chairing, pointed out early in the proceedings that 2013 is the first year when the majority of doctors are digital natives – i.e. they grew up and qualified in medicine in a post-digital world.

5 million HCPs are now on LinkedIn, taking part in more than 8000 groups on that platform.  95% of US Medical Schools have their own Facebook account.  Emma asserted that SM is driving the ‘creative destruction of medicine’ as we know it…

Yves Lavail from BMS pointed out that SM is the new ‘water cooler’ around which doctors chat.  89% of EU doctors use physician portals for professional information and 53% use social media.  A good percentage – 41% – accept that portals influence prescribing – more than the number that admit the same about sales reps (32%) (Manhattan TTP EU 2012).

We discussed the 90-9-1 rule: that 90% of  HCP SM community members are ‘lurkers’ – reading not participating, 9% are joining in and 1% are initiating discussions.  As in life, perhaps?

“We can smell the cooking but we are not yet eating the meal”

Yet in spite of our customers’ behaviour, our industry is still talking about digital and SM as ‘new’.  Rahul Agrawal of Bayer coined this sub-heading in his session entitled – Pharma and SM – Friends or Foes?  He pointed out that SM channels can be useful for reporting adverse events and getting insight into sentiment about our products.  But our industry is still dragging its feet and asking too many questions about compliance, data privacy and promotion issues, rather than looking at ways to provide services.

Rahul drew comparisions to IBM – 15 years ago the company sold computers, now it is a full service company. We must do this too.  For example patients over 60 with diabetes are taking 25 pills a day – what are we doing using digital channels to support them?

Alex Simidchiev of GSK challenged us to see SM as a way to help build the industry’s reputation – it provides the possibility for open, transparent engagement with stakeholders.  It could also be dangerous and the audience enjoyed the metaphor – “social media is the tell-tale blue dye for the pharma industry”.

Burak Ergenoglu of Sanofi Aventis highlighted the fact that new models are needed in the fastest growing markets – for example Turkey is second only to China in growth rate and has a young highly digital-savvy population.  Perhaps markets like this can leapfrog the 20th century business models and create a digital healthcare economy from the start?

Alexandra Fulford (@pharmaguapa) observed that many companies now have a presence but are not always engaging in interaction with the public – for example you can add a post on Boehringer‘s Facebook page, but not on Novartis’s.  There are shining examples of best practice such as GE’s global #GetFit campaign, but they are few and far between.  Alex‘s advice was simple – get leaders on board, have processes, work collaboratively across geographies. This can’t be isolated tactical projects – have a strategy!

“The only thing interactive about your program is its name”

I can’t remember who made this comment but it certainly reflects a lot of projects that we call ‘interactive’ when what we mean is ‘online’.  We had quite a discussion about what is ‘social media’ versus ‘digital’.

The problem is that ‘digital’ has become a bit of a ‘last year’ label in pharma – astonishing since we are certainly not expert in it yet! – and leaders are often saying ‘digital is just a channel’ (I don’t agree and will write on this soon). Therefore we are now calling our innovative programs ‘social media’ even if they have no ‘social’ (conversational) aspect at all.  But many programs that are essentially static can still have ‘social web’ elements like comments, ratings and so forth.

emailing evolufarma

As Jacopo Murzi of Janssen pointed out, it is important to understand the entire digital landscape, which might include websites, apps, emails as well as social media.  This should be a precursor to every brand’s multichannel planning session.

Indeed as Luis Arimany (@evolufarma) made very clear, email is the single most important channel in terms of return on investment (see picture).

Content is still king – and it is our  responsibility

Every speaker emphasised that it is still all about the content – medicines and content are pharma’s offering to healthcare after all.  I showed some examples in my own session (The 5 Cs of successful social engagement).  The HCP communities discussed attract their membership primarily for the valuable content they offer.

back in play

I suggested thinking about content differently, not as a promotional tool but a core service.  If you want to be seen as a leader you should be providing excellent content in that therapy area.

And why not produce something that can be viral and social, such as Pfizer’s Back In Play social game to drive awareness of ankylosing spondylitis?

Bought versus owned?

There was a good deal of discussion of the ‘buy versus build’ debate with respect to engaging HCPs in communities.  In my own session I warned of the dangers of launching a social media platform then abandoning it (the ‘commitment’ C) and a Tom Renneberg of Esanum gave a good indication of the impressive HCP membership of that highly credible community.  Yves Lavail showed the preference of  HCPs for private physician-only portals versus open social networks or pharma websites.

Aleksander Stojanovic of Razorfish paid us a flying visit to ask whether we should be investing in ‘bought’ or ‘owned’  media.  In other words should we promote on 3rd party sties – bought media, a ‘cost’ item, or should we invest in our own properties – owned media, an ‘asset’.

This is a good point but I believe in healthcare the terminology should be different – the debate is, do we want to ‘hire’ relationships – temporarily engage a community of HCPs that is owned by a 3rd party provider – or ‘own’ them – build our own community and permission list so we can interact in an ongoing way.   I wrote a recent article on this and concluded that we should do either or both, dependent on strategy, but it is vital to ensure that if we do establish a relationship, we are committed over the long term.

All in all a good event with lots of challenge and debate (in spite of a couple of no-show speakers – shame on you!).   I’ll post my own session – the 5 Cs of social media engagement – shortly.

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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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Posted in CRM, Marketing, pharma, Websites

New Year Resolutions for the Head of Digital Number 3: Get the Process Right

This is the third of my New Year Resolutions.  Full list is in my first post.

One thing we do pretty well in the pharma industry is define processes.  We have Standard Operating Procedures for everything, from good laboratory practice to approval of marketing materials. Why then, is it that those who use today’s ways to engage with customers, embracing digital and other channels and placing the needs of the customer at the heart of the strategy, report that they seem to be constantly fighting with the processes?  Are our SOPs fit for purpose in a multichannel world?

Many of our processes reflect the realities of pre-digital life.  Like the behavioural patterns I mentioned in the previous resolution: Get the People Right, the processes are based on minimising risk in the development and communication of static content to be transmitted in a one-way channel to customers, maintaining control of both channel and content at all times.  It is not surprising that this was the case, when traditionally content was printed in large volumes (and at considerable expense) then handed to sales reps to take to the far reaches of the planet to give to doctors.  This was very long-lived content and had to be right – mistakes could not be easily rectified.

At the same time, we can see how the same processes struggle with both channels and content that we cannot control and that can and do change frequently.  Guidance from official bodies such as the FDA or ABPI will never cover every eventuality; we must have processes that can adapt to a changing environment.

Our processes must be nimble and recognise that content, channels, and customers are constantly evolving.  How can we achieve this?  Some suggestions:

  • Ensure all stakeholders – IT, legal, medical, compliance – have a good understanding of how digital channels work.  I remember one legal team-member asking ‘how can we stop consumers coming to the Twitter meeting?’ missing the point somewhat that the consumers were already there, of course.  Training and elearning can be a good start.  Why not produce a simple introductory elearning program and make it mandatory for all those involved in digital projects?
  • Get those responsible for processes using digital channels themselves, living in this space.  This is the only way we really understand both risks and benefits. Have a social network intranet. Run a competition on Twitter. Provide RSS feeds or social bookmark sets as internal news or content services.  Use an online collaboration tool for approval meetings.
  • Set targets for approval – recognising that content can be more easily changed and is often transient.  Target a one-week turnaround for approval or a (small) maximum number of approvers.  Companies that are leading in the digital space have set targets like this, with impressive results.
  • Get rid of job bags and serial approval.  Approve content in parallel and in situ e.g. on a website, by running a web meeting and getting all approvers to step through it together.
  • Approve the source, not the content.  This especially applies to non-product-specific content such as a therapy area news feed or congress round-up.  Find a credible partner and agree the criteria for the content (e.g. scientific, fair balanced, and rules about product mentions) then let your approvers do ‘spot checks’ on the content post-publication rather than having to read and approve it all pre-publication.  Remember, online you can take content down immediately if there is a problem.
  • Empower your IT team to support digital standards.  Often, for example, cloud-based or web-based services are avoided because they involve storing company data externally. However, many organisations including national banks, governments, health services, use cloud-based services.  Why not adapt the SOPs that they use?
  • Ensure you have the basic guiding principles in place.  Develop core policies for social media, websites, email, mobile, search engines and so on – the global ‘rules’ for each major channel.  This will help expedite projects.
  • Implement a simple project charter approach and a review panel drawn from all areas that signs off on the project, its business case, the methodology, measures of success and approval requirements up front.  This can help with planning and save time.
  • Build a catalogue of good examples in digital channels. Your approvers might not all have a lot of experience and it can help to have a list of examples they can refer to.  Most things have been done before by someone.  It can also help to have examples where complaints have been upheld – to show where the boundaries are.
  • Prepare for the worst but don’t budget for it.  I remember one brand team who launched a YouTube educational channel paying a large sum of money to an agency to monitor it round the clock for the first 3 months, planning for the flood of challenging comments that the worst-case scenario of their risk assessment suggested.  In that time, they had a grand total of 4 fairly innocuous comments at quite an impressive cost-per-comment for the agency.  Oddly enough, the social media public are not sitting waiting for us to post some content so that they can flood our channel with abuse.  Maybe they have better things to do.

Now you might be thinking that the agency in that last example showed either a lack of experience with YouTube or a rather cynical cashing-in on the brand team’s own inexperience.  And that brings me neatly to Resolution 4 – Get the Right Partner.  Look out for that one shortly.

Posted in Marketing, mobile, pharma, Social Media, Uncategorized, Websites

New Year Resolutions for the Head of Digital – Number 2: Get the People Right

This is the second of my New Year Resolutions.  Full list is in my first post.

This is possibly the most difficult of our resolutions because it involves skills, behaviours and mind set.  I remember some years ago in a pharma company I was interviewing for a new Digital Manager.  My HR colleague had been doing screening interviews and said to me “You’ll really like Darren (NHRN), he’s very much cut from our <company> mould, he should fit in well”.  This remark immediately made me question the value of the unfortunate Darren.

Why?  Well, because generally in our industry we have not traditionally promoted the skills, behaviours and mindset to execute well in a customer-centric multichannel environment. If he ‘fitted in well’ to that culture, was he really an agent of change? I wanted the ‘grit in the oyster’ not someone who was going to slide into the organisation without making a ripple.  I needed someone to stir things up a bit.  Consider the challenge:

Traditional pharma behaviour Required behaviour
Risk averse Take managed risks
Control the message at all costs Understand the conversation
Decisions based on solid data Try, test, iterate
Static, long-term Nimble, rapidly-changing
Devolved, independent Global, collaborative
Measure interactions Measure business impact
Deliver the message Serve the customer

This is a shift in mind set that many companies have been driving for in recent years.  But still I observe evidence that ‘the grit in the oyster’ is not always welcome or valued.

Here’s what I think you need to do to ‘Get the People Right’

  • Skill-up.  A good part of the digital challenge is that many of our marketers, medical and other functions have ‘grown up’ in a pre-digital pharma industry. Even ‘digital natives’ might know what they like but that doesn’t make them an expert in how to deliver it.  This is a complex and many-faceted area and a concerted, blended training program (online and F2F) is vital to ensure everyone knows ‘what good looks like’ and how to deliver it.  Because a lot of folks have done digital stuff in the past, it doesn’t mean they’ve done it well.  Poor execution in digital channels is all-too-common in our industry and is often attributable to poor skills and knowledge.  (Don’t assume you can always lean on your agency’s skills either – this is the subject of Resolution 4 – Get the right Partner.)
  • Look outside pharma.  Ours is an incestuous industry and people move within it but less so into and out of it.  But ‘digital’ is a complex skill-set and a transferable one.  Consider hiring from other industries where digital is more embedded.  That doesn’t have to be FMCG – B2B industries like financial services, telecoms and others have some excellent people to offer. 
  • Appoint experts. Too often a digital novice – perhaps a brand manager or marketing trainee – is moved into a digital job as part of a skills-development program.  But this is not the right time to do this.  Your Digital team, eMarketers, Innovation managers, whatever you call them – should be experts in the space.  They must be able to challenge colleagues and respond to the many challenges they will get in the job. In addition they should have leadership skills to help drive change in their team and the organisation. 
  • Reward the right behaviours. If we want to encourage people to adopt the behaviours on the right of the table above we need to make it worth their while.   Reward re-use of programs, rapid-to-market campaigns, active learning/iteration and demonstration of business impact.  Permit people to take managed risks, to launch initiatives that might fail with a plan of remediation/learning built-in and recognise the value of that learning.

The last point is perhaps the most difficult because it goes to the heart of our culture.  We must be extremely disciplined, perfectionist, detailed and pedantic in how we deliver and measure programs whilst at the same time being brave, nimble, flexible and willing to quickly change direction as results or experience demands.

The company that Gets the People Right is well on the way to winning in the digital space. But we still have Resolutions 3 and 4 to consider – the Process and the Partner.

Posted in CRM, Marketing, pharma
by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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