“We think” is not a strategy

thinkingPOST SUMMARY: The best digital marketing comes from a complete understanding of your audience through research, not through research that was intended for brand positioning.

Not too long ago I met with a biotech company here in Cambridge who wanted a better understanding of how their digital marketing was driving brand objectives.  As I started an audit of their site, along with competitors, I found that there was a lot of missing content.  When I presented the results if my findings to their emarketing team I kept hearing “we think…”.  I finally stopped the presentation and asked the hard question “has anyone done research with our target audience to learn what THEY want and need to answer THEIR questions about different treatments?  The bottom line was that a lot of research had been done but very little of it was done with the objective to make a great product website by meeting users’ needs and wants.


I have had some great successes in developing healthcare websites and the sites with the greatest success started and ended with user needs via qualitative and quantitative research.  I still remember one research group when we asked potential users to design the ideal healthcare site.  They actually used a chalkboard to design a homepage that ultimately became the anchor of our testing and tested really well.

I know DTC budgets are tight, but can you really afford to develop a product website that doesn’t maximize patient engagement?  You only have one chance to make a first impression and for most of pharma websites that first impression is not a good one because we are throwing darts at a target in the dark with a blindfold.

Websites are about users, if they don’t like what they see (look at your bounce rate) then they will go somewhere else to get the answers they need and you lose control of the message you want to communicate.

I am a big believer in research to develop “best in class” websites and while some people call for pharma to develop mobile apps there still isn’t enough research done to show that people would use these apps.  DTC digital marketers should not develop a menu of interactive tactics unless it has been clearly shown that it’s what the audience wants and needs.   An email informing patients the importance of staying on therapy is not going to be effective if patients think it’s “a drug company trying to sell me more drugs”.


Overall, we need a great process to develop a healthcare website, but that process has to be optimized after learning what patients need and want.  We think is not a strategy and it wastes too much money at a time when money is hard to come by.