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.