The good news is that pharma companies are planning to invest more money into digital marketing, the bad news is that pharma is planning to invest more money into digital marketing. With most pharma companies continuing to layoff people and the demand for digital marketers increasing I wonder if pharma can attract digital marketing people and start building capabilities. They could of course rely on agencies but most agencies don’t have the patience or time to educate marketers on what should be done to engage empowered patients.
In talking with a senior agency person late last year he indicated to me that one of his biggest frustrations, in working with pharma, was that they had to spend more time “educating” managers on digital marketing 101 than in actually strategizing how best to use the digital channel to drive brand objectives. He said that is became even more frustrating when a brand person left his, her, position requiring them to start at square one again.
While agency people are very optimistic about the shift of marketing dollars there is, I am sure, also going to be a lot of time spent on educating pharma people on the many aspects of digital marketing. While I believe that agencies need to be more than vendors their resources can be wasted if they spend more time explaining why and how than actually implementing. Good agencies like Greater Than One and InTouch Solutions have the expertise to reach empowered consumers and patients but other big agencies usually don’t have the time to teach others what they should already know.
One of the things we did while I was at Lilly was to build capabilities by teaching other brand team members what we had done and what had worked and what did not work. We also had one agency across all brands which helped a great deal in moving digital initiatives forward as they understood the dynamics of the organization and how to work with legal and regulatory teams.
What I am suggesting is that rather than just write checks for more digital marketing pharma needs to recruit and hire digital marketing talent. It’s not going to be easy because good digital marketing talent is in demand right now but strategically pharma needs to do whatever they have to do to attract talented marketers. Before joining eMarketer I was often amazed at some of the questions that healthcare clients used to ask me about digital marketing. For example, some did not understand basic search terms like bounce rates and cost per targeted action for SEM.
Agencies are here as a resource for pharma companies but pharma needs to listen to what they have to say and spend less time asking why. Layout success metrics before hand so that agencies understand how they will be measured and share as much information as possible and make the sharing of information seamless. Agency people should know as much about your brand and its customers as managers who work on the product.