Pharma needs to move to digital NOW

SUMMARY: Today, more physicians and patients rely on the Internet to answer their questions about emerging treatments, including prescription drugs. If there is one industry that needs to think more about digital, it’s pharma. The reliance on agencies still is a building block, but who on the brand team is the person to ensure you maximize your digital strategy?

One of the services that I provide is an in-depth analysis of clients’ websites, including analytics. Here are some common issues that I find:

1ne: The click-stream research shows that people go to many other health websites to collect information after leaving a pharma product website.

2wo: Time on site and pages viewed remain very low.

3hree: There is a correlation between bounce rates and the product lifecycle. Newer products have a lower bounce rate, while products that have been on the market longer have higher bounce rates.

4our: The online experience for branded sites varies by device.

5ive: In-depth analysis of content still shows it to be at a college-level reading level.

Health care professionals are finding that pharma sites don’t provide enough answers and are using HCP-targeted sites more and more. The number one site is still Medscape, but Sermo and Doximity are gaining a solid audience. This is a severe concern in an era where more HCPs are refusing to meet with pharma reps.

So what’s the answer?

Senior management needs to push for digitalization. No more separate “eMarketing people or departments” but integrate digital people within every brand team function. These people need to have substantial experience in digital marketing and an urge to break the bubble that prevents a digital way of thinking.

Taking a DTC person, who may have some marketing experience, and assigning them the responsibility for a digital marketing strategy is not practical. The demand for digital people is at an all-time high, so it’s a very competitive market, and very few want to work in an industry where they hear “we can’t do that,” but that has to change.

What about your digital agency?

Unless they have a person assigned to every brand team and on-site, they can never be fully integrated. Dedicated brand team integrated digital marketing people can communicate with your digital agency on their level and eliminate tactics that don’t work for your audience. They can also emphasize the importance of usability studies and help sell digital to digital skeptics in the company. Saying we’re going to use an in-house person to buy our paid digital media is a waste of money without people who can design that media with a total understanding of your audience.

Digital agencies have a lot of experience, but they should not do what a client says. They need their people to understand the brand as well as the senior marketing person.

Pharma needs to evolve and light a fire to move to digital. Waiting too kind will result in a lot of wasted money and ineffective tactics.