Take Charge of Your Digital Marketing Once and For All

It took a while, but the pharma industry is finally becoming aware that digital approaches may hold the key to transforming the way they market drugs and interact with their customers.

Capturing the digital opportunity remains elusive for pharma

Consumers are becoming used to more customization, personalization and mobility when interacting with companies, and they expect it regardless of the industry. The rise of the mobile Internet is unlocking growth opportunities, reducing the cost of developing services, and reducing barriers to entry. Big data and advanced analytics capabilities allow companies to draw insights from massive, previously untapped sources. The 'Internet of Things' opens up possibilities for proactive service, and new commercial models and is already facilitating real-time service delivery in a number of applications.

But despite recognizing the importance of digital, pharma companies are finding it difficult to capture the opportunity outside of the basic eDetailing, product websites and online adherence programs.

It’s time to start thinking differently

The companies that are leading the way in the current environment are doing more than just talking a good digital game. They are integrating it into their corporate DNA. By stretching their mindsets and operations, these innovators are able to quickly adapt to change, disrupt traditional business models and capture market share.

Uber is a good example, capitalizing on the prominence of mobile and technology to alter the transportation landscape. Airbnb is causing a similar digital disruption in the hospitality space. And Philips is integrating data from multiple sources worldwide to enhance medical professionals’ decision-making capabilities and increase patients’ engagement in their treatment.

Sadly, I am not seeing pharma in this group. I know I have been flying the flag for digital pharma marketing for slightly over 2 decades, but in reality, outside of the social tools, not too much has changed in the past 15 years. Most of these companies tweet and blog and do the requisite social activities on top of the main digital play. But are they seeing the results they are hoping for in terms of patient and physician share and reflected in the end financial result? Most would answer “No.”

Mindset may be an obstacle. It’s easy to take the attitude that you’ll never be able to get approvals through the legal department fast enough, or that every tactic has to have mass market appeal to be profitable. Those attitudes may have been OK under the blockbuster model, but we’re entering a new era.

According to the latest research from ZS’s AccessMonitor™, only 51% of physicians are considered accessible, down from 65% in 2012. With budgets under pressure and change everywhere, mass marketing campaigns have lost their appeal. Pharma leadership needs to make a commitment to overcoming obstacles and adapting to change so that they can provide more personalized messages and superior service.

Those that do will achieve success. And I don’t mean users, eyeballs or other vanity statistics, but success in terms of their company and brands growing revenue and profit.

Accenture estimates that digital disruption has the potential to unlock more than $100 billion of commercial value in the US over a five-year period through new digital business models.

So how will they do it?

1. Personalize the customer experience

Traditionally, companies have focused on customer segments or groups when seeking to understand customer behavior and target their efforts. And while that still holds value, massive new datasets and the proliferation of mobile devices make personalization to a much higher degree not just possible, but cost-effective.

2. Simplify

Simplicity is one of the biggest advantages disruptive companies have over established players that are burdened by legacy IT systems and entrenched in processes that have evolved over time. These companies need to shift their thinking and see the world the way their customers do.

3. Optimize channels

There are more options for reaching consumers than at any time in history, and new communications apps and social media sites pop up seemingly every week. While the vision is one fully integrated digital world, the reality is that depending on your target audience and country, not all will be valuable. The key is uncovering what digital activities and combinations will give both you and your customers the highest value.

Analytics is the key.

Sure, you want to do it all, but it’s all about prioritizing and knowing which parts of your whole work for what segments and delivering the right message through the right channel (traditional and digital) at the right time for the customer.

What data do you need to uncover these insights? Clearly analytics can help here. The breadth and diversity of channels change, but the analytics can always uncover which will add value to your individual market and customer segment the most while bringing the most returns to your business.

The Internet provides a treasure trove of information that can be collected, recorded and analyzed for marketing. In 2012 alone, Internet users generated 4 exabytes (4 x 1018 bytes) of data related to their online interests, the content of their communications, the purchases they make, and many other insights.

The challenge is sorting through this massive data to match insights with strategy. Pharma brands need to focus not just on product strategy and customer experience strategy, but also data strategy. How are you going to get more information about your customers? How will you use that information to drive value? Is that going to lead customers to do more business with you so that you can then gather more information back?

Rather than hypothesize about what is important and what is not, let the data reveal the insights you need. Using advanced analytics can drive better decision-making, customer experience, and value-added services such as recommendation engines.


As digital approaches continue to proliferate and transform the marketing landscape, pharma companies will need to make smart decisions with their digital strategy.

The industry’s current struggles to move beyond the most basic digital methods shows how challenging it can be to predict the profitability of any digital strategy.

Don’t leave it to guesswork. If you really want to know what to do—and when and how to do it—start asking more from your data with advanced analytics.

For more information on this topic, please email the author at Eularis http://www.eularis.com


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