How pharma can achieve digital excellence


In order to reap the rewards available in the digital space, marketers need to realise that users control the channel and then think like users in implementing a content plan to engage them.

Digital excellence. We all talk about it, but what does it actually mean in practice when implementing direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing in the US? The first thing we need to understand is that users control the channel, not marketers. Anyone can turn off your message with the click of a mouse if they don't like what they see or read. Focusing on the user, instead of the marketing message, is just one step towards achieving digital marketing excellence.

A recent report indicated that more pharma marketers are conducting usability studies, but the percentage is still less than half of pharma companies sampled. In an age when most users are time-pressed and scan, rather than read, webpages, isn't it prudent to ensure that your website is optimised for your audience? A great example is something I call 'intuitive navigation'.

Simply explained, intuitive navigation is website navigation based on the way your audience is thinking about your product, not on what information you want to promote. A usability study can help you ensure your website gets, and holds, your users' attention.


"One of the best investments you can make is to hire a writer to turn boring medical content into engaging reading"


Another important part of digital excellence is content. Content is important to position your brand with patients. Content that is too 'technical' or hard to understand means that users will go elsewhere to answer their questions about health problems and possible treatment options. Great content can keep people on your website and engage them, which is exactly what you want and need, but be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that people spending a long time on your site is necessarily a good thing. This could indicate that users are having a problem reading your content or that your pages have too much content. One of the best investments you can make is to hire a writer to turn boring medical content into engaging reading.

Probably one of the biggest mistakes pharma emarketers can make is to believe that once the website is live, it's done. Nothing can be further from the truth. Analytics can provide you with a detailed picture of what people are doing on your site and the pages THEY want to spend time on and see as useful. You should be reviewing this data on a regular basis and optimising your website accordingly. Even though you may feel they are important, pages that have low traffic should be deleted, or moved to other areas of the site. In addition, you should be refreshing content via a content publication plan.

Finally, excellent digital marketers understand the need for, and importance of, an analytics department that is tightly integrated with the market research and patient insights departments. By working together, they can provide you with a detailed picture of what information people are using to make healthcare decisions. A click stream analysis, for example, can tell you where your audience is going before, and after, visiting your website.

There is no magic formula to achieve digital excellence and what makes digital marketing so challenging is that the channel continues to evolve quickly.

As more and more people go online for health information, pharma can't afford to be left behind.

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.

Among his many accomplishments, he was on the Global Cialis launch team, where he developed an award-winning interactive strategy, receiving the highest marketing award at Lilly. He redesigned the Medtronic Diabetes site, increasing key metrics, and is recognised as a digital thought leader.

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 and lives with his wife in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Visit Richard's blog here.

Read more from Richard Meyer:

Should DTC marketers put away their marketing hats?

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21 August, 2015