It’s that time again. Brands are starting their annual cycle of planning for the coming year. One of the quirks of pharma, that I haven’t experienced when working with other industries, is that brand managers responsible for digital turn over (through promotion or responsibility change) at an alarmingly high rate. As such, the institutional knowledge and learning for the role gets easily lost. Since a decent portion of pharma marketers enter a digital management role with little or no actual digital marketing experience, I thought it would be helpful to provide some edicts to ensure fruitful digital marketing campaigns for the years to come. Enjoy.
1. Thou shalt put no other strategy before thy brand strategy.
Too often for brands, digital strategies are created in a complete vacuum from the overall brand strategy, or worse, no digital strategy is crafted at all. Since digital is the glue that ties the entirety of a marketing plan and tactics together, anything that happens online needs to ladder up to the higher objectives of the brand. An effective digital strategy is typically composed of a group of sub strategies to effectively plan and account for owned, earned, shared, and paid assets. Take a look at your plan. If you can’t clearly articulate how your digital strategy (or objectives) ladder up in the overall brand, you need to rethink your approach.
2. Thou shalt not make for yourselves any shiny idols.
Most brands have some form of goal around innovation. And that’s important because innovations drive the business forward. But innovation doesn’t mean new, it means better. Your strategy should help you select your tactics, not the other way around. If you are seeking to use a tool or platform because you think it’s cool or innovative, and can’t identify how or why it works for your audience, you’re worshipping the shiny object and are destined to fail.
3. Thou shalt remember thy user and put no interests before theirs.
I can’t stress this enough. Too often marketers approach digital from the mindset of their own (or their brand) objectives. Users crave value, utility, and having their needs met. This is especially true online where fractions of a second can make or break a potential engagement. Instead of focusing on your needs, try and determine what your users want and how you can insert your brand or your content into their lives in a way that makes sense. It may mean you have to produce less banner ads and create more of something else.
4. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s platform.
Just because your competition is doing something doesn’t mean you should too. See commandments 1-3 for the best way to evaluate any program or platform.
5. Thou shalt honor thy tablet and thy smartphone.
Like it or not, it’s absolutely time to begin thinking mobile-first. About 85% of HCP’s are using a tablet in their practice (and it’s almost entirely an iDevice) and 1 in 3 people in the US now own a tablet as well. That, coupled with the penetration rate of smart phones, means your brand had better be ready to provide mobile optimized content, tools, and resources for your users. Given that a decent percentage of medications are being prescribed based on the brand preference of the patient, owning the point of decision can be a key differentiator.
6. Thou shalt remember thy metrics and keep them near to thy hearts.
It’s important to understand the difference between metrics and analysis. Metrics are just data. How many clicks. Time on site. Single page abandonment rate. They’re all just numbers. Analysis tells you what to do next. A common misunderstanding is that they are one and the same. Google analytics may be free, but can’t give you any insight into what the numbers mean or where to go from here. Too often marketers collect (or simply ignore) data and give no thought (or budget) into understanding it. The digital medium allows you to be nimble and react to your users with far greater speed and efficiency. Are you?
7. Thou shalt not murder thy programs before their time.
The thing about mobile and social that makes most marketers wary is the time investment required to be successful. Not the time required to to get them launched, but the time required to keep them going. Mobile and social platforms can be very powerful tools for brands but they will need to be tended to and fed routinely. ‘Launch and ignore’ is a recipe for failure. In addition, you just can’t pull the plug on them 9 months later because the previous marketer moved on. Pharma needs to start thinking about its efforts more like products and less like programs to build a sustainable relationship with its customers. Especially since some of them will be lifelong users of your drugs.
8. Thou shalt heed the council of the wise and honor them with thy deeds.
If you’re a brand marketer, congratulations. You have an army of smart people working for you. Highly paid, highly trained, with the sole focus of trying to make you successful. Do you treat them accordingly? The best agency – client relationships are a true partnership where everyone feels comfortable bringing ideas and co-authoring success. In some cases they will know more than you, in some cases not. Treat your agency folks fairly and with respect and they’ll move mountains for you. When they help you succeed, tell them. When they screw up, do the same. People with talent have options. Kick them like dogs and you’ll find your business staffed with an agency’s ‘c-level’ players in a hurry.
9. Thou shalt share thy content with all whom have need.
Despite all the time, effort, and care you give your website, it’s not that important. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m calling your baby ugly. I’m not. But users want content where and when they want it, and they want to do with it as they please. You should take it as a compliment if they decide to copy, share, link, or tweet it elsewhere. Is your content sharable? It should be. Are your videos compliant so they can be posted elsewhere? Get on it. There’s no better amplifier for your brand than your customers.
10. Thou shalt not covet the guidance of the FDA, for surely thou shalt weep.
The FDA will most likely issue guidance that is similar in scope and scale to what currently exists for DTC, which is, don’t misrepresent claims and make sure to include appropriate balance statements. Any pharma companies looking for grand and sweeping guidance are likely going to be disappointed. Moreover, more guidance will most likely lead to less opportunity. The only rules that keep pharma from engaging in social media are the ones that are self imposed. Be smart. Include balance. Provide context and value. If you do all of those things, you’ll be fine.
Editors note: The Google search results for “Moses with an iPhone” are great. ‘Moses with an iPhone’ should also be the name of Daft Punk’s next album. Just sayin’