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

New Year Resolutions for the Head of Digital – Number 1: Get the Platform Right

Pharmaceutical companies are starting to look beyond recession and investing in innovation again.  Many are expanding their international customer excellence teams or even appointing a Global or Regional Head of Digital or Head of Multichannel for the first time in 2013.

Where does this new leader need to focus their efforts?   My New Year Resolutions will be the next 4 BytesizePharma posts:

  1. Get the Platform Right
  2. Get the People Right
  3. Get the Process Right
  4. Get the Right Partner

Get the Platform Right

Pharmaceutical companies have still not prioritised information technology as a key driver of the business.  Many have strategies about it, but have they really committed enough investment to deliver a seamless experience across channels and a single view of the customer?

Of course the platform should be like the ‘plumbing’, it should just ‘work’ and allow you to get on with the job of implementing your strategy.  But if the plumbing isn’t functioning well the impact is massive, and so it is for digital platforms.

You should, at the very least, have:

  • an integrated CRM system to track customer relationships across channels
  • an enterprise-wide web platform with efficient content management system
  • a closed-loop system to connect rep visits to the CRM
  • an email platform with built-in testing and shared templates and reporting
  • a strong analytics solution to demonstrate both metrics and customer impact
  • an asset-sharing system that supports all kinds of media

And the core technologies are not enough.  You need standard wireframes, templates, content elements and business rules to ensure the platforms are being used consistently and with quality – maximising business impact and minimising cost.

Having the right tool alone won’t make your organization into a great multichannel marketing engine, but  you can ‘design-out’ some of the potential pitfalls by offering a ‘solution-in-a-box’ service with ready-built website, email, banners, social media elements and high-quality content that is re-use ready (more on this in Resolution 4).

Back to the investment, what will this cost?  With cloudsource and outsource models, the cost can be scalable as the number of customer relationships grows.  Still, it is not a trivial undertaking.  It needs to be looked at from a global strategic point of view.  If your enterprise-wide platform costs €5 million a year and helps you strengthen long-term relationships with 500,000 physicians, that is only €10 per customer.  An investment worth making?

This resolution will help you get to the next level but in order to realise its potential your team needs to know how to utilise the platform properly to build strong, engaging customer relationships – that is the subject of Resolution 2 – Get the People Right.

Posted in CRM, Marketing, pharma, Websites

Inertia – the pantomime villain of pharma digital

At eyeforpharma eMarketing and Mobile this year my team and I had a serious message that we conveyed in a not-so-serious way, with a few sprinkles of fairy dust.  The question we were trying to answer was:

What makes embracing digital still difficult for pharma? 

Our answer: It is the thing that can affect all of us from time to time, in an industry with historically good margins and plenty of cash in the bank, where employees move within the industry, not into and out of it…we can all be prone to – a sudden attack of Inertia.

Inertia can affect all of us, and if it does, here’s what may happen:

A  marketing leader may ask one brand team member to do “digital stuff” and add it into the plan, rather than re-working the process to design the communications around the customer.

A legal expert may be managed by the risk and say ‘no’ to ‘new’ channels of communication instead of managing the risk and saying ‘let’s work out how’

A sales rep may ‘do what he/she’s always done’ with additional digital tools, rather than seeing the opportunity to transform the customer interaction.

A sales manager may assume that reps are still the only channel really responsible for driving market growth.

A medical affairs manager may find it difficult to translate promotional regulatory guidance into digital interactions and have misplaced compliance concerns, slowing projects down.

Our message was simple, in order to embed digital in pharma you need to do the following:

  • Educate and up-skill all marketers though training and strategic planning workshops
  • Create SOPs and risk mitigation plans for all major channel types
  • Educate sales reps that ‘digital’ is not a gadget, but  a core capability to enhance relationships
  • Build in good smart measurement – prove ROI as you go
  • Work closely with and educate medical colleagues

This isn’t magic, it is just common-sense.  If we do this methodically, we WILL vanquish Inertia in our organisations.


Posted in Marketing, pharma

8 Pharma takeaways from iStrategy

I had a good two days at iStrategy London this week with Complete Digital colleague @mariaatomaca.   The event was at Chelsea Football Club so the mood was up-beat in the venue generally (as you might expect) and it was good to see a few pharma industry colleagues there from Pfizer, Lilly, Novartis and Shire.

1.  Marketers are experience architects

‘People forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people never forget how you made them feel’ (Maya Angelou) – so quoted @BrianSolis in an inspiring opening keynote that set the tone for the conference.  The main thrust of his talk was: rethink the experience, don’t use social networks to do traditional marketing.  A ‘Like’ is not an ‘opt-in’ for push marketing.

This point was re-iterated by Twitter, who’ve implemented ‘sponsored tweets’ instead of banner ads (although how users will accept this remains to be seen) and Facebook who pointed out ‘Ads are not content’ and you should give your page fans real, valuable content. 

For pharma?  This shift in mindset is the most important challenge facing drug companies.  For many, marketing is still very much about ‘how can I push my message to this customer’.  Yet in a content and expertise-rich space there are many opportunities to engage customers by providing the services they want, where they want them on their own terms.

2.  Why Red Bull is a Media company (aka ‘Content is King’)Image

Red Bull have taken ‘Content is King’ (And as Rebecca Powell of @EbuzzingUK put it ‘Distribution is Queen’) to a whole new level and become a content company.  Known as a carbonated drink, in fact Red Bull also has a complete international media operation with TV, radio and magazine production and distribution services.   All of this is in-house and monetised.  The content celebrates what Red Bull is known for – Formula 1 motor racing and other extreme sports.  They showed the trailer for an amazing feature-length movie, ‘The Art of Flight’ (  The movie has had 42 sold-out premieres (and made over €1 million so far) and even the trailer has had nearly 10 million YouTube views.  Redbull claims to be the third most influential social brand in the world with 28 million FB fans, 600,000 Twitter followers, 280 million YouTube views.

For pharma?  Most companies provide content as a service to healthcare.  If we are serious about healthcare outcomes it is a duty of the leaders in a therapy area to provide high quality content to support patients and healthcare professionals.  It’s important that we think about content formats beyond traditional text and flash – consider video and gaming (see below), and how to make our content ‘social’. 

Think of ‘KISS’ – Keep it Simple and Shareable.  🙂

3.  The power of video

Following on from @RedBull, iStrategists repeatedly emphasised the importance of video and the social nature of it – Pete Blackshaw (@PBlackshaw) from Nestle said the ‘instructional video’ is a major untapped opportunity for many companies and brands.  We spend 16 years of our lives in front of video content by the time we are 60, according to @RIBenjamin.   Harry from Google cited the TippEx interactive ‘Birthday Party video that makes him want to buy the product even though he doesn’t need it…a great example of making a ‘boring’ subject engaging.

For pharma?  Lots of healthcare video opportunities – there are some good examples with J&J Health channel on YouTube, Pfizer Health and for professionals, webcast KOL videos are now mainstream, and companies are exploring other video services such as Lilly’s Oncochannel.

4. LinkedIn – the profile search engine

Everyone who attended @NealSchaffer’s LinkedIn session went away determined to spend more time regularly updating their company, group and personal profiles.  Why?  LinkedIn is perfect for getting connected professionally because of the power of its information-rich ‘profile search engine’.  If you are looking for an employee, an agency, a discussion group, an answer to a question, you may well find it there. 

For pharma?  There are 2500 pharma-related discussion groups on LinkedIn and 8500 about healthcare. Neal’s tips:  update your status regularly, join big groups to expand your contacts, ensure you have some personal recommendations, join discussions that interest you.  You never know when those contacts may be useful.

5. The four stage Facebook model

Alexander Schlaubitz of Facebook shared their 4 stage model for brands on Facebook:  Connect, Engage, Influence, Integrate.  Connect – they recommend you should aim to get 20% of your market to Like your page.  How?  They recommend offering specific services (e.g. a discount voucher).  Engage – frequent light interactions, the brand should stimulate discussion but not ‘tell’ – the discussion should be between fans.  Influence – treat fans exclusively with ongoing special services.  For example Nike has launched products to FB fans first ahead of the public.  Integrate – Facebook should be part of the relationship ongoing and should build over time, it is not a one-off campaign. 

For pharma?  With nearly a billion people on Facebook how can we engage those with a particular healthcare condition and what can we learn?  There are some strong health related groups and pages on Facebook such as the NHS Organ Donation page, but the industry is under-represented beyond corporate brand presence.

6.  We’re all (social) gamers now

Gaming is no longer just the domain of young males.  82% of people play online games regularly – 98% of children (I wonder what the other 2% are doing?).  Some categories such as puzzles, city building and bingo games are more popular with females.  Studies show that game-playing offers three times the engagement level of watching a video.  And gaming is increasingly social.  500 million Facebook users play games, 300 million of them weekly, 60 million daily.

For pharma?  We’ve seen patient disease awareness games (check out and booth games for doctors are always popular – such as ‘Ward Wars’ (infection), ‘Vascular Quest’ (cardiovascular), and the ‘Diabetes Challenge’.  How can we make productive use of social gaming specifically – anyone know any good industry examples?

7.  Influencing the influencers

Ford has used social media to transform the brand in recent years and make it fun, relevant and popular  Doug the Ford Focus puppet (@focusdoug) became a minor YouTube celebrity.

They ran a Facebook competition with the prize of a new Fiesta – the impact in terms of sheer numbers was greater than a SuperBowl ad.  In another initiative, Ford turned negative bloggers into advocates by inviting them for a factory visit and immersion day.  Their word cloud was transformed overnight.

For pharma?  Why not offer company immersion days to proactive healthcare bloggers, especially inviting vocal industry critics?  

8. Using expertise to engage customers

Stephane Lee talked about connecting experts in the organisation with customer.  For example, Peugeot have an ‘ask the expert’ service for each new car.  Customers can ask anything they want and the question is put to the appropriate person in the company – engineer, designer, sales person – who answers online, building up a Q&A resource that other customers benefit from.

For pharma?  Medical Information is a perfect service function that should be providing online service.  Pfizer in the US and Canada offer Click to Connect  to get live chat services.   Abbott’s brilliant offers expert patients the chance to share their stories with others.

Those are my 8 take-aways.  Were you there?  What do you think?

I ought to give a shout-out to the iPitchers that I liked – those given 6 minutes to pitch their idea to the audience.  My favourites were @Brandwatch who used low-tec videos of their team (extensive use of cardboard) in the office to promote their SM monitoring service, and Kinetise from @funandmobile- an app-builder that Piotr Pawlak said is better than all the others simply because it is ‘the only one that really works’.  Anyone want to challenge?

Posted in CRM, Marketing, mobile, Social Media, Websites

Why your pharma brand doesn’t need a digital strategy in 2012

Last year my New Year post was 5 things I’d like to hear from pharma marketers in 2011, and you may like to know I’ve heard 4 of the 5.  (I’ll leave you to guess the one I haven’t heard yet.)  This year, 5 things I really don’t want to hear in 2012 or ever again… What do you think?

1.  I’m not sure that digital is important to my customers

There are a number of problems with this.  First, referring to ‘digital’ as if it is one channel, which it isn’t.  Second, just about everyone in the developed world, and a great proportion in the less-developed world, use some sort of digital communication.  In many countries of the developed world internet penetration is now  around 80% of the population.  When you also consider that, worldwide, 34% of people are either under 14 or over 65, you realise that almost all of the student and working population is online, together with a good proportion of older and younger people. 

It might be social media, email, SMS messaging or a variety of other types of interaction, but digital is very important to most of us.   But as I said it is not one channel, therefore it is important to find out what digital interactions are relevant for each customer and when. 

2.  We have a dedicated digital team; our marketers/medical people/reps don’t need to know digital

Once again we are making the assumption that digital is somehow a channel when it is not – it is a capability that all communicators should have.  Reputations are made (and broken) in digital spaces – therefore your PR team must be savvy and your employees require guidance.  Medical education is increasingly provided and sought online – pharma medical teams must be active here.  The ‘self-made KOL’ is emerging through blogging, HCPs reach out to each other in online forums and networks – key partnerships can be developed in these places.  Brand visibility, services, information and interaction are expected from your customers – all members of your brand team and your sales reps must have digital tools in their kit. 

Training all communicators to embrace digital in all its forms must be a top priority for companies that are re-organising for the digital economy.  This and developing and embedding best practice is the role of your digital team, who should be very busy in 2012.

3.  I tried a website and it didn’t work

Whenever I hear a ‘I tried <interaction-type> and it didn’t work’ I want to shout ‘DON’T BLAME THE CHANNEL’!

It is like saying ‘I watched Big Brother and didn’t like it, so I’m never going to watch TV again’.

There are various forms of this, often from people who were ‘bitten’ in the early 2000s when there was a lot of mediocre execution.   Companies and agencies alike had not developed best practice in pharma digital and many mistakes were made.  Email was too often spam, websites became out-of-date brochureware, banners were irritating interruptions.  Tactics didn’t ‘work’ and brand leaders, perhaps already sceptical or perhaps having fought for the budget and been proved ‘wrong’, became disillusioned.

However, if you are taking a more strategic approach to your customer, intending to interact with them at the right moment with the right content in the right format to delight and engage them, at some point websites, email, banners may indeed be the right interaction.  You just need to execute well.

Also beware of blanket advice from cross-industry digital experts.  You sometimes hear for example that ‘ email is obsolete’ and this may be the case in some sectors, but it is often not so for physicians – studies show many still use and value email from colleagues and also email news from professional associations and pharmaceutical companies.  The important thing, once again, is to understand what your customer wants and will engage with.

4.  Prove to me the ROI of that digital tactic

It is self-evident that digital interactions are more scalable than face-to-face (engage 10,000 people digitally for a similar cost to engaging 1000, not so for a F2F meeting) and therefore the cost-per-interaction can be lower than some other types of interaction.   But measuring ROI per tactic?  Think about it – what is the ROI of a single rep visit?  Taking a doctor to an international congress?  Can you measure it?  No.  Why?  Because the ROI is delivered (a) in the long-term (may be a year or two down the line) and (b) is a result of the entire relationship with the doctor, not that one tactic.  A brilliant congress impact may be completely overturned by poor service subsequently by the rep or a bad website experience.

Digital interactions are so measurable I think we sometimes get carried away with our metrics and blind people with science.  Yes, we can measure clicks, readership, time spent, where they came from, where they went, and all this is important to understand how well we executed the tactic and the overall campaign’s success.

But real ROI comes from the overall customer experience or relationship.  For example, a physician may be invited to a webinar or online discussion by a rep, they may sign up online, receive a reminder email, attend the event and then receive another email inviting them to comment on the event and request next steps.  We must measure the success of each of these steps (e.g. uptake after the rep visit, registrants who actually attend and so forth) but the ‘ROI’ of one tactic alone is meaningless. 

What we can track is the ROI in terms of customer satisfaction and market share of those who took part in this overall campaign and those who did not.  We can also track the relative preference for our brand in terms of brand choice/brand equity studies over time, and evaluate what interactions those who prefer our brands have received.  In this way we can start building a picture of the right mix for different customers and how well we are executing.

But seeking out short-term ROI measures from individual tactics is meaningless.  We don’t demand this of other channels and should not expect it from the ‘digital’ ones.

5.  My brand needs a digital strategy

There is no such thing as a digital strategy for a brand.  In fairness, my team and I do run ‘brand digital strategy workshops’ but this is shorthand for taking a strategic approach to embedding digital into a multichannel brand plan.  And that is the way to think.  How can I put my customer truly at the centre of my planning and consider all the interactions that will be effective and how to combine them into a seamless and delightful customer experience and long-term relationship?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this in pharma, there isn’t a piece of software you can plug variables in and out pops the ‘channel mix’.  You have to gather all the insight you can and take your best guess at the channel mix for your customer, execute with excellence and be ready to change the mix and iterate, iterate, iterate.   Over time you learn what works for your brand and your customers in the market in which you operate.  That’s where great measurement, analytics and CRM platforms come in – to help you ‘learn as you go’.  But your first multichannel plan will have to be your best, most educated guess, drawing on all the knowledge and experience you can access.

Brands, in summary, should have a multichannel customer engagement plan – starting with a ‘channel agnostic’ planning process that evaluates all channels – digital and traditional – equally.

Companies, on the other hand, can – and should – have a digital strategy – by which I mean a strategic approach to embedding digital expertise and processes across the organisation.  Only with the right competence in all channels can channel agnostic brand planning take place.

Posted in CRM, Marketing

App-athy and the Wild West: eyeforpharma Mobile Strategies London Dec 2011 (#e4p)

At last week’s excellent eyeforpharma Mobile Strategies event in London (1-2 December) there was an interesting dichotomy between how embedded ‘mobile’ seems to be the lives of the delegates and how far from embedded it is in our professional communication strategies. 

In a mini-poll I did as Chair of Day 2, 75% of the delegates had an iPad, 86% a smartphone.  Three-quarters of delegates had used their phone as their alarm clock that morning, the same number admitted signs of anxiety if they didn’t have their phone and would not leave home without it.

Graph - 75% of delegates have an iPad

Yet still we are not necessarily drawing on our personal experiences in order to develop the insight to deliver value for our customers.  Here are my five take-aways:




1.  Mobile App-athy

Brand teams and marketers in pharma are excited about the potential of mobile apps but our customers are perhaps less enthusiastic.  As a result there is a large number of pharma-sponsored apps (one estimate put the total health apps at 34,000) with just a few downloads each.  A panel discussion (chaired by Chad Daugherty from Lilly with Len Starnes – @lenstarnes, Duncan Arbour – @rbour and Andreas Claus Kistner) concluded that pharma is too keen to invest in “shiny things” without real insight into customer needs.

Companies want apps but many have not optimized their email and websites for mobile – even though doctors and patients use mobile devices mostly for email and websites.  Too many emails will not even display properly on a mobile device, and Sam Walmsley (@sammielw) pointed out that only 12 of the top 2 pharma companies’ websites are mobile-friendly.

To me it feels like the late ‘90s when brand managers everywhere were saying “I want a website” without taking a strategic look about how the web might fit into the overall communications plan.   Many useless websites later, companies started taking a more strategic, customer-centric view and websites grew up.

My advice – if your objective is to build an app, don’t.  Spend time defining an objective that is about customer value, then see what channels/tools can achieve it.

2.  The Mobile Physician – who?

We learned that Doctors download 50 apps on average, but like everyone else, use just 7 regularly.

A panel discussion with Doctors Rob Hicks (@DrRobHicks),  Peter Ilves and Henrik Andersson observed that there are “mobile” and “non-mobile” doctors.  “Mobile” doctors are doing hospital ward-rounds or travelling from patient to patient and need handy reference services in their pocket – often it is treatment guidelines, symptom checkers, calculators.  One example of a this is the Psoriasis PASI calculator from Janssen, a simple tool to help determine the severity of the rash and therefore appropriate treatment.

“Non-mobile” doctors are sitting in their office seeing patients and will mostly use a laptop or desktop computer.  We need to provide multichannel services to fit the requirements of each.

One interesting doctor-patient app we saw was the mini-atlas from EC-Europe – anatomical atlases for iPad, designed for doctors to share with patients, the most recent version of which allowing the doc to draw on and annotate the image, then send to the patient.  Pharma companies are sponsoring these atlases and the platform is well chosen – 93% of tablets sold to HCPs in the US last year were iPads.

Rob Hicks put it simply: the doctor’s daily workload is already very high and overloaded with multi-channel information – ““Don’t give us lots more to do – give us stuff that will save work and time.” 

3.     The Mobile Patient and mHealth

MHealth is now an established force in the developing world, where mobile technologies are providing much-needed access to health care and changing lives.  In the developed world, however, the picture is more fragmented and, as for physicians, there are a great many under-utilised health apps competing for attention in the app store.

The winners are once again those based on real customer need and insight.  For example the Claritin pollen alert for hayfever suffers (I can testify to its usefulness); Medtronic’s Lenny the Lion ‘carb-counting’ game app for children with diabetes, and a sponsored app in Israel for finding the nearest public WC, with links to Pfizer’s advice about bladder control.

The most compelling opportunity to provide mobile health solutions we saw was not for the “walking well” – the traditional pharma targets of asymptomatic patients needing medication reminders – but the moving and inspiring story from the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Presented by Simon Davies, CEO, Professor Faith Gibson and former patient-now JimmyTeens.TV developer Tom de Bruin (@deadlyhifi), this told of the problems faced by young people going through chemotherapy. 

Isolated by necessity and often very ill, these teens feel even more alone if they turn to Facebook and see their friends having fun without them.  They also have a million questions and concerns about their symptoms (as do their parents).  The Trust has pioneered web-based solutions allowing patients to ask questions of a cancer nurse and get help, information and support online, as well as connecting with other patients.  The mobile potential for this is exciting, and so the Trust and eyeforpharma are running a competition to design such an app.

4.    Ready, Fire, Aim! – Reps and iPads

I have stolen the title from Armand Brevig (@BuyingeContent) of Reprints Desk and several of the speakers agreed with the point that companies have taken a “Wild West” approach to iPads for reps, in some cases providing the technology before any application has been identified.  Back to those “shiny things” again.

However, there is hope. Roche has integrated iPad solutions for its reps.  In the pilot reps said that the ability to update the CRM system right there after the call was saving them 2 hours of data entry each evening.  Key learnings: keep it simple and quick, provide offline capabilities, integrate with the rest of the solution (not ‘islands of technology’) and learn to fail fast and learn from mistakes. 

My favourite quote of the event is Andreas Claus Kistner’s definition of ‘fail fast’: “Technology is like chocolate, if it is fundamentally bad, you can’t fix it – throw it away and get some new stuff.”

There was also an interesting example from Murat Mendi of Nobel, who rolled out a fully integrated and tracked closed loop marketing system in Turkey with 100% rep adoption based on tablets, not iPads – demonstrating that CLM is about good strategy, strong execution and shifting the culture, regardless of technology.

5.    Good Mobile Service/Marketing is Just Good Service/Marketing

Our (@CompleteDigital’s) own Helen Harrison (@harrassedmom) set the tone early on in the event with a story about how the First Direct bank – famous for award-winning customer service –  developed their mobile app.

As a bank they had some parallels with our industry – they had a mountain of legal, security and personal data concerns and had to very carefully step through the hurdles and ensure high standards of compliance.

Priding itself on being the top bank in terms of customer satisfaction in the UK, First Direct started with its customers.   The team developed clear and detailed customer personas and designed the app with the user at the centre.  They chose not to do “everything” but to do the few key things that customers really wanted, really well.  They tested, tested, tested, including sketching the designs on paper and sitting with customers refining them, then testing further at wireframe and design stage so that by the time the app was built it needed hardly any testing – it was exactly what customers wanted.

In other words, First Direct did the opposite to “I want an app”, they spent a good deal of time investing in finding out what their customers really wanted, then delivered it.  With 100,000 downloads in the first month and 85% 4 out of 5 rankings, it seems to have hit the mark.

Medtronic’s Matt Thomas re-iterated this on day 2 when he advised us to start with the strategy, learn from observing customers and continually analyse in order to refine the service.

The best healthcare mobile solutions, like the best banking solutions, do exactly what customers want, really well.  In Helen’s words and put very simply, mobile apps or other mobile solutions must adhere to the first rule of great customer service:-


Simple, really.

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

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