Glad that headline got your attention.
Working at a digital agency, I have a pretty good feel for what’s “hot” with clients and what the perceived “next big thing” is. I also have a pretty good idea when people are spending their marketing dollars on either things they don’t need or on making something far more complex than what is required. As trusted partners (as every agency should try to be), we own part of this because it’s our job sometimes to say “no” to our clients. This is especially true when we think that they’re about to waste their money even if this waste might inflate our bottom line.
That, of course, is a losing long-term strategy for everyone. So, like many people here at Bridge Worldwide, we spend a fair amount of time saying “no,” but at the same time giving alternative solutions.
One of the “hot” things I keep hearing about is iPhone apps (I know, imagine that). Yes, these are a great marketing tool for certain brands in certain situations and many of them add some very interesting utility or are entertaining in some way. However, the ideas for some other apps aren’t so good. Generally, these ideas are those that replicate something that already exists or has been made overly, if hopelessly, over-complicated. Today, I’m going to give you a little demonstration of that.
For a number of reasons, one thing that pharma companies seem to keep creating and encouraging people to use is medication tracking programs. The idea behind this is simple: you track whether or not you took your medication, you see all the times you missed your dosage, you’re appalled and horrified, and you magically start taking your medication as prescribed. Simple, right?
There are many brands doing this, but I’ll give you one example: Symbicort. All asthma medications have compliance problems, so there have been many efforts made to fix this. Symbicort uses a program they call My Measure for Success. It’s a pretty far-reaching program with some nice tools. After you sign up, you can get rewards (I won’t even get into why I’m not in love with this part of the program) based on whether or not you take your medication. In order to get those rewards, you’ve got to track that you’re taking your medication. Here’s how you do it:
I highlighted the area of interest in the red box. Basically, you just click whether or not you took your medication, twice a day. I give them credit for making the box very simple. But perhaps you also recognize the issue with this system. If I can’t remember (or any of the thousands of other reasons people don’t adhere to their treatments) to take my treatment, how can I remember to log into your site, TWICE A DAY, to record that I took my medication?
To alleviate this, we create mobile solutions and reminder “services” to help people (I didn’t see a mobile tracking version for the Symbicort program). I’m not going to get into it today, but the vast majority of these reminder programs have zero impact on adherence or compliance. Those that do have very little impact, as they help a small percentage of people a small amount (for some great resources on this issue, check out AlignMap).
As I said, I’ve seen these “systems” created at considerable cost in both money and time. However, sometimes something simple is all that is needed. Now, I’ve questioned before whether or not you really need your digital agency. So, if you’re keeping your current agency afloat by having them create a medication tracker and/or medication reminder “system,” including an iPhone app, have I got a deal for you.
I’ll build you a medication tracker and reminder system for $10. Not $10 million. Not $10k. $10. Yes, the one with Alexander Hamilton on it. How can I make this seemingly insane offer? Easy. First, most things “digital” don’t need to be as complex as we make them. Second, since I don’t think these trackers and reminders make much of an impact, then it wouldn’t be right for me to charge a lot for them and you really can’t justify the investment.
But, for $10, you can’t beat it. May as well have one then, right?
With many of the tools available for free to people online, they can do pretty much anything without your help. Medication tracking, for one, is an example of this. For really complex applications that include a lot of data and rely on other applications to function (like the GPS in an iPhone to find your location and things around you), customers probably can’t do it alone. For example, your average person couldn’t recreate the functionality of Sanofi-Aventis’ GoMeals application. So, if you need this level of functionality, then call in the pros (like us).
So, back to my offer. There are many health tracking applications already available for the iPhone (here are just a few). Some are free to customers and some are not. Each was created at considerable expense by someone somewhere. I know that, as I write and you read, some pharma company (probably companies) are making tracking apps just like this. To them, I say, stop.
I’m going to show you the magic behind my special offer. Call it “open source.” First, I do have to concede that this idea is complete inspired (read: borrowed/copied) from a blog called The Quantified Self. When I saw this post, I knew I had to write about it.
As I go through each step, I’ll show you how long it takes to do this as well. So, let’s make a $10 tracker…
First, go to Google Docs (you do use Google Docs, right?). Start a new spreadsheet and fill in the columns you want to track. Like this:
(elapsed time: 20 seconds)
You can see that I’ll be tracking my weight, whether or not I took my medication, and how I feel.
What’s that you say? People don’t want to go to and fill out a spreadsheet everyday? I thought you might say that. So, let’s create a form (click “Form”–>”Create a form”). The form will already have your column headers populated as questions automatically (you don’t need to add a column for date or time, as Google will do this automatically).
You’ll then have a form. Like this:
(elapsed time: 30 seconds)
You’ll notice that I added a little flair to mine via the “Theme” selector. I think it adds a nice touch (optional: adds an addition 10 seconds
I also changed the “Took Medication” into a multiple choice question and the “I Feel…” into a Likert scale:
(elapsed time: 1 minute)
Pretty simple so far, eh? Just play around with it yourself to see how to do this. I can’t give away all of my secrets. How else can I charge 10 bucks for this?
What’s that you say? Yes, I did mention that people don’t want to or won’t go online and fill out forms or check boxes. Stay with me…
After you finish the form, you can email it people. Email it to yourself. When you get the email, follow the link and this is what you’ll get:
(elapsed time: 1 minute, 20 seconds)
Tah dah. A form on your phone that you can fill out. Fill it out and submit it. Each time you fill out the form, it automatically adds the data to the right spot in your spreadsheet. Like so:
Wondering how your doing without having to look at the spreadsheet? No problem. When editing your form, select “More actions” –> “Edit confirmation.” Check the “Let everyone see response summary” box.
(elapsed time: 1 minute, 30 seconds)
Now, every time you complete the form, you’ll get a confirmation screen with a link to a summary screen. Here it is:
Simple summary with some basic data. If you want to go crazy with charting, go for it. Go the the spreadsheet and make it happen (sorry, I’d have to charge extra for that).
What’s that? You don’t want to have to click a link in an email (that you’ll probably lose) everyday to get to the form. Me neither. So, when you have the form open, click that little “+” sign at the bottom of the screen and you’ll get this:
(elapsed time: 1 minute, 45 seconds)
Select “Add to Home Screen”. You’ll then get a screen asking you to name your icon and then you can place it anywhere on your phone. Viola.
(elapsed time: 2 minutes)
Check it out…it’s even got my fancy theme to make the icon look good.
So, every time you need to record your medication (or whatever), just click the icon and fill out the form. Done.
What’s that? People can’t remember to do this regularly. Shucks. I guess that means you’re going to need to spend a fortune on some sort of reminder service. Well, for one day only, I’ll throw that in for free!
Go to your Google Calendar (you have a Google calendar, right?) and set up a recurring “meeting” for yourself. Like so:
(elapsed time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds)
Now, I’ll get an email every day around noon reminding me to complete my tracker. Figure if I need to have my phone with me to do the tracker and I check email far too often anyway, what better place than email for a reminder?
Total time to completion? 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
I can probably do it in 2 now though.
Question: why would you pay tens or hundreds of thousands for a tool that does basically this same thing and that probably won’t have any impact on compliance (and since many people probably won’t use it anyway)?
There are two lessons here for every marketer:
- Don’t make something more complex than it needs to be. If you need to track if you did something, there are thousands of simple ways to do it that take MINUTES to create.
- Your customers need you less and less each day. They can get much of the information (maybe all) you have available and recreate many of the services you offer without having to interact with you at all. If they can go it alone, then how are you going to reach them?
In order to combat this, you need to ensure that the tools you are offering are valuable and provide services that your customers can’t get or do on their own, and, most importantly, are services that they want. If you neglect any of these, your fancy new tool will fail. With its failure will likely go a tremendous investment in time and money. That’s not going to look good. So, if you’re not sure about whether something might work, don’t forget to start small. It’s okay. You don’t always need to test with the complete, perfected (and massively expensive) version.
Perhaps I’ve over-simplified this a bit, but it was to make the simple points in the preceding paragraphs. Don’t waste your money on something customers don’t need, already have, or don’t care about.