At the recent Digital Pharma Europe conference held in Paris (see #digpharm), there was great debate surrounding how the different facets of marketing could be pulled together into a cohesive, coherent and effective multi-channel marketing strategy.

First of all, let us step back from this and establish what a multi-channel marketing strategy actually is.  Contrary to what is seemingly a fairly popular belief, you shouldn’t have a marketing strategy, a digital strategy, a direct mail strategy and so on, you should have one overall strategy which brings these many different marketing strategies together.  It is a strategy which contains and supports multiple marketing channels.  Hence the term, “Multi-Channel Marketing Strategy”.

The other key aspect of an MCM strategy is that it should be strategic.  It should state goals and expected outcomes, it should show how elements fit together.  It should share a common goal which is clear and well defined.

Secondly, I’d like to clarify what I mean by the term “traditional web”. What I’m referring to is the delivery of content, via the world wide web.  That’s it – there are no pre-requirements for pages to be boring, static, dull, filled with text – that’s not a constraint of the web.  The web is an engaging, exciting, lively place to be. Or at least it can be.  This is what many people call “web 2.0″ – interactivity & engagement.

The current trend in marketing, particularly in the pharma sector, is to focus on new technology, to do exciting new things; iPads, e-detailing, gamification, online communities, and so on.  And yet, as I pointed out at the Digital Pharma Europe conference in Paris, there are so many pharma companies who just aren’t getting the basics right.

Traditional web is one of these basics which is currently so badly utilised.

Why bother?

Many people would question why it’s important.  Why should I put effort into making my corporate or brand site engaging, exciting and informative – no one goes there!  Oxana Kolosova from the Russian HCP network IVRACH cited a survey which showed HCPs don’t use these sites.  Of course they don’t, they’ve never come across one which gives them the information they want.

The very insightful HCP who was in the conference audience said that the product sites she’s ever used have all been extremely user unfriendly, so she doesn’t use them.

But imagine if you, as a digital communications expert, could make that site interesting.  If you could make it engaging.  If you could make it genuinely useful to the intended audience.

I’m not saying that all the digital budget should be ploughed into websites like it was in 2001 – of course not (that wouldn’t be multi-channel).  But what I am saying is that there is definitely cause to look again at your traditional web assets and examine why they aren’t working for you.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to show that the market is there for this.

1.    Imagine a GP, in their office – the Sales Rep visits.  They spend 25 minutes talking through a new product; the GP asks a few questions and seems comfortable with the drug they have been discussing.  The Sales Rep leaves.  10 minutes later, the GP thinks of another question they should have asked.  What will that GP do then?  Will they call the Rep?  Will the wait until the Rep comes again?  Will they ask a colleague?  Or will they Google it?  The chances are they’ll Google it.  Where will Google take them?  It will take them to a list of search results, related to YOUR drug.  Some of these will be your sites, some will be other people’s sites.  The doctor wants one small piece of information.  Can they find it?  Probably not on your current product site no, because it’s a marketing tool, it’s not a helpful, easy-to-use information resource.  We’ll come back to this shortly.

2.    Imagine, as in an example we heard at the conference, that you are a parent.  Your child has just been diagnosed with a condition which needs pretty serious medical treatment.  You clearly care a lot about this, and put some time into researching what treatments they might be given.  Where do you start?  Google.  Where does Google take you?  I think you get the idea…  Now I know we’re not allowed to market to consumers, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t access the same content HCPs do.  They can click that “Yes, I’m an HCP” button too you know…  (This case study is based on a real-life example that was stated by an audience member at the conference – it’s neither my recommendation nor my strategy to target your web communications at consumers).

Google is the main resource for anyone looking for information on anything (other search engines are available).  We all know the facts and figures about how many people search for health related information online.  It’s a huge number.  That’s all that matters.  That, and the fact that all of those people who are searching are potential customers.  If you need reminding of these figures, try asking Google.

You can’t afford for people to be finding their information on your products, brands, services, or disease areas that are important to your business from other people’s resources.  You can’t allow them to be finding a better service elsewhere or to be getting (possibly inaccurate) information from impartial sources like Wikipedia.  You need to be telling them it accurately, straightforwardly and in a way which they want it and can understand it.

Now, going back to my original point which is about why this is important – Google search results can’t take you to an e-detailing app which is on your rep’s device.  Results can’t take you to the PIL.  They can’t take you to that mail out that you sent last month.  Where can they take you?  To a website.

This really isn’t rocket science.  It’s really quite straightforward.  And it’s vitally important.

Nine Steps to Digital Heaven

I’ve created a 9 step process which will lead you to effective, engaging, informative web content, delivered in a compelling way, which could revolutionise your use of traditional web easily, cheaply and fairly quickly. You should go through these stages for every marketing activity you do, not just online.

1.    Establish what your message is.
2.    Establish who your audience are.
3.    Question whether your audience really want to receive that message.  If they don’t then the chances are either number 1 or 2 is wrong (probably 1).  You should readdress this by thinking what your audience would want the message to be – they will only consume your content if it is content that they are interested in.
4.    Think about how the audience would like to receive this information – do they want it on the web, in an app, on a piece of paper, an email, face to face…?
5.    Ask yourself whether you are able to deliver that message in that way to that audience.  If not, start again, reviewing your answers.
6.    Think about how you can maximise engagement with the message – see below for ideas on how to do this.
7.    Do it.
8.    Review your activity, presence & content – is it working? How well? Can you do anything better?  What’s not working?
9.    Repeat.

Compare this thoughtful, but still easy approach with what currently happens with some product and corporate sites (the ones that aren’t working):

1.    What do we want to tell people, ideally using content we already have?
2.    Can we put this information on a website?
3.    Put the information on a site and leave it there.

See the difference?

Fishing for Customers

At the conference, my point was countered with “Fish where the Fish are” – instead of that, how about “Put the right food in the water and let the fish come”?

HCPs and patients (the two customer profiles) will go wherever the information that they need is.  If you provide that information in a way which they like – they will come to you and your web content.

It’s all about Return on Investment – spend a little, gain a lot.  Spend less money on shiny tech stuff and really invest in your content.  That is where your real ROI will come from.


There are a few key messages which I’d really like to highlight from this:
1.    Think about your audience – what do they want?  If you have the content that they want, then they will come to you (attract the fish with the food).  Think about two things – Who is this for and what do they want?
2.    Content is Still King – but it’s not about what content you have, but what content your customers want.
3.    Make your content engaging.  It’s really important to invest in making your content good – if it’s dry & boring, people won’t bother.  Think about animations, videos, podcasts, illustrations, interactivity, e-learning, simple gamification.  Give them something to do, not just to read.
4.    Once you’ve done this, then think about yourself – what do I want out of this: box ticking (got to have a website), sign ups (for what…?), Call to Action – make sure it’s easy for the user to do what you need them to do (after they’ve done what they want to do).

This is all pretty simple – it’s about user-centric marketing. Take this blog as an example – what I really want to say is “Come to us to review and improve you web presence”, but that’s not what you want to read, so I’ve given you the content that you want, and hidden that message within it, by (hopefully) talking sense and convincing you that I know what I’m talking about and am passionate about it.

On that note, here’s my call to action for you – if you think what I’m saying is right and you believe that traditional web still has a role to play in your MCM strategy, then please get in touch.  I’ll give you a 2 hour free consultation to look at your existing web assets and start to put some plans in place for how we can make them work better for you.  What have you got to lose?

Please also feel free to post your thoughts & comments below.

NuBlue Web Design Agency is a specialist in the field of Digital Pharma and Digital Pharma Marketing. With experience in creating online communities, E-learning and bespoke digital projects.

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