The scope of what we call marketing seems to be growing every day. Within the professional lives of many in the business of pharmaceutical marketing, a campaign of one-size-fits-all magazine ads alone was considered sufficient to launch and sustain a multi-million-dollar brand. Then came television, then the internet, then mobile devices, and on and on – and with each, the expectations of our audiences have grown. Today customers expect an experience from brands, one that caters to their individual needs through a variety of media, especially digital and interactive media. And for all the progress in the digital space, pharma as an industry has not done a particularly good job of providing these coordinated and customized experiences. How to improve? Read on.
Mobile-friendly just isn’t good enough.
Adapting your desktop website to make it “mobile-friendly” is starting to look a bit backwards, given that more than half of web traffic is now coming from mobile devices. If we really want to engage our audiences where they want to be engaged, we need to be thinking mobile first. Every patient interaction that we seek in the digital space – ads, websites, interactive content, email, all of it – should be created with the mobile experience at top of mind. Old-fashioned responsive design works okay for vanilla text content, but any communication tool with any degree of complexity in it ought to be built for mobile, not just able to adapt to it. Agencies and marketers need to adapt to capture attention in the first 35 characters of email subject lines. They even need to think about thumb fatigue when designing pages that may be too long.
Mobile-savvy patients expect quick hits.
People don’t use mobile devices for the same reasons they use desktops. They don’t go to their smartphones to do in-depth research; they go there to find information fast. So marketers need to be tailoring their mobile experiences that way. A good mobile site should offer access to information, services and tools quickly – services and tools like health trackers, copay support apps, specialist or pharmacy locators, non-intimidating patient education portals, touch-here-and-ring-the-patient-support-center-right-now. Great masses of text or dozens of links on a page are not your friend in the mobile environment. We see a day in the near future where patients can even “FaceTime” with their doctor or nurse for live but remote care. Telemedicine, powered by mobile and a desire to reduce healthcare costs, is about to boom!
Plain old targeting isn’t enough any more either.
Data is everywhere and those that capitalize on it will win. So we need to target more deeply – to hypertarget – and think in terms of the cultural prisms through which our audiences will view our communications. To do this we must move beyond traditional segmentation and actually build whole experiences to match each segment. For example, if your brand might have an opportunity in the Hispanic population, you should be developing your communications for that population from the ground up, not just as an offshoot of the “standard” materials. In the old days marketers used to write everything in English and translate as necessary – but today’s audiences, whatever their ethnicity, are expecting more than that. So cultural adaptation versus plain translation is the key to connecting with multicultural audiences. They are expecting communications and images and services that are attuned to their cultural background, and may be actively turned off by those that aren’t.
Leverage landing pages – and please, let’s optimize them.
A handful of pharma brands are beginning to catch on to the vanity URL and landing page concept – creating landing pages focused on narrower topics within brand.com and then strategically salting ads with them, with the hope of creating a deeper connection. For example, one might embed brand.com/efficacy into a TV ad that focuses on copay information, so that the patient ends up encountering multiple reinforcing messages. The trouble is that, as frequently happens in pharma, too many brands are investing in vanity URLs, tossing them out into the marketplace, but never really following up to optimize their use. With just a little added push – the push of A/B testing multiple URLs in the same ad or multiple ads with the same URL – brands could find out which combinations generate the most click-throughs, the most interest – and the best experience for the patient. The idea is to make every dollar work as efficiently as possible. If patient experiences are to be a matter of priority for your brand, you’d best be paying attention to the outcomes of those experiences and optimizing accordingly.
Mind your language, and how much of it there is.
We love our content in pharma. Maybe it’s how invested we are in our brands, or maybe it’s the regulatory requirements and complex review process, but we as an industry find it difficult to resist loading up our patient communications with everything at once. Yes, some of that cannot be avoided due to the need for important safety information and fair balance. But even on top of those guidelines we tend to be content-verbose, trying to squeeze everything into one experience or capture everything possible in a single registration form. It takes a true digital marketer to have the confidence to keep it short, sweet, and sticky, creating an experience and journey over time that delivers the content and value to the patient in digestible pieces.
So we need to narrow the focus of our messaging. Let our customer choose what he or she is seeking and provide it, and it alone, with a pathway to more as needed. Lose the long pages with multiple messages. Offer one call to action rather than four. Keep everything simple, scannable, short, and sweet.
Integrate, integrate, integrate.
Pharma companies love to create monuments to their brands. They can’t just offer a diet tool; it has to be the company’s branded diet tool. But customers don’t think that way. Customers want tools that are applicable across the whole spectrum of their lives, and they don’t much care what brand is attached. For example, many patients with diabetes have other health issues, too, like hypertension. In our present brand monument environment, that might mean one health tracker from the diabetes company, another from the cardio company, and maybe even another from the weight loss company, all beautifully lacquered up with each brand’s name. Or, the patient could use Apple’s Health app, which can take inputs from virtually anywhere and cover all of those bases, creating a simpler experience. Which do you think the typical patient will choose?
So we need to start thinking more holistically. If we really want to improve the patient experience, we have to start building tools and services that can be tied together with other tools and services, even third-party ones, rather than just monuments that are unique and proprietary to our own brands and companies. And yes, some companies are doing this already – Novo Nordisk with Glooko, Sanofi with Google, Novartis with Verily. But we need to see more of it. If a truly integrated and productive patient experience is going to be a matter of priority for pharma brands, we are going to have to start partnering across industries and converging when possible to provide patients the ideal seamless experience.