eMarketing: How to flourish in the digital world

Kay Wesley, director of Complete Medical Group, on the strategic imperative of engaging patients and healthcare professionals online.

Kay Wesley, director of Complete Medical Group, on the strategic imperative of engaging patients and healthcare professionals online.

As the Internet explodes with new digital channels, doctors are migrating where everyone else is: online.

Why are we still asking if doctors use the Internet? wondered Kay Wesley, director of Complete Medical Group, at eyeforpharmas eMarketing Berlin conference. Its like saying, Do doctors use the telephone? Do doctors drive a car? Yes, most of them do. Period. Lets move on.

Online forums for physicians have swelled, and Google and Wikipedia have become regular resources for medical information.

The question now is how to reach physicians in these new environments.

This is not an add-on channel, Wesley said. It is a strategic imperative that we change our businesses for the digital world.

Delight your customers

Wesley identified four specific ways for marketers to adapt their strategies to the online world, and pointed out examples from other industries that have exemplified these transitions.

The first adaptation is to shift from the mindset of selling products to delighting customers.

For years British Telecom, the UKs largest telecom company, was viewed as a customer service black hole.

They were a monopoly, they gave bad service, they didnt respond to customers, they were expansive, and all the rest of it, said Wesley.

But with the advent of more competitors and online channels, theyve revolutionized their customer service.

Today, any customer can sign onto BTCare on Twitter, lodge a complaint, and get immediate response from a BT customer service agent.

Wesley acknowledged that pharma companies cant engage in quite the same way; nonetheless, its essential to put your product on the shelf, she said.

That means creating a website that provides solid content and information, as well as some elements of discussion, so that when physicians Google your therapy area or drug, they receive a good service at the point of sale.

You have to do your Web 1.0 before you do your Web 2.0, said Wesley.

Dont come to talk to me in my social network about your product or your disease area if you cant bother to put it on the shelf first.

From key messages to engagement

Social media, chat rooms, and blogs are all about instant engagement.

An individual feels part of a larger network and empowered to tailor that network to his or her own friends and preferences.

The car industry has embraced this spirit.

These days brands like BMW, Toyota, and Ford allow customers to go online and select model type, color, engine size, interior, and technical specs, then print out a pdf document and have a test drive at the dealership.

Such a model easily translates to the pharma industry, said Wesley.

Using Web 1.0 you can create a site that engages patients and healthcare professionals with resources that help them treat and manage diseases.

Abbott created Change for Life Online, for instance, which presents patients with information about managing a healthy lifestyle.

If youre an Abbott patient, you can enter your badge number and get additional services, like smartphone apps you can take into restaurants.

Likewise, BRIDION created industry-facing iPhone and iPad apps for anesthesiologists to calculate the appropriate doses of BRIDION for individual patients.

Theres nothing like being in your customers pocket to have a level of engagement with them, said Wesley.

Content is king

With the digital revolution, the line between promotion and content has blurred.

Eye-catching material can spread virally around the world in days, carrying an underlying message with it.

Where the Hell is Matt? is just one example of an amateur video that has almost 30 million views on YouTube.

Many brands have followed its lead.

Volkswagens Piano Stairs, Samsungs Sheep LED Art, T-Mobiles Dance, and Durexs Get It On are all examples of videos that have gone viral.

In each case, the brand being advertised isnt mentioned until the final frame.

You enjoy the content and then you see the last frame and you thank the brand for bringing you that great experience, said Wesley.

Most content that goes viral is funny, sexy, shocking, spectacular, original, moving, or illuminating, said Wesley.

The big amplifier is relevance, she said If its relevant to me, Im going to circulate it to my friends and Im going to consume that content.

Pharmaceutical companies are yet to get in on the game, but theres no reason they cant, Wesley said.

Turn talking into listening

People today dont want to listen; they want to contribute.

With blogs, everyones a writer.

With YouTube, everyones a videographer.

Coca-Cola has harnessed this mentality with a new social media policy called Fans First, which allows fans to comment, upload, and consume their own consumer-generated brand-related content.

Photographs of people drinking cans of Coke in exotic placeslike underwater, under the Northern Lights, on top of Kilimanjaro, etc.are just one example.

Wesley said the same approach can work for pharmaceutical companies.

The doctors are the experts in treating patients, she said, so why cant we give them a platform where they can share in this way?

Wesley recommended regularly meeting with bloggers in your disease area, whether they are physicians, carers, or patients, and discuss how to address the unmet need in that area.

In that way, a company can shape the debate without blogging itself but talking to the people who do.

This is where thought leaders will be developed in the future, Wesley said.

We have a choice: We either train the bloggers to be our key opinion leaders, or we train our KOLs to be bloggers. Its as simple as that.

For more on the business impact of social media, see How to get ROI from social media.

For more on online campaigns, see Marketing and social media: A success story.

Click here for information about eyeforpharmas 10th annual Pharma Marketing Summit on 13 and 14 October in Zurich.