A beginner’s guide to digital pharma: part 15 – implementation

Faisal Ahmed and Paul Tunnah


Continued from “A beginner’s guide to digital pharma: part 14 – online advertising

Well, we’ve covered a whole range of areas from websites, social media into online marketing and right through to using mobile phones for digital initiatives. By this point, you should have a good sense of what you’re looking to achieve and how you plan your digital strategy.

But how do you actually implement that strategy successfully and how do you know it’s working? Don’t believe those that say you can’t measure the return on investment (ROI) of digital and social media programs – if you can’t measure it you shouldn’t be doing it and there are plenty of ways to assess if what you’re doing is working.

So this week we’re going to look at how you measure ROI in the digital world and why it’s not just a snazzy buzz word developed by the boss so they can a) keep their job and b) keep the pressure on you! Ultimately, being able to predict ROI and then measure it in practice is critical when you’re asking for large scale investment in digital projects, particularly where those you’re asking for it from might not understand this space, or even be totally skeptical.

So if your audience is on a forum and you have to moderate the conversation at a cost of £30,000 per year then how do you persuade the boss to invest in that? This is particularly pertinent right now for pharma given the recent Facebook changes.

“Don’t believe those that say you can’t measure the return on investment (ROI) of digital and social media programs – if you can’t measure it you shouldn’t be doing it…”

However, the fact is that a lot of emerging technologies do not show an ROI that can be measured by traditional and straightforward metrics for at least a few years. So you need to be creative in your measurement, but also take the stance of “what if I’m not there?” – if the answer is “it won’t matter” then you’re heading in the wrong direction, but assuming it does matter you need to measure that in some way.

For example, how did the agency for Barclaycard convince their client to spend thousands and thousands on a game based on their waterslide advert? Simple – they set themselves targets based on achieving a certain number of downloads, equating to visibility for the brand. In the end, it was the number one game on the app store for months, notching over 9 million downloads and creating far more views that the original TV advert, which probably cost several hundred thousand pounds!

In truth, ROI is very important even before implementation as it makes you think about the relevance of the project, so never dismiss it. The key though is to not get too focused on simple financial metrics, but rather focus on upstream indicators of commercial success that are more easily measurable in the short-term.

Some key metrics often used in digital campaigns to measure ROI are:

• Website visitors

• Click-through numbers on banner and email campaigns

• Delivered emails

• Customer complaint numbers (low is good clearly!)

• YouTube views

• Blog comments

• Interaction on Facebook (number of comments / likes) and number of friends who actively visit your page

• Volumes of retweets on Twitter

• How many users check-in on foursquare and collect points

• Time spent interacting with the digital detail aid

So always think of the non-financial short-term element of ROI as well as the immediate financial. Arguments around the former are not just ways to “be part of emerging technologies”, but should also lead to significant downstream commercial benefits. If a digital campaign engenders trust and brand loyalty then the knock-on financial benefits could be enormous – just look at Apple.

“If a digital campaign engenders trust and brand loyalty then the knock-on financial benefits could be enormous – just look at Apple.”

Critically, if you use websites, search engine marketing, online banner advertising and iPad detailing, the understanding how they work together (in conjunction with offline elements) is paramount to success. One channel in isolation is rarely going to achieve the best results, so you need to measure activities as part of a coordinated marketing plan.

Practically then, if you want to check how many doctors have been influenced by your website or what they have found via SEO then there are a number of analytical tools you can use (above and beyond Google Analytics). Many of these also integrate with existing CRM systems to allow for coordinated marketing.

Here’s a few to take a look at:

www.google.com/analytics – detailed measurement of website traffic, routes in, favoured pages, relevant search terms, demographics etc.

web.analytics.yahoo.com – similar to Google Analytics, but developed by YAHOO! (obviously!)

www.webtrends.com – analytics and channel management software focused more on the social side of digital

www.omniture.com – social analytics and marketing powered by Adobe

www.crazyegg.com – heat mapping for websites (showing where users focus their attention on the page)

www.compete.com – competitive search and referral analytics

www.optimizely.com – tool allowing comparison and measurement of different variations of websites

However, these are all just tools – it’s what you do with them that is really important. Ultimately, you should ensure you’re following these steps when assessing how well implementation is going and measuring ROI:

• Define and challenge the metrics you are using for ROI

• Understand your audience, segment them and measure for subgroups – what works for some may not work for all!

• Try out different variations on a theme, measure their impact and scenario plan on a smaller scale before settling

• Integrate all your digital measurement with off-line activity

• Test and repeat!

And finally, don’t forget that although the digital channels are many and varied, the approaches and logic you would apply to measuring ROI on offline initiatives should be considered and adapted, rather than dismissed. For example, defining clicks as the only important metric for online advertising may seem logical, but if you applied the same logic to print advertising no-one would ever do it!

“The old adage of ‘if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’ holds very true for digital.”

The old adage of “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail” holds very true for digital. If you don’t have clear criteria for success and a way to measure your progress against them, there’s no way you can be deemed to succeed.

And you wouldn’t want to stand in front of your boss with no way to show success, so make sure you plan ahead, define what success looks like and use the tools available to measure ROI. That way, even if you do fail, at least you’ll know why so can learn for next time – a concept known as #failbetter amongst the Twitter community.

As always, let us know if you have comments, questions or feedback. Next time, we’ll round up the series with a refresher on why digital is important, just in case you’ve forgotten!

View the last article in the series here

About the authors:

Faisal Ahmed is one of a handful of people in the UK that has been involved with digital for over 14 years, providing digital thought leadership to some of the biggest brands globally, also contributing to some of the best-selling books on digital, having been part of the start-up team at Amazon, defining how we shop online. Faisal has launched digital strategies for 90 football Clubs, the ECB and WRC. He also launched Playboy’s mobile and social media platforms in 2006 and one of the first online social networks. Over the last 2 years Faisal has been working in Healthcare winning over 30 awards and bringing to life both one of the first mobile apps and augmented reality in healthcare. Faisal is currently working at Life-Healthcare and can be found Tweeting here @sickonthenet and contacted on LinkedIn here http://www.linkedin.com/in/ahmedfaisal.

Paul Tunnah is Founder and Managing Director of www.pharmaphorum.com, the dynamic online information and discussion portal for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

How do you measure ROI on digital initiatives?