The value of digital marketing in a high-cost environment

The cost of developing new drugs has increased dramatically whilst the number of drugs in late-stage development has continued to decrease.

According to a new report by professional services firm Deloitte on the world’s 12 largest pharmaceutical companies, the average cost of bringing a product to market rose by more than 25% to more than $1bn (£630m) this year, from $830m in 2010.

Meanwhile, the number of drugs in late-stage development dropped from 23 to 18. Ten of the 12 companies have also experienced a drop in returns from research and development (R&D), going from 11.8% last year to 8.4% this year.

Julian Remnant, head of Deloitte’s European R&D advisory practice, said that the news was not all bad: “While this picture reflects a snapshot of the very real productivity challenges the industry is facing, it belies some underlying successes. Of the 12 companies we analyse each year – the top 12 research-based pharmaceutical companies globally – nearly two-thirds succeeded in realising more value from product commercialisation than has been lost from late-stage product failures.

“Also, across the 12 companies, non-R&D costs have declined, resulting in a higher operating margin – which helps to free up cash flow that could be reinvested in R&D.”

The figures do however point to a need for pharmaceutical companies to find more cost-effective ways to develop and market their products in order to maximise on returns.

One way to do this would be to practice more digital marketing, where products can be promoted for relatively little cost but to a very wide audience.

Marketing to Gen Y HCPs (healthcare professionals)

Are you adapting to this tech savvy groups’ rules of engagement?

Born in the mid-1980’s and later, Generation Y are teenagers and young adults just entering the workforce. Generation Y (also known as the Millennials) is the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce. As healthcare and pharma marketers compete to engage with healthcare professionals (HCPs), they cannot afford to ignore the needs, desires, attitudes and behaviours of this group of individuals.

Gen Y – Tech-savvy digital natives

Generation Y grew up with technology and use it more frequently and rely on it to perform their jobs, research and purchasing. Armed with BlackBerrys, iphones, laptops, ipads and other gadgets, Generation Y is plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This generation prefers to communicate through instant messaging (IM) and texts rather than face-to-face contact and prefers webinars and online technology to traditional brochure and lecture-based sales presentations.

We’re living in an age where information is everywhere and where everyone can reach them, however the Gen Y community is pretty selective about who they take notice of and engage with. If you were to look at their Facebook and Twitter accounts, you’ll soon realise that they tend to get their information from their peers and friends—not from sales reps they’ve never met, and certainly not from the media. And wait for this, the information they get from each other is not just via emails, they text one another; they IM; they blog; they tweet; they watch YouTube clips and network on LinkedIn. And sometimes they do all this at the same time! Most of the time, Gen Y doesn’t care about what you as marketers have to say unless you have been given the nod by their friends. They care about what their community says, and they take their network’s recommendations very seriously. You only have to look at the Sanofi-Aventis and GSK Facebook cases to appreciate the power and influence a community can have when companies aren’t playing to their rules! (Just in case you aren’t aware Facebook’s recent commenting policy now requires most pharma pages to allow commenting).

The importance of authenticity and transparency

So, it is fair to say that Gen Y tend to be more selective with the information they absorb and the people or companies they connect with. In their minds, you need to earn the right to engage with them, they decide whether or not they want to open their digital door to you and when it’s time for you to part of their network and conversations.

Generation X (they grew up with the phone and fax) typically don’t like to complain, they just vote with their feet and quietly walk away and don’t come back for more. However, Gen Y are different, they are more vocal and they make it their business to inform their community about your crap service or your products nasty side effects. They do this because they value their community and don’t want them to suffer in the same way – the bigger and more open the community, the more that community as a whole benefits, which is why people connect to individuals they are never ever likely to meet face to face.

Collaborate and connect don’t shout and sell!

So how do you engage with them? Well you need to be patient and you need to collaborate with them and connect up with their community by being helpful. One thing you certainly don’t want to do is take down your Facebook page as soon as you get some negative feedback from customers to prevent those comments from spreading. But spread they will, and more quickly and on a much bigger scale than you’d ever anticipate. You need to be part of the conversation and the community expects you to listen, respond and put things right, should things go wrong. The community want to be reasonable and open and so they expect the same from you. If you play by their rules and open up, be transparent and genuine, then you’re more likely to earn back their respect and trust. Social networks have made it very hard for any company to hide its weaknesses, so you need to embrace them and look at how you can leverage a community’s ability to become advocates of your products and services by opening up conversations, obtaining feedback, providing things of value to that community and most importantly being authentic and honest at all times.

Inbound marketing tactics are more likely to be more effective when trying to reach and engage with Gen Y HCPs. We’re all aware of how busy GPs are and they are likely to get busier when the NHS reforms take place. So, will they have the time to sit down with a medical sales rep and have he/she talk through their 100 strong portfolio of products, I’d say unlikely. Gen Y GPs and Pharmacists are more likely to be reaching for their smartphones or tablet PCs and carrying out a keyword search on Google or posting a message to their peers on LinkedIn or via Twitter to obtain information on a possible new drug or medical device for their patients. They are in control over what information they seek and trust and it is the search engines along with the social networks they participate in that they gravitate towards, after all this is the norm for them and part of their social makeup. I recently learnt that medical students at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School get given tablet PCs when they start their course and so I think it is safe to assume that they would be taking tools like these into their work environment also.

Practical strategies for engaging with Gen Y HCPs

Think about what you can to do for them that will help them to save time, improve their decision making and knowledge.

  1. Be in the right place at the right time. Can they find you when they need to? How visible are you on Google for keywords relevant to your products, services and therapy areas? If you’ve never done any search engine marketing before, run a trial pay per click advertising campaign to test which keywords put you in front of your desired target audience
  2. Discover the groups and networks that HCPs participate in and look to contribute to those conversations, with the view of adding value and helping that community as opposed to blatantly trying to sell something to the community
  3. Create digital assets – not just physical ones
    a. Use slideshare to upload presentations and YouTube to demonstrate product features or discuss clinical trials
    b. Optimise those assets so they can get found in search engines also
    c. Convert product brochures and research materials/technical/medical papers to ebooks and into formats that can easily be viewed on ipads, smartphones and ebook readers
    d. Think about how an app might help a GP with their day job, like calcualting dosage amounts or provide a surgeon with an interactive guide about how to correctly use a particular medical device
  4. If you do want to promote your business think about using the precision ad targeting opportunities offered by LinkedIn, but remember to think carefully about what it is you want to say to that community to get them interested. What information will you drive them to that can help them to save time, improve their decision making and knowledge.
  5. Think about how you can use podcasts and webinars to deliver product demos and to present clinical tests and findings, not only do they help to extend the shelf-life of your presentations but they allow HCPs to view them in their own time, which might be early morning or at the weekend.
  6. Lastly but by no means least, make sure you track the effectiveness of each channel using web and call analytics and URL shortening tools like

By no means am I suggesting that healthcare and pharma brands ditch all their conventional marketing and outbound sales tactics but marketers do need to consider allocating a suitable proportion of their marketing budget to digital and if they don’t then they risk missing out on engaging with a whole new group of tech and web savvy healthcare professionals.

5 Facebook Tips for Pharma and Healthcare Brands

As of 2011 there an estimated 800 million Facebook users, that is 1 in every 9 people on Earth, but pharma and healthcare companies beware – simply having a presence on Facebook won’t necessarily increase sales or referrals to your website. Get your Facebook strategy wrong and you could find yourself having to implement a damage limitation plan as GSK found itself doing. With the right tools, used strategically, you can make Facebook an effective part of your marketing strategy.

Here are our 5 Facebook tips for you to consider.

1. Research your audience.

The first thing you should do is define and research your audience’s use of Facebook when creating a Facebook marketing strategy. If it is consumers then think about the information that those consumers need to help them treat their condition or purchasing decision or the kind of after sales support they might need once they’ve bought your products. If you’re a pharma company and you only sell prescription-only medicines (POMs) then it will be the GPs that will be prescribing the drugs and so although the consumers are the end-user, they won’t be the sole decision makers. So, marketers should examine ways to increase the opportunity for contact between HCPs and patients/consumers through the creation of new health/condition focused Facebook pages that enable those audiences to talk with other patients/consumers as well as with physicians on a range of topics from personal experiences of illness and treatment through to education.

2. Build a relationship with your followers.

People use Facebook to socialise and find answers to questions, not to “friend” a blood sugar monitoring device. If pharma and medical device companies are to earn the attention of any modern customer, they should provide valuable information as opposed to simply just asking that community to do things or give away personal information. “Information” includes accurate details about their products, including side effects and risks, new product updates and any other key pieces of information that will help the user get the most of that product in a safe manner. It’s also important to open up a dialogue with your followers and ask then intelligent questions. Listening and responding to feedback from that community is a key part of any successful Facebook strategy and one that will show that you do value them. Be honest and transparent, your audience are savvier thank you think and if ‘Marketing’ or ‘PR’ are maintaining your Facebook presence make sure they have the appropriate back up from product experts to help respond to more ‘technical’ questions.

3. Add a “Like” button to your website and newsletters.

OK bit of an obvious tip, but adding a “Like” button to your website is a good starting point to help promote your Facebook presence and it can also help to build ‘social strength’ which can benefit your search engine optimisation strategy. However, take time to consider where to place the buttons. Think about how you can integrate them into the customer experience and encourage sign-ups with a strong call to action. Users are more likely to click a “Like” button when they know what’s in it for them. Don’t be afraid to test, track and adjust this tactic to help improve the results.

4. Avoid sending mass messages to your network.

Most users will tend to ignore ‘hard-sell’ oriented marketing messages and so this tactic should be avoided if you want your supporters to stay connected to you in the long term. Should you be compelled to send a message, make sure it offers something of real value or offers your followers the ability to contribute to something that can benefit them. Clearly state that value in the message subject line and avoid general brand messages and announcements, or you’ll quickly lose the trust of the community.

5. Do measure the right metrics

It’s important that you focus on the right metrics to measure when reporting on your Facebook activity. So what are the right metrics? We suggest you create a marketing dashboard that will enable you to measure these 3 things: 1) Engagement; 2) “Likes” and 3) Growth.

Engagement can be measured by the number of conversations taking place; the number of repeat visits and the number of pages viewed per visit. Measure the number of “Likes” you receive each month. And in terms of growth, measure the number of followers you are getting so you can plot your own “S” curve. You’ll want to measure if your following is growing, peaking or shrinking.

Maximise your budget with effective campaign tracking

It can be hard to understand why something you can’t see can be one of the most important elements of your campaign. But that’s exactly the case with analytics: They’re never visible to the user but they can have a significant impact on what a user does and how your website functions. Used properly, they give a detailed view of how your campaigns perform, where you should spend more, where you should spend less and ways you can maximise your ROI. If you already know what they are and you’ve already got them, you can skip the first four headings below and dive straight into our top tips.

What do we mean by web analytics?

Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage [1]. It basically means including a mechanism on your site that keeps track of where visitors come from, what they do on your site, where they go to next and then analysing the information to constantly improve your site.

Why are analytics important?

Simply put, if you’re not keeping track of how people are interacting with your site, you’re not making the most of it. In other words, you’re wasting your money. With the level of information available, you can discover valuable visitor trends that can dramatically influence the design, navigation, functionality and content of your site.

How do you know if you are using web analytics?

There are many different types and providers of analytics software but the most popular has quickly become Google Analytics (GA) [2]. It’s free so, even if you’re already using other analytics software, you should use GA too so you have access to its reporting suite.

To find out if you’re using GA, open a web page on your site and right click on an area of empty space (off to one side of the page for example). No matter which web browser you’re using, in the menu that pops up, select the ‘View page source’ or ‘View source’ option. You’ll then be presented with a new tab or window that contains the code behind the page – it’s in here we’ll find the code for GA if it exists. Press the Ctrl and F keys on your keyboard at the same time (Command + F if you’re on a Mac) to open the ‘find’ dialogue (we might be teaching you to suck eggs here) and search for ‘‘. If you don’t find it, you’re not using GA so skip to the bit below that explains how to get it. The GA code has changed a lot over the years but if you do find the code, it should be contained within a line that looks like either of the lines below. If it is, you’re using GA:

Example 1:
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “‘ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));

Example 2:
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘‘;

Tip: If it looks like example 1, you’re tracking code is out of date – it’s time to update it!

How can you get web analytics?

As discussed above, Google Analytics is the most popular analytics software so we recommend you install if before any others. It’s free and easy but you’ll need to be able to edit your website templates to get it working. If you can’t, talk to your webmaster or web agency who will be able to do it for you.

To get the required code, visit and either sign up or login using an existing Google account. Once logged in to the analytics interface, use the help centre search box and search for ‘tracking code’. Click the result for ‘Set Up the Tracking Code’ and follow the instructions. We’d explain how to do it here but the technique changes so it’s best to follow the instructions on the site.

Top Analytics Tips

The default statistics offered by Google are pretty thorough but with some small additions you can add extra valuable information to help you maximise the potential of your campaigns.

404 Tracking
404 is the error code returned by a web server when it can’t find the page it’s been asked for. Why is this valuable? There are plenty of reasons why people might be looking for a page that doesn’t exist. It could be as simple as they typed in the address incorrectly but it could be as serious as a typo in a print ad. If you don’t know people are trying to find these pages then you can’t fix it. And Google doesn’t (can’t) report these by default. How to fix it? Get your webmaster to follow this guide:

Site Search Tracking
Most websites have a built in search function to aid user’s navigation of the site. If yours doesn’t, you should seriously consider implementing one as they’re highly valued by visitors. Search is also highly valuable to you when you know the phrases people are searching for. These key phrases can provide excellent insight into visitor needs. You’ll often discover there are recurring phrases that can, for example, demonstrate an area of the site you didn’t realise was popular with visitors and should be promoted. You may discover there is a need for information that doesn’t exist at the moment or realise people are struggling to find particular pages. Users have become so familiar with search it is often used as a first point of entry so its value should not be underestimated. Follow these instructions to get up and running:

Goal Tracking (aka conversion tracking)
This should be an obvious one but often gets overlooked. Goal (or conversion) tracking is the act of analysing the effectiveness of driving traffic to a particular action. As an example, this could be determining how often visitors arrive at a ‘thank you’ page. ‘Thank you’ pages are regularly displayed after a visitor successfully completes a form; it could be a contact form, an information request form, a registration form, etc. When the user lands on the ‘thank you’ page it means they have successfully completed a task. By setting up goal tracking, you can see an immediate snapshot of how well your campaigns are performing. You can also analyse the goal statistics further to determine how your campaigns can be improved and, if appropriate, assign a monetary value to each conversion. Learn how here:

Campaign Tracking
Tracking campaigns is the most effective way of ensuring your marketing budget is being well spent. You can use specific URLs for individual campaigns and monitor traffic to those URLs to measure effectiveness or you can use tracking codes which you can then monitor in your analytics. Some systems such as Adwords and Mailchimp insert code that allows you to automatically monitor their campaign performance in Google Analytics, for other campaigns you’ll need to do it manually. To learn how to effectively track your campaigns read more here:

Your analytics data can be skewed or less valuable if you’re not filtering it. Data can be filtered in a number of ways. The primary way is using the built in filters that Google provides. You should use these to exclude traffic that you don’t want included in your reports, for example, traffic from your own offices. Most businesses have a fixed/static internet address that you can add to your filter list so company employees don’t add unnecessary data to your reports. Another useful filter type is available under the advanced link next to the search box in most Google Analytics reports. From here you can use key phrases to filter the report results. By doing so, you narrow results to more pertinent data. For example, under the Search Queries report (where you can view which terms people used in the search engines to find your site) you can filter out brand phrases to better understand which generic terms people are finding you for. Generic terms are often more valuable than brand terms but brand terms can often be so popular they obscure the generic results. Filtering fixes that.

Google are constantly improving their Analytics package with new features such as real-time tracking (see who’s live on your site and what they’re up to right now), social engagement (see where and how your site is performing on the various social sites) and flow visualisation (useful visual representations of visitor paths through your site). To keep up with what’s new and how it could be useful to you follow the Google Analytics team here:


[1] The Official WAA Definition of Web Analytics

[2] Analysis of the top 1m websites from

Digital channels take lion’s share of pharma marketers’ media mix

Digital channels are finally starting to overtake traditional channels in their share of pharmaceutical product teams’ overall media mix.

According to a study by consulting firm Cutting Edge Information called Pharmaceutical Digital Marketing and Social Media: Managing Growth, Mitigating Risk and Mastering Strategy, digital channels formed 54.7% of drug companies’ media mix this year, compared with traditional media’s share of 42.1%.

While the use of all three main digital marketing channels (mobile media, social media and websites) increased throughout 2011, mobile led the way. Use of mobile grew from 5.6% in 2010 to 15.5% in 2011 – a nearly threefold increase.

Casey Ferrell, research analyst at Cutting Edge Information, led the study. He said: “It’s particularly interesting that digital media growth has accelerated in 2011, especially for small and mid-sized pharma companies.”

In 2010, digital marketing channels increased to a combined 40.6% of the average media mix, while traditional marketing channels went down to 55.0% compared to 2009.

Social media made the largest gain as a percentage change in the media marketing mix in 2010, rising 53.9% from 6.3 % of the mix to 9.7%. Traditional digital marketing such as websites and mobile marketing also increased slightly during this time, while print media and television/radio slipped by 5% and 2% respectively. However, those numbers rose significantly in 2011.

The full report can be found at

Pharma company uses YouTube game to heighten brand awareness

A pharmaceutical company in the States is getting its message across via the innovative use of YouTube videos.

Zyrtec, a Stateside allergy medication, used the video channel as a forum for launching a social media game in order to raise awareness of the brand.

It launched a YouTube game called Parks Unleashed on 5 September, the date acknowledged the US as the start of the autumn allergy season.

The premise of the game is that dogs have buried Samsung Galaxy Tabs all over the park and that the game player (the user) has to find them. The user is spoken to by various characters throughout their gaming experience and is allowed to make choices in their responses to the questions that the characters ask them. These choices determine the direction of travel for the game.

Whilst the game does not actually talk about pharmaceutical issues – largely because of strict guidelines governing what pharma companies can and can’t discuss with customers over the internet – its mere presence engages users more deeply with the brand.

The Zyrtec YouTube channel has collected 2.2million views so far, almost all of which happened as a result of the game – and in a short six-week period too.

Colleen Sellers, senior brand manager at Zyrtec, said: “YouTube is one of the most powerful channels online and using it for Zyrtec to reach such a massive audience, via Parks Unleashed, is a big win for us during the important fall allergy season.”

Google expert says that pharma companies ‘are not leveraging’ the internet

Pharmaceutical companies are not leveraging the potential of the internet for digital marketing, according to an expert from Google.

Jens Monsees, head of consumer goods and healthcare at Google, told an audience at the PharmaTimes Digital meeting that there were numerous areas where pharmaceutical organisations could do more to optimise its presence online.

He said that pharmaceutical-related content needed to improve and to be delivered in context in order to differentiate between web pages aimed at healthcare professionals and patients receiving care. He said: “If the content is right then people will read it. If it is wrong, then no one will be interested.”

Monsees also said that pharmaceutical companies spent too little on their websites and that this needed to change, particularly because industry marketing needed to shift away from sales reps and push marketing and onto digital marketing.

He said that pharmaceutical companies could tailor their marketing messages more easily by analysing healthcare search trends on Google. In particular, he suggested that marketers in the industry take advantage of filtering keywords and specific terms in order to understand this search behaviour, both of healthcare professionals and patients. He commented: “Pharma companies are not leveraging even five per cent of this potential.”

Monsees called for collaboration between his company and pharmaceutical companies in order to collect data on what doctors actually search for online.

To learn more about how to market your business on search engines like Google download our white paper: A Director Level Guide to Search Marketing for Healthcare & Pharma Businesses

You can also listen to Jens talk about digital on YouTube

New e-health site asks patients: “How Are You?”

A new e-health portal for patients and healthcare professionals has attracted more than 700 sign-ups in the first few hours of its launch.

How Are You? is a social networking site that allows patients with long-term health conditions to take a more proactive role in their treatment by making it easier for them to communicate with the healthcare professionals who are working with them.

Users can sign into the portal with their Facebook or Windows Live accounts. There are also plans to allow users to sign in via their Google, Aol and Yahoo accounts.

Twitter integration for the service has also been launched. At the moment, users receive condition-specific tweets; there are plans to develop this as How Are You? evolves.

How Are You? has been devised by healthcare startup Cambridge Healthcare and was originally going to be called Dawson Kind, founder of the service, told one health website: “When we launched the portal it was named, however, we weren’t prepared for the amount of interest the project generated not just in the UK but also internationally. In response, we decided to register a generic name that could provide a solution for all.

“How are you? was chosen because it sums up the concept. When a user provides how they’re feeling or inputs their virtual patient record, the content dynamically changes to provide relevant resources and features to that individual. Imagine a cross between Twitter and Facebook, but encrypted and you decide how much and with whom you want your information shared.”