by Jason Brandt (@jasondmg3)
Attracting visitors to your website is one thing; keeping them engaged is another. With patent expiries and a shrinking sales force on the horizon, pharmaceutical companies need to think strategically about their digital delivery strategy and optimize their most valuable asset: their website.
Social networks are an important component of the marketing mix, but its important to recognize that social platforms will come and go. MySpace, once king of the Internet is soon to be little more than a blip in web history. Hundreds of thousands clamored for Google+ invites and threatened to abandon their presence on other platforms. Worse, any of those companies could shut down without warning, obliterating your online presence. A website offers greater ownership and control, but it requires daily attention and strategic foresight to keep people involved.
The first challenge in creating a successful website is defining its purpose and then implementing strategies to support it. Goals should be more specific than “get people to interact. Is your goal to educate and inform? Sell a product? Support a specialized community? Once you determine what it is youre trying to accomplish, you can define processes to achieve your goals.
Even having clear line of sight for what youre trying to accomplish may not be enough to draw repeat visitors, especially if youre trying to be just another WebMD. Chris Boyer smartly observes that people are already heading there to gather clinical health information. Successful websites need to offer more whether thats more opportunities to interact or deliver value to your audience.
Whats holding pharmaceutical companies back?
Diagnosis #1: Failure to know your audience. If your website doesnt immediately give visitors what they want, theyre not going to stick around, and theyre not going to come back. If breast cancer survivors are coming to your site looking for other post-treatment patients, give them what theyre looking for right on your front page.
Diagnosis #2: Not keeping content up-to-date. Many initial web strategies were simply to have a presence. Thats no longer enough. Today youre expected to provide actionable information. If youre a doctors office, let patients see appointment availability and offer schedule functionality. If youre an OTC drug manufacturer, offer a coupon, pollen index or an offer people cant get anywhere else. If you maintain a blog, make sure posts are informative, well-written and updated regularly.
Diagnosis #3: Being forgettable. If you want people to return to your website, youre going to have to remind them that its there. Create an opt-in e-mail list from your site visitors and send out regular communications letting your recipients know about the latest developments, news, special offers, etc. Dont overwhelm recipients or send them junk. If you give valuable content and they know where to find it, theyre more likely to seek it out.
Diagnosis # 4: Your site is too difficult to navigate. Make interactions easy. If the experience is frustrating, theyre going to leave. Patients and physicians come to your website for different reasons. A doctor may be interested in prescribing information whereas a consumer might want to know which local pharmacy carries the prescription they need. Provide clear navigation that gets them where they want to go. Visitors also want to know how they can get in touch with a company representative. Prominently place links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email, etc.
Websites still have a strong place in the marketing mix. Customizing content based on customer type and physician requirements and gathering data to understand the effectiveness of promotional materials is critical. By understanding your audience, its expectations and delivering on them, pharma can do a better job of getting people involved in their website.