You can only manage what you can measure. But according to a recent closed-door meeting led by the consultancy TGaS Advisors, most pharma marketers are still in the dark about what bang they're getting for their online buck.
TGaS invited 14 executive directors and vice presidents, spanning 12 pharma companies (including five top 10 firms), to discuss how commercial organization can measure their Internet marketing strategies.
The TGaS meeting found that marketing execs were confused about how to best benchmark online promos, and who is responsible for executing it. Twelve out of 14 pharma marketing executives admit that when it comes to benchmark measurement, Internet and relationship marketing are two areas most in need of improvement.
Yet when asked how aligned their analytic plans are with their brand strategy, the execs gave their companies a score of 7.5 out of 10. They also gave their companies an average score of 6.7 out of 10 when asked if there were "clear boundaries of responsibility between my organization and other departments that support brand teams."
Indeed, the lack of clarity about what works online may be one reason for the recent dip in promotional dollars for the Web. According to an article on Spend Trends in the upcoming May issue of Pharm Exec, pharma companies spent $159 million on online advertising in 2007; that's down 5 percent from approximately $167 million spent in 2006.
But even if pharma managers were totally on top of their online marketing operations, they have few tools to evaluate performance. Unlike marketing channels like television and radio, which use standardized benchmarking, online media measurement tools (such as Web site visits and click-throughs) are open to widely diverse interpretations, and don't account for views that lead to sales, according to Bob Shewbrooks, TGaS vice president and management advisor.
Additionally, tracking metrics by page views has become difficult with the growth in flash media sites, where users can view reams of content without leaving a page.
In January, Josh Chasin of The Washington Post speculated that Web sites might be better served if their metrics were tracked by engagement rather than actual clicks. "Maybe we need to think about online media consumption in two flavors: ?time spent' and ?engaged time spent,'" he wrote. "What if we could track the time consumers spend with each Web property?pages, audio, video, IM or widgets?in a way that allows for capturing multitasking behavior?"
According to TGaS, the industry is comfortable tracking prescriptions, and the personal promotion channel is very well served with data and analytics. The same metrics, however, can't be used online and clients rely on very skimpy data to justify their investments in these channels.
"No one has been able to draw the direct line from online marketing to prescriptions," said Shewbrooks. "However, some companies have done a good job measuring programs where they have specific opt-in guidelines with decent data capture. That's where cutting-edge companies appear to be doing well when it comes to relationship-marketing measurement."