10 Classic Mistakes and how to avoid them - Pharmaceutical Executive


10 Classic Mistakes and how to avoid them
Interactive marketing has been around since 1994, yet pharma marketers still make the same mistakes when executing online tactics.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Remedy: Companies should separate their professional and consumer web communications into discrete channels. Although the professional site may contain a prominent link or "barker" to the consumer content-for doctors who want to see what their patients are looking at-the content itself must be designed and structured very differently.

The imagery on a professional site should be serious: text, slides, webcasts featuring prominent physicians, little brand imagery, and no "life-style" photography. Ideally, physicians should also be given access to a completely separate, data intensive "thought leader" website, which they can access with a user name and password.

Mistake #4. Build the site without a blueprint. No company would construct a new building without seeing all the plans. Why, then, does the pharma industry build so many websites without a technical specification document?

Because websites are so often an afterthought, marketers frequently rush to get them up in time for a product launch or a big sales meeting. They think they can save time by skipping the architectural phase and moving right into production. The result is a poorly designed site that eventually will have to be gutted and re-built-which costs more than if it had been built right the first time.

Remedy: Product managers or agencies must have the discipline to say no when colleagues ask them to build product websites without undergoing a thorough technical specifications process. And developers must have the flexibility to execute launches in a series of well managed, smaller phases. That way, the developer and the client can learn from the users' experiences and not waste time and money on features and functionality that users don't want. Companies should construct the core "building" first, then live in it for a while before deciding whether to add a sun room or turn half the garage into a workshop. But in all cases, companies should never build anything without a blueprint.

Mistake #5: Underestimate the difficulty of getting content approved. Typically, the biggest bottleneck in online launches is writing content and getting FDA's Drug Division of Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) to approve it. Several obstacles slow down the process: assembling content from various sources, turning it into web-friendly prose, and getting all that information through the laborious marketing and DDMAC approval process. (See "A Fine Line," Pharmaceutical Executive, October 2002.) All told, even a small amount of content can take months to work its way through the copy approval mill.

Remedy: Marketers can make copy approval more efficient if they follow a few rules. First, executives should ensure that writers have appropriate consumer healthcare and internet experience. It also helps to hire writers who know the legal ins and outs of a particular company's review department.

Finally, companies can hold group review sessions with attorneys and regulatory people all in the same room to reduce the traditional medical/legal round-robins, where small disagreements are often amplified rather than resolved. Adding the human element tends to focus everyone on the big issues and cuts down on nitpicking and grandstanding.

Mistake #6: Treat everybody in the world like an American. People outside the United States often accuse Americans of being insensitive to other cultures. Although that charge isn't always justified, cultural insensitivity is a problem on the world wide web because, although much of pharma's web content may be developed in the United States, it is consumed everywhere.

Marketers must remember that consumers from all over the world visit those branded websites, even when they are clearly marked "For US Residents Only." International surfers generally use the same search engines Americans do, and many non-US consumers, particularly those who live in countries that prohibit DTC advertising, turn to American product websites. Executives must design their websites so they are accessible and understandable to everyone.

Remedy: US managers should consult with international colleagues during the development process, providing them with the opportunity for real input-and not mere political lip service-about the creative design and messaging. And if the company is truly committed to global brand launches, it should also commit to usability testing with key global audiences.

Mistake #7: Don't think about measurement until after launch. Despite the statistical savvy inherent in a computer-based medium, marketers often fail to establish the metrics with which to measure the success of their online initiatives. It is ironic that pharma companies claim that they have a harder time "proving" the efficacy of a web initiative compared with inherently less measurable media, such as television and print. Indeed, it is only a matter of time before marketers and their agencies acquire enough experience to make their electronic initiatives the most precisely measured component of their marketing mix.

Remedy: Marketers must establish tangible goals that can be measured at each stage of development. Some basic statistics include unique and repeat visitors, average length of site visit, and registered users.

Product managers should also consider more advanced measurement, provided by services that determine the demographics of site visitors and map traffic growth back to off-line DTC initiatives, including print and television ads.

Mistake #8: Ignore the importance of disease-specific websites. When launching a major global brand, marketers often expect a single, brand-name website to deliver all the messages and speak to all the audiences they want to reach. Although it's true that many patients around the world turn to American websites for product information, companies can't promote a name-brand website outside the United States. And unpromoted websites aren't worth building.

Remedy: Companies can build disease-specific websites, which they can promote around the world. Although those websites can't discuss specific brands, they can explain the importance of a particular type of therapy and begin building interest that may lead to product inquiries.

Mistake #9: Fail to coordinate online and offline initiatives. Web development is fundamentally different from traditional agency activities, but it can't be lumped in or "siloed" out from other communication approaches. Pharma companies need specific expertise to execute an effective web strategy, but they must fully integrate it into the brand strategy. Ultimately, the responsibility for the web initiative's success falls on brand managers' shoulders. But if the brand budget is big enough, companies should dedicate an integrated marketing manager to ensure that the web strategy is in sync with the overall brand strategy and that the traditional and interactive agencies communicate effectively with one another.

Web developers, ad agencies, PR firms, medical education companies, and packaging designers all play a big role in a product launch. But if companies don't have a disciplined approach to integrating those activities, they'll have an expensive, ineffective mess to clean up.


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