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Digital Strategy in Pharma: 7 Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Brand

Posted by: Nicole Diamant on June 02, 2014

iPharma conference speaker

Day One of iPharma closes with a look at what lies ahead for the future of digital marketing in pharmaceuticals

In the wake of some of the biggest pharma deals of the year, industry marketers gathered to discuss their digital strategies at iPharma 2014. Like its sister sector, healthcare, pharmaceuticals has been slower to adopt new media and technology than consumer goods, but industry leaders now recognize the significant impact online activities have on their brands’ reputations. Despite regulatory challenges, the presentations all focused on positive—and possible—shifts communicators can make to better serve patients and physicians. Here are some guiding questions based on the speakers’ presentations you can use to focus your marketing and strengthen your brand.  

1. Are you interacting with your patients online?

As consumers ourselves, we know the power of online interaction and how it drives customer behavior. Digital health is no different. One study showed that 95 million Americans use smartphones for health info, a 27 percent increase from last year. Patients also spend nearly 52 hours per year reading health information online. This is a great opportunity for communications professionals to write blogs or scientific articles to help patients find the information they are looking for or give them tools to interact with condition-specific communities. Being active online also gives you a chance to respond quickly to negative feedback, which, according to Time Inc.’s VP of Digital, resonates 150 times more than positive comments.   

2. Are you using data to target your marketing efforts? 

Whether it’s studying your customers’ online behaviors or tapping into predictive analytics, big data is a key way to stretch your marketing dollar. Technology now even allows you to pinpoint the smartphone users near a particular doctor’s office. 95 percent of patients complete an internet search immediately before or after visiting their doctor. Imagine sharing important information with them about their condition or symptoms right when they are looking for it.   

3. Are you communicating clearly with your team about your brand? 

Great brand strategies resonate through all levels of an organization, from research and development to human resources. Your employees are the face of your brand and the primary people who interact with your customers and shape their brand experience. If internal communication about your brand is not clear, open, and honest, employees will fill in the silence with their own perceptions.   

4. Is the customer at the heart of your marketing plan? 

To often, brands misstep by placing themselves at the center of a strategic marketing plan. They ask, “What information do we want to give?” rather than ”What information do our consumers want to hear?”  When you have a valuable product that aids someone with a disease, condition, or illness, the product may just be one channel of assistance. Are you considering other ways your expertise and reach can help your customers? Are your actions driven by a desire to improve their lives and provide value? Do consumers see value in your brand beyond a product?  

5. Are your communications authentic? 

Storytelling has become a key component of marketing and branding in recent years. Some of this is a result of the 78 percent of internet users who watch or download videos online. Videos that go viral often tug at our heartstrings but only resonate when the storytelling is original or authentic. You cannot manufacture great stories. But in pharma, there is an advantage. Any brand with products and services that impact human health has touched lives. And those who have been touched have great stories to share. What’s more, these stories will automatically be relevant to others who are dealing with similar conditions or challenges.    

6. Are you building programs for short-term results or lasting impact?

Because everything is changing so rapidly in the pharma space, marketing KPIs are often skewed for quick, c-suite-approved results: “likes,” on Facebook, “retweets,” etc. These results are not insignificant, but they aren’t necessarily indicators of longevity. Activities that foster a genuine relationship with consumers, that emphasize service and connection more than selling, will keep a brand strong, despite changes in the marketplace.   

7. Are you listening? 

To your patients? To your physicians? To your employees?  What are your customers looking for? Seek to assuage anxiety by providing answers, comfort, or community via content marketing, videos, and website development. Katharine Patterson, Global Communications Manager for GE Healthcare, closed her presentation with a simple but powerful directive, “Be a human first. Then a marketer.” 

Nicole Diamant is the Marketing Manager for InterbrandHealth.   

Curious about using brand strategies to boost your digital efforts? Connect with InterbrandHealth here.




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