With global CEO’s turning their eyes astutely to growth, profits and digital transformation, the pressure to deliver digital pharma is more pressing now than ever before.

For the purposes of recap and calibration, in the two previous posts of The State of Digital Pharma and The Goals of Digital pharma we outlined the following:

  1. The fundamental business motive behind digital pharma is to realize greater health and outcomes for patients
  2. The measurable business goal of digital pharma is to use technology to get real engagement with patients and consumers that realizes and drives compliance resulting in greater revenue.
  3. The primary brand strategy of digital pharma comes from empowering overall patient quality of life – this is the major factor in the buying and selling of medicine.

Said simplistically: Digital pharma is about using technology to realize real engagement from your audiences (consumers and patients) that drives compliance yielding greater returns.

And so the quest begins…

As the digital transformation imperative takes organizational prominence, concerted efforts occur: whether it’s operations, sales, procurement, finance, marketing or other, we see established legacy systems and processes being migrated (transformed) into a new way of digitally enabled systems. And this transformation yields its share of challenges including data, privacy, consent (GDPR, CASL, CanSpam, etc.), data silos, alignment, security and so on.

But while these transformations happen, we also see a paramount challenge of a new sort arise: how do we, through digital transformation, truly meet the needs of our consumers and patients?

Looking at digital transformation investments then, CEO’s are weighing the returns of each digital expenditure through the return-on-investment lens of growth, engagement, loyalty and revenue.

  • For the CFO, the calculations and ROI proof is straight-forward. Past legacy systems are now digitally streamlined, efficient and secure.
  • For the COO, again straight-forward. Past legacy systems are now digital showing alignment, greater speed and higher efficiency
  • For the CMO, not the case.

As marketers try to follow suit with their corporate counterparts, they’re alarmingly noticing that while transforming past systems into digital processes is straight-forward, the ROI calculations aren’t yielding the same positive outcomes.

And yes, the CEO is still asking the same, all-important question: As our business goal is to use technology to get real engagement with patients and consumers that realizes and drives compliance resulting in greater revenue…how’s it going?

Bas Burger, CEO, Global Services, BT just spoke to this exact issue: “CEOs all around the world identify the lack of insight into what customers and employees really want or need as a main obstacle to delivering an optimal digital experience.”

And this concern is resounding down the halls of brands everywhere. Digital brand engagement scores are plummeting (Forrester, Buzzsumo, etc.):

  • Per-follower engagement rates on Twitter are down 10%
  • Instagram’s engagement rates are down 50%
  • Google+ rates fell by 35%
  • Facebook’s rates fell by 20%

And on and on it goes…

And the CEO will be asking:

  • What assurances can you give me that your digital plans will work?
  • Based on the falling digital engagement rates, what’s the probability of your brand plans succeeding?
  • Impressions, Likes, ReTweets and Shares don’t drive revenue. What’s going to be our metric for success?

And without real answers, it’s no wonder why Harvard Business Review released statistics showing that CMO’s have the shortest lifespan of any C-level executive.

And without real answers, it’s also no wonder why Forbes, Adobe, Accenture and others are all pointing to the path of CEO’s working with CIOs, CTOs, COOs and leaving out the CMO role all together.

What’s going on?

Firstly, as we seek to understand “how digital pharma”, it must be seen that digital transformation fundamentally has two inherent yet radically different focus points: internal vs. external. Internal, as mentioned above deals with operations, finance, etc. External deals with consumers and patients.

Secondly, as we seek to understand “how digital pharma”, it must be understood that applying an internal digital transformation approach to an external business need is completely irrelevant.

To realize the goal of:

Using technology to realize real engagement from your audiences that drives compliance yielding greater returns,

CMO’s have to realize that:

Digital Transformation isn’t actually about technology.

Let’s talk engagement:

For the most part, if you approach “how digital pharma” through the lens of technology, marketers will have absolutely no idea how to relate, educate and engage with their audiences.

If however, marketers approach “how digital pharma” through the lens of what customers and employees really want, they’ll have every idea on how to relate, educate and engage with their audiences.

There’s actually two things here:

  1. How to relate, educate and engage
  2. Who your audience really is – and why they engage in the first place.

For years now, the pharma industry has attempted to bolster digital efforts and hence, brand success through educational platforms. Scores of websites, apps, social feeds, etc. have been deployed featuring all sorts of information around disease states, patient journeys, guest editorial articles, treatment cycles, SMS or email prescription reminders, tips for traveling and the like. Sadly, after a short while, the novelty of the initiative fades, usage dwindles and the digital effort falters into irrelevancy.

And again, the CMO asks: What’s going to be our metric for success? How will digital support growth?

Now we’re getting to the real challenge of digital’s transformation – the how of digital pharma.

How, through technology, do we make our brand(s) relevant to our consumers/patients SO THAT they engage with us over time? How do we, through technology, keep a dialogue going to foster loyalty, interest and support to realize greater compliance?

The marketer wonders to themselves: If as a marketer, I can deliver a program that sustains engagement and therefore enables greater compliance, I can show decreased burdens on physicians, greater impact on prescription / usage volume and ultimately, I can show growth and revenue for the organization.

The marketer then wonders to themselves: If I can do that, I now have three unprecedented sets of metrics proving ROI:

Metric 1:

Increased Education = Increased Engagement

Increased Engagement = Increased Compliance

Increased Compliance = Increased Outcomes

Metric 2:

Value add digital programs = Increased patient motivation

Increased patient motivation = Better compliance / outcomes

Better compliance / outcomes = Decreased cost of care

Metric 3:

Value add digital programs = Decreased physician burden

Decreased physician burden = Higher focus on care / more Tx

Higher focus on care / more Tx = greater revenue and market impact

But here’s where it keeps falling apart.

 

By using the same approaches pre-digital, marketers are taking established legacy systems and processes and migrating them into new digitally enabled system.

The legacy system: We have a product. We select a price. We select a place. And we promote (push and pull). We do ads and brochures and in-store and detail aids and advisory boards and focus groups and leave behinds and take-ones and, and, and…

The non-ROI digitally transformed system: We have a product. We select a price. We select a place (digital) and we promote. Websites, apps, banner ads, coupons, networks, etc.

 

It’s not working because brands aren’t really engaging.

Brands aren’t really engaging because they don’t really know their audience.

 

If Peter Drucker, the grandfather of marketing said: “the aim of marketing is to know the consumer so well that the product or service sells itself” and if Sir William Osler – one of the “Fathers of Modern Medicine” – said: “it is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.” Ask yourself: do we really know the consumer? Or, do we really know what sort of patient?

 

And right here is exactly why it’s breaking down.

 

If the entire world has changed BECAUSE of digital: we shop on-line, talk on-line, bank on-line, etc. etc. would it not be at least prudent to contemplate if the pre-digital consumer or patient perhaps has also changed BECAUSE of digital?

Digital transformation is not happening simply because organizations are trying to optimize and increase efficiencies of internal operations. Digital transformation is happening because the way in which the world works is changing and organizations need to keep up.

The world is changing because people’s behavioral patterns have changed – and people’s behavioral patterns have changed BECAUSE of digital.

When digital interaction really began to take off in the early 2000’s (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube all launched), we saw a slow adoption rate at first. However, in 2007, a Malcolm Gladwell, “Tipping Point” happened and human’s switched from somewhat using digital to fully embracing digital.

  • Facebook now interacts with one third of the global population monthly.
  • Two thirds of the world now has mobile phones: 50% of which is a “smartphone”

Yes, the “what” changed: non-digital changed to “digital” but once you understand “why” it changed, and moreover, what that change actually did to human behavior, you’re getting closer to knowing your consumer / patient.

And only when you really know your consumers and patients are you able to digitally transform and deliver ROI.

 

Before continuing, it must be fully noted that the pharma marketplace is unequivocally shackled with a massive host of regulations limiting action. So although pharma companies are aware and desiring to move more and more into digital, the proverbial playing field is radically different than that of other non-pharma organizations or markets.

That said, the rules and regulations do not dictate a “no digital” response, they dictate a “more work” reality. AE reporting, brand name filtering and so on are new demands and required necessities that frankly need to be dealt with but this all boils down to two simple questions:

  1. Does the “more work” of digital outweigh the vision to serve patients?
  2. Does the “more work” of digital outweigh the need to realize growth and revenue?

Said bluntly, knowing that digital can achieve better engagement and hence, better compliance, and hence, growth and revenue, pharma needs to onboard the new “more work” demands that digital requires.

Does this mean reallocating resources? More reporting? More management? Yes, yes and yes. But again, if the vision of pharma is patient-centric outcomes, and if the world has changed because of digital and, if the CEO is demanding growth in sales and profits, is there really any choice?

Pharma has to change the way marketing and sales functions operate and bring these new ways – not past legacy systems – into the digitally transformed world.

So stop chasing after the countless promises of “500 new ways that automation will optimize your marketing efforts” and start looking at what happened to your actual promise of ROI, the consumer and patient.

As you know, the CEO will be asking:

  • What assurances can you give me that your digital plans will work?
  • Based on the falling digital engagement rates, what’s the probability of your brand plans succeeding?
  • Impressions, Likes, ReTweets and Shares don’t drive revenue. What’s going to be our metric for success?

And again, the answer is not in technology or automation, the answer is in engagement.

 

What does engagement take? Know thy audience.

 

What does a digital consumer or patient look like, what do they value, what motivates them to engage here but not there?

A pre-digital consumer/patient is radically different than a digital consumer/patient and moreover, the digital consumer/patient has completely rejected pre-digital brand actions rendering past promotional-focused marketing methodologies irrelevant and ineffective.

It’s for this exact reason that digital brand engagement scores are plummeting:

  • Per-follower engagement rates on Twitter are down 10%
  • Instagram’s engagement rates are down 50%
  • Google+ rates fell by 35%
  • Facebook’s rates fell by 20%

If your digitally transformed brand plan is steeped with legacy 4P thinking and strategies, you’re guaranteed to be left empty-handed when the CEO asks for ROI.

If however, your digitally transformed brand plan is steeped with consumer and patient thinking, strategy and knowledge all driving a multi-channel “patient-first” programs that empower overall patient quality of life (again, that’s the major factor in the buying and selling of medicine), you’ll be able to show the ROI of engagement, increased loyalty and compliance and yes, revenue.

Working forward then – under the patient-centric, digitally transformed brand – and fully respecting the restrictions pharma brands face, successful, return-generating, digital pharma has 6 elements that must be in place for success to be realized.

Each of the 6 must be delivered digitally and cross several digital media channels (social and web proper) Each element must also be calibrated to provide full insight analytics enabling ongoing evidence-based decisions for messaging, content and user experience.

Realize that this is again, NOT 6 digital assets but 6 core elements that collectively span several digital assets both social and web proper. Naturally, specific application to specific brands will be expressed uniquely.

1          Consumer awareness and education

Key marketplace information, overview of conditions and available therapies, life style / QOL information and care partner support. Please note: this is also a role largely shared by industry associations but there are still elements pharma needs to conduct for simply the fact of demonstrating patient care, empathy and support.

2          Consumer Engagement / Physician alignment

Framework education and information on HOW to make proper decisions in health, other patient success stories, access to member-based communities and linkage to associated physicians (and other Healthcare Professionals). This is where the “more work” mostly happens through on-going community management (setting the rules of engagement) and consistent monitoring for AE notes and comments.

3          Physician endorsement / Tx decision enabled

Enabled direct engagement to associated physicians, discussion guides for physician consultations, full psychosocial information (to remove burden from physician), patient / care partner concerns (side effects, etc.) and access to other patients (community).

4          Patient enabled

Physician and/or enabled Patient access to Tx community: Specific Tx:patient information, Tx reminders, ongoing information featuring success stories, articles from various physicians and, QOL tips (diet, exercise, other). This set of actions is uniquely much more specified falling under direct-to-patient vs. direct-to-consumer.

5          Patient – physician engagement

Customized Tx reminders, safety overviews, Tx expectation education, appointment reminders, ongoing HCP:patient discussion guides, provision of Tx and wellness information. This requirement also belongs under direct-to-patient communications but is critical to balance Tx information with Tx-affected life management.

6          Patient psychosocial

Brand-only Tx community, linkage to other patients, full privacy, psychosocial information from related professionals (relationship, intimacy, diet, exercise, wellness, etc.) patient success stories, motivation content, ability to share, etc. This requirement is largely patient-only but can also cross into the direct-to-consumer digital realm.

 

Now what?

Can digital pharma fully echo what happens in the CPG space? No, for again, the rules of the marketplace are just radically different. Can pharma cut the shackles of legacy thinking, manage the new digital-first realities and commit to the extra work to make a real difference in patient lives? Absolutely.

Digital pharma is a new business paradigm. The organizations that are bold and take action will not only transform the market, they’ll reap rewards of full spectrum engagement (from consumer through physician), greater brand positioning, complete data sets for optimal decisions and negotiations (from marketing through to regulatory) greater patient compliance and medical outcomes, excellence in patient care and ultimately, profitable returns.