Never Ask a Patient if They Are a Loser

By June 23, 2008Uncategorized

I love studying registration forms — in fact, to really go for the Nerd Points, I have to admit that I study the whole experience of filling out forms at the behest of a company — the value proposition, the number of questions, how it is laid out in paper or digitally, how long it takes to complete, how they set expectations,  any evidence of best practices… My check list goes on for a while. Some of it is intuitive, but some of it's also supported by data. And the criteria do change by industry.

It is proven that bad or poorly thought out registration forms, whether online or on paper BRC's will hurt response rates. This isn't supposition, it's fact. Quantified and in the books. Call ComScore if you doubt this — they will back me up.

The basic rule behind all decent surveys is deceptively simple: only ask what you absolutely need to know.

Pharma marketers often overlook the key dynamic of the registration process — the Closer, really. First, when devising a form you need to see the whole experience from the consumer or patient's perspective. It's not an uncommon experience for them — consumers sign up for things all the time — your CVS card, your Blockbuster membership, NetFlix, Shop 'n Stop, Pampers, on and on. Online, this is such a common practice that there are software packages, like Roboform, that do this automatically.

In addition to really, truly putting yourself in the consumer's place, what you also need to do is learn from the masters — those brands that engage and pull the consumer along, resulting in completed, useful forms. Here are some links to a pair of good registration pages from non-pharma companies:

SurveyThe Pampers site is a nice piece of work. It's attractive, well-organized, and best of all, provides a separate section that explains why they want the information they request, question by question. No game-playing.

Oprah's website is a completely different animal. It has one of the longest, most intrusive registrations I have ever done. Yet, it was fairly easy. Every step was well-defined. and when they even asked the value of my house and income, I was taken aback, but I did not hesitate. I was motivated: by registering I got a slew of free Oprah content and the chance to get free tickets to be on her show. Now that is an offer!

One registration from pharma-land I recently discovered was for Shire's Lialda, a drug for ulcerative colitis. I am curious about it on a number of fronts. First, it seems to be using Golden Questions to determine customer value and proclivity to adhere. If this is the case, it's an extraordinarily smart thing for them to do — they're attempting, presumably, to market only to patients who are statistically likely to succeed. However, it has that old British expression, "too clever by half," smell about it. If you're unfamiliar with the expression, it means being confident of one's intelligence in a way that other people find annoying.I wonder how many people complete the form. It looks like it was developed by someone with a considerable amount of brilliance and an algorithm, but who doesn't really understand what the people who are actually going to fill the thing out feel and think.. The Golden Questions sound great, but think of the patient; alone, curious, committed, about to tell you private things for some brochure, emails or coupon. Be that patient when you compose the form. You will get better results.

The real clincher is the questions toward the bottom of the Lialda form. They're an assessment of the patient's emotional perception of having UC, and of their likelihood to try a different drug. The questions are larded with words like "afraid", "helpless", "worrying" and worst of all, "my doctor doesn't understand." This series of questions might as well boil down to one: "Are you a victim?" If you agree with half of what the Lialda folks ask you, you are basically saying you are weak and a loser. I think that in the first week of Marketing 101, they teach that informing your customers that they're losers is Not Good Marketing. This ranks right up (or down) there with the RIAA suing its own customers.

Let's finish with a few friendly tips to keep in mind when thinking about any experience where you are asking a consumer to supply information to you:

  • Assume they will ask "why" to every question you have. Get ahead of that curve and have a good answer ready. After all, if you ask someone such personal questions, all the algorithms in the world mean nothing if nobody actually completes and submits the form.
  • Everyone, clients especially, who works with the Web needs to read Steve Krug's brilliant usability book, Don't Make Me Think.
  • Think through the Value Proposition/Value Exchange communication to the consumer. The simplest advice is: make clear what they will get for what they give. Doing this work up front can increase response rates and form completions.

Pharma RM is a far different discipline than any other industry. It includes a big dose of complex science, it often discusses unpleasant issues, and it's very heavily regulated. But being regulated does not affect common sense, like asking too many or too intrusive questions.  And since we're working with human beings here, common sense counts for a lot.

Then again, if you want the free information, just lie.