Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Your Website Is Broken (but you don't know why)

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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.

I know what you pay per click to get an HCP to visit your web site. SEM clicks run $2-$4, but those aren’t targeted and only one in twenty might be valuable. Banner ads placed on HCP sites can cost $40-$80 per click. But at least you know they are HCPs. Email campaigns narrowed to your target list will be $40-$60 a click. As they say, a million here and a million there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.

But what, exactly, is the use of spending all that money to get targets to click on a link when your landing page has a 0.02% conversion rate?

When a brand builds a website, it is investing in a platform, a platform that must support any number of roles. The site must support eLearning videos, prescribing information, Important Safety Information, sample requests, formulary lookups, patient material, case studies, and any number of bells and whistles. That platform must perform well on a desktop as well as mobile, and must be able to get through medical and legal reviews with as few issues as possible. The investment, which starts in the mid six-figures, is expected to live virtually unchanged for at least two years.
There's no feedback loop to say if their guesses were right
This platform is designed with a lot of eyes and a lot of fingers, each stakeholder making his or her own best guess as to what a good website looks like and acts like. Most steal smart thinking from other websites. You're not shocked that 80% of all HCP pharma sites look very similar, are you? But in the end, everyone grasping at straws as to what will work.

The problem is that there's little to no feedback loop to tell them if their guesses were right and almost no opportunity to make adjustments when failures are found.

That's why we have to pay $50 for a click: because the site is locked and there's nothing a brand manager can do to change it without investing in a brand new platform. In order to hit their engagement targets, they have to spend the money filling the top of the funnel.
But what if you saved some of that money and used it to make adjustments to the rest of the site? What if you planned to make data-informed adjustments to fix problems and test decisions? A little planning could increase the conversion rate from 1% to 2% which would double the value of all those $50 clicks.

That sounds great in the abstract, but I can show you exactly how to do that with tools you (or your agency) is probably already using. These tools can tell you if your web platform is effective, where problems might be, and the real value of different options.

The kinds of problems we’re talking about here could be that your call to action is so far at the bottom of the page that no one sees it. Or that your registration form is so complicated, people give up on it. Or even that users show up for the samples, but the landing page hides the link to the sample request form. These issues practically beg your users to run away without every giving you anything of value. You paid $50 for that click, why are you wasting it?

The analytics many brands use are set up to just look at a very small piece of the funnel. For example, it watches and measures each step in the three-page registration process. That's fine: knowing how well your registration process is working and where the bumps are is very helpful. But measuring just that one part of your site is like the joke where I guy is looking for his keys at night under a street lamp. He lost his keys somewhere else, but the light makes it easier to search here.

Your website only has three parts
It's crucial to think about your website as a conversion funnel on a more macro level. At the first stage, it has to persuade people to learn more about your brand. Then, it has to convince them of your brands value. At the final stage, it has to complete the transaction, whether that's an internal conversion like registering for a program or an external conversion like prescribing.
You need to measure those three stages separately to evaluate each stage. Improvement in each stage boosts the overall conversion rate. If you increase the top of the funnel 10%, you'll increase the output at the end of the funnel by 10%. So while each stage can be considered separately, there is real value in looking at all of them.

1) Persuasion-focused landing pages. If someone clicks on an inbound link, where do they land? I bet at least 60% of your links land on the home page. That's great, but home pages are horrible at persuading people to learn more. Home pages are political, serving the needs of every department on the brand side before it focusing on the user. On the other hand, a great landing page has a sense where the user came from (an email highlighting case studies or a banner touting a new indication), presents material the user clicked for (and not in addition to seventeen other distractions), and provides a clear call to action: sign up, read more about the brand's efficacy, see a video, etc. This is when you pass the user to stage two of the funnel.

2) Informational content pages. You've piqued the target's interest and now they want proof. Give it to them. If your landing page was about a drug’s MOA, show them the efficacy. If the landing page was about efficacy studies, show them the MOA then the formulary tool. Studies show that having too many choices causes people to leave a website in confusion, so provide a path through the content. At each stage, remember that when someone says "yes," you stop talking. Give them the opportunity to convert in the transactional stage.

3) Easy conversions. If you want them to opt in, make the form simple and short. If you want them to prescribe, point them to the sample page and the formulary tool. Understand that the user has been interested and persuaded by your content (otherwise, why would he or she be at this point?), so don't try to show more content when you're trying to get a user to complete a form. Let them finish the transaction and then get out of their way.

Improvements at any stage means improvements to the bottom line, but you have to measure them. And you have to commit to making changes based on the measurement (not on your gut, because that's not how we're doing it anymore).

Next: The nitty gritty of how to make that happen.
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