A few weeks back, I wrote a post about why pharma and healthcare companies need to consider adding product reviews to their sites. For those of you who didn’t read that article and thus are completely up in arms that I would suggest this, please take a look at my original article before you decide. You’ll see that I’m readily acknowledging that adding ratings and reviews to a brand site wouldn’t be simple and isn’t without its regulatory risks, but I am trying to argue that the benefits just might outweigh the risks.
Here was the main reason from this earlier post why I think product reviews are important for pharma (if you already read the post, you can skip this):
So, how is adding product reviews going to help you sell more of your product? One of the first things they teach you in sales and marketing is that a customer saying “no” to your sales pitch isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The reason why is because, with some questions, you can figure out why they aren’t interested, and deal with these issues. But going through all of this effort is very expensive. Just look at the budgets pharma companies allocate for field sales teams if you don’t agree. When it comes to pharma, or any industry, keeping your current customers is always cheaper than finding new ones. The people writing reviews on iGuard, for example, are already on your product. You’ve spent money on DTC TV, iMedia, the sales team, print ads, and a thousand other tactics, but now you’re about to lose them. Unless you don’t.
When comments are on a 3rd party site like iGuard instead of your own, you can’t be involved in the conversation. Imagine instead that they were on your site. This would allow you to do two things. Since you would require people to register to leave a comment (and you would), they also would provide their contact information. You can ask them if they’d like someone to contact them about their issue when they sign up. In this case, when someone posts a review saying they are having a certain side effect, you can do something to keep them on your product. Chances are that if this patient doesn’t get an answer, they’ll stop your treatment. So, you can have a nurse or other professional call and talk about the person’s issue. You can even go so far as to contact with the person’s doctor (with his or her permission) and explain the problem. The doctor can then follow up with appropriate actions like dosage adjustments, side effect management, or, where necessary, switching the patient to something different.
Think for a minute how this would be perceived by the medical community and patients. Wouldn’t doctors like to know when their patients are having a problem with their medication?
So if that’s not a compelling enough reason, let me give you one more. Search engine optimization. Before you go ahead and say that search isn’t important for healthcare or that it’s currently being done well in this industry, think again. Read my article about the state of search optimization for the five biggest selling pharma brands. The quick and dirty summary is that for major keywords, most pharma sites don’t make it to the first handful of pages on Google search results, this means that virtually no one is finding their sites through search…a big missed opportunity.
One of the big reasons for this is because of the language that us healthcare marketers (myself included) like to use. We say “treatment” instead of “remedy,” for example, but “remedy” is searched far more often because that’s how our customers talk. It’s actually searched for twice as often when it comes to heartburn (for example) according to Google’s data.
Because we say “treatment” we also write our website pages using “treatment.” This means that we never use the word “remedy” so Google never puts our sites in search results for the word “remedy.” But that’s how our customer’s are searching. One more reason that knowing these types of terms is important is because oftentimes the websites that “own” these “remedy” search results aren’t perhaps the best source of medical information. Let’s use the heartburn example again. When I search for “heartburn treatment” on Google, the number one result is a page on USA Today’s website. Not exactly the American College of Gastroenterology, but still reputable. However, when I search for “heartburn remedy” on Google, it’s a different story. I get a website that could at best be called a homemade site. Here’s a quick preview of the site:
I’m not knocking homemade sites, nor am I concerned about the look of this site, but rather the content. The first heartburn “remedy” you see on the page is this:
“Sherbert[sic] . any sherbert [sic] dip will do. Ive tried everything over the counter medication and nuthing [sic] works, maybe gives relief for a couple of hours but thats [sic] it. ONLY SHERBERT ITS [sic] Excellent TRY IT!”
Wow. I know that this recommended heartburn remedy is having the opposite effect on a product manager somewhere, but know that this is what your customers are seeing when they search for “heartburn remedy.” PS: the word is SHERBET, not SERBERT. You can do this same experiment with ANY disease and you’ll get the same result.
So what does this have to do with ratings and reviews? I’ve already said that those of us in healthcare marketing including our medical teams, speak in, well, medical language. That’s why we say “treatment” instead of “remedy.” It’s hard for us to think of it any differently, so it would be hard to write our content using any different language. Yes, we’ve done a really good job of taking our content and making it easy to understand including our inscrutable prescribing information. However, as we simplify, we often don’t use natural language. In this case, natural language means the language and terms that your customers are using to describe their condition and its treatment. It’s difficult to research the precise language that people use in these cases and to incorporate it into the content on your site. But there’s a simple way to fix this. Reviews.
By letting people write reviews that you then include on your site, you automatically generate the natural language and terms that your customers use to conduct searches. That is, they won’t write: “Drug X is the best heartburn treatment I’ve ever tried.” They’ll write: “Drug X is the best heartburn remedy I’ve ever tried.” This is an oversimplified example, of course, but you get the idea. Over time, your site will become optimized for the natural language searches that your customers are using. And the best part? You didn’t have to pay a dime for an agency to come up with the copy. You didn’t have to spend time researching how customers talk about your product (and pay a fortune). Your customers do it for you.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Allowing reviews on your site creates some other challenges particularly around adverse event reporting. But the question then becomes, is the value of owning natural language search terms and the increased traffic that comes to your site from people seeking solutions worth it? It’s easy for me to say yes, but can it be easy for you as well? Here’s my take from my previous reviews posting:
Yes, you will have to deal with adverse events if you go with product reviews. With a simple process, you can moderate every comment and deal with it appropriately. It’s ironic that pharma companies always cite this issue of adverse events when it comes to getting feedback from patients particularly when discussions about social media come up. However, at the same time, more and more companies are voluntarily adding links (which I bet will be required soon enough) to the FDA website and a phone number encouraging people to report adverse events directly to the FDA. This tells me that pharma companies aren’t necessarily afraid of what they might hear, but rather that they simply don’t want to deal with the information. That is, they don’t want to create a process to deal with it. But all these companies already have processes in place for adverse event reporting. An electronic version would flow quite simply into this. Also, keep in mind that you aren’t required to post every comment or review on your site. Those that are inappropriate (not just negative, but contain rants or foul language, for example) can be taken out. You simply need to ensure that you are transparent about your policy on how you moderate comments and which you post and which you don’t.
Again, not saying it’s simple or easy, but I am challenging you to ask the question: does the benefit outweigh the risk?