How much should pharma spend on digital marketing ?

Building_a_dot_com_0300pxI’m getting a lot of calls with the age old question “how much should I budget in 2014 for digital marketing ?”.  The answer to that is complex and largely depends on on the demographics, psychographics and technographics of your target audience.  Any digital marketing initiatives need to have a straight line to your brand objectives but within digital marketing there are a number of tactics that you can use but not all are going to provide a good ROI.  Here are some tactics that you should review in 2014..

(1) Search Engine Marketing – Forrester, in its annual report on how consumers found websites during the past year, discovered that 54% of respondents found websites through natural search results in 2012, up from 50% in 2011.  In what’s likely a surprise to many search marketers, just 18% of those surveyed said that they used paid search ads for website discovery. This despite the fact that paid search spending is still increasing, according to other studies that track marketing budgets.

Follow-up Action: Track your SEO budget beyond clicks.  Look at time on site via keyword or cost per targeted action.  This should be done monthly through the agency that is purchasing your keywords.  You also need to ensure that your website is optimized for natural search results.



(2) Non-Branded Website – A non-branded website can help increase awareness of certain health conditions but DTC marketers should understand that users are not going to go to just one website to make a healthcare treatment decision.  Your content should be patient focused and answer the key questions uncovered during research and web analytics.

Follow-up Action: If there is high awareness of the health condition in which you are competing a disease state website could be a waste of money.  The goal is not just to create awareness it’s also to position your brand as the “experts” around the health condition.  For this reason you will need a content update plan as well as a way to listen to conversations on social media so you can address issues and barriers to treatment.


(3) Branded Website – How much should you spend on a branded website ?  There is no one universal formula or answer it largely depends on just how important digital is to your overall marketing mix.  However, with more and more people turning to the Web for health information your branded website is most likely an important step in choosing your brand as a treatment option.  Beyond the basic website you should budget enough money for qual research to uncover target audience needs and wants as well as usability testing.  In addition your branded website should not be “once and done”.  You need a content strategy and there are a lot of very good content providers out there as well as thought leaders who would like to write about health.

Follow-up Action:  Review the process for developing a branded website and prioritize features which are going to drive brand objectives with your target audience.  The goal is to marry user needs and wants with key brand drivers.  You can test 3rd part content on your site via your analytics.  Also develop a timetable for updating your site.


(4) Social Media – While the numbers of people using social media for health seems to be increasing there is no real data that shows that consumers want to have a social relationship with pharma companies.  Companies like Sanofi, however, are using social media to develop a strong brand presence within the diabetes community.  Frankly I would prioritize social media as nice to have but not a must bet it largely depends on your audience.

Follow-up Action: Review social media channels around your health condition and competitors brands to identify gaps and opportunities.  Keep in mind that social media requires a full time person it’s not something to do once and post every once in a while.


These are just three tactics that you need to review but remember what works for one health condition will not necessarily work for others.  Research drives insights which in turns drives the strategy.

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  1. Pingback: How much should pharma spend on digital marketing ? | Business Acumen in Pharma Industry

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