KEY TAKEAWAY: Pharma marketers should look for a digital agency that integrates well with their organization and has a great process to develop a best-in-class digital initiative. They also need agencies that can separate the hype from the fact of digital tactics.
(1) Do they understand the challenges of reaching empowered patients? Let’s face it, there is way too much health information online and users are often overwhelmed with information they don’t understand. Good agencies understand this, but understand it within the context of your product and disease state rather than the whole online health environment.
(2) Has their Chief Digital person actually worked on and launched a brand working in a pharma company? I’m sorry, but there are too many who have no experience in actually working for a brand team within a pharma company. I don’t want people who have gone from agency to agency with better titles and have presented at conferences, give me people who have actually DONE it within the pharma organization so they can understand the challenges we all face.
(3) Are they telling you what to do even though they don’t yet understand the insights from your research?
(4) Do they have a process that includes market research and usability studies for your digital marketing?
(5) Is one of the first questions they ask “what is your budget?”. This is to help them decide if “you’re important” enough to allocate their “A” team.
(6) Are they spending time trying to understand your organizational climate and challenges?
(7) Is there a “connection” between you and your day-to-day contact ? Can you bounce ideas off of each other and talk to one another openly and honestly?
(8) Are they more interested in making a name for themselves or making you look good? If you hire the right digital agency they are going to make you look really good because they showed what great digital marketing can do.
(9) Will they integrate well with everyone in your organization? If, for example, they want to conduct some market research with users needs will your market research people see them as a strategic partner or a threat and is your agency willing to work with them to finalize the research guidelines ?
(10) Are you paying for big agency overhead? Time and time again, I have found that big agencies charge a lot more and deliver a lot less because of the financial requirements of meeting overhead costs. I have had agencies prepare Power Point templates for me and screen shots of proposed websites at no cost because they wanted to work with us and didn’t see us as a cash cow.
There are lots of people within the pharma agency world who have gone from agency to agency in search of a great title, but there are also a lot of people who continue to add a lot of value at small agencies like InTouch Solutions. The fact that these people continue to work for these smaller agencies is an attribute to them and their drive.
When someone has never worked on a brand from within pharma that is a warning sign to me, especially if they have no launch experience and have left to pursue “titles”. You get what you pay for and while a lot of digital agencies are seeing pharma as cash registers few see them as an opportunity to help make a difference in patients’ lives.