E-Pharma Summit Day 1: All Roads Lead to the Internet

By January 29, 2008Uncategorized

What’s the definition of insanity? Isn’t it doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

That was Day 1, e-Pharma Summit. There was talk of innovation, blogs to watch, how to engage with Web 2.0…all seemingly okay, and quite reasonable-sounding … unless you had heard it for the last two years.

Pharma as an industry "gets" the Internet. The room was stocked with really smart, forward-looking folks. Research, metrics, couponing, CPA, ROI, ROMO (Return on Marketing Objective), quant, qual…all plain to the eye. Paul Ivans (www.evolutionroad.com) ran a good event. But it often had more of a Shriner’s feeling than a typical pharma event — which was to his credit. Yes, it lacked case studies, but it was full of ideas and given the dramatic increase in size from last year to this, perhaps more converts exist now about the simple fact: for health, the end of all roads does not lead to the doctor, it leads to the Internet.

But it was still a little disheartening. For all the talk of innovation, attending the conference was like watching people try to sprint in a potato sack race — it looks like a race, seems like a race, but everyone is hobbled and going way too slow.

Nevertheless, there were good moments and insightful observations. To name a few:

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The Internet is about connecting, and we still do a poor job of connecing to patients. Pharma needs some practical advice, and only one person, a gentleman from Digitas Health, actually had a SOP for how pharma could engage and connect and innovate with blogs despite the fears of Adverse Event Reporting.

Another excellent use of the Internet was the Novartis YouTube influenza Fluflix videos  campaign. As you’re no doubt aware, in this campaign, users create and upload videos dealing with their feelings about the flu. The response was impressive, and Novartis showcased some really creative, innovative videos. That was the most innovative idea yet.

Maybe the smartest observation was from Katheleen O’Neal, of Merck. She said the industry was at the same stage as IBM was 10 years ago with Small Business Solutions. Boy, was she right, and I know so because I worked on the CRM campaigns that supported what was a total re-positioning of IBM from its top 300 clients to embrace mid and small-size businesses.

What did I learn from that work?

That when serving a customer through the "e" channel, nothing is linear, and everything is circular.

Okay, let me explain. Pharma, for the most part, still takes a "push-pill-to-person" approach.  Even if the dressing is creative and evocative, the fact is, the path is linear. (Only Rozerem, http://www.rozerem.com/consumer/home.aspx broke that model by using dream imagery in their "Your Dreams Miss You" campaign starring Abraham Lincoln and a talking beaver.)  In the same way, most Pharma/Biotech e-CRM speaks to patient stage

This is important yes, but it’s also a one-dimensional approach and too linear: it assumes that the immediate need is the only need. IBM figured out — and not overnight nor easily — how to integrate channels, call center included, around two key communications objectives: (1)relevance and (2) action. The relevance objective took a bullseye/circular approach to content, by being both direct and indirect. For action, the cardinal rule was: NEVER let the visitor go without surrounding the content with some next step, deeper engagement, all sorts of actions which led to more time with the brand.

An example: if you were a small to midsize business customer, and spoke to IBM  at the call center, they’d send a follow-up email with a link to a custom micro-site with content directly relevant to your discussion — if you had a server, here’s FAQ’s, and a PDF on maintaining them. They’d always surrounded that directly relevant content with potential cross-sell and upselll content, which was delivered with attendant actions. As a whole, then, the customer is presented with an environment consisting of the relevance bullseye and the surrounding action circles. For Pharma/Biotech, perhaps the bullseye is using treatment stage as a way to sort people, but then to move beyond that immediate need and surround it with content and interactvie rich experience circles that set clear patient expectations of what to do next.

The ultimate theory was that you always serve what the customer asks for (bullseye), but  you also service what might also open them up to something more (surrounding targets). IBM’s customers responded to this approach quite well. More cross-selling, more contract renewals…yes, it was B2B, but there was always only one individual seeing that Web experience at a time. We were still selling to people. 

The IBM approach requires integrating channels, treating them like a dance where a consumer moves back and forth between media at will. The IBM story was using both mass media and CRM to repositioning lines of products and services. For Pharma/Biotech, the path to Righteousness and increased profits: Adherence. CRM and DTC could do that for us,too.

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