ROI of Digital Strategy in Pharma?

Written by
Mads Krogh Petersen
ROI of Digital Strategy in Pharma?

How do determine ROI on a Digital Marketing Strategy in the pharmaceutical industry

As marketers we are accountable for the business impact of the (digital) marketing strategies we bring to life. With an increasing number of touch points accurately calculating the marketing ROI prior to the roll out of a strategy or before embarking on an ad hoc marketing activity is challenging.

How do we determine whether a Multi Channel Marketing plan e.g. comprising a specific email program; a certain schedule of follow up calls by “Inside Sales”, product banners on a given number of third party HCP portals, a 4 page leave-behind for the doctors’ interactions with patients during consultation, an integrated sales rep e-detail and the opportunity to download Prescribing Information on the Healthcare company’s HCP portal is going to deliver ROI? And what would be the exact influence of adding an advertorial on Medscape or something else to that mix?

There are predictive models available which can support the ROI calculation, but these are — in my experience — not practical in the context of most Healthcare product launches or for the ongoing marketing of an Rx product to professionals. Here is an alternative way to substantiate your digital marketing strategy to yourself and the C-level.

Supporting HCPs through the Decision Journey

The ultimate aim of any marketing activity is to influence the opinion and behavior of the “buyer”. The buyer is the prescribing doctor in this simplified example. It is a gradual process of influence typically described as a Decision Journey. The prerequisite for a change in opinion and behavior is the ENGAGEMENT of the HCP in what you bring to the market. And when it comes to Digital Marketing what is on offer is typically content featuring different levels of intelligence (e.g. personalization) and delivered in various formats ranging from apps, to website to videos.

For the sake of simplicity, here is an old school decision journey model.

In a product launch project, the challenge is to help HCPs through the stages of the journey. First, we want the HCP to notice that a new drug is on offer; second, we want the HCP to actively evaluate the profile of the product and find it superior; third, the HCP should be able to match the profile of the drug to a specific patient with the relevant patient unmet need and make a prescription; and lastly, she should experience positive patient outcomes and buy-in to the wider application across her legible patient population thereby moving up the adoption ladder for the product.

However, there are barriers to completing the journey for the doctors.

In our endeavor to move the HCP through the customer journey, we zoom in on how we can break down the barriers that are preventing doctors from passing from each stage to the next.

In this example, the barriers to the Discover stage include:

  • the doctor perceives the therapeutic area to be of marginal interest, e.g. because it it could be orphan disease; because it is not potentially terminal; because the Quality of Life impact of the disease is deemed to be marginal; because he knows little about the area.
  • there are many alternative treatments available with which the doctor has long standing experiences and which are cheaper at face level
  • the HCP shuts down mentally when a pharmaceutical company mounts its typical sales pitch during product launch
  • there are Rx product launches going on all the time, and even whilst the doctor could be interested, he is overwhelmed by the constant info bombardment by the industry

These are examples only, and you should use the aggregate knowledge of our organization, legacy research or bespoke studies e.g. via the DigitalIQ to determine, detail and prioritize these for your unique circumstances. In my experience, the classic approach gathering all internal stakeholders in a workshop format to collect shared knowledge will help drive the required momentum for what is often also inherently a significant Change Project.

For each of the prioritized barriers you need to define a barrier buster(s). What is the message or method which you can use to bust the barrier in question? Again the definition of such can be a communal process across the organization’s different stakeholders.

Examples of high level barrier busters could be:

  • Prominent branding which makes the product stand out vis-a-vis competitors. This is obvious, but the fact remains that many launches use similar tone of voice, same visual style, same metaphors, all of which makes the product indistinguishable
  • Focusing on an unmet patient need hitherto not addressed by other medications showcasing both individual and socio-economic significance
  • Stress how the medication fits nicely into a holistic management of the patient involving all relevant healthcare stakeholders
  • Refrain from mere Text Book type communication and engage the HCP via a Communication Platform that also ties into the emotional impact of adopting the new treatment.

Next, you can define the (digital) activities to deliver the prioritized Barrier Busters.

Example of activities could include:

  • Presence at the major TA event on the ground and digitally. Focus on conquering the digital space pre, during and after the event through the concept of digital event amplification. You choose the activity because fewer HCPs are able to attend the physical events, but remain interested in the content presented at such event.
  • Rather than relying on pushing product info to the HCP, ask for her opinions on the TA and return the aggregate results via email. You choose email as primary delivery vehicle as you have documented that email is the HCP’s favorite digital channel.
  • Work with the local scientific society to help in their effort to provide CME to the local doctors. For scalability and in the interest of HCPs scarce time, deliver as eCME on a mobile platform.
  • Create a compelling messaging platform or Creative Concept which is the reference point for all messaging reaching beyond conventional communication related to Efficacy and Safety. Here is how Abbott and Novartis did this.

Finally, you calibrate the selected activities by applying the below criteria to each of the digital activities and calculate a “fit score”. You should through the process for each of the transitions between the stages in the funnel.

Fit score criteria

If you present the process and results of the above analysis garnished with the omnipresent DRG data (or similar) on the extensive use of digital in the info seeking process leading to prescription, you have a pretty solid, if pragmatic, argument for your digital strategy. Here is a reference point for a one slide framework for your digital strategy.

As you go live with the digital strategy you obviously need to make sure that all relevant metrics are being tracked. At the end of the first quarter you have a baseline and you can start measuring yourself and up against industry benchmarks.

Now, the next stage in the digital journey is Optimization starts, but that is another story.

Written by

Mads Krogh Petersen

President and Co-Founder

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