Which digital tactics provide the greatest ROI for pharma marketers?

digitalmarketingAs the drug industry gets ready to invest more money into digital marketing to cut costs and increase efficiencies they have a lot of tactic available to them.  Digital marketing, today, isn’t just getting up a website it’s a combination of understanding how consumers are using the digital channel to research and make healthcare decisions.  The number one tactic that provides the greatest ROI for pharma marketers continues to be a branded pharma website but there is considerable room for improvement.

Digital Marketing Tactics – Direct to Consumer

(1) Branded (product) websites – Comscore, in their updated yearly research, has continued to show that consumers who come to a branded pharma website have a higher lift (conversion) than people who do not.  There are branded pharma websites for almost every pharmaceutical product on the market but the difference in website quality is measurable.   Most pharma websites are not optimized for mobile devices which today is inexcusable and the content continues to be a challenge for the average user to understand.  In addition pharma has not yet learned the value of consistently updating the content on their sites to keep users coming back and updated on new health information.

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(2) Paid Media ( search/online ads) – Obviously pharma has had a hard time with search because of the limitations of content within Google paid search.  There is no way that they can advertise their product and include fair balance.  However some savvy pharma marketers are finding a way around this by just listing the product or the health condition.

While Comscore found that online banner ads did not have the success of branded product websites they did find that ads containing Rich media were more successful.  The key for successful online banner ads is going to be to ensure that the message is more relevant to the audience through better targeting.

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(3) Mobile (apps) – The challenge of developing and implementing mobile apps is going to be heavy lifting for pharma when it comes to measuring ROI.  PEW Internet, earlier this year, found that only 5% of consumers download and use apps related to health conditions or medications and that up to 80% of them are deleted within 4 weeks.  They key here is to conduct research with your target audience to determine their needs when it comes to the use of mobile apps and then develop a good user experience around mobile apps so consumers keep using them.  Pharma also has to consider if their audience is using mobile apps and ensure that they release the apps that support iOS (Apple) Android (Google) and Windows (Microsoft).

Health apps are not the top category for downloads according to Pew Internet

Health apps are not the top category for downloads according to Pew Internet

 

The top apps for health are ones that help users track fitness and exercise

The top apps for health are ones that help users track fitness and exercise

 

(4) Video Content – Almost 85% of consumers have a YouTube account and the majority of consumers do watch online videos. That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the longer the video the shorter the attention span and then there is the issue of fair balance in any pharma videos that talk about health conditions and medications.  The changes in YouTube brand channels also has pharma regulatory and legal people taking a more cautious approach.

19% of the US population, or about 45 million American adults view Originally Produced Online Video each month (19% * 238.5M US adults) Source: IAB Report 2013

(5) Organic Search - 90% of users click on searches contained within the first page of search results.  That’s good news but Google has changed some of the parameters of organic search. Sites that have more content related to the keyword being searched and have content that is being shared is going to rank higher than sites that have less use of critical keywords.  This means that all content should be reviewed for both relevancy (keywords) and social sharing should also be included if it can be implemented within the FDA guidelines (yes it can be done !).

Direct to Physician

eDetailing - Cegedim that in the US, spending on e-detailing, e-mailing and Webinar /Webcast type promotion was up 65% over 2011. Not surprising since 10% of pharma sales forces have been laid off here in the US.   While the idea of eDetailing sound like a great way to reach physicians they have to consider when physicians are available for eDetailing and move beyond a canned pitch.  In addition research has shown that physicians are relying more on mobile apps for prescribing information.

eDetailing

Despite the desire to move to eDetailing to save money most physicians are neutral when it comes to eDetailing

Despite the desire to move to eDetailing to save money most physicians are neutral when it comes to eDetailing

 

I would argue that the digital channel does not necessarily mean lower costs although it can offer improved marketing in terms of ROI.  There is a perception that digital marketing is less expensive than other marketing channels but I have found that isn’t true if you’re going to do it right.

3 thoughts on “Which digital tactics provide the greatest ROI for pharma marketers?

  1. This is a great article and highlights the poor performance of Pharma in digital marketing. I think this is partly due to the legacy of supporting journals… if the Pharma adverts disappeared from the magazines, we’d have NO medical magazines. However, apart from the excellent points outlined above, some of which are inexcusable blunders by Pharma, the biggest ‘upstream’ problem is that Pharma are throwing money at the ‘red ocean’ of promoting undifferentiated products. If the products had been thought through, selecting the right patients to study and creating relevant endpoints would lead to simple, effective promotion. Pouring yet more money into putting ‘lipstick on the pig’ at launch is like re-applying a band aid that has been washed off.

  2. Graham: You make a really good point. There is too much of a perception that digital marketing is less expensive than off line marketing but that isn’t true today if you’re going to do digital marketing right. Also research shows that physicians prefer to go to more credible online health sites rather than eDetail with pharma because of credibility issues.

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