‘Good enough’ digital marketing not an option for pharma

Pharma companies must analyse the user experience of their websites to ensure continued patient engagement, and review their digital strategy frequently. This is where digital marketers can step in to help, says Richard Meyer.

It has been estimated that 1 in 20 searches on Google are for health-related information and that there has been a 15% increase in health-related searches over the last four years.

Decision Resources Group reported that, in 2015, 43% of patients searched for medical information before seeing a doctor and 72% of patients with pre-existing conditions searched when first experiencing symptoms to understand what condition they might have. The research also noted that 60% of patients with pre-existing conditions chose to validate a doctor’s opinion with their own online research. In other words, digital is becoming integral to the consumerisation of healthcare.

Some pharma companies are experimenting in new areas and trying new things to engage patients but, today, just ‘getting it done’ is not good enough. Digital marketers understand that they need to continually optimise digital strategies to ensure a good online experience for patients. Failure to do this can result in wasted money and cut budgets.

I think a great example of the need for improvement is Biogen’s Above MS website. According to web traffic data and analytics company Alexa, the website gets a lot of traffic but the bounce rate is close to 50% and page views are only 2.2 pages per visitor. A website dedicated to providing resources to multiple sclerosis patients can surely do a lot better than that. I wonder whether they conducted any research with users and, if so, why isn’t the site more successful?

Digital optimisation is not something that can be done ‘once in a while’; in some cases it needs to be done weekly. Website analytics can not only give you numbers; they can paint a picture of how people are thinking about your product as they use your website.

Good digital marketers go beyond reporting numbers and tell a story. They identify opportunities to improve the online experience.

Most consumer product marketers have analytics departments but, in pharma companies, the analysis of digital marketing is usually left to one or two people who merely report numbers. This presents an opportunity for agencies to play a crucial role in their digital marketing evolution.

Faster decisions

As consumers rely more heavily on mobile, web sessions are getting shorter and more frequent and, as a result, consumers make more informed decisions faster. Adding a lot of content that isn’t read and failing to conduct usability studies ensures that site visitors leave your site frustrated.

I recently led a usability study to listen to the top three comments following a patient’s visit to a pharma website. It took over three weeks before we were able to communicate those brand attributes in a meaningful way. The industry needs to be more agile.

Forward-thinking pharma companies are investing more money in digital marketing because they understand that it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle for brand success. But this isn’t enough. Pharma also has to attract, recruit and hold on to top digital performers who can ‘get things done’ while also educating executives on the importance of digital in patient choices. There seem to be few openings for digital marketers in pharma companies and, when they do recruit, too often they want people who won’t rock the boat at a time when boats need to be tipped over.

About the author:

Richard Meyer has over 20 years of marketing experience in consumer packaged goods and healthcare. He has worked for companies like Eli Lilly and Medtronic, and recently sold his digital healthcare consulting business to take a position as chief strategy officer.

Rich currently works with healthcare clients to develop DTC and HCP marketing initiatives. He leads research for clients and identifies actionable strategies to improve marketing. He has an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology.

Visit Richard’s blog here.

Read more from Richard Meyer on pharmaphorum:

Want pharma website success? Make it about your audience