Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Days of the ePharma Summit

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We would like to take this time as we close out a very successful 2011.  The 10th Annual ePharma Summit was the largest ever held and we ventured west to Santa Clara to kick off ePharma West.  Blog readership and contributions were also high throughout the year.

So, to thank you for your loyal readership and your participation in ePharma throughout the year,we present you the 12 Days of ePharma!

12 Days of ePharma
12 hours of networking
11 Strategies to work with MLR
10 Tools for targeting physicians
9 New distribution platforms
8 Ways to engage consumers
7 Hours on global marketing
6 Un-conferenced roundtables
5 Visionary keynotes
4 hours on Mobile
3 All case study tracks
2 All new Symposia
And the best event in the industry!

With ePharma Summit 2012 around the corner, we look forward to seeing all of you in the new year!

-Jennifer Pereira, ePharma Blog Manager & The ePharma Summit Team

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 11 Most Frequently Asked ePharma Marketing Questions in 2011

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What are the 11 most frequently asked questions on ePharma Marketing

11. How can digital Pharma marketing be innovative, while staying compliant, when there are no clear FDA guidelines on the way?
10. What channels work best for promoting to HCPs and Patients and what new channels and distribution platforms should I be using in 2012?
9. How can you be active and involved in the various social media channels without sounding like you’re "marketing"?
8. How is the sales force changing and what is the best way to leverage their relationships with HCPs for a full multi-channel approach? How does iPad detailing differ from a print/brochure detail?
7. What do I need to do to deploy an integrated mobile marketing strategy? How is pharma using QR codes, geo fencing, RFID and other tracking tools to measurable gains?
6. How will Pharma reinvent itself in the era of healthcare reform and how will Pharma change its marketing as a result?
5. How do I manage an effective Global Marketing Campaign?
4. How do you achieve seamless integration across distribution platforms?
3. What are the most relevant metrics for an integrated multi-channel marketing campaign and how do you measure success on and offline?
2. How can pharma marketers leverage EMR and ePrescribing technology in marketing to HCPs?
1. How can digital marketing increase my effectiveness as a pharma marketer with a shrinking budget?

All of these questions will be answered at the ePharma Summit. Download the agenda to see the comprehensive program.  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us this February in New York and mention code XP1706BLOG, receive 10% off the current rate!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How can digital pharma marketers be innovative, while staying compliant, when there are no clear FDA guidelines on the way?

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You need to understand FDA expectations and how to execute compliant marketing efforts by looking to the FDA’s guidance for other channels and inferring what it means for digital, all while keeping the customers’ best interests in mind.

New for 2012, the ePharma Summit has added the MLR Symposium, providing you with the tools you need to execute a responsible marketing campaign. During this full day, you’ll hear from experts that have their foot in the door and can provide insight into what the FDA is thinking, even if they can’t say anything. You will also hear from pharmaceutical companies who have built their own social media policy, en lieu of official regulatory guidance. Regulatory executives from Shire, BMS, Sanofi and Novartis will all be on-hand to answer your most pressing MLR questions including adverse event reporting, defining medial apps and compliantly working within social media outlets.

The ePharma Summit is inviting you to get up close and personal with regulatory experts from around the globe. We’ve pulled together a panel of regulatory experts who will provide you with insight into how their countries would regulate a certain campaign. If you have a hypothetical campaign that you would like to have covered, submit it to me at for a chance to hear your campaign discussed.

Sessions covering regulatory issues at the ePharma Summit:
  • The MLR Marketing Policy Summit (all day on Monday, February 6)
  • Going Global: Examine the Digital Marketing Environment Around the World (February 8, from 3:45-4:30)
As always, if you have any questions or recommendations, please let me know.


Sarah Gordon
ePharma Summit Conference Director

*We’re implementing a Frequently Asked ePharma Marketing Questions feature on our blog, where each week I’ll post the most common questions I came across while conducting research for ePharma.

Digital Adverse Event Data and Entrenched Aversion: A Puzzling Incongruity

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

Courtesy of
If there is one thing that exasperates me as a researcher, it is that irascible, irrational thing called human behavior, especially when it acts to perpetuate a notion that a mountain of empirical evidence dispels as fallacy. To be sure, we are all guilty of this form of willful ignorance from time to time. (Don’t try to tell my grandmother, for example, about the risks associated with too much butter in your diet — she’s the original Paula Dean.) There are plenty of examples of this phenomenon in the business world; in Pharma, one well-known red herring is adverse event reporting online.

From my recent research into pharmaceutical companies’ digital marketing benchmarks, I asked survey respondents to rate various challenges to more widespread social media adoption. Near the top of the list? You guessed it: adverse event monitoring and reporting, which joins off-label communication and ROI as the three highest-rated limiting factors. This data was collected and analyzed during the fall of 2011. That is to say, barring a sea change in opinion in the last 60 days, pharma marketers still perceive adverse events (AEs) to be a major issue — even a nonstarter, perhaps — obstructing the industry’s way forward in digital media.

But what about all that research showing how limited the occurrence actually is for AEs online? Let’s briefly recap: Visible Technologies recently published a white paper detailing a sweeping online AE incidence study that confirmed earlier research, finding this time that the incidence rate for a reportable AE was less than 1% of mentions. This study was broader in scope with more finely tuned metrics than its predecessors, which are nicely corralled here. To round out the picture, Greg Rice of Klick describes a best practice for involving pharmacovigilance in the process, because that group needs to be alerted to brand mentions that may not meet the four reportable AE criteria. Together, this body of research should lead people in pharma — be they in safety, compliance, marketing or anywhere else — to draw a fairly linear conclusion: reportable AEs are not present online in numbers large enough to make adequate, compliant monitoring and reporting impossible. To put a positive spin on that same conclusion, there is one less thing standing between pharma companies and a more robust presence on social networks, blogs, websites and other digital media. Granted at bigger brands there is still going to be logistical problems associated with sheer volume, but those are precisely the brands that should have the resources necessary to staff up their monitoring efforts. At most others, monitoring and reporting online AEs would seem to require tweaks — not overhauls – of existing standard operating procedures in place for pharmacovigilance, safety, compliance, regulatory and marketing departments.

All of this gets the heart of the question: if study after study find a miniscule incidence of online AEs, why does the issue continue to persist as a cited barrier to deeper listening efforts or broader digital engagement? Is it that AEs represent a real threat to pharmacovigilance and safety compliance? Conclusions drawn from recent research would indicate it doesn’t. Are we missing some subtle operational impracticality? Or is it that AEs represent something more symbolic? Is this all merely a reflection of a natural aversion to collecting bad news about one’s products?

If it is the last, then I offer a concluding counterpoint by way of an interview with Arnie Friede, the former FDA associate chief counsel and former senior corporate counsel to pharma, in which he said, “The fear of learning something should not be a deterrent. That’s the ostrich approach. … It’s not a valid reason, to refrain from using an appropriate communication channel because you’re going to hear something you don’t want to hear. If people are experiencing adverse reactions from using your product, you want to know about that and try to deal with it. You can’t escape these things, so why try to hide from them? It’s myopic.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Twitter Isn't Facebook

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

There has been a lot of speculation since it was announced this summer as to why Twitter was embedded so deeply into the new iOS5. Actually, the speculation hasn't been about why Twitter was embedded. That's easy: Twitter is a super-simple message system used by more than 300 million people. The real speculation isn't why Twitter, but why not Facebook.

There shouldn't be any surprise that the world's number two mobile operating system is trying to integrate more social media. Social and mobile is the beast with two heads. There is a reason the two have grown so fast side-by-side: they support and augment each other. So clearly, a mobile operating system would be smart to embrace this idea and partner up with a major social media platform.

On the face of it (hahaha! I hate puns) Facebook would seem to be the obvious choice. It has more than 800 million users world-wide, half of whom visit the site in some capacity daily and tend to stay for extended periods of time. It has integrated games and numerous time-wasting, distracting engagement-based tools from third parties (one of whom IPO-ed last week). While its growth is slowing, it's not because people aren't using it anymore, but because it might be reaching market saturation. Every day, new kids turn 13 (or say they turned 13) and log in for the first time, but who isn't using Facebook today who might consider it tomorrow?

So why Twitter? By all measures, Twitter is the runner-up. Fewer users, less time spent on the site (by a huge factor, because most people use Twitter via a client), etc. Between the two, who wouldn't choose Facebook?

But Apple didn't, and there are some very good reasons.
1) Facebook is a site, Twitter is a service. By many different measures, Facebook is trying to re-build the web inside itself. When you add links and videos to Facebook, Facebook tries to show them to your friends inside of Facebook. Its games work inside Facebook. The only ways to access Facebook is at or one of the mobile clients it built (there are a handful of third-party clients, but they existed only because Facebook was slow to launch fully-featured mobile clients).
Twitter, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy if you never went to its site. It wants you to use a client, on your desktop, on your cellphone, your smartphone, your tablet, your TV–whatever. Twitter works because it's simply creating connections between two people, not trying to get you to stick around its site and play WordsWithFarmWars.

2) Facebook is closed, Twitter is open. Look at the above point and see all the ways Facebook wants you to enter its garden and never ever leave. It doesn't like to even admit that you might update your status on Twitter or Tumblr or Postulous. Facebook wants you to think about the internet as a function of Facebook. An example: Ask anyone who has tried to connect their Tumblr to Facebook so that posts to Tumblr get mirrored in Facebook. It's a pain. It doesn't tell you when it works. It breaks frequently without telling you. These apps are outside Facebook and Facebook treats them like third-cousins it dislikes.

Twitter connects to... everything. You can have Twitter updates sent to your phone from 1999! Twitter lets any client connect to its API, and has been raising the number of API calls per hour (so you can use it more and more). I can send any 140 characters through Twitter. Services will shrink URLs so I can actually send a lot more than just 140. And when people click on that link, they don't stay in Twitter, they go to the link.

3) Facebook is a competitor, Twitter is agnostic. While we don't ever have the thought: Should I buy an iPhone or should I join Facebook, Apple and Facebook see each other as competitors for your attention. And as we enter the attention marketplace, your attention becomes a very valuable commodity.

Twitter is like the electric company: it’s a service. It doesn’t care what you plug into the wall, so long as it abides by some basic technical standards.

The best example highlighting the real difference between the two services is that this year, the Arab Spring movement embraced Twitter, not Facebook. And now, Apple has embraced Twitter, as well.
This serves to underline the difference between these two tools to marketers. I’ve heard too many people look at the two tools and treat them as if they were the same. They couldn’t be more different. Putting them under the same “social media” umbrella is like treating a Bugatti Veyron and Nissan Leaf the same because they’re both “cars.”

So consider them two very different things when plotting your social media strategy for the coming year. Otherwise, you won’t be getting real value out of either of them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Study Analyzes Big Pharma's Efforts to Reach the Multicultural Population Online

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A new study released by Global Advertising Strategies (Global) analyzes two prominent trends in today’s healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing: the growing impact of multicultural population segments and their deep utilization of novel digital capacities. The report examines how pharmaceutical companies have capitalized on these trends -- or failed to do so, -- to maximize their revenue-generating potential.

Developed by Global’s market research team, the study analyzes digital behavior patterns and characteristics of the cross-cultural community in the U.S. as they relate to healthcare information, as well as assesses the extent to which major pharmaceutical companies have utilized Internet capacities in their engagement with those audiences.

The study identifies three distinct approaches currently used by pharmaceutical companies to communicate with the multicultural audiences:
  1. Basic availability of downloadable in-language information in a PDF format.
  2. A dedicated microsite designed for a multicultural consumer that contains in-language information.
  3. An interactive, online tool for patients and healthcare providers that ensures better disease awareness and education, drug selection as well as prescription compliance in a culturally-competent manner.
“The differences among major pharmaceutical companies and their means of reaching a multicultural consumer was a startling discovery considering the lucrative opportunity that the U.S. cross-cultural community represents,” said David J. Cortés Reynel, Global’s Multicultural Healthcare Marketing practice leader. “Given the remarkable growth of the multicultural community as evidenced by the 2010 Census figures, the pharmaceutical industry as a whole has yet to realize the full potential of the Internet and mobile technologies in their outreach to those communities.”

Other conclusions indicated use of simple translations of online healthcare information which often fall short of their desired intent. Most pharmaceutical brand marketers and healthcare clinicians are intrigued by cultural/language consumer online strategies, and generally recognize the need to augment their expertise in cross-cultural online marketing in order to fully maximize their revenue-generating potential, but this has yet to translate into widespread and sustained observable action.
The study offers recommendations to attain a sophisticated digital communications platform that would demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility, create an optimal patient experience and, ultimately, serve the needs of patients of all ethnic backgrounds, as well as partially alleviate major bottlenecks in American public health.

For a limited time, the study is available for a free download.  For press inquiries or to learn more about Global Advertising Strategies, please contact Alex Moncion at 212.964.0030 or

Global Advertising Strategies is a sponsor of the 2012 ePharma Summit.  For more in their involvement and the entire program, download the brochure here.  Don't forget, as an ePharma Summit Blog Reader, when you register to join us this February in New York, mention code XP1707BLOG to save an additional 10% off the current rate!

About Global:
Global Advertising Strategies ( ) is a full-service cross-cultural marketing and communications agency headquartered in New York. Its client base consists of some of the world’s leading brands in the lifestyle, travel, entertainment, financial, pharmaceutical, and media industries. Its Cross-Cultural Healthcare Practice cultivates and executes successful campaigns for leading pharmaceutical companies looking to establish and build a brand identity within key cultural communities in the United States.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Who is registered to attend ePharma Summit 2012?

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Like the holidays, the ePharma Summit will be here before you know it. Be sure to register TODAY, Friday 16 to take advantage of our best rates. Also, check out our special offers including our MLR team discount! Bring three members of your marketing team and one member of your MLR team attends for free. Group pricing is also available, call Elizabeth Weinman at 646-895-7414 for more information.

Check out the list of people already attending:

Forest Laboratories, Google, Lucy Rose & Associates LLC, eHealthcare Solutions, Pfizer, Alliance Health Networks, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc, Within3, Hologic Corporation, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Hearst, Lundbeck Denmark, comScore Inc, Publicis Touchpoint Solutions, American Greetings Interactive, Biogen IDEC Inc, MicroMass, DotHealth LLC, Vitals, Evolution Road Consulting, Daiichi Sankyo Inc, Telerx Marketing Inc, Roche Diagnostics Corporation, Delta Marketing Dynamics, DKI Direct, Sanofi Aventis US LLC, Louisville Metro Government, HallandPartners, Lundbeck Inc, Medical Marketing & Media, Mayo Clinic, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals Inc, Precision Health Media,, Amgen Inc, XVIVO Scientific Animation, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, Merck & Company Inc, Wired Magazine, Yahoo, Harte-Hanks Inc, Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH, Grey Healthcare Group, Depomed Inc, Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Pharma Advertising Advisory Board, Shire Pharmaceutical Ltd, HealthDay, WebMD Professional Network, LLNS, Johnson & Johnson, PCX Pharma Connect Express, CSL Behring, Intouch Solutions, SSCG Media Group, Invivo communications, Everyday Health, Covidien, Daggerwing Health, Purdue Pharma LP

You can view the complete conference brochure here.

For more information or to register, please visit our webpage.

Don’t forget, as an ePharma Summit Blog Reader, register by today, save an additional 10% off the lowest rates of the year by mentioning code XP1606BLOG and we hope you chose to join us! If you have any questions about this year’s event, feel free to email me at

I look forward to welcoming you at the event!

Best regards,
Jennifer Pereira
ePharma Summit Social Media Manager
The 2012 ePharma Summit

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays (in video form)

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Today's guest post comes from James Ellis. Ellis is the Digital Strategist at closerlook inc. and blogs at He also needs more activity on his Twitter account (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to tell him he's wrong. No, really.

Yes, it's that time of year again. You may have noticed more gift food in your office kitchen or all those paper snowflakes (We're in Chicago, so we occasionally get the real kind). Maybe you're hearing more bells ringing and folks singing on the streets than you're accustomed to. Maybe you were asked to wear your ugliest sweater for someone in the office.

It's "The Holidays." Not the presidential birthdays or the fireworks kind of holidays, but the big cluster of major holidays that span religious and secular borders and encourage use all to eat too much, drink too much, and waste time reading Top 100 Year End lists online until it's almost Groundhog day.

As you already know, part of "The Holidays" is that agencies like to keep temporarily-under-utilized resources from bringing booze into the office, so they give them projects, like decorating the office or managing the holiday party. Some of them are told to be clever, funny, original, derivative, or just productive and make a holiday video. Company hjoliday videos are a strange brew of production values, brand messaging, showing off, and walking that line between humor, satire, and having a meeting with your HR representative.

We made one. And in the hopes of giving this holiday season a great big hug, we've decided to show off the others we found this season, too. If you want us to post yours, let me know in the comments!

Festivex, for maximum holiday performance

If you go to the site, check out our celebrity endorsement by Lil Bobo, the greatest wrapper alive.

Klick Health Holiday

Klick clearly spent serious time cataloging the good, bad and ugly of Christmas movies from years past and rolled it up into one glorious, cringe-worthy video.

Fuel Generosity
Less funny than earnest and pretty, this video reminds us all about the spirit of giving this holiday season.

Occupy the North Pole
On the games side, we have Occupy the North Pole, in which Santa has outsourced all elf jobs overseas. The elves protest, and you have to throw cookies at a very naughty Santa. Ho ho hey!
Did your agency do a video? Let me know in the comments and I'll post it here.
Happy Holidays, folks. Be safe, be merry, and be ready to come back next year to produce more stellar work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Digital and social efforts ramping up in heathcare in 2012

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Many healthcare organizations are making it a priority to focus on digital platforms for 2012.  Sharing patient information through health is a way to both improve patient care and continue to stay ahead of the trend with the economic and political uncertainty that 2012 will bring.

Not only are healthcare agencies taking a more interested approach to digital healthcare, but many patients are to.  Of those surveyed, 60% of patients would be willing to share their health information digitally if it meant coordinated care between their doctors if it is in a secure format.  They're also willing to share it if it means they can make better decisions as an educated patient.  For more information on this report, visit American Medical News.

At the 2012 ePharma Summit,Ted Smith, Entrepreneur-in-Residence & Director of Healthcare MBA Program, University of Louisville, will be on hand to examine how healthcare providers work to achieve ways to move in the digital direction with the presentation, "The Healthcare Reform Tidal Wave is Coming: Where Can You Catch the Wave?". For more information on the 2012 ePharma Summit, taking place this February in New York City, download the brochure here. As a reader of this blog, don't forget to mention code XP1706BLOG to receive a discount of 10% off the current rate!

Do more patients accepting the use of digital records for better health decisions surprise you?  Could this be a benefit to both doctors and patients in the future?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Roche and Pfizer look at Google+

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While Google+ is still a new social media platform, some companies are looking at the possibilities it could have in the future.  Google+ only has 40 million users, compared to 800 million Facebook users and 225 million Twitter users, but this platform is still a beta site.   According to the Digital Intelligence Blog, Roche has created both a corporate and human resources page.  Pfizer's Turkish affiliate has created it's own company page.

According to Sabine Kostevc, Roche's Head of Corporate Internet and Social Media, “I do not see our target audiences active on Google+, so I have no concrete plan on how to use it yet. From my personal point of view it is still very much in beta and a playground for techies and the social networking avant-garde. Google+ will most likely become an important factor for search engine ranking. But, given limited resources, I'm focusing for now on helping the organisation to engage on the networks where our audiences are.”

At ePharma Summit 2012, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb will be on hand to present "I Wish I’d Done That! Social Media" to look at some of the innovative social media marketing that has taken place a Pharma over the past year. Could Google+ appear in this category soon? For more information on this session and the rest of the ePharma Summit program, download the brochure here. Don't forget, that as a reader of this blog, you receive a 10% discount off the current rate when you mention code XP1706BLOG when you register to join us this February in New York City.

What are some of the advantages of Google+ for Pharma Companies?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Housing Dilemma for Digital Pharma Marketing

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

My research of surveyed pharma companies revealed that 58% have dedicated digital marketing groups. I think it’s safe to assume at this point that the digital revolution is real and is only going to continue to wield enormous influence over the way in which companies conduct business, particularly in marketing. In the coming decade, the percentage of companies formally codifying their digital marketing efforts with dedicated teams will almost certainly grow as they realize the efficiencies to be had from such internal reorientation.

These structures of the groups I surveyed ran the gamut from globally centralized support teams to ones situated under brand managers. There are literally as many ways to internally organize digital marketing groups as there are companies. But what is the right way, or ways? Where should pharma companies house their digital marketing groups? I admit the premise for this blog post would seem to be an answer without a question. Digital marketing lives in the marketing department. There is no housing dilemma. So what’s the problem?

Well, it turns out that only 66% of those surveyed companies with dedicated digital marketing groups house them under marketing. I know, I was surprised, too. The other locations for digital marketing included global commercial operations, eAnalytics, public affairs and most prominently, corporate communications.

The fact that companies are housing digital marketing in departments other than marketing could be an encouraging sign for the digital evangelists out there who believe that digital’s destiny is to revolutionize the way that pharma companies do business throughout drugs’ lifecycles and from the bottom of company org charts all the way to the C-suite.

Some companies find advantages in locating these groups away from marketing. As the figure above shows, a few companies’ eMarketing teams sit within corporate communications, commercial operations, or eAnalytics. These groups are often the ones sitting at the forefront of digital marketing, not only serving brand team needs, but also clinical groups’ needs and medical teams’ needs. Digital marketing can play a role in many other ways — patient recruitment, general disease awareness and patient education, for example. For groups playing a larger role in overall digital corporate communications and working with other functions beyond marketing, these alignments particularly make sense. The alignments do not, however, prevent these teams from working with brand teams to develop and deliver digital marketing projects.

But the ones that do sit under the marketing umbrella have a much more direct line of influence on brand communications and as a result, a more pronounced impact on the digital portion of a brand’s marketing. And beyond that, brands with their own dedicated group don’t have to rely on a centralized (read: distant) group to develop or execute campaigns. Nor do they have to rely as heavily on outsourcing.

So there are obviously advantages to situating digital marketing groups both within and outside marketing departments.

I would argue that virtually every company should formally dedicate resources to digital marketing (rather than laying it at the feet of existing groups and/or FTEs). But each company ought to assess its understanding of — and expectations for — digital communications before choosing where to house this effort so as to align those expectations with its parent department’s ability to deliver on those expectations.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Messsage from Pete Dannenfelser: ePharma Summit Co Chair

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Peter Dannenfelser, Co-Chair, The 2012 ePharma Summit would like to share this message with our ePharma Summit Blog Readers:

** ** **
I want to personally invite you and your team to join me at the ePharma Summit - the digital marketing event of the year - taking place on February 6 – 8 in NYC.

I’m Pete Dannenfelser, the ePharma co-chair and the Director of Pharmaceutical Digital Marketing – North America at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. This year, I wanted to get involved as the co-chair because, in my opinion, digital in pharma has never been more important. From the patients who benefit from our products to the healthcare professionals who prescribe them, the use of digital communication as an educational, support and marketing tool is omnipresent in their day to day lives, increasing the responsibility on us as an industry to “get it right.”

More than 600 industry players including brand managers, digital marketers and business strategists will establish strategies, standards, and best practices for marketing pharmaceuticals. This year’s comprehensive agenda includes 3-full day symposia, four customizable tracks including one un-conferenced track, tons of case studies that have never been presented before, and unlimited opportunities to network with colleagues and business partners.

This is the event that everyone in the industry must attend. Don't miss this chance to be a part of the year's biggest meeting.

I look forward to welcoming you at the event.

Best regards,
Peter Dannenfelser, Co-Chair
The 2012 ePharma Summit

** ** **

As an ePharma Summit Blog Reader, register by this Friday, December 9, to save an additional 10% off the lowest rates of the year by mentioning code XP1706BLOG when you register. We hope you chose to join us! If you have any questions about this year’s event, feel free to email Jennifer Pereira at Or visit the ePharma Summit webpage.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

History of Pharmaceutical Marketing Online

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Last year at Partnerships, @Nalts created a video for ePharma looking back at the past ten years of the history of the industry and the conference.

Watch it here:

Are you ready to make history for 2012?  Have you signed up to join us to make history for 2012?  For more information on ePharma Summit 2012, visit the webpage.  As a reader of this blog, you'll receive 10% off the current rate when you use code XP1706BLOG.  The lowest rate of the season ends Friday, so register today!

The year 2011 in Pharma has been a big year. What history can you add to the ePharma video recapping 2011?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

There's No Such Thing As A Product

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

When I went to pharmaceutical marketing blogging school, they taught us to always lead with a killer headline, something that demands people’s attention. I always try to pick something that intrigues you, but this time it was easy. Because the days of products are gone.

I realized this a few weeks ago when I decided to try to use a different product from iTunes to manage all my music. While I am deeply in love with my iPhone, I've never been a Mac guy. I'm strictly PC simply because I like cheap commoditized hardware that I can switch out myself as needed without having to go to some “genius” to help me make a minor fix.

So I have a PC running Windows 7, iTunes and an iPhone. I tried out two different programs, both of which worked great. They let me import my music, went and found lyrics and album artwork, let me tag tracks, make playlists, etc. You want to know the one thing they couldn't do?

Load music to my iPhone.

Why not? It's just an unbelievably pretty external hard drive, right? Wrong. It's an Apple product, which means it really only likes to talk to other Apple products using Apple software. You can almost hear my iPhone sigh when I plug it into my PC, as if it can't believe it has to keep company with such a philistine.

The same thing happened when I was trying to manage my contacts on my iPhone. I have a lot of contacts in Gmail, which is my environment of choice. But it was a tremendous hassle to get contact lists from both places to play well together.

You're probably wondering why, if I love Google products, didn't I buy an Android? I will retort, why should I be forced to?

Because we have entered the age of a system.

Facebook and Twitter are systems. They only (barely) play together through APIs. Your social media platform is a system and might not want to integrate other tools. Your CRM program is a system, and it might not talk to other systems. How you manage, communicate with and collect information from your reps is a system.

Heck, even the products we sell are systems. Diabetes drugs seem to be prescribed in groups, as do surgical recovery drugs.

And what about electronic medical records? Can I take my records from your hospital to my doctor? And even when the answer is “yes,” it’s not easy.

Hospitals are systems. Insurance groups are systems.

Cars are systems (drive a Toyota all your life? It will take time to learn what each stem and button does on that Ford or Mercedes). Political parties are systems (what Republican or Democrat believes every tenet of their party’s platform? You may buy in because of their economic policies, but you’re also endorsing their social policies, whether you agree or not). Even countries and religions are systems.

What does any of this mean? It means that you need to stop trying to sell a product and understand that people need a system, and if it's a system that can exist within and work well with an existing system of theirs, all the better.

Imagine you're trying to pitch a new social media platform on your organization. You want them to buy into FiveStepChicken (I just made that up, but now I own the name).

How do you do that? List the features? Show how it will increase productivity or effectiveness of communication? No, show how it works within the system first. That’s the first hurdle and if you can't get past that, you’re dead in the water.

We live in a system world. Embracing that idea sooner rather than later will help you achieve your goals.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mobile Mania

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

I recently read an odd statistic. Four in 10 smartphone owners use their device in the bathroom. I’m surprised, really, that the number isn’t higher. My guess is that many an Angry Birds level has been beaten in this… ahem… fashion. But in all seriousness, a statistic like this illustrates how pervasive smartphones have become. And like virtually every other industry, pharma recognizes the potential of mobile technology and is aggressively trying to reach physicians and patients via their phones. Digital marketing and ePharma conferences this year were dominated by a focus on mobile, mobile, and more mobile.

More than 15,000 apps are available in the Health/Fitness and Medical categories for the iPhone alone. Research by the California HealthCare Foundation found that most healthcare-related apps are related to exercise, stress management, diet and medical reference. Among the patient-focused applications, they range from general reference to the highly specific, including hundreds of apps for certain common specialty areas such as diabetes, oncology, pain and cardiovascular disease. These apps help patients keep track of medications, document daily activity and adhere to treatment regimens. Diagnostic apps, wellness and fitness apps and apps for managing chronic conditions are all popular among the smartphone-using patient population.

Close to three-quarters of apps are geared for consumer — or patient — use. I find this odd, because recent research by my firm, Cutting Edge Information, shows that physicians are by far the primary target for mobile marketing, at a rate of more than three to one over DTC (see graphic).

To wit, one company alone offers more than 600 medical apps for physicians, nurses, med students and institutions, focusing on delivering answers to clinical questions in more than 35 specialty areas. Apps for clinicians hold the potential to revolutionize the way in which healthcare is administered. There are digital imaging apps for ECGs and radiological procedures; there are apps that improve emergency room efficiency; and there are apps designed to improve patient-physician interaction, including some that facilitate remote consultations.

The sheer number and variety of mobile apps speaks volumes about the potential for mobile technology to shape healthcare, pharmaceuticals and the rest of the life science industry. Make no mistake, these apps have the potential to dramatically change the way healthcare is delivered. And to think this could only be the tip of the iceberg when you factor in gamification, EHR/EMR, tablets, etc. May you live in interesting times, indeed!

Readers of the blog can find a white paper I wrote chronicling the rise of mobile technology and pharma’s response to it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What could targeted online marketing do for Pharma?

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When you pick the book you by on Amazon, it automatically recommends five similar books that could also suite your tastes.  Could a similar version of this be suitable for health care online to reach their target audience?  Mark Stinson of Inventiv Health thinks so.   Instead of a broad, un-targeted webpage, what could a hospital's webpage that changes its content to fit it's core audience do?

The Edward Hospital & Health Services in Illinois did a study to identify who uses their website and why.  Based upon that, they changed their content to fit what would appeal to their users when they arrived on their webpage.

Stinson sees these things as possible options to work for tailored content for healthcare webpage users:
  • If you have this condition, you should pay attention to these associated risk factors.
  • If you’re taking this prescription, you might consider this companion product/food to make it more tolerable.
  • If you are seeing this kind of doctor, you could also benefit from these supportive healthcare services.
This year at the 2012 ePharma Summit, the eMarketing University for Brand Managers will look at new ways to identify with your customers, including better targeting your audience through your communication efforts.  For more information on this Summit and the rest of the program, downlaod the brochure here.  When registering, don't forget to mention XP1706BLOG to receive a discount of 10% off the current rate!

Do you think targeted healthcare marketing could benefit both the industry and users?  What other examples could this opportunity present?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A QR Code Case Study

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

Love them or hate them, QR codes represent an opportunity to leverage smartphones into personal marketing devices. And with Black Friday upon us, I thought it an appropriate time to bring up the much maligned black-and-white squares and whether or not they represent a real marketing opportunity for life science companies.

There is no shortage of opinion about them. Google “QR codes” and you’ll get more than 10 million results. Some of them are titled with such paeans as “How to Use QR Codes for Better Conversion Rates” or “Scanning for Good: How Nonprofits Can Use QR Codes.” Some of them are titled with less enthusiastic headlines like “Death to the QR Code” and “And Now You Have One More Reason To Ignore QR Codes.”

There is also no shortage of marketing usages ranging from good to bad to downright ugly. The best uses allow consumers to engage with a brand in a unique way, often with unique online content and special incentives, that actually enhances the overall customer experience and builds loyalty, especially among demographics of people for whom smartphone technology is native. The less than great uses of QR codes often confuse the difference between a static print ad and the dynamic online user experience, leading to dead ends and unfulfilled user expectations. Or they take a user to a site that is not optimized for mobile. The most egregious uses are pretty laughable. Like the ones on the sides of moving city buses. How exactly am I supposed to scan that with my phone?

Within pharma, the potential for QR codes is even less clear. Are they good for building customer retention and loyalty? Can they really drive traffic to product websites or compel people to ask their doctor about a drug? Or are they better suited to HCPs, who are more technologically savvy than the average individual and whose smartphone adoption rates are through the roof? If so, what kind of content would satisfy their professional expectations? And what physical locations are best suited for QR codes?

Readers of the ePharma Summit 2012 blog can read a case study of one company’s QR code initiative by downloading my white paper. The case study examines a DTC QR code campaign situated within doctors’ offices that is using traditional ROI measures and attempts to leverage existing collateral and medical education expertise into a mobile-friendly experience.

To our U.S. readers, best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving; to our international readers, we’ll be back next week with more food for thought. And don’t forget your phones when you go shopping this weekend, you never know when you might run into a QR code coupon for that must-have item.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Public Health & Social Media: Can Pharma companies afford to wait for regulation?

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Almost two years ago, in December 2009, the FDA held a public gathering "Public Hearing on Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools."  Yet, almost two years later, they have produced no regulations as to how Pharma companies can use online media and social channels to communicate with their audience.

In Matthew C. Nisbet's article at big think, he points that there are two problems with the current lack of regulation for the Pharma industry from the FDA:
  • The existing rules already created for other Pharma mediums are being inconsistently enforced
  • Existing FDA regulations do not properly translate over to the digital/social space

Nisbet also points out that even though Pharma's digital presence online is not all that it can be due to lack of regulation, there's plenty of false information floating around because it is such an accessible place for people to search and post health information, many of which is not from professionals.  He looks to three main sectors to release guidance for Social Media:
  1. Company controlled online communication 
  2. Company controlled and hosted online communications
  3. Real time social media communications
At ePharma Summit 2012, Pfizer will be presenting "You’ve Got Lots of Digital Content, They’ve Got Lots of Peers. Enable Consumers to Share Your Content Compliantly to Their Peers".  They'll examine how to reach your audience online and explain their strategies to align legal, regulatory, medical and brand teams in the digital initiative.  For more information on ePharma Summit 2012, download the brochure here.  As a reader of the ePharma blog, mention code XP1706BLOG to receive 10% off the standard rate when your register!

How is Pharma's lack of presence online affecting the health information that can be found online?  Do you think Pharma could help increase the quality of public health information online?  Do they need the FDA regulation to do that?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Turnabout is Fair Play: Non-U.S. Countries Leading the Way on Digital Regulation

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

When it comes to regulating digital marketing, the FDA is falling behind its international counterparts. It’s an interesting twist the usual narrative in which the FDA plays the leading role, blazing a path for other regulatory bodies to follow. This old narrative is a contributing factor in the delayed onset of pharma’s full embrace of digital and social distribution channels. Companies that are used to waiting on the FDA need only to look further afield; they will see that the digital marketing picture is crystallizing in other countries where regulatory agencies and industry associations are making headway.

While companies with U.S. operations continue to wait — and wait — for the FDA to issue its promised guidance on the use of the Internet and social media for promotion of regulated products, companies with operations elsewhere are beginning to move ahead in the digital space more quickly because either regulatory bodies or industry associations are actively setting policy.

In Sweden, Canada, and most prominently in the U.K., digital marketing through social media is regulated, either formally or informally, to varying degrees. In the two years since the FDA held its hearing on social media marketing, other governmental or industry entities have managed to lay out frameworks for pharma companies that want to incorporate social media into their digital marketing strategy.

Incidentally, though, there are still companies waiting on the FDA to release its guidance before developing a global digital marketing strategy. An executive I spoke with from the U.A.E. said his company was prepared to launch a global social media initiative, but that it was hung up because his company’s C-suite was reluctant to launch without first knowing how the campaign would fare in the U.S. regulatory environment.

Based on my research and on conversations with industry marketers, I see plenty of evidence that campaigns can in fact be executed compliantly, and that companies waiting on the FDA to set the standard for digital marketing on a global scale are missing an opportunity. In this instance, the FDA is playing catch up, and companies can look elsewhere to find out how regulatory agencies are dealing with the issues that digital and social media present.

A white paper I authored on the topic of the U.K.’s ABPI/PMCPA’s guidance on digital communication will be available for readers of the ePharma Summit Blog. It can be downloaded here.

To cover those attendees with global responsibilities (or just an interest in what’s going on around the world regulations-wise), The ePharma Summit added a full day symposium focused on the marketing environment in different regions around the world. There will also be a panel where regulators from around the world will share their perspectives on how they would respond to specific marketing campaigns.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CRM? I Know What You’re Waiting For.

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

Let me take you back a long, long time ago to the day I joined Diaryland. You don't remember DL? I'm not surprised, because three months later I abandoned it and joined LiveJournal. Ah, now you have a frame of reference. We’re talking years ago, almost a decade ago.

And I was on LiveJournal for a year or two before I found myself spending more and more time on MySpace. But that was short-lived, and I quickly moved to Facebook. And then Twitter. And then FourSquare. And then Google+.

Yes, that’s quite the travelogue of web 2.0 real estate, and it doesn't take into account a similar progression from AIM to YahooIM to GChat.

What do all these things have in common with each other? I joined each and every one of those sites for a single reason: I already knew someone on it.

Social media and their brethren are called social because they are of limited value without other people there to hang out with (note the study that shows that two thirds of social media users are on those sites specifically to stay in touch with friends). What good is being the first person on if there’s no one to flirt with (which is why they gave accounts away to anyone for free for more than a year)? None.

These online places even build their own cliques. At one point, I had one group of friends on LiveJournal and a different group on MySpace. Put these two groups of people in a room, and ten minutes later, they’d be self-segregating into two very different parties.

Beyond joining a crowd, having people already onboard to act as your personal tech support is also a draw. My wife is a Facebook ninja, in that she knew every security and privacy feature backwards and forwards. She taught her friends how to lock down their pages long before Facebook felt inclined to explain their privacy policies in plain English. She was everyone’s go-to for Facebook advice. And when she had questions about Google+, she asked me (it’s a well-balanced relationship).

What does this have to do with pharma and CRM? Well, the reason you haven't dived head-first into CRM is not because you don't understand it. It's not because you don't see the value of it. It’s not because you can’t see the ROI.

You know that 99% of your HCP targets are online, that more than 90% are in social networking groups, that more than 60% use Google to find out more information about diagnosis, treatment and pharmacology. You know that most HCPs are neck-deep in the Internet to help their practice and their patients. You know that this kind of environment is perfect for CRM, for tracking and measuring all your digital marketing initiatives, for seeing which ones work where and when it's time to cut bait on under-performing tactics.

What’s really stopping you is that you don't have a social network drawing you into CRM. Not enough of your peers have dived in, so you are waiting to see how things work out for them.
Sure, I understand. You're scared of diving into new technology that you don't think is proven yet (to that end, have you met Amazon, the greatest example of how a CRM gives actionable data about one’s customers?). You don't want to spend money on the PushMedia, Apple Newton, or WebOS of today: ideas that sounded good at the time but died miserable and expensive deaths.

And if you’re first to adopt, who are you going to turn to for advice? CRM is big and complicated, and if your CRM vendors don't know the ins and outs of pharma, they aren't going to be in any position to help.

But what happens when everyone else adopts and you’re still sitting on the fence? Yes, a CRM program takes time to implement, but once it's all set up, it provides useful data very quickly. While you’re waiting to hear how things are working, your peers are already making tactical changes and thinking about how all their new data will help them adjust their strategy.

How long are you going to wait? You already know that digital is taking over, and that CRM helps you manage all the new digital channels. Ask around: how many of your peers are signing agreements with CRM vendors? Are you falling behind without realizing it?

What are you waiting for? Are you like the person who still isn't sure that Facebook will really take off before signing up?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Striking the Media Mix Balance

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

I used to think the word “revolution” was too strong to describe the effect of digital and social media on how companies do business. I thought that a revolution completely overturns the existing paradigm and yields new, previously unthinkable ones. With regard to digital marketing, I thought, “Certainly we are not looking at a whole new way of doing things, but rather we’re looking at new channels in which to do familiar things, right?”


Not only are digital channels proliferating at a rate greater than our ability to master them, but they are radically altering the marketing landscape to the extent that some companies are foregoing the old way entirely. As in, digital media are revolutionizing the way business is done.

In short, the appeal of older distribution channels is on the wane. Budget-minded brands and companies see an opportunity to level the marketing playing field by shifting into the digital space, where the costs are less and the reach potentially greater.

In fact, some companies are in the midst of shifting all of their marketing to digital. That’s right — all of it. I interviewed a marketer from a Top 100 pharma company for a recent report. What follows is some of the thinking behind her company’s move to all-digital. (Because our interviews at Cutting Edge Information often involve discussions of sensitive information and benchmarks, we keep our interviewee’s identities confidential.)

“We can’t justify the expense of traditional media like print and television for our promotions and advertising,” she said. “We also feel that those channels don’t offer the same impact, or bang for the buck, that digital ones do. We didn’t do national TV campaigns, but we would do regional TV campaigns. So millions of dollars were going into those, and we weren’t seeing the return.”

An online campaign involving a popular blog aggregator website ended up doing for her brand what those TV ads were not, and in the span of three short years, that brand along with the company as a whole ended up moving to all-digital for its marketing efforts. For her part, the marketer said that may have been unwise (or at least too fast), because “going dark in broadcast media meant we saw a pretty significant decline in our web traffic, which we have to learn how to replace.”

It’s no secret that digital channels are claiming more and more bandwidth in companies’ marketing mixes. Achieving the balance that works for individual brands — a balance that maintains existing leverage in traditional channels while building scale in digital ones — is more art than science. On one hand, you can argue that incremental change can help achieve an optimal mix, while reactive, sweeping change can result in overshooting the mark. On the other hand, you can argue that the digital train is leaving the station, and companies not on it will be left playing catch-up for years to come.

Are there instances in which a wholesale shift to digital-only makes sense for brands or companies? 

I’d be interested to hear thoughts on the extent and impact of the digital revolution taking place in your organization.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Do You Know The Score?

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

If I have to explain to you that the pharma industry is huge, both in America and abroad, you are reading the wrong blog. Go type “barrel roll” into Google or something. The rest of us are working here.
If you work in a multinational, multi-billion dollar company, maybe managing a brand (or a small one – let's say it only pulls in ten to twenty million annually), you have access to a million-plus in marketing budget, access to a few hundred reps who connect to a few thousand doctors to talk about a handful of their patients.
How are you keeping all that straight?

Spreadsheets? Okay, sure. Are you spending your day inputting all the info in by hand and hoping whatever formulas you have built in are useful? I hope not.

Let's face it. If you are managing even a tiny brand, there are so many numbers consider that it boggles the mind. How many of those numbers are coming in daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly?
It's not so much the quantity of numbers that's the problem, it’s the fact that they arrive in chunks, at weird frequencies, days and weeks after the event they are tracking occurred. As a brand manager, you're supposed to keep track of all these numbers. And beyond that, you’re supposed to actually know what they all mean and be able to make decisions based on them.

Think of it this way: let's say today is the day you had that idea – that magical “I was in the shower and it just hit me” idea – and you want to implement it. Maybe it's an under-served segment you know would embrace your message, or a great way to pitch your product to reps, or even a great way to reach HCPs at a conference. The question is: even if it was a “set the world on fire” idea, how long is it going to take for you to determine if it really was a great idea?

Days? Weeks? Months? If that conference is two months away (about enough time to re-think your marketing strategy and actually execute it), you're talking three to four months to see if that idea took hold and increased script writing.

The world isn't built on big ideas. It's built on small ideas, executed well and repeated over and over. Democracy isn't so much a big idea as it is millions of people voting every so often. Capitalism isn't a big idea so much as it is billions of people making individual choices for themselves and families and organization every day.

The iPad isn't a big idea, it’s the product of a million little decisions made based on an idea that people want to read more wherever they are. The difference between Starbucks and your local coffee shop isn't the idea (they sell coffee and offer a ’third place’), but in the million little branding and business decisions they make every day.

So maybe your brand isn't a blockbuster (and maybe it is – time is running out to make the most of it!), but success doesn't come because your brand solves a big problem, but because of the million little decisions you make every year.

So how do you determine when your decisions were good ones? I'm betting that you know your annual and quarterly sales, you know your sales by region, and maybe your sales by decile. What else do you know?

How much of understanding and acting on that “what else do you know” question is farmed out to other companies? That’s just going to add lots of time between an idea’s execution and its feedback.
The question becomes: do you know the score? Do you know how all the little micro-scores that make up the big score?

Micro-score? Yeah. Your football team is winning and your quarterback has seven touchdowns. Are the two related? Heck, yeah. The big score on the scoreboard is an outcome of all the micro-scores that happened. Your center didn't score a touchdown, but because he’s protecting the quarterback, the quarterback can score. Eleven people are on the field, each with a vital job to do. When one person blows it, the whole team will feel it very quickly and it won't be long until that one low micro-score is dictating the big score on the board.

So do you know all the micro-scores that make up your annual sales? The reps, the HCPs, the campaigns, the engagements, and the conversions (at any and every level)? A good coach knows that one guy is having a great game, and another guy isn't. A great coach knows all the micro-scores and makes adjustments to make the most of good micro-scores and minimize the effect of bad micro-scores.

Doesn't that seem like a good way to describe your job?

If you are the coach, do you have the information you need every day to make those smart coaching decisions? Do you know when to stop shoveling money into that program because it isn't reaping the benefits? Do you know when to start moving resources to that other campaign because it's moving the needle? If it’s months before you know, the game’s half over before you can make decisions.
So, if you’re ready to be the coach, if you're ready to make decisions, do you know the micro-scores?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Note from the ePharma Summit Program Director

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My name is Sarah Gordon I’m the program director for the ePharma Summit. I’ve been hard at work creating an agenda that is the most beneficial to you. Our process for putting together the program involves extensive research calls, face-to-face meetings with the advisory board and online research.

During this process I identified a couple of new trends and formats which we’ll cover at the 2012 event:
  • Just because you work in the US doesn’t mean that you don’t have responsibilities around the world. To cover your global responsibilities (or even your interest in what’s going on around the world) we added a full day symposium focused on the marketing environment in different regions around the world. We also have a panel where regulators from around the world will share their perspectives on how they would respond to a specific marketing campaign.
  • Mobile is rapidly growing. Although mobile has been growing for a while, we’re finally at the point where there are case studies and lessons learned from campaigns with mobile elements. We’re bringing you the case studies during our Trends in Mobile track, and also during our "I Wish I’d Done That!" mobile panel, where marketers share the campaigns from the past year that have made them jealous.
  • Case studies are the way to go. You like to hear what works and what doesn’t work, from people who have done it, which is why we instituted case-study only track sessions. That way, you’ll get real world examples on what works.
I invite you to download the brochure. If you would like to get involved as a speaker, please email me at

I look forward to seeing you in February!

Sarah Gordon
Program Director
ePharma Summit

Friday, November 4, 2011

Last Day to Save up to $550 at ePharma 2012

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Be sure to register by the end of today, Friday November 4th to save $400 on your ePharma Summit 2012 registration.ePharma offers over 600 attendees talking about the latest trends in the pharmaceutical digital marketing space.

Mention the code XP1706BLOG and save an additional $150.

ePharma is the event of the year. You won't want to miss it. Download the brochure to see our amazing list of speakers and keynotes for 2012 plus all the new topics and formats which will make this year the best ever.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Helpful Note Regarding Marketing Numbers

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

A helpful co-worker sent this link around today from a blog under the title “Are Pharma Reps Important to Docs or Not?” two blurbs from the article read:

" . . . most physicians find pharma sales reps among the least important sources of information they use to help them diagnose, treat and care for their patients."

Still, 1 in 4 physicians find information from drug companies "very useful."

I’m used to getting these kinds of emails because in my company, I’m the guy tasked with keeping all the numbers in one place. When someone wants to know if they should expect the average email recipient to be able to see images in their email, I’m the guy they ask.

Anyway, I was struck by these two quotes. They weren’t chosen at random. These things meant something to my co-worker, and he passed them along to me for cataloging and reference.

But I wonder if they mean the same to you as they do to me? This is like that “Do you see a duck or a bunny” drawing. You and I may see the same thing and come to two very different conclusions.
Possible conclusion 1: Only 25% of docs listen to reps. Ergo, reps aren’t very useful to my marketing plan because they don’t reach much of my market.

Possible conclusion 2: 25% of docs listen to reps. If we can identify them, we now know how to market effectively to one quarter of our targets.

Which camp are you in? Do you see the duck or the bunny?

I’m guessing a good number of you saw that number and mentally crossed reps off as a go-to tactic. Too bad. We live in a world where we don’t all watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, or watch the same news. There is almost no unifying connection to us all anymore.

So why assume that there’s a way to reach all (or most) of your targets with one tactic or one channel? Looking for a broad channel is an exercise in futility, as the broader the channel, the less effective it is as influencing. Note the difference in perceived effectiveness between reps and TV commercials: 25% of HCPs find reps very useful. What percentage of HCPs would say the same about TV commercials?

Since you’re never going to find a channel with 100% reach, let alone 100% effectiveness in influencing, breaking your marketing plan into segments is the best way to be effective.

How can you segment? Well, have you asked your targets how they’d like to be approached? Have you given them the opportunity to express a preference? And have you taken the answers to those questions and applied them to your targets? Or did you just aggregate the responses into a worthless pie chart showing that no channel is particularly effective?

Stop looking for a marketing “silver bullet.” Instead, load up on lots of different kinds of weapons to fill your arsenal. Your targets will appreciate it and your marketing plan will get stronger.

Monday, October 31, 2011

In Rejecting Proposal, EU Dashes Drugmakers’ Hopes of Having a Voice

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

Three years ago, there was a glimmer of hope for drugmakers in the EU to be able to publish information about their products. But in early October the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, flexed its muscles and dashed any hope that the governing body would relax the rules restricting pharma’s contact with consumers.

In 2008, the European Union’s Pharmaceutical Forum introduced a proposal to reform marketing rules and effectively allow pharma companies in Europe to circumvent the existing ban on DTC advertising. In the face of ensuing backlash from consumer protection agencies and patient and physician advocacy groups, the Commission eschewed it in favor of a milder one that would allow drugmakers to communicate to the general public in written form and on the Internet, primarily in selected media such as health publications.

Earlier this summer, the Commission said it would review the proposal. In the three years since the proposal was brought up for consideration, turnover on the Commission and a shift in the responsibility for pharma policy from the Commission’s industry division to its health division helped create a less receptive environment for the “deregulation” of pharma marketing and tempered any optimism for change.

However, the final ruling went beyond rejecting the original proposal and ensured that pharma companies would not be allowed to disseminate information about drugs and their indications beyond a narrow set of circumstances. In other words, the already restrictive regulatory environment on pharmaceutical communications got even more so. Lynne Taylor of PharmaTimes described the tougher measures:

They also propose that:

  • only "certain" information on prescription drugs would be permitted, such as that on the label and on packaging leaflets, plus information concerning prices, clinical trials or instructions for use;
  • information on prescription-only drugs would be permitted through limited channels of communication, such as officially-registered internet websites or printed information made available when specifically requested by consumers. Publication in general print media would not be allowed;
  • the information must fulfill recognized quality criteria — it must, for example: be unbiased; meet the needs and expectations of patients; be evidence-based, factually correct and not misleading: and be understandable; and
  • as a general principle, information which has not previously been approved will need to be verified by the competent authorities prior to dissemination.

Although the development is not surprising to most in the industry, there was a hope that the Commission would allow the previous proposal to stand, giving pharma an opportunity to provide information about their products in general media. The industry has long claimed that they need the latitude to provide reliable, accurate information about their drugs to counteract the abundance of misinformation available. Ben Comer in his PharmExecBlog quoted Ian Read, Pfizer’s president and CEO, as describing DTC advertising a “fundamental right in the U.S.,” and its absence “leads to ignorance and the inability to judge.”

The EU is certainly not the US, but do pharma companies have a “right” to promote their products to consumers? Would allowing pharma companies to communicate more freely in Europe lead to better information for consumers and better health outcomes? Or is it a slippery slope that leads to DTC “in disguise?” Perhaps there is a middle ground short of DTC but that affords pharma something more than zero communication. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The 2012 ePharma Summit Brochure is Now Available!

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Get all the details on the largest and most respected digital marketing event in the life sciences industry. Download the full ePharma brochure to see all the new sessions, speakers and formats we've introduced to make this year's ePharma Summit the best ever. The ePharma Summit will be taking place February 6-8, 2012 in New York City.

Highlights include:
  • More case studies than any other event with presentations from: J&J, Janssen, BMS, Pfizer, Sanofi, Galderma, Biogen Idec and more...
  • The best workshops from the perennial favorite eMarketing University for Brand Managers, to Digital Marketing Around the World, to the new Medical Legal & Regulatory Marketing Policy Summit
  • Keynotes from top minds in the industry including:
  • Charlotte McKines, Global VP, Marketing Communications and Channel Strategies, Merck & Co. Inc.
  • Kevin Kelly, Author, What Technology Wants, Founder & Senior Maverick, Wired Magazine
  • Robert Safian, Editor & Managing Director, Fast Company
  • Andy Smith, Author, The Dragonfly Effect
  • Donald Casey, Chief Executive Officer, Board Member, West Wireless Health
  • 75% pharma speaker faculty to ensure you learn from those who've been there and done it

Don’t forget, when you register using code XP1706BLOG for 10% off the earlybird pricing! If you have any questions, feel free to email

Mobile Focused on Commercialization (at the Expense of Clinical Development Opportunities?)

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Casey Ferrell is a research analyst at Cutting Edge Information. He will be guest blogging at IIR’s upcoming ePharma Summit 2012 (February 6-8, 2012 in New York City). You can find him on Twitter or over on his company’s blog.

Smartphones will become the standard device consumers will use to connect to friends, the internet and the world at large, and that future is nearly at hand. The share of smartphones as a proportion of overall device sales has increased to 29% for phone purchasers in the first six months of last year, and 45% of respondents to a Nielsen survey indicated that their next device will be a smartphone. Predictions based on current growth rates — much of which is fueled by emerging markets — put the number of smartphones in use by 2014 at more than 1.5 billion.

The majority of smartphone owners have downloaded and used mobile applications, or apps. According to research, iPhone users have the most installed apps, with an average of 37 per device, whereas Android users have 22. These figures are significantly higher than those from just a year ago, and apps are poised to proliferate in lockstep with the growth of smartphone usage. But a problem with apps is usage retention. An oft-mentioned factoid from the Digital Pharma East conference this week pointed out that only 5% of people still use an app one month after downloading it.

Pharmaceutical companies are aware of the potential for mobile applications and have already built a robust array of offerings. More than 15,000 apps are available in the Health/Fitness and Medical categories for the iPhone alone. Research by the California HealthCare Foundation found that most healthcare-related apps are related to exercise, stress management, diet and medical reference. Close to three-quarters of apps are geared for consumer — or patient — use. The rest are aimed at physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. To wit, one company alone offers more than 600 medical apps for physicians, nurses, med students and institutions, focusing on delivering answers to clinical questions in more than 35 specialty areas. Apps for clinicians hold the potential to revolutionize the way in which healthcare is administered. There are digital imaging apps for ECGs and radiological procedures; there are apps that improve emergency room efficiency; and there are apps designed to improve patient-physician interaction, including some that facilitate remote consultations.

But if usage retention rates continue to hover in the single digits, the industry will soon realize the market is saturated with one-off mobile health apps and that despite the low cost of developing them, there is even less ROI than it first envisioned. Research from a report I recently led shows the industry sees commercialization as the phase ripest for mobile technology.
The emphasis on product commercialization is evident in this graphic based on my research. It shows survey respondents’ average ratings of mobile technology as a support tool for each development phase on a scale of 1 to 10. In early development phases, mobile ranked lowest at an average of 3.6, and the average climbed steadily through the development phases to a high of 7.4 for mature products.

I would argue that given the gold rush to develop apps for the commercialized marketplace, there is an opportunity for the industry to shift its focus and look for innovative ways to use mobile technology to improve clinical development. From streamlining trial data collection and analysis to connecting potential trial patients to investigators, the clinical development space is an opportunity for pharma companies do differentiate themselves from the pack, find more value for their mobile investment and improve pipeline challenges that impact bottom lines. In other words, while developing consumer apps may be the trendy approach, other stakeholders, like trial patients, physicians, investigators and clinical development staff, stand to benefit if more mobile technologies were aimed at them.