The state of digital excellence within pharma

obvious-mathKEY TAKEAWAY: Achieving digital excellence is difficult and hinges upon several factors, including four key ones: organizational readiness, a sense of urgency, existing knowledge, and technical capability. But what about digital marketing Linchpins?

Whenever I read a “free report” on digital marketing I tend to take it with a grain of salt because it’s only a small part of the overall picture and asking organizations to talk about themselves is like looking in a mirror and not seeing the twenty pounds you gained.

The latest report on pharma digital excellence from DT associates does have some good points, but it fails to get to the underlying real problems that are keeping pharma from achieving real digital excellence.

One of the key findings, however, is spot on..

With an average maturity score of forty-one percent, the pharmaceutical industry still has a long journey ahead; even the top firms have not achieved a state where digital excellence is creating differentiated customer experiences.

A long journey would be a huge understatement.  What is so challenging is that as they embark on the journey the road is changing with a lot of detours and roadblocks.  Today digital marketers must not only prepare for launching and optimizing websites to support brands that have to be prepared to ask “where will digital marketing be in two or five years and how can we ensure that our organization is ready to leverage the channel?”.


The report further states that the most challenging is social media, MCM strategy and planning, and SEO. While website development ranks among the most mature capabilities in pharma, its sister capability SEO languishes among the bottom three, indicating that launching websites is more of a priority than optimizing them. Our data also suggest that marketing and digital teams need to further mature their strategy and planning before they fully understand how to reach customers with the right message, at the right time, in the right location.


Traditional, non-digital marketing practices are not always followed.

While personal technologies and social networking are new, the key marketing principles underlying them—like setting objectives and creating a plan—remain unchanged. So when we see that only seventeen percent of firms do research into their competitive differentiators and just twenty-two percent try to understand customer behavior throughout the customer life cycle, it becomes clear that some people in the marketing organization need a refresher course.


Any agency or consultant like me understand that it’s almost impossible to get money to do research for digital marketing let alone getting time and money for a usability study.  Just look at the new Cialis website which is one of the worst pharma sites I have ever seen. (If you have to ask why then you just don’t get it)

This is a horrible pharma website and clearly shows what happens when your agency runs things versus having a great emarketing person.
This is a horrible pharma website and clearly shows what happens when your agency runs things versus having a great emarketing person.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the report was this..

Senior marketing leaders at one of the largest pharmaceutical firms were told that eighty percent of their staffs’ activities no longer add value.

That is very troubling because pharma is looking to trim costs at a time when investment in digital marketing teams and people is needed. While digital agencies like InTouch Solutions offer a lot of value digital marketing people are still needed within the brand teams because they are closer to people with knowledge of patients and the target audience.

This report has a lot of good information, but I know firsthand that a lot of people within pharma are still fighting  their way uphill to get digital marketing where it should be to add value.  How long before these people say “It’s just too exhausting to keep fighting for what we should be doing vs. what we need to do?”.

Businessman pushing large rock uphill