Insightful boldness

Accepting failure is part of the R&D process in the Pharma industry.

Out of 10,000 molecules created in the lab, less than 1% make it to an approved medicine. That’s a huge percentage of failures. Or rather, it’s a process that accepts failure as part of being successful.

In marketing there can be a tendency to expect proven ROI before investing in an activity. That may have been possible in the 80s and 90s, but the environment today is one of continuous change.

Shifts in customer behaviour and developments in technology and media mean that old campaigns are a mere legacy that can’t be mapped onto today’s scenario.

What attracted customers last year won’t necessarily attract them now. What attracted them 10 years ago almost certainly won’t.

In an environment that is ever-changing, challenging assumptions and re-assessing activities is essential. Basing decisions only on past ROI will lead to outdated tactics that do not address how customers and patients have moved on.

What will mark out the leaders can be called insightful boldness: continuously analysing the market; remapping customers and competitors; then being prepared to consider new activities that have a risk of failure.



Many times, what we end up with is a hybrid market of the old and the new.

Take music. LPs are now three generations out of date, after the introduction of CDs then mp3 downloads and more recently, streaming services. Yet sales of LPs are increasing year on year. They have become a niche and something of a connoisseur item for those of a certain age and taste.

When it comes to the salesforce model of pharma, the rep will not disappear. Even as a digital specialist, I will argue that those who proclaim the eclipse of the sales rep are wrong. Their number may reduce and their remit may change, and even if they do become more specialised, I suspect there will still be pharma sales reps calling on doctors 10 years from now.

Similarly, digital has not and will not replace all traditional forms of marketing and communications. What’s emerging is a hybrid of the traditional and the new. Print ads still appear in medical publications and companies still send out mailings by post. What is widely recognised now is that their role has changed, they have to be used more sparingly and need to be integrated with digital materials online and in e-details.

When is a phone not a phone?

How do you categorise the mobile phone as a media device? Not easily.

You can’t simply call it a phone any more.

A communication device? That doesn’t cover its entertainment use such as listening to music or watching a video.

A handheld computer? Even that falls short when you consider that computers are not used to make phone calls and send texts.

Taking the lean-forward vs lean-back view doesn’t work either: email and texting are lean-forward activities while watching a video and listening to music tend to be lean-back.

Mobile has the capability of a laptop and is infinitely more portable. It can be an alternative to watching movies on a TV, to web browsing on a PC, to making a phone call on a telephone.

It can change from a work device to a leisure device in a second, one minute used for enterprise and the next for entertainment.

In fact, you only have to read a review of a new mobile to realise that the distinguishing features are more about camera spec, screen quality and memory, than about phone calls.

When choosing a new mobile phone, how much do you consider making phone calls on it?

In fact, the term mobile phones only misrepresents what they have evolved into.

They are different things at different times and many things all at once.

It’s versatility is one of the reasons why this is the channel for reaching customers. Always on, always within reach, always personal.

More than anything else mobile represents the ubiquity of technology in our society and how power is now in the hands of the individual rather than the organisation.

This is why it must be a part of, if not central to, communications strategy.

It encompasses so many categories that no matter what type of content you are preparing, you need to prepare it for mobile.

Video in healthcare marketing & communications

Can there be any doubt that video is a powerful way to engage with customers?

Well, a new survey by Ascend2 removes uncertainty and shows that video is effective for the majority of companies1.

A full 85% of companies rated video marketing as either very successful or somewhat successful.

And 87% said that video effectiveness is increasing, no doubt helped by the growing access to video content from mobile and tablet devices.

The biggest challenges, meanwhile were a lack of strategy (48%) and lack of compelling content (40%).

Interestingly, neither of these issues is intrinsic to video as a media format, and both can be overcome.

To find out more about our video solutions for helping pharma connect with healthcare professionals, click here.

Change at the speed of technology

Moore’s law is used to explain the exponential growth in computing power that has occurred over the last four decades. The Cray supercomputer in 1985 was the most advanced in the world, cost $35m, took up a whole room and required elaborate power supply and cooling systems. Today we have roughly the same power in an iPad.

Similar advances are seen elsewhere. In communications, the speed of change is accelerating. As the world becomes smaller in a virtual way, new ways to communicate spread and affect huge change over ever shorter periods of time. Historic, ground-breaking changes to how we communicate such as writing took centuries to take hold. More recently, the telephone brought enormous change within decades. Now we see major changes happening within a year or two. New services and technology can be adopted by millions of people across all continents in multiple languages within a short number of years or even months.

Technology is driving this trend. It is now available to millions of people in almost every country; the means to invent new things are more widespread and cheaper than ever, as are the spread them internationally.

Twitter went from a standing start in July 2006 to 50 million tweets per day in February 2010.

eDetailing has grown from nothing to almost universal use within a decade.

There are implications to this. Reacting to these changes becomes more and more difficult if you are forced to follow processes, policies and behaviours from the old business model. A model that assumes changes happen over decades, when in fact they are taking place over months.

We also need to be careful in assessing previous activities. We can’t take lessons from a campaign two years ago and assume they will be valid today. Mobile is more prevalent than before, for example, customers are increasingly going triple-screen and their use of social media is changing.

We can’t assume that cardiologists still use smartphones in the same way today as they did in 2010. We can’t assume that today’s eDetail will have the same impact next year. What raised their eyebrows yesterday will make them yawn tomorrow. While we have greater ways to attract their attention and gain their interest, the expectations are also greater.

Video is king

In the world of marketing and communications video has the unique ability to attract and hold the attention of a viewer. More than print, editorial or static imagery.

But it’s not just about duration of attention, it’s the power of video to explain complex themes and convey data in a memorable way that makes it the king of content marketing.

Video allows you to mix different styles, from talking head interviews to slides to animations and combine them for maximum effect.

Studies1,2 show that video increases traffic, dwell time and click-through rates and it is dominating online content.

Two trends are worth remembering here: first, people have a very short attention span these days, and nowhere is this more evident than online; and second, we are innately lazy, meaning that video is easier to consume than reading an editorial.

That’s why we spend more time watching TV than reading novels, like it or not. These are two facts that make video content more attractive to viewers than plain text. And it’s why video will continue to grow as a medium online.

Are you a romantic?

Regular, long-term communication is usually better than a single all-out campaign.

It’s not a war that requires a massive assault to achieve an end point. There should be no endpoint.

Aim for a long-term relationship that does not stop when you reach a certain date or budget spend. Seek regular dialogue repeatedly over time.

It’s a romance rather than a one-night stand.

Virtual Ad Boards

We’ve updated our online Virtual Ad Board platform to offer better delegate dialogue and visibility of delegate activity.

The Virtual Ad Board can work in combination with live events, running in between them to offer ongoing dialogue with your chosen experts. Or it can replace smaller events.

The platform has been built with healthcare in mind, offering a compliant and secure channel to gather expert opinion and foster open discussion.

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Joined-up action

How many of the promotional activities that you see are discrete, one-off initiatives and how many are part of a multi-year plan to establish regular dialogue with HCPs?

One of the opportunities in digital communications is to build a channel of regular communication between you and your customers over the long-term, so that you have a ready and willing readership and the doctor has a trusted source of brand information.

The difficulty, of course, is that this is not how communications have been done traditionally.

They’re commonly planned and acted on on a year to year basis or even shorter and sometimes in isolation from each other.

A one-off activity can address short-term needs to push a certain message to a certain audience, but its value finishes when it ends.

It’s like hiring a completely new salesforce at the beginning of every year.

You’d lose any relationships that the existing team had painstakingly nurtured and start again from scratch to try and gain access and build trust.

If there’s nothing beyond the yearly plan, then that’s effectively what’s happening.

Every year you have to start anew with a credibility rating of zero in the customer’s eye and achieve your objectives with no carry-over value or momentum.

If you can move from this to a more continuous engagement model, however, you can develop something that you can carry forward for increased returns year on year.

It might not be easy or simple, but with a permission database you can start to mimic the relationships your best reps have with customers.

Doctors become easier to access and you don’t need to try so hard to get their attention.

They opt in to more of your email newsletters and click through to more pages, enabling more effective contact and providing the opportunity for deeper customer insights.

Can you create a favourite?

Have you noticed how many web sites you visit regularly?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll visit lots of different sites in any week, but the number of sites you go back to on a regular basis is actually quite small.

You’ll probably have a core of favourites that you trust and return to time and again.

Is your website a favourite of anybody’s?

How could you make it one?

It’s more difficult to bring a customer back to a site than it is to attract them there in the first place.

With search marketing and well-placed banner ads you can create a site for one-hit visits and convince some people to stay on your site for several minutes.

If you want to take the one-off campaign approach of target, push and move on, then that’s fine.

The ads create a promise, and you’ll get people who believe that promise enough to click and visit your site.

But bringing them back requires more: it requires you to go beyond the promise, namely to integrate a variety of interactive features and have good content that is continually refreshed and extended.

Promoting your site through search and ads will give you reach while repeat contact will give you depth.

One is quantity, the other is quality.

We can’t dismiss quantity of course, an essential starting point is to create awareness.

But the greater opportunity for changing opinion comes with building an ongoing dialogue that says you’re in it for long-term.

Analytics can give you insights into this: the number of visitors compared to the number of visits, abandon rates, page dwell time and visitor pathways.

Beneath the metrics are clues to how a site is perceived and used and what type of relationship exists with the audience.