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Personalization — the Holy Grail of Digital Marketing


Pharmaceutical Executive

It’s not just patients that have interesting marketing personas - HCPs have them too, writes Peter Houston.

It’s not just patients that have interesting marketing personas - HCPs have them too, writes Peter Houston.

Peter Houston

Last month I wrote about Direct to Persona Marketing™, an approach to fighting the mass market scattergun approach enshrined in traditional DTC. Liquid Grids’ manipulation of data from an analysis of 650 million online conversations is offering marketers some hope of targeting clearly defined patient groups and cutting out some of the waste in consumer advertising budgets.

Using data analysis to target promotional or educational messages at HCPs works too, but the trick with professional audiences isn’t just figuring out where they hang out online. According to Kate Reynolds, Managing Director of London-based agency eBee, effective communication is about understanding how audiences interact with your digital assets.

Reynolds says most pharma marketers are sophisticated enough to understand what channels professional audiences are going to; what sites, apps and devices they use and what type of content they’re looking for when they get there. And if they don’t, she says, “it’s fairly easy to find out using data provided by firms like Manhattan Research”.

The big problem with that approach is that your competition is doing exactly the same thing.  “Access to channel data is not what people need to set them apart, it leads to undifferentiated campaigns,” says Reynolds.

eBee’s solution is to investigate the digital behaviour of healthcare professionals to help pharma companies predict how they are likely to interact with digital media and to design digital marketing strategies that reflect preferred interaction styles.

The company works with a matrix of nine digital personas:

  • Broadcasters love to express their opinions and they want access to large networks where they can be heard.

  • Gatherers like to collect the latest information on subject areas, people and organisations that interest them.

  • Accelerators want to share information that others may find valuable, but they don’t stop to add their opinion.

  • Grazers spend a lot of time interacting with digital content; not particularly focused, they’re looking for interesting information.

  • Contributors add commentary and give advice, reviewing things they have read and products?they have tried.

  • Hunters focus on reputable sources of information to increase their chances of finding exactly what they want quickly.

  • Ghosts stay invisible online, but carefully monitor other people’s opinions to calibrate their own thoughts and behaviours.

  • Connectors want to belong, spending a lot of time interacting with digital and FOMO (fear of missing out) means they are easily attracted.

  • Gamers love to be entertained; if there there’s a challenge, they’ll take it - anything to get to the top of the leaderboard.

eBee surveys the behavioral preferences for a specified audience and uses the data captured to create a detailed matrix of customer characteristics against its own validated norms. Building from an evidence-based understanding of the target audience’s preferred digital interaction styles, the company then predicts the digital communication mechanisms likely to be most effective.

Reynolds says doctors, for example, are often less broad in their expression of digital behaviours, determined in part by the nature of role and needs of the work, as much as individual personalities. “They tend to be early tech adopters, but their practise may determine how they interact with technology. An acute care surgeon who is a thought leader may have a higher readiness to contribute than a chronic care consultant who may be more interested in exploring a spectrum of best practice.”

She points out that creating digital solutions that are tailored to specific audiences’ digital interaction styles is not only smart from an effective communications point of view, but it makes sound financial sense too.  She cites ‘genius’ digital projects that are impressive on the drawing board, but just don’t work in the real world. “We can make a sensible assessment of what’s going to work,” she says.

The core of eBee’s approach is to provide marketers with insight that allows them to consider the interaction style of the target group and develop digital assets that fit their preferences. But Reynolds emphasizes the importance of designing in robust measurement capabilities that allow campaigns to be tweaked against real audience interactions.

“We always look at how to monitor the ability to deliver against objectives and how to use measurements to make adjustments if they are needed,” she explains. Building in features like user polls gives a deeper understanding of audience interaction. “Simply measuring usage or dwell time does not help with that.”

The holy grail of digital marketing is personalization, as promised by the Big Data fraternity. eBee’s ‘nine-types’ approach doesn’t deliver true personalisation, but then neither do most of the Big Data solutions out there.

As we start to see the first signs of a Big Data backlash in reaction to the mismatch of expectations and delivery, this ‘real-world’ application of targeted data analysis is refreshing. Applying real survey data to shape a structured marketing response to the characteristics of broad professional groups facilitates a more nuanced approach to digital engagement. And that’s a good start.

Peter Houston is former Group Content Director for Advanstar Pharma Science. He is now an independent media consultant and founder of Flipping Pages.

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