Like many other areas of marketing, pharma digital communication is subject to fashion. A new technology arrives, people naturally get excited. Meanwhile, established communication technologies receive less focus (even if they are producing results). It’s all too easy to get caught up in it all, but there is a more strategic way to work with digital channel selection.
Find the right tool for the job
Digital communication technologies are just tools – each working in different ways and allowing you to do different things. So, while it’s good to know the latest technology, it is just as important to know the kinds of problem that it best solves.
‘Wearable computing’ was a buzzword of 2016. It genuinely is very exciting but what’s the right use for it? You can enable patients to use a wristwatch-style device to contact their healthcare professionals 24/7. But why would you? Everyone has access to a telephone and that’s the technology preferred by doctors who need to schedule their interactions with patients.
A better patient use for wearable tech would be a reminder to take medication or a way to track an exercise regimen or monitor heart rate. That kind of data can then be shared by the patient with their healthcare professional to inform their treatment plan.
Likewise, right now, ‘chatbot’ technology is in focus. Yes, it is amazing. But, again, it has specific purposes and things that it does well and things that it does poorly. Chatbots probably are not the best option for transactional activities because it takes so long to go through the options (websites are much better at that) but are great at conversational activities like customer service.
“While it’s good to know the latest technology, it is just as important to know the kinds of problem that it best solves.”
Match channels with business problems
According to Sebastian Kölsch, Anthill’s Chief Solutions Officer, “When you listen to digital transformation cases, it’s tempting to think that you can take the exact same approach because it appears ‘proven’. This is understandable but is unlikely to produce results because each company or brand has a specific and unique situation. There’s no single recipe that will work everywhere but rather ingredients that need to be mixed in the right way.”
Rather than begin by wondering which channels you want to try, start by identifying the business problem. Knowing what you want to achieve is fundamental to channel selection. Then, by understanding what each of the technologies do best, you can find the right match.
Thinking this way can save a lot of money and time. Firstly, you’re less susceptible to fashion: “Yes that is amazing but we don’t need it – at least not yet.” Secondly, you might already have a better technology for solving a problem in your channel toolbox – just requiring the right content to make it work. And lastly, when you do choose a new technology, it’s much more likely to get results because it’s doing what it’s good at.
Know your channels
Your digital agency should be able to help identity the right channel, or selection of channels, to achieve your objective. Still, it’s good to have a feel for what the different technologies do best before you get down to detailed planning.
To help, here’s a few common channels and the kind of problems that they can solve. Clearly, this is a simplification but it might get you thinking.
Website: Offers the potential for great stores of ‘on-demand’ information (portals) and excellent for transactional activities. Smart design can overcome the ‘too much information’ problem. But you need to ensure that people can find it or devise ways to connect them to your web content.
E-detailing: Great for in-depth discussions, engaging people in specific topics or even identifying areas gaps in knowledge levels. Can also be used as a ‘springboard’ to other channels. But if mass awareness is your goal, there are other options.
Chatbot: Best for automating conversational activities like customer service. Not usually the best solution for transaction activities, particularly when there are many options to a product or service.
Mobile app: Great for essential services if designed to meet users’ specific needs and assisting daily activities – people will download it if they don’t want to live without it.
Remote call: Like e-detailing, this is great for in-depth discussions and providing personal service. Can be extended to remote calls to groups with consideration paid to balancing increased reach and lowered personalisation.
Email: Done right, email can be a mass communication channel that address people personally. Great for highlighting information, getting news out fast and connecting people to other channels for the full story.
Social media: A powerful way to build communities. The big networks work well for patients but HCPs are usually looking for information elsewhere. SoMe can also be effective in helping people find content in other channels.
The truth is that there are no right or wrong channels. And the continual development of new technologies can only be a good thing. Each has its place in your digital marketing toolbox.
“The skill of the marketer is, increasingly, knowing which one to reach for at any given time.”
- New channels continually become available
- Always consider your business challenges first
- Understand what each channel offers
- Match the right channel to the right problem