Dec 31, 2010

Automated speech processing: commercial state of the art

I have always been fascinated by progress in the area of automated speech processing, since my days as a Master's student at the University of Cambridge in Computer Speech and Language Processing and I spent time with Professor Steve Young at the Cambridge University Machine Intelligence Laboratory.

Thus it was with great interest and pleasure that I read this review of the state of the art of commercial speech processing systems within Scientific American earlier this month. Like many high tech fields, there have been mergers and convergence in the suppliers, to the leader Nuance Communications. Extensive pre-training is no longer required. General listening is now possible in structured sub-languages and categories. Plus, the commercial applications have become widespread, especially related to phone interfaces.

Why is this relevant for healthcare relationship marketing. Possible applications include:

* Acquisition and registration into programs via mobile smartphones, for either patients or professionals.

* Automated dictation transcription processing of the highly structured clinical reports that physicians issue after seeing patients.

* speech to text social network inputs as a convenience, or for the visually impaired.

* processing call center transcripts for marketing intelligence.

* insert your brainstorm here.

Final checking to make sure

How am I spending some of the last hours of 2010? Doing final proofreading and editing of my upcoming book: Healthcare Relationship Marketing, Gower Press. This book is
available for pre-order from Amazon and other booksellers, and discounts are available. One last look to create the index at the back, do final proofreading. To make sure that before thousands (hopefully) see this text and use it for education and professional reference, that it ties together with one voice.

Call me if interested! I will blog again on this book as publication approaches end of February

But more generally, here is good advice for 2011: before sending external communications, take one last look, one last proofread. You are what you portray yourself as, your words are part of your appearance. Be ready and rehearse before a big presentation or even a conference call. You'll be glad you did.

Dec 14, 2010

Tracking privacy in online advertising

The climate is really shifting in online advertising the past few months. There is heightened awareness from the press on what behavioral information that digital advertisers are collecting. The government is responding:
the Federal Trade Commission has recommended universal “do not track” mechanism that would allow consumers to opt-out of the monitoring systems that follow users’ movements from site to site. For a gooda nalysis on the FTC ruling, see the Privacy Law blog article.

In addition, the leading web browser company, Microsoft, has announced that
the new Internet Explorer browser (IE9) –due out next year will include a “tracking protection” feature that allows users to limit third party data requests.

Meanwhile, online advertisers are trying to insure they are able to deliver effective ads, educating the public on the benefits. See the Wall St Journal blog on their planned campaign.

What are the consequences of increased privacy tools available to consumers? A Forbes magazine blogger notes that this will require marketers to be more intelligent and persuasive with messaging, and not merely rely on consumer background data stored in cookies.

I would say there is another consequence to online advertising and media placement: the premium will be contextual ad placement on relevant content areas, as opposed to websites merely statistically correlated with the advertiser's website.

One final thought ... how many consumers will take advantage of these new privacy features? There has been a mix the past few years.
The "do not call" consumer list gained a fairly high response once it came out. Email span opt out rates can get as high as 10 percent or more on a campaign, showing positive momentum. On the professional side, at first Physician "AMA opt out" of Rx tracking, on the other hand, was fiarly low at the start.

Uptake on privacy tool adoption will depend on publicity, ease of adoption, and the consumer mindset.

Dec 11, 2010

The patient journey to diagnosis

My colleagues and I are publishing a weekly article on Mediaposts's Marketing Health section. Our article is called called Healthy Observations.

This month's article offers a fresh perspective on the patient journey to diagnosis. It is not always according to plan, especially with serious conditions like cancer. A marketer has to influence patients at where they are likely to engage, especially in the digital channels. Please take a look at the article and let us know!

Dec 8, 2010

Groupons and Healthcare

Are you a Groupon member yet? The group-based, local market volume discount website has been in business for two years and has grown like wildfire. The latest news is how Google has been attempting to purchase them, and as of now Groupon has resisted

Very intriguing to think of how far Groupon can penetrate healthcare. So far Groupon offers have primarily been with cash-based, wellness types of services. These include vision care, spas, dermatology, laser hair removal, and healthclubs. In principle, pharmacies could be active here, for consumer goods and maybe some over the counter items. Indeed, has leveraged Groupon for offers, as shown in this Mom blog.

If you are in a cash-based consumer wellness area, then Groupon seems like a fertile ground for local market retail partnership and testing of offers. It may also be a great venue for acquisition into consumer RM programs.

However, crossing the line to Rx-based medicine seems like purely speculation at this point.

Could Groupons be valuable to new physician group practices that are trying to grow a patient base? A specialty practice physician blogger is considering Groupon as a marketing tool. One hospitalist physician blogger has considered the insurance implications.

Groupon requires login and registration, and so collects data on certain purchase preferences, including health and wellness if those are bid on by the individual joining a group discount. Therefore HIPAA is likely a limitation that prevents placement of more prescription or clinically-based offers.

I look forward to reading studies about the impact of Groupon generally, or on health in particular. Readers are invited to post their thoughts or experiences.

Dec 2, 2010

Display banner click rates - falling, but relevant?

A recent article in eMarketer cites a Mediamind study on banner response rates shows a decreasing average annual banner click through rate over the past three years: from .12 percent in 2007 to .09 percent in 2010.

For those not used to reading small banner CTR numbers, what does this figure mean: if you put a banner campaign out in the consumer world, then for each million impressions - per million - then 900 people would click through to your website. Note that if you are running and acquisition campaign and have a great website rate of 10% signups, then your million exposures get you 90 acquired leads.

Thus banners for consumer RM acquisition are, on the surface, not as effective a source as they used to be. True? Is it still a wise choice? That depends on the cost you pay, measured as cost per "lead". You might think of a lead as a website visitor, but really you should get as close to "purchase" as possible.

The study claims that viewers of banners are more likely to purchase than the average person.
However, keep in mind that since banners target by demographics, geographics, and past website viewing behavior, this targeting effect is expected. Also, people rarely view banners in isolation, but as part of a combined media campaign.

To download this report and see the details, click here

The more I experience banner campaigns in pharma CRM, the more I feel that banners are best thought of as brand awareness advertising to reach people near the top of the funnel. Like magazines and billboards, but usually cheaper. Success for banner campaigns is about placement to target audience, and cost efficiencies.

Cost per acquisition buys do exist. However, in healthcare and pharma, the question remains as to whether they can acquire enough.

Nov 25, 2010

Thankful for an Astonishing Age

Thanksgiving is a day when we all can be thankful just for health and family. Yet since I was a boy I've always admired sports columnists on this day who write about being thankful for professional reasons: athletes who are good leaders and exhibit sportsmanship, inspiring stories, etc. As I reflect on Healthcare Relationship Marketing, here are some reasons to be thankful for professionally in this revolutionary age:

* The astonishing era of new drug development we live in. Thanks to genomics, stem cell research, and other technologies, diseases once intractable are gradualy becoming dissected and understood, and innovative medicines are extending lifespans and their quailty. See this MIT Technology Review index for a few examples of the cutting edge. Or start at The National Cancer Institute and see the wide range of clinical trials.

* The multi-channel revolution in promotion to both consumers and professionals. No longer is it merely print and TV to consumers, and sales forces and congresses to professionals. There are alternative tactics that can be rapidly developed, orchestrated according to designed experiences, tested, and measured for success.

* The remarkable acceleration of data mining and visualization software tools with gradual learning curves. See KD Nuggets for a great software index. Gosh, in graduate school I wrote my own LISP code, and then I thought SAS and S-Plus were transformative. Now it's revolutionary just being able to install a shrink wrapped software and dive right into clustering, decision trees, multivariate modeling, or 3-D trellised scatter plots. Unbelievable.

* Search engines, around since Archie and Veronica of the early 1990s, then Excite and Ask Jeeves of the mid to late 1990s, to today's Google dominance, Bing challenge and embedded search in online portals. Gives the masses access to critical health information, and delivers a way for mid-funnel interested parties to reach their health seeking goals.

* Social media, that is giving people with serious medical conditions access to clinical trial and treatment information critical to their health in ways faster than ever. Could Patients Like Me have existed ten years ago? Of course, caveat emptor, not all news in the social frontier is accurate; still see a physician for treatment. But social media helps you know which specialists to see and how to discuss health topics.

* This transformation of the publishing world, where E-books enable wider and greener distribution of traditional edited tomes (mine included, see forthcoming book and an online book seller ), and blogs like this one can spread readership virally around the world in a loose meritocracy.

* Most appreciative to forward thinking marketing and sales clients who are willing to push the envelope of their professions in order to better serve patients and healthcare professionals.

Nov 21, 2010

Advertising's future in the digital world

An interesting article this week in FastCompany about how digital is transforming the advertising industry. The perceptions are changing about traditional notions of "agencies of record," and marketing clients need to have digital, traditional, mobile all in place for consumer, professional, and payer to effectively launch a campaign.

How can this be achieved in the most nimble and cost effective way: some may say
via networks and sub-networks of conflict shops each with their own niche and specialty. Our CementBloc solution is a different: a single convergent agency across disciplines and customer segments, in one shop. With a strong campaign management group to insure the components and channels are working together, and with a multi-faceted analytics team to measure the synergistic effect across segments and channels.

Nov 17, 2010

Quality Time: when to be there in person

Working for a marketing and sales consulting agency, where some of my clients are hours away by plane, I think keenly about when to travel for an expensive face to face meeting, and when to conduct a phone call, perhaps with a Webex or Netmeeting presentation.

Here are some guidelines I've determined:

Need to be in person when:

* Creating relationships
* Major milestones
* Significant decisions made
* Building of trust
* Showing new creative concepts
* Discovery gathering, or knowledge engineering
* Creating consensus as a group

Over the phone or webex is sufficient for:

* Updates to presentations or analyses similar to those seen before
* Direct transfer of orders among people who have already met.

I have seen poor decisions made on both sides: consultants giving up a major trip and taking a phone call when in fact consensus was needed, or when their client relationship was shaky. I've also seen clients insist on face to face meetings continually even for matters where a phone call is sufficient.

The best account directors will think through the scenarios and consequences of each fly vs no-fly decision.

Nov 5, 2010

Moms on Social Media -- Behavior Segments

I've worked on a variety of consumer social media monitoring analyses across therapeutic categories. When analyzing the source of consumer posts, there is one commonality: mothers networks. Conversations on allergy, immunization, nutrition, diapers, cosmetics, and a host of other health topics are being talked about on major Moms' social networks. After Facebook and Twitter, the next leading source is often from Moms.
There are plenty of communities, have been for years, and they keep growing. Here is one search result which leads to indexes of Mom social sites.

Thus, it was fascinating to find this recent article in the latest print edition of Quirk's Marketing Research Review, a great synethsis of practical research results. (see the online portal).

The article summarized the BabyCenter 2010 Mom Social Influencer Report. Definitely worth a read if you are marketing in a health category where mothers are a core segement.

The emphasis is on influence, and breakouts are by segment. Take a read, and learn about:

Influencers are:

* Field Experts: Young, stay at home, 8% of Moms, 33% of influence

* Lifecasters: Lifecasters, tell everything online, 8% of Moms, 34% of influence

* Pros: Gen-X Moms, sharing expertise and advice, just 2% of Moms, but a high index at 11% influence

The influenced are:

* Butterflies: Young professionals, self-confident, online to socialize; 16% of Moms, 7% of influence

* The Audience: online to listen, 66% of Moms.

Essentially the splits are based on generation, educator vs listener, and how much social media is within your life's fabric. Field Experts and Lifecasters are large and disproportionately influential, in sharing their experience, and also recommending brands they favor. Pareto's 80/20 rule also holds: according to the segmentation and analysis: "18% of social moms wield 78% of the overall influence." Most are learning from the hard core bloggers, posters, and stay at home enthusiastis.

Oct 22, 2010

Teamwork Triad and the Digital Campaign Launch

What is the benefit of working in a small, focused agency without walls? Multi-disciplinary teamwork and relentless focus on high performance.

My department has three components: analytics, campaign management operations, and media services. All of these are both consumer and professional. In larger agencies, these functions are in different departments, even different divisions or buildings. For The CementBloc, all these functions sit together, literally in the same workspace on the same floor.

The benefit of this has become really apparent to me this year as we launch our series of digital campaigns, complete with media promotion and operations.
Take a look at a few of them:

* Professional diabetes
* Consumer cosmetic dermatology
* Consumer social community for breast cancer

As campaigns like these are prepared, the disciplines work together to prepare promotional planning, insure smooth operations, and design for measurability. Once we are up in market, the energy is palpable. Folks literally running to each other's computers, hovering around the same screen as the hourly results come in. How did the email blast go? What are the search click throughs? Which banners are getting highest response rates? Most importantly: how can we keep optimizing!?!

Nothing like it.

Oct 17, 2010

Benoit Mandelbrot RIP, an ode to modeling complexity

An intellectual giant has passed, and his life and research can be inspiring to all of us, whether a young theoretical mathematician (as I once was in college), or a data-driven marketer (where I have ended up so far). The news came to me rapidly . via Twitter from Analytics Bridge as well as several techy blogs.

Benoit Mandelbrot (see the NY Times Obituary) was famous for developing fractals, that are mathematical models of the complexity of nature, especially growth patterns. These models are of infinite complexity, and usually beautiful to render, like the image shown on this blog post. Read one of his biographies about how Mandelbrot got started thinking about fractals as he investigated a question on "how long is the coast of Britain?" and realized "it depends on how closely you look."

This brings me to the point of online digital metrics, which can be simplified with shallow views like visits, page views, or friend counts. Or, one can embrace the complexity and do full path analyses, understand behaviors, see the patterns in the viral spreading of social networks. The insights of going in deep can lead to brainstorming that turns around a business. Even to beautiful graphics like Mandelbrot fractals.

Oct 15, 2010

Pharma media schedules for public view - wither violence?

It's remarkable to notice how a public advocacy group like the Parents Television Council can influence ED drug makers to publish their television media schedule for Viagra and Cialis. One can see how the two firms Pfizer and Lilly are focused on late night, sports, and news programs, essentially all in the evenings.

As a parent, I can empathize with other parents who may want to avoid certain content. However, personally, I feel more strongly about the rampant violence of commericals during afternoon broadcasts; even for actual network shows. Those seem impossible to avoid.

No see and appointment physicians fairly stable

The latest update of the SK&A physician access survey,as reported by MM&M, , shows some stability of statistics over the past few years. 20 sales rep calles per week for physicians on average (4 a day, is this alot?)

The latest results show 23% of physicians said they wouldn't see reps at all, in June of 2010, not much change from 23.6% in 2008.

The rise has really been in terms of physicians requiring an appointment: roughly half the physicians surveyed said they prefer or require an appointment to see a rep (up from 38.5% preferring or requiring an appointment in 2008),

There are some access differences by practice demographics: smaller practices, Southern offices, and certain specialties (including allergists and orthopedic specialists) are more accessible. Practices owned by hospitals or health systems are tougher to get into than private practices. See the article, or contact SK&A for more details.

What does this mean? While overall access trends may have stabilized, depending on your product specialty, non-personal promotion and PRM should still be a critical part of your healthcare professional mix.

Oct 10, 2010

Blogging on the plane -- abrupt Tysabri landing by AdChoices

OK, while using wireless at 35,000 (first time, thanks Delta), I surfed my personal Yahoo Email and noticed a banner ad at right for Tysabri, a multiple sclerosis medication. Out of place for me given my personal situation. Not sure how I was behaviorally targeted. Learn more about such targeting from Adchoices, click here.

Definitely this was a CRM consumer acquisition media buy. However,
the banner ad brought be abruptly to this landing page. This was a bumpy user experience, I never really learned much about what the drug was, or what the condition was. Just brought me right to the registration form without further explanation.

Lesson learned here? Think about the user experience, and test it in research.

Oct 9, 2010

Analyzing iKyp professional data

I always love analyzing and visualizing innovative data streams, and this past week got to look at the output of an IKyp webkey deployment within a pharmaceutical professional setting.

This webkey is an acquisition device for relationship marketing programs, consumer or profesional. It is a USB drive attached to a packet of educational literature, describing the drug, medical device, or professional services. When the drive is inserted into a computer, it calls up a website, that can be a landing page for a CRM or PRM program. In a professional setting, often sales representatives are delivering them to group practices, encouraging the healthcare professionals to sign up for a value added PRM program.

Interestingly, ikyp webkeys all have unique serial numbers, and they can also be programmed to carry a categorical or cohort code, like a sales territory or a metro area. Furthermore, each insertion is date stamped and recorded as a unique transaction in the analytical datamart.

What this means is alot of great analytic potential:

* One can do basic subtotals of how many devices used per day, or per week, and even subtotals by sales territory.

* One can use these for funnel analyses, from manufacturing, to distribution, to usage, to website landing page visits, to registrations.

* Also, the data enables path analysis that can reveal insights. Like how devices are passed around to different professionals, different computers, and used repeatedly over time.

In summary, this mutli-coded physical acquisition device can help a pharmaceutical company understand the effectiveness of its PRM program in ways not seen before.

Oct 7, 2010

Digital Response Curves are Rapid

Above is the google analytics tracking of visitors by day to this particular blog. As my readers know, I post about once weekly, and then promote each post via twitter, linkedin, and sometimes facebook and email. There are also baseline pointers from referring sites like The CementBloc Website and Gower Publishing.

What does this figure show us? That in the electronic world of promotion, responses are rapid, within a day, two maxiumum. All of the spikes on the chart above are the very days where a new blog post was entered by yours truly. But within two days, back to a fairly low baseline.

Think about this during your email, twitter, or facebook campaigns. You have to keep communicating and keep content fresh to attract visitors. Do not fall into the "build it and they will come" complacency.

Want to learn more about response rates? -- a good place to start is the Direct Marketing Association and its annual fact book. There are breakdowns of response rates by industry and channel.

Happy promoting, effectively and efficiently.

Oct 5, 2010

Social communities: authenticity brings response

Social network communities can serve multiple purposes within CRM: awareness, publicizing a cause, acquisition into a database, or spreading advocacy. However, if you are building a social community, you will get more effect if the social community is authentic.

Very authentic is the new community for metastatic breast cancer from Abraxis,
Share the Little Things. Developed by The CementBloc, this digital community with consumer generated content is groundbreaking. A Facebook presence serves as an alternate portal and awareness vehicle Heartfelt posts by patients, caregivers, family members, and friends show courage and fortitude in the face of this devastating condition. This is a movement, picked up by bloggers struggling with breast cancer.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a similar looking advertisement,
Get Free Advil. Although appearing as a community at first glance, the advertisement is acknowledged to be models, all in the same stilted pose, pushing samples. Basic product advertising is fine, don't get me wrong, but in Web 3.0, people are seeking communities, and misleading may backfire.

Sep 29, 2010

Measuring Marketing Promotions? -- Have a Plan

If you are about to launch a major marketing initiative, whether local or national, awareness or direct response, you probably are being asked to "measure the impact." or to "calculate ROI." Be aware that planning your measurement is part of planning the project itself.

One has to translate the business objectives of the promotion, or the RM program into measurable quantities that can assess whether those objectives are filled. Think in terms of the RM continuum. What are you trying to achieve?

* spread awareness: better have surveys to measure if they are aware, before and after

* get people to respond? Better have response mechanisms with data streams, and coded by source

* convert patients to drug? Getting doctors to write Rx? How is this data coming in?

* encourage advocacy? Make sure your advocacy tactics has a tracking breadcrumbs.

This sounds obvious as written, or in hindsight, but really this sort of planning requires a half day workshop of a cross-functional team.

At least.

Sep 28, 2010

The long tail of online media

How well do you understand online advertising, and where your media company is placing your banner ads and search box results?

Try an exercise... go to Google and type in a small business in your neighborhood.
Perhaps's "Joe's flower shop." You might get a search engine result like this where the results are about florists, and where the text box ads are also about florists and related items. So far so good. Now click on one of the local results, adn you might get a a directory listing link like this.

Notice the banner ads on your local flower shop? Not about flowers -- maybe the ads or for cars, sneakers, mobile phones, even pharmaceutical conditions or particular drugs. Why is this? You weren't looking for these things in your search.

This is a combination of several effects. One is that if you are logged in, and you have cookies enabled, there is demographic and behavioral information that can be leveraged for online media placement. (In fact, try the same exercise while not logged in to any email or social media systems). The other major effect is the media industry's design, a tactic called "the long tail." Note that Ford motors, Nike, or that pharma company did not particularly wish to target Joe's florist and other small businesses for media placement. But their media company may have paid an ad network to find people in a certain demographic: age, gender, spending levels.

Now, how likely is it that a person trying to order flowers from a local shop, will suddenly become interested in buying a car, or go to their doctor about a new pharmaceutical drug? The effect is more likely to be very subtle branding, but not much direct response.

So, if you are placing online media for a direct response consumer RM ad, be proactive and intelligent about where your media company is placing your banners. What percentage of your spend is on this "long tail" that is probably not going to get a very high response rate, due to lack of relevance to the search. If you are paying by the impression (CPM), it may be costly, if you are paying by acquisition (CPA), then perhaps the low hanging fruit can accumulate.

Sep 27, 2010

Journal of Case Reports -- Halfway to Social?

Much publicity about Elsevier creating a purely online International Journal of Surgical Case Reports, where physicains pay $400 to have their written case reviewed. Here is an example published case study, with figures. A recent Medical Marketing and Media article discusses this, including the motivation to build a case database for searching valuable cases.

Online advertising may be under consideration by Elsevier, though not currently implemented.

Author fee aside, this new journal is an advance in user generated content in the typically slow moving world of publications. In addition, this seems to only move halfway to achieve a more full potential of professional social media. Why not allow surgeons to post and have discussion threads about the cases, to learn from each other, and accelerate knowledge?

Sep 23, 2010

Tablets - An ever more crowded market

There is a near explosion of the number of electonics manufacturers delivering tablets to market. This Wall St Journal article and table points out how the market for tablet hardware is getting ever more crowded.

What does this mean for pharmaceuticals and healthcare. We have spoken about sales forces delivering messages on tablets, and there will be more options. Lenovo is present for multiple pharma companies. Screen size is an important factor when showing sales visual aids and KOL videos to a physician. But ultimately the winner of the sales presentation race may be based on software adptation -- the SFA contact managment systems, as well as the presentation software, and the feedback loop systems. Which platform allows for the development of these sales force utilizities with continual enhancements and intelligence?

From a consumer standpoint, patients are acquiring tablets like IPads and health related apps are incrasingly coming to market.

From a physician practice managmenet standpoint, if electronic medical records and billing systems can become tablet compatible, then we may have convergence. Patients and doctors can share "apps" and clinical results as their health dialogues become more quantitative and more meaningful.

These developments will be rapid over the next several years.

Sep 21, 2010

Cookies and all the front page news

At one job, we used to say to each other, "Don't end up on the cover of the NY Times or the Wall St Journal." Yet, the WSJ has been running an series on online website behavioral tracking, especially picking on usage of cookies.

The publicity of how cookies and tracking works helps create an informed marketplace. As the WSJ notes, cookies have been legal since 2001 and 2003 court rulings. It is especially the newer "Flash Cookies" that seem to be problematic, as they cannot effectively be deleted by website users wishing to do so, and they appear to replicate.

Let's just not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Cookies do have positive benefits for the user experience in CRM and PRM. They enable automated login, on return visits. Cookies can enable a continuity of experience upon subsequent visits, and well as customization of website content based on what has been viewed before.

Of course, if a user wishes to remove cookies, they sacrifice some of those benefits, but may also prevent other, more frivolous websites from tracking their scent. Caveat emptor: strictest privacy, unfortunately, comes at a sacrifice of quality of digital RM experience.

Sep 20, 2010

Professional Portals: What Behind the Curtain?

Healthcare professional portals are gaining prominence and sophistication among pharmaceutical companies. Some examples are
When designing a healthcare professional portal Pfizer Pro, Merck Services, and Bayer Diabetes' Simple Wins Pro. Increasingly, these portals represent a portfolio of products from the same manufacturer, in addition to other practice management services being provided.

One decision to make when designing and implementing such a portal, is what content to display open to all visitors, and what information is "behind the curtain," requiring the HCP to register, or login.

While there is no hard and fast rule, it depends on the business objectives. Usually a primary goal of professional protals is to expand reach beyond the sales force, and to get product information "details" out to a broader range of professionals, such as remote physicians and "no see" doctors. For this reason, basic product information is usually in front of the curtain.

What goes behind are special value added services that a healthcare professional will find especially worthwhile as a "value exchange" for logging in. These may include electronic samples, information about speaker programs or grants, training programs, or requesting a sales representative visit.

Some items could go either in front or behind the curtain. Patient eductaion materials and key opinion leader videos can help provide valuable information about product benefits. which all may want to see. But they can also be a draw to encourage professionals to sign in and join the communications database.

In summary, plan your professional web portal carefully. The more valuable features behind the curtain, the more incentive to log in. However, that may take away from visit rates, search engine placement, and reach expansion. Even if those visitors are anaonymous, at least they are getting your product messaging.

Sep 13, 2010

Social media spreading behaviors: MIT study

A recently completed
two year study from Asst. Prof. Damon Centola of the MIT Sloan School of Management has shown remarkable behavior spreading differences in two different "canonical" standard types of social networks. This was also summarized in Mediapost.

The two types of health networks that Professor Centola set up werecommunity neighborhood based, pictured at left, and random casual contact based, pictured at right. The blue dots represent the spread of health information and behavior adoption across each types of networks; white dots represent individuals not changing behavior. It turns out based on empirical evidence that spread of behaviors is more rapid in community based networks, moving slowly but effectively from community to community, trransferred through individuals spanning neighborhoods.
I recommend out blog readers see the MIT page and see the video of Prof. Centola.

What does this mean for consumer healthcare RM? Try to introduce your message through multiple well connected network neighborhoods where prospects of paitents have something in common. Do not rely on random chance encounters; do not presume "build it and they will come."

Sep 9, 2010

Interactive dashboards for RM programs

Want to track your relationship marketing programs periodically, and make the results insightful and impactful? Do not just count responses in some tired tables or bar charts.

Here are some tips:

* Have a monthly (or weekly) forecast of estimated responses, broken out by sub-segment and promotional source as well. Track results versus the forecast.

* Use a visual, interactive dashboard to show results, not only high level vs. forecast, but drill down by segment, or by promotional source. Try to use drill down to explain why your campaign is ahead of or behind forecast.

* Show insights, interesting trends, and outliers right on the dahboard, and hyperlink them. Focus your attention on highlighting the insights, not a methodical stack of reports.

Putting this all together, here is an example, implemented in the Spotfire thin-client web player environment. Click around, interact, try the bookmarked insight, and let me know your thoughts.

Sep 4, 2010

The Trend of "Bad," Empowered Patients

While on a brief vacation at my Poconos hotel, I leafed through the free USA today that came by my door, and noticed an interesting headline article about an increasing trend of "Bad" or "Empowered" patients. What was described were guidelines in which patients, empowered by information available on the internet, and increasingly responsible for paying health costs, have been questioning physician decision making regarding test and treatment decisions.

Cited often was a new book by CNN's Elizabeth Cohen on being an empowered patient. Find out for yourself who the best physicians are, whether the empensive tests indicated are necessary, whether the expensive medications are required.

Concurrently, another story gaining publicity that features a desperate kidney cancer patient who has benefitted from Internet communities is that of E-patient Dave deBronkart. "E-patient Dave" has become a strong advocate for patients to seek online information for communal support, and to never give up, or accept a grim fate.

This all reinforces the need for healthcare companies to make sure they are online, participating in the discussions that empowered patients are having. It also emphasizies the benefits of digital CRM, to make sure patients are educated about the benefits of treatments you advocate.

Aug 21, 2010

Busy time of year...

At our agency, The CementBloc , it is a busy time of year! Which is a good thing. A terrific confluence of 2010 projects coming to a crescendo, new business ideas getting funded for the rest of the year, and 2011 marketing and promotional planning.

This is an optimistic time in terms of healthcare technology, analytics, and relationship marketing.

Aug 12, 2010

Analysts -- play it straight, tell it true

This is a call out to everyone in analytics functions at media shops, advertising agencies, and markeitng communications consultants.

I have heard too many times from clients, manufacturers, and marketers that they like to measure things "in house" or "independently" because agencies have a vested interest in giving their work a positive score. This is a question of our integrity, and we have to fight this.

How to thwart this resistance in our clients? By being honest and straightforward in our analyses. Set a good example for all of us analytics service providers. Our goal should be to improve our clients brands, and continually optimize. Even if it means our creative, tactics, or implementations were not perfect the first time.

Want to stay competitive? Use insights from innovative data mining software tools at KDNuggets , or use industry benchmarks or techiques you learn at PMSA
or other industry conferences.

SO, in the spirit of continual improvement, tell the complete story and recommend to clients how to get better. You know what? If you take this approach, your clients will respect you for it, and we will all be better off, on both sides of the aisle.


Aug 11, 2010

Physician Social Media Grow for Specialists

A recent article in Medical Marketing and Media summarizes the rise of healthcare professional social media and points out the increase in specialty specific networks. Specialists interviewed point out that general purpose communities like Sermo may not get into the depth of investigation they need. Requirements like patient case studies, medical conference reports, key opinion leader discussions, and video vignettes related to those patients.

These networks may grow out of health networks, they may be pharmaceutical industry sponsored, or be affiliated with an association like the American Academy of Opthalmology, 7,000 strong. Also intriguing is the surgical video sharing site for surgeons. A real professional twist on Youtube.

Specialists love to confer with their peers at conventions, and now it is just expanded to the personal space. This can be a real acquisition or awareness opportunity for pharmaceutical marketers, particularly in an unbranded way.

Aug 10, 2010

Sales Reps and Customer Relationships

A recent news item in Medical Marketing and Media pointed out that GlaxoSmithKline will reward its sales reps for the relationships they forge with doctors, and is developing tools for these evaluations.

There are already several approaches to evaluating a company's sales force, such as the Scott-Levin survey of sales rep performance. However, this new approach by GSK is geared toward evaluating individual representatatives. There may be several methods to the tactical measurement:

* The first that comes to mind is a direct survey to a represenative's called on physicians, asking about that rep's performance and added value. It could be conducted online, via phone, email, or even within the sales rep tablet after calls. One challenge may be the busy nature of the physicians' day, which can impact expected completion rates of the surveys.

* An alternative can be development of business plans by sales representatives for their key accounts, including insititutions and group practices. The business plans are scored at year end by achievement of valuable activities with these customers, perhaps correlated with sales figures.

* The more fundamental question is "what is customer satsifaction" for healthcare professionals? The same types of questions come up in developemnt of PRM: often this means helping the professionals grow their practice, handle bureaucracy, manage their time, and better educate their patients.

This taxonomy of healthcare professional needs is a good place to start, whatever the evaluation tool and channel may be.

Jul 28, 2010

E-sampling versus Rep Delivered

A recent report from MMM cites a DTW Market online research study claiming that primary care doctors prefer personally delivered samples to E-sampling . While this may be understandable, E-sampling is an irreversable trend.

It is not surprising that for PCPs favorable to both, rep delivered samples are preferable, as the physician can request directly from the sales rep how many samples, and may get other clinical information, education, and services as well. It is a passive endeavor for the PCP, even if it comes at a busy time of the day.

Not all companies are currently offering E-sampling, and the distribution is not standardized. The implementations can come with restrictions as to who can get samples, and how many, as well as a workflow process that physicians or staff members need to step through. For that reason, the electronic version may be less preferred, even by online doctors liek those PCPs surveyed in the study..

But E-sampling is here to stay, and its usage should grow. It allows for more control, and in the long term should more cost effective, for pharmaceutical companies.

Jul 25, 2010

Iphone for family vaccine tracking

See the enclosed Novartis video on the Apple website for an application of Iphone to Vaxtrack. This is a long-term tracker and scheduler of children's vaccines for parents. Indeed, Apple provides the usability for a medical situation that parents struggle to keep up on, but are anxious about. Also impressive are the I.T. professionals at Novartis describe the iphone as enterprise ready, for patients, and for their internal applications.

One question: how will the data be transferred years in the future when the more advanced versions of iphones and Apple gizmos come around? What about compatibility of data with other manufacturer PDAs? Is there hope of a data standard? Hopefully, this will be as easy as transferring songs.

Texting Language and Emoticons

Perhaps this article is not bleeding edge, but the explosion of off-beat texting language really hit me when I saw unexpectedly in my house the new "Text Talk Vinyl Shower Curtain" from Bed, Bath and Beyond, pictured above, and detailed at this shopping website. Featured are a wide range of "emoticon" emotional symbols. Some may recall these back in the pre-WYSIWYG days of chat on UNIX using EMACS text editing, but by now they are rampant on mobile phones, especially for youth. See Sharpened Glossary for a nice catalogue. The addition of colors, on the shower curtain makes them only that much more endearing.

Furthermore, the list of collective texting abbreviations has grown beyond anyone's individual repertoire, see this Netlingo link for a very exhaustive list -- not all clean, but mostly colorful, and all in the interests of saving keystrokes and being clever.

Why is this relevant to consumer relationship marketing? Say your target audience is the youth segment, as with contraceptives, or meningitis vaccines. Then for awareness and acquisition, it can be eye catching and advantageous to have your brand creative borrow from this pervasive mobile texting language. Or, if a text messaging application is part of your acquisition program, you may want your end of the dialogue to include well-chosen emoticons and shorthand. After all, it is the way of life for your audience.

Jul 15, 2010

Making decisions based on data

When developing a learning plan fo a new RM campaign, one of the most important elements to compelte in your plan are the business decisions to be made should the metrics flow one way or another. There should be an in-market test plan, where the decision making criteria are clear depending on the test results.

Then after the campaign has been running for several months, the difficult decisions have to be made. Shifting media spending, improving your website, changing value propositions or incentives.

Think to yourself: what kind of marketer, or campaign manager are you? Do you like to review all the data, weight the pros and cons, and then choose an alternative yourself? Or do you wish your consultants or agencies to make these choices for you? That can be just fine, as they have experience, and should have the brand's interests in mind.

A third option is to remain indecisive; this is the urge to resist. Metricsare not just for learning. Whatever choice you make, choose the path of optimization.

Also, be sure to record what you have learned: the circumstances and the results. This is what knowledge management is, and where "best practices" and "industry benchmarks" come from, after all: actual recordings of in market events. You may as well make your events part of those benchmarks

Jul 12, 2010

Convergence: Email and Social media

An interesting article on MediaPost last week by Jack Loechner pointed out an
increasing trend of social media and email convergence by small businesses. In 2009 all of these useful cross-digital channel tactics were only done by 20% to 36% of small businesses surveyed:

* Tweet email newsletters
* Broadcast blog entries to email list
* Add sign-up forms on social media pages
* Include follow links in email messages
* Place link to email in social media pages

However, the same survey found that in 2010 roughly half of small businesses plan to integrate in at least one of these ways. Why? Increases brand awareness, grows email lists, and accelerates the ROI of either together.

This is all about channel convergence. Make the different promotional media work together to reinforce each other, and cross-reference each other. Especially because our consumers are fickle, and are swapping and experimenting in the digital world. Know what else this means? Move beyond just the "hub and spoke" architecture of the website in the middle and other online venues pointing to it. The "spokes" or "channels" can point to each other just as well, and the consumer journey can stay exclusively on the other digital channels and never get to any "core" website.

In healthcare, one just needs to make sure the appropriate experience is well documented and approved by review committee, as needed.

Jul 8, 2010

Adherence Hardware

As reported in MMM, there is a very interesting development by a startup firm called Vitality, which is an adherence designed pill bottle called Glowcaps. We have seen a demostration and it is quite an interesting device, which has a cellular connection that can communicate adherence status, and in a closed loop system can lead to SMS,emails, or call reminders. Also and intersting business model: funded by PBMs like Express Scripts who have a vested interest in keeping patients adherent, from a financial and a health outcomes perspective. Pharmaceutical companies piloting this sdevice are also asked to pay performance of sales lifts, though no specific companies are disclosed in the article.

In principle, this has benefits of reducing the false positives of typical adherence "reminder" programs. An alert is sent out only when the bottle is not opened for over a day, or two days, as set. More importantly, there has been a documented adherence lift.

Read more, and ask what else the future brings, with wireless, mobile, and microelectronics, we may be seeing more of this adherence hardware in the future.

Jul 7, 2010

Project Management: The Mythical Man Month still holds true today

I've seen many health care relationship marketing projects, and the challenge of project management that goes along with it. Delays, multiple stakeholders, multiple developers, many moving parts, and compromises to try and meet deadlines.

This has been seen before, and written about exquisitely in Fredrick Brooks's timeless classic, The Mythical Man-Month, Essays in Software Engineering, from Addison-Wesley. Strongly recommended reading for anyone in project leadership or managment of large software systems, and RM systems are large indeed: especially when they involve a new database, tablet based selling , website portals, and multi-channel promotion.

The book was written about the old IBM 360 systems from the 1960's, and updated for the pre-internet 1995, however the software project management lessons still hold today.

See this great lecture note from University of San Francisco for the key lessons learned: throwing staff at an overdue project makes things worse. There are specific roles on a software team, and Brooks uses the metaphor of surgery to illustrate this.

How to avoid CRM project management pifalls:

*adequate staffing from the start,
* clear roles,
* make collaboration structured,
* voting power weighted by expertise
* plan milestones of phased deliverables, setting up for success.

Take a read of this classic, come back, and leave a comment!

Jul 5, 2010

Consumer media consumption: major age differences

Recommended reading: The Experian 2010 Marketer report that provides lots of statistics on consumer attitudes and behaviors across different media channels,

While not specific to healthcare, they point to what devices Americans need to have, where they go first, how they use digital to make online purchasing decisions.

Not surprisingly, younger audiences are highly weighted to mobile and social, and older audiences more biased toward computers, email, even TV.

Multichannel experience is also emphasized; more and more marketers are using multiple channels to reinforce each other, Emails reference social media.

Direct marketing is more complex than ever, and more innovative, but worth putting in the effort

Jul 3, 2010

Campaign Management Playbooks

It's a great deal of effort to design a relationship marketing campaign, from the first brainstorming of business goals, to the user experience designs, through to the final creation of communication pieces and the media planning. It's critical not to let that careful thought go to waste as you are about to head into market.

The campaign management playbook is where all of the operational specifications sit in one well-structured document. The playbook includes the segmentation specifications, and how segments are computed at registration time, or from the database. It maps out the communication plan by segment, and the business rules for determining under what conditions each communication is sent. Also included are the fulfillment requirements for each communication, and each testing plan.

The playbook should not be massive or burdensome; 10 to 25 pages, including figures and tables. This is the necessary script that all vendor partners must follow, so put time into a clear design.

Having this playbook is critical to insuring that when executed in market, your relationship marketing program brings the consumers or healthcare professionals have the experience that was designed.

Is this topic a bit dry? Sorry about that; but the intention with playbooks is to avoid the excitement of in-market mistakes later.

Jun 29, 2010

Managing Healthcare Email Cadences

An interesting point of view article just came across Mediapost on Managing Email cadences by Greatchen Scheiman of Ogilvy One.

The article covered off on basic frequency and portfolio ideas, asking sensible questions from the *sender's* perspective like "do you have new information to discuss," and "how often is the market changing." The example cited are sporting events like baseball: in-season, daily updates on games make sense -- out of season, less frequent news is far better.

However, thinking about Email cadences for healthcare is really more about what the *recipient* is going through in their decision making journey, whether this recipient is a patient, caregiver, or a health professional.
Time-based events are inherent in medicine:

* decisions to visit doctors, scheduling appointments with doctors, patient visits, and follow-ups, referrals to specialists
* time of health progression, like pregnancy, or pediatric growth
* seasonality of conditions like allergies, and arthritis pain
* treatment and medication protocols, as in oncology, psychiatry, or neurology
* refill schedules
* adherence drop-off patterns

Therefore, plan your healthcare email cadence so that your messages are in fact preparing your stakeholders for the important decisions they need to make.

Furthermore, let's not forget other Email best practices like subject line testing, creative testing, clear calls to action, and Opt-out management.
Proper planning can help you make the most of this channel.

RM differences for consumers and professionals

I have seen this multiple times in each direction: well meaning companies and their I.T. organizations wanting to adapt their consumer relationship marketing systems to handle professionals, or inversely, attempting to modify their professional RM infrastructure to handle consumers.

After all, the "C" in CRM stands for "customer" and these are just two types of customers, right? The both have names, addresses, emails, true?

Yes, but that is just scratching the surface. These two segments are not exactly the same. Software and database vendors who specialize in one or the other are likely to advocate this supposed equivalence when they are trying to sell themselves from one customer vertical to another. Be cautious about this.

There are different business processes, data availability, and campaign rules that apply to each of consumers and professionals. Here is a sample:

For professionals, there are sets of affiliations that we care about, such as group practice memberships, hospital affiliations, medical schools. Multiple addresses result. Multiple specialties are important to note. Usually, professionals are called on by a sales force, whose activities on each call, details and samples, must in turn be noted as transactions that are separate from the 'transactions' of prescriber-level Rx data. There is the firm distinction between marketing and medical contact management that must be preserved.

Consumers have special attributes as well: census, demographic, and psychographic data are particularly important. Also, due to HIPAA compliance, for most companies there is not usually an option to measure direct behaviors, so surrogates from web analytics are even more important. Consumers also change residence and email addresses quite frequently, making data cleansing especially vital. Consumers are the ones in conversion and adherence programs with financial components like coupons, vouchers, or copay cards, depending on the healthcare category.

These differences can demand distinct data structures, and different campaign business rule designs. Does a company need to pay twice for RM infrastructure for each customer vertical? Many companies in fact do. Even those that have tried to adapt one system to the other, the lesson learned is: this is not a quick migration, it takes a great deal of planning, implementation time, and specialization.

For these reasons I tend to advocate using "C" in CRM is "consumer" and the "P" in PRM is professional.

Jun 26, 2010

Apple IPhone and Company Sales Forces

The Wall Street Journal notes this week that Apple IPhones are increasingly being used by businesses, including the Bausch & Lomb Inc. salesforce of 1200 people. Some corporate I.T. departments are now supporting Iphones at similar numbers as Blackberries. This is due largely to enhanced security features, as well as employee demand.

This may be a significant turning point.
There are already consumer IPad applications available: for patients to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and their associated medications.

I am occasionally engaged in consulting projects on PRM and sales force tablets, and am asked about new platforms like the Apple IPad for professional selling. As soon as we see more sales force related applications, and with assured information security, this is likely to come to pass within the next two years. Which sales force automation companies will lead this development? And which pharmaceutical sales clients will be the first in the field?

Deeper acquisition engagement and Yahoo Health

The latest Medical Marketing and Media issue points out that Yahoo Health has added interactive health search tools to engage patients longer on the third most popular health portal.

For an example, consider these resources available on a Yahoo health search for osteoporosis . Tests, self-care, and treatments are follow-on options. There are also banner advertisements for pharmaceutical products. Indeed, hope for Yahoo is also to increase contextual advertising revenue.

There are also features like find a doctor by specialty and zip code, and symptom checker. These features are all about deeper consumer engagement at the earliest stages of the patient journey: awareness and acquisition. That additional engagement can prepare patients to be more informed and receptive as they visit the physician's office.

Jun 15, 2010

Cutting through the clutter

Very different stories this week bring up an old theme.

One is the uproar at this month's World Cup football tournament in South Africa over the vuvuzela trumpets, which create a dull, bee-like drone to those playing or watching the sporting events. Announcers, chanting, singing, are all inaudible due to the constant hum of the vuvuzelas. Many have been calling for their ban, others say part of the local culture. Each fan thinks they are cheering for their team, but in aggregate is just part of the hum.

Another, reported in MMM online is the recent phone survey of about 1,008 U.S. adults by Kyp and Opinion Research that patients are finding too many options for health websites. The article notes that "while 76% of respondents search the internet for health information, only 22% use the web as their first port of call after they suspect a health problem – seemingly because of the confusing number of online sources. Even in the 18-34 demographic, more than half (55%) report that 'there is just too much choice' and that they 'simply don't know where to turn for the best advice.'"

The common denominator of these two articles is what we in direct marketing have been calling a need to "cut through the clutter," whether the audio of the vuvuzelas, the stacks of direct mail each day, rows of "spam" invading email inboxes, or broad array of similar websites.


- more intelligent search engines, and search engine optimization for those genuine authority health resources (inbound links from referrals)

- distinctinve, relevant messages, offers, and creative that get noticed

- in-market testing, especially on email subject lines.

Talk to us for more, we can help you "toot your horn."

Jun 14, 2010

Boomers and Conversion to Product

Medical Marketing and Media cited an interesting study by agency GSW Worldwide's Pink Tank unit about how 44% of female baby boomers do further research before going to the pharmacy to fill a medication already prescribed. Various sources are enumerated, including online drug background, cost, and consultation with friends.

The background cited refers to the begrudging attitude of these "KaBoomer" women who are indeed taking more medication than their parents did at this age, yet they are not pleased with taking so much medication, and are skeptical.

This added need to perform research presents a potential risk that patients in this demographic will not fill the medications they are prescribed by their physicians. It is another hurdle that could lower the conversion rate, and health outcomes.

What does this mean in terms of consumer relationship marketing? An extra critical step must be planned for between physicians writing Rx and the Rx getting filled. Manufacturers must provide the right information, across multiple forums: in-office materials, online websites, search engines, and social media. Trusted medical portals, associations and consumer advocacy groups should also clearly explain the benefits of medications as prescribed.

How about a patient starter kit directing to these sources to answer any questions? Could there be opportunities to test call centers supplying information, especially after new product launches to baby boomer categories.

The channels can be tested as part of CRM roll-out for response rate and utilization. But no question, the conversion step needs to be a bit more complex here.

Jun 6, 2010

Hacker's dictionary of gone by 1990s; still useful for CRM

When I am crunching (HIPAA compliant) data, or searching though files, deep into a project, I sometimes recall the bizarre "nerd" language of my grad school days at the MIT Lab for Computer Science. Most of these terms can be found at the Hacker's Dictionary Website

These terms are still coming in handy as one analyzes large CRM or PRM data sets and merges many disjointed files:

My favorite, with interpretations.

*Hack: To program for an extended period of time, and really love the creation.

*Munge: To analyze large data sets, and "work your magic" to get insights.

PERL, AWK, and SED: great Unix command line programs I wish I still had, for munging large text files.

*Snarf: To borrow from a colleague a file or document (electronic or paper)

*Grok: To pore deeply over an analysis, a code listing, a book, or a report, and really understand it

Try these terms yourself the next time you are grokking a few thousand rows of anonymized survey responses, or munging a ten-fold larger website click stream data set.

Jun 5, 2010

Coming down to the wire - finishing it off

June, 2010 is an interesting confluence of several factors all dealing with "coming to the finish line." The kids finishing school, the little league heading toward the playoffs, my book deadline imminent. Even the just completed Belmont Stakes horse race has its finish line. Plus I'm involved with multiple relationship marketing projects due to rollout within a month. These are all examples of homestretch, approaching a deadline.

When this happens, it is always a mix of emotions:

* desperation to get the project finished

* intensive, often late night work, to meet the delivery time.

* a thrill that the moment of truth is arriving.

Just as with patient conversion in CRM, do not presume that once the Rx is given that it will actually be filled (payer issues must be managed), and even if filled, that the drug will be taken (instructions and support are needed for adherence). The optimal patient experience must include the finish line.

Yet one thing is very important, at the finish line, not to let up on quality, not to forget the details. Otherwise, the competition may come back and pass you as you aim to cross the finish line. My son reminded me that come from behind victories happens in every horse race. Indeed the lead horse must stay vigilant.

How does your organization prepare for the big conclusion at a deadline?

How do you strike the proper balance between eagerness to complete, while still maintaining high quality?

Jun 3, 2010

Patient Clinical Outcomes Data on Social Media? Misguided

Perhaps I am a purist, but as a member of the healthcare analytics community I have been following with much concern the growth of social media where patients enter conditions, treatments, and outcomes, for retrieval as statistical summaries by others.

A recent NY Times article May 28th called out two social media websites that encourage consumers to describe their medical conditions and what treatments they have been using, namely Cure Together and Patients Like Me.

Having perused and joined these websites, there are certainly positive aspects. One is encouraging patients to track their progress toward achieving health goals, such as weight loss. Another is a venue for desperate patients with serious conditions to quickly link to others who are suffering similarly, and learning about potential treatments.

However, the major point of concern is how data on self-reported patient conditions, treatments and outcomes is being aggregated, summarized, packaged, and even sold as psuedo-outcomes results, or pseudo market research data.

Has healthcare social media research gone from the messaging and linguistic interpretation, as described in
Medical Marketing and Media in May 2009, to more quantitative clinical outcomes analyses?

For those viewing such statistics, Caveat Emptor. There are many sources of biases and unknowns here.

What clinical trials, outcomes research studies, and formal market research surveys accomplish, among other things, is provide clinicians, patients, and healthcare companies with statistically reliable data on treatments and outcomes by applying the scientific method, so that results can be properly interpreted. There are screening criteria for inclusion, test vs. control methodologies, and careful interpretation of results. Pharmaceutical data providers like IMS also hire statisticians to ensure their prescription and claims data are accurately projected.

By contrast, self-reported treatments and outcomes on consumer social media have none of that. Anyone can enter any condition, or any treatment, presuming the right terms are used and laypeople are self-reporting their outcomes using their own interpretations. It is the self-reporting bias taken to the Nth degree.

The websites sited above issue data tables regularly, package them, even create pseudo E-books for sale, and are aiming to re-sell as "research" for health organizations. These may be curiosities, or signposts, but are unlikely to be interpreted as any serious efficacy results.

It will be fascinating to watch the ramifications of this from the medical community, or even patient health advocacy groups.

May 30, 2010

Closed Loop Promotion - Overview, Audience, and Challenges

Last week, my colleague Jackie Sanders from The CementBloc and I sponsored and presented a CBI webinar on pharmaceutical closed loop professional promotion
Click here to access the full presentation slides and video.

We were delighted at seeing 96 registrants across a wide range of disciplines, pharmaceutical manufacturers, drugstore chains, pharmacy benefit managers, agencies, technology vendors, and consultants. This audience truly illustrated how widespread the interest is, and how the professional promotional landscape has been changing.

The key components were straightforward to explain:
- promotional planning, personal and non-personal
- tablet based selling
- digital website portal
- tracking behaviors and the feedback loop
- segmented messaging

However, the hottest topic for questions and comments was the various challenges to overcome: organizational alignment, investment required, coordination between personal and nonpersonal promotion. Yet all of these are solvable, and a phased approach over two years or more is critical.

May 28, 2010

Fish Where the Fish Are -- Not Only Digital IQ

Previously in this Blog I mentioned the Digital IQ report and rankings compiled by L2 (Luxury Lab) and PhD Media . Yesterday our company, the CementBloc had an in-depth discussion group, and we realized that some of these findings must be taken with a grain of salt.

While use of innovative digital channels is admirable, the ultimate goal of media (the report notes 4% of Pharma DTC spend is online) is to reach your target segment, and to acquire qualified leads that can drive conversion to prescriptions.

It is not surprising that the highest scoring brands in the report where aimed at youth (18 to 30) markets, most notably female contraceptives -- for that audience you need to be on mobile, social, and web. Many of these products also have years left on their product life cycle as well.

Also not too surprising that cardiovascular drugs are generally challenged. The target age range is consumers in their 50s and 60s, and many of the drugs have gone generic or are nearing their loss of exclusivity.

Digital IQ is a good concept, but ranking within your category of peers (same target, similar therapies) may make more sense than a global ranking.

We also need to consider specialty products: oncology comes to mind as a very active online category that has its own special digital needs.
So, in considering consumer awareness and acquisition media, consider your target. Do research into the channels and media that your target really consumes. For some therapeutic categories, don't give up on focused print, or focused demographically matched DRTV, or even targeted direct mail or email lists. Digital is one important arrow in your quiver, but not the whole arsenal. Your digital investment and innovation should align to your brand's needs and your target.

Thus, as my friend Jason Ruebel of Bridge Worldwide taught me, when we were working on StrongMoms together, in relationship marketing you have to "fish where the fish are."