An introduction to healthcare & medical digital marketing

The use of digital marketing for business purposes has grown year on year and now outstrips the annual spend of TV advertising. It is proving highly lucrative for businesses across all industries, including the pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare sectors.

A private medical practice or consultant can gain more brand exposure and consequently attract more new patients by using measurable digital marketing channels. We’ve put together a run-down of the main types of (non advertising related) digital marketing activities that businesses can explore.

Social Media Marketing

Essentially, this is used to attract fractured customers you may not reach through conventional channels such as direct mail. When used properly, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can become social hubs for your business and help you to reach both patients and medical professionals. Your ‘followers’ and ‘connections’ can communicate directly with you – but more importantly you can also respond and interact with them.

Facebook has over 2.45 billion active users: even if your target market is only a tiny fraction of that, it’s still a huge opportunity to reach people who might not otherwise hear about your company.

It’s very easy to link to your company’s social media pages from your website, and this is a great way for your company to build a list of people who might otherwise browse your website and then leave, never to return.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, means gearing up your website so it ranks highly for certain keywords when users type those keywords into the search engines. When done well, healthcare SEO can vastly increase the amount of patients and healthcare professionals you attract onto your site.

By researching the search-terms used by your target audience, an effective SEO strategy can be drawn up to make sure these words appear prominently on your website. This is something that should be done with the help of a professional, who knows how to use keywords effectively in your site’s metadata and copy.

Content Marketing

Content creation is an important part of digital startegy and the SEO process which comes after the initial on-site keyword optimisation has been carried out. By creating and syndicating high quality pieces of content you’re more likely to generate contextually relevant backlinks to your site. ‘Backlinks’ are links to your site placed on other relevant websites across the web. Done well, this can increase traffic to your website and raise its position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

A well thought through, strategic approach to content marketing that is tailored your business will enable you to consistently create high quality content and digital assets that get shared online via social media and web links. This approach will help you to build your online reputation which will have a positive impact on your SEO strategy. In conjunction with relevant and regularly updated content, a well designed medical website with clear navigation and conversion points will help you to take full advantage of the highly targeted traffic that lands on your site.

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 bit.ly

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.

The impact of user-generated content on medical and healthcare marketing

The medical and healthcare industry is constantly changing, particularly in light of developments in modern technology. Digital marketing strategies now involve SEO, social media, and a whole host of other methods to ensure online brand recognition and favourability. However, it’s important to remember, in the midst of these digital techniques, that the voice of the customer is still of paramount importance.  Monitoring user-generated content online is a useful method of gauging public reaction to a particular product or service.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies can benefit simply by monitoring the conversations about their brand that are already happening all around the Internet. Many websites, such as netdoctor.co.uk and patient.co.uk, have discussion forums which allow users to create an account and post comments with questions and recommendations. Private blogs are also a good source of opinion based content, and even informal social media platforms such as Twitter can be searched for a mention of a particular product or condition. It is also possible for companies to invest in software which can collate information on public opinion from multiple web-based sources.

The information gleaned from user-generated content will offer a clear insight into public perception of the brand, and this information can then be used to identify the aspects of a current marketing campaign that are working, as well as those which may need revision.

To learn more about how Genetic Digital can help you to monitor the digital environment, get in touch.

LinkedIn Advertising

When it comes to cost per click (CPC) based advertising campaigns most healthcare and pharma marketers tend to focus their budgets purely on pay per click advertising across search engine networks like Google, Bing and Yahoo. However, if you want to specifically target a business audience, then you should consider running CPC campaigns across the LinkedIn network – here’s why…

According to Quantcast.com, in the UK 35% of LinkedIn’s visitors are “regulars”. By Quantcast standards, that means a visitor frequents the site several times a month. 1% of visitors are considered “addicts” which means that they frequent the site 30 or more times a month. There are 101 million LinkedIn members worldwide, roughly 60% are male and 40% are female.

  • 20.9% are aged 18-24
  • 35.8% are aged 25-34
  • 36.3% are aged 35-54
  • 6.9% are aged over 54

The biggest users are North Americans – 47.9 million users and the second largest group are Europeans – 23.1 million users. Out of the 17 business areas listed on LinkedIn, the ‘Medical’ sector ranks number 4 globally in terms of the number of users tagged to that sector.

In the UK alone there are 148,870 members on LinkedIn that are tagged with a ‘Medical’ job function. From a targeting perspective you can narrow this down, so if you wanted to  just reach individuals that use the words ‘Doctor’ or ‘General Practitioner’ in their profile description, then your ads would still be seen by 21, 019 highly targeted members.

Profile Data You Can Trust

LinkedIn allows you to target ads based on user profile data. Because of the business focus of the site, LinkedIn states that the profiles of its users are ten times more accurate than many other sites’ registration data. In other words, people who create a LinkedIn profile to connect with their work colleagues or other business professionals are less likely to be deceptive in their profile data.  For us marketers, that means we’re working with highly accurate profiling data which helps to create a more targeted campaign and reduce budget wastage.

Ad Formats

LinkedIn Ads consists of these elements:

Headline (up to 25 characters of text)

  • Description (up to 75 characters of text)
  • From: (your name or any company)
  • Image: (50×50 pixel image)
  • URL (website people visit once they click on your ad)

The ads will be eligible to appear on a variety of prominent pages on the LinkedIn.com website and your ads may appear in various positions on any or all of the pages listed below:

  • Profile Page (when users view the profile of other LinkedIn members)
  • Home Page (the page that users see when they log in to LinkedIn)
  • Inbox (the page where users see messages and invitations to connect)
  • Search Results Page (the page that results when you search for a member by name)
  • Groups (on pages in LinkedIn Groups)

Your ads will only be displayed to LinkedIn members who meet the targeting criteria that you set. The targeting options include:
“Job Title, Job Function, Industry, Geography, Company Size, Company Name, Seniority, Age, Gender, LinkedIn Group”

Currently, LinkedIn only allow ads to be written in English. However, these English-language ads can be targeted and shown to LinkedIn members in over 50 countries including Europe.

So, next time you’re planning cost per click ad campaigns and you want to target business professionals make sure you consider the LinkedIn network because the precision targeting options that this social network offers will help you to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing budget.

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 ‘google-analytics.com‘. 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 + “google-analytics.com/ga.js‘ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));

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

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 http://www.google.com/analytics/ 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:

http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=86927

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:

http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=75817

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:

http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55515

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:

http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55540

Filtering
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:

http://www.youtube.com/user/googleanalytics

http://analytics.blogspot.com/

 

[1] The Official WAA Definition of Web Analytics

[2] Analysis of the top 1m websites from http://trends.builtwith.com/analytics

Obtaining funding for your digital health project

biomedical_catalyst_programmeWe often get approached by individuals who are often healthcare professionals or research students looking for expert help to turn their innovative digital healthcare business plan into a tangible and commercially viable product. However, many of them struggle to progress their business plans to the next level as they lack the capital required to invest in product development. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs will be painfully aware of high hard it can be to secure a loan from a bank or attract private funding from an investment firm or angel investor. So what other sources of funding are out there for healthcare innovators?

I recently attended a workshop called the Biomedical Catalyst Programme (BMC). The event which was organised by the Digital Health Special Interest Group in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) gave attendees the opportunity to hear about the BMC funding programme and how it is relevant to innovators in key areas of Digital Health which clearly address unmet clinical need. The objectives of the workshop were to learn how the BMC programme works, explore the types of projects that could fit the programme’s investment criteria and understand some of the important considerations for exploiting products and services into the healthcare sector.

It was interesting to hear that at present only 4% of projects that receive funding are in digital health. I was astonished by how low this figure was, but felt reassured to hear that the TSB panel stated that they want to encourage more digital health investments. To learn more about the scheme visit: www.healthktn.org/digital-health

If you have an idea for a new digital healthcare product and need some expert digital development and marketing assistance to help you bring you product to market, then get in touch. You may also find our white papers and other resources such as our App Business Planner useful documents when producing your business plan.

Mobile search gets bigger share of marketers’ budgets

Marketers are spending more and more money on mobile search. According to a new report producted by marketing insight firm Econsultancy, the proportion of marketing budgets allocated to mobile PCC has increased significantly in 2011.

Out of the 600 digital marketers and agencies surveyed, 16% are using mobile search as part of their marketing strategy. That’s exactly double of those using mobile search last year. A further 45% are planning to involve mobile search in their marketing strategy.

Meanwhile, a third of agencies surveyed report that their clients are involved with mobile search – an increase of 12% from last year.

The links between social networking sites and PPC also appears to be growing stronger. Most of the marketers questioned say that they have increased the amount of money they are spending in PPC investment in The majority of client-side marketers say that, over the last year, their companies have also increased their PPC investment in Facebook (65%), LinkedIn (62%), YouTube (55%) and Twitter (54%).

The survey also revealed an increased focus on local search. Agencies quizzed in the survey said that 22% of their clients’ budgets are spend on locally targeted paid search. The figure was only slightly less amongst the companies surveyed (17%).

The emergence of local search as part of a marekting strategy could be linked to the boom in the smartphone market.

Leveraging KOLs Online

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)Key Opinion Leaders can be crucial for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. Respected in their field, these “thought leaders” are usually highly experienced and qualified physicians who influence their peer’s medical practice through articles they write or presentations that they give. It’s common that pharmaceutical companies engage KOLs during the drug development process, as they can provide advocacy and valuable marketing feedback.

Physicians often have to choose between a wide range of drug options for their patients, and often turn to key opinion leaders for knowledge, advice and guidance on pharmaceuticals, healthcare products and treatments. The credibility that KOLs possess is valuable and hugely desirable for pharmaceutical companies who wish to develop and distribute new medications. KOLs establish this credibility through years of experience and qualifications.

KOLs are incredibly important for medical and pharmaceutical companies, forming a critical part of any marketing plan. KOLs have a lot to add to a pharmaceutical marketing campaign, whether it’s bringing scientific studies into focus or creating an academic buzz for a particular product. Often this discourse can begin years before a drug or other product is brought to the market. KOLs can help establish the need for a drug, skew clinical trials in the products favour, downplay the side effect, neutralise critics.

KOLs Online

Leveraging the influence of a key opinion leader is a complicated process which requires an understanding of the KOL’s contribution to their industry or specialism, the ability to identify and understand their existing collaborations and relationships, as well as their degree of involvement with various institutions and organisations.

Often KOL management is based on the lifecycle of a product; KOLs involved in clinical trials might be emphasised in the early stages of a product’s life, followed by KOLs with publications at a later stage. Whatever credentials the KOL has, there are various ways of promoting them online, whether they are academic publishers or involved in clinical trials.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a subset of Google which allows users to search specifically for scholarly material online. GS locates journal articles, theses, dissertations, books, reports, papers and research materials from a wide range of sources including academic publications, professional societies, institutional repositories and databases. It’s a great place for physicians and medical professionals to find information about specific products and treatments.

Publishers of scholarly works can apply to have their site included in Google Scholar search, as long as some criteria are met, including providing an abstract of each work to non-subscribers. Libraries and publishes of textbooks can also have their content indexed on Google Scholar and Google Book Search.

Google Authorship

Google author tags were rolled out in mid-2011, and they enable websites to identify authors of content on their site and across the web. Webmasters just need to add simple tags to content which associates it with Google+ profiles. Google+ profile pictures are displayed alongside authored search results, along with a link to see more content written by this author. It gives visibility to authors in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and presents a great opportunity to utilise KOL relevancy and authority to promote search results on Google.

It’s through Google+, Google Authors, +1s and Google local pages that the search engine is increasingly becoming a social network. Ensuring good placing and visibility on Google is now not simply SEO – it’s about building a community of engaged audiences just like other social media activity. It’s thought that some sort of “author rank” will be introduced to identify the relevance and authority of various authors.

Twitter

Twitter is not the most relevant social network for healthcare and pharmaceuticals, but it is the most timely. On Twitter important real-time communications develop around news events and current affairs. This could include breaking news around clinical tests and new products in development.

Media-savvy individuals use Twitter because they know it is the best way to reach certain individuals who might be less likely to respond to an email.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn gives marketers the ability to connect with specific groups of people by employer, job title, location, gender and age. The difference in LinkedIn is that most of its users use the site in a professional capacity, and it’s not just used for HR and recruitment; discussion groups debate industry news and developments…

Posting in relevant discussion groups can create a conversation about a product, service, treatment, and KOLs can “weigh-in” on the subject with their professional credentials laid bare for the world to see. Professionals get taken seriously on LinkedIn.

HARO

HARO stands for Help a Report Out, and is an email service which helps reporters and journalists find sources for their stories. It’s the ideal opportunity for key opinion leaders to recommend products, services, treatments and “weigh-in” on important issues facing the associated industry. 30, 000 members, including journalists from the New York Times, ABC News and the Huffington Post, have all used HARO to find sources for their stories.

The HARO email goes out daily, so marketers should have a look when they can if they don’t want to miss out on free PR and media opportunities.

Developing an effective promotion strategy for your health app

The mobile health app environment has seen explosive growth as consumers flock to the Apple and Google Play App Stores. Usage of health and fitness apps on Apple’s iPhone and iPad is booming, according to mobile analytics firm Flurry. Flurry tracks more than 6,800 apps in the health and fitness category, and claims that usage – measured by the number of times people open and use the apps – has grown by 62% in 2014 compared to 33% for apps in general.

Flurry says that this compares to 49% usage growth for health and fitness apps in 2013, versus 115% for apps overall that year. So there’s plenty of money flying around the app economy and the health app marketplace is clearly becoming highly competitive, even Apple launched their dedicated health app called HealthKit to track people’s health data, and it can also integrate with apps from other health app developers.

However many companies and app publishers invest in health apps only to see them end up in the “app graveyard” — not easy to discover, and giving themselves very little chance of generating a positive return on investment.
From a searcher’s perspective, app markets are clumsy and awkward to navigate. App search is still relatively unsophisticated and in its infancy – it’s a bit like the early day web search engines, remember AltaVista! The reality is that the app stores are still evolving their search technologies so that they become better at connecting app seekers with relevant apps.

So what’s the best way to promote your app?

There is no “best” way. You must employ multiple tactics to crack the success code. Simply relying on word of mouth is not enough – you need to ensure that you are using multiple channels to reach your different audiences and typically this will involve using a combination of some of the mobile & digital marketing tactics below.

Native App Store Marketing

Since its inception, the native app storefronts have been the most powerful merchandising and promotional vehicle for app discovery. With the app stores being so influential, it is incredibly important to understand how to use them to your advantage. Success starts with setting up a proper product page that uses effective keywords and is categorised appropriately. Pay attention to the comments you get from reviews and ratings. This feedback, whether good or bad, can give you an idea of what is working and what you’ll need to change.

Your product page is a marketing opportunity
Be sure to put some thought into the elements that make up your product page in the app store. Don’t treat this as a just a mandatory step in the submission process, but rather an important marketing opportunity. Remember, all parts of this page need to be geared towards one goal – download. Your name, icon, description and screenshots are tools you have to convince the user to download your application. Make sure you use all options available to their full potential.

Some quick tips:

  • If you are not an already established brand, then choose an app name that is relevant to your app’s purpose.
  • Your app icon is your logo so make sure it is creative, high quality and represents what your app is all about.
  • Upload as many screenshots as possible, prioritising those that showcase your features and content.
  • Don’t waste screenshots on loading screens or standard device processes like calling, texting or shutting down – focus on your app.
  • Include an app explainer video as many app stores now allow you to include them, a well done demo of your application goes a long way to converting the audience to a user.

Don’t forget your keywords

The app stores search algorithms and their use of metadata is still somewhat a mystery. What we do know is that optimising your description and utilising keywords does make a difference. Some app stores like to provide fields to input keywords of up to 100 characters. If this is available, use it!

When selecting your keywords:

  • Start first with keywords you may already have from your search engine optimisation efforts.
  • You don’t need to include your app name.
  • Many developers believe that you only need commas to separate, not spaces, which should free up some characters.
  • Select keywords that will maximise results – avoid general terms and use words relevant to your app’s niche and purpose.
  • Additionally, write your app description including all of your keywords. List your features, your content and even go as far as include the types of users or scenarios you feel your audience may use to search for an app.

Choose your category strategically

When it comes to choosing a category for your app within the store, do your homework. Perform searches to see where your competitors show up. Look in the categories you feel you would most fit to see what apps are featured.
You will want to choose a category that is a logical choice for your audience to find you. But be on the lookout for opportunities that will allow you to stand out. Categories with fewer total apps or that have little to no other apps with your offering may be better suited to provide you the visibility you need.

Reviews & ratings can be the key to climbing the charts

When a user enters the app store they make most of their download decisions in the list view. Here they are given only a couple of things to help them make their decision: app name, icon, price and the rating and number of reviews. Ratings and reviews aren’t just great vehicles to collect feedback on yours, they also help your app standout in the list. Apps with more activity (ratings and reviews) are more likely to be tapped on than those that have no star ratings or comments.

Additionally, app stores have started to factor in activity (ratings and reviews) as part of the criteria used to build the merchandising areas – like the top chart. Actively encourage feedback from users. Include a call to action in your app, your webpage and social networks to request reviews and ratings.

Create an area in your “About” or “Info” area of your app that has a link to review and rate your app. Consider a timed pop-up to appear in the app while the user is interacting with it to remind them to give feedback. Make getting feedback from your users a core part of your on-going marketing efforts for your app.

There are also specific healthcare and medical app review sites like iMedicalApps and Medical App Journal that you should submit your app to for a review.

Web Search Engines

Search engines are highly effective channels to reach out to both patients and HCPs and make them aware of your app and website. 80% of Internet users look online for health related information. Health related searches on Google are up 47% from last year. And searches aren’t just using their desktops either. A survey carried out Manhattan Research (Taking the Pulse Europe 2011) showed that 75% of European HCPs use a smartphone. Of that group 74% use their smartphones to search the web and 52% use them to download apps. So making sure that your website is ‘mobile friendly’ is also important.

Developing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is key to making sure that your target audience can find your app. Think about the types of keywords they will type into search engines like Google that relate to what your app does. You can use pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to help give you a presence on the front page of search results.

A number of app search engines have also arisen to confront the so-called “app discovery problem.” Among them are Quixey and AppCurl.com; and one can also search Google Play for apps of course.

Search engine optimisation for mobile

As app owners, the best place for users to find your product is on their smartphone. This will increase the chance to download, which is your main goal. As your product is mobile, it is definitely important to make sure that you optimise for mobile search.

The biggest step in mobile SEO is to make sure that you have a mobile optimised marketing page. A fully optimised mobile page will rank higher in the mobile search results than that of a desktop page, so it is in your best interest to have this created when you are developing your online marketing presence. In addition, this page will be of better use to the users who click on it, as they won’t have to work (pinch, zoom, etc.) to use it.

Google recently made some major changes to its algorithm and it has started to favour websites that have been optimised for mobile devices. By some estimates, more than 60% of all Google searches are now performed on mobile devices, so it makes sense that Google wants to capitalise on this traffic and ensure the best possible experience for its users. Responsive designs are the most popular way forward, but you can also have a separate hosted mobile version of your site. Google doesn’t have a preference, as long as mobile users’ experience isn’t interrupted.

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.